BlogWalker

Muddling through the blogosphere

February 24, 2020
by blogwalker
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California Speaks Out for Social Justice

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

Whether it’s the bully on the playground or our current administration, when small groups of “committed citizens” come together to speak out against social injustices and human rights violations, they are likely to change history – starting with legislation.

In California, February has been a month of  inspiring, “committed citizens” speaking out for civil rights, starting with California Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi. In alignment with and in honor of California’s Day of Remembrance, Muratsuchi introduced HR 77, a bipartisan bill acknowledging and apologizing for California’s role in our nation’s treatment of Japanese Americans during WWII by its support of Executive Order 9066, which authorized the unlawful removal Japanese Americans from the west coast following the bombing of Pearl Harbor:

“Every year during the years I’ve been in the California Legislature, I’ve introduced a resolution to commemorate the Day of Remembrance, that I know many communities across the country observe to remember the lessons of Executive Order 9066.

But this year I wanted to do something different and have California lead by example. While our nation’s capital is hopelessly divided along party lines and President Trump is putting immigrant families and children in cages, the California Legislature, with HR 77 will be issuing an official, bipartisan measure for its own actions taken that led to the incarceration of over 120,000 loyal Americans of Japanese ancestry behind barbed wire.”

On February 22, HR 77 was unanimously passed.

Note: Muratsuchi called out a number of survivors from the internment camps who joined him for the above press conference. Please visit the Time of Remembrance Oral Histories website (which I co-direct) to learn more about the stories of Marielle Tsukamoto, Christine Umeda, Kiyo Sato, and Les Uchida.

Thanks to an invitation from immigration attorney and dear friend Kishwer Vikkas, yesterday I had the pleasure of joining Marielle at the Tsuru for Solidarity event at Sacramento’s Parkview Presbyterian Church.

The purpose of the event was fold and string paper cranes, with the goal of contributing 125,000 cranes to the Tsuru for Solidarity’s National Pilgrimage to Close the Camps, which will take place during June in Washington, DC.

“Tsuru for Solidarity is a nonviolent, direct action project of Japanese American social justice advocates working to end detention sites and support front-line immigrant and refugee communities that are being targeted by racist, inhumane immigration policies. Tsuru for Solidarity stands on the moral authority of Japanese Americans who suffered the atrocities and legacy of U.S. concentration camps during WWII.”

Parkview’s community room was packed with Sacramento residents ranging from survivors of the camps and/or children and grandchildren of survivors to community activists and educators, all with the shared commitment to #StopRepeatingHistory.

Photographer Paul Kitagaki captures the Tsuru energy and output.

For three wonderful hours, I tried my best to follow the directions so patiently modeled by those at my table for folding a square sheet of paper into a crane. I watched in awe as the piles of cranes continued to grow. I was definitely the event’s low achiever, but greatly appreciated all the encouragement from my table mates.

Thank you Steve Sasaki for your step-by-step instructions. “No two cranes are the same.”

But I’m not giving up. Today I’m going to purchase a few packs of origami paper and follow the steps provided in Tavin’s Origami Instructions.

I look forward to following updates on the June 2020 Tsuru for Solidarity Pilgrimage to Washington. Many at the Parkview event will be making the pilgrimage, stopping along the way at Heart Mountain and other camps, demonstrating that we are never too young or too old to make a difference.

#StopRepeatingHistory  #TsuruForSolidarity

Sharing the day with Marielle and the Tsuru for Solidarity team.

February 2, 2020
by blogwalker
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Adding a New Chapter to Time of Remembrance

I have blogged about and referenced the Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project many times in recent and past years. I first shared about the TOR project in 2007 (Time of Remembrance: Move Over Ken Burns!), blogging that I would soon be documenting the stories of Japanese-American citizens in the Florin-Elk Grove region (south of Sacramento, California) who, following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, faced discrimination, exclusion, and forced removal from their communities. Thanks to my district’s partnership with the Sacramento Educational Cable Consortium (SECC), their talented videographer Doug Niva joined me and my colleague Kathleen Watt on the journey, filming and editing professional quality interviews with over 30 former internees.

Five years ago Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly, a City Councilman at the time, shared a little known story from the Vietnam War with our superintendent. Steve had learned about our TOR World War II project and asked that we consider documenting the Secret War in Laos. As a refugee from the Secret War, he thought it important for the Elk Grove community to know about the  many ways Hmong and Mien (two growing populations in Elk Grove) had supported U.S. troops during our involvement in the Vietnam War.

Steve Ly was the first interviewee in our Vietnam War section of the TOR project.

