Yesterday, I got to meet with a former member of the General Relief Society Presidency, Sister Chieko Okazaki. She was the first non-caucasian to be called to the hierarchy of the church and has also written several notable LDS books. I'm in a show here at BYU called A Thousand Cranes (which I am now realizing I never wrote about here. Look forward to a post once tickets go on sale). Sister Okazaki heard about our show and was so interested that she made a trip here to meet the people involved. She met with us, the cast, first. The seven of us made a little presentation for her and told her about the show and such. We told her about why this piece was chosen, the educational outreach of the show towards children, and our concept and plan to honor Japanese citizens through awareness.
We then got to sit around a table and simply have her chat with us. She told us how her early life in the United States was a "living hell" even though she was never put into an internment camp. She told us how it was nearly impossible for her and her husband to find living accomodations (they eventually lived in a church member's basement, secretly) and how her husband was discriminated against in grad school. She had to watch her elementary school class dwindle in number since her student's parents "didn't want their children to be taught by a 'Jap'." She even said she had to fight for her children who were liberally harassed, starting in Kindergarten. All of this was so hard for me to hear. Yes, it does hit home with me, being a Japanese-American myself, but at the same time, I almost felt guilty. I am only a second-generation Japanese-American, yet I have lived a life that is almost completely devoid of any discrimination. I can't say that I know what the future holds, but I truly realized how blessed I have been throughout my entire life to live in such perfect conditions.
Also present at this meeting was a representative from the Topaz museum, whom we are partnered with. Our show will feature a lobby display with artwork and photography not only from Hiroshima, but also Topaz. The most exciting part of this display is the 123,000 (yes you read that number right) cranes that will be hung in conjunction with the artwork. The 123,000 cranes represent the 123,000 Japanese citizens who were sent to internment camps during World War II. And lucky for us, Topaz has kindly allowed us to borrow them and display them for the public for the very first time.
All of this is overwhelming to me. I can't help but feel that this project is so very inspired. Having family that fought and were victims to World War II on both sides, I have always been very passionate about World War II. I am so very grateful to be a part of this project; I'm not only excited to be involoved in an art form that I love so much, but also to tell a story with subject matter that I am very passionate about.