GVJCCA Human Rights Committee hosts three-day gathering in September to honour our elders
The Honouring Our Past conference to be held September 25 – 27, 2009 at National Nikkei Museum and Heritage Centre will pay tribute to the lives of Japanese Canadians who experienced racism, alienation, betrayal, restrictions, uprooting and loss during and after WWII. It will acknowledge the resilience and perseverance shown by Japanese Canadians who not only endured but often prospered after the war, and will seek to create dialogue between generations and give descendants of survivors the opportunity to learn more about their family’s history.
The conference is sponsored by the National Association of Japanese Canadians and the Greater Vancouver JCCA.
Two members of the organizing committee, Mary Kitagawa and Emi Kordyback, share their thoughts on the reason committee members have been working hard toward this major community event.
Keiko Mary Kitagawa
Many decades have passed since the Japanese Canadian community experienced the horrors of internment during WWII. The Isseis and the Niseis who suffered the most from this injustice are diminishing quickly in numbers. It is often stated that many have kept this trauma deep within their psyche because it is so painful to talk about it. Many children and grandchildren are not aware of their ancestors’ past. The GVJCCA Human Rights Committee is hosting a three day gathering on September 25, 26 and 27, 2009 to give the internees a safe and comfortable place to share their stories. We are hoping to honour our past by having our internment experiences voiced by people who experienced the trauma. Our future generations will be able to connect with our history by hearing these stories.
My family, the Murakamis of Salt Spring Island, was exiled in 1942 when I was seven years old. I have told our story to hundreds of high school students and others; each time it becomes less painful. Please honour our gathering by sharing your internment experience.
Emi Kordyback (nee Tsutsumi)
I am one of the conference planners for this September and have been surrounded by a great deal of enthusiasm for what we’re planning. We held a focus group involving the issei and nissei asking for their advice and what they would like to see at the conference. The information and stories that they had to tell were wonderful to hear. For me it was filling in some of the missing history of our community and of my family. We have a fascinating history with huge variations in experience but with a source that connects us all.
One of the reasons for attending this conference is to connect with people who had settled in Matsqui where my family had begun [began] strawberry farming before the war. Much of our belongings including photos were lost in the upheaval. The other period that has been lost to me was the internment period when my family were split apart. I would love to meet up with people who went to Winnipeg to the sugar beet farms to find out more about their experiences and what happened after. Every time I hear peoples’ stories I am struck by the courage with which they have met the challenges they were faced with and how they have steadfastly continued to build a future for their children despite the odds. Anyone know the Yamamoto’s or the Tsutsumi’s back in Matsqui before the war? Let’s meet up at the conference!