July 12, 2010

Scholarship Recipient: Bree Keaveney Reflection on 2010 Pilgrimage

Posted in 2010 Minidoka Pilgrimage, Civil Liberties Symposium, Japanese American Incarceration, Minidoka Pilgrimage, Uncategorized tagged , , , at 2:00 pm by chiyokomartinez

What was most  meaningful for me was spending time with Japanese Americans.  Spending time with people interested in Japanese American history.  Spending time with wonderful people.  The symposium was definitely the most important event of the pilgrimage for me.  I came to terms with many thoughts and feelings I have had about identity and family and community.

I learned Issei’s and Nisei’s were not allowed to live on campus a t the University of Washington.  Most people couldn’t afford, and still can’t, Seattle University.  I learned a greater depth about how much privilege I have.  I learned about the dust storms.  I learned people committed suicide after the incarceration. I learned about the shame and pain of the Japanese American community.  I see how Japanese Incarceration has shaped my family.
Being mixed race and deprived of Japanese culture, I never felt like I was a part of the community.  But after this weekend I feel like I am.  My story is not that uncommon in the community–not being raised with Japanese culture, being mixed race.  What I have taken away from this pilgrimage is a sense of belonging to a greater Japanese community outside of my family.  It is wonderful.
Action: What I plan to do with what I learned from the Pilgirmage

I took a class called The African American Religious Experience.  My professor, Dr. Flora Wilson Bridges is a pastor, ordained in three different denominations in the Black Church.  She was very active during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.  Dr. Bridges is a key person in charge of the ecumenical practices at SU.  She essentially builds bridges between different faith traditions by fostering dialogue.  She is also an excellent teacher–I really enjoyed her class.  One of the main themes or lessons I learned from Dr. Bridges is how I can apply the three components of African American Spirituality to my life.
The three components are
1. Cultural/Historical Memory
2. Forgiveness
3. Ability to form community
I think these three components are what I can do for really anything in life.  For the Japanese American community I will learn the cultural and historical history.  I will forgive myself and my family and the United States government.  I will form community with people of Japanese ancestry, and also people who are interested in Japanese culture and history.
Another professor I greatly admire is Dr. Cornel West.  Like Dr. Bridges, Dr. West is an activist and peace maker.  He has written several books, one of the most famous is called Race Matters (1993).  I heard him speak last December in Seattle.  Dr. West was discussing his autobiography entitled: Brother West:  Living and Loving Outloud.  He kept emphasizing the importance of family and faith in his life.  Dr. West also said that anger is a good thing and that everyone should channel their anger through love and education. So I try to live his advice and Dr. Bridges’ too.
I have become angry because of cultural/historical memory, but I try my best to forgive.  Forming community helps me to channel any anger I have through love and education, which ultimately helps me to live and love out loud.

Bree Keaveney is a 2010 Scholarship Recipient to the Minidoka Pilgrimage. She will entering her third year at Seattle University, studying Global African Studies and Sociology.

July 1, 2010

Japanese-Americans share internment camp stories through comedy, music

Posted in Civil Liberties Symposium, Japanese American Incarceration, Minidoka Pilgrimage tagged , , , , , at 3:07 pm by rkozu


Japanese-Americans share internment camp stories through comedy, music

By Ben Botkin – Times-News writer | Posted: Saturday, June 26, 2010 1:25 am

In good times, they danced.

And when good times became bad times, they still danced, with their feet tapping floors and their eyes turned away from the barbed wire and armed guards.

That was part of reality for the Japanese-Americans residing in internment camps in the United States during World War II. It was brought back to life on Friday for the Civil Liberties & the Arts Symposium V at Canyon Crest Dining and Event Center in Twin Falls. The two-day symposium, organized by Minidoka National Historic Site, Friends of Minidoka and the College of Southern Idaho, focused on the arts and civil liberty issues stemming from the internment camps.

With comedy, dance and songs from that generation, the Los Angeles-based Grateful Crane Ensemble held the attention of about 350 people with its show, “The Camp Dance: The Music and The Memories.”

The 45-minute show had a bittersweet mood of happy high school dances that also reminded the audience of the difficulties of life in internment camps. Piano and drums brought back the music of World War II, and actors played out dance scenes based on camp life and drawn from interviews with those who lived in the camps.

They were decidedly all-American stories — like the one about the smart high school girl who doesn’t get noticed by the boy she likes, as he falls for the pretty, popular girl instead.

The story ended on a good note, though. Haruye Ioka, who played the smart, overlooked girl added a postscript to the story. Fifty years later, the smart girl saw her former competitor at a reunion and thought: “She’s no longer pretty, but I’m still smart.”

The audience laughed. The ensemble was joined by Mary Kageyama Nomura, a singer who lived in an internment camp in California as a teenager and is called the “Songbird of Manzanar.”

Difficult times were not sugar-coated. In one bit, the actors mentioned that the families lived in horse stalls that reeked of manure and had barracks with a hanging light bulb, pot-bellied stove, and metal cots with mattresses that internees had to stuff with straw.

After the show, the group took questions from the audience. Darrell Kunitomi said that it’s a reminder that in the worst of times, the best things are still needed — including the rights of all.

“We have to be the best that we can be and that is why it means so much,” he said.

Ben Botkin may be reached at bbotkin@magicvalley.com or 735-3238.

Pictures from the past and present

Posted in Civil Liberties Symposium, Minidoka Pilgrimage tagged , , , , , at 3:02 pm by rkozu

Here’s an article that the Magic Valley Times wrote about the Civil Liberties Symposium in Twin Falls this past weekend.


Pictures from the past and present

By Ben Botkin – Times-News writer | Posted: Friday, June 25, 2010 1:00 am

They are frozen in time, these black-and-white images from a chapter of World War II sometimes overlooked amid the stories of soldiers, battles and sacrifices.

For them, it was different.

They were Americans living on U.S. soil who saw their sons off to war and welcomed them back. But as Japanese-Americans, they lived out World War II in internment camps, a decision that the federal government made for them after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Photographs from the internment camps, including nearby Minidoka, brought those images back for the audience of almost 200 on Thursday, the first day of the Civil Liberties & the Arts Symposium V at Canyon Crest Dining and Event Center in Twin Falls. The two-day symposium, organized by the Minidoka National Historic Site, Friends of Minidoka and the College of Southern Idaho, has an emphasis this year on the civil liberty issues surrounding the internment camps and the artwork shaped by that era.

“History is only important as long as you can apply the lessons you learn today,” said Emily Momohara, an artist and assistant professor from the Art Academy of Cincinnati.

Momohara showed the audience photographs taken when Japanese-Americans lived in internment camps, as well as pictures taken in this generation that capture the remnants of those places.

On a large screen, photographs showed a multitude of scenes: a soldier visiting family, women waiting for returning soldiers and a baseball team posing for a photo. But some photos brought reminders of suffering: a child waiting near luggage during a move away from home, and a grandmother holding a child and preparing to leave for a camp.

The photographers of World War II came from different backgrounds. The federal government had its photographers. The Japanese-Americans weren’t permitted to have cameras, though one managed to get a camera into his camp by disassembling it and stowing the pieces throughout his luggage.

Today, photographers take images of empty internment cots and buildings, using shades of dark against the landscapes to reflect emotions. But in some photos, the human images remain, now of those who descended from the Japanese-American generation of World War II.

Ben Botkin may be reached at bbotkin@magicvalley.com or 735-3238.