Thanks to Steve’s recommendations and the continued commitment by the SECC to bring history alive, we now have 16 interviews from our Hmong and Mien community. Their interviews provide invaluable insights to understanding the challenges faced by refugees, such as language barriers, cultural differences, huge shifts in geography, and loss of homeland and heritage.

We also have interviews with American pilots (“Ravens”) who flew secret missions over Laos, which stand as a testimony to the contributions and sacrifices of their brave “backseaters”/”Robins”.

This week we will be transforming our former Student Gallery page to a broader topic: On Coming to America. The On Coming to America page will still feature student-led interviews, but also teacher and community-led interviews, all with the common thread/theme of the challenges, contributions, and resilience of our immigrant and refugee populations.

Our first spotlight story is an interview with author, poet, community activist, and Holocaust survivor Hannie Voyles.

In 2011, my Chico friend (and TOLI colleague) Pam Bodnar contacted me to share that she had invited Chico resident Hannie Voyles, a Holocaust survivor from the Netherlands, to share her survivor story with a group of students at Marsh Middle School. Minutes after Hannie’s visit, Pam called to recommend that Doug Niva and I come to Chico to interview Hannie. We did.

Note: To quickly access specific parts of Hannie’s interview, here is the link to the time codes and short descriptors. Thank you to Doug Niva and our partnership with the Sacramento Educational Cable Consortium (SECC) for filming the interview.

Nine years later, I connect with Hannie on every opportunity I can find – including four bike & barge trips across the Netherlands (with a 5th trip coming up in August). With each visit and each trip, Hannie provides me with another window into her childhood in Amsterdam, where she attended the same Montessori school as Anne Frank before the Nazis invaded.

Last week I drafted a lesson to accompany Hannie’s interview. As always, I sought feedback from Kathleen. We soon had the lesson ready to share, along with a teacher’s guide. Accordingly, the On Coming to America page (formerly the Student Gallery page) of the TOR website now includes a link to Hannie’s interview, along with time codes and descriptors (so students/teachers can quickly move the YouTube bar to specific parts of the interview).

We anticipate more Holocaust interviews to come, starting with “second gen” authors: journalist Judy Fertig Panneton and former teacher Joan Arnay Halperin.

If you know Holocaust survivors or “second gen children” in the greater Sacramento region who would be willing to share their stories, please leave a comment. I strongly believe in the power of story to change hearts and minds – and the need to document first-hand and second-hand accounts before they are forgotten and lost.

“We must keep this history at the forefront of our collective memory, to prevent other individuals or groups from suffering as we did. We are always vulnerable to societal weaknesses;we are not too wise to repeat ourselves.”     Hannie J. Voyles, Storming the Tulips

As always, we invite students to document On Coming to America stories from their families, school districts, and communities – and share them with us via the TOR website.

 

January 31, 2020
by blogwalker
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Behind Barbed Wire – An Evening with Paul Kitagaki Jr.

Thanks to an email from a colleague, on Tuesday night, I headed to the Sacramento Library to attend Behind Barbed Wire, a powerful presentation from the Sacramento Bee’s Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Paul Kitagaki.

Flyer advertizing January 27 Behind Barbed Wire presentation by Paul Kitagaki Jr

Political cartoonist Jack Ohman, also a SacBee Pulitzer Prize winner, joined Paul on the stage and guided the discussion and presentation.

Paul Kitagaki and Jack Ohman on stage

Like so many children whose parents have experienced exclusion and forced removal, Paul grew up knowing nothing of the internment camps. In the 1970’s, during a high school history class, he first learned about Executive Order 9066, which authorized the removal of nearly 120,000 citizens of Japanese heritage from the West Coast. He went home with many questions for his parents, but they did not wish to discuss their interment experiences.

By the 1980’s, as a young photojournalist in San Francisco, Paul learned that Dorothea Lange had photographed his family in 1942, while they awaited a relocation bus in Oakland, California. He traveled to the National Archives, where he found Lange’s photographs of his family. In the photo below, Paul’s father is up front on the right side, with his aunt seated between his grandparents. The woman standing in front of the family was a neighbor, who had come to say good-bye and wish them well.

Photo by Dorothea Lange of Paul Kitagaki Jr.’s family waiting to depart from the W.C.C.A. (Wartime Civil Control Authority) Control Station, in Oakland in 1942 for the Tanforan Assembly Center.

By 2015, Paul made a commitment to search for the children whose images were captured in the iconic photos of Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams, and others, who traveled to the camps and photographed the internees. By now, these children would be in their eighties and nineties.

