For the first time, I got to experience Bainbridge Island not on a soccer field, but at a very special place memorializing the exclusion of Japanese Americans from the island. I have been to Bainbridge many times to play competitive club soccer, so I am familiar with the soccer fields and teams, but everything else on that island was a green blur that I experienced through a window as I drove to get to my next game.
On a Tuesday morning, I volunteered with my IMBY group at the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial. After riding the ferry, we drove to the site and met the lovely people who work and volunteer there. We got right to work; pulling out the not-so-loved himalayan blackberry and not-as-hated horsetail from the soil. I had to double-up on work gloves because blackberry is incredibly pokey! The thorns almost feel like slivers if they poke you the wrong way. I developed a hate for blackberry (it was my first time pulling it), but I loved being able to help the memorial and the wonderful people that work there. The sliver-like pokes were worth it!
Looking at the hard work we did at the end of the afternoon was rewarding. The thick layer of blackberry and horsetail was removed by our team and we could actually see the soil that was under the twisting thorn branches. Nothing we did can be compared to what happened on the same site during the 1940s with Executive Order 9066.
The unjust removal of Japanese Americans happened right in our backyard. Although we cannot do anything to change the past, we can help now. Gestures such as pulling invasives from a site or listening to someone’s story are simple, but incredibly thoughtful and important.
Learning more about the memorial and hearing Clarence Moriwaki speak about his major role in developing this site, which I might add started from a dream with a shoebox filled with only $1200, was amazing. He was incredibly open to sharing his story, and hearing the future hopes for the site was heartwarming. I truly was honored to help him and everyone involved with the site.