Michael Yoshii is a retired pastor in the California Nevada Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church who was ordained in the United Methodist Church in 1986 and served local congregations as well as the larger Church in social justice activism and ministries of healing and reconciliation. Yoshii was born in August 1952, in Berkeley, California, and is Sansei. He attended El Cerrito High School from 1967 to 1970, and graduated in 1974 from UC Berkeley, where he majored in Social Welfare and was introduced to Asian American Studies. Yoshii's parents, grandparents, and other relatives were incarcerated without due process by the US government in detention camps at Topaz, Utah, and at Jerome, Arkansas during World War II. In the early 1980s, Yoshii volunteered with the National Coalition for Redress and Reparations (NCRR) providing outreach to churches for participation in the federal redress hearings in San Francisco. He also testified at the hearings in August 1981 on the spiritual impacts of mass incarceration for the Japanese American community. Yoshii began seminary in 1983 at the Pacific School of Religion and earned his Master of Divinity in 1986. He was ordained in 1986 and appointed to a dual assignment with the Berkeley Methodist United Church and the Buena Vista United Methodist Church. In 1988, he was appointed full time as pastor to the Buena Vista United Methodist Church in Alameda, where he served until his retirement in 2020. Yoshii's decades of Christian ministry and social activism included co-creating the Sansei Legacy Project to explore family legacies of incarceration with fellow Sansei, as well as numerous local organizing projects, including addressing a local police racial crisis, responding to lack of Asian representation in schools and government, and providing a voice for LGBTQ+ community members. His ministry also included work for global human rights in the Philippines and an interfaith partnership with the Palestinian Muslim village of Wadi Foquin. Yoshii and his wife Suzanne have two daughters and four grandchildren. In this oral history, Yoshii discusses the multifaceted legacies of his family's experiences before, during, and after their wartime incarcerations, especially as they relate to his own life and spiritual journey.




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