The recent election has brought many social and political issues to the forefront of American consciousness. Stoked by sensationalistic news coverage, debates and statements have often been heated and not always productive. To counteract this phenomenon, we at the Japanese American National Museum thought we would try a different tactic. Thus, to begin this new year, we invite you to join us in connecting with other museum visitors in a search for “common ground.”
Beginning on January 12, JANM will present a four-week series of public conversations taking place in the galleries of our core exhibition, Common Ground: The Heart of Community. Elements of the exhibition, which chronicles 130 years of Japanese American history through hundreds of objects, documents, and photographs, will serve as jumping-off points to start each week’s conversation. Sessions will take place on consecutive Thursday evenings from 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., and each one will focus on a different topic. Staff members from the museum’s education department will lead and facilitate the discussions.
Following are the topics for each conversation:
January 12: Compassion
January 19: Transparency
January 26: Speaking out
February 2: Solidarity
Our hope is that Common Ground Conversations will generate meaningful dialogue centered on each week’s topic, using Japanese American history to delve into contemporary issues and current concerns. No tickets or RSVPs are required. Common Ground Conversations coincide with JANM’s free admission on Thursdays starting at 5 p.m.
Now that summer is almost over, it’s time for educators to plan their school year. JANM’s outstanding School Group Visits program, which offers a variety of stimulating and customizable activities, should be at the top of everyone’s list. Be sure to book your visit by August 31, as a rate increase will take place after that date.
We are now accepting school group visit reservations for the 2016–17 school year. For Title I schools and other groups with financial need, funding is available to cover the costs of admission and bus transportation. Funding is limited and you must apply in advance.
We offer several different options for customizing your visit. There has been increased interest in our newest tour options, which allow students to interact with our ongoing exhibition, Common Ground: The Heart of Community, in new ways. For example, the Object Analysis Tour (suitable for grades 6–12), encourages students to analyze and interpret specific artifacts and images, while the Self-Guided Tour and Discussion (suitable for grades 9–12) asks students to independently explore Common Ground and then participate in a facilitated discussion on how the Japanese American experience relates to the themes of civil rights and democracy. These tours are often followed by one or two of the following optional activities:
For high school students, we also recommend visiting Fighting for Democracy, our experimental exhibition featuring seven real people whose stories are traced through the pre-World War II, World War II, and postwar periods. Their stories demonstrate how millions of American lives were affected by the war, and how individuals struggled to attain equal rights for their families and communities.
Before bringing student groups to the Fighting for Democracy exhibition, educators are strongly encouraged to sign up for a free professional development workshop. JANM organizes customized workshops to provide an orientation to the exhibition and preparation on facilitating an interactive experience. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a Fighting for Democracy educator workshop and visit. Free admission and field trip transportation is provided on a first-come, first-served basis for educators who attend the pre-visit workshop. A free Educator Resource Guide is also available for download!
Be sure to consult all of our free educator resources as you plan your year and your lesson plans. If you have any questions about planning your visit, please contact email@example.com.
Kane Yutaka Tenorio, a college student and rap artist also known as “Kamikaze Kane,” was born in East Los Angeles in 1997. A young man of mixed Latino, Japanese, Native American, and white ancestry, Kane enjoys a close relationship with his extended family, including his grandmother Sue Sato-Tenorio, an educator and longtime friend of JANM.
As a youth, Kane spent a lot of time at his family’s three historic Boyle Heights homes, where he was able to learn about their history firsthand. His great-great-grandmother on his father’s side was a physician who practiced out of her house. She was also diabetic; when she was incarcerated at Poston by the US government during World War II, she became very ill due to lack of care and medication. Kane’s grandma Sue was born at the camp, along with her older brother. Although the family was lucky enough to retrieve their homes when the war was over, they lost their thriving businesses and virtually everything else.
The real impact of these stories was not lost on Kane, who was an active participant in family discussions as a child. As he grew older, he took up the study of music, eventually writing and recording original rap songs, which were inspired by his own experiences and world events. Today he performs his material, which frequently addresses race and social justice, in venues throughout Southern California.
