A belated post to catch up on the October 14 opening of the RESISTERS: A Legacy of Movement From the Japanese American Incarceration at the Wing Luke Museum in Seattle. It’s certainly my kind of subject, so I’m grateful to Mikala Woodward and her team at the Wing for accepting some of my suggestions for display out of our discussions on the Citizens Advisory Committee. Some things pulled off my wall and bookshelf for this show, but keep reading to learn about one exceptional hidden gem in this exhibit.
In the hallway for the resettement era, Mikala liked the idea of featuring Seattle native John Okada’s novel. The Wing already had a copy of the 1957 Tuttle hardcover, so I loaned them my only copy of the original 1976 CARP paperback republication (with the correct blue color showing the American flag in Ichiro’s right eye) and the 2014 University of Washington Press edition.
For the story of the first Day of Remembrance, originated here in Seattle, I loaned the framed DOR poster devised by Frank Chin and signed by most of the participants, including Monica Sone. It’s the poster that hung for years in the Pioneer Square shop of David Ishii Bookseller. It hangs next to photos taken by Mizu Sugimura on that hectic morning assembling hundreds of cars and people at the old Sicks Stadium on November 25, 1978, I was tickled to see the web graphic with Mizu’s photo showing Ben Nakagawa using a bullhorn to direct traffic queueing up for the car caravan to Puyallup.
I was glad to see Shosuke Sasaki, Henry Miytake, Chuck Kato, Mike Nakata, and Ken Nakano remembered for their leadership to break through Nisei reticence and suceeed in winning support for the campaign for redress and reparations, in this iconic photo by John Esaki centering Henry’s famous flip-charts, the PowerPoint of the 1970s.
For the second DOR in Portland, the first to be held in February on the anniversary of the signing of EO 9066, Gary Akiyama took this photo of people eager to sign the “Open Letter to Hayakawa,” also ghostwritten by Frank Chin, and donate $5 or more to have the ad published in the Washington Post in May 1979.
When we brainstromed on the Citizens Advisory Committee about paintings to display, I’ve always advocated for two especially strong images from the period. The first, Disney artist Gene Sogioka’s “Poston Strike Rally,” captures the turmoil of those first months in the WRA camps. I was impressed The Wing could secure permisison from the Sogioka family and Cornell University.
But one of the stunning accomplishments of the exhibit is the first public display of the restoration of the painting below by Henry Sugimoto, “Reverend Yamazaki was Beaten at Camp Jerome.” It’s a visceral painting that captures of the very real resentment in camp of anyone considered an inu, a dog, a collaborator, whether JACL or not. According to the caption, Father John Yamazaki was an Issei minister from Los Angeles who “at the request of camp administrators, had translated the loyalty questionnaire into Japanese.” I was pleased to see it displayed as well. Then I noticed the caption did not note it being a reproduction like the other archival works by Mine Okubo and Sogioka. It turns out the Japanese American National Museum recently secured a grant to have the painting cleaned and restored and this is the first public display of it. Take a close look at it under the light and you can see Sugimoto’s brushstorkes. It’s a real coup and congratulations to Mikala and the Wing for following through to secure the loan.
Finally, I was puzzled the moment I came in the door of the museum reception on October 15, as several people told me they “loved the cute photo of me.” I had no idea what they were talking about until i saw the hallway display on resettlement. Then I remembered Mikala had put out a call for photos showing families resettling after the camps in the 1950s. So yeah that’s me as a baby. Thanks Dad.
This covers just a fraction of the exhibit. Visit www.wingluke.org/resisters to learn more about it. You have plenty of time to catch it, as it is up through September 17, 2023 … just ahead of another Seattle milestone, the John Okada Centennial on September 22, 2023.