Welcome to the California Studies Association newsletter, sent out on an occasional basis to alert members of news and events of interest to this community.
If you would like to submit contributions, please contact Lindsey Dillon, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In this issue, you'll find... a new exhibition on Richmond artist-activist Emmy Lou Packard... critical analysis of California water policy.... a history of the California Studies Dinner seminar, and it's fall line-up.... news and announcements by CSA steering committee members... a fascinating interview with Carey McWilliams Award recipient Hiroshi Kashawagi... an opportunity to donate!
LETTER FROM THE CHAIR
Like most residents of the state, we're all wondering what this El Nino winter will look like. Predictions of deluge seem both inevitable and hard to believe. In the meantime, we're all still fixated on Life Without Water and the ways that it shapes our politics, art and sense of place.
In that spirit, our annual conference, coming up on October 24 in San Francisco, uses the theme of drought to motivate a series of panels on history, race, policy, art and... drought itself. We hope to see you there, or at our fundraising event the following day. (Fundraiser invitations coming soon...). I hope to see many of you there!
Also, please note that we are looking for a few energetic and interested people to join our steering committee. That's where we cook up this conference and other events to help further the conversation on California Studies. If you're interested, let us know!
ANNOUNCEMENTS FROM MEMBERS AND UPCOMING EVENTS
Miriam Greenberg is helping to put together the Utopia Dreaming Conference at UC Santa Cruz, on November 6-7, 2015. The conference recognizes and honors the roles of UCSC, Ernest Callebach, and his cult novel, Ecotopia, in shapingutopian imaginaries in culture, politics, environment, cities,beliefs and ideologies across California and beyond.
In November the San Francisco Urban Film Fest will kick off under the theme "The Other Side of Dystopia - Utopia, Resistance, and Reclamation." The festival is co-hosted this year by the University of San Francisco, The Exploratorium, and SPUR. Rachel Brahinsky is part of one of the post-film panel discussions, and there are lots of interesting events brewing for the week. The schedule will be announced soon at sfurbanfilmfest.com.
Alive, Well, and Noisy: the California Studies Dinner Seminar by Chuck WollenbergHistorian Glenna Matthews created the UC Berkeley California Studies Dinner Seminar more than twenty-five years ago, at about the same time Jeff Lustig started the California Studies Association. The two institutions evolved, overlapped, and eventually more or less merged. Today the seminar is for all intents and purposes a CSA activity.Glenna envisioned the monthly seminar meetings as sessions in which scholars and writers of California subjects would share their work with interested and informed colleagues. Over the years, presenters have not only been academics, but also authors, researchers, artists, and activists from outside the academy. The format has remained a dinner, followed by an informal presentation and lots of talk, including questions and informed -- and occasionally not-so-informed! -- discussion. For many years, the seminar met at the faculty club and attendees paid for the meal. Now, due to the generous support of the UCB Institute for Research on Labor and Employment and the Townsend Center for the Humanities, we meet at the institute’s building on Channing Way and the dinners are free. Glenna moved to southern California some years ago, and Dick Walker and Chuck Wollenberg now coordinate the program. Over the last quarter century, there have probably been more than 150 separate seminar meetings.This academic year’s schedule begins Thursday, September 24 with author Frances Dinkelspiel discussing her new book, “Tangled Vines: Greed, Murder, Obsession, and an Arsonist in the Vineyards of California.” Subsequent speakers include author Kim Bancroft and publisher Malcolm Margolin, California Ag Roots Project director Ildi Carlisle Cummins, Cal history grad student Natalie Mendoza, and author and activist Randy Shaw. Sessions are in the IRLE building, 2521 Channing Way. just east of Telegraph Ave., from 7-9:15 p.m.And so, more than a quarter century after Glenna Matthews created the program, the California Studies Dinner Seminar remains alive, well, and noisy. For more information and inclusion on the mailing list, contact Margaret Olney at email@example.com, 510-643-8140.
Art and Politics in Richmond
CSA steerer Lincoln Cushing has curated an exhibition that reveals a small slice of the artistic and political work of a well-known and beloved Bay Area artist, Emmy Lou Packard. By the mid-1940s, California native and UC Berkeley graduate Packard (1914-1998) was already a respected artist in the San Francisco Bay Area. During WWII she applied her skills on the Home Front by working on the Kaiser Richmond shipyard weekly magazine. Until the war, this was a trade occupied entirely by white males, but war labor demands turned that convention on its head. By June 1944, women comprised 70 percent of all laborers at the Richmond shipyard. Other new faces in the yards included people of color and those with disabilities.
