After months of planning and organizing, this week I hosted a day of programming commemorating Japanese American internment during World War II. Tuesday, February 19th marked the 77th anniversary of President Roosevelt's signing of Executive Order 9066, which authorized the forced incarceration of 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry. In honor of this Day of Remembrance, I organized a film screening of a 2017 film documentary about the internment experience, And Then They Came For Us (directed by Abby Ginzberg), on Wednesday, February 20th. I also invited to campus one of the people featured in the film, Dr. Satsuki Ina, who was born in the Tule Lake incarceration camp and is currently an activist and professor emeritus from California State University, Sacramento.
The first event was a luncheon hosted by the Asian Pacific Islander Faculty and Staff Association (APIFSA), during which Satsuki gave a moving talk about intergenerational trauma caused by Japanese American internment, which was titled "Healing Community Trauma: Looking Beyond the Victim." As a former internee who was personally affected by internment and as a psychotherapist who specializes in the treatment of community-based historical trauma, Satsuki provided an expert perspective on this critical topic. Her talk, which took place as APIFSA members enjoyed delicious food catered by Oki Momo Asian Grill, inspired robust discussion during the Q&A session that followed. Here is a flyer of the event, followed by some photos taken during the event.
The second event was a public film screening of the documentary film And Then They Came For Us, which attracted over 200 audience members. This film offers a moving account of Japanese American internment and brings the history of this egregious violation of civil liberties into the present day by making critical comparisons between the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and the abuses of Muslim Americans during the War on Terror. After the film screening, I spoke with Satsuki about the film and its relevance for today's political climate. Then I opened up the conversation to the audience, several of whom were former internees and many of whom knew family or friends who had been incarcerated. During Q&A, Satsuki shared about her present-day activist efforts to protest the detention of migrant children at the border. The conversation was so rich that several people stayed to talk with Satsuki long after the official end of the event. Here is a flyer of the film screening, followed by some photos taken during the event.
After a long day of programming, Satsuki and I headed to dinner with a few members of the APIFSA, where we enjoyed continuing the conversation over a delicious meal.
Looking back over today's events, I can't help but feel inspired and moved. I am so grateful to have the support of the Cal Poly community, particularly the College of Liberal Arts, the English Department, the APIFSA, and the Kennedy Library, to put on programs that enrich our knowledge of the United States' racial history and that represent the experiences of underrepresented communities. I will never forget Satsuki's visit to our campus this week, which has helped stimulate important conversations within our community about the long history of violent detention in the United States and its continued legacy today.
Today I participated in three panels for Cal Poly's third annual Inclusion Starts With Me Teach In, which is a day full of workshops, panels, and events related to diversity, inclusion, and social justice. Below is a schedule of the full program.
The first panel that I participated in was titled "The Social Construction of Race: Reflections from the Cal Poly Multiracial Community" and was co-organized by me and a colleague of mine, Maggie Bodemer, who is a lecturer in the history department. We were joined by Jennifer Teramoto Pedrotti (Associate Dean for Diversity & Curriculum in the College of Liberal Arts), Kari Mansager (Program Director of the Office of University Diversity and Inclusion), and Alyiah Gonzales (an English major and one of my students who also works in the Cross Cultural Centers). The panel was a huge success, prompting rich discussion about multiracial identity and the history of race as a socially constructed concept in the United States. I was happy to see that we attracted a large audience of several dozens of people.
The second panel was titled "Crazy Rich Asians Discussion: Asian American Representation in Film and Popular culture" and organized by the leadership of the Asian Pacific Islander Faculty and Staff Association. I was joined on the panel by Jennifer Teramoto Pedrotti, Grace Yeh (Professor of Ethnic Studies), Lisa Kawamura (Lecturer of Communication Studies), and Nisa Morey (Lecturer of Chemistry). We filled the room with close to 200 audience members who were eager to talk about the representation of Asian Americans in Crazy Rich Asians. Below is a picture of us panelists in the middle of discussion.
The last panel was titled "Cluster Hiring and Organizational Diversity: A Report from the First Year" and organized by Jennifer Teramoto Pedrotti. The panel brought together most of the faculty who were hired as part of the diversity cluster search put on by the College of Liberal Arts in 2017. I was joined on the panel by Farah Basel Al-Nakib (Assistant Professor of History), Jay Bettergarcia (Assistant Professor of Psychology and Child Development), Joan Meyers (Assistant Professor of Social Sciences), Emily Ryalls (Assistant Professor of Communication Studies), and Amber Williams (Assistant Professor of Psychology and Child Development). We had a great conversation about the success of cluster hiring and the sense of community we have formed as new assistant professors joining the Cal Poly community at the same time.
This winter quarter at Cal Poly, I am teaching ENGL 346: Ethnic American Literature with a significant service-learning component. My students will partner with one of four local nonprofit organizations, the San Luis Obispo chapter of Literacy for Life, the El Camino Homeless Organization (ECHO), the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County (SLO Food Bank), and the San Luis Obispo Noor Foundation, to create blog posts, newsletter articles, and other forms of written media that promote the important work that these organizations are doing in the community. The goal of this project is for students to engage in community work while applying rhetorical skills to promote social justice.
Today, representatives from each partner organization visited our class to talk about the services that these nonprofits provide. Students had an opportunity to ask questions and learn more about the various programs and efforts run by these organizations. After hearing from each representative, my students signed up to work with one of these organizations. By the end of class, all of my students were matched with the organization of their choice and excited to get started on their service-learning project. Below is a picture of me posing with the four representatives who visited our class.
In Fall 2017, I was awarded a fellowship sponsored by two Cal Poly organizations, the Center for Service in Action and the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology, to design and teach a service learning course during the 2018-19 school year. I teamed up with Grace Yeh, a professor in the Ethnic Studies department, to re-design two of our courses that are most similar in content, my Ethnic American Literature course and her Global Origins of U.S. Cultures course. Since then, we have been hard at work envisioning our service learning projects and reaching out to different non-profit organizations in the San Luis Obispo community to learn about their services and propose a possible partnership.
This morning the Center for Service in Action put on a showcase to celebrate our efforts. All of the faculty fellows were asked to create a poster describing the vision for our course re-designs that we could display during the showcase. I found this exercise extremely useful for helping me to identify and articulate the central goals of my course re-design. The showcase was a success, attracting many visitors and giving all of us fellows an opportunity to see how each other's course re-designs are coming along. I am getting excited to put this service learning course into action, which will happen in Winter 2019, when I am next scheduled to teach Ethnic American Literature.