This Tuesday, May 17, at 10 a.m. PDT, JANM is proud to host the latest edition of the Smithsonian’s National Youth Summit, which will focus on the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. Kane’s rap song “9066,” will be played to kick off the summit, after which a panel of dynamic speakers will address the history and legacy of the incarceration. (For more information about the Summit, click here.)
Kane’s song is both a stirring protest against injustice and a loving tribute to the resiliency of his family, whose stories are woven throughout. In his grandma Sue’s words: “I am so proud that Kane has written this rap not only about my experience, but the collective experiences of thousands of Japanese Americans who were incarcerated in the United States of America. To me, his song is about the trajectory of injustice, and the terrible human consequences of our government’s illegal incarceration of people solely due to race.”
The museum’s Tateuchi Democracy Forum will host a full house of students and educators for this important edition of the National Youth Summit. Among the audience members will be three generations of the Tenorio family, including Kane and Sue. In addition, educators and their classrooms around the globe are invited to participate via a live webcast of the event; so far, the event has received registrations for more than 2,000 students from 42 states, the District of Columbia, France, and Canada.
It’s not too late to register your class for what will surely be a lively and engaging event. The Youth Summit website offers many useful educator resources, such as lesson plans and conversation kits, that can be downloaded. After the event concludes, the Smithsonian will archive it along with past Youth Summits on this webpage, where they are available for viewing at any time.
Are you a student in the Los Angeles area? Are you a parent of a student in the Los Angeles area? Have you heard of Los Angeles Summer of Learning? Well this is something that you should definitely know about!
Los Angeles Summer of Learning is a great new initiative that seeks to engage young people with hands-on learning activities at museums, parks, libraries, and other organizations during the summer months. Think of Los Angeles as one giant summer classroom where students can earn digital badges for participating in fun and educational activities throughout the city.
JANM is proud to participate in this initiative with our 2014 Natsumatsuri Family Festival on Saturday, August 9th. Students can earn a digital badge by coming to our popular annual summer celebration and checking out an array of traditional Japanese and Japanese American performances, crafts, talks, workshops, and special events. Admission is FREE all day!
To participate in Los Angeles Summer of Learning, all you have to do is sign up on the website and browse for activities that interest you or your children. You will be on your way to earning digital badges in no time! To get your Natsumatsuri badge, be sure to come to JANM on August 9th and ask for your badge claim code at our survey table.
You can read more about Los Angeles Summer of Learning here.
January 30 is the birthday of the late Fred Korematsu and it is also Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and Social Justice!
Over the past few years, we have had a chance to get to know his daughter, Karen Korematsu, who has taken on the role of Co-Founder and now Executive Director of the Korematsu Institute, whose mission is to advance pan-ethnic civil and human rights through education.
Karen is joining with others to spread the word about her father’s story. As a young man, Mr. Korematsu purposely disobeyed the government’s 1942 order that excluded all people of Japanese ancestry, without due process, from the West Coast. He was arrested and eventually removed to a Japanese American concentration camp in Utah. He appealed his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but in 1944 the Court ruled against him, declaring that the exclusion and confinement of people of Japanese descent was justified. It wasn’t until 1983 that his conviction was finally overturned. (Here is a link to his full bio.)
For teachers who are planning to commemorate Mr. Korematsu’s stand for civil liberties, we’ve put together a few links to FREE resources that we hope might be helpful to you:
We are so excited about our upcoming participation in a National Youth Summit with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and 10 other Smithsonian Affiliate organizations across the country.
On February 5, 2014 students from around the country will participate in a live webcast originating from The Old Capitol Museum in Jackson, Mississippi. The program will reflect on the 1964 youth-led effort for voting rights and education known as Freedom Summer and will include a panel of activists, experts, and scholars.
Following the webcast, JANM will have our own on-site program. Tamio Wakayama, a Nisei Japanese Canadian who joined the American Civil Rights Movement as a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), will share his experiences and the documentary photographs that he took from 1963 to 1964.