Until recently this aspect of her art has been unknown and unrecognized. But as archivist covering the long history of Kaiser Permanente, Cushing digitized a trove of her work which revealed her influence during this period. What a difference it made to have a politically progressive woman wielding a pen. Packard’s work was patriotic without resorting to racist jabs or stereotypes; she portrayed workers with dignity and character. She drew women’s experiences from a woman’s point of view – numerous vignettes show children (one of her regular subjects later in life), home life, and the challenges of survival and adjustment in a tempestuous time.
It's sad to see two leading representatives of Bay Area business and labor come under the spell of Governor Brown's fantasy "California Water Fix". In the San Francisco Chronicle of July 28th, Mike Mielke of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and Michael Theriault the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council vowed their support for Jerry Brown's water siphons under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. In so doing, they fell for every sorry cliché trotted out by the water industry and its well-heeled PR machine.
The authors have committed three unforgiveable errors in the way they talk about the state of California water:
The first is to repeat the canard that more engineering works bring more water. They say, "We need to update California's water infrastructure to be able to capture, move and store water in wet years so that during future dry year we have a stable water supply". The fact is that the Golden State will never have a stable water supply. California's normal is extreme variability. Dams and reservoirs only hold 3-4 years supply, but wet and dry periods are bound to be longer. We've built out all the good dam sites. There is no more water to 'capture, move and store', period.
The second falsehood is that the pipelines under the Delta will be good for that region. The authors claim that the Governor's plan will "stabilize the Delta's vulnerable ecosystem by restoring 30,000 acres of wildlife habitat and allowing more natural water flows." Yes, the water flows today are unnatural, as is the entire Delta, but at least they are flows. Put in the pipelines and there will be less water flow in wet years and none in dry years. The whole point of the plan is not to help the Delta but to abandon it while keeping the water moving south.
The third whopper is that, "We rely on our state's outdated water distribution system to deliver water to 25 million Californians ...." The lie is that Southern California cities absolutely depend on water pumped out of the Delta; but this is patently false. The southland has three other sources of water – groundwater, Owens Valley and Colorado River – which it mixes and matches. In fact, Greater Los Angeles doesn't even get the majority of the Delta water, which goes to San Joaquin Valley agribusiness in Kern County – at a discount subsidized by the customers of the Metropolitan Water District!
The fact is that only 15% of the state's water goes to cities, and even that is divided in three parts: commercial, landscaping and household. That means that people only use 5%. Our daily showers, brushings and flushes are literally a drop in the bucket. We are manifestly not running out of water for people in the Golden State.
California's water system is outdated alright, but less in its infrastructure than in its management. There are three glaring problems with current policy policy:
• Trying to satisfy the gargantuan thirst of agribusiness. We cannot grow all the world's almonds, rice and table grapes no matter how hard we try, nor can we afford to mass produce milk using irrigated fodder when Wisconsin can do it cheaper. Nor can we afford to irrigate marginal lands, far from water supplies, with poor groundwater and toxic soils. Two million acres (out of eleven) have already gone back to grazing since the Peripheral Canal was defeated in 1982, yet California agribusiness generates more revenues than ever. At least another million acres of marginal land on the westside and south end of the San Joaquin Valley needs to go out of production.
• Continuing in the conceit that we can supply water to whomever, whenever, and for whatever purpose. The Big Dam era is over and trying to squeeze more water from our rivers and aquifers is the equivalent of Medieval blood-letting. We're killing the patient int he name of healing. In place of outmoded supply enhancement, we need to focus on proven everydaymeans of conserving and recycling the huge amounts of water we already have. This applies equally to both agricultural and urban water use.
• Failing to reform California's chaotic 19th century system of water law, wholly unregulated system of groundwater pumping, and overly generous 20th century water contracts. We need powerful state controls to bring reason, fairness and efficiency to California's overall water management...like such politically enlightened state as Nevada and Arizona! The legislature finally passed groundwater reform last year, but nothing has to be done until 2042 – as if we have that kind of time and water to waste.
Yes, droughts are unpleasant. We all have to tighten our belts in dry years, but we the people won't die of thirst. Yes, California agriculture can flourish, but cannot plant as if water were cheap anddry years never occur. And, yes, our cities will continue to grow, as long as water conservation is built into their infrastructure and landscaping.
No, we cannot continue as if nothing has changed. As with the challenge of climate, California needs to be in the vanguard. It's time to wise up and junk the Delta Drains and the rest of our outdated water policy.
