TLC and Save Joy Kogawa House committee both receive City of Vancouver Heritage Award of Honour

TLC and Save Joy Kogawa House committee both receive City of Vancouver Heritage Award of Honour

It was a great night for the members of Save Kogawa House Committee and TLC: The Land Conservancy of BC.  We were all honoured with the City of Vancouver Heritage Awards
of Honour.  It was the last award presented following the multiple
recipients for awards of recognition and awards of merit.  
TLC executive director Bill Turner and myself, for Save Kogawa House
Committee, were tagged to give the aceptance speeches.




The awards were held at the beautiful and historic Coastal Church,
at 1160 West Georgia St.  A reception was held from 5:30 to 7pm,
and it was great to see and socialize with all the event's
attendees.  I had a great chat with historian Jean Barman. 
City Councillor Peter Ladner congratulated me on a well-run Gung Haggis
Fat Choy that he attended.  Other City Councillors Heather Deal,
George Chow and Suzanne Anton congratulated us on saving Kogawa House.
Friends Kelly Ip, Howe Lee were there. Parks Commissioner Spencer
Herbert gave me the latest update on his petition to name the new
Vancouver park at Selkirk and 72nd, as David Suzuki Park.  Artist
Raymond Chow and house genealogist James Johnstone were there. 
Dianne Switzer of the Vancouver Heritage Foundation waved to us.




The evening's emcee was Christopher Gaze, creator and director of Bard on the Beach
Gaze gave a summation of Vancouver's early arts and cultural history,
accompanied by projected pictures.  It started with the first
piano arriving in 1851, and included great names and performances such
as Nijinksky, Boris Karloff and Benny Goodman, as well as local
luminaries such as Dal Richards and Jimmy Pattison. This “introduction”
to the awards event finished with a musical performance by
Destino, the four tenors “popera” group.



Vancouver
Mayor Sam Sullivan came to the stage to welcome and thank all the
nominees.  Mayor Sullivan handed out the award certificates, after
Gaze read descriptions of each of the award winning projects.


Todd Wong (Save Kogawa House
Committee) and Bill Turner (TLC) accepted the certificates from
Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan for the Vancouver Heritage Award of Honour
– photo Deb Martin





Here is the draft of the acceptance speech which I presented at the Vancouver Heritage Awards:

Once
upon a time, 6 year old Naomi Nakane was told to pack for a train
vacation with her brother Stephen.  But it wasn’t a
vacation.  And the train took them far away from the house that
they loved.  They would never ever again live in a house as nice
or as loved.  They would learn that as Canadians of Japanese
ancestry… they were being singled out, removed from the West Coast,
interned in former ghost-towns as make-shift camps, have their houses,
businesses and property left behind confiscated and sold by the
government, and then given an option to “repatriate” to Japan or move
East away from the coast, because the government and community leaders
did not want them trying to reclaim their former property.  They
were dispersed across Canada like the blowing snow.

That is the fictional story of Joy Kogawa’s award winning books Obasan and Naomi’s Road.

Joy’s
real story is that after they were interned, as a little girl, she
would dream about their house.  She would write letters to the
occupants of the house, asking politely if someday, when they no longer
wanted the house, if they could buy it back.

The little girl –
Joy Kogawa grew up to become one of Canada’s most important
writers.  Her first novel Obasan was the first major Canadian
fiction to address with Japanese Canadian internment.  It later
became a children’s story Naomi’s Road.

On later visits she
discovered that the house, her childhood home was still standing. 
Attempts in 2002 to raise money to purchase the house, was thwarted
when the house was sold to an overseas owner.

2005 was the year
of Joy Kogawa.  Vancouver Public Library chose Obasan as the 2005
selection for One Book One Vancouver.  Vancouver Opera premiered a
45 minute opera based on Naomi’s Road to tour to BC Schools.

And
during a week when Joy’s work was being celebrated all across the city,
at Word On The Street, Vancouver Arts Awards, and by Asian Canadian
Writer’s Workshop…. We learned that the demolition permit was being
applied for.


This house was saved.

This
house was saved by poets, writers, film makers, human rights activists,
historians, and visionaries.  From people all across Canada. 
From Canadians abroad – We heard from Sweden and Japan and USA

This
house is for all Vancouverites, and for Canadians and global citizens
who care about Canadian history. Culture and human rights.

Anton
Wagner, Ann-Marie and I, are not Japanese-Canadians.  We weren’t
interned.  We aren’t married into JC families.  But we are
concerned Canadians who love our history, culture and heritage.

There
is little in Vancouver to celebrate our Japanese Canadian, Asian
Canadian pioneer heritage in Vancouver.  We need to recognize our
Asian-Canadian pioneers and our centuries long heritage.

Vancouver’s
literary landmarks are a Robbie Burns Statue and Pauline Johnson
memorial in Stanley Park.  Kogawa House gives us something
contempoary.  It lives and breathes with each reading of Obasan,
each performance of Naomi’s Road.

