Insight With Beth Ruyak

Hosted By Beth Ruyak

Insight creates conversation to build community, exploring issues and events that connect people in our region. Insight covers breaking news and big ideas, music, arts & culture with responsible journalism, civil discussion and diverse voices.

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Tuesday, July 9, 2019 Permalink

California's Japanese American Incarceration History / Jazz Pianist Sarah McKenzie

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Lester Ouchida sits in his Sacramento home, near where he grew up in Florin. His family was one of the fortunate few who were able to keep their homes after they were incarcerated during World War II.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

In this encore edition of Insight, we’ll revisit CapRadio’s Great Question series. This episode is based on a listener’s question: What happened to the property of Japanese Americans in Sacramento who were incarcerated during World War II?

Interactive Producer Emily Zentner researched the question with an archivist from Sacramento State and a woman whose family was incarcerated in one of the internment centers. We look back at an exhibit at the California Museum that focused on the time of  Japanese incarceration. In the second half hour, we look back on the discovery that the Crocker Art Museum had helped store possessions for some Japanese American families. The show ends with CapRadio Gary Vercelli’s conversation with Australian-born jazz pianist Sarah McKenzie.

CapRadio’s Great Question: What Happened To The Property Of Japanese Americans Incarcerated During World War II?

This Great Question segment centered on listener Andy Hesse’s question: What happened to the property of Japanese Americans who were incarcerated during World War II? CapRadio’s Interactive Producer, Emily Zentner, took on the research challenge and in June of 2019, she talked with Insight guest host Randol White and shared what she had learned. She was joined in the studio by Sacramento State University archivist Julie Thomas and Marielle Tsukamoto, who was incarcerated with her family during World War II.

Marielle Tsukamoto Tells More Of Her Family’s Story And The California Museum’s Japantown Exhibit

We hear two interviews in this segment. When the federal government incarcerated more than 100,000 Japanese Americans during World War II, people had to leave behind virtually everything they owned. And it wasn’t easy to trace what happened to that property.  Marielle Tsukamoto was one of more than 7,000 Sacramentans who — with her family — was sent to an incarceration center. Today, she teaches children about that time in American history. She’s a docent with the California Museum. We hear more of her June conversation with Insight guest host Randol White. 

Then, back in 2017, the California Museum hosted an exhibit titled Kokoro: The Story of Sacramento’s Lost Japantown.  The exhibit was developed with former residents of Sacramento’s Japantown. At that time Insight host, Beth Ruyak talked with Marian Uchida, who lived through Japantown’s many changes. Another collaborator was the exhibit’s lead historian, Professor Kevin Wildie, who wrote Sacramento’s Historic Japantown. The exhibit commemorated the 75th anniversary of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, resulting in the unconstitutional incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans.

Former Crocker Museum Employee Finds Paperwork Related To Possessions Of Incarcerated Japanese Americans

Thousands of Japanese Americans in the Sacramento area were sent to incarceration camps during World War II. They left everything behind: their homes, property, pets, personal possessions.  When the war ended, much had been lost, but some items and property had been cared for and were returned. A now-retired registrar at the Crocker Art Museum, John Caswell, discovered paperwork related to the storage of items during the internment. And in 2014, when the Sacramento City Council met to repeal the old internment law, Caswell happened to see the meeting.

Australian-born Singer, Songwriter And Pianist Sarah McKenzie

Jazz musician Sarah McKenzie with CapRadio's Gary Vercelli

Sarah McKenzie is an Australian-born singer, songwriter and pianist. Her new album is titled “Secrets of My Heart.” She visited CapRadio in the spring of 2019 and talked with Jazz Music Director, Gary Vercelli. She started their conversation by telling him about her meeting with jazz legend, Michel LeGrand.

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