Celebrate Civil Rights Activist Minoru Yasui’s 100th Birthday

28 Apr

Minoru Yasui

Minoru Yasui

This Saturday, April 30 at 2 p.m., JANM will present a special event titled Civil Rights Today: The Legacy of Minoru Yasui. Featuring a variety of speakers as well as an excerpt from the documentary film Never Give Up! Minoru Yasui and the Fight for Justice, the event commemorates what would have been the renowned civil rights activist’s 100th birthday, as well as the 74th anniversary of his voluntary arrest in protest against Executive Order 9066. The event is currently sold out. If you were not able to get a ticket, you can still celebrate his birthday by reflecting on his life and work.

Minoru “Min” Yasui was a young Nisei attorney in Oregon during World War II when he violated the military curfew imposed upon all persons of Japanese ancestry in order to bring a test case to court. He lost that case in the US Supreme Court, but nearly 40 years later he reopened it as part of the coram nobis litigation brought by young Sansei attorneys in 1983. Yasui’s criminal conviction was overturned by the federal court in 1986, and two years later, Congress finally acknowledged the government’s mistake with the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. Recognized posthumously by President Obama with a Presidential Medal of Freedom, Yasui was not only a key player in two different eras of struggle, but also an outspoken, deeply committed activist all his life, working tirelessly for the human and civil rights of all people.

Yasui’s life and activism are well documented. You can read his full biography in the Densho Encyclopedia. Visit the Minoru Yasui Tribute Project to learn more about the upcoming tribute event and various related activities. On JANM’s Discover Nikkei website, there are a number of first-person essays about Yasui, including a remembrance by his daughter Holly Yasui, an account of the making of the documentary film, and a reflection on Yasui’s legacy by Gil Asakawa. Finally, at the JANM Store, you can pick up a copy of the book The Japanese American Cases: The Rule of Law in Time of War, which tells the story of four brave Nisei who stood up to challenge the legality of Japanese American incarceration—Yasui, Gordon Hirabayashi, Fred Korematsu, and Mitsuye Endo.

Diary of a Nisei Week Princess, Part Five: The Trip to Hawai‘i!

20 Apr

The 2015 Nisei Week Court and the 2015 Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Court visit Lieutenant Governor Shan Tsutsui at the Hawai‘i State Capitol.

The 2015 Nisei Week Court and the 2015 Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Court visit Lieutenant Governor Shan Tsutsui at the Hawai‘i State Capitol.

 

As I sit here back at my desk, I’m daydreaming about my week in Hawai‘i with my fellow 2015 Nisei Week Court members, our parents, the Nisei Week Hospitality Committee, the 2015 Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Court, the 2015 Hawai‘i Cherry Blossom Festival Court, and the Hawai‘i Cherry Blossom Festival Hospitality Committee. It was a week filled with ono (delicious) food, warm beaches, and the nicest people on the island.

Princess Camryn Sugita with her parents at the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel.

Princess Camryn Sugita with her parents at the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel.

 

As soon as we landed in Honolulu, we were greeted by the local Cherry Blossom Festival Hospitality Committee, who immediately felt like family. After we checked into the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel, we went straight to the beach, in spite of the fact that it was raining. Later that evening, we joined the 2015 Cherry Blossom Courts from Hawai‘i and San Francisco and the Hawai‘i Cherry Blossom Hospitality Committee for dinner.

Members of the 2015 Nisei Week Court express their love for the islands.

Members of the 2015 Nisei Week Court express their love for the islands.

 

Saturday, March 26 was the big event that we came to town for: the Festival Ball and coronation ceremony, where 15 contestants competed to become the 64th Cherry Blossom Festival Queen and Court. It was the first time I witnessed a coronation (besides our own), and unlike at Nisei Week, only six of the 15 contestants were selected as the Queen and Court.

Members of the 2015 Nisei Week Court donned local-style garb for this visit to Japanese-English radio station KZOO Radio.

