Last November, the Empty Chair Project committee applied for a National Park Service grant in proud partnership with the Parks and Recreation Department of Juneau, Alaska. The grant’s name is the Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program.
In the grant, we ask to fund the Empty Chair Memorial as well as an educational component we plan to develop for use in local schools. It will be a teaching tool for justice. We feel that many members of the Juneau community, especially the young, are not aware of the internment nor its effects on Juneau’s history. The Empty Chair will be a sober reminder that civil rights for all are not guaranteed and that continual vigilance is required for protection of these constitutional rights.
Surviving Japanese-Americans, as well as community members affected by their loss, will be interviewed so that their stories and sentiments can be collected in rich detail. These will be digitized in video and text formats for publication and internet access. Curriculum and kits containing hands-on aides (photos, memoirs, newspaper articles, artifacts, etc.) relating to the evacuees’ experiences will be created for library and classroom use. The Empty Chair memorial itself, located in Capital School Park, will be a unifying visual for this educational component.
The grants are awarded in the spring, so the waiting period to find out if we qualify is a long one. We do feel hopeful, because one of the goals of the grant is to distribute funds equitably among the states. In fact, Alaska has never received funding from the grant, nor are we aware of any other pending projects in the state that have memorialized the Japanese confinement. Also Juneau, as the capital city, is the logical place to erect the first memorial in Alaska. But most of all, the memorial will preserve a poignant and distinctly Juneau story that deserves to be immortalized forever in the hearts of its community and its state.