Millions of people visit
Amsterdam to visit Anne Frank House.  Millions of people visit
Prince Edward Island to see the home of Anne of Green Gables.  But
Anne Shirley was fictional.  Joy Kogawa is real.  And Joy’s
stories continue to tell the history and the culture of Canadians.

With
a Kogawa House Writing Centre, we can continue to celebrated Joy’s
works, and the history of Japanese Canadians.  We can also
encourage writers to share their stories and help write our future
story of Canada – hopefully one free of racism and internment camps.


We wish to thank:.

Gerry
McGeough and Hugh McLean, of the City’s Heritage Planning department
who first communicated with Anton Wagner about the demolition. Hugh was
responding to an Attention Read Note that former heritage planner Terry
Brunette had placed on the Kogawa House property listing in the City’s
planning department. Gerry was very helpful in drafting an
unprecedented motion to delay approval of a demolition permit for 120
days]

Heather Redfern of the Vancouver Alliance for Arts and
Culture, Marion Quednau of the Writers Union of Canada, and Diane
Switzer for speaking on our behalf to Vancouver City Council on
November 3, 2005

Diane Switzer and Vancouver Heritage Foundation
[For first coming to Vancouver City Hall to meet with Terry Brunette in
October 2003 and then connecting us with TLC The Land Conservancy after
we had won the 120-day delay]

Jim Green and Sen. Larry Campbell
for declaring Joy Kogawa Obasan Day for city Hall, for giving the first
public announcment and telling the audience at Vancouver Arts Awards
about the need to save the house.

Chris Kurata in Toronto for organizing to stop the demolition
and creating the first Kogawa House website.

Roy Miki – for always being there for consultation and readings.

Margaret Atwood and Paul Yee – for their valued quotes.

James Johnston – for his early genealogy of 1450 West 64th Ave.

Ellen Woodsworth – for their early help prepping us for City Hall Council meeting

City Councilors Suzanne Anton and Heather Deal, whom we first contacted as Park Commissioners.

Raymond Chow – for creating a painting of Joy as a child at the house circa 1941

The
2005 Vancouver City Council for passing a unamimous decision to delay
processing of the demolition permit [and making donations out of their
pocket that day to launch fundraising]

Literary and Writing Assocations across Canada for their early and continuing support

Writers Union of Canada,
the Federation of BC Writers,
the Playwrights Guild of Canada,
the Canadian Authors Association,
the Periodical Writers Association of Canada,
PEN Canada,
the Vancouver International Writers and Readers Festival,
Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers
The League of Canadian Poets and The Writers' Trust of Canada
and the Asian Canadian Writers Workshop.

The project has also been endorsed by the Vancouver Public Library
Board, Vancouver Opera, the Alliance for Arts and Culture, Heritage
Vancouver, the Land Conservancy, the National Nikkei Museum and
Heritage Centre, and the National Association of Japanese Canadians.
[Canadian Museum for Human Rights, Association of Book Publishers of BC]

VPL's
One Book One Vancouver Program & Vancouver Opera's “Naomi's Road”
for really raising the awareness of Joy Kogawa and her work.

Thomsett
School – for the children creating their own initiatives to save the
house, writing letters to Vancouver City Council, and meeting with
councillor Kim Capri. [Joan Young and her Grades 3 and 4 class at
Thomsett Elementary in Richmond, and her principal Sabina Harpe, for
motivating these children to take part in the campaign]

The
Reverend Val Anderson, former MLA for Vancouver-Langara, who took a
special interest in the project because of his connections to the
Japanese Canadian community in Marpole

The Honorable Ujjal Dosanjh, who spoke on behalf of Kogawa House in Parliament on April 6

Our wonderful anonymous donor (who came to the rescue when TLC was prepared to purchase the house with a mortgage).

TLC
– for stepping into the project to take over the fundraising and the
nitty gritty details that we had no experience handling.  Bill
Turner, executive director their team of Tamsin Baker, Heather Skydt
and the many board members.


our dedicated members and volunteers of Kogawa House Committee:

Anton Wagner, Chris Kurata, Margaret Steffler, Tomoko 
Makabe and Kathy Chung in Ontario.


Ann-Marie Metten, David Kogawa, Ellen Crowe-Swords, Richard Hopkins,
Jen Kato, Joan Young,  Sabina Harpe, Deb Martin, and Harry Aoki in
Vancouver.

Also . . . journalists including Alexandra Gill and
Rod Mickleburgh of the Globe and Mail, Sandra Thomas of the Vancouver
Courier; Kate Taylor and Michael Posner in the Globe and Mail; Barbara
Wickens in Maclean's Magazine; CBC radio's Paul Grant, Sheryl Mackay
for their stories; and to Kathryn Gretsinger and her producer Rosemary
Allenbach, who broadcast Joy’s appeal to rescue her home on a Boxing
Day broadcast of “Sounds Like Canada.”


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