Treasure of Today

Greetings!  My name is Jenni Nakamura. I am one of three Getty Multicultural Undergraduate Interns, here at the Japanese American National Museum, working in the Media Arts Center. Over the next 10 weeks, I will be shooting, editing, transcribing and learning as much as I can from John Esaki and Akira Boch (and the rest of the National Museum staff!).  I am a 4th year Asian American Studies major at UCLA.  My interests are culturally relevant social services within the Asian American community and my passion is to explore the use of visual arts to preserve and give light to hidden personal histories and community issues.   It is an immense blessing and gift to be a part of the family here for the summer!

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.”

I remember coming to the Japanese American National Museum as a young girl. Promises of Suehiro lunch and green tea ice cream afterwards were icing on the cake.   I remember walking through the historic building with the dark rooms and brightly lit displays.  I can still here my grandmother’s voice recalling the sights, sounds, tastes and feelings of those painful years for her family and countless others.  I remember when the new building was built and my grandparent’s excitement as I ran around Common Ground with my nose pressed up against the glass, as if to soak up a century’s (and more!) worth of history.  I remember walking into the barrack display for the first time – speechless, like stepping into a silent memory that was finally gaining a voice.  I remember watching home videos (“Something Strong Within”) on the walls of the exhibits, like windows in a time machine, doors to moments that will never replay…

Though seemingly fragmented, these pieces form an intricately woven puzzle that have led me to this moment.  To be sitting here in the Media Arts Center, is like a complete picture: media, Japanese American history, stories of the past, and Little Tokyo.  I’m amazed and thankful for all that has transpired to be here, now – just another part of a continuing journey – destination to be determined.  Thankful and excited for these upcoming weeks, for the stories to be heard, the lives that will intersect and the hope that comes from reflecting on the struggle our community has endured.

Standing here at a crossroads with the end of my undergraduate career in sight, I realize that this moment would not be possible without the intersection of my past, my heritage, my history and the mysterious, but hopeful futureToday, indeed, is a gift and a blessing – a treasure.  My time at the museum has been just that.  From lunch time conversations with the staff and volunteers of “the good ol’ days”, to sifting through video footage and transcriptions of people from the community with whom I have worked or have read about in my Asian American Studies classes – my time here at the museum has almost been like a returning to a family that I’ve always had a connection to but never fully known.  A return to the place where this seed, of passion, of hope, of joy through visualizing and capturing the histories and struggles of the past was planted and is continuing to blossom…

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