Richard A. Walker, Professor Emeritus of Geography, UC Berkeley, taught courses in water resources and California geography for 30+ years. He is the author of The Conquest of Bread: 150 Years of California Agribusiness and, most recently, The Atlas of California: Meeting the Challenges of a New Era (with Suresh Lodha). Dr. Walker will be speaking on this same topic at our Oct 24 conference.
Check out UC Berkeley professors B. Lynn Ingram and Frances Malamud-Roam's new book, The West Without Water: What Past Floods, Droughts, and Other Climate Clues Tell Us About Tomorrow. You can read an short article by Ingram and Malamud-Roam on the topic, "The Coming Dry-Wet Knockout in California."
Hiroshi Kashiwagi on writing, birthright, citizenship
On October 25, 2015, the California Studies Association will honor Hiroshi Kashiwagi with its annual Carey McWilliams Award. The award is given each year to a writer, scholar or artist who lives up to the best tradition of McWilliams' work - someone whose artistic vision, moral force and intellectual clarity give voice to the people of California, their needs and desires, sufferings, struggles and triumphs.
The following interview with Mr. Kashiwagi was conducted and edited by CSA board member Martha Bridegam.
Hiroshi Kashiwagi, the widely honored writer, playwright, actor, librarian and activist, is the 2015 recipient of the California Studies Association's Carey McWilliams award. His plays, Laughter and False Teeth(1953-1975) and The Betrayed (1993) broke silences by portraying the closed high-pressure environment endured by Japanese Americans who, like himself, were incarcerated as "disloyal" at the Tule Lake Segregation Center in northeastern California. He cofounded the Nisei Experimental Group in 1948 and is considered a seminal figure in Asian American theater. Mr. Kashiwagi's books include Swimming in the American: A Memoir and Selected Writings, winner of the 2005 American Book Award; Shoe Box Plays (2008), a poetry collection; Ocean Beach (2010), and the recent Starting from Loomis and Other Stories (2013).
Following are extracts from a previously unpublished 2002 interview and a recent email exchange. Mr. Kashiwagi, now 92, wrote of the 2002 transcript, "It’s only 13 years ago but it’s like seeing a movie of myself. I am so youthful, energetic, open, forthright." Those qualities still appear in his more recent comments.
On Breaking Silences
Mr. Kashiwagi has written that he dislikes being called a "pioneer," but he was among the first to speak and write openly about Tule Lake. His poem "A Meeting at Tule Lake," written on the way to the 1975 Tule Lake Pilgrimage, has become a central text of subsequent Pilgrimages.
2002: [In] 1974, some students from UC Berkeley came and wanted me to speak at ... some kind of program about the Internment and so ... I went to Berkeley and ... I told them that I had been at Tule Lake. Now, no one said publicly to people that they had been in Tule Lake. And so this was shocking in a way ... And then soon after that they had a community program ... and I [gave] the same kind of speech with a little more fire ... I believe that was in 1975, and in April of '75 they had the second Pilgrimage and ... I delivered the same speech and ... I wrote the poem.
[On whether speaking out led to any trouble:] No. I heard ... some people say, why is he doing that, why is he speaking out? ... I didn't lose any friends, I probably gained some, and then more people began to speak out, more and more. But I have felt the ostracism. ... Now, maybe I'm too sensitive but I sense it and [chuckle] it's been crappy, yeah. So, yeah, you don't talk about camp. ... You don't talk about religion and you don't talk about camp. ...
Yes, I was the very first ... And then gradually people opened up, you know, and became a little more overt and [laughs] -- so I feel that I opened the floodgates.
2015: I did speak out in 1974 and 75 but to have “opened the floodgates” is probably an exaggeration. But I think I made it easier for others to talk about their experience at Tule Lake. But even now some people will not say they were in Tule Lake. They are the people who never told their own children. Nowadays Sansei and Yonsei (third and fourth generation) want to know about Tule Lake because their grandparents were incarcerated there.
... The loyalty registration caused such a turmoil—people turning against each other based on their responses to the key loyalty questions—that there has been a permanent rift in our community. But with time people seem to be more accepting, more willing to understand what happened at Tule Lake—that those segregated as “disloyals” were protesting the injustice and that such protests are legitimate American process. ... Thanks to the Tule Lake Pilgrimages and their open discussions of the hard topics such as loyalty, segregation, renunciation, there are signs of reconciliation.
