On Saturday, Oct. 15, Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress (NCRR) is offering a two-hour workshop for high school teachers on the history of the Japanese American incarceration as seen through the eyes of a Mexican American high school student.
This workshop will include a screening of the 30-minute educational DVD “Stand Up for Justice,” based on the true story of Ralph Lazo, a 17-year-old student at Belmont High School who made the unusual and courageous decision to join his Japanese Americans friends at the Manzanar concentration camp during World War II because he believed the incarceration was wrong. For this, his friends remember him as the “cheerleader” who kept up their spirits, and the Japanese American community continues to honor him today.
In 2004, Visual Communicationa (VC) and NCRR co-produced “Stand Up for Justice” and developed a curriculum guide as a tool to teach civil liberties and the impact of the Japanese American incarceration to high school students.
Since 2004, the film has been screened at numerous film festivals and NCRR’s Education Committee has conducted workshops for hundreds of California high school teachers with the hope that the film and guide would bring out lessons about inter-ethnic support and the power of individual actions, especially after the targeting of the Arab, Muslim and South Asian American communities since 9/11. NCRR also hopes that students will learn about how a small community could wage a grassroots campaign to redress a wrong and win.
In May 2007, then Los Angeles Unified School District board member David Tokofsky brought the “Stand Up for Justice” project to the attention of the Board of Education, which wholeheartedly endorsed the DVD and curriculum guide and asked the staff to incorporate its use in the schools. In addition, the teachers were recognized by the board for their work and Lazo’s family shared some thoughts about him.
Made up mainly of teachers, the Education Committee has continued to present the materials at conferences and workshops throughout California and at schools in LAUSD. Through a Civil Liberties Public Education Program grant, the committee is able to distribute the DVD (educational version) and the curriculum guide for free. Last year, the DVD with extras, including English, Spanish and Japanese subtitles, was released commercially and is now available for sale on the VC web site, www.vconline.org.
Interactive lessons will be shared along with other resource materials in the curriculum guide and will be distributed to teachers at the workshop, which will be held in Little Tokyo at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, 244 S. San Pedro St., from 10 a.m. to noon. The workshop is free but space is limited to 25 teachers. RSVP to [email protected] or call (213) 284-0336.