What It Means to Be American »

For Refugee Children in Baltimore and Their Teacher, Art Is a Sanctuary

By | February 1, 2017

I am an artist and educator pursing an MFA in Community Arts at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Last year, as part of my Master’s studies, I began teaching art to young refugees. The students were participants in the Baltimore City Community College Refugee Youth Project (RYP), a grant-funded organization that provides after-school programming for relocated kids. They were just a few of the …

What It Means to Be American »

For a UCLA Biologist, Groundhog Day Celebrates Science, Not Superstition

By | January 31, 2017

I am a scientist who loves Groundhog Day, that least scientific of holidays. Every February, as Punxsutawney Phil shakes the dust off his coat, emerges from his burrow, glances at his shadow (or not) and allegedly prognosticates winter’s end, I gather a group of professors, graduate students, and other assorted science geeks at my UCLA lab to nibble, drink, schmooze, and revel in ground-hoggery in …

What It Means to Be American »

A Jewish Photographer’s Nearly Forgotten “Collaboration” With Cheyenne Indians Provides a Crucial Bridge to History

By | January 27, 2017

On a cold day in late November 1853, in a place called Big Timbers, in what is today southeastern Colorado, a Jewish photographer named Solomon Nunes Carvalho hoisted his ten-pound daguerreotype camera onto a tripod and aimed his lens at a pair of Cheyenne Indians. At first glance, the resulting image, scratched and faded from years of neglect, seems unremarkable. But in fact it is …

What It Means to Be American »

How the Dallas Cowboys–“America’s Team”–Helped the City Recover From JFK’s Assassination

By | January 24, 2017

Watching my Dallas Cowboys fall to the Green Bay Packers last Sunday on the last play of the game in an instant classic of an NFC Divisional Playoff, I couldn’t help but think back to my grandfather.
The first time I recall watching the ‘boys play, in the 1970s, I was knee high to him, paying more attention to the gun case where he kept …

What It Means to Be American »

How a Segregated Regiment of Japanese Americans Became One of WWII’s Most Decorated

By | January 19, 2017

In January 1943, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his War Department abruptly reversed course by allowing Japanese Americans to enlist in the U.S. Army in the fight against Germany and Japan.
This was not a foregone conclusion: The draconian mass removal and incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans had been justified as a military necessity—and continued to be enforced. Two-thirds of those incarcerated were American-born Nisei, …

What It Means to Be American »

The Intel Report That Could’ve Stopped Japanese American Internment

By | January 18, 2017

In spring 1941, months before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, a team led by U.S. Naval Intelligence officer Kenneth Ringle broke into the Japanese consulate in Los Angeles.
One man stayed downstairs to guard the elevator while the rest snuck upstairs using skeleton keys to make their way to the back rooms. They brought along a safecracker—a convicted felon sprung for one night to help …

What It Means to Be American »

The Pain of Remembering My Incarceration as an American Japanese Is Deep, But the Danger in Forgetting Is Far Worse

By | January 18, 2017

I am a member of a once despised minority group, American Japanese, who spent three and a half years incarcerated in an American concentration camp during World War II. Although that ordeal ended 72 years ago, the impact of that experience on my life and its broader implications for American society resonate deeply to this day.
In 1941, at the beginning of the war, roughly 10 …

What It Means to Be American »

Inaugurations Highlight the Strengths—and Tensions—that Define the American Presidency

By | January 10, 2017

On Jan. 20, tens of millions of people will watch the pomp and spectacle of a uniquely American tradition. The hushed politicos in the pews of prayer service, the gleaming marching band brass on parade, the holy men and women delivering solemn invocations, the tuxes and gowns dancing their way through evening balls. And, of course, the next president of the United States of America, …

What It Means to Be American »

Melania Trump Won’t Be the First First Lady Who Wasn’t Born in the U.S.

By | January 6, 2017

It was hard for Louisa Catherine Adams, the only first lady born outside the United States, to say where she came from. She began her life in a narrow alley in London, in 1775, but she was taught not to think of herself as British. Her mother, Catherine, was English; her father, Joshua Johnson, was a merchant from Maryland and an American patriot. When she …

What It Means to Be American »

What Does L.A. Look Like to an American Reporting for Japan’s Largest Newspaper?

By | January 4, 2017

“Scarlett, Scarlett!” I waved pleadingly. Across the red carpet she sauntered, her eyes invitingly meeting mine. There I stood—a 24-year-old Jewish kid from Chicago decked out for the 77th Annual Academy Awards with my overgrown eyebrows and a cheap rented tux—face-to-face with America’s luscious girl-next-door, Scarlett Johansson.
I had been waiting all year to ask her this question: “What do you have to say to your …

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