On recovering citizenship
Mr. Kashiwagi's books recount how he and his family came to give "no-no" responses on the loyalty questionnaire, and how he gave up the U.S. citizenship he held by birthright -- but soon after regretted it. He was in the starting core group who retained civil rights lawyer Wayne Collins to recover their citizenship.
2002: I wished I had named our son Collins. ... I had not thought of that but I wished that I had because, you know, I feel that he saved us. ... We were headed for Japan and, yeah, or I don't know where, and he stopped it. And he put a stop to that. Habeas Corpus.
[On Collins' arrival at Tule Lake:] So -- we were wondering what was going to happen to us, you know, whether we would be shipped to Japan. And then we saw this - this lawyer -- very slender, thin, nervous, cigarette-smoking, but very elegant man who was going to defend us, and we just could not believe this, that there was a -- a white man, who was going to -- who said ... you never did anything wrong. ... it's the government's fault ... and they had no right to let you sign away your citizenship, we've got to put ... a stop to this. And so we all kind of loosely organized and signed up all the renunciants, as many as we could ... he worked on that for years and years. [More than 5000 ex-inmates recovered citizenship through a largely volunteer petition effort lasting until 1959.]
2015: I think there were three or four of us (maybe more) who first met with Mr. Wayne Collins. I was not the leader (I don’t think I was ever a leader in anything) but I was active because I felt that this was a good and only chance to undo my foolish and reckless act in renouncing my citizenship. We decided to call ourselves “Tule Lake Defense Committee.”
[Responding to a question whether he was formally thanked:] I was thanked informally by people whose older brother or son was a renunciant but I’ve never been formally thanked, not that I care for myself. I think I may be the last or one of few surviving members of the group that organized the defense committee. If thanked, I would accept in behalf of the group.
On Donald Trump
2015: I felt uneasy when I heard Mr. Trump’s comment about birthright citizenship. I realized he was talking about me. Birthright citizenship is the best gift that America has given to me; I feel strongly about this, especially after the renunciation debacle.
On the Japanese American Citizens' League (JACL) and Tule Lake
2002: [During the war and after, the JACL emphasized patriotic Americanism, ostracizing those incarcerated at Tule Lake under the "no-no" stigma; in 2002 the JACL apologized to camp draft resisters including members of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee.]
I didn't attend the exercise. I don't need an apology. And I don't want an apology. It was more to clear their own conscience I think. ... Someone asked me, would you like to be named to be a recipient of the apology and I said no ... But it was a nice gesture, but there was so much opposition ... The veterans of course opposed it and they -- they threatened to leave the JACL and some of them did.
2015: [On current calls for a JACL apology to "no-nos":] My son Soji is very interested in their campaign but I don’t care. I don’t feel a need for an apology. We all did what we had to do. But the actions of the JACL toward us were wrong, disgraceful and shameful. They have to live with that.
On Writing and Carey McWilliams
Carey McWilliams wrote extensively on land, water and labor in California. His 1944 book, Prejudice: Japanese-Americans: Symbol of Racial Intolerance condemned the incarceration as an injustice caused by California political and agribusiness demagoguery. McWilliams criticized the loyalty reviews' arbitrariness but his most detailed and empathetic descriptions are of incarceration sites other than Tule Lake.
2015: About Carey McWilliams—I have read his book on Prejudice. I think it’s a powerful book. I grew up with prejudice and discrimination—it was a constant subject in the family—but I didn’t realize the extent of racism that all minorities faced, especially before World War II. Carey McWilliams campaigned against the incarceration of Japanese Americans; when it happened he accepted it as we all did though we had no choice. For his liberal views and action McWilliams himself became a victim of ruthless politicians in California. ... I was interested in McWilliams for his defense of the farm workers, calling attention to the exploitation by the big farmers and management. I loved and hated farm work; I still do. Physically, it is extremely hard work.
... I guess the question was my approach to writing. I am not a crusading political writer. I write about myself—what I did or thought and about people I observed and remember. About McWilliams’ writing on Tule Lake—I thought it was fair and accurate though I doubt that he had free and full access to the life and conditions in camp. ...
I am a retiring, peace-loving person who doesn’t like to cause waves. In one of the interviews (by Frank Chin, I believe) I admitted that I hated war and killing, that maybe my reaction and resistance to the loyalty registration was due to my objection to war and killing. Once in Seattle after I had made a talk about Tule Lake, a Caucasian man came up to me to tell me that he had been a conscientious objector during WWII and I understood what he meant when he said “It hasn’t been easy.” I guess my action in speaking out was because others (often students and Sansei) convinced me that there was a need to speak out.
- Interview by Martha Bridegam
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