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Okada book club & “Conscience” director’s commentary set for virtual camp pilgrimage

An ambitious nine-week online event kicks off today,  a virtual camp pilgrimage designed to make up for all the summer site visits cancelled by the pandemic. Among the plethora of programs are three that we’ve agreed to host.

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DVD coverIn Week 3, on Saturday, July 4 at 2:00 pm PDT, join me and moderator Erin Aoyama for a live group viewing of Conscience and the Constitution with a twist: while the film is streaming, I will offer the kind of director’s commentary on the making of the film that we were never able to include on the DVD. Tune in for behind-the-scenes stories about the Heart Mountain draft resisters, and leave questions in the chatroom for discussion afterwards. Erin brings her own experience of working on building a forthcoming database with the biographies and archival files of all 63 defendants in the largest mass trial in Wyoming history. RSVP via the Facebook Event.

No-No Boy cover illustrationIn Week 4, on Friday, July 10 at 5:00 pm PDT, we will have a live book club presentation and discussion of the novel No-No Boy and the story of the author behind it.  If you missed our book release events last year for our biography of John Okada, we’ll reprise that presentation while mixing in a fuller discussion of the themes of the novel. Vince Schleitwiler will moderate. RSVP via the Facebook Event.

Here’s a partial selection of the other offerings from some distinguished writers. David Neiwert’s story in Strawberry Days of the land grab of Japanese American-owned farms around Bellevue in WW2 has taken on new significance following the clumsy censorship of a mural by Bellevue College officials later forced to step down in disgrace earlier this year.

book club partial lineup

A third program is being developed for the ninth and final week in August, a look at the origins of camp pilgrimages, and of the first Days of Remembrance in Seattle and Portland in 1978-89.

None of this would have happened without the team who’ve put together this monumental effort, led by Kimiko Marr, Hanako Wakatsuki, Erin Aoyama, and Nicole Tanner. They shared the story of “How Tadaima Got Started”:

The idea of hosting a Virtual Pilgrimage this summer first emerged when the annual Tule Lake Pilgrimage was canceled, in the wake of the cancelations of both the Jerome/Rohwer Pilgrimage and the Manzanar Pilgrimage. Kimiko Marr, co-founder of Japanese American Memorial Pilgrimages (JAMP), decided that both in spite of and in light of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, there could not be a year without any pilgrimages, especially considering that the elders in the Japanese American community don’t have the luxury of all the time in the world.

With this decision in mind, Kimiko approached Hanako Wakatsuki, chief of interpretation at Minidoka National Historic Site, anticipating some hesitation on Hanako’s part about the idea. Instead, Hanako jumped in enthusiastically and began recruiting a Planning Committee and Advisory Board. Erin Aoyama, Programs & Research Fellow at Minidoka, became Project Manager. Nicole Tanner came on to coordinate the administrative side of the operation. Quickly, the rest of the founding Advisory Board came together – Stephen Kitajo from the Minidoka Pilgrimage Planning Committee, Dakota Russell from the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation, Courtney Ozaki from the Japanese Arts Network, Clement Hanami from the Japanese American National Museum, John Tonai from the Amache Historical Society II, Natasha Varner from Densho, Mia Russell from Friends of Minidoka, Jason Matsumoto from Full Spectrum Features, Koji Lau-Ozawa from Stanford University, Rob Buscher from the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival, and history major/Asian American & museum studies minor from San Francisco State University, Hiro Edeza.

The Advisory Board has continued to grow and “Tadaima! A Community Virtual Pilgrimage” now has more than 50 community partnerships, providing content and support for the Pilgrimage.

week by week calendar

Register for free to get their weekly updates at the Japanese American Memorial Pilgrimages website, or follow their Facebook page.  Here’s the full program for Week 1:

Week 1 program

From the National Park Service news release:

Virtual Pilgrimage

From June 13, 2020 to August 16, 2020 the National Park Service and the Japanese American Memorial Pilgrimages (JAMP) will co-host Tadaima: A Community Virtual Pilgrimage. This pilgrimage will run continuously for nine weeks, with new content provided daily. The pilgrimage is free and open to the public and will be available online at www.jampilgrimages.com. Registration opens on June 1, 2020.

The National Park Service hosts a pilgrimage at Minidoka National Historic Site (NPS) each year. Due to COVID-19, most scheduled pilgrimages to Minidoka and other WWII sites of confinement were cancelled this year. Tadaima: A Community Virtual Pilgrimage was developed due to considerable interest within the Japanese American community to continue to hold an online event. Over the nine-week program, each week will focus on a theme, from immigration in the 1800s to redress in the 1980s. In addition to the ten War Relocation Authority sites, the virtual pilgrimage will also explore the incarceration of the Japanese diaspora under different types of detention in the United States, Canada, and across the world.

This robust program is a collaborative effort between 40 Japanese American organizations nationwide, as well as international partners, and other institutions. Denshō, Japanese American National Museum, Japanese Arts Network, Friends of Minidoka, Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation, Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival, Minidoka Pilgrimage Planning Committee, and Full Spectrum Features are represented on the steering committee. See the full list of partner organizations.

This pilgrimage is unique in its endeavor to connect such a widespread coalition of the ethnic Japanese community, and will provide a space for scholars, artists, educators, and other representatives to collaborate in deepening the understanding of the Japanese American incarceration experience. We invite the general public to participate in this community driven event and look forward to sharing this historic experience with all participants!

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