JACL Letter Regarding Proposed “Unity” Sculpture

Dear Tara Thompson and Arts in Public Places Committee Members,

The Sonoma County Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) appreciates the city of Santa Rosa and members of the Arts in Public Places Committee for their work to bring the Unum sculpture by Blessing Hancock to Courthouse Square.

We acknowledge the committee for soliciting input from the community for words to be printed on the sculpture, as well as use of languages to represent diversity.  Use of the Language Assistant Plan is a good start to identify different communities in the area, but as mentioned in the January 10 meeting, it may not always be a complete picture of the community. Ethnic populations who have been here many generations or have enough knowledge of English do not use the Language Assistant Plan. However, it does not mean those populations are not part of (or “should be removed from”) Santa Rosa’s rich cultural tapestry of today. 

The Japanese American population is one of those populations.  Since 1875 when Kanaye Nagasawa arrived in Fountaingrove Santa Rosa to become a top California wine producer, to Santa Rosa Railroad Square used in WWII as the departure point for residents of Japanese descent to board the train bound for the detention center, to the Matsuri Japanese Cultural Festival co-sponsored by the City of Santa Rosa for eight years prior to Covid, the Japanese American population has been a consistent presence in Santa Rosa for almost 150 years. 

Since there is room for more languages on the sculpture, as suggested at the meeting, the staff could explore other ways to determine if more languages should be included in the project to make it more inclusive.  We stand with the Jewish community with Hebrew as the representative language that should also be included.  Inclusion of additional languages would capture a more representative picture of all members of the community and truly represent the intent of the sculpture’s theme of ‘oneness’. 

We urge Santa Rosa City and the Art in Public Spaces Committee to re-evaluate the addition of more languages for an equitable resolution regarding ‘Unum’ that truly represents our community and inspires a future vision for unity and inclusion.

Phyllis Tajii
Human and Civil Rights Committee
Sonoma County JACL

Lauren Morimoto
Sonoma County JACL

515 Petaluma Ave
Sebastopol, CA  95472

Link to Press Democrat article:
Santa Rosa Jewish, Japanese residents say proposed unity sculpture in Old Courthouse Square won’t represent all