Members of the 2015 Nisei Week Court donned local-style garb
for this visit to Japanese-English radio station KZOO Radio.

 

It was nerve-wracking to watch these women perform taiko, walk in evening gowns, recite their speeches, walk in kimonos, and answer an impromptu question on stage. It was hard to believe I was in a similar position just seven months ago. All of the women did an amazing job and their months of training paid off. At the end of the night, we congratulated everyone and took photos with the newly crowned Queen and Court. We even met the Governor of Hawai‘i, David Ige! It was an exciting time to say the least.

The newly crowned 2016 Hawai‘i Cherry Blossom Festival Court, with the 2015 Nisei Week Court behind them.

The newly crowned 2016 Hawai‘i Cherry Blossom Festival Court,
with the 2015 Nisei Week Court behind them.

 

The next couple of days were filled with exploring the island of O‘ahu with the San Francisco Court and the Hawai‘i Hospitality Committee. We climbed to the top of Diamond Head, ate Waiola Shave Ice (my favorite), ate loco moco at Rainbow Drive-In, competed against our parents in the Dole Plantation Pineapple Garden Maze (the parents won), enjoyed shrimp scampi at the famous Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, and tried Matsumoto Shave Ice on the North Shore. Our bellies and hearts were constantly full.

A Dole Whip straight from the source, with li hing powder on top!

A Dole Whip straight from the source, with li hing powder on top!

 

On Tuesday we made our official visits to City Hall and the State Capitol. We learned about the history and culture of Hawai‘i and met with Lieutenant Governor Shan Tsutsui and Roy Amemiya, Managing Director of the City and County of Honolulu. We then visited Menehune Mac, a local confectioner, and KoAloha Ukulele, whose proprietors have led several popular ukulele workshops at JANM. At the Menehune Mac factory, we learned how they make their macadamia chocolates and then we made a box of our own! At KoAloha Ukulele, we made a ukulele keychain and listened to some Hawaiian tunes. I gained a greater appreciation for the uniqueness of the islands.

The 2015 Nisei Week Court with Roy Amemiya, Managing Director of the City and County of Honolulu.

The 2015 Nisei Week Court with Roy Amemiya, Managing Director
of the City and County of Honolulu.

The owner of Menehune Mac shows how it's done.

The owner of Menehune Mac shows how it’s done.

 

For some members of the San Francisco and Los Angeles contingents, Wednesday was the last day to enjoy paradise. The rest of us, however, spent a few more days shopping, going to the beach, climbing Koko Head Crater, eating more food, and hitting the town with the Hawai‘i Court before going back home on Sunday. We also managed to make some guest appearances on the Japanese-English radio station KZOO Radio, who interviewed us about our festivals back home.

Members of the 2015 Nisei Week Court and the 2015 Hawai'i Cherry Blossom Festival Court savor their beach time in Hawai‘i.

Members of the 2015 Nisei Week Court and the 2015 Hawai’i
Cherry Blossom Festival Court savor their beach time in Hawai‘i.

 

Nine days have never gone by faster than my time in Honolulu for the 64th Cherry Blossom Festival. We created unforgettable memories and lasting friendships with our sister organizations. I am forever indebted to the Hawai‘i Hospitality Committee for planning an incredible week. I can’t wait until they come to LA for this year’s Nisei Week Japanese Festival, when I can reciprocate the spirit of aloha. Mahalo plenty to my new ohana!

Sunrise at Koko Head Crater.

Sunrise at Koko Head Crater.

Guess Who Killed the Origamist and Win a Signed Copy of Naomi Hirahara’s New Novel

13 Apr

sayonara-slam-175Naomi Hirahara is an acclaimed writer who is best known for her award-winning mystery novels. The popular and long-running Mas Arai series features an aging, widowed Japanese American gardener from Altadena who solves mysteries in his spare time.

