A Place of Compassion: Joy Kogawa's Dream Vancouver statement

A Place of Compassion:
Joy Kogawa's Dream Vancouver statement

Joy Kogawa holds up her arms to embrace and support everything she loves in the world
– photo Todd Wong

Joy Kogawa, author of Obasan, has written A Place of Compassion for her submission  to the Dream Vancouver conference and website, organized by Think City. While Joy will not be attending the conference, I will be as one of the directors of the Joy Kogawa House Society

Dream Vancouver is an all-day conference which will take
participants from their dreams about Vancouver to a possible agenda for
change. The conference will be facilitated by Bliss Browne, internationally-renowned speaker and president of Imagine Chicago.  Former City of Vancouver Co-Director of Current Planning Larry Beasley is key note speaker. 
Ms. Browne will then facilitate a discussion-based session which will
take participants through a series of questions designed to bring them
to a collective vision of what the city could be. 

To attend you must register, click here.

Registration: 9:30 am – 10:00 am

Conference: 10:00 am – 3:30 pm

Reception: 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm

Location: Jewish Community Centre, 950 W. 41st Avenue, Vancouver (at Oak Street).

photo courtesy Joy Kogawa

Is Joy a Vancouver dreamer?  She was born in Vancouver in 1935.  During WW2 in 1942, when she was 6 years old, her family was removed from Vancouver and sent to internment camps for Japanese-Canadians.  She forever dreamed about returning to the the house in Vancouver's Marpole neighborhood, even after the Canadian government confiscated the property of the Japanese-Canadian internment victims, and resettled them to work as labourers on Alberta beet farms.  She lives mostly in Toronto but returns to Vancouver often, and has great hopes for Vancouver as a city, and as a cultural entity.

Joy Kogawa and her brother Rev. Timothy Nakayama, at the opening event for Obasan, the 2005 choice for One Book One Vancouver at the Vancouver Public Library – photo Todd Wong

Joy is acknowledged as one of Canada's most important writers in the 20th Century for her ground breaking novel Obasan – a story about the impact of the internment on the Japanese Canadian community.  Since May 2005, when I met Joy, at the first Obasan event for One Book, One Vancouver event at the Vancouver Public Library, our developing friendship was been a wild ride as I became a key player on the Save Kogawa House committee (See my articles on Joy Kogawa & Kogawa House).

I have witnessed Joy speak in numerous circumstances and she always seems to have an unwavering position that calls for peace and compassion in so many circumstances.  It embraces her anti-war stance, the Japanese-Canadian redress, South African apartheid, the Chinese-Canadian head tax issue, Japanese atrocities against China in WW2, the history of her ancestor's home of Okinawa, the naming of the 401 Burrard building after Howard Green.  Joy doesn't look to find blame for right or wrong, she looks to find resolution.

Kogawa and Todd Wong at the 2006 Canadian Club Vancouver's annual Order
of Canada / Flag Day luncheon.  Joy was key note speaker, and Todd was
one of the event organizers – photo Deb Martin

Vancouver has long had a reputation for a history with peace activism.  This is part of our social-cultural make up, and can be embodied through social policy initiatives.  Perhaps it has become such because so many people have come to Vancouver after leaving war, destruction, starvation, revolution, upheaval in their home lands.

Joy has given Dream Vancouver a very apt and fitting dream statement to find reconciliation and understanding “within and between the
faiths, between rich and poor, among immigrant groups, in established
neighbourhoods, in the Downtown Eastside, among those who are still
suffering from unresolved injustices of the near and distant past can
come to healing and hope and inner freedom.”

Kogawa and children from Tomsett Elementary School in Richmond.  After
seeing the Vancouver Opera Touring Ensembles production of “Naomi's
Road”, the children were inspired to helps save Kogawa House from
demolition.  Joy and the children stand in front of the house for their own private tour and reading event. – photo Joan Young

On November 10th, come to the 2nd open house event at Kogawa House.
Sunday, 3-5pm.  1450 West 64th Ave. (just East of Granville St.)
Admission is by donation.  Proceeds go to restoring historic Joy Kogawa House, now owned by The Land Conservancy of BC.

A Place of Compassion

Joy Kogawa, poet and novelist: The
dream I have for this west-coast city on the edge of the peaceable
ocean is the dream I have for the world – a dream of peace. What better
time than this to abolish war as we face our common planetary fate?

We have choices – to continue blithely on our way, fighting and
devouring one another for the rest of our dwindling days, or we can
individually and collectively lay down our weapons and practice the
ways of truth and reconciliation, cooperation and peace.

In a city where east-west faces and races meet and mix, where
cultures both clash and blend, the ways of peace can be cultivated,
watered, nurtured and the seeds of that action can fly to the farthest
corners of our hearts and the world.

As a Japanese Canadian, I have welcomed conversations with two
granddaughters of Howard Green, the politician whose public words
against us during the Second World War were dreaded in our community.
If they can seek to make peace with us on behalf of the grandfather
they loved, ought we not to walk with them? What an opportunity for
peace making and for walking on.

And ought we not, as Canadian descendants from Japan, to stand with
those Canadian descendants of China, who seek a fulsome parliamentary
acknowledgment from the country of our ancestors for the horrors their
ancestors faced in the Rape of Nanking? Or is it our choice to turn
aside and say, “These are no concerns of ours.” I believe that the
morally appropriate action is to respond to those who suffer and who
call our names.

But it is not for me to say what is right for anyone else. We are
each required to struggle with our own conscience and to respond to the
many voices that call us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

2 × = two