Do you know of a Place?

The spirit of the people flowed from the Buddhist temple/
Spirituality, peace, grace, love, and activity coexisted in a path less than a mile/
A great author, Paulo Coehlo, told me about the language of the World/
And I hadn’t been able to experience it until I reached Asakusa/

Worldwide, people love/
Worldwide, people are grateful/
Worldwide, humans are on the constant search for personal betterment as it ties to that of their future lineage/

Fujin and Rajin granted my entrance/
Internal thunder enlightening me and lighting my way/
The wind pushed me along the path, whistling the energy of life past my ears/

History embraced this place like no other/
Distinctive and beautiful/
Open to all no matter race or lifestyle/
Because all humans experience spirituality, peace, grace, love, and activity in their lives/

Miles Peterson
Banneker Academic HS

Halcyon House

Halcyon House is a social innovation incubator in historic Georgetown which provides a residency program for a cohort of innovative entrepreneurs with a drive to reshape problems in society. We were given a tour of this wonderland by Erin Knisley and Danielle Reed, and were also able to learn from Halcyon’s Chief Innovation Officer, Ryan Ross.

In a capitalistic society where the entrepreneur’s common goal is to create Bezos-like profit, Halcyon House is a trailblazer in one of DC’s wealthiest neighborhoods. The incubator adds an extra texture to the meaning of an entrepreneur, a layer that feels like a better world for future generations. By allowing creatives to live in a collaborative space for 5 months while they individually work on their businesses designed to positively impact society – Halcyon gives us new lenses to view entrepreneurship. One of the most beautiful things about the incubator is their effort to drive collective innovation within the Georgetown mansion. There are libraries, a pool and various other collaborative spaces for business creators to use each others’ ideas, experience, wisdom, and knowledge as a thread to improve their models.

I would love to see this trend of social innovation become contagious, not only in my hometown, but also throughout the U.S. I believe it is extremely important for an entrepreneur to assess how they are positively affecting the ecosystem they are profiting from. If you’re going to gain from the people, why not give back to them? This is exactly what Halcyon House does but instead of influencing businesses to produce philanthropic efforts, social awareness and improvement is the basis each business helps to cultivate. I found Halcyon House to be breath-inspiring and revolutionary, adding new pieces to the never quite finished puzzle of the entrepreneur.

Miles Peterson
Banneker Academic HS

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum

On Friday, July 20, at the end of Week 1, the TOMODACHI USJYEP group spent the morning visiting the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. The experience was powerful, as always, and for many of the students (both from DC and Japan) this was new information, so particularly shocking. We asked each student to share a moment of maximum impact or significance.

Racquel: The Holocaust Museum as a whole was a lot to take in all at once. It was very moving, and really helped me understand what that time period was like. One exhibit that specifically caught my eye, and touched my heart, was called “Daniel’s Story.” It walked me through the life of a young Jewish boy before, during, and after the Holocaust. I had the ability to attempt to understand many of the struggles he went through, and all the pain he endured. I watched as his life went from peace and happiness, to disaster, devastation, and hopelessness. This exhibit really allowed for me to see what it was like to live under Hitler’s reign, as a Jew during the Holocaust era.

* discrimination
* prejudice
All terrible things start from discrimination and prejudice (black, white, Jewish, man, woman)

Arjernae: The survivors who spoke out after the Jews were freed from the camps was one of the many things that shook me. Also, the fact that people who were hospitalized were being murdered by hospital staff without the families’ knowledge. That they were experimenting and taking people who weren’t really sick hostage, just to burn their bodies and come up with a cover story about how people’s loved ones died, because of “sickness,” is sickening itself.

Noa: I Iooked at the exhibit on children’s shoes. I can imagine the view of the many children.

Jerusalen: “You are my witness” (Isaiah 43:10). I think when I saw the biblical quote on the wall, it hit me that the quotes said in the bible can relate to so many problems in the world, the people affected being Jews. The quote from a bible has a great impact on their relationship with religion. That stuck with me while seeing all the other exhibits. I think the other thing that impacted me was the room where you could light a candle for the Jews and soldiers. The tranquillity in the room made me feel peace.

Minori: About 8 people slept in a tiny space together. When one of them died, others used his things, such as shoes, clothes. Also, when they wanted to pee, they just peed while lying in bed, so others experienced the bad smell. I realized how important storytelling is through this experience.

Miles: I viewed a short film within the first exhibit. Firstly, the ambiance of the theater was fitting for the rest of the museum, was extremely dark with industrial features. The film was about the religious persecution Jews faced throughout history well before the Holocaust. Starting during the Crusades, thousands of Jews were killed by the hands of Christians. Jews were also painted as devilish/demonic figures with art pieces depicting them drinking children’s blood. The film also touched on how Martin Luther expected Jews to convert to Christianity during the Protestant Reformation. So when Jews decided to keep their faith, he called for the burning of synagogues and Jewish people’s homes. I found the film extremely interesting because I wasn’t aware of the long history of violence and persecution towards Jews prior to the Holocaust.

Anika: An image of babies piled up in the ground of the camp because they’re dead (dead babies).

Carlos: There’s a billboard in the “Americans and the Holocaust” exhibit which is a question to the public at the time:

What impacted me was the response:

“Yes 93%” and “No 1%” and “Don’t Know 6%.” I was impacted by the level of racism and discrimination that used to be, because they used to get scared that I’m related to.

Keiichiro: I was affected by the “Smile Photo” in the Holocaust Museum. I felt discomfort for it. Why? Why do they smile? The Holocaust is said to be so terrible. But at that time, people who live in Germany (not Jews) are smiling.

Shunsuke: “Amcho” is a word that was used by Jews to identify themselves as Jewish when they weren’t allowed to name themselves as Jewish during World War II. It’s kind of a secret word in Jewish. Jewish is human. They all have names, born, personality, and others like us. However, they didn’t have any rights or opportunity to name Jewish. They were discriminated against as aliens. As they were heading to their death by inhumane ways.

Noa: I looked at this – children’s shoes. I can imagine the view of the many children.

Naoki: When war has happened, human beings can do that.


As we walked up U St, passing buildings that symbolized the revitalization of a city that means different things for various demographics, it was refreshing to be greeted by authentic displays of cultures. As we arrived to the front door with four students from the Hung Tao Choy Mei Kung Fu Academy were outside performing a Chinese Lion dance, it immediately sparked me and the rest of the students with enthusiasm, quickly removing our cell phone cameras to freeze the experience. As we walked up to the main room of the Academy to our left there were two more students dancing in a larger blue and silver Lion suit, surely surprising each one of us as we walked through.

Once we arrived into the main room we were warmly welcomed by the drum circle and roaring sound of over a dozen Djembes. The traditional African instruments continued to boom as the founder Abdur-Rahim Muhammad encouraged us to jump while in the circle so our energy would match with what was in the room. After, Mr. Muhammad introduced himself and so did we with the accompaniment of a drum roll. Next, we were able to experience a traditional Chinese Lion dance first hand, the Djembes played at a steady beat as the Silver and Blue Lion danced with passion and spirit. It was beautiful to not only experience a part of Chinese culture I’ve never seen before but also the intersection with African culture made the experience that much more special.

Another part of the visit that stood out to me was when Baba Joseph spoke to us, he touched on the Out of Africa theory in order to make the connection between everyone in the room, no matter race or nationality, since we all derived from the same continent. Then, it was time for the most enjoyable portion of the evening, and for some maybe the most embarrassing. One by one Baba Joseph called us out to dance. The djembes echoed so loud that the beat almost synchronised with your heart, everyone had their own moves which varied and some even danced with some of the students from the academy. The most amazing thing about Hung Tao Choy Mei was “cultural blending” as fellow D.C. student Jerusalen put it, Asian and African traditional practices were met head on, martial arts, Djembes, African dancing, and Lion dances occurred all in the same space. I look forward to revisiting the academy and appreciate their sustaining positive and productive development in the community over the years.

Miles Peterson
Banneker Academic HS

Miles: Looking Forward to Tohoku

The people of East Japan contain a special type of resilience as does any group of people who survive a major natural disaster. Not only was the region damaged due to a series of massive earthquakes that reached high levels on the Richter scale, East Japan then suffered more harm due to the massive 128-foot tsunami that followed. Over 120,000 buildings were destroyed, with over 18,000 killed and 2,500 people still missing since 2011. Since then the people of East Japan have been working extremely hard to rebuild the area with the $199 Billion deficit that the disasters left. The ability to continue and have hope for another day is a true testament to the human spirit at its finest. Even though great tragedy occurred on March 11th, 2011, the people of East Japan continue to work relentlessly to build a better home than they had before.

Learning about this was fascinating because I was totally oblivious to the fact that this even happened and to learn that the people are still rebuilding without being overwhelmingly discouraged is honestly a thing of beauty. I look forward to visiting Tohoku and families who experienced the disaster to understand their lifestyles and struggles further.

Miles Peterson
Banneker Academic HS