President’s Message June 2016

by Lorene Oikawa

I flip through the pages of the book and some quotes catch my eye.

“Mom worked tirelessly well into the wee hours of the night and we would all be fast asleep. In the winter she would ensure that there was enough wood in the heater to last till the morning.”

“Working below the highway by the lake I found a few matsutake. I went back the next day for another but it snowed during the night and I could not find anymore.”

“We weren’t told to dress warm. We weren’t told it was cold in the country.”

The quotes are from our new book, Honouring Our People: Breaking the Silence. The book shares the stories of Japanese Canadian survivors who along with their families were forcibly removed from the west coast and incarcerated in 1942.

We heard some of the stories during three days in September, 2009, when survivors, their families and friends came together for the Honouring Our People: Stories of the Internment conference in Burnaby, BC. The conference paid tribute to the Japanese Canadians who experienced racism, alienation, betrayal, restrictions, uprooting and loss during and after WWII. We also acknowledged the resilience and perseverance shown by Japanese Canadians who not only endured, but often prospered after the war. We created a safe space for a dialogue between generations, and descendants of survivors had the opportunity to learn more about their family’s history.

With our book, Honouring Our People: Breaking the Silence, we are hoping to continue the opportunity for conversations and learning so the mistakes of the past are not repeated.

We hope you’ll join us from 2pm to 4pm at the Honouring Our People book launch on Saturday, June 4 at Nikkei Centre. You’ll hear some more stories, enjoy some refreshments and be able to purchase the book. The book is $20 and at the book launch we will have a “buy two for $30” special.

The following weekend we hope to see many of you at the explorASIAN Recognition Gala on Saturday, June 11. It’s a wrap up to a month of events celebrating our Asian heritage, and this year’s tribute is to the Japanese Canadian community. The evening will include Japanese Canadian music, arts, and food at the Nikkei Centre.  Japanese Canadian leaders Tosh and Mary Kitagawa, and Grace Eiko Thomson will be honoured at the event. The GVJCCA will also be recognized. The event is a fundraiser for the Asian Heritage Month Society who do a tremendous job every year.

It will be a busy weekend for the Japanese Canadian community. On Sunday, June 12, it’s the 2016 annual Tonari Gumi and GVJCCA Golf tournament, 1,000 Cranes “Sen Ba Zuru” Charity Classic. Some of us will be enjoying the beautiful Meadow Gardens golf course as we follow the best ball, and others will be making the swings that control the flight of their ball to greater glory. Who will have the best score? We will find out at the sumptuous banquet following the game. Lots of prizes, a raffle, and a silent auction will add to a wonderful evening, and it’s all for a good cause to support the great work at Tonari Gumi and the GVJCCA.

We are very excited to be welcoming three summer students this year. By the time you read this issue, we’ll have an Event Coordinator, Archival Assistant, and Communications Administrator. We are looking forward to working with these bright, creative, and energetic students.

For the next few months, the friendly voice who returns your phone call or sends you an email may be one of our summer students. They will provide tremendous support to our volunteers as the students will take on the administrative work, assist GVJCCA members, work to preserve Japanese Canadian history, and help us with our events.

One of our volunteers is Board Director April Shimizu. April has been working on preparations for our annual Wild Salmon Barbeque and Musubi (SPAM sushi) food booth. It’s our major fundraiser and it takes a lot of behind-the-scenes work to make sure it runs smoothly. The students will be helping with the food booth and the community booth at the 40th Annual Powell Street Festival on July 30 & 31 of the BC long weekend.

Mark your calendar and bring your family and friends to enjoy delicious grilled wild salmon and musubi. Thank you for your continued support.