Sunday, September 18, 2011

Member News: HIRO

Fumiko Nishinaka Hayashida

To honor Fumiko Nishinaka Hayashida for service to community and country, HIRO unveiled her portrait painting at Fumiko's 100th Birthday Celebration on January 22, 2011.
Fumiko Diptych
The painting is in the collection of the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial located at the original site of the historic Eagledale Ferry Dock across Puget Sound from Seattle. This was the place where Fumiko Hayashida, together with the other residents of Japanese ancestry, were forced out of their homes on March 30, 1942, by the United States military, shipped off to the desolate Manzanar War Relocation Camp in the middle of nowhere of Owens Valley,California, and incarcerated for the duration of World War II. This happened in accordance with President Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066, issued February 10, 1942, without due process of law of the Constitution. No matter whether they were Americans citizens or not, and most were born in Bainbridge Island.
Caught in a photograph by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the mother and child became an instant iconic figure personifying the plight of the Japanese American “internment”. The mother, with that subtle look of mixed apprehension and will to endure, “gaman,” captured my attention, for I too am a Japanese American.
Who is this woman with the child? I did not know her name. I did know that she was from the Seattle area. My first sighting of this well-known photograph when this photograph was displayed in the same exhibition that my two paintings were being shown, “A MORE PERFECT UNION: Japanese Americans and the United States Constitution," at the Smithsonian American History Museum, Washington, D.C. The titles of my paintings are, “SADA MEMORIES: Thinking of Justice,” and “Justice For All,” and may be seen on a link of this website. At that time I did not follow-up, and her identity remained unknown.
However, another opportunity developed when I .was working on the exhibit for SITES, Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, “STRENGTH AND DIVERSITY: Japanese American Women, 1890-1990.” My painting, “Kimono and Barbed Wire,” was included in this three-year national museum tour. But this time I was determined to investigate the mother and child photograph. Is this woman still alive? Where is she? What about the daughter? I did a nationwide search via telephone and found Dr. Frank Kitamoto, a prominent dentist living in Bainbridge Island. When I inquired about the mother, he exclaimed, “She's my aunt!” After asking him for a formal introduction, I followed-up with many telephone interviews. The mother in the photograph is Fumiko Nishinaka Hayashida, living in Seattle; her daughter is Kayo Natalie Hayashida Ong, living with her husband Albert Ong in El Lago, Houston, Texas. I found Fumiko Hayashida happy to be of help, friendly, very communicative with a sense of humor, an optimist looking forward to the future, a wonderful personality.
“Fumi,” as her friends call her, was born on January 21, 1911, at Bainbridge Island, Washington, graduated high school on the island and worked on the Nishinaka family farm. She married another strawberry farmer, Saburo Hayashida, and started a family when World War II began. She and her family were among the first group of 227 evacuees being transported off the Island to prison at Manzanar when that now famous mother and child photograph was taken.
Through SITES, I invited Fumiko to participate as a guest in the various events of the exhibition, wrote her biography, and presented her to the museum directors who were exhibiting this show. She was a favorite with the press, a natural. The first venue was at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon, in 1993, followed by eight more museum venues throughout the United States, including the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, Seattle, Washington.
By keeping in touch with Fumi from that time on, we have become very close friends. Through the many years of knowing her I had thought of painting a portrait of her to depict the experiences she had in her lifetime. The inspiration for the painting came exactly in the year 2006, when she came to Washington, D.C., on September 28, at the age of 95 years, to testify on behalf of the legislation for the Bill, H.R. 5817, The Bainbridge Island Japanese American Monument Act of 2006. Fumiko Hayashida she gave her testimony at the Hearing before the Committee on Resources, Sub-committee on National Parks, United States House of Representatives.This legislation enabled the U.S. Park Service to declare this memorial a National Historic Site and part of the Park Service. She gave thanks to Congressmen Jay Inslee for introducing the original bill and to Congressman Mike Simpson for co-sponsorship. After the hearing she conducted a memorable press conference under the auspices of Congressman Inslee at his office on Capitol Hill. Through the years Fumiko became the spokesperson for the Japanese American experience and the cause for justice and civil rights.
After 69 years the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial was finally dedicated on Saturday, August 6, 2011. The monument and the forthcoming interpretive center was constructed on the original site of the Eagledale Ferry Landing where the first group of Japanese Americans were forcibly evacuated. A total of ten internment camps were constructed in remote areas from California to Arkansas housing approximately 120,000 evacuees in crowded barracks. The advantage of this urban location is that it is the only site that is easily accessible to the public to serve the purpose of the memorial, “Nidoto Nai Yoni — Let It Not Happen Again.” This message, together with 277 names of the island evacuees, is engraved on the long cedar wall bordering the memorial grounds. Present at the ceremony were Fumiko Hayashida, her daughter Kayo Natalie with her husband Albert Ong, Fumiko's son Neal, the extended members of the Hayashida family, Frank Kitamoto and family, relatives and friends, members of the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Memorial organization, and supporters of the memorial project.
Fumiko mom child
Fumiko Daughter
Fumiko HIRO
Fumiko Hayashida is the oldest internment camp survivor from Bainbridge. Forever the optimist, Fumiko says she carries on one day at a time, looks to the future with a smile.

About the painting:
Title of Painting: “FUMIKO NISHINAKA HAYASHIDA” (#887-2011)Medium: Acrylic on canvasSize: Diptych, 2 panels, each (32"H x 26"W)Panel 1: March 30, 1942, Bainbridge Island, Washington: Waiting to be transported to the World War II “internment camp” at Manzanar, California
Panel 2: September 28, 2006, United States House of Representatives: Fumiko Hayashida testifyingg at the Hearing on H.R.5817, The Bainbridge Island Japanese American Monument Act of 2006

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