Manzanar Committee Forges Ahead On The World Wide Web
April 12, 2009
LOS ANGELES — Eight years ago, the Manzanar Committee took the plunge and launched its web site, http://www.manzanarcommittee.org, reaching out to the community in a brand new way with the hope of expanding its outreach and educational efforts to a wider audience.
“I think it started around 2001 or 2002, or maybe earlier, probably shortly after setting up the Committee’s first e-mail address,” said Manzanar Committee member Jenni Kuida, who spearheaded the effort. “It was pretty much my baby. I didn’t know anything about HTML [programming language used to design web sites].”
“I just came up with the domain name [manzanarcommittee.org] and started putting up stuff,” added Kuida. ”I knew how to upload photos and text and figured it would be a good opportunity to reach out to young people.”
Back then, web sites were far less sophisticated.
“In those days, web sites were pretty primitive and were often very static, but I tried to keep it updated every month or so,” Kuida explained. “I remember asking all my friends if they could send me their photos from the Pilgrimage or asking permission to publish their poems.”
“Later, if I heard a speech I particularly liked, I would ask them to e-mail it to me [for publication on the site],” Kuida elaborated. “I remember checking the site statistics and the numbers would zoom up in the days before each Pilgrimage.”
But a lot can change over the course of a few years and in Kuida’s case, the definition of “my baby” took on a whole new meaning with the birth of her daughter, Maiya, in 2005. That meant new priorities and something had to give—she had to give up managing the web site.
“I remember being nine months pregnant and turning over Zip Disks and CD’s of HTML files and photos to Juliet Wong, who was on the Committee at that time,” said Kuida. “She turned the web site over to Miles Hamada for a year or so but then the site wasn’t updated for a long time after that.”
Indeed, the web site had become stagnant, despite minor updates to the home page to keep the site up-to-date with current news. But in April 2008, the Committee launched its official blog, an attempt to move themselves into the 21st century in terms of their outreach and educational efforts on the Internet.
The Committee’s official blog, http://blog.manzanarcommittee.org, features the latest news from the Manzanar Committee, as well as news from the Manzanar National Historic Site. It also features news and information regarding the other camps where Japanese Americans were unjustly imprisoned during World War II.
The blog is also a medium for anyone to share their thoughts about Manzanar, past, present and future. Readers are encouraged to share for publication articles, commentary pieces, short stories, poetry, audio or video about Manzanar, the Manzanar Pilgrimage, the Japanese American concentration camp experience, the Redress and Reparations movement, or anything closely related, including the issues raised by the camp experience and their relevance to what is happening today.
As part of this still-new outreach and educational effort, the Manzanar Committee has established a YouTube channel where videos of most of the Pilgrimages since 1995 are available and most recently, a presence on Facebook, the wildly popular social networking web site.
The official blog, YouTube channel and Facebook pages have been established as a means to extend the outreach and educational efforts to the younger generations, who all seem to use these “Web 2.0” resources many times each day to network and stay connected to each other.
“The blog, YouTube, Facebook—they are the tools that folks are using to communicate today,” Kuida stressed. ”’Save the date! Can you make it?’ Short and sweet.”
Kuida added that these new web-based efforts have great potential that remains largely untapped.
“I think there is value to having web sites with more archival or historical information, the flyers and themes, personal stories, poetry, the photos, and more importantly, those first-person internee stories, combined with how young people are learning about the history and making connections to today’s continued issues of racism and the parallels that Muslim and Arab American communities face still today,” Kuida emphasized.
“Maybe one day in the not-too-distant future, Maiya will hop on the computer and tell me that she did a Google search for something and found a poem about Manzanar that I wrote back in 1996 or something, and she will tell me how ancient I am.”
Indeed, Kuida’s comment about being “ancient” notwithstanding, that would certainly be a sign that the Manzanar Committee’s outreach and educational efforts are working.
Photo: Jenni Kuida and daughter, Maiya, at the 38th Manzanar Pilgrimage, April 28, 2007. Photo courtesy James To.
Gann Matsuda is a member of the Manzanar Committee.
Links to the Manzanar Committee’s Facebook pages and our YouTube channel can be found on the right side of this page. If you are interested in submitting something for publication on our blog, click on the About the Manzanar Committee/Contact Us link at the top of this page.
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