My First Manzanar Pilgrimage

Kelsey Nakamura, President of the UCSD Nikkei Student Union, participated in her first Manzanar Pilgrimage and Manzanar At Dusk program on April 25, 2015. She shared her perspectives with us here.


Kelsey Nakamura, shown here during the open mic portion of the 2015 Manzanar At Dusk program, April 25, 2015, at Lone Pine
High School in Lone Pine, California.
(click above to view larger image)
Photo: Gann Matsuda/Manzanar Committee

This was my first year attending the Manzanar Pilgrimage, and I didn’t know what to expect.

I was swamped with school work, midterms, and events within our own organization, the UCSD Nikkei Student Union, not to mention work at my lab, and planning the Manzanar At Dusk opening. So, to say the least, I was pretty stressed with several things on my mind, and was hoping the weekend would be a smooth one.

Upon arriving at Manzanar, my friends who have been there before told me that we would be walking from the parking lot to the Pilgrimage. They warned me that it was about a 15-20 minute walk. I was quite thirsty by the time I arrived at the site, and my hair was a mess from the wind.

I realized that this is what the incarcerees had to live with every day.

The wind made it difficult for me to hear the speakers, but it was still very touching to see all these people come and share their thoughts and experiences with everyone. It was more touching to see the people who came from all over to unite at this annual event.

I remember hearing the roll call of the camps, and seeing all the banners awed me. The interfaith service made me feel contemplative and thankful for my family, and the dancing at the end of the Pilgrimage made me happy—a lot of our members participated in it.

Later at night, at Manzanar at Dusk, I did something I didn’t think I would do.

I cried.

I was sitting with my group, and we were asked a question. I don’t remember what it was, but I just remember speaking, and getting very emotional and crying. I specifically thought of my grandfather, whom I believe is one of the strongest individuals I know, and it made me really emotional to know that he lived through this time. It made me appreciative of my family, my peers, and the opportunities I am given today.

I shared my thoughts during the open mic portion of the program, and it was a very special experience. I still cannot completely encapsulate in words what I felt that day at the Pilgrimage and at Manzanar At Dusk, and I think it’s a different experience for everyone. But I can say that I’ve found a new appreciation for my family and culture, and my peers who have helped define the person that I am today.

A native of South Pasadena, California, Kelsey Nakamura is finishing her third year at the University of California, San Diego, where she is studying Human Biology. She currently serves as President of the UCSD Nikkei Student Union, and she served on the organizing committee for the 2015 Manzanar At Dusk program.

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

News, Speeches, Reflections and Photos From The 46th Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage/2015 Manzanar At Dusk


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