From Feb. 1-July 18, 2020, The Suitcase Project will be on display at the National Japanese American Historical Society (NJAHS) in San Francisco, California. This will be the first location in the United States that the exhibit will be mounted in its full form (photographs, short documentaries, audio excerpts, and more).
While NJAHS has received a grant to make this possible and to bring me down for one of their programs, I would like to extend my stay in the Bay area to incorporate local stories into the exhibit—and I need your help to make this possible!
What is The Suitcase Project?
In 2018, I interviewed and photographed more than 60 yonsei and gosei (fourth and fifth generation) Japanese Canadians and Americans in response to the following question: What would you pack if forcibly removed from your home today?
This question stems from the forced internment and incarceration many of our ancestors faced during the Second World War. Participants were located in the Vancouver, BC area, and Seattle, WA, area. The Suitcase Project made its debut at the Nikkei National Museum in Burnaby, BC, and dove into larger questions of how this history has impacted us more than 75 years later and its relevancy today.
Why expand the project?
Expanding The Suitcase Project has been a goal of mine since creating works in 2018 for the original exhibit. After interviewing 60 yonsei and gosei in Vancouver and Seattle, it quickly became clear why we need to share our stories. Not only has this work opened dialogues in the community about our relationships with the history of our ancestors and present day injustices, but it's also created a space for us to connect with ourselves and each other.
Aside from incorporating local stories into the exhibit at NJAHS, I can continue exploring how our environments have impacted our identities as yonsei and gosei.
How will you use these funds?
To craft each story involves visiting participants in their home. On average, I’ll spend two hours with each person. In San Francisco, I’d ideally capture 10 stories. Funding will assist me with:
✅ Accommodations (based on a minimum of five extra nights and opting for low end room bookings)
✅ Transportation (to get from house to house, it will cost an average of $50-60/ride via Lyft—public transit isn't a viable option due to the amount of gear I carry and time efficiency)
✅ Meals (to sustain me at least once a day!)
✅ Communication (accounting for using my phone in the US)
✅ A small cushion for emergencies, unforeseen expenses, and extra costs (such as travel insurance and digital storage)
(This does not account for my time working on the stories, from organizing participants to taking photos and the final editing process. My time is completely on a volunteer basis.)
What if you don’t meet your goal?
Anything and everything helps! Over time, I’ve learned how unique all of our stories are and how many of us are searching to connect with others who may have a similar history. If my goal isn’t reached, I will likely need to reduce the number of stories I want to capture ...or go into debt (kidding.)
What if your goal is exceeded?
Additional funds will be used to continue supporting The Suitcase Project. These funds will be set aside to plan for more storytelling from other cities.
THANK YOU! For more information about the exhibit or to participate, please visit: suitcaseproject.ca/sf.
- Carolyn Nakagawa
- Reiko Louie
- Jackie Sugai
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