SATB (div) + Soprano Solo, 5'10" (2018)
for Eric Banks and The Esoterics, as National winner of their annual Polyphonos Competition
On March 30th 1942, 227 Japanese and Japanese-American people were forced to leave their homes on Bainbridge Island, Washington, taking the ferry into Seattle under armed guard and then the train and bus to Manzanar Relocation Center in the Mojave Desert. This was in response to Executive Order 9066, signed by President Roosevelt, which ordered all people in the western U.S. of Japanese ancestry (both American citizens and non-citizens) be removed from their homes and incarcerated in “relocation centers”, in remote and inhospitable camps under armed guard across the West. The Bainbridge Islanders were the first to be taken away. When they left, they did not know where they would be taken or how long they would be imprisoned there. They were tagged like luggage and could only bring what they could carry.
This piece takes the words of Kay Sakai Nakao and Lilly Kitamoto Kodama, interviewed by myself, to give a voice to their personal experiences. When they were sent to Manzanar, Kay was twenty-two and Lilly was seven. As of Autumn 2018, Kay will have called Bainbridge Island her home for 99 years.
One thing that may be agreed upon by all is that this should never have happened and should never happen again, and that if we do not remember the darker parts of our history we are doomed to repeat them. Many Japanese Americans have worked tirelessly in the wake to ensure that no others go through similar experiences. My hope is that this work does a small part to ensure that this piece of American history is not forgotten, and that telling the story may give some sense of consolation to those who have been deprived of their homes, their culture and their dignity by events such as these. Additionally, I wished to show hope that if we speak up, we may work together to prevent these injustices from continuing to happen.
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