Target Free Family Saturday is upon us again!

This Saturday, November 12th our theme is Planet Power.  As you can see from this picture of a very crowded corner in our office, volunteers and staff at the Japanese American National Museum have been busy saving up boxes, bottles, and other recyclable materials in preparation for a day of fun activities at the Museum from 11am – 4pm. 

Our friends at Great Leap have created a puppet making activity and several cool workshops for kids to participate in.  We’ll also be decorating re-useable bags (which you can carry your creations home in).    

Come on by!   Rain or shine we’ll be waiting for you!

Greetings from the City of Brotherly Love!

Back home the Museum is on Pacific Standard Time with our Drawing the Line exhibition opening on October 15th but we also have some very exciting news to report from the Eastern Time Zone. Fighting for Democracy: Who is the “We” in “We the People?” is now at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia and I’m thrilled to report that it looks fantastic in such a wonderful institution.  With Fighting for Democracy’s stop in Philadelphia, this project of JANM’s National Center for the Preservation of Democracy has now traveled to seven cities across the country.  There’s something significant about seeing this exhibition just a short walk from Independence Hall, where the Constitution was signed in 1787.  I think its presence in this location and in this city will have visitors reflecting a lot about the “Who is the “We” in We the People?” question.  Hmmmm… who was that “We” back in 1787?  Who has it been over the course of history?  Who it is now?

Theatrical performance in the Fighting for Democracy exhibition

Our friends at the National Constitution Center have done such impressive things with the exhibition.  In addition to a fantastic display, they have also created an incredible theatrical performance to go along with the show.

I’ve had the privilege of spending a lot of time with this exhibition at JANM over the years and yet, the actors portraying Bill, Carl, Domingo, Frances, George, Hazel, and Hector moved me to tears as they made me see these extraordinary lives in an entirely new way.  It is so exciting to know that school groups and visitors in Philadelphia will be able to enhance their experience of Fighting for Democracy with these performances.

Domingo Los Banos

This week’s opening events have been extra special for everyone because Domingo Los Banos, who is featured in the exhibition flew out to Philadelphia all the way from Hawai’i to be at the opening.  Domingo is an inspiration to many and it is always so wonderful to see him and witness his energy and spirited storytelling.

If you find yourself anywhere near Philadelphia between now and January 16, 2012, don’t miss the chance to visit the National Constitution Center and see JANM on the road!  (Of course, we always welcome school groups to make an appointment to visit the exhibition at the Museum in Los Angeles too!)

We’ll be “up in the air” at our next Target Free Family Saturday!

Autumn is here and that means JANM’s October 8th Target Free Family Saturday is right around the corner!  We took a little break in September to give everyone a chance to focus on the new school year. (Hope the year is off to a great start for all of our student friends out there!)  Now we’re ready for more fun with October’s “Up in the Air” theme.  Join us for kite making, a balloon artist, origami butterflies, and a tasty activity with Kidding Around in the Kitchen.  I can’t wait!  A complete schedule for the day can be found here.  Hope you can come!

Here’s a sample of one of the activities that we will be doing.  For now, this friendly balloon creature sits by himself in my at my desk but he’s looking forward to making more friends on October 8th!

Go Arkansas — woooooo pig sooie!

Parkview High School (Little Rock) Student Mural, 2005. Photo by Richard M. Murakami.

 

It’s football season and the team that I follow is the University of Arkansas. No, I didn’t go to school there, but I am a huge fan. (Shall we call the hogs now?)

Why Arkansas?

Oddly enough, because Arkansas was the site for two government-run WWII concentration camps that unlawfully held 16,000 Japanese Americans. It was a virtually unknown story in the state for six decades. But thanks to a partnership between the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, and JANM, a multi-year project called Life Interrupted: The Japanese American Experience in World War II Arkansas culminated in 2004 with a number of exhibitions, educational programs, and a national conference. We hope that we might have collectively learned a little bit more about the Japanese American experience in the state, and specifically more about Rohwer and Jerome. Definitely, JANM staff and volunteers learned lots from Arkansans of all ages.

Detail of quilt created by elementary school students at Little Rock’s Gibbs Magnet School of International Studies and Foreign Languages, 2004. Photo by Richard M. Murakami.

You might be interested in a seven minute video of Arkansas students talking about what they learned. While you’re watching it, keep in mind that we arrived at these schools with a video camera and very little warning: major kudos go to these poised young people and their outstanding teachers!

Speaking of which, UALR’s Web site has all of the project’s teacher-created curriculum available for download–for free.

