Carolyn Hoover, left, and Karen Korematsu at the National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism in Washington, D.C. Hoover interviewed the director of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute as part of the NJAMF’s Digital Storytelling Project. Photo: Helen Yoshida
This summer, five exceptional high school students from diverse backgrounds and four different states (California, Maryland, Ohio and Washington, D.C.) who wanted to learn about the Japanese American experience and history during World War II tapped into their creativity and produced the first five videos of the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation’s Digital Storytelling Project.
The students each researched one internment camp, conducted interviews with former incarcerees and their families and then came to the Heart Mountain Pilgrimage — held at the original site of the Heart Mountain Relocation Center, which incarcerated more than 14,000 Japanese Americans and their families during WWII — to learn how to produce these videos or “digital stories.” The videos — featuring Amache, Heart Mountain, Manzanar, Poston and Topaz — can be found at the NJAMF website (www.njamf.com).
The Digital Storytelling Project is a seed project of the foundation that is meant to inspire a young generation to engage in civil rights, the study of the Constitution and America’s checkered history.
The student creators of the five videos are Carolyn Hoover from Maryland (Topaz), Reed Leventis from Maryland (Poston), Julia Shin from Ohio (Manzanar), Halle Sousa from California (Amache) and Connor Yu from Washington, D.C. (Heart Mountain).
The NJAMF called for applications from high school students around the country with the goal of choosing 10 students — one for each major incarceration camp in the mainland U.S. — to learn how to develop, write, research and, ultimately, produce a short video.
The foundation chose five deserving students this year, and it intends to choose five more for next year.
The students traveled to Cody, Wyo., in July 2016 to attend a two-day intensive digital storytelling workshop offered as part of the Heart Mountain Pilgrimage. After working hard for many hours, the students showed their films at the Pilgrimage banquet, where some of the Nisei featured in the stories were in attendance. Now, the five films are polished and available to the general public.
“One of the most powerful statements of these videos is that the incarceration experience during World War II is not a Japanese American story, it is an American story,” said Cal Shintani, chairman of the board of directors of the NJAMF. “The students who poured their heart and soul into these videos not only included students of Japanese American ancestry who had grandparents in the camps, but we also had students who were Korean American, Chinese American and a student whose grandparents were Jews in WWII Poland. All of these students related to this history, and all of them compared the events from 75 years ago to events occurring today.”
Jeff MacIntyre, Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and owner of Los Angeles-based production company Content Media Group, has been the NJAMF’s partner in mentoring the students throughout the training process. The Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation has been the NJAMF’s other partner in the project, hosting the workshop last summer and making the expertise of its executive director, Brian Liesinger, available to the students.
High school students interested in applying for the Digital Storytelling Project in 2017 should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To support additional students participating in this project, visit http://njamf.com/SupportUs/SupportUs.html and donate through PayPal. Supporters can also send a check to: NJAMF-Digital Project, 4200 Wisconsin Ave. N.W. #106-236,
Washington, D.C. 20016.