Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Remembering Hiroshima


TK in early, working on all the details for tonight’s Hiroshima commemoration. TV crews from Japan are already here setting up.

Sam from Cymbeline trying to figure out where he’ll rehearse tonight with another full house.

A very intense, purposeful and single minded man from Brooklyn believes he has been called by God to  do our bulletins.

Jamie, Marsha and Pat are here fro a second interview with our architectural candidate. Arcane discussion of issues like grandfather clauses and certificates of occupation.  Our main  goal is to get rid of any outstanding Department of Building violations.

It’s finally time for Let the Bells of Peace Ring!, our Interfaith Peace Gathering and Hiroshima-Nagasaki memorial gathering. There’s at least 250 people here. The Japanese TV crew is filming everything, broadcasting live. It is an honor to host this event, the 20th annual, which has been at the venerable institutions of Riverside, St. John the Divine, 475 Riverside Drive and the UN.
Carman Moore
The first offering is our friend Carman Moore and his collaborating partner dancer Kiori Kawaii.
Kiori Kawaii

It is an impressionistic piece moving from pain and isolation to freedom, from a cocoon like encasement to reclaiming life

There is the conclusion of the film, The Children of Nagasaki, and Rev. Kaz Takahashi of the Japanese American church both plays the tenor sax and gives the invocation. There was traditional Japanese music and then TK  chanted a sutra. At exactly 7:15, the hour the bomb fell on Hiroshima, a bell rang twelve times, a unison expression after each bell:

No more Hiroshimas
No more Nagasakis
No more Hibakushas
No More nuclear weapons
No more violence and killing
No more wars
Never again
Let there be peace in the world
Let peace begin with me!
Let us begin peace today!
Let the bells of peace ring around the world!
Peace and happiness to all beings!

Rabbi Michael 
My friend Rabbi Michael did a very moving performance. He explained that today was Tish B’Av, a Jewish day commemorating the destruction of the temple. A day on which the book of Lamentations is read. He first chants in Hebrew, then chants English verses from Lamentations interwoven with first hand testimonies of survivors, difficult to to find the difference. And because Michael is who he is, he speaks of the children of Gaza.

There was an imam and a Hindu swami and a Buddhist monk and an African-American Christian, the strong presence of Alfonso Wyatt.
Rev. Dr. Alfonso Wyatt

Then it was my turn for a welcome. I spoke of how it was an honor to host this event And of our deep and rich history. Most especially SANE and FREEZE and the religious peace movement planning here the 1982 march against nuclear weapons that drew over a million to New York City. I remember going to the start at the UN with my friend Donna. Japanese dancers and drummers whirling in rhythm under the sun. I was just struck by the beauty, so I said, How beautiful to Donna and she replied, who would know better…and I realized why this was such a personal issue to the Japanese. Who would know better…

The Japanese Choral Harmony TOMO performed two selections and four young adults read testimonial statements from Japanese children.
Japanese Choral Society
The Japanese American Society brought greetings as well as mayors’ messages from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Then pop star
Mika sings
Mika sang the old song Sukiyaki accompanied by Japanese pop legend Shinji Harada.

The keynote address was by 82 year old hibakusha Tomiko Marimoto West.
Tomiko Marimoto West
Her first hand account was searing as she described thinking that the B29 was only taking pictures, then that it was dropping a little warning  bomb. The apocalyptic terror that followed was an experience like none other on earth. There is a sense of unreality even hearing it described how amazing  then, her grace, her embrace of life in the face of the overwhelming power of death. What I experienced at ground zero following 9-11 pales in the face of the incineration of a quarter of a million people. We who speak so self-righteously about terrorism killed 250000 people, mainly civilians, and condemned generations  to radioactive disease suffering. You have to stop and think about that.

Former teen idol Shinji, accompanied by percussionist Mataro, sings his Yamato, Global harmony and Hiroshima, the place to start. As he has grown older, he has turned to writing songs dedicated to world peace and understanding. He’ll be back Friday for his own show when we commemorate Nagasaki.
Then world famous jazz artists Toshiko Akiyoshi and Lew Tabackin perform. (This is such an honor, says sound man Marc.)

Lew Tabackin and Toshiko Akiyoshi
TK makes some final remarks then invites me to come up and join him in leading Pete Seeger’s Where Have All the Flowers Gone.
Tinya Seegeer
That’s a bit daunting when Pete’s daughter is in the second row.
The Gagaku Music Ensemble leads us out. I’m impressed that TK has been able to present an event that not only  touches on the depth of horror but also captures the inspiration of hope. His attention to detail made the event as well as the diverse cast of participants that came because he invited them.

Another night to remember. Back again Friday.

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