Fighting for Democracy is in Michigan!

Whew!  I can’t believe it’s already been a week since I was in Michigan celebrating the opening of our exhibition Fighting for Democracy: Who is the “We” in “We the People?” at the Arab American National Museum Not only did the Great Lakes State welcome me with surprisingly warm weather (a very important detail for this Southern Californian) but, the warm welcome and generous hospitality from the fantastic staff at the AANM made it a great trip. 

It’s always interesting to see this exhibit installed in the various cities to which it’s traveled.  Whether it is displayed in Philadelphia where the Constitution was signed, steps away from the actual Constitution on the National Mall, or in Hawai‘i where we joined Domingo Los Baños (one of the individuals featured in the exhibit) in his home state, each place adds different meaning and significance to the exhibit.  The Arab American National Museum is the 8th stop on Fighting for Democracy’s tour and it is an institution that we, at JANM feel a special connection with.  Not only do we share the commonality of being culturally specific museums that promote the appreciation of our country’s diversity; but, we also have common histories and stories that are particularly important to share as we consider parallels between the Japanese American World War II experience and the treatment of Arab Americans following the events of September 11, 2001.

What is great about Fighting for Democracy traveling to AANM right now is that is goes along so well with their current exhibition Patriots & Peacemakers: Arab Americans in Service to our Country.  Linking the past to the present, both exhibitions focus on individual personal stories as a way to think about broader stories and the bigger picture.  I think that’s a great way to make meaning.        

Many thanks to the wonderful people at the Arab American National Museum for being so welcoming and for working so hard to get the exhibition up.  If you’re in the area, be sure to go see our friends in Dearborn.  It is a great museum and definitely worth a stop!

Happy birthday, Fred Korematsu!

January 30 is Fred T. Korematsu’s birthday! He would have been 93 years old.

Gift of Tsuyako “Sox” Kitashima, Japanese American National Museum (98.152.1).

In 2010 Governor Schwarzenegger signed AB 1775, calling for all Californians to annually recognize January 30 as “Fred T. Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution.” This is the first and only “day” named for an Asian American anywhere in the nation.

This day commemorates a young man who disobeyed the government’s 1942 order that excluded all people of Japanese ancestry, without due process, from the West Coast. Korematsu 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.

[He didn’t mention any of this to his daughter, Karen. She only found out about it in high school when her classmate was assigned to read a book about a man named Fred Korematsu. She thought, “That can’t be my father!”]

In 1983 and with the efforts of a very sharp, pro bono legal team, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned his conviction. Though relieved, it concerned Korematsu that the decision Korematsu v. United States remains on the books. He continued to vigilantly fight for the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, filing two amicus briefs following 9/11.

Korematsu Institute’s Fred Korematsu Day Logo

Fred Korematsu passed away in 2005, at age 86. Karen continues her father’s legacy. She co-founded the Korematsu Institute and goes to schools to share her father’s story with young people.

This is just a brief post about Fred Korematsu. There are many ways to learn more. The Los Angeles County Office of Education‘s video from a recent student program featuring Karen Korematsu will soon be available on-line. (See Christy’s re-cap of the program here.) JANM has a high school mock trial lesson plan created by Texas teacher, Mark Hansen. On February 2, Korematsu will become the first Asian American to have his portrait included in the Struggle for Justice exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery. And the Korematsu Institute is aggregating activities taking place around the nation to celebrate Korematsu Day 2012.

We hope that you, too, will celebrate the legacy of Fred Korematsu, a man who fought for our civil rights.

Korematsu Day

History books will tell you the following…

In 1942 a young man named Fred Korematsu refused to be forcibly removed from the West Coast to incarceration camps with 120,000 other Japanese Americans. He was arrested and convicted of defying the presidential order, but appealed his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Ultimately, the conviction was upheld and validated the denial of constitutional rights of Japanese Americans for “military necessity.” In 1983, Fred’s case was re-opened and his conviction was overturned.  Fred continued to advocate for justice and civil liberties for all for the reminder of his life.

For the whole story, visit the National Museum!  On to our program.

Last year, January 30th officially became Fred Korematsu Day, the first day in US history named after an Asian American.  We had an event last year in commemoration and decided to program a little something on December 16th in preparation for 2012.

 

We were so happy to have with us Karen Korematsu, Fred’s daughter and founder of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute as well as students from Rancho Dominguez High, Duarte High and Mendez Learning Center.

 

We had a great group of kids who were thoughtful, courteous, critical thinkers and conscientious.  And not to mention the great teachers that ensured they were all of the above.

We were able to preview some of the great educational material coming out of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute as well as hear from Karen herself.  After the students were able to create a dialogue with their classmates, ask questions and create posters to bring back to their respective schools.

Aw, it’s like dear old dad is smiling down on his daughter.

They also had guided visits from our stellar docents.

 

Special thanks to the Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education, Los Angeles County Office of Education, California Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools & Constitutional Rights Foundation and the Alameda County Office of Education.  And more big thank you to Tracy Kumono for her wonderful photographs!

Look out for a recording of the event courtesy of LACOE coming soon!

It’s our last Target Free Family Saturday of 2011

Bring the family to the Museum this Saturday, December 10th as we finish off the year by designing wrapping paper and making paper snowflakes to go with this chilly weather that we’ve had the past couple of days.

We’re big fans of origami here at the Museum so we’ll also be making origami hopping frogs.  After you fold yours, have a contest with folded frogs made by other visitors to see how far they can hop.

If frogs aren’t your thing, we’ll also have an area for you to sharpen your origami skills making other fun things. Join us for these activities as well as Japanese gift wrapping workshops throughout the day.  A full schedule can be found here.

As an added bonus, if you come on Saturday, you’ll have a chance to join artist Patrick Nagatani at 2:00 pm for a gallery tour of his exhibition Desire for Magic: Patrick Nagatani currently on view in the Museum’s Weingart Foundation Gallery.

Finishing off 2011, we look ahead to 2012 for another year of family fun, which we hope you’ll join us for.  Our first event of the year is our big Oshogatsu New Year celebration on Sunday, January 8th.  Bring the whole family as we celebrate the Year of the Dragon! [Check out the Oshogatsu Family Day schedule of activities >>]

Come back on February 11th for our next Target Free Family Saturday and then again on March 10th for Target Free Family Day as well as a celebration of the opening of our next exhibition Folding Paper: the Infinite Possibilities of Origami.  See you soon!

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!