Sunday, September 12, 2010

While People Remember Other Things...

What makes a day poignant? The actions of the the immediate or the narrative of the past? Today, a great number of people are dwelling on recent history. I cannot fault them for it. Some dwell on this date to honor; others  focus myopically to plant seeds of hatred;  and others just wake up and think nothing of it, get dressed one pant leg at a time and head off to their daily activities.

When asked to remember things, I will always turn to the events that shaped my family's narrative, the same hatred and bias that people discuss now played out to illogical ends. That brings me to today's images.

A good friend helped develop these photographs from negatives stored away since the end of the Internment. My great uncle, we called him Ochan, somehow gained access to a contraband camera and took snapshots of the daily lives of my family and numerous strangers around the desolate southeastern corner of Colorado that became my family's home during the duration of the war. 

Grandma with her children in the internment camp
Here, my grandmother holds her fourth child, beginning to show signs pregnancy with my father, as her other children play outside the barrack that was their home. About seven years ago, I stood on the foundation, a barren concrete slab where this photo was taken. Home, away from home, I guess.

Grandma, Obachan, Ochan, and neighbors outside of barracks at Amache

Another photograph with family and some random strangers. My great aunt holds one of my aunts, still an infant, near the door. Her husband, Ochan, smokes a cigarette. This is one of the few shots where the normal photographer is captures in these images.

Winter at Amache

This image may be of the eldest of my uncles, but it is a little hard to say. The winters at Amache were brutal from all the stories that I have heard. But for kids growing up in the central valley of California or from LA, this was some of the only times they had to experience snow. However, plywood and tar paper barracks aren't much for insulation. Even with a coal stove, the conditions would be miserable.

My uncle with other interment camp children

Children often never know when they are deprived. My uncle told me that when I asked him what he thought about the Internment Camp. If you're three, you don't notice barbed wire, men in guard towers with guns pointed at you, or have a concept of prison camp. At that age, you're three years old and enjoying life as a child. But for the parents unable to provide an American dream while confined, this had to be one of the most disheartening feelings imaginable. My uncle is about six-years-old in this photograph.

So this is what I have to remember on days like today, tomorrow, and many days to follow. I have to remember than no matter how much I complain about things, my grandmother managed to raise six children while segregated from society in a prison camp. She gave birth to four children during these years. And afterward had to endure years of hatred from the masses for the color of her skin and her heritage. Her children experienced the same hatred growing up, but they never knew why.

Yes, the events of recent history are tragic. And perhaps I contradict when I say "Move on." But if anything, perhaps move beyond or above what the events were. Perhaps we should look for the beauty in all of our histories. These pictures sting, but there is a haunting quality that makes me realize what I came from and which path I should follow. 

Obachan knitting outside barrack at Amache

Unknown individuals outside barracks at Amache

Amache during winter

Obachan at Amache

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