In Summer of the Big Bachi, the first Mas Arai mystery published in 2004, Mas reaches a crossroads in his life and has to deal with unresolved secrets from his past. The novel was praised not only for being a riveting mystery, but for accurately capturing the nuances of Japanese American life.

Sayonara Slam, the highly anticipated sixth book in the Mas Arai series, will be published in May. Set at Dodger Stadium during the Japan vs. Korea World Baseball Classic, the novel challenges its stoic protagonist with yet another multi-layered whodunit. Who is that strange woman throwing knuckleball pitches to warm up the Japanese team? Who sent thugs to threaten Mas and accuse him of treason? What was in the deleted files on the murdered sportswriter’s computer, and did they hold secrets that led to his death?

Want to win a signed copy of Hirahara’s new novel? Simply visit our Discover Nikkei website, where we are publishing an exclusive, original, serialized story by Hirahara called Death of an Origamist. Start with Chapter 1 and read through to the recently posted Chapter 9, at the end of which you will see our contest announcement. Guess who the killer is, and post your answer in the comments section of Chapter 9. Hirahara will randomly select the winner from those who guess correctly. It’s a win-win situation: you get a shot at winning a free signed book while reading a free, original murder mystery by an award-winning author!

Guesses must be posted in the comments section of Chapter 9 in order to be entered in the contest. You must state the murderer’s name, and you must submit your guess no later than Tuesday, May 3, 2016, at midnight PDT. The winner will be announced when Chapter 11 is published. The winner will be contacted via the email address used to register/comment on the Discover Nikkei site. If no response is received within 10 days, another winner will be selected. Please note that only residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia are eligible to enter this contest.

Naomi Hirahara

Naomi Hirahara

On Saturday, May 21, at 2 p.m., join us for an author discussion with Naomi Hirahara, in which she will read from and discuss Sayonara Slam. JANM members also have the opportunity to attend an intimate pre-event meet-and-greet with Hirahara at 1 p.m. Space is limited; RSVP by May 16 to memberevents@janm.org or 213.830.5646.

Select books by Naomi Hirahara are available for purchase at janmstore.com.

A Getty Intern’s Tale

6 Apr

Applications for the Getty Multicultural Undergraduate Summer Internships at the Japanese American National Museum are due on April 27! If you are considering applying, read on for one former intern’s story of how the experience changed her life.

A communications major, an art major, and an English major walk into a bar…

2011 Getty interns Yuiko Sugino, Alexa Kim, and Alyctra Matsushita, in front of a wall drawing by Stan Sakai.

2011 Getty interns Yuiko Sugino, Alexa Kim, and Alyctra Matsushita, in front of a wall drawing by Stan Sakai.

What sounds like the beginning of a bad joke was my college reality. Living in a house of Humanities and Social Science majors, my roommates and I spent four years worrying not just about term papers and printer cards, but also about student loans and postgraduate careers. As optimistic freshmen, we joked that upon graduation we would all live in cardboard box mansions, as that would be all we could afford. But as graduation loomed nearer, we said it more frequently through gritted teeth.

Then, in my junior year I learned about the Getty Multicultural Undergraduate Internship, available at the Japanese American National Museum as well as numerous other museums throughout Southern California. It sounded promising on all counts. I was attending UC Santa Barbara, and returning to Los Angeles for a cool internship sounded much better than the alternative of slopping meals at my student job in the campus dining commons. I also liked the idea of putting “Getty Intern” in big, bold letters on a résumé that boasted little more than my previously mentioned cafeteria duties. And perhaps most important of all, it was PAID!

After eagerly filling out the application, getting my letters of recommendation, and sacrificing a lamb or two, I learned that I was chosen to be JANM’s 2011 Media Arts Intern. Although excited, I was also a little wary and hoped I wouldn’t be a glorified coffee runner, coming home with fingers bloodied by paper cuts and blackened from fixing toner cartridge jams. But I figured at the very least, I’d have ten weeks in Little Tokyo surrounded by all the mochi ice cream I could get my hands on.

