Pamela Roberts, left, with Ray Kawamoto and his wife
Margie in front of their Lake Leland, Wash., farm home.
Former WSU president
sparks interest in video
A few years back, Pamela Roberts attended an extension conference where V. Lane Rawlins, a former WSU president, was talking about his upcoming retirement. Sitting there, Roberts realized that no one was capturing what she saw as a historic moment, so she moved to the front, pointed her camera at Rawlins and began recording (see his speech
Rawlins talked about how people were expecting instant answers to questions because of the immediacy provided by the Internet. He urged audience members to pick up the pace in providing extension information and service to their communities.
Roberts took Rawlins’ statements as her marching orders. She launched 4-H Network News, a youth-led online news service that is part of WSU Extension in Jefferson County. 4-H Network News has helped pilot the use of open source communication systems and online video production for WSU Extension, the National 4-H Council, Washington small business communities, nonprofits and individuals who need to effectively position themselves on the Internet.
These activities helped launch Roberts’ career in documentary videography and have helped WSU launch its services on the Internet.
PORT TOWNSEND, Wash. – Land in rural communities creates cohesiveness in many ways that pull families together. Many Japanese-American families were robbed of that legacy when their land was taken and they were sent to internment camps during World War II.
Because of her connection to her rural community, a WSU Extension faculty member has been able to chronicle on video one family’s fortitude in exile and eventual return to their farm. On Saturday, Sept. 17, Pamela Roberts’ 30-minute documentary, “The Kawamotos of Lake Leland,” will be shown at the North American Gathering of the Northwest Earth Institute in Port Townsend. Lake Leland is south of Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula.
Roberts, WSU Extension Jefferson County, said she pursued the project “to give voice to people we haven’t heard from.” She hopes viewers will discover empathy with those sent to internment
camps and that, consequently, similar actions won’t occur again.
The documentary introduces Ray Kawamoto as an articulate, funny and well-rounded person, Roberts said. So it is emotionally wrenching to see how this successful, neighborly farmer’s parents and grandparents were confined to an internment camp in Tule Lake in northern California.
Emotionally satisfying are the actions of other farm families: the neighbors who looked after the Kawamoto dairy farm during the family’s internment and the north Idaho family that agreed to have the Kawamotos work on their farm for two years during the internment. This saved the Kawamotos from the full brunt of the internment camp environment until they could return to their home after the war.
Such intimate community involvement is what attracts Roberts to the WSU Extension system that places faculty throughout the state.
“Extension is the most valuable educational system in the U.S., and I am proud to be part of it,” she said.
After showing the film in Port Townsend, Roberts hopes to distribute it free to organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center (for its “teaching tolerance” program), public TV stations, local libraries, Asian museums and the Jefferson County historical museum.
Other Japanese-American families are approaching Roberts to have her tell their stories also. But she has not decided what to do for her next video project. One compelling story she is considering involves a farmer mentoring Hispanic workers and planning to leave the land to them when he retires.
In the meantime, Roberts has one final shot to record to for her Kawamoto video: She wants to film Ray’s son riding a tractor on the family farm a visual depiction of a legacy of generational perseverance, resilience and heritage tied to the land.
Pamela Roberts, WSU Extension Jefferson County, 360-379-5610
Janet Casello Johnson, WSU News, 509-335-7564, email@example.com