Rhythmix to Mark Day of Remembrance

Courtesy photo    Above, Najib Joe Hakim’s works transforms the devastation of war into artistic expressions as part of the Writing on the Wall exhibit at Rhythmix Cultural Works.

In the early 1900s, Alameda was home to nearly 900 Japanese Americans and a thriving Japantown. Japanese-American owned businesses bustled on Park Street: a dry cleaner, florist, shoe repair, nursery, beauty shops and two spiritual institutions, the Alameda Buena Vista United Methodist Church and the Buddhist Temple of Alameda. 

Then, on Feb. 19, 1942, Executive Order 9066 was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the forced removal and incarceration of 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry (more than two-thirds of who were American citizens) living on the West Coast — including Alameda residents — became a reality. As an act of “national security,” individuals were forced to abandon their jobs, their homes and lives, to be sent to one of 10 internment camps scattered in desolate, remote regions of the country. 

No Japanese Americans were ever charged, much less convicted, of espionage or sabotage against the U.S. Yet they were targeted, rounded up and imprisoned for years, simply for having the “face of the enemy.” 

Before World War II, there were 43 Japantowns in the United States. Now, there are only three left in the entire country. Executive Order 9066 is responsible for the disappearance of 40 U.S. Japantowns, including Alameda’s. Observing the anniversary of Executive Order 9066, Day of Remembrance commemorations are now held all around the country, particularly in communities on the West Coast. 

Marking the Day of Remembrance for Alameda’s lost Japantown, Rhythmix presents a free evening event that includes an art exhibit, a taiko performance, poetry readings and documentary film clips. 

K Gallery art exhibit
The Writing is on the Wall features a collection of work that speaks to the injustices of war and discrimination. “Poems from Heart Mountain” show calligraphers and visual artists working together to portray a quiet dignity and profound insight for the beauty in life. 

“May’s Letters” include onion- skin carbon copies of typewritten letters detailing observations and descriptions of daily life in the internment camps. 

Salma Arastu bridges culture, religion and art, bringing Arabic calligraphy into dialogue with modern abstract painting and Najib Joe Hakim transforms the devastation of war into poetic photographs. 

Taiko performance
The Day of Remembrance will also present a taiko performance by Maze Daiko and Kallan Nishimoto, with readings of the Tachibana Ginsha’s poetry from Heart Mountain. Rev. Michael Yoshii of Alameda’s Buena Vista United Methodist Church will introduce excerpts from the documentary film Honoring Alameda’s Japanese Americans.

This event is co-sponsored by the Buena Vista United Methodist Church, Alameda and the Buddhist Temple of Alameda.

The K Gallery exhibit The writing is on the Wall runs through Feb. 29. Rhythmix Day of Remembrance for Alameda’s Japantown takes place on Wednesday, Feb. 19, from 6 to 9 p.m. These events are free and open to the public. Visit www.rhythmix.org or call 865-5060 for more information.

 

.S. National Archives & Records Administration photo by Dorothea Lange    First-graders, some of Japanese ancestry, at the Weill public school in San Francisco pledge allegiance to the U.S. flag prior to their removal in April 1942.

Jennifer Radakovich is the assistant director of Rhythmix Cultural Works.