American Citizens, Roger Shimomura, 2015, lithograph, courtesy of the artist

As we approach the 75th anniversary of the year thousands of Americans of Japanese descent were ordered by the U.S. government to leave their homes and forced into incarceration, we asked Cassie Chin, Deputy Executive Director of the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience to share how the museum is commemorating this complex anniversary: 

On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which resulted in the forced removal and incarceration of 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans. They were charged with no crime. The cause of their imprisonment was their ancestry.

Organizations throughout King County are hosting special exhibitions and events to recognize the 75th Anniversary of Executive Order 9066. At the Wing, we have been working with community members for over a year to develop an exhibition based on a book of poems by Lawrence Matsuda and artwork by Roger Shimomura, called Year of Remembrance: Glimpses of a Forever Foreigner. The exhibition connects the World War II experience with contemporary issues of racism, discrimination and human rights. In this Year of Remembrance, the past confronts the present in profound and moving ways.

We asked Lawrence and Roger to share about their process and the relevancy of the Japanese American incarceration.

How did the book, “Glimpses of a Forever Foreigner” come about?
Lawrence Matsuda: In America and Japan I am like a foreigner. But in Paris I am an American. The book addresses ironies related to being like a foreigner in his one’s own country.

Describe your collaboration process.
Roger Shimomura: For the most part I had total independence where style and content were concerned. As I read the poems if something struck me that translated to a pictorial image, I would do some sketches and decide whether to further develop the drawing. In addition I chose some pre-existing works that I felt addressed the same or similar issues.

Could you share more about your poem, Legacy?
LM: Since Japanese Americans were the first to be taken, we must be the first to stand if it happens again.

Could you share more about this painting?
RS: “American Citizen” was one of about 7-8 paintings I’ve done in response to our new president’s stated ambivalence towards the WWII incarceration of Japanese Americans. Based upon that fact it is apparent today that Muslims are the new Japanese Americans.

What do you want visitors to take away from this exhibition?
LM: To understand the facts and emotions related to the WWII forced incarceration, so that if it happens again they can make clear and informed decisions about what they should do next.

RS: I feel that the current public political discourse reflects how much the standards of reason have deteriorated. Hopefully this exhibition and associated programming will remind the viewers of the consequences of repeating past mistakes.

4Culture thanks Cassie and the Wing for sharing insight into how the ramifications of Executive Order 9066 reach us today. King County cultural organizations have a full slate of related programming planned this month and beyond, much of which will be focused on drawing connections between Executive Order 9066 and the executive orders we are witnessing now. A listing of events is below—we hope we’ll see you there.

History Café: Executive Order 9066
Wednesday, February 15, 6:30-7:30 pm
Museum of History & Industry
MOHAI’s long-running and much-loved History Café invites history enthusiasts to come together for discussion over a drink and a snack. This month focuses on Executive Order 9066.

Year of Remembrance: Glimpses of a Forever Foreigner
On display February 17, 2017–February 11, 2018
Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience
This exhibition explores historic and contemporary issues of racism, discrimination and human rights, featuring poems by Lawrence Matsuda and artwork by Roger Shimomura.

Never Again
Sunday, February 19, 2:00-3:30 pm
Seattle Public Library – Central branch
CAIR-Washington State and Densho will discuss Japanese-American World War II incarceration history and American Muslims rights today. More information is available on Facebook.

Neely Mansion and KCLS: Bookmarks and Landmarks
Saturday, March 18, 10:30-11:30 am
Neely Mansion
Read Thin Wood Walls, then discuss the book with its author. Sample a Japanese treat and tour the mansion’s newly restored Japanese Bathhouse. Registration opens March online. For kids age 10 and up.