Caren Stelson



for all

Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard:
A Necessary Story for Our Time

ph_folded_dove_300px-5986531Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard is a film for everyone—teachers, com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers, peo­ple of faith, peo­ple with big hearts—and world lead­ers, par­tic­u­lar­ly our world lead­ers. Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard will help all of us under­stand the unimag­in­able destruc­tion of nuclear war and the pow­er of kind­ness and gen­eros­i­ty to cre­ate path­ways to peace.

I came across the sto­ry of “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard” in 2012 when I vis­it­ed Hiroshima and Nagasaki on one of my trips to inter­view Sachiko Yasui, and pur­sue my his­tor­i­cal research for my book, SACHIKO. “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard” was yet anoth­er sto­ry I could not shake from my mind.

Minister A. Powell Davis of All Souls Church, Unitarian, Washington D.C., 1946.

The sto­ry goes like this: In 1946, A. Powell Davis, the min­is­ter of All Souls Church, Unitarian in Washington D.C., sees a pho­to­graph in the Washington Post of a proud admi­ral and his wife cut­ting a cake shaped as an atom­ic mush­room cloud. Incensed, Davies gives a fiery ser­mon titled, “Lest the Living Forget.” The ser­mon sets into motion a series of events that leads his con­gre­ga­tion to send a half ton of school mate­ri­als to Hiroshima. The Hiroshima school chil­dren, many of whom were orphaned by the atom­ic bomb, draw amaz­ing, inno­cent, col­or­ful pic­tures with the art mate­ri­als. For some chil­dren, it was the first time they had used paints and crayons. For some, just the smell of draw­ing paper made them smile. The children’s pic­tures are sent back to the church as a thank-you, admired by many in Washington, then put away in a draw­er and for­got­ten for years. In 1995, the draw­ings are redis­cov­ered and lat­er restored. In 2006, artist and film pro­duc­er Shizumi Shigeto Manale, born in Hiroshima and res­i­dent of Washington D.C., vis­its All Souls Church and views the pic­tures. She makes it her mis­sion to trav­el back to Japan to find the orig­i­nal artists, inter­view them about their mem­o­ries of war and their strug­gle for peace, and makes a film, Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard, with direc­tor Bryan Reichhardt. In 2010, All Souls church mem­bers, includ­ing Mel Hardy, now cura­tor of the draw­ings, the orig­i­nal Hiroshima artists, and the children’s draw­ings are reunit­ed in Hiroshima’s Honkawa School, the very school the sur­vivors attend­ed when they first received their pack­age of art mate­ri­als so long ago.

Exhibition of the Hiroshima Children’s Drawings, St. Mane Theatre, Lanesboro, Sept. 2017

This September, the film Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard came to Lanesboro, a small town of 700 in south­east­ern Minnesota. Sponsored by the well-respected Lanesboro Arts Center, not only was the film shown, but 24 of the 48 prints of the Hiroshima children’s draw­ings were exhib­it­ed at Lanesboro’s St. Mane Theatre. Best of all, Mel Hardy, the cura­tor of the children’s draw­ings and Shizumi Shigeto Manale, the film’s pro­duc­er, joined me in Lanesboro to share the sto­ry of the draw­ings and to cel­e­brate the dra­ma and beau­ty of this story.

Caren Stelson, Japanese trans­la­tor Keiko Kawakami, and film pro­duc­er Shizumi Shigeto Manale in Lanesboro

The sto­ry of the Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard brought Lanesboro togeth­er in the spir­it of our col­lec­tive human­i­ty, as the sto­ry always does when shared with an audi­ence. No one can walk away from this film with­out under­stand­ing that nuclear war must nev­er hap­pen again.

Lanesboro chil­dren fold­ed paper cranes to dec­o­rate the St. Mane Theatre.

No one can sit through to the end of this film with­out real­iz­ing the pow­er of small kind­ness­es to heal, with­out under­stand­ing that empa­thy, rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and for­give­ness are imper­a­tive for real peace.

Caren Stelson, Mel Hardy and Shizumi Shigeto Manele on stage, intro­duc­ing the film.

All Souls Church Minister Davies was cor­rect when he titled his ser­mon, “Lest the Living Forget.” We must nev­er for­get what hap­pened to the peo­ple of Hiroshima and Nagasaki when the United States dropped atom­ic bombs on their cities in 1945. We must make sure that the lead­ers of the world nev­er for­get, either.

For more infor­ma­tion about the film and see the trail­er, go to  http://www.videoproject.com/Pictures-from-a-Hiroshima-Schoolyard.html.

For more infor­ma­tion about Lanesboro Arts, got to https://lanesboroarts.org/

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