JANM, in 2005, followed up on the Life Interrupted project with an exhibition of murals made at Rohwer High School, Lasting Beauty: Miss Jamison and the Student Muralists. The murals on display here were just the tip of the iceberg of JANM’s holdings from the collection of student artwork and other camp-related memorabilia donated by former Rohwer art teacher, Mabel Rose Jamison Vogel–known to her students as Miss Jamison. This exhibition also proudly featured a new student mural, pictured at the top of this blog post. This beautiful mural was created by the students (shown below) at Little Rock’s Parkview High School as a modern-day response to the WWII-era murals. Painters of all ages pitched in to help, too.

Parkview HS students with their mural at JANM. Photo by Richard M. Murakami.

And now we are excited to announce that more Rohwer artwork and memorabilia are on exhibit! The Butler Center for Arkansas Studies–the institution that holds the other part of the Vogel Collection–has created an exhibition called The Art of Living: Japanese American Creative Experience at Rohwer. We hope you can get to Little Rock before November 26 to see it!

And in case you miss the exhibition, there are also new and exciting Arkansas-based preservation efforts afoot, including restoring the Rohwer cemetery, as well as new signage and an audio tour in development from the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Arkansas Delta Rural Heritage Development Initiative.

(Okay, seriously, now shall we call the hogs?)

Entrance to Rohwer, 2004. Photo by Richard M. Murakami.

Summer for JANM Volunteers

During the summer when we have fewer school visitors, the Education Unit runs summer sessions for the volunteers. Here are some quick, recent highlights…

7/22/11 (Last Friday) – Clement led a special tour of his artwork featured in ROUND TRIP: Eight East Los Angeles College Alumni Artists at the newly opened Vincent Price Art Museum at East LA College. Standing in front of his low-rider rickshaw with “Yo No Soy Chino” written on it, we thought about Clement’s experiences growing up Japanese American in East LA.

7/29/11 (Today) – Frank Kawana was interviewed by his grandson, Cole, about being a second generation maker of kamaboko. Frank, possibly the only person on the mainland who can do it by hand, showed us HOW TO MAKE KAMABOKO. (Haven’t you always wondered how this is done?) Cole conducted an interview that was absolutely fascinating, even to a vegetarian like me.

It was eaten up so quickly that Clement’s picture of the last slice is the only photographic evidence we have. Those who were lucky enough to taste it said Frank’s fresh kamaboko was even better than what you buy in the store. So when you have Yamasa kamaboko, think of the Kawanas. More info about the interview—as well as tips on how to do an interview of your own—will be available shortly on our Discover Nikkei Web site.

7/29/11 (Today) – While Lynn was leading the volunteers on a tour of JANM’s current exhibition Year of the Rabbit: Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo, Stan Sakai, the artist himself, stopped by. He gave us even more insight into the making of Usagi Yojimbo.

As Richard M. (who gets most of the photo credits on this post) said, “We really hit the jackpot today.”

Ever thought about volunteering for the Museum and joining in on the fun???

The Digital Docent

Shishima Family 1944

 

Look at our volunteer Bill as a young boy!  Top right.  Don’t you want to know where he is, what he’s thinking, how he got his hair so perfectly coiffed?

Ok but seriously.  Our volunteers have a rich narrative of history to share with younger generations.  History has been written from the top down, but the foundation is the strength of the story and ordinary peoples’ voices need to be heard.  A new history told from the bottom up needs to be cultivated bringing dimension and diversity to our understanding.  This year we are introducing a new Speakers Bureau through online interfacing.  The Digital Speaker’s Bureau will facilitate this new history and discourse between generations.  Enabling students to speak to older adults and hear their stories is a much more moving experience than one that can be gained from a textbook.  The Speaker’s Bureau also allows us to reach an audience that for distance or financial reasons is unable to visit the National Museum.

Students can have a richer education that includes more of the diversity that makes America.  The personal connections that can be made through the Digital Speaker’s Bureau are difficult to replicate in a textbook or classroom.  The shared experiences of the volunteers will lend itself to an informed society and one more aware of the complex networks of narratives that make our history.

Plus, look at how cute Bill looks.

We trialed an oral history interview over Skype last spring between Bill and a high school in Texas.  It went a little something like this.

Digital Speaker Session

If you’re interested in setting up a group for Digital Speaker session, please email groupvisits@janm.org!

 

Gettin’ arty at Target Free Family Day THIS SATURDAY!

Saturday (June 11th) is Target Free Family Saturday from 11 am – 4 pm! This month we join our neighbors at MOCA in celebrating Street Art.  We have a full schedule of painting demonstrations, sketching workshops, and art making activities. Our friends from the Mixed Roots Festival will be taking part in the fun with some art making too.

I always have so much fun thinking about art activities for Family Day but, sometimes, something seems like a good idea at first but it needs to be tested and tweaked before putting it into action at Family Day.  Yesterday I tried things out and made a few samples of our poster making and sticker printing activities for Saturday. Fortunately, everything worked out pretty well so, come on over!  We’re ready! I can’t wait to see what the creative minds of our Family Day visitors will come up with.  Hope you’ll join us!

