Hello dear world!
My name is Nikiko Masumoto, I’m a 26 year old yonsei (fourth generation Japanese American) farm apprentice and agrarian artist (self-created title!). In May of last year I finished a graduate program (Performance as Public Practice, UT Austin) with a thesis performance entitled What We Could Carry. I presented the piece as a workshop in Austin, and then moved back home to Del Rey, California. Now, this blog is another way for me to share these really amazing stories – this is work that feeds my soul and life in so many ways. I hope it may do the same for you!
Stay tuned in for a fall 2012 Community Reading Tour (if you represent or know of a group or organization, especially a Japanese American organization, who would like to host, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org).
I really went to grad school specifically to work on this project – I had dreams of the ghost of my jiichan (grandpa) when he was young and I knew I needed to dedicate some time, energy, and soul force to exploring Japanese American memory and how it lives in my body and life. That’s what brought me to learn about the movement for Redress in the 1980s.
A little bit of history: Decades after World War II when 120,000 Japanese Americans were confined in concentration camps through the United States, Japanese Americans organized a call for reparations and an apology from the United States Government. Before Civil Rights Act of 1988 was passed which granted both of these things, a tremendous movement arose to tell the stories of Japanese Americans and lobby for redress through the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. Hundreds of Japanese Americans stood up to tell their stories.
I found the transcripts to these hearings at the Japanese American National Museum and reading them was incredible. As I studied the testimony I felt the anguish, heartbreak, fear, anger, sadness, loss, and resilience of these stories and of “my people,” as Bill Shinkai remarked in his testimony. Getting to know my history, our history, Japanese American history through these personal testimonies opened a powerful channel of memory in my life, one that I think is impossible to turn off.
From those testimony grew this show, What We Could Carry. It is almost entirely based on excerpts from testimony at the Los Angeles hearings (I had to narrow my research scope in order to finish the project; there is still so much opportunity for exploration!). Now, I’m hoping to share these stories through performances and community readings of the script.
In February 2012, I debuted the show in California at the Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Palo Alto, CA thanks to the generosity of an old family friend, Rev. Roger Morimoto. A few weeks later, I had the chance to share a reading at the national meeting of Japanese American clergy of the United Methodist Church in Santa Maria, CA. Each performance was an amazing experience for me.
A Nisei woman in Palo Alto came up to me afterward and grabbed my hand saying “that was my story, you told my story.” I still get teary recalling that moment. I cannot express the gratitude and profound truth I feel and know when I listen to and share these stories. Telling these stories brings me great joy through its sorrow and helps me heal, I hope it can do the same for many many others.
Thank you for reading & listening! I hope to experience these stories with you soon.