I can still remember my first day, five years ago. I was immediately introduced to the two other Getty interns, who were assigned to the curatorial and production departments. We all squished together on a pale leather sofa in a bright room called the Takei Lounge, nervously awaiting further instructions and making awkward small talk. Then, after a quick orientation, we dove into our jobs as museum interns.

Alyctra Matsushita, right, with Discover Nikkei interns Maya Kochiyama and Krista Chavez. Photo courtesy of discovernikkei.org.

Alyctra Matsushita, right, with Discover Nikkei interns Maya Kochiyama
and Krista Chavez. Photo courtesy of discovernikkei.org.

 

As cliché as it sounds, the ten weeks in Media Arts flew by as I learned many new skills. I spent Saturdays filming public programs, meeting speakers that included baseball players and sports executives, hearing poetry readings, and learning the history of kamaboko (fish cake)—with samples! I got a VIP invitation to the Japanese Consul General’s home. I was suddenly able to grab a camera, shoot some videotape, and use Final Cut Pro to edit my own film. I learned basic Photoshop, and could create a real DVD with all the bells and whistles. Yet, as résumé-ready as these skills were, it was the experience and the interactions with people at the museum that were most life-changing.

I met staff and volunteers who had passion for the same things that I had passion for—brilliant people who cared about Japanese American history and culture, who understood the beauty of books and the knowledge they held. I met academics whose texts I had studied. I met people who could (and had) designed exhibitions from the ground up. One of my fellow Getty interns learned about the mysteries that could be unearthed in a pile of artifacts with a pair of white gloves, while the other experimented with wall vinyls and paints, learning how to make research come to life.

During a summer 2011 public program, Frank Kawana demonstrates how to make kamaboko (Japanese fish cake) by hand.

During a summer 2011 public program, Frank Kawana demonstrates
how to make kamaboko (Japanese fish cake) by hand.

 

In those ten quick weeks, I gained a new skill set, a few extra pounds from all the mochi ice cream and snacks, and most importantly, the knowledge that there is a brick-and-mortar set of walls that houses (and pays!) people who care about the same things I care about. When I left, I still didn’t quite know what I wanted to do with my postgraduate life, but I had a much stronger idea of where I might like to be.

In 2014, when I got a call from my amazing Media Arts supervisor about a temporary position in the museum store, I jumped at the opportunity to get my foot back in the door. Since then, I’ve managed to turn that temp gig into a full-time job, taking on a combination of Development, JANM Store, and Visitor Services duties. I’ve connected and reconnected with dozens of wonderful people, met the great George Takei (friend of the museum and the namesake of the lounge where I met my fellow interns back on that first day), and found a real home in this little JANM family.

For details on the available internships and how to apply, visit our Jobs page.

Film Examines Chinese Immigrant History from Women’s Perspectives

30 Mar

This past Saturday, in honor of Women’s History Month, JANM held a screening of the new documentary film, To Climb a Gold Mountain. The film recounts key moments in the history of Chinese immigrants in Los Angeles, with an emphasis on the experiences of Chinese women. Extensive commentary from writers and historians (including past JANM guest speaker Lisa See) is used to tell the stories, along with period stock footage, vintage photographs, and—in the case of a 19th-century prostitute about whom very little is known—a gripping reenactment.

Anna May Wong. Photo: Carl Van Vechten [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Anna May Wong. Photo: Carl Van Vechten [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

The film begins on a dark note, recounting the squalid and abusive conditions endured by the first female Chinese immigrants, who primarily served as prostitutes for the bachelor society of Chinese men that worked to build the railroads. Conditions slowly improved as laws changed to allow these men to start families in the U.S.

The rise of the filmmaking industry comes into play next as the life of Anna May Wong, a talented and charismatic actress who pioneered Asian American representation in popular media, is examined. In spite of her widely acknowledged abilities, Wong suffered a bitter disappointment when she lost the lead role in the landmark 1937 production of The Good Earth to Caucasian actress Luise Rainer, who, along with lead actor Paul Muni, played the role in “yellowface.”

