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Retreat Reflections

I was fortunate to participate in Tsuru’s Intergenerational Communication Retreat over Labor Day weekend. Tremendous energy was created by multiple JA generations, represented by people ages 23 – 92 gathered to purposefully talk, play and eat together for 3 days. I experienced volumes of life to contemplate; Here are some of my reflections.

At one point we met in generational groups defined by age; It was enlivening and eye opening. The newest generation posed questions like “Will we still have a JA community when we’re 80 years old?” Could I ever come up with such a thought from my point on the timeline? Once again, I found myself wondering how I would know anything current if I didn’t have the company of young people.

The Millennials were both brave and vulnerable enough to challenge perceived expectations they felt from Sansei. Their lives and relationship to Camp, for example, are so different. It was a riveting moment for me, the mother of a 37 year old daughter. There were strong feelings as the next generation up named still festering wounds of racism from which we are always healing, while still trying to protect younger generations from its harm. And often failing.

As for my peers of older Sansei, I was awestruck by our diversity. Most present that weekend have been human rights activists for decades, lifetimes. While a few like me, have only recently begun. We share so much via race, culture, and history. And yet as a group, the range of our family and personal history and the degrees of community involvement has led to broad differences as well. I found much comfort in our similarities as JA, and freedom in our diversity.

From our July trip to El Paso, I learned that building relationships with other activist groups, especially local ones, is essential for solidarity and effectiveness. At this retreat I realized that making personal connections with other people inside Tsuru is itself also an action for change. Of course! Relationships and friendships mean sustaining each other through good and bad, working out conflicts, growing and strengthening together. Our work then won’t only be on behalf of others, or a cause, but for Us. A knitted-together Tsuru can survive and thrive for generations, at least until Gen Z are 80 years old.

I deeply appreciated our Nisei, Chizu Omori and Nikki Kojima Louis, for their stories and words of experience. We all stand on your shoulders.

Lastly, the retreat was a live lesson in the need for both work and play. Without attention to our rejuvenation, we risk not just fatigue, but burnout. Thanks to the power of nature, music and laughter!

With gratitude to the Leadership Team and our wonderful high skill, light touch facilitator, Betsy Hasegawa.

– Margie Sekijima

On Friday, I thought of the words powerful, inspiring, and heart-retching.

Powerful–it was powerful to see the conversations between survivors of detention. 

Inspiring–it was inspiring to see the work being done to communicate and share these stories.

Heart-retching–it was heart-retching to understand the work that still needs to be done and the injustices that continue to happen. 

On Saturday, I thought of the words laughter, joy, and nurturing.

Laughter–it was so nice to be together in person where the laughter can never be silenced or hidden by a mute button. [Stan’s tutorial on the art of hand-cupping music was the source of my greatest laughter that day]

Joy–it gave me joy to share a meal with everyone with the smell of curry and surrounded by warm laughter.

Nurturing–it was nurturing for me to be in community with everyone over a shared meal and also with nature.

On Sunday, I thought of the words reflection, healing, and bravery.

Reflection–it was the start of deeper reflections and conversations in the community that we created and are continuing to shape. 

Healing–it was time that I rarely am able to take for myself to reflect on my personal family history. It allowed me to think about the past trauma of my family and the effects this trauma had through multiple generations of Japanese Americans. It also opened the conversation in how we connect with other communities and stand in solidarity, while making sure we are acknowledging the differences while not making our trauma invisible. It was truly healing to have these intergenerational conversations that I find to be rare to come by.

Bravery–being one of the younger members of Tsuru I felt empowered by those in my generation as well as the older generations. I constantly struggle with being brave but with the younger generation taking the lead and seeing the responsiveness of the older generations provided me with some bravery.

On Monday, I only thought of one word. Family.

Family–At the end of this retreat, when we were saying our goodbyes in the morning I felt the semblance of family. I felt the power of community building and the difference of an in-person connection. I am so grateful to have had this experience and for the people who made it so impactful.

– Allie Umemoto