Now, here’s the great part: all youth and educators are invited to participate from their classrooms through the magic of the web! Teachers… this means you! Just take a look at this fantastic site for the program.
The Smithsonian has provided teaching resources and other tools for you and your students. You can pre-register and join in the conversation along with us and view the program streaming live from the Old Capitol Museum.
Schools have started and JANM is back in session! Buses pull up each morning, filled with students and teachers coming to learn more about the Japanese American experience.
We are always thinking about ways in which these visitors—most of whom are not of Japanese descent—can better relate to the Japanese American experience. One of the ways we do this is to use the artifacts (the “stuff”) from JANM’s collection as a means to begin conversations about visitors’ diverse, yet intersecting, experiences.
So last Spring, we worked with a group of ninth graders from Los Angeles Unified School District’s King/Drew Magnet High School of Medicine and Science to see how artifacts connect to stories of immigration/migration. These students uncovered family histories to learn how their artifacts related to their families’ journeys.
Before coming to JANM for a school visit, students photographed their artifacts and wrote short narratives about journeys to Los Angeles from other states, other countries. The artifacts, like the artifacts in JANM’s collection, are indeed very precious and have some amazing stories to tell!
We hope that the sampling of the essays from the King/Drew students might also get you thinking about your own stories of immigration/migration.
The students’ essays were created as part of a pilot project between King/Drew Magnet High School of Medicine and Science, the Japanese American National Museum, and the Smithsonian Institution’s Our American Journey Project. OAJ is a multi-year project that will examine international and internal migration centered on what we understand today to be the United States.
We loved having local Girl Scouts come out again for our second annual Girl Scout Patch Program! This year’s program was all about identity, both on the individual and community level. We began the day with a tour of our exhibition Visible & Invisible: A Hapa Japanese American History(closing August 25th!). Lead by our School Programs Developer Lynn Yamasaki, the tour touched on the history of—and challenges faced by—mixed-race and mixed-roots Japanese Americans.
The tour was followed by a great discussion of some of the exhibition themes, like what it means to be Japanese in a rapidly evolving community. In the end, being Japanese is about more than pure race, the scouts decided. Instead, Japanese American identity today encompasses widespread cultural elements such as the ability to use chopsticks, a taste for sashimi (admittedly up for debate), and involvement in the community. On a more personal level, the girls discussed the many factors—from geography to heritage—that make up their backgrounds and shape their attitudes and behavior.
After the discussion, we moved on to expressing our identities in a more hands-on way—with the help of some paper doll templates and a vast array of supplies from the education closet! Each girl made a reflection of herself (and one mom joined in with a lovely family portrait), carefully selecting the portrait’s attributes and making each unique, from style of dress to life mottos.
Giant Robot Biennale 3 closed this past Sunday but not without some cool happenings. As part of what we called Giant Robot Artists’ Entourage, some of the GRB3 artists came to teach their techniques and share a bit about their art making process.
Eric Nakamura, Albert Reyes, Saelee Oh, and Rob Sato, were super-generous with their creativity and led several great art making workshops and discussions. On Saturday we concluded the GR Entourage program with a watercolor workshop by Rob Sato.
In addition to the public workshops, a major part of Giant Robot Artists’ Entourage was a series of workshops for high school students. The result was a display of work that was produced during the workshops AND as an added bonus, last Friday a group of students from our neighbors at Mendez Learning Center came by for a visit! This great group of people included two of the Entourage participants who helped lead their teachers and fellow students through the GRB3 exhibition and the display of their work. It was the perfect way to continue the learning and conversation.
Big thanks to all the artists who shared with us and to the students and teachers from Mendez Learning Center and The Los Angeles School of Global Studies. We had a great time with you all!
Support for the Giant Robot Entourage program is provided by the National Endowment of the Arts.
Many thanks to Richard Murakami and Gary Ono for taking photographs to document the workshops!
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.”