29 February 2012

This Happened and This Matters

Arkansas Heritage/Preservation News Alert:

George Takei, of Star Trek fame was in Arkansas on February 23rd to narrate the symphony - according to his twitter feed.  On his trip through Arkansas, Takei took the time to visit a place he had been before - the site of the Rohwer Japanese Interment Camp, known during WWII as  the Rohwer War Relocation Center in Desha County.  This camp was one of two in Arkansas.  The other camp, known as the Jerome War Relocation Center, was located 30 miles to the Southwest.  Mr. Takei spent several long years of his childhood forcibly confined to the Rohwer Camp with his parents during WWII.

Drawing of the Rohwer Camp by an Internee, from the collection of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies

Here are two posts Mr. Takei wrote on his blog late last year mentioning not only the Rohwer Camp, but also the brave men who went from that camp directly into military service in the US Army.

Also, the Rohwer Relocation Center entry from the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture.

I had heard of the Rohwer Camp before, due mostly to an amazing exhibit of arts and crafts object produced by internees at the camp called: “The Art of Living: Japanese American Creative Experience at Rohwer.”  [Some of the most amazing works of art on display were the smallest; hand-carved and hand-painted bird pins of all types and designs.  However, Mr. Takei's recent digital portrait with a National Trust "This Place Matters" sign at Rohwer that appeared along with his tweet was an amazing plug for not only a great National Trust program - but also a kick in the pants in terms of Arkansas Heritage.  The site gained instant recognition, and the image of Mr. Takei and his sign in front of the memorial which marks the site of the camp has even made the rounds of Pintrest - snagging my attention early this afternoon.  Thank you Mr. Sulu, from one trekkie here in Arkansas - This Place Matters!  Even if out past is stained, we should never stop examining it.  These places are important, if not priceless - they stand as witnesses and markers of an important part of our history.  A history we can regret, but we must never forget.

Memorial, created by Internees, dedicated to the young men who joined the US Army and fought and died during WWII.  Image by Frank Peters.

While we remember that This Place Matters - let us also remember that there were German and Italian POW camps in Arkansas, Japanese Interment Camps and thousands upon thousands of Arkansans who served, fought and died, both at home and abroad during WWII.

This Place Matters,
in commemoration.
In the search for understanding,
This Place Matters.

If you want you own "This Place Matters" sign from the National Trust, or to post about or upload a picture of a site that is important to you - visit:  http://www.preservationnation.org/take-action/this-place-matters/.

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