April 6, 2009

The front page article of yesterday’s Seattle Times about Don Wakamatsu, the Mariner’s new head coach and first Asian American major league baseball coach, was both remarkable and inspirational for several reasons. First of all, here it is the beginning of baseball season, the Mariners have a brand new coach and the return of the ever-popular Ken Griffey Jr. and yet, the front page article is all about the new coach’s family history and especially his grandparents and their incarceration experience. What a great way to raise awareness of this chapter in our nation’s past and show how it affected so many people’s lives.

I take my hat (or cap) off to the new coach when I see the way he embraces his heritage and history and brings the incarceration issue to the forefront. With his position and notoriety, especially when it comes to sports, he could easily choose to highlight a number of other aspects of his life. His choices so far are showing signs of becoming an inspirational role model for speaking out on important issues.

One of the things that struck me in the article is the fact that Don admits he didn’t know much about the WW II incarceration up until about 5 years ago. This comes from someone whose own family members were subjected to the forced exclusion, who you might expect would have learned something about it growing up. So imagine the chances of those who were not directly affected having learned about it in school.

Something we unfortunately hear far too often is what Don points out, “I didn’t learn about internment in history class, that’s for sure.” This succinctly illustrates the importance of Densho’s mission, to not only capture and preserve an archive of visual histories, but to help raise awareness so it is not forgotten and left out of history books.