Ark. camp film at Time of Remembrance

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Northern California Time of Remembrance committee, in partnership with The California Museum, screened a sample reel of the film “Relocation, Arkansas” at its 12th annual Time of Remembrance event in Sacramento, Calif. on Feb. 15 to a full auditorium of attendees.

More than 250 local residents filled the seats, with some standing, in the Secretary of State Auditorium, a crowd NCTOR Chair Christine Umeda said was the most they’ve had in more than a decade. “It tells me that people are interested,” she said, noting that many local community members were forcibly incarcerated in the Arkansas camps. “I think that’s what makes the difference. It touches, personally.”

The film, directed and produced by Rohwer, Ark. native Vivienne Schiffer, explores several story lines about those who were incarcerated at the Rohwer concentration camp during World War II. In particular, it tells the story about how and why Schiffer’s mother, former McGehee, Ark. Mayor Rosalie Gould, became a “legend in the Japanese American community.”

Schiffer said she followed Gould’s activities during her involvement with the Japanese American community and actually attended the dinner event Gould hosted in 1981 for those former concentration camp inmates who returned to dedicate a monument. That dinner is where Gould’s interest with the community began.

After a while, Schiffer said that so many people wanted to visit Gould that full tour buses from as far as Los Angeles would come by.

“She would give them fried catfish lunches and take them out to the site and just listen to their stories,” she said. “People would tell her stories that they hadn’t told their own kids.”

Stemming from her interest in Gould’s connection with the community, Schiffer decided to make the film and from there, discovered more stories to include, another being the effect forced relocation had on the Sansei generation.

Sansei Effie Komure said she often questioned why her parents did not fight the forced relocation, but understands more about what her parents went through after watching the film.

Born in the Rohwer concentration camp in 1944, Komure said her parents were living in Lodi, Calif. when they were forcibly removed from the West Coast. She said she was happy to hear so many stories about the Arkansas camp.

“What I really appreciated is that they’ve always focused so much about Tule Lake, Heart Mountain, and I never heard about Rohwer, so it’s really wonderful that we’re being represented now,” she said.

Although the film is not yet finished, Schiffer said she and her staff used the opportunity to hear feedback from the audience and enjoyed how many people talked to her after the showing.

“I want the audience to feel,” she said. “I want them not to ‘know’ something, I want them to understand something. That’s the difference.”
Schiffer estimates that the film will be completed by the end of the year.

Daruma Award and the Candle Lighting Ceremony
In addition to the film preview screening, the NCTOR committee awarded the Mary Tsuruko Tsukamoto Daruma Award to former Sacramento County 5th District Supervisor Toby Johnson and former Sacramento County 2nd District Supervisor Illa Collin.

Collin learned about the forced relocation of Japanese Americans as a student in college. As a supervisor, Collin got the Sacramento County supervisors to pass a resolution to recognize and offer compensation to former Sacramento County employees who had to leave their jobs after being forcibly relocated.

A long-time educator and 16-year Sacramento County supervisor, Johnson strongly supported the Japanese American Redress Movement as well as Collin’s resolution.

“My mother, at the beginning of the Redress campaign, was convinced that we couldn’t win,” said Florin JACL President Marielle Tsukamoto. “But, it was people like Illa (Collin), Toby (Johnson), the
Elk Grove School District Board, Mayor (Anne) Rudin, who stepped up, the non-Japanese Americans that stepped up and helped us have the courage to have a voice.”

The program also included a Unity Candle Lighting Ceremony, which had a diverse set of community leaders symbolically light candles in remembrance of those incarcerated during World War II.

‘Permanent’ Exhibit
Registration for the event also included tours of The California Museum’s Japanese American exhibits “Uprooted! Japanese Americans During WWII” and “Art of Gaman,” a short-term exhibit featuring crafts created behind barbed wire concentration camps.

During the program’s introduction, The California Museum executive director Dori Moorehead announced that the museum received a $100,000 grant from the National Park Service to add a more interactive aspect to the “Uprooted!” exhibit, a display Moorehead said is the only one she considers “permanent” at the facility.

“This is the story that we, as Californians, have to tell,” she said. “We have to embrace it. It is such an important civil rights story that every child in California should learn and every visitor to The California Museum should hear about.”

Moorehead said she did not learn about Japanese American forced relocation growing up until she visited the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. as a lieutenant in U.S. Army and was “floored.” A historian and Southern California native, Moorehead said she feels it is her responsibility as executive director to make sure all California students learn about it.

“It’s very important to me personally, it’s very important to you personally, it’s very important to California and it’s very important to the world that we never let something like this happen as long as we can stand up,” she said, to applause.

The renovated “Uprooted!” exhibit will feature several video interviews with Japanese American inmates and an interactive map that will guide visitors through each person’s journey. Although the grant is not estimated to be enough, Moorehead said additional fundraising is underway.

The Northern California Time of Remembrance was sponsored by the Florin, Lodi, Placer County and Sacramento chapters of the Japanese American Citizens League, The California Museum and the Elk Grove Unified School District.

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