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Claiming a Voice DVDs are available for sale!

One of the VC Archives’ 2013 goals is to digitize past VC productions and make them available for purchase.  We hope that libraries, schools, and other institutions will acquire our films and put them into circulation so that more people will discover these Asian American stories that haven’t been told.

Claiming A Voice is the first film we’ve digitized and made available on DVD.  This film tells the story of Visual Communications and its history during the Asian American Movement of the 60s and 70s. Get your DVD copy of Claiming A Voice to add to your library, classroom, or personal collection of Asian American films and documentaries.

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Film Description:
CLAIMING A VOICE: The Visual Communications Story (U.S.A., 1990)
Directed by Arthur Dong
Digital (originated on Beta SP), 57 minutes, Documentary

1969 Campus Strikes. Anti-War Protests. Civil Rights demonstrations. American politics and culture were changing. Third World communities sought self-determination and the Asian American movement sprang up from the storefront organizations all across the nation. And out of this turmoil came Visual Communications.

Claiming A Voice is a one-hour documentary chronicling the twenty-year history of the first group dedicated to productions by and about Asian Pacific Americans. Combining interviews with clips from over twenty Visual Communications films, CLAIMING A VOICE traces the important role alternative media played in the Asian American movement.

Claiming A Voice shows how one grassroots organization survived budget cuts, Hollywood, and the collective process of the 1960s to control their own images. The stories of Visual Communications members along with those of jazz fusion band Hiroshima, poet Lawson Inada, and actors Pat Morita and Mako are among the many in this documentary which reflect personal commitments to claiming a voice in media.

Claiming A Voice is written and directed by Academy Award nominated director Arthur Dong (Sewing Woman, Forbidden City, U.S.A.). Editor Walt Louie, Associate Producer Cheryl Yoshioka. A Visual Communications production in association with DeepFocus Productions.

To inquire about prices, please contact Helen at Helen@vconline.org.  Look out for other VC productions that we will be releasing on DVD for the first time later this year.  We’re excited to share our films with you!

Hello everyone! My name is Melissa Jamero and I am the new archives intern for Visual Communications under the direction of our resident archivist, Helen Kim. I graduated from UCLA in 2011 where I received by Bachelor’s Degree in History and Asian American Studies. I have always been interested in Asian American media and worked closely with Professor Robert Nakamura, one of the founders of Visual Communications, at the UCLA Center for EthnoCommunications.

I joined the Visual Communications team in early October and have busy digitizing a video collection at the VC office. This particular collection consists of a public access television series called “Amerasians: Media and the Arts” which featured interviews of artists and media creators that aired between the years 1988 and 1991. Stann Nakazono produced the television series and host John Esaki conducted interviews of a variety of Asian American and Pacific Islander artists from filmmakers, to actors, to musicians and more.

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Many of the artists interviewed shared how they got into the arts and what obstacles they faced as Asian American artists. Artists, such as playwright Philip Gotanda, related how growing up Asian in the United States influenced their work and musicians like Yutaka Yokokura explained how rediscovering their cultural backgrounds inspired them to create uniquely Asian American art.

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It took approximately two months for us to digitize this collection which is comprised of over 100 U-Matic ¾” tapes. You may remember that our previous digitization project on the JACL Redress interviews was also originally comprised of U-Matic ¾” tapes and that these are particularly vulnerable to degradation over time. Thus the entire process requires the tapes to be cleaned multiple times before we can watch or digitize them. Unfortunately, we found that these tapes in particular have deteriorated quite a bit and needed extensive cleaning, which indicated severe damage. We were ultimately able to digitize a good number of interviews and examples of the artists’ works.  Access DVD copies for viewing are available at the VC office.

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The Amerasians Video Collection digitization project is a perfect example of how important it is for us to go back and recover films and tapes on obsolete formats that are in danger of being long forgotten. Because these tapes are deteriorating at a faster rate and equipment to even play them is even rarer, it is imperative that projects like this continue to happen. We are excited that we are able to preserve video recordings like this and we look forward to doing more in the future, so keep a look out!Screen shot 2012-12-11 at 3.59.12 PM

We’re happy to announce that we just completed digitizing one book of negatives!  Most of these photos are of VC activities and community life in the 1980s, and we’re excited to have them digitally accessible!  Digitizing negatives isn’t simple work… digitizing two strips of 35 mm negatives takes about 20-30 minutes, not to mention, each strip needs to be cleaned and dusted lightly before its placed inside the scanner.

It took us about 4 months to scan over 4,700 negatives– and again, that’s just one binder.  We have so many more of these binders left to finish.  We couldn’t do it without help, of course.  Thank you to our summer interns for contributing to this ongoing project!

We’re happy, excited, and relieved–!! to announce that we’ve nearly finished a project that’s consumed a lot of our time this summer.  Over the past two months, we digitized the Japanese American Citizens’ League (JACL) Redress Video Collection.  This collection consists of over 60 ¾” U-matic tapes of oral histories and testimonies from activists, politicians, and community members involved in the Redress and reparations process leading up to the passage of The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 (HR 442, was aptly named after the WWII’s Japanese-American 442nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team, the most decorated unit in American history).

