As in previous exchanges, one of our culminating activities in the DC segment of the program is a quiltmaking exercise. Quilting has long played an important role in American history and culture, both as a creative means of telling stories and for building community, particularly among women. For the 5th year, Jacqueline Corbin-Armstrong, mother of TOMODACHI alumna Rebekah Armstrong, led the quilting workshop. Each student created a quilt panel that expressed his or her feeling about the meaning of their TOMODACHI experience. Together the individual panels tell the collective story of TOMODACHI 2018.
Here are our 2018 TOMODACHI quilt panels, with explanation:
Carlos: I drew two trees that represent the United States, and the cherry blossoms represent Japan. The meaning of this panel is that the relationship between the United States and Japan will grow together, and will still grow together until we leave this world.
Racquel: For my panel, I drew Mt. Fuji. On one side there’s an African American person to represent America upside-down. On the other side is a Japanese person. And in the back, where the sky should be, it’s all red to represent the struggles and the feuds we’ve had in the past, but we’re together now, and the mountain is showing our current sense of unity and togetherness.
Anika: I drew these two orange objects, called chochin (lanterns), a part of traditional Japanese culture. They have a light inside. So in the relationship between Japan and America, I hope there will be a brighter future.
Heavenly: No, this is not a lion. This is supposed to be me. This panel is showing how this TOMODACHI program is giving me my first trip on a plane out of the country and I really just want to travel the world. This is me figuring out where I’m going to go next.
Arjernae: These are two puzzle pieces – the left is the Japanese flag, the right is the DC flag, representing Japanese students connecting with DC students. The water is to show that they flew over here and we’re flying over there to connect the cultures together.. And the figure at the top is to represent our friendship with each other. That is a heart and these are actually people and they’re hugging.
Shunsuke: The hour glass is the motif of my quilt panel. Instead of sand, there are red circles representing Japan, and blue stars representing America – both existing separately. As time passes, both understand and respect each other more, and the relationship between Japan and the United States gets better. To show both countries getting better, I drew a black belt representing the deepened friendship tied up with close relations, reflecting my own experience doing karate).
Miles: This is us at Mt. Fuji. This is the Japanese flag with the Black liberation flag hanging from Mt. Fuji. The red stands for blood shed, black stands for the color of our skin, and green stands for the land that we traveled. And we are all looking up at Mt. Fuji. The numbers represent each of our favorite numbers.
Minori: This is a sphere with hands of two different colors holding the world with two flags. Between the Japanese flag and the American flag there is a gap symbolizing the US-Japan relationship. I hope as time passes the countries’ relationship will become bolder and then their two flags will overlap each other.
Sonia (Program Assistant): I drew this square to represent the different train schedules between Tokyo and DC. As you can see the trains in Tokyo come more frequently than the trains in DC. This is a little bit less of a positive panel than the others, but it’s something the Japanese students picked up on right away and something we laughed over throughout the program. In a way, that brings us together as well, I think.
Chi (Intern): For my panel, I drew two girls holding hands. The girl in the blue skirt represents America and on her back she has the kanji which means America – and it’s read as bey. The girl in the red skirt represents Japan, and she has the kanji for sun, which is the first kanji in Japan’s name. And together it’s read as bey-nichi (which means Japan and America’s relationship). They’re walking into the future, staring at the sunset.