Jero (Jerome Charles White Jr.)
Jero is a Hapa (Japanese/African-American) from Pittsburg, PA. His close relationship with his grandmother inspired his dream of becoming an enka singer in Japan, highlighted by his appearance on the Kohaku Uta Gassen in 2008
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.
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.
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.
Evan Kodani was the 2010 Getty Media Arts Intern.He recently graduated from UCLA with a degree in communications.The internship was, by far, one of his most valuable college experiences, improving his skills in editing, videography, and understanding of what a real work environment feels like.It also got him a girlfriend.
Henry & Helen Yasuda are two of the Museum’s very dedicated volunteers. Henry primarily helps with giving tours to visitors from Japan. Helen is a docent for student groups, works with the community outreach committee, and helps out in many other ways. Last year, Helen received our Miki Tanimura Outstanding Volunteer Award, and recently they joined the Museum’s Legacy Society.
They’re also very committed to their family and very active in other community organizations like the Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple in Little Tokyo, the Yamaguchi Kenjinkai, and the Nikkei Parents’ Day Coalition.
I am super excited that Maya Soetoro-Ng is coming to the Museum next week (April 20 at 1 pm) to read from her new children’s book “Ladder to the Moon.” For those of you who don’t know, Mrs. Soetoro-Ng is an educator, but is also President Obama’s sister.
Little Suhaila wishes she could have known her grandma, who would wrap her arms around the whole world if she could, Mama says. And one night, Suhaila gets her wish when a golden ladder appears at her window, and Grandma Annie invites the girl to come along with her on a magical journey.
In a rich and deeply personal narrative, Maya Soetoro-Ng draws inspiration from her mother’s love for family, her empathy for others, and her ethic of service to imagine this remarkable meeting.
Hope to see you there!
For more information about the program, click here.
The Museum store will be selling the book and Ms. Soetoro-Ng will be signing the books after the program.
Welcome to First & Central, our new official blog for the Japanese American National Museum!
Why “First & Central”? For those familiar with our home in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo, our campus is located at the intersection of First Street & Central Avenue. But beyond the connection to our physical space, this blog will be the “first” place to go for inside information about what’s going on at the Museum and a “central” place for our community to connect.
Learn more about the Museum—our exhibitions, public programs, collections and resources, media productions, education programs, store products, web projects, and more. You will get a behind-the-scenes introduction to our leadership, staff, and volunteers.
We’re very excited about this new way of sharing the Museum with our many friends and supporters across the country and worldwide. Even more exciting is the opportunity to engage and connect with you as we continue to evolve towards a more participatory museum in the 21st century.
This is a work-in-progress, so we appreciate your feedback as we continue to update this blog with new entries and features!
Akemi Kikumura Yano
President & CEO
Japanese American National Museum