On Aug. 20, the Manzanar Committee launched a new project aimed at educating college-age youth about the unjust incarceration of over 110,000 Japanese Americans during World War II, and providing them with tools to help them teach that critical history to others.
“Keeping Japanese American Incarceration Stories Alive” is a project of the Manzanar Committee, in partnership with the National Park Service and the Nikkei Student Unions at CSU Long Beach, California Polytechnic University, Pomona, UCLA, and UC San Diego.
In mid-October, students from the four campuses will travel to the Manzanar National Historic Site, located approximately 230 miles northeast of Los Angeles in California’s Owens Valley, where they will engage with National Park Service staff and members of the Manzanar Committee for two days of intensive, place-based, experiential learning at the site of the first of the American concentration camps where Japanese Americans were locked up behind barbed wire during World War II, one of the darkest chapters and one of the most heinous violations of constitutional rights in American History.
Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey took note of the important role young people have traditionally played, both in the Manzanar Pilgrimage and the fight for redress, and how that continues to this day.
“Students and young people have always played a central role in the struggle to understand and to educate people about Executive Order 9066 and the forced removal,” said Embrey. “In 1969, the first community-based pilgrimage was led by young third- and fourth-generation Japanese Americans, and throughout the decades-long struggle to win redress, students lent their skills and resources to the work initiated by those who had endured camp.
“Today, students and young people continue to play a vital role in both remembering and deepening our understanding of what happened to our community and families 75 years ago. Manzanar At Dusk has become an integral and important part of our annual pilgrimage. Young people are continuing the work of their parents, grandparents, and family members in telling their unique stories of life behind barbed wire. But it has become apparent that we need to do much more to educate our younger generations in order to ensure that they can continue to teach others about this history so that what happened to our community never happens again, to anyone.”
Wendi Yamashita, co-coordinator of the Manzanar At Dusk program, noted the significance of youth taking on the responsibility of preserving this history and teaching others about it.
“This new project is an example of the Manzanar Committee’s continued commitment to engage young people in the preservation of community history, identities, and memories,” she said. “Teaching and having conversations about what happened to Japanese Americans during World War II is important to understanding, not only how the current political climate came to be, but also how we can resist and support one another. Stories and storytelling are a form of resistance.”
The Manzanar Committee has launched a $3,300 fundraising campaign to help defray the costs of food, lodging and transportation for the students participating in the project, along with some supplies. Donations can be made at www.generosity.com and may be tax-deductible (consult your tax advisor).
For more information, go to https://blog.manzanarcommittee.org/empowering-youth, email [email protected], or call (323) 662-5102.