Central Coast DOR Highlights Camp Stories

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Annual event to be held Feb. 24 at former Salinas Assembly Center.

A view of the Salinas Assembly Center, 1942.

SALINAS — Five Central Coast regional chapters of the Japanese American Citizens League are hosting their annual Day of Remembrance observances at the historic site of the Salinas Assembly Center, 940 N. Main St., on Sunday, Feb. 24, at 1 p.m.

This year’s DOR will feature a screening of “Moving Walls,” a documentary about what happened to hundreds of barracks used to house Japanese Americans during WWII, and a presentation by Diana Tsuchiya, founder of Tessaku, about her family history of incarceration and resistance.

The event is sponsored by the members of the Gilroy JACL, Monterey Peninsula JACL, San Benito County JACL, Salinas Valley JACL, and Watsonville-Santa Cruz JACL. Both film director Sharon Yamato and oral historian Tsuchiya will be on hand to discuss their work and answer questions.

According to San Benito County JACL President Kurt Kurasaki, the event is significant in that it is held yearly at the historic site of the Salinas Assembly Center, where thousands of Japanese Americans from the Central Coast area were temporarily detained before being sent to the Poston incarceration camp. A historical marker and Japanese garden were dedicated there in 1984.

Sharon Yamato and Diana Tsuchiya

The program will begin with a tour of the Memorial Garden and will continue inside the Santa Lucia Room of the Millennium Charter School. This year’s program is hosted by the San Benito County JACL.

The 2019 DOR features the Central Coast premiere of “Moving Walls,” a short film that tells the little-known postwar story of how hundreds of barracks at the site of the Heart Mountain camp were distributed to homesteaders, former veterans who were selected via lottery to also receive parcels of land to farm. Featuring interviews with the few remaining homesteaders who still live in them today, the film and accompanying book offer a rare inside look at the lives of farmers in the dry high plains area of Wyoming, as well as a glimpse at how incarcerees survived in the makeshift buildings during the war.

Former detainees, including Watsonville/Santa Cruz JACL member Mas Hashimoto, discuss the hardships of living in these shoddy buildings during the war and the problems they faced when the war ended. The film recounts the simultaneous stories of how detainees faced increased difficulties after the war, while homesteaders used the same buildings to create new lives in the West.

Tsuchiya, an independent writer and the creator of Tessaku, an oral history project dedicated to preserving and sharing stories about the Japanese American incarceration and the Japanese American WWII experience, will talk about her grandparents and father, who were incarcerated in Santa Anita, Topaz, and Tule Lake.

Her grandfather, who was Kibei and born in Loomis, was a vocal resister against the incarceration and was sent to a citizen isolation center in Leupp and later the Department of Justice camp in Crystal City, Texas. He nearly took the family back to Japan from Tule Lake, but they ended up resettling in Berkeley after the war ended.

“Moving Walls” was funded by the Department of Interior, National Park Service (NPS) through the Japanese American Confinement Sites (JACS) grant program for the year 2014-2015 and completed under the fiscal sponsorship of Visual Communications in Los Angeles.

For more information, contact Yamato at [email protected] or Kurt Kurasaki at [email protected]

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