Students Rise To The Challenge of Keeping Japanese American Incarceration Stories Alive – Photos

A group photo at the Manzanar cemetery monument. Front (from left): Brian Kohaya, Rose Masters.
Back (from left): Jason Fujii, Alisa Lynch, Erica Wei, Bruce Embrey, Moet Kurakata,
Gann Matsuda, Lauren Matsumoto, Maru Streets, Mark Hatchmann.
Photo: Gann Matsuda/Manzanar Committee

LOS ANGELES — More information about the Manzanar Committee’s project, Keeping Japanese American Incarceration Stories Alive, most notably, our first trip taking college students to the Manzanar National Historic Site for a weekend of intensive, place-based learning about the Japanese American Incarceration, March 10-11, 2018, is forthcoming in the weeks ahead.

Initially, we’ll share a bunch of photos with you, along with what we posted on Facebook:

The photograph above is very similar to so many photos taken at the Manzanar National Historic Site. Indeed, many people take a group photo at the Soul Consoling Tower, the cemetery monument. But this is no ordinary group.

There are five college students in this photo. Two from the Nikkei Student Union at UCLA, and three from the UCSD Nikkei Student Union. Four students are at the center of the middle row, and one is in front. These young people participated in an extremely intensive learning experience over two days, March 10-11, 2018, one in which they didn’t really know what they were in for prior to the weekend.

What they experienced was not just intense. In fact, it might’ve been a bit overwhelming—we threw a lot at them, by design. It turned