College-Age Youth Leading The Way At 2012 Manzanar At Dusk Program

Small group discussions at the Manzanar At Dusk program are very diverse,
in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs, and sexual orientation.
Photo: Gann Matsuda

LOS ANGELES — College students will once again take the lead role during this year’s Manzanar At Dusk program, sponsored by the Los Angeles-based Manzanar Committee, scheduled from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM on Saturday, April 28, 2012, at the Lone Pine High School gymnasium, located at 538 South Main Street (US Highway 395), in Lone Pine, California, across the street from McDonald’s.

The Manzanar At Dusk (MAD) program follows the 43rd Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage, scheduled for 12:00 PM 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 the Cal Poly Pomona Nikkei Student Union, the UCLA Nikkei Student Union, the UCSD Nikkei Student Union, Lone Pine Unified School District, and Lone Pine High School.

Through a creative presentation, small group discussions, and an open mic session, MAD participants will have the opportunity to interact with former incarcerees in attendance to 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.

Student organizers began to take the program back to its 1997 roots last year, when they resumed their leadership role in organizing the event.

One of the student organizations that is co-sponsoring the program has a rather long history of involvement with the Pilgrimage and the MAD program.

“[The] UCLA Nikkei Student Union has been attending the Manzanar Pilgrimage annually since 1987,” said Kyle Ichikawa, a 19-year-old sophomore from Fremont, California, a member of the organizing committee. “It is important to our organization because we all agree that it is an important part of our history that everyone should be aware of. It is a powerful and moving experience to visit the same site where many of our grandparents were incarcerated.”

“The Pilgrimage continues to garner interest among our members of both Japanese and non-Japanese backgrounds,” said organizer Sydney Shiroyama, a 20-year-old junior, of Sunnyvale, California. “For many people, it is the first time they have visited an internment camp. Others had never heard about the Japanese American Internment prior to the Pilgrimage.”

“Whether they are experiencing the site for the first time, or they go every year, everyone always reflects fondly on the experience,” added Shiroyama. “When we return back to Los Angeles on Sunday morning, tired and dusty, we have a sense of unity, a greater respect for those incarcerated, and a drive to ensure that this moment in history will never be repeated.”

For each of the student organizations involved in the planning, a major reason for their involvement is to keep the stories of the aging, and quickly disappearing, former incarcerees alive, as most are in their 80’s, or older.

“With many of the internees passing away, it is important for us to somehow remember what they experienced,” Ichikawa explained. “With that in mind, it is important for the youth to carry on this task, and be the ones to share it with others.”

“In many communities, the youth’s role is portrayed as simply learning and somehow passively growing, while ultimately, it should be quite the opposite,” Ichikawa elaborated. “The younger generations should be the ones given the chance to not only grow through taking on a leadership role, but also to shape how these stories are told to future generations. After all, we are the ones who will bring leadership and change to the communities of tomorrow.”

“We couldn’t be more proud of the students who have taken on the leadership role for the Manzanar At Dusk program,” said Gann Matsuda of the Manzanar Committee. “They understand that keeping the stories of those who were incarcerated behind the barbed wire alive is so important, especially since so many are either no longer able to make the trip to Manzanar, or are no longer with us.”

“That they understand this, and are taking the initiative at MAD to keep those stories alive, is a strong indication that they are not leaders of the future, after they graduate,” added Matsuda. “Rather, they are leaders in our community right now, and we should be engaging them on a much wider basis.”

Both the daytime Pilgrimage program and the Manzanar At Dusk 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 43rdpilgrimage@manzanarcommittee.org. You can also follow the Manzanar Committee on Facebook and Twitter.


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.

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Lone Pine High School

 

Manzanar National Historic Site


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