by James To
From my perspective, the 41st Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage on April 24, 2010, had a different impact on the mood of the people this year. I am not sure if it was the weather or the people, it certainly had a different feel for the day. I am grateful that draft resisters Takashi Hoshizaki and Bill Nishimura were our speakers at the Manzanar At Dusk 2010 program and that Tak was our speaker earlier in the day at the Pilgrimage.
As we prepared for the day’s event, there was the concern on how many people would come and did we have enough water. I guess a better question would be did we provide a good atmosphere for people to share their experience or for students to ask, “why I am here” or an even better question, “why did they send 10,000 people to the middle of the desert?”
This year’s theme of “Unfinished Business” reminds of us the constant struggle in which our freedoms have been challenged and the stories of sacrifices of our elders need to be told, because many have forgotten, or have not been taught due to neglect of our educational system. It becomes the responsibility of the community to help tell and share the stories of the past. Tak’s and Bill’s experience as draft resisters was one that we do not hear in our history or ethnic studies classes often and the evening’s presentation provided the right catalyst for discussion of the struggle that both had, not only the question of being incarcerated at Heart Mountain, Manzanar and later in Tule Lake, but also the question of how loyalty and citizenship to serve became a contradiction of attitude between the community, government and the former prisoners.
Our discussions at the Manzanar at Dusk program allows us to discuss the issues of the incarceration of Japanese Americans decent during the 1940’s and the observation of race prejudice, hysteria, and a failure of political leadership that are present in attitudes today.
James To, a member of the Manzanar Committee, is the co-coordinator of the Manzanar At Dusk program.
Views expressed in this story are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the Manzanar Committee.
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