Yukiko Hayakaw Llewellyn (left) at age 66 and as a young child waiting to be relocated to a camp.

If you listen to the video clip below, you will see – and hear – samples from Paul’s growing WWII collection. Using black-and-white film and a large-format camera similar to the equipment of photographers in the 1940s, he has mirrored WWII photos to his contemporary photos, adding the voice of former internees sharing a childhood memory captured in the original photo.

Paul and Jack Ohman ended the presentation by inviting the audience to ask questions. The Q&A session was as riveting as the presentation. For every question asked, at least one or two people stood and shared their first-hand or second-hand stories from “behind the barbed wire.”

I started this posted by stating that it was through an email from a colleague (Laurie Doane) that I learned about the Paul Kitagaki event. Laurie’s father was interned at Heart Mountain. During the Q&A session, Paul mentioned Disney animator Willie Ito, who was also interned at Heart Mountain, where Ito and Laurie’s father became friends. One of my favorite takeaways from the evening was learning about a children’s book, Hello Maggie, written by Shig Yabu – and illustrated by Willie Ito.

I’ve blogged before that I co-direct/curate my district’s Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project, a collection of interviews from World War II and the Vietnam War. We will be updating the site soon with a post on Paul Kitagaki’s presentation and resources.

If the line had not been so long, I would have left the event with an autographed copy of Behind Barbed Wire: Searching for Japanese Americans Incarcerated During World War II. Next best thing…a trip to Barnes & Noble Folsom, which already has a copy in stock and has ordered a copy of Hello Maggie.

Thank you to the Sacramento Bee for hosting an unforgettable evening and event, a powerful reminder of how the stories from the past connect to the present.

August 5, 2019
by blogwalker
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Can We Stop History from Repeating Itself?

For the past twelve years ago, I been posting about a project I’ve had the privilege of co-directing for my district: The Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project.

Initially, the project focused solely on a World War II event: The mass removal of Japanese-Americans from the West Coast following the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the onset of War War II.

Literally overnight, an entire population was denied the rights guaranteed to all citizens under the U.S. Constitution, and the history of the communities surrounding my school district was forever changed. Few would return to reclaim their farms, businesses, or former lives. The 16-minute documentary below provides a window into a time in our nation’s history when justice failed – and, more importantly,  a reminder of the need to constantly strive for a “more perfect union.”

As you can see from visiting the Time of Remembrance website, my co-director Kathleen Watt and I have expanded upon the project to include The Secret War in Laos, stories of our Hmong and Mien refugee community. Not surprisingly, there are many connections between the stories of WWII and the Vietnam War.

This year, we have returned to these timely and timeless WWII stories, always inspired by lessons learned from our interviews. More recently, Stan and Christine Umeda have drawn our attention to some similarities in what is happening at our southern border.

Scene from border protests regarding separation of families.

Image from 2019 border protests, via Christine Umeda. #StopRepeatingHistory

To see senior citizens (80+ years) standing up for those who have no voice speaks volumes. Considering they themselves were silenced during WWII, as they were stripped of the rights guaranteed to all U.S. citizens, their voice and commitment to social justice should resonate with everyone following current immigration events.

Photo from Sacramento Bee, showing Marilee Tsukamoto, Christine Umeda, and others at the border, protesting separation of families.

Christine Umeda and Marielle Tsukamoto at a July 2 immigration protest outside Sacramento federal courthouse.

I stand in awe of Christine, Stan, Marielle, and other members of the Florin Japanese American Citizens League for traveling to the border to speak out against the separation of families, a traumatic childhood experience from the incarceration experience that still haunts them – and moves them to take civic action.

And thank you, Christine, for sharing the resources listed below:

Can we stop history from repeating itself? Yes – by eliminating bystanders. It is through the courage and actions of upstanders, even a small group of upstanders, that it is indeed possible to reverse history.

#UpstandersNotBystanders

If you are discussing the border issues in your classroom, I invite you and your students to post a comment on how to #StopRepeatingHistory.

Christine Umeda and friend outside Heart Mountain relocation Center Barrack

Christine Umeda – Heart Mountain Relocation Center

 

 

February 19, 2019
by blogwalker
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Alternative Facts: The Lies of Executive Order 9066

Today marks the 77th Anniversary of President Franklin D. Roosevelt signing Executive Order 9066, authorizing the removal of over 120,000 people of Japanese descent, many of them citizens, from the West Coast.

I work in a school district that was once home to a hard-working community of Japanese-American farmers, who transformed the region into beautiful, productive strawberry fields. Following the signing of Executive Order 9066, the history of the Elk Grove-Florin region was abruptly and forever changed. The forced removal and incarceration of over 120,000 citizens marked a chapter in our nation’s history when justice failed an entire group of people. To document their stories, colleague Kathleen Watt and I developed and maintain the Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project.

