Director’s Report by Rosalyn Tonai
Everyone’s has their ups and downs. What I’ve learned over the years working with our elders, is that when you have rain, you will have sunshine, when there is war, there is peace, sometimes you just change the lens. It’s that sense of optimism and promise that I’ve seen in a generation that has lived through so much.
George Yoshida wrote in his seminal book on Japanese Americans and music, Reminscing in Swingtime, “Artists are healers—youthful Nisei provided the balm to disheartened souls,” when referring to those youngsters who created dance bands in the camps. Amid the desolation of camp life, Japanese Americans found hope in their own musical expressions. It was a matter of survival for many, and a natural movement in the acculturation of the Nisei- an affirmation of their identity as American youth.
Editor Ben Hamamoto, takes it a step and a generation or two further. With a featured tribute to the “hipster” musician & author George Yoshida, and ethnomusicologist Anthony Brown, Hamamoto reveals the life’s work of these two “greats.” Along the continuum, Hamamoto presents Professor Loren Kajikawa’s perspective on the transnational influence of Nisei and Japanese musical performers in the 1950s. From the 80’s and 90’s he presents Asian American perspectives with Francis Wong as he reflects on his Art and Politics. He presents Nikkei Hip-Hoppers by Colin Ehara struggling in the shadows, and then showcases his own take on Japanese artists who’ve had impact on the recording scene in the States. Through these new lenses, and somewhat blurring distinctions between Japanese and American, Hamamoto broadens the idea of a Nikkei spirit in music.
Likewise at NJAHS, in spite of the setback due to the Building 640’s roof collapse last December, our spirits are uplifted and we are back on track. Singing praise to our steadfast partners The Presidio Trust and the National Park Service, and our congressional sponsors House Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senators Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, Daniel Inouye, Daniel Akaka and Congressman Mike Honda and our development team, we are thankful for their full support in these tough times. We are re-building on the original site, a new, stronger Building 640 for safe public access. With the blessings that have been bestowed upon us, we remain focused on our core objectives for 2012-13 to:
- Preserve the Lessons of the Japanese American experience
- Rebuild Bldg 640 & Support the MIS Historic Learning Center at the Presidio of San Francisco
- Raise public awareness of the Congressional Gold Medal
In the coming year, join us in raising the matching funds to re-build Building 640 with exciting new exhibitions, using the latest technology, and programming on the MIS legacy --peace and reconciliation. We are truly grateful to you our members, supporters, funders, our partners, volunteers and staff. Check out the progress and future hard hat tours, and contribute now to the Inaugural Donor Wall: www.njahs.org/640