BlogWalker

Muddling through the blogosphere

May 7, 2018
by blogwalker
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Shoutout to PBS for “Secret War” Documentaries and More

My school district is in south Sacramento, an area that includes the hidden neighborhood of Florin. By “hidden” I mean it’s wedged between the two booming cities of Sacramento and Elk Grove, yet little, if any, construction or restoration is happening in Florin. Vacancy rates are high, with many buildings in disrepair and no longer habitable. Florin does not even have a post office or its own zip code. But hidden neighborhoods have hidden histories and stories.

442 soldier visits his mother at Florin farm.

Before World War II, Florin was known as the “strawberry capital of the West Coast” and was home to a small community of Japanese Americans, who farmed the strawberry fields, often two generations, or even three, working the fields together: Issei, Nisei, and Sansei. In the weeks following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, all persons of Japanese heritage were removed from the West Coast, virtually changing overnight and forever the history of Florin. Few would return to reclaim their farms or businesses.

Florin businesses for sale. Photo from UC Berkeley Calisphere

Thanks to the support of Bob Fletcher, a Caucasian neighbor/upstander who looked after their farm and paid their property taxes, Al and Mary Tsukamoto and their young daughter Marielle returned to their Florin farm.

Over the past 15 years, through my friendship with Marielle, I have had the privilege of learning about the internment years and their impact on the Florin community. With the reality that each year there are fewer WWII survivors left to tell their stories – and with the support of my district and the Sacramento Educational Cable Consortium (SECC), we began the Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project (TOR). The 16-minute video below will introduce you to a number of our interviewees (including Marielle), provide you with a quick tour of Manzanar, and remind you what can happen when a nation fails to uphold the Constitutional rights guaranteed to all citizens.

Today the strawberry farms of the Florin-Elk Grove region are farmed primarily by Hmong and Mien families, refugees from a hidden chapter of the Vietnam War: the Secret War in Laos. During the Vietnam War and amid fears that Communism was spreading from North Vietnam into Laos, the United States sent the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) into Laos to disrupt the spread. Over 40,000 Hmong and Mien were covertly recruited to fight in the Secret War. It was the largest CIA operation ever undertaken. Hundreds of thousands of Laotian civilians were killed in the fighting or in retaliation for their support of American troops.

Strawberry fields of Florin now farmed by Hmong and Mien refugees.

As typically happens with refugee or immigrant families, the parents may arrive not speaking English. The children often put much energy into assimilating into their new homeland and communities – and consciously separating themselves from their native language and culture. Once again, hidden histories from Florin-Elk Grove neighborhoods, those not included in history books, could disappear if we do not document them.

Thanks again to the support of my district and our partnership with SECC, Kathleen Watt (TOR co-director) and I have produced a short documentary to introduce you to our newest Time of Remembrance section: The Vietnam War.

In addition to preserving the hidden histories of the Florin-Elk Grove region, we also want to build an archive of primary source documents and accompanying curriculum that teachers can bring into their classrooms. Even if adopted textbooks do not include or reference the Secret War in Laos, or include stories from the Hmong and Mien cultures, teachers can address that void by using the growing TOR resources. For a second grade unit on folk tales, for instance, teachers can introduce our Forbidden Treasure hyperdoc lesson, which features a folktale from local author See Lor and even includes a snippet of See reading her favorite passage.

We are currently seeking more Secret War resources for secondary grades. Kathleen and I looked forward with much anticipation to the recent airing of Ken Burns 10-part documentary on the Vietnam War. We wondered if he would be including a section on the Secret War. He did not.

But we have some exciting news: Adding to their long, long list of outstanding documentaries, PBS has added two recent documentaries: The Hmong and the Secret War and America’s Secret War: Minnesota Remembers Vietnam.

We were thrilled to see independent researcher and historian Tua Vang (whom we have interviewed for TOR) and author Gail Morrison (whom we met during her CSU Sacramento presentation) both featured in The Hmong and the Secret War documentary. We are also thrilled to have two more powerful resources to add to our Vietnam War section.

A shoutout to PBS for continuing to delve into tough topics and to create invaluable classroom resources that make hidden or undertold chapters in history accessible to teachers and students. Last month I blogged about the amazing PBS series directed by Anne Curry: We’ll Meet Again,  which featured Reiko Nagumo’s painful memories of her family’s removal from their home – and Mary Frances, the childhood friend who crossed the playground to stand up for her. Next month, as part of the Crossing Lines Seminar, in addition to the above-mentioned documentaries, I will also be sharing/showcasing PBS’s: Defying the Nazis: Sharps’ War, Violins of Hope: Strings of the Holocaust, Children of the Camps, The War at Home, and Ghosts of Rwanda.