At a time when media literacy is at the forefront of our district Digital Citizenship workshops, lessons, and resources, we appreciated that a Facebook post from @DayOfRemembrance, and the accompanying Never Forget poster (by #StopReapeatingHistory), led us to the Alternative Facts: The Lies of Executive Order 9066 website and documentary trailer. This one-hour film, directed by Jon Osaki, confronts the false information and political influence which led to the World War II removal and incarceration of Japanese-Americans:

“The film exposes the lies used to justify the decision and the cover-up that went all the way to the United States Supreme Court.  ALTERNATIVE FACTS will also examine the parallels to the current climate of fear, targeting of immigrant communities, and similar attempts to abuse the powers of the government.” AlternativeFacts.com

Alternative Facts Social Media Trailer from Jon Osaki on Vimeo.

We look forward to an upcoming screening of the Alternative Facts documentary. As always, when new resources surface, we revisit our current lessons and resources to decide where they can best extend teaching and learning on issues of social justice.

Alternative facts are not new…but today they are difficult to spot, easier to spread, and harder to control. We are always looking for curriculum ties that will make history relevant to our students. Students would be hard pressed to go a single day without hearing the terms “fake news” or “alternative facts” on social media or in the news. Additionally, they often view history as something that happens in history books, not in their communities. We are predicting that the above resource will connect our Executive Order 9066 lesson to media literacy, and in the process, help students make the connection between what was “then and there” to “here and now.”

With much appreciation to my district’s Board of Education for annually recognizing February 19 as a Day of Remembrance: Resolution #42 – Day of Remembrance.

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.

March 2, 2018
by blogwalker
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Going to California League of Schools Conference?

If you will be attending CLS’s Conference this weekend, I warmly invite you to attend the session I’ll be co-presenting with Pam Bodnar (Marsh Jr. High, Chico USD): Teaching Social Justice Through the Lens of the Holocaust (Saturday, 10:30-11:30). In recognition that current times call for the voices of social justice, diversity, and action, we will be sharing ways to connect students to social justice practices by examining significant historical events and their relevance to recent local history. Through the lens of the Holocaust and powerful moments in history, participants will be provided with techniques to create safe spaces in the classroom to deal with sensitive topics. We will address the impact of bystanders and the power of “upstanders” to change the future.

Image of CLS slideshow

We will also be touring the Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project (TOR).  If you haven’t visited TOR or haven’t visited it recently, we have added a Student Gallery page to showcase the work of students who are documenting – or planning to document – primary accounts of challenging topics, such as immigration, displacement, genocide – along with stories of those who have found the courage to stand-up and speak out on behalf of others.

During our CLS session, Pam and I will be sharing project ideas and strategies for promoting student voice and activism. If you cannot join us, I’ve posted one of Pam’s projects on the TOR Student Gallery to provide you with a window into her classroom: On Coming to America – An Interview with Altijanna Sinonovic.

Hope to see you Saturday!

 

January 29, 2018
by blogwalker
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PBS: We’ll Meet Again – Premiere Episode with Reiko Nagumo

Thanks to an email from Julie Thomas, Library Archivist for California State University, Sacramento,  I made sure to be home last Tuesday by 8:00 p.m.

Julie’s subject line was a grabber for me: Reiko Nagumo “We’ll Meet Again.” Her message was short:

“Here is the link to the We’ll Meet Again website and Reiko’s story is highlighted further down the page. I encourage you to tune in at 8:00 (EST and PST) and 7:00 (CST) on your local PBS station. It’s an amazing story about an amazing woman.”

PBS special We'll Meet Again

We’ll Meet Again is a new PBS series produced and hosted by veteran journalist Ann Curry. The six-part series documents reunions between people whose lives were suddenly disrupted by historic events such as war. Episode 1 features Reiko Nagumo and her childhood friend Mary Frances, who, following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, stood up for Reiko when no one else would.

I have blogged before about Time of Remembrance, an oral histories project I co-direct for my district with my colleague Kathleen Watt. We had the privilege of interviewing Reiko 12 years ago. Her interview is one I often share with elementary students. I especially want them to know about Reiko’s friendship with Mary Frances (clip 2, 04:52). It’s a beautiful example of what can happen when a single person crosses the line (or playground) to extend a simple act of kindness to someone in need.