U-matic tapes are particularly in danger of deterioration, and preserving the material in these tapes is a significant priority of ours.  Before digitizing, we cleaned each tape several times (as well as the tape deck) to ensure that we would digitize the best possible picture quality.  Digitizing requires “watching” the tapes in real time, which can be a tedious process, especially with the number of tapes in the collection. During digitization, we check the quality of the video, color, sound, and make notes of the content itself– descriptive metadata– the who, where, when, and why of the videos.

The work doesn’t end after the digitization process is completed.  We created access DVD copies so that the originals don’t incur damage after repeated viewing by patrons; the newly digitized “originals” are kept in two separate locations.  And don’t forget the cataloging of all the new materials.

In this particular excerpt from the collection below, Senator Daniel Inouye recalls the tensions between the mainland Japanese American and Hawai’ian Japanese American soldiers and how it changed and affected the redress movement later on.  It’s lengthy, but worth very much worth the read (some parts have been cut for space).

The Hawai’i people kept to themselves, and the mainland people kept to themselves…An invitation was received from Rohwer, Arkansas, the internment camp there. Strangely, those invited were all from Hawai’i, so I can’t help but believe that this was part of a plan. Each company sent about ten young non-commissioned officers, or junior leaders of the Regiment…

For us, it was a big deal.  We had no idea where Rohwer was or we didn’t know what a camp looked like because none of the kotonks [a term used by Japanese Americans in Hawai’i to refer to Japanese Americans on the mainland] would talk to us about these camps…we had no idea what was happening down there. Then on that important date early in the morning, we gathered, many of us with our ukuleles and guitars, thinking of the lovely evening with some lovely kotonk gal, and I can hear the music in our truck and the other trucks as we moved along from Mississippi to Arkansas then after a while, we came into sight of that camp.  What we saw was something that none of us had anticipated.

We thought it was some housing project of sorts that we would see.  But no, this was a camp with barracks and fences and watch towers and armed guards in uniform, men with rifles and bayonets, and here we were in uniform of the United States Army, to prepare ourselves for combat to defend this country… and we were ordered to get off the trucks and they were about to search us. But the officer in charge stepped forward and said, I will vouch for these people. None of us had arms, and we all went in.

From that encounter, everything became very sober and somber. I recalled that evening there was a very sumptuous dinner but then we found out that this represented a week’s ration for this camp.  We literally had to force ourselves to eat because we had already lost our appetite, but the least we do was to show appreciation. Then we were told that certain barracks had been set aside for us to spend the evening, and that meant the families has to spend their nights in the community hall or the mess hall. We said no to that, and we spent our time in the mess hall and I slept in the truck, if I recall.  We left the next day and the return was a bit different. There was no singing in our truck, and I’m sure it was the same elsewhere.

I’m certain the question that I asked myself must have been asked a hundred times among others in that little journey, “Would I have volunteered from that camp, under those circumstances?” And to this day it is very difficult to honestly tell you what I would have done. Now this was what impressed many of my fellow senators– that here were these people, herded off into the camps, in a few days notice to carry only those items that they could carry on their backs…[Those senators] would stop and say, “You mean they would really volunteer, they weren’t drafted?” They volunteered! “What did their parents do?” They urged their sons to volunteer. “Oh come on, you’re kidding me!”

…Therefore, Rohwer, Arkansas, a relatively small camp out in the boondocks, played a major role in this redress.  Because if we did not have an opportunity to visit Rohwer and see for ourselves, I think the regiment would not have been formed. Because within hours of our return to Camp Shelby in Mississippi, the word went out like brushfire throughout the camp.

When I got back to my squad, I…[told] them, ‘you won’t believe what I’m gonna tell you’…they were all fascinated, and from then we began to looking at the kotonks a little differently.  We began to admire them.  My god, these guys are super men. They did something that maybe none of us would have done. The bond was forged; the regiment was formed. We’re closer than brothers, and I think that played a crucial role in the redress movement…

Senator Inouye’s interview, like others in the JACL Redress Collection, are very moving.  We’re excited to make these materials accessible to people for research, study, and personal growth.  People did amazing things and have amazing stories to tell, and others need to know about them!

Check out the finding aid here.

With the proliferation of digital photography comes a deluge of digital images. Do you find that you have so many digital photos that it’s difficult to locate the photo that you’re searching for? At this workshop, you’ll learn how to turn your unwieldy collection into something manageable through file names, tagging, photo management software, and other techniques. You’ll also learn about digital preservation issues. A short Q&A will follow. Please RSVP by emailing helen@vconline.org quickly — seating is limited and first-come, first-served.

OVERLOADED WITH DIGITAL IMAGES: LEARN HOW TO MANAGE THE MADNESS!
SUNDAY AUGUST 19   |   10:30 AM – 12:00 PM
@ Visual Communications
ENROLLMENT FEE: $5 Suggested donation (RSVP required)

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