I was delighted to have Giff Johnson come to my class yesterday. It was bizarrely good timing. A fellow professor contacted me to ask if there was anything I was teaching that might be relevant to the radioactive fallout that afflicted the Marshall Islanders beginning in the 1950s. It turned out that Giff Johnson, husband to Darlene Keju, longtime advocate for education about the victims near the US nuclear proving grounds in the Pacific, was planning to be in town on Wednesday. It just so happened (crazy timing!) that I was lecturing that day on the Bravo test at Bikini atoll in 1954–the infamous 15 megaton blast that coated the Japanese Lucky Dragon fishing boat with debris, surprised the scientists who underestimated its size, and introduced a new phrase to global consciousness: nuclear fallout.
It was a pleasure to meet Giff Johnson, who is busy telling Darlene Keju’s story in colleges, high schools, middle schools, and to whoever will listen. He recently wrote a biography of her. She spent years drawing attention to the injustice of the testing, the relocation, the health care, and the compensation, and she succumbed to cancer herself in 1996. The book is called Don’t Ever Whisper: Darlene Keju, Pacific Health Pioneer, Champion of Nuclear Survivors. There’s also a website about it. I showed this video in class, and it is worth a view. It’s a sobering reminder of how easily these vulnerable people had their lives and lands disrupted, and corrupted, forever.
2 responses to “Don’t Ever Whisper: The Marshall Islands Story”
My great appreciation for inviting me to speak to your class, and great that the timing was so good for the presentation. My visit to Oregon was tremendous and I was delighted to have met you and had the opportunity to speak to your students. All the best. —Giff
I’ve been to the Marshall Islands three times in the last couple of years, in my role as an educational consultant to the RMI Ministry of Education. Actually I just got back from there a couple of weeks ago. I always stay in Majuro for my work with the MOE but this last time I had a chance to go to Ebeye to present at a Public Hearing in the area of education. I had bought the “Don’t Ever Whisper” book in July 2013, on one of my previous trips to Majuro, so a trip to Ebeye this last January had a special meaning to me.
I’m preparing a post about the Marshall Islands in my blog with an emphasis on climate change, where I will reference Darlene Keju and her role on the repercussions of the nuclear fall out and the Youth to Youth program. My naive idea is to explore Darlene’s life experience leadership to discuss the impacts of climate change. By the way, my blog is a motorcyclist blog – I’m not a journalist, and I’m not an expert on climate change, just a world citizen who wants to help bring exposure to climate change impacts.
And Giff, each time I’m in Majuro I look forward to reading the Marshall Islands Journal. So much so that on my way to Kwajalein on this last trip in January, Colette (at the RRE Hotel) asked her staff to get the papers earlier so I could take a copy of the January 23rd edition with me on my flight to Kwajalein.