The high quality of the interviews (PBS quality, if I say so myself) are the result of our partnership with the Sacramento Educational Cable Consortium (SECC). We are incredibly grateful to the talent and project dedication of SECC videographer Doug Niva.

Several years ago, following a 3-day trip to the Manzanar internment camp, Doug suggested that we make a short documentary to introduce people to our growing collection  of interviews. I’m American Too – A Story from Behind the Fences (16 minutes) includes snippets of Reiko’s interview, along with other internees, whose lives were also overnight and forever changed by Executive Order 9066.

Today, the Time of Remembrance project also includes a Vietnam War section, in which we’ve attempted to capture a little known story: the Secret War in Laos. For a quick overview, watch our 4-minute introduction:

Based on the impact of Reiko’s interview, and in every interview since hers, we always end with the same question: Can you think back to a time in your life (facing exclusion and forces removal, surviving in internment and refugee camps, starting the first day of school in a new country, etc.) when there was someone who stood up for you, making whatever challenges you were dealing with a little easier to cope with?

We are firm believers in the power of a single upstander to make a profound difference in someone’s life – or even change the course of history – and that “it is small things that allow bigger things to happen” (Sam Edleman, Holocaust historian).

January has been a painful month in my district due to a number of racist incidents, which have been widely publicized through local and national media. In an attempt to build student awareness on the exponential negative impact of bystanders, be it face-to-face or online, we invite students across the district, nation, and globe to contribute to our Upstanders, Not Bystanders VoiceThread. We started this VoiceThread a few years ago, and have had an amazing range of contributors, from kindergarten students to humanitarian Carl Wilkens. And, yes, Reiko Nagumo has already shared on the Voice Thread.

Note: A VoiceThread is like a visual podcast. Once you register with VoiceThread for a free account (a process that takes only a couple of minutes), you will be able to post a comment via voice, text, or webcam. Your comment will go “live” as soon as we approve it. If you are in a school district that is a GSuite (formerly known as Google Apps for Education) district, you already have an account, as VoiceThread is now integrated into your district Google account. Head to your Google Apps launcher (waffle) and scroll down to the More section to find the VoiceThread icon.

We look forward to hearing your students’ upstander stories – and yours too! Besides the VoiceThread, you can also leave a comment on this post. We’d love to showcase any projects or programs you are implementing in your schools to promote tolerance, respect, empathy, inclusion and global citizenship.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead

“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” ~ Albert Einstein

photo a girls in camp - from Christine Umeda

March 9, 2017
by blogwalker
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In Response to Executive Order 9066

Last month, I posted Remembering Executive Order 9066, commemorating the 75th anniversary of FDR signing this historic, unfortunate executive order. Given how often the term “executive order” is currently in the news, I wanted to do more than simply reflect on an injustice from the past. Today I am posting a new lesson/hyperdoc to the Time of Remembrance (TOR) website: In Response to Executive Order 9066.

The goal of this lesson is to introduce students (Grades 4-12) to the possible impacts of any executive order that targets a specific group of people. During the months following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, over 110,000 Japanese Americans, two-thirds of them citizens of the United States, were evacuated from the West Coast and “relocated” to detention camps established by the U.S. Government. As captured in Ansel Adam’s iconic photos, many internees would spend the next three years behind barbed wire. Their stories of discrimination and forced removal provide a window into a time when our nation failed to uphold the rights guaranteed to all citizens by the U.S. Constitution — regardless of nationality, race, religion, or ethnicity.

As students delve into the lesson by watching the I’m American Too – Stories from Behind the Fences documentary and exploring the primary source interviews in the TOR WWII Archives, they will gain an understanding of how virtually overnight West Coast farming communities were forever changed, with very few internees returning to their former homes. The students are then tasked with capturing a “story from behind the fences” by drafting a letter in the voice of the internee to someone, real or imaginary, outside of the camp. Using Dwight Okita’s “In Response to Executive Order 9066” poem as a model, their final task is to transform their letters into letter poems.

The lesson is also a call to action. Students are warmly invited to take their letter poems beyond the walls of the classroom by submitting them to the TOR Student Gallery for publication to a national audience. If you work with students, I am pretty sure you will agree that when we support students in speaking out on issues of social justice, we are often providing a lens to view the impact of bystanders and the difference a single upstander can make.

During the month of March, many West Coast school districts and museums commemorate Japanese-American internment with activities and exhibits. And, of course, probably all school districts celebrate April as National Poetry Month. Whatever the occasion or lesson might be, if you are a teacher, I hope you will encourage your students to create letter poems in response to Executive Order 9066 and to publish them to an authentic audience, such as the Time of Remembrance Student Gallery.

 

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