I cannot think of a more valuable resource for helping all of us, young and old, understand the causes and impact, whether hidden or front page news, of major world and national events. With almost 50 years of bringing high-quality programs into our homes, PBS – and my local KVIE – are treasures. #ILovePBS #ILoveKVIE

March 21, 2018
by blogwalker
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A KVIE Evening at the CA Museum with Reiko Nagumo

I’ve shared before that I co-direct and curate my district’s Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project (TOR) with my colleague Kathleen Watt. Of all the interviews we have recorded for TOR, we continue to share Reiko Nagumo’s interview in our workshops, webinars, articles, and more. Start to finish, it is a beautiful story of loss and resilience.

If we are under a time constraint, we direct participants and readers to Clip 2 (04:52 ), with this short descriptor:

“In 2nd grade when war started. Shares story of her friendship with Mary Frances – ‘speaking volumes without saying anything.’ In camp from 1942-1945. Talks about returning to school.”

The courage of Mary Frances – a 2nd grader who crossed the playground to welcome Reiko back on the day she returned from the forced removal of her family and imprisonment in the Heart Mountain internment camp – truly ‘speaks volumes’ and demonstrates the lifetime impact of small acts of courage and kindness.

In case you missed our previous posts (“We’ll Meet Again” – Premiere Episode: Reiko Nagumo” and “PBS: We’ll Meet Again – Reiko Nagumo Reunited With Her Upstander“), it was 10 years ago that we (Elk Grove USD, in partnership with SECCTV), conducted the interview with Reiko, so you can probably imagine our excitement when CSU Sacramento Librarian/Archivist Julie Thomas sent out the “We’ll Meet Again” email announcing that, 70 years later, Reiko had found Mary Frances! It was thanks to the efforts of Ann Curry and PBS that the reunion happened. And how fortunate for all of us who treasure this World War II story that Curry and the PBS film crew were there (Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park, CA) to document the moment as part of the series. The theme for Episode 1 was Children of WWII. This short trailerwill give you a glimpse into both Reiko’s story and Curry’s style.

What could be better than viewing Reiko and Mary Frances’ story via PBS? How about traveling down to Sacramento’s California Museum to spend an evening with Reiko … and Mary Frances?! Yes, Mary Frances flew out from her home in Kentucky to visit again with Reiko, this time spending the morning with Reiko at the Museum to share their stories with visiting classrooms of 5th grade students from the Sacramento region, including one from EGUSD’s Anna Kirchgater Elementary. A shout out to the Museum and KVIE for hosting the evening event, to Rob on the Road for balancing our tears with laughter, and to Marielle Tsukamoto and Christine Umeda for getting the word out!

As soon as KVIE posts video from the event, we will share it with our readers.

Photo: KVIE’s Rob Stewart “Rob on the Road” moderating discussion with Mary Frances (Left) and Reiko Nagumo (Right) at We Meet Again: An Evening with Reiko & Mary Frances – Sacramento’s California Museum

So proud to stand with Reiko!

At long last, meeting Mary Frances – and sharing the moment with Christine Umeda!

It will be a long time to come before we forget this evening.

October 18, 2009
by blogwalker
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The Single Most Important Thing About Telling a Good Story…

The single most important part of telling a good story is asking throughout the entire process: ‘What is the story all about?’”  Bryan Shadden, KVIE

I look forward to our regional (Sacramento)  SEVA Trainings for Teachers series. Saturday’s event was an opportunity to learn about Tips for Building a Documentary, a session lead by KVIE producer Bryan Shadden. Bryan’s handout will walk you and your students through his steps to creating a video narrative (documentary) – starting with Research & Story Focus. I love that the basis of building a documentary mirrors teaching the writing process: “After a producer (writer) has researched the subject matter, she should be able to say exactly what the story will be about in one sentence. The more focused the sentence, the more focused the story.”

I also learned a new term: B-roll, which is “TV jargon for the cover shots you need to correspond with the sound bites from your interviews and the words you write.”  Huge “ah ha” moment for me…From now on, I’ll encourage students to make sure their production team includes a designated B-roll person. From 4th grade – 12th grade, I’ve too often seen student filmmakers scrambling after the fact to come up with cover shots when they realize that the audience will quickly lose interest if too much of the interview is just footage of the interviewee.

And some tips from the audience:

  • fastest way for students to create their storyboards: use online comic book generators such as Comic Life.  Love this idea!
  • great collection of student-made documentaries: AFI.com, with teen entries such as The Bus Stop (a great team effort!)
  • Center for Sacramento History – a growing bank of photos for classroom use.  I looked at this site several years ago and can see that their vision for becoming a rich archive of oral histories is starting to take shape.
  • PBS Guide to Ken Burn’s The Wara collaboration between the Library of Congress Veterans History Project, Florentine Films and WETA public television station in Washington, DC — contains hands-on production tips and interview techniques from Ken Burns and Lynn Novick as well as information on how to send completed interviews to the Veterans History Project.

And Bryan’s last question to an interviewee: “Is there anything I haven’t asked you that I should have asked?” I’ve used this question before for my Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project. This final question can take an interview in a whole new direction!

I don’t know who the speakers for the next SEVA event will be, but without a doubt there will be blog-worthy presenters ready to take teachers to the next level in their filmmaking skills and vision:-)

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