Eileen Tamura, author of the 2013 book “In Defense of Justice: Joseph Kurihara and the Japanese American Struggle for Equality,” will be the keynote speaker at the 45th annual Manzanar Pilgrimage, sponsored by the Manzanar Committee, scheduled for noon PDT on Saturday, April 26, at the Manzanar National Historic Site, located on U.S. Highway 395 in California’s Owens Valley, between the towns of Lone Pine and Independence, approximately 230 miles north of Los Angeles.
Each year, over 1,000 people from diverse backgrounds, including students, teachers, community members, clergy and former incarcerees, attend the pilgrimage, which commemorates the unjust imprisonment of over 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry in ten American concentration camps located in the most desolate, isolated regions of the United States during World War II. Manzanar was the first of these camps to be established.
Tamura, a professor of history of education and chair of the Department of Educational Foundations at the University of Hawaii College of Education in Honolulu, reveals a history of Japanese Americans during the first half of the 20th century as lived by Joseph Yoshisuke Kurihara, a dissident who was one of the central figures in the Dec. 5-6, 1942 Manzanar Riot, and eventually ended up at the Tule Lake Segregation Center.
“We are so pleased to have Eileen Tamura as our keynote speaker,” said Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey. “Her contributions to our understanding of what our families and community endured during World War II are unique and powerful.
“Examining one of the most outspoken and least understood inmates, Joe Kurihara, Professor Tamura illuminates the painful and complicated nature of the forced removal. By telling the personal story of Joe Kurihara, she sheds new light on the heroic resistance within Manzanar, particularly the events surrounding the Manzanar Riot of December 1942. She offers new understanding of the painful and divisive issue of loyalty and the struggles of those who chose to renounce their U.S. citizenship. We’re proud and excited to have Professor Tamura as our keynote speaker.”
With the theme “A Memory, A Monument, A Movement,” this year’s pilgrimage will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Visitors Center at the Manzanar National Historic Site.
The afternoon program, held at the Manzanar cemetery site, will begin with a performance by UCLA Kyodo Taiko, the first collegiate taiko group in North America. It will conclude with the traditional interfaith service, and onto dancing.
In addition to the daytime program, the Manzanar At Dusk program follows that same evening, from 5 to 8 p.m., at the Lone Pine High School auditorium, located at 538 S. Main St. (Highway 395) in Lone Pine, nine miles south of the Manzanar National Historic Site, across the street from McDonald’s.
Manzanar At Dusk is co-sponsored by the Nikkei Student Unions at CSU Fullerton, CSU Long Beach, Cal Poly Pomona, UCLA, and UC San Diego.
Through a creative presentation, small group discussions and an open mic session, Manzanar At Dusk participants will have the opportunity to learn about the experiences of those incarcerated in the camps. Participants will also be able to interact with former incarcerees in attendance to hear their personal stories, to share their own experiences, and discuss the relevance of the concentration camp experience to present-day events and issues.
Both the Manzanar Pilgrimage and the Manzanar At Dusk program will also deal with the current fight to protect Manzanar’s viewshed from being marred forever by large-scale renewable energy development by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s proposed Southern Owens Valley Solar Ranch, and by Inyo County proposing to open up even more land near Manzanar to such development.
The Manzanar Committee has also announced that bus transportation to the pilgrimage from Downtown Los Angeles is available.
The bus will depart at 7 a.m., arriving at the pilgrimage at approximately 11:30 a.m., and will also take participants to the Interpretive Center at the Manzanar National Historic Site following the afternoon program. The bus should arrive back in Los Angeles at approximately 8:30 p.m.
Reservations will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. For further information or to make a reservation, call (323) 662-5102, or send email to [email protected] The non-refundable fare is $40 general, $30 for students and seniors. Complimentary fares are available for those who were incarcerated at any of the former American concentration camps or other confinement sites during World War II.
Anyone wishing to attend the Manzanar At Dusk program that evening should make other transportation arrangements.
The Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute (GVJCI) is offering bus transportation to the Manzanar Pilgrimage from Gardena. The bus leaves GVJCI at 6:30 a.m., and will return by 8:30 p.m. Registration information for the GVJCI bus is available online at www.jci-gardena.org.
Pilgrimage participants are advised bring their own lunch, drinks and snacks as there are no facilities to purchase food at the Manzanar National Historic Site (restaurants and fast-food outlets are located in Lone Pine and Independence). Water will be provided at the site.
Both the daytime program and the Manzanar At Dusk event are free and open to the public.