By PHYLLIS HAYASHIBARA
The Venice Japanese American Memorial Monument (VJAMM) Committee and the Manzanar Committee announce with great pleasure two outstanding recipients of the second annual Arnold Maeda Manzanar Pilgrimage Grant: Terumi Tanisha Garcia of Cal Poly Pomona and Charlene Din of UCLA.
They will each receive $500 in grant funds from the VJAMM Committee and help the Manzanar Committee plan and produce the 53rd annual Manzanar Pilgrimage, scheduled as a virtual event due to pandemic precautions, on Saturday, April 30.
Terumi Tanisha Garcia, a fourth-year student in the Department of Landscape Architecture at Cal Poly Pomona, finds “the stories and lives of incarcerees such as Arnold Maeda inspirational” in her own personal quest for knowledge of her family’s history.
Her great-grandfather, Moritaro “Grant” Ishigaki, was imprisoned at the American concentration camp at Heart Mountain in Wyoming. After World War II, he returned to California and eventually settled with his wife and two sons in South El Monte, where he became a gardener. But he longed for the desert to which he had grown accustomed during his incarceration, and his wife bought him a trailer home in Victorville so he could be closer to the hot sands and dry winds.
Charlene Din, a freshman at UCLA, feels “inspired by Maeda’s wholehearted efforts to establish the Venice Japanese American Memorial Monument. … On the day Pearl Harbor was bombed, [her great grandfather] was arrested by the FBI, thrown into various Department of Justice camps, and eventually placed behind barbed wire with the rest of his family.” Din wrote in her essay, “Maeda’s work shows the importance of teaching the wrongs endured … so it is never forgotten nor repeated, . . . and reminds me of the importance of sharing connections between past and present … to inspire advocacy.”
Both Garcia and Din have incorporated their social justice perspectives into their art. Din won the Bay Area’s “Growing Up Asian in America” art competition as a high school freshman in 2017. Her winning poster shows San Francisco’s Peace Pagoda in Japantown, framed by branches of iconic Japanese cherry blossoms, in the background. In the foreground, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent arrests and escorts a father away while two children wave goodbye from a train window.
Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, gazes from the lower left corner at the signs depicted in the center of Din’s poster. “No Ban, No Wall, Sanctuary for All” reads one sign, while the other is a copy of “Instructions to All Persons of Japanese Ancestry, and a small sign reads, “No DAPL.”
As a member of AYPAL, an Oakland-based Asian youth leadership and activist organization, Din and other artists completed a large-scale painting for the annual May Arts Festival, “highlighting the various ways our families came to the U.S. and emphasizing the importance of knowing history in order to know oneself.” Din continues her activism as cultural awareness and community service chair for the Nikkei Student Union at UCLA.
Garcia assists in teaching the Japanese American Landscape Architecture and Ethnic Studies class at Cal Poly Pomona. For one of her JusticeScapes assignments, Garcia identified historical examples of racial politics, laws and capitalism in the U.S. as well as post-colonial examples of racist policies in the U.S. She illustrated how “Race/Caste Has Led to Spaces of Incarceration” in a powerful collage listing the Indian Removal Act of 1830, Trail of Tears, Deputation of Negroes 1862, Alien Enemies Act 1917, Redlining National Housing Act 1934, and Executive Order 9066, 1942.
The collage depicts Presidents Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt, as well as maps of the U.S. showing Trails of Tears and American detention centers and concentration camps, plus photos of War Relocation Authority barracks and hands behind jail bars.
In the center is a silhouetted profile of Donald Trump’s head and shoulders. In an even more pointed criticism, Garcia composed a free-verse poem to “Mr. President,” juxtaposing “being polite” as a survival tactic with the words of Andrew Jackson from the Indian Removal Act for the assignment titled “Terror as Enforcement, Cruelty as a Means of Control.”
Garcia writes that the VJAMM and the Manzanar National Historic Site, on the literal landscape, help us remember “past traumatic events” to build better relationships with each other and our environment … to work towards social justice.”
Brian Maeda, VJAMM Committee member and brother of the late Arnold Maeda, said, “My brother would be elated that this new generation is passing on our history of unjust incarceration and violation of our civil rights. Keep the faith that this will never happen again to anyone.”
Maeda’s most recent film, “We Said NO! NO! A Story of Civil Disobedience,” will debut on PBS in May. The film features the Tule Lake Segregation Center for the so-called “No-No Boys” who had refused to answer in the affirmative when asked to bear arms against any enemy of the U.S., and to forswear allegiance to the emperor of Japan. To see the trailer, visit http://wesaidnono.com.
For more information about the Arnold Maeda Manzanar Pilgrimage Grant, visit http://venicejamm.org, facebook @VeniceJAMM, or http://manzanarcommittee.org. Next year’s applications and requirements will not be substantially different from those for 2022.