The appearance of the glamorous, articulate, Wellesley-educated Soong Mei-ling, who became a world power player when she married Chinese president Chiang Kai-Shek, signifies a historic shift in U.S.-China relations as well as a significant shift in how Chinese people were viewed by the American public. The film ends on a positive and reaffirming note with a profile of Judy Chu, the first Chinese American woman elected to Congress, who states unequivocally her continuing belief in the American dream.

U.S. Congresswoman Judy Chu. Photo courtesy of chu.house.gov.

U.S. Congresswoman Judy Chu. Photo courtesy of chu.house.gov.

The screening was followed by a Q&A with producer and co-director Rebecca Hu, who was brought on to the project by the film’s director and executive producer, Alex Azmi. As a Chinese Canadian, the topic of the film resonated with Hu, but she did not know about most of the women being profiled. Thus, the making of the film was an educational experience for her. She noted that the issues highlighted in the film—such as discrimination against Asians and lack of visibility in the media—are still relevant today, and drew a parallel with recent discussions about the lack of diversity in the Academy Awards.

Hu also shared the good news that To Climb Gold Mountain has been picked up by PBS SoCal. A shorter version of the film that screened at JANM on Saturday—cut to fit PBS’s guidelines—will air beginning on May 17.

To find out more about this film, visit the website, which includes a fascinating gallery of notable Chinese American women, including many who are not featured in the film.

Putting the Spotlight on Writers of Color

24 Mar

LIT gif

 

Although today’s cultural landscape is much more diverse than it was 20 or 30 years ago, with a broader array of viewpoints represented in popular media and fine art, artists and writers of color still find themselves struggling to achieve as much visibility as their mainstream white counterparts. Recent events such as the celebrated launch of Fresh Off the Boat, the first Asian American network sitcom in over 20 years, and the lively dialogues that took place around the #OscarsSoWhite controversy reveal that cultural diversity is still an evolving and hotly debated topic in this country.

In 2015, the #LITinCOLOR initiative was launched as a way to spotlight the works of writers of color, particularly those of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) descent. Three small, well-respected publishers based in Los Angeles—Kaya Press, Tia Chucha Press, and Writ Large Press—came together to “bring attention to vital voices of color and social engagement in literature.”

After years of publishing innovative works by a diverse spectrum of authors, the #LITinCOLOR initiative gave them a distinctive way to branch out and reach new audiences by hosting readings and other events in a variety of locations. The founders credited recent grassroots movements such as #BlackLivesMatter, #BlackPoetsSpeakOut, and #WeNeedDiverseBooks for inspiration.

This coming Tuesday, March 29, at 7 p.m., join us for a special #LITinCOLOR event, held to coincide with the 2016 Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Conference, taking place this year in Los Angeles. An evening of readings by poets and novelists from various communities and generations will celebrate the invention and imagination of writers of color who seek to represent realities that lie outside of the mainstream imagination.

Featured writers will include April Naoko Heck, author of the poetry collection A Nuclear Family; Naomi Hirahara, author of the forthcoming mystery novel Sayonara Slam; traci kato-kiriyama, founder of Tuesday Night Project; Leza Lowitz, poet, author, and translator of Ayukawa Nobuo’s America and Other Poems; Japanese-New Zealander singer-songwriter Kat McDowell; David Mura, poet and author of The Last Incantations and Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei; and Gene Oishi, the renowned Nisei journalist who published his first novel, Fox Drum Bebop, when he was in his eighties. Fox Drum Bebop is the winner of the 2016 Association for Asian American Studies Book Award for Creative Writing in Prose.

This event is free and open to the public. It is co-sponsored by Kaya Press, Kundiman, Tia Chucha Press, Writ Large Press, and Tuesday Night Project. For a complete listing of past and upcoming #LITinCOLOR events, click here.

