Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres welcomed guests to the annual Gala Dinner and Silent Auction on April 13, kicking off a festive evening for more than 1,000 people who came together in support of JANM and its wide-ranging work. This year’s theme paid tribute to the museum’s Charter Members—the first individuals and families to see and believe in the importance of the museum and its enduring role in our democratic society. JANM’s Watase Media Arts Center produced a video about some of these individuals; it featured poet and educator Amy Uyematsu, scholar and author Barbara Kawakami, World War II Military Intelligence Service veteran and author Edwin Nakasone, and photographer Stan Honda–all JANM Charter Members.
Ann Curry, the Gala’s featured speaker, was one of the highlights of the evening. A former NBC News anchor and international correspondent, Curry has reported on conflicts and humanitarian disasters all over the world. In October 2018, as a writer for National Geographic Magazine, Curry wrote about the mass incarceration of people of Japanese ancestry during World War II and the racism and prejudice that gave rise to it. Her speech at the Gala touched upon the political divisiveness the world has seen in recent years as well as her family’s own experiences with discrimination.
Earlier in the evening, a fast and furious round of donations went to support JANM’s Bid for Education; over $200,000 was raised. Those funds go to support bus transportation and museum admission for primary and secondary school students from Title I schools and groups who have demonstrated financial need. Bid for Education funds also supports K-12 educator workshops and many other educational initiatives.
On a more somber note, the night included an In Memoriam segment, honoring remarkable individuals who played significant roles in furthering JANM’s mission to promote appreciation of diversity by sharing the Japanese American experience. Grateful Four, a group of music-loving friends that try to connect to their Japanese American culture and give back to their community through the power of song, accompanied the video presentation of those who passed in the year since the last Gala.
As the night concluded, guests left with an even deeper understanding of the vital work the museum does: presenting engaging exhibitions, providing docent-led tours for school groups, speaking out against injustice and discrimination, preserving our sizable permanent collection of artifacts, and much more. To all of our generous supporters and friends who made the Gala such a successful and meaningful evening, thank you for joining us!