50th Anniversary of the Freedom Rides

Panelists (L to R): Robert Singleton, Helen Singleton, Sybil Jordan Hampton (moderator), Tamio Wakayama
Student with his artwork inspired by the Freedom Rides

I often take for granted how easy it is to follow breaking news. To find out what happened during a raid on a compound in Pakistan, I can turn on a 24-hours news channel or click on a few links to get caught up.

But 50 years ago the medium of television was new. And 50 years ago today, the first buses of Freedom Riders (and three reporters) left Washington, D.C. and headed South to test Boynton v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that had desegregated interstate travel. What followed changed the course of the United States history.

The Freedom Rides have been on our minds a lot this year. On February 9, 2011 the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History organized a Web cast and National Youth Summit that brought together Freedom Riders in D.C. and engaged five Smithsonian Affiliates from across the nation to discuss the meaning of the Freedom Rides and the role of young people in shaping America’s past and future.

Student with Dr. Robert Singleton

JANM was honored to have been selected as the West Coast venue for this program and streamed the Webcast to a live audience of students from LAUSD’s Civitas School of Leadership and Ribet Academy. Following the Webcast, Dr. Robert and Mrs. Helen Singleton, two Los Angeles-based Freedom Riders, and Mr. Tamio Wakayama, a Japanese Canadian member of SNCC, were on a panel moderated by Dr. Sybil Jordan Hampton, a member of JANM’s Board of Trustees and herself an important figure in the Civil Rights Movement. We were star struck!!!

This has gotten us thinking about how the Freedom Rides impacted Japanese Americans, and especially how it may have emboldened those in the Redress Movement. What were the Issei, Nisei, and Sansei who watched these images broadcast on national television (just as that medium was becoming commonplace) thinking and feeling as they watched the buses burning, the cruel racism, and brave individuals standing up for what was right?

What would you have been thinking if you had been watching those Freedom Riders make their way South under the “protection” of Boynton v. Virginia?

P.S. To learn more about the Freedom Rides, tune into your PBS station on May 16 and also we highly recommend The Children by David Halberstam. Learn more about new generation of young people who are about to retrace the path of the Freedom Riders. And, maybe you can catch a glimpse of the Singletons when Oprah Winfrey reunites the Freedom Riders on May 4.

Photographer: Tracy Kumono

Very special visitors from Bainbridge Island

It’s not everyday that you meet an icon but, recently at the Museum we did. The photograph of Fumiko Hayashida and her daughter Natalie is one that has become an iconic image so often associated with the telling of the history of the Japanese American incarceration. At 100 years old, Mrs. Hayashida is the oldest surviving person from Bainbridge Island, Washington who was incarcerated at Manzanar Concentration Camp. 

Photo by Richard Murakami

Last Wednesday, Mrs. Hayashida and Natalie were part of a group that visited the Museum through the Only What We Can Carry Project, which I was very excited to learn more about. Through this project, Bainbridge Island educators are partnered with current and former residents of Bainbridge Island who experienced the World War II removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans. Together, they retrace the 1942 journey of Japanese Americans from Bainbridge Island to Manzanar. JANM was lucky enough to host this wonderful group for a couple of hours when they stopped by on their way to Manzanar.  

Photo by Richard Murakami

As the group was lead through our Common Ground exhibition by the dynamic docent duo of Babe and Mary Karasawa, one of my most memorable moments was when they approached the large photograph of the Bainbridge Island community on the ferry dock as they were leaving the island in 1942. The Hayashidas, Frank Kitamoto, and Lily Kodama who were all in the group started to point themselves out in the photograph.  “That’s me, right there.”  This is a photograph I’ve seen hundereds of times since it is so prominently displayed in our gallery, but to see it with this group took it beyond being a historical image among many on our wall. It became a very personal photograph of an exact memory of very real people.

As someone who has the great privilege of working with educators and has witnessed what an essential part they can play in the teaching of the Japanese American experience, I was especially interested in meeting this group. We often think about how we won’t always have the first-person experience of camp but, watching our new friends leave the Museum to began their long car ride to Manzanar, I was reminded that in a way, first-person experiences of camp continue to be created today. The school teachers in this group will take what they’ve experienced on this journey back to their school and back to their students and they will share their own personal experiences of camp. What a wonderful way to keep the legacy alive through new personal histories.

In 1942, the first Civilian Exclusion Order issued was for Bainbridge Island and as a result, it was the first community of Japanese Americans to be forcibly removed from homes with just a few days to prepare.  For more on Bainbridge Island, be sure to come by the Museum on Saturday, April 30 at 2:00 pm to learn more about this unique community. There’ll be a Bainbridge Film Festival featuring films by Lucy Ostrander, including Fumiko Hayashida: The Woman Behind the Symbol, a film about one of JANM’s most memorable visitors.