Photographer’s Son Featured in “Learning at Lunch”

16 Mar

Frank Sata shows us his own personal favorite photograph by his father, J.T. Sata. Photo by Ben Furuta.

Frank Sata shows us his own personal favorite photograph
by his father, J.T. Sata. Photo by Ben Furuta.

 

One of my favorite Members Only events here at JANM is the collections-based series, Learning at Lunch. Members can bring a brown bag lunch and sit back as our knowledgeable Collections Manager, Maggie Wetherbee, showcases unique and often unseen artifacts from JANM’s collections. One past session explored JANM’s intricate and beautiful bird pin collection, while another looked at paper artifacts—such as letters, photographs, and menus—that revealed how Thanksgiving was celebrated in the camps and by members of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

Is it a plant? Is it a bug? Frank Sata says it reminds him of Star Wars. Photograph by J.T. Sata. Japanese American National Museum. Partial and promised gift of Frank and Marian Sata and Family.

Is it a plant? Is it a bug? Frank Sata says it reminds him of Star Wars. Photograph by J.T. Sata. Japanese American National Museum. Partial and promised gift of Frank and Marian Sata and Family.

The most recent edition of Learning at Lunch took place last Friday. It was extra special, as we were joined by Frank Sata, son of photographer J.T. Sata, who is a featured artist in our current exhibition, Making Waves: Japanese American Photography, 1920–1940. Frank, a well-known architect, also has a unique connection to JANM: he was an instrumental part of the architectural team that renovated the museum’s Historic Building.

Frank began his presentation by sharing family photographs and personal stories about his family’s history and journey. He then shared some of his father’s photographs that are in JANM’s collection but not on view in the exhibition.

During this portion, classical music played in the background as a tribute to his father, who loved classical music; Frank also felt that the lyrical images deserved lyrical accompaniment. These photographs were not only breathtaking but also showcased J.T. Sata’s immense skill and artistic sensibility. Some of my favorites are featured here.

I see feathers here. Photograph by J.T. Sata. Japanese American National Museum. Partial and promised gift of Frank and Marian Sata and Family.

I see feathers here. Photograph by J.T. Sata. Japanese American National Museum. Partial and promised gift of Frank and Marian Sata and Family.

 

We were also treated to slides of J.T. Sata’s other works, including charcoal drawings of the Santa Anita Assembly Center and vibrant paintings from the family’s time at the Jerome concentration camp in Arkansas. Overall, the presentation was truly moving and such a unique opportunity to hear Frank share his personal insights about his father and his father’s work.

This was J.T. Sata's favorite photograph. Photograph by J.T. Sata. Japanese American National Museum. Partial and promised gift of Frank and Marian Sata and Family.

This was J.T. Sata’s favorite photograph. Photograph by J.T. Sata.
Japanese American National Museum. Partial and promised gift of Frank and Marian Sata and Family.

 

Making Waves will be on view through June 26. You can watch a short film about J.T. Sata made by JANM’s Frank H. Watase Media Arts Center here.

Alison Wong is JANM’s Membership Coordinator.

JANM Opens Two New Photography Exhibitions

9 Mar

Making Waves curator Dennis Reed speaks to a packed house at the Members Only exhibition preview event. Photo by Nobuyuki Okada.

Making Waves curator Dennis Reed speaks to a packed house at the Members Only exhibition preview event. Photo by Nobuyuki Okada.

 

On the weekend of February 27–28, JANM opened two new exhibitions, Making Waves: Japanese American Photography, 1920–1940 and Two Views: Photographs by Ansel Adams and Leonard Frank. A Members Only Preview Day, featuring a talk and book signing by Making Waves curator Dennis Reed and a dessert reception, took place on Saturday the 27th, followed by the public opening on Sunday the 28th.

In a special corner of the Making Waves exhibition, guests are invited to play with light and shadow and upload photos of their results to social media with the hashtag #JANMMakingWaves. Photo by JANM.

