To quote Jesse Jackson, “We must turn to each other and not on each other.”
I am referring to the current controversy in the Japanese American community regarding the damage done to the Wakasa Memorial Stone in the Topaz Concentration Camp grounds. The National Park Service Assessment Report was released in February itemizing the damage done to it while being hastily unearthed, and the damage continuing to be done to the stone the way it is being stored in the Topaz Museum courtyard.
The Wakasa Memorial Committee was formed to alert the public and urge proper care and handling of the memorial stone. They quickly got support from the National Trust for Historic Preservation; the National Park Service; Karen Korematsu; Satsuki Ina; Tom Ikeda of Densho; Jay Xu, director of the Asian Art Museum; myself; and many others. But, the Topaz Museum Board is responding by demanding they silence themselves and take down online documentation before they will meet.
I am not a member of the Wakasa Memorial Committee, but I fear that shutting them up will not guarantee proper care of the Wakasa memorial stone.
My family and I were friendly donors of the Topaz Museum until the stone’s disrespectful removal, revealing a lack of museum skills. Still, none of us want to see the Topaz Museum closed. I’d like to see it brought up to the standards of eligibility for National Park Service status or even Smithsonian affiliation. There are funds available for staffing the museum and an archeological excavation at the Wakasa Memorial site within the Topaz grounds.
The iconic Wakasa stone is the most important, concrete symbol of grave injustice (murder!), government coverup and Japanese American resistance that has been uncovered in any of the camps. It is too important to remain in a nonaccredited collection staffed by volunteer retirees, no matter how well meaning they are.
I urge all Japanese Americans to join together with their allies in requesting the Topaz Museum graciously donate the Wakasa Memorial Stone to the Japanese American community. The Topaz Museum could redeem itself this way.
It could be installed at the Japanese American National Museum, readily accessible to descendants, scholars, students and historians, OR at the Japanese Cemetery in Colma, in the Bay Area since 1918, where others who died in camp are buried. An information QR code and kiosk could be included in a special installation there.
We owe it to those Issei and Nisei, and our children and grandchildren, to see that it gets the honor and respect due to them. We need to speak up. Do not let anybody silence you. Find out what happened. What are they doing with the Wakasa stone? Write to the Topaz Museum and the Wakasa Memorial Committee websites and Facebook pages to let them know your feelings.
Save Our Stone (SOS)!