JAVA Research Team
On Saturday, March 27th, the Japanese American Memorial Foundation along with JAVA and JACL-DC held the 23rd Annual and First Virtual Freedom Walk. The program which revolved around the significance of the National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism During World War II kicked off with rotating images of photos taken at Freedom Walks held over the years as well as a recording of Nen Daiko Japanese Taiko Drummers. Both NJAMF Board Member Martha Watanabe and JAVA Board Member LTC Marty Herbert, USA (Ret), welcomed viewers to the unique format followed by a moving narration of the symbolism captured in the Memorial given by NJAMF Board members. David Yao, who is currently Festival Director at the Asian Pacific American Film in DC, shared his early efforts to promote the first Freedom Walk in order to raise money for the Memorial to be built. Yao also commented on the significance of the Memorial after the 9/11 attacks. In many ways, the Memorial became a sacred space for Americans to reflect on the importance of upholding civil rights for all. Next, Minister Kenchiro Mukai, Head of Chancery, Embassy of Japan, noted that the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from the Mayor of Tokyo to Washington, DC, as a gesture of the growing friendship between the two countries continues to affirm the affinity today. Minister Mukai remarked that as a Japanese citizen he feels a special pride in the story of Japanese Americans. Although it is a painful story - one of sacrifice and service - it is also an uplifting and inspiring story. Secretary Norman Mineta also spoke, telling his painful story of family internment but his unremitting pride in being an American.
After the formal program, participants had the opportunity to gather in virtual breakout sessions on the following topics: The Memorial and Tsuru for Solidarity; The Memorial and 9/11; The Memorial and NJAMF; The Memorial and JAVA; JACSC/NPS; HR 40; and Crane Making. JAVA President Gerald Yamada led the breakout session on The Memorial and JAVA (see remarks below). As the different breakout sessions concluded, participants were encouraged to join a general chat in a "lobby" or join a different discussion. All agreed that while they missed the beauty of the cherry blossoms and the serenity of the Memorial, the new platform offered participants a way to gather from around the country and discuss important issues.