Ryan Masaaki Yokota, PhD '17, is a member of the curatorial committee behind the exhibition, Then They Came for Me: Incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII and the Demise of Civil Liberties, at the Alphawood Gallery in Chicago. The exhibit runs through November 19. Alphawood is dedicated to promoting a more equitable, just, and humane society. Ryan is the development and Legacy Center director of the Japanese American Service Committee (JASC), which worked with Alphawood on the creation of the exhibit.
The exhibition marks the 75th-anniversary of Franklin D. Roosevelt's executive order of February 19, 1942, which led to the forced removal and imprisonment of 120,000 Japanese American citizens and Japanese immigrants for the duration of the World War II.
The JASC and others lent photographs, ID cards and tags, propaganda, diaries, handmade furniture, wood carvings, and other works of art, high-school yearbooks and newsletters produced by camp inmates, military accoutrements, and resettlement materials to give visitors an intimate picture of the lives of the interned.
Ryan Yokota joined the JASC in 2015. He prepares archival and library materials for use, assists researchers with retrieving materials from the JASC’s archives, and develops public history programs and exhibits to promote the history of Japanese Americans in Chicago. The JASC's archives are the most significant collection of Japanese American materials in the Midwest. The JASC was organized in 1946 as the Chicago Resettlers Committee to welcome and support former internees. Today the JASC continues to provide cultural and community programs and also preserves the history of the Japanese American community in Chicago.