In a special corner of the Making Waves exhibition, guests are invited to
play with light and shadow and upload photos of their results to social media with the hashtag #JANMMakingWaves. Photo by JANM.

 

The response to these two exhibitions, one of which examines the lost legacy of early 20th-century Japanese American art photographers while the other features documentation of the World War II incarceration of both Japanese Americans and Japanese Canadians by iconic photographers, has been very strong. Attendance throughout the weekend was high as both members and non-members excitedly viewed the two new exhibitions.

JANM members enjoy a dessert buffet at the Members Only reception for Making Waves and Two Views. Photo by JANM.

JANM members enjoy a dessert buffet at the Members Only reception for Making Waves and Two Views. Photo by JANM.

On Members Only Preview Day, more than 200 guests crowded into Aratani Central Hall to listen to Dennis Reed’s talk, which explored the lives and work of several of the artists in Making Waves. The families of those artists were present in the audience; earlier in the day, JANM had hosted a private luncheon in their honor.

Los Angeles Times chief art critic Christopher Knight has penned a thoughtful and enthusiastic review of Making Waves, calling it “an absorbing, must-see exhibition” that features “some of the most adventurous avant-garde photographs in the years between the two World Wars.” He raves about the achievements of the photographers in the show, providing a detailed aesthetic analysis, and also recounts the tragic circumstances that cut them short. If you read Christopher Knight regularly, you know that a rave review from him is no small thing!

Dennis Reed (second from left) with Sadao Kimura, Alan Miyatake, and Minnie Takahashi at a special private luncheon held for family members of the photographers featured in Making Waves. Photo by Nobuyuki Okada.

Dennis Reed (second from left) with Sadao Kimura, Alan Miyatake, and Minnie Takahashi at a special private luncheon held for family members of the photographers featured in Making Waves. Photo by Nobuyuki Okada.

 

Many excellent programs are planned in conjunction with these two exhibitions, including gallery tours, panel discussions, and more. A Members Only edition of Learning at Lunch will take place this Friday at 12:15 p.m., featuring guest speaker Frank Sata, son of photographer J.T. Sata, who is featured in Making Waves. A Members Only tour of Making Waves, led by Dennis Reed, will be offered this Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m.; its focus will be on the photographers who worked in Los Angeles. Visit janm.org/events for details. Making Waves will be on view until June 26, while Two Views closes April 24.

Dennis Reed shows the audience an example of a vintage camera. Photo by Nobuyuki Okada.

Dennis Reed shows the audience an example of a vintage camera.
Photo by Nobuyuki Okada.

Inspiring Women and Girls of Color

3 Mar

Admission to JANM will be free to the public on Saturday, March 12, in celebration of the Smithsonian Institution’s annual Museum Day Live! event. This day is intended to encourage all people to explore our nation’s museums, cultural institutions, zoos, aquariums, parks, and libraries. This year, in recognition of Women’s History Month, the event has a special focus on reaching women and girls of color in underserved communities.

Mine with open newspaper, surrounded by anti-Japanese slogans, Berkeley, California, 1941

Mine with open newspaper, surrounded by anti-Japanese slogans, Berkeley, California, 1941. Gift of Mine Okubo Estate
(2007.62.14).

 

At JANM, we are very fortunate to have some significant pieces in our collection created by Japanese American women, such as the artist Miné Okubo (1912–2001), whose collection has been digitized and can be viewed on our museum’s website.

janm_2007.62.147_a

Gift of Mine Okubo Estate (2007.62.147).

Okubo was a young woman during World War II. She and her family were removed from San Francisco to Tanforan Assembly Center, and then incarcerated in the concentration camp at Topaz, Utah, for the remainder of the war. Okubo was a keen observer; she made sketches and ink drawings that depicted what life was really like in camp.

Gift of Mine Okubo Estate (2007.62.181).

Gift of Mine Okubo Estate (2007.62.181).

In many ways, Okubo was ahead of her time. Her graphic novel, Citizen 13660 (1946), was the first published personal account of the camp experience. Through her pen and ink drawings, readers got an intimate view of what daily life became when Okubo, an American citizen by birth, was reduced to a number: 13660.

To learn more about Miné Okubo and her trailblazing life, we recommend viewing our online collection of her work, reading Citizen 13660, which can be purchased at the JANM Store and janmstore.com, and checking out the biographical volume Mine Okubo: Following Her Own Road, edited by Greg Robinson and Elena Tajima Creef.

Mine and Benji standing with their luggage, Berkeley, California, 1942

Mine and Benji standing with their luggage, Berkeley, California, 1942. Gift of Mine Okubo Estate (2007.62.23).

 

2016 Community Day of Remembrance

25 Feb

Over the past few months, I have had the pleasure of participating on the planning committee for the 2016 Los Angeles Day of Remembrance program. I joined representatives from the Japanese American Citizens League (Pacific Southwest District), the Manzanar Committee, Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress, and others at JANM to organize the annual event which gathers members of the community to reflect on the enduring legacy of Executive Order 9066. That directive, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 19, 1942, authorized the forced removal and incarceration of over 120,000 people of Japanese descent during World War II.

JANM-2016-Day-of-Remembrance-MaythaAlhassen-photoBenFuruta

Maytha Alhassen addresses the audience at the 2016 Community Day of Remembrance. Photo by Ben Furuta.

 

The program was held last Saturday before a standing room only crowd at JANM’s Aratani Central Hall. Entitled Is It 1942 Again? Overcoming Our Fears and Upholding Constitutional Rights for All, the program honored the courage and perseverance of the women, men, and children who were incarcerated during World War II, while challenging the audience to apply the lessons of Japanese American history in today’s context. Following recent terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, American Muslims, Sikhs, South Asians, Arab Americans, and refugees attempting to enter the United States have been the target of hateful acts and caustic rhetoric—a chilling echo of the Japanese American experience during World War II.

A distinguished set of speakers eloquently addressed this year’s theme. They included: event emcees Bruce Embrey (Manzanar Committee) and traci ishigo (Japanese American Citizens League); JANM Vice President of Operations and Art Director Clement Hanami; Anthony Marsh of the American Friends Service Committee, an organization that courageously opposed the World War II incarceration; and Maytha Alhassen, a Syrian Muslim American Provost PhD Fellow in American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California.

Congresswoman Judy Chu warned the audience, “Because of the Japanese American camps, we know just how far the country can go if we let hysteria and scapegoating get their way.”  She continued, “Let us make sure that what happened to Japanese Americans never happens to anyone again in this country.”

Congresswoman Judy Chu speaking at the 2016 Community Day of Remembraance

Congresswoman Judy Chu. Photo by Ben Furuta.

 

But no voice was more essential to the program than that of longtime JANM docent and Heart Mountain camp survivor Bill Shishima. Bill recalled his early childhood years spent near Olvera Street in downtown LA, and the grocery store and hotel his father operated there before being forced to leave them behind during World War II. Bill’s vivid description of the years that followed transported the audience to the foul-smelling horse stables of Santa Anita Race Track, where Bill’s grandparents stayed, and to the incessant dust storms of Bill’s eventual home, Heart Mountain camp. One by one, Bill recounted the traumas and indignities of everyday camp life—the degrading lack of privacy, the barbed wire fences and armed guards, the confusing and ominous loyalty questionnaire, and the promising student body president who volunteered for military service to prove his patriotism and was then killed in Europe.

Bill concluded his remarks by reminding the audience of the “fragility of civil liberties in a time of crisis, and the importance of remaining vigilant in protecting the rights and freedoms of all.” He received a well-deserved standing ovation.

JANM-2016-Day-of-Remembrance-BillShishima-photoRichardMurakami

Bill Shishima. Photo by Richard Murakami.