Reading Together Blog

Closing Celebration

Drums and family stories celebrated the conclusion Reading Together’s 2010 season. Held in the beautiful sanctuary of First Baptist Church, the program opened with a powerful performance by Kalamazoo Taiko, a student led drumming group from Kalamazoo College. It was loud, it was festive, it was beautifully precise.

Zarinah el-Amin Naem, coordinator of the Race Exhibit Initiative, thanked Reading Together for selecting Snow Falling on Cedars to begin a community discussion about race. She then introduced guest speaker Frank Kitamoto, president of the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community Association for his presentation “Putting Human Back into Human Rights: Lessons from the Past to Help us Live in the Now.”

With slides of photographs and quotes, Dr. Kitamoto told the story of Bainbridge Island’s Japanese American residents, beginning with their early years as farmers and going on to the tragic stories of their evacuation and incarceration during World War II. Suspicion. Family heirlooms buried in fear. Abandoned pets. Armed escorts. The dust and desolation of Manzanaar. Births and deaths in strange places. Unwelcome homecomings. Often poignant, at times humorous, the message was ultimately encouraging and hopeful.

After the program, we gathered in the fellowship hall for refreshments and conversation. It gave everyone a chance to view Kodomo Name Ti for one last time before we sent it back to Bainbridge Island. Dr. Kitamoto pointed out many relatives in the photos and gave us background stories about their lives. Oh, and the strawberry farmer I wondered about in a recent post? Well, it turns out he is the very last remaining strawberry farmer on Bainbridge Island.

We are so grateful to the Race Exhibit Initiative for sponsoring our closing event, to First Baptist Church for sharing its beautiful space, to Kalamazoo Taiko for a splendid performance, and to Frank Kitamoto and the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community for sharing their stories.


Lessons from the Past

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