Noriko Sawada Bridges Flynn

Noriko Sawada Bridges Flynn
Born
Noriko Sawada

(1923-02-11)February 11, 1923
Died February 7, 2003(2003-02-07) (aged 79)
Citizenship United States
Occupation Author, civil rights activist
Spouse(s)
​
​
(m. 1958; died 1990) ​

Ed Flynn
​
(m. 1994) ​

Noriko "Nikki" Sawada Bridges Flynn (February 11, 1923 – February 7, 2003) was a Japanese American writer and civil rights activist. She also helped overturn the law in Nevada barring mixed-race marriages.

Biography

Sawada was born in Gardena to Japanese parents who leased land in order to grow their own crops. Her parents leased the land because it was illegal for them to own farmland at the time in California.[1] Sawada started classes at Santa Monica College, but she was forced to stop after her first year.[2] In 1942, she and her family were moved to a Japanese internment camp near Poston, Arizona.[1] She and her family were there for three years, behind barbed-wire fences.[3] The experience affected Sawada, showing her the deep injustices in society.[3] She says that she had felt "terribly angry... Everything was turned upside-down."[4]

When she was released, Sawada and her parents, moved to Berkeley and she became active in the AFL-CIO, the Berkeley Interracial Committee and the War Relocation Authority.[1] Sawada worked for twelve years with attorney, Charles Garry, who represented political activists.[5]

She met her first husband, Harry Bridges, at a fund-raiser for the Mine, Mill and Smelter workers and after falling in love, they decided to get married on Pearl Harbor Day in 1958.[1] However, their application for a marriage license was denied because Nevada law forbade people of different races from getting married.[1] The law in Nevada was written in 1846, and "prohibited marriages between whites and Asians," which the couple tried to circumvent by protesting that Sawada, being born in the United States was not a foreigner.[5] She was also asked by the license clerk: "Are you black, white, brown, red or yellow?" To which Sawada had to answer, "Under those categories, I must be yellow."[6] The case was noticed by the national press and lawyers for Bridges and Sawada struck down the Nevada law in four days, allowing the couple to marry in Reno.[5]

In 1973, Bridges studied creative writing at San Francisco State University.[2] Her writing was featured in Harper's and Ms. Magazine.[2] In 1988, she was honored by the Pacific Asian American Women Bay Area Coalition with the Asian Woman Warrior award for her community advocacy.[4]

In 1990, she read her poem "To Be or Not to Be: There is No Such Option" at the government ceremony which apologized to Japanese Americans for the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.[1] The same year, her husband died.

Bridges had been friends with Ed Flynn for many years, and at age 72, they got married in 1994.[1]

She died in Pescadero, California in her home on February 7, 2003.[1]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Bigelow, Catherine (9 February 2003). "Noriko Sawada Bridges Flynn / Civil Rights Activist, Writer Challenged Law / Japanese American Was Interned". SF Gate. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  2. ^ a b c Wakida, Patricia. "Nikki Sawada Bridges Flynn". Densho Encyclopedia. Retrieved 4 September 2015.
  3. ^ a b Nash, Phil Tajitsu (13 June 2003). "To Be Or Not To Be (There's No Such Option)". Asian Week. Retrieved 4 August 2015.
  4. ^ a b Matsumoto, Valerie J. (2010). "Nikki Sawada Bridges Flynn and What Comes Naturally". Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies. 31 (3). Retrieved 4 September 2015.
  5. ^ a b c Kaufman, Michael T. (17 February 2003). "Noriko Flynn, 79, Advocate for Unions and Civil Rights". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 September 2015.
  6. ^ Pascoe, Peggy (2009). What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 235–237. ISBN 9780195094633.

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