No Time To Rest On Our Laurels

The following is a reflection on the 40th Manzanar Pilgrimage and Manzanar At Dusk 2009 by James To, co-coordinator of the Manzanar At Dusk program.

It’s midnight, one week after the 40th Manzanar Pilgrimage and Manzanar At Dusk 2009 (MAD), and I finally have a little time to think about the events.

After such an arduous weekend in the Owens Valley, I probably should be resting but I find myself reflecting on the successes of last week in seeing the growth and the quality of the programs and I feel good that we have continued Sue Kunitomi Embrey’s legacy and set the foundation to continue her work.

After looking at some old photographs and reading poems and stories that were written, there is more work to be done. The stories of those who began the Pilgrimage forty years ago and those stories of former internees some 67 years ago have yet to be told. A mantle of responsibility has been handed down to the next generation to help tell the stories of “No More Manzanars.”

MAD has reached out to touch those who have not been touched by the Manzanar experience and has provided a forum in which feelings and observations can be shared. We still have many more stories that still have to be told.

Now it has been three weeks since Pilgrimage weekend. I attended UCLA’s 40th Anniversary Celebration of the Asian American Studies Center and the retirement of one of my advisors, Professor Don Nakanishi, the Director of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center. As I am linking these thoughts together I realize that I would not be here if it was not for Don’s advice and guidance regarding the importance of academic research and community work.

As I look forward to the work that needs to be done, I look back at the people who have influenced my work and forward to the next generation. That is the mantle of responsibility of those us involved in Ethnic Studies—in the preservation of culture, past, present and future and the guarantee to protect the rights of others. I hope the Manzanar Committee can work towards the preservation of our histories, the education/advocacy for our youth and the continual outreach to our communities.

I hope not to rest on the laurels of our success but to continue the work and legacy that has been left to us.

The views expressed in this story are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Manzanar Committee.

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