Filmmaker Shizumi Manale joins with GlobalizeDC’s Japan in DC Summer Program: “Our young people deserve the world”

Talented dancer, choreographer and movie producer Shizumi Shigeto Manale, led an impassioned discussion with high school students following the presentation of her film “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard” at the DC Columbia Heights Education Campus/Multicultural School.

Speaking to the students, Shizumi Shigeto Manale shared her insights into one of history’s most tragic events, the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and through her film, showed how children were a shining light in the din of suffering. Ms. Manale brought to light how through the worst of circumstances people can find the fulfillment of their dreams.

The event was presented by GlobalizeDC, an organization whose mission is to increase access for DC public school students to “high quality global education, language learning, and study abroad opportunities.” GlobalizeDC created the “Japan in DC Summer Program” to encourage the participation of high school students who have an interest in learning about Japan. Funded by the US Japan Council, US Japan Foundation, and the American Council in International Education, it provides DC students the opportunity of interaction with their counterpart students in Japan and with various organizations and businesses with connections to Japan.

Ms. Sally Schwartz, the visionary founder and director of GlobalizeDC, explained to the audience that the US/Japan exchange program is comprised of 22 students, some of whom will be traveling to Japan on July 30.

“Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard” tells the story of a group of Japanese school children who survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Despite the devastation, the children created beautiful colored drawings using the gift of art supplies from the All Souls Church Unitarian Church in Washington DC immediately after the Hiroshima bombing in 1944. The colored drawings were sent to the Church in Washington DC to express the children’s appreciation for the gift of the art supplies. These drawings were rediscovered almost 50 years later. Through the efforts of Shizumi Manale, at least half of these artists who were already in their 70s, were located in Japan. The film concludes with a reunion in Japan of the former “young artists” viewing their drawings at a center for peace in Hiroshima.

Shizumi Manale explained that she produced her film as an expression of her dedication to promote world peace. Telling her personal story of her family’s survival of the bombing, she explained how they were able to start all over again after such suffering. “When we were growing up my grandparents would tell me you can fall seven times, and remember you can get up eight times.” Ms. Manale made a deep impression on her student audience as evidenced by their enquiring and probing questions.

Mrs. Manale was also asked by one of the students how she managed to be involved in so many undertakings. Her parents were not rich or of means, but they were always willing to help her as long as she showed a desire to succeed in life. So she worked hard when she came to the US over 40 years ago. She was inspired always to persevere. Her message was meaningful to a group of young people who were immersed in the process of discovering, as one student asked, “How can we be ourselves.”

Mr. Melvin Hardy of the All Souls Church commented on Shizumi Manale’s story, “With her own internal fortitude, she looked at the circumstances and understood the relationship between the ‘doing’ part of her life and the ‘human’ part of her life.” Mr. Hardy expounded on the message of the film as a story of “resilience, kindness, empathy, and compassion of people.” He added, “Here the ‘human’ quality was channeled in the making of the film. The energy that Shizumi Manale put into making this film possible revealed that in the process of ‘doing’ you absorb all that which is inside you and you become yourself.” Mr. Hardy further concluded that a life of service is what leads you to discover yourself. 

Concurring with Mr. Hardy, Ms. Manale described her challenges in making the film, which was intended to show how “a life of service is what will contribute to alleviating suffering in the world and promoting a culture of peace.” 

It was with great pride that Ms. Manale introduced her new book “48 Colors of Dreams, Children Bloom in the Ruins of Hiroshima” which provides an illustrated version of the film. Translated into four languages, it gives children throughout the world the chance to learn that “happiness can come when you try to make others happy.” 

Ms. Portia Davidson, former Workforce Policy Advisor to the Commandant on Diversity and Inclusion of the US Coast Guard, and former professor in Okinawa, Japan, commented that the lessons learned from this film are the importance of “forgiveness and gratitude.” 

Ms. Lisa Polgar, Director of the Panamerican-Panafrican (the PaPa) a NGO in Consultative Status to the United Nations ECOSOC, underscored the value of these exchange programs that provide contact between students from different parts of the world to create better understanding. 

A special guest at the event was Ms. Kumi Yokota from Japan, who is the PaPa’s representative to the United Nations, and President of the PanAsian Assoc. Ms. Yokota was born years after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, but she explained that some members of her family were severely injured by the bomb. She commented that her family rarely talked about their experiences during the Hiroshima and Nagasaki tragedy. She emphasized however, how much people helped each other during these incredibly difficult times. A businesswoman, philanthropist, and authority on traditional Japanese culture, Ms. Yokota was dressed in a beautiful Japanese Kimono, to the delight of the students.

As Lisa Polgar referenced, these encounters are invaluable in promoting a culture of peace through student cultural exchange programs. Globalize DC is indeed to be commended for their innovative program and giving students this great opportunity to learn about the world around them. 

GlobalDC’s moto, “Our young people deserve the world,” was well expressed, bringing cultures together from across the seas.

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