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Kip Tokuda Legacy Lives on through Education Grant

Larry Matsuda speaks at a teacher workshop. Photo courtesy of Debbie Kashino

By Debbie Kashino

For The North American Post

Kip Tokuda was someone I knew most of my life because the Tokudas were family friends of the Kashinos.  Kip became a social justice activist and served as a State Legislator for the 37th District. His untimely death affected all who knew him and left a huge void in the community.

Thanks to his long time colleagues, State Rep.Sharon Tomiko Santos and Sen. Bob Hasegawa, the Kip Tokuda Memorial Washington Civil Liberties Public Education Program through the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) was established.  The purpose was to establish a legacy of remembrance as part of a continuing process of recovery from the World War II exclusion, forced removal, and incarceration of Japanese Americans. The grants were intended to fund public educational activities and materials.

In collaboration with the Wing Luke Museum, the NVC Foundation made a grant request for continued development of our Graphic Novel project, “Fighting For America: Nisei Soldiers.” As it turned out, we were honored to be one of six to receive an award. The grant allowed us to purchase 1,000 copies of the graphic novel, provide teacher in-service training and to produce a second animated video on another chapter of the book.

On Oct. 28, twenty-four secondary level educators participated in an all-day workshop held at the NVC Hall and the Wing Luke Museum. The workshop was facilitated by Wing staff members Charlene Mano-Shen, Rahul Gupta and myself. Teachers began the day with an orientation, followed by a walking tour of the International District, specifically Chiyo’s Garden. Next they gathered at the Wing Luke Theater to meet the graphic novel author Lawrence Matsuda who provided some history of the project. The audience then viewed the newly produced Seattle Channel animated graphic novel called, “An American Hero: Frank Nishimura.” Frank Nishimura’s son Dean, shared family background information and then the teachers were given the opportunity to meet Frank.

Returning to the hall, the teachers enjoyed bento lunches while watching the Emmy award winning animated film, “An American Hero: Shiro Kashino.” Louise Kashino, wife of Shiro, spoke about her husband to give further details on the story presented in the graphic novel. Lawrence Matsuda provided information on optimum use of the curriculum guide. The curriculum is aligned with the state learning objectives which legitimizes the use of this as a teaching tool. Matt Sasaki then spoke about his role as the graphic artist by entertaining the audience with a humorous graphic novel on himself.

NVCF member Bruce Inaba, conducted a tour of the NVC Hall.  Because the hall must serve two purposes as community/rental facility and a museum, it is often referred to as a “Living Museum.” In 2014, the NVC Foundation again in collaboration with the Wing Luke Museum held an open house to celebrate the re-organization of the hall so the Japanese American history can be told through a sequential series of exhibits. The four areas are Pre-War, the Forced Confinement, the Medal of Honor Museum, and Post War.  Ken Mochizuki was the lead writer on all the text within the displays. He utilized his many oral histories to add quotes from the actual original members of the Nisei Veterans Committee.

Teachers shared how they would be using the graphic novel in their classrooms and the development of lesson plans would be shared electronically with each other. They then wrote evaluations and submitted their thoughts about the day.

Here are some of their comments:

“Where do I begin to share what this day has meant to me as a teacher?  Yes, I was educated but more importantly I was inspired. We, as teachers, benefit so much from time to learn from and with those who share our passion and commitment to social justice. I was given fuel for my work.  Thank you for the gift you have given me and the hundreds of students whose lives I will strive to impact. Thank you. She also included this quote: “It is not our ability to educate but our ability to inspire that will turn the tides.” By SCW

“This dynamic day was so emotionally packed and made me determined to continue to be a voice for this important history with future generations, especially now when we are so much in danger of repeating similar atrocities that destroy people’s lives.”

“Memories preserved are a treasure; memories shared are activists. Each one reminds us to look anew at each other and to listen as though our life depends on it.  In hearing the stories of others, I give thanks for the blessing of humility. You helped to remind me of what I work for—of a world we may never see, though we will never cease to strive for. Thank you!”

It was an emotional moment when teachers were able to leave the NVC hall carrying a set of 25 books to bring back to their classrooms. For us who began working on this project back in 2012, it was a dream come true to know that over 600 books would be in the hands of students across the state of Washington. All of this was possible because of the Kip Tokuda Memorial Grant. I think Kip would be very proud of his legacy.

Bruce Inaba explains about the Japanese American Memorial Wall at NVC Memorial Hall. Photo courtesy of Charlene Mano

[Editor’s Note]

Seattle Channel will show “An American Hero; Frank Nishimura” video as a Veteran’s Day program. The schedule can be found at www.seattlechannel.org. Debbie Kashino is chair of the NVC Foundation. She can be reached at debbiekashino@gmail.com.