Ron Wakabayashi To Keynote 40th Manzanar Pilgrimage

PILGRIMAGE: Bus transportation from Los Angeles still available.

LOS ANGELES — Ron Wakabayashi, Regional Director, United States Department of Justice Community Relations Service, will be the keynote speaker at the 40th Manzanar Pilgrimage, sponsored by the Los Angeles-based Manzanar Committee, scheduled for noon PDT on Saturday, April 25, 2009 at the Manzanar National Historic Site, located on US Highway 395 in California’s Owens Valley, between the towns of Lone Pine and Independence, approximately 230 miles north of Los Angeles.

Wakabayashi, who was one of the pioneers who participated in the first organized Manzanar Pilgrimage in 1969, was born in Reno, Nevada during the war years and had half-brothers at Rohwer and Tule Lake while his mother was incarcerated at Topaz.

After his family returned to Los Angeles in 1947, Wakabayashi attended California State University, Los Angeles before becoming the National Youth Director for the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) in the late 1960’s. He was a founder and director of the Asian American Drug Abuse Program (AADAP), and then went on to become the JACL National Director during the redress campaign.

Wakabayashi later became the Executive Director of the Los Angeles City Human Relations Commission and the Director of the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations. He has served in his current position since 1999, providing conflict resolution services related to race, color or national origin.

The afternoon program begins with a performance by UCLA Kyodo Taiko, the first collegiate taiko group in North America, and will conclude with the traditional interfaith service and Ondo dancing.

“We are especially proud to be holding the 40th Pilgrimage,” said Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey, who will also speak at the event. “This year we will be recognizing those who found the courage to come to Manzanar in 1969 to pay homage, to protest, and who planted the seed for the creation of a national monument.”

In addition to the daytime program, the popular Manzanar At Dusk (MAD) program, co-sponsored by the Friends of Manzanar and Lone Pine High School, is scheduled for 5:00 PM at the Lone Pine High School gymnasium, located at 538 South Main Street (US Highway 395), in Lone Pine, nine miles south of the Manzanar National Historic Site, across the street from McDonald’s.

MAD participants will have the opportunity to interact with former internees in attendance to hear their personal stories and discuss the relevance of the concentration camp experience to present-day events and issues.

The Manzanar Committee has also announced that bus transportation to the Pilgrimage is still available from Los Angeles. For further information or to make a reservation, call (323) 662-5102 or send e-mail to 40thbuses -at- manzanarcommittee.org. The non-refundable fare is $40.00 per seat. Parking is available for an additional $6.00.

Pilgrimage participants are advised to bring their own lunch, drinks and snacks as there are no facilities to purchase food at the Manzanar National Historic Site (restaurants and fast food outlets are located in Lone Pine and Independence). Water will be provided at the Pilgrimage.

The Manzanar Pilgrimage and Manzanar At Dusk are funded in part by the Paul I. and Hisako Terasaki Community Outreach Program Fund.

The Manzanar Committee is dedicated to educating and raising public awareness about the incarceration and violation of civil rights of persons of Japanese ancestry during World War II and to the continuing struggle of all peoples when Constitutional rights are in danger. A non-profit organization that has sponsored the annual Manzanar Pilgrimage since 1969, along with other educational programs, the Manzanar Committee has also played a key role in the establishment and continued development of the Manzanar National Historic Site. For more information, call (323) 662-5102 or check their web site at http://www.manzanarcommittee.org and their blog at http://blog.manzanarcommittee.org. You can also post a comment here on our blog in the “Leave A Reply” box below.

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Photo: Ron Wakabayshi. Courtesy United States Department of Justice Community Relations Service, Western Region.


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