Located at the San Bruno Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Station, the memorial’s ribbon cutting celebration marked the culmination of a 10-year effort by TACMC to create a permanent feature that documents and pays homage to the many people affected. Inspiration for the memorial began in 2012 with the installation of a photography exhibition featuring the work of Dorothea Lange and Paul Kitagaki, Jr. The memorial’s bronze statue brings to life one of Lange’s photographs of the young Mochida sisters on their way to Tanforan.
“The purpose of our decade-long effort to commemorate this space was twofold,” said Vice Chairman of the TACMC, Steve Okamoto. “Our primary goal was to create a permanent monument to honor those 8,000 Japanese who were imprisoned at Tanforan. Secondly, we aim to educate those who have never heard of the Tanforan Assembly Center, thereby inspiring a future where such injustice is unthinkable, and will never happen again.”
Blach Construction served as general contractor for the project, installing the statue, and constructing elements for the plaza, including benches, seat walls, and a conceptual horse stall to represent the accommodations of those detained at Tanforan. Artist Sandra J. Shaw sculpted the bronze statue, and RHAA Landscape Architects donated the design of the memorial plaza to honor their Japanese American founders. The memorial also includes bronze panels listing the name of those imprisoned at the Tanforan internment camp, as well as a multitude of historical quote markers.
“Our devotion to seeking projects that align closely with our values as a service-minded builder was greatly exemplified through our work with the Memorial Committee on this impactful and long-awaited project,” said Blach President Dan Rogers. “We are guided by a core desire to enhance and serve our communities through collaboration and quality craftsmanship. The Tanforan Memorial is an invaluable asset to the Bay Area, serving to memorialize our past and shape our future, a future that ensures equity for all.”
Inside the San Bruno BART Station, a new long-term exhibit entitled “Tanforan Incarceration 1942: Resilience Behind Barbed Wire,” organized by the BART Art Program and curated by Na Omi Judy Shintani, opened for viewing. This exhibit replaces the prior exhibit of photos documenting the detention center that was installed to mark the 70th anniversary of its opening. The current exhibit places the incarceration in the context of pre-WWII experiences of persons of Japanese descent in the U.S., and a brief examination of the subsequent efforts of remembrance and awareness, legal challenges, and support of others whose rights are being similarly violated.
The ribbon cutting ceremony was well attended, featuring several speakers and performers representing TACMA, Japanese cultural organizations, BART, local elected officials, and cross-cultural allies.