Students Taking Leadership Role in Manzanar at Dusk Program

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College students will take the lead role during this year’s Manzanar at Dusk (MAD) program, sponsored by the Los Angeles-based Manzanar Committee, scheduled from 5 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, April 30, at the Lone Pine High School gymnasium, located at 538 S. Main St. (US Highway 395), in Lone Pine, across the street from McDonald’s.

The MAD program follows the 42nd annual Manzanar Pilgrimage, scheduled for 12 p.m. that same day, at the Manzanar National Historic Site, between the towns of Lone Pine and Independence, approximately 230 miles north of Los Angeles.

MAD is co-sponsored by the UCLA Nikkei Student Union, UC San Diego Nikkei Student Union, Cal Poly Pomona Nikkei Student Union, Lone Pine Unified School District, Lone Pine High School, and Friends of Manzanar.

Through a creative presentation, small group discussions and an open mic session, MAD participants will have the opportunity to interact with former internees and hear their personal stories. Participants will also be able to share their own experiences and discuss the relevance of the concentration camp experience to present-day events and issues.

This year, MAD will take a notable departure from how the event has been organized in recent years, putting much of the program firmly into the hands of college students, thus moving the event closer to its 1997 roots.

“The first MAD program — it was called ‘Manzanar After Dark’ back then — was held around a fire at a camp site just west of Independence,” said Gann Matsuda, co-coordinator of the MAD program. “College students, primarily from the City College of San Francisco, were among the main organizers of the program, along with Jenni Kuida and Ayako Hagihara of the Manzanar Committee.”

“This year, one of our goals was to put MAD back into the hands of college students,” added Matsuda. “MAD is really their program, and has been all along. The Manzanar Committee is really just the caretaker for it. We want them to feel a real sense of ownership, and for MAD to become a part of these student organizations and their traditions.”

UCLA Nikkei Student Union President Kevin Machino spoke on behalf of the three student organizations about the importance of the program and their involvement.

“The MAD program is important because it is a time when everyone, regardless of age, gender, and ethnicity, can come together to reflect on the Japanese American Internment experience and discuss what still remains to be done in today’s society,” he said. “As Japanese American student organizations, we feel it is important to expose this opportunity to our members, and allow the attendees to become more knowledgeable about such a significant experience in Japanese American history.”

“This year, our organizations are assuming a larger role in the MAD program,” added Machino. “As we consider the future of the program, we know that we cannot continue to rely on former internees to be able to share their experiences in a large group setting.”

Indeed, most former internees are now in their late 80s, or older.

“Last year, the number of former internees present at the MAD program was much, much lower than ever before,” said Matsuda. “We always knew this day would come, but it is sobering to know that it is now upon us.”

“We’re proud that these young people in our community recognize that we need to find new, creative ways to keep their stories alive,” added Matsuda. “The fact that they have taken the initiative to do so at MAD shows that these students are leaders in our community right now. We don’t have to wait for them to graduate.”

Both the daytime pilgrimage program and the MAD event are free and open to the public.

For more information, check the Manzanar Committee’s official blog at http://blog.manzanarcommittee.org/, call (323) 662-5102, or send e-mail to [email protected]. You can also follow the Manzanar Committee on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/ManzanarCommittee) and Twitter (http://twitter.com/manzanarcomm).

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