University News

Relief concert hits fundraising goal

Contributing Writer
Monday, March 21, 2011

Shaky camera footage taken of the March 11 earthquake that hit Japan ignited Salomon 101 last night. In the recording — shot by a civilian during the 9.0 magnitude quake — the ground heaves up and down, wiping out an entire neighborhood. Observers at a higher elevation watch in horror.

The footage then skipped to an aerial view of the resulting tsunami — waves carrying away cars and houses. Traditional Japanese torii gates stood alone on the landscape, surrounded by piles of rubble.

The scene opened last night’s “Pray For Japan: Earthquake Relief Concert” presented by the Japanese Cultural Association. The association held the fundraiser to raise awareness for the situation in Japan, said Kenji Morimoto ’11, co-president of the association.

“We realized we wanted a culmination of students coming together for Japan,” he said. The association planned the event in four days with the support of administrators, students and the local community.

The event raised $2,000, a sum President Ruth Simmons agreed to match.

Numerous College Hill eateries provided gift baskets or other items for a silent auction. Concert performances included those that reflected on Japan and more general pieces, though most performances embodied a spirit of love and respect. Performers were not instructed to follow a specific theme, Morimoto said.

Two student masters of ceremonies transitioned between the 15 performances, each sharing a few words of concern for family members in Japan.

Three a cappella groups sang songs loosely tied to messages of hope, love and perseverance, such as the Higher Keys’ Queen medley of “Somebody to Love” and “We Are the Champions” and Chattertocks’ rendition of “Heaven Is a Place on Earth.”

The break dance and hip-hop group Special Browniez Crew began its performance with a direct message to the audience. “If you like what you see, show us some love. And, if you see something you don’t like, keep showing us love,” a group member said. The group brought the audience to a roar, encouraging people to clap along in support of individual performances.

In the middle of the event, another video clip was shown. This time, a mother and a father look for their son in the rubble near a post office. The son was one of over 12,000 people missing in Japan after the earthquake. The video ended with a somber message — over 8,000 have been found dead from the earthquake, but experts say the number of deaths could easily reach 20,000.

The Japanese drumming group Gendo Taiko also made an appearance, giving a quick introductory speech. “A lot of our members have friends and family in Japan,” a group member said.

The benefit concert also featured poetry readings by Herald cartoonist Franny Choi ’11, Jason Beckman ’11 and a group performance by Zainab Syed ’14 and Paul Tran ’14. Choi dedicated her piece to the people of Japan. In it, the speaker discusses the negative sentiments her family held for Japan due to its Korean ancestry. “When I first heard the reports … all I could think about was torched earth… Japanese memories carried war,” she read. But the poem also demonstrated the love for Japan the author now holds.

Beckman’s poem discussed the idea of “finding out the world was ending the morning after it happened.” Viewing the tragedy only as a digital reality leaves the “body unmoving, senses disengaged,” he said.

The evening closed with readings of reflections written by members of the Brown community who were in the area of the earthquake March 11.

The earthquake was the fourth largest in recorded history, according to the introductory video. Aerial footage from before and after presented a striking view — nearly all buildings were leveled, and the coastline had shifted after the tsunami waves.

Morimoto and co-president Rie Yamamoto ’11 serve on the University’s recently formed “think tank” committee on the situation in Japan, he said, adding that the University may form more open committees to address the issue.

A panel of four professors will discuss the current situation in Japan at a teach-in in MacMillan 115 tomorrow.

The Japanese Cultural Association will continue its donation drive this week in J. Walter Wilson and plans to do more after spring break, Morimoto said. The group intends to make a long-term effort as the effects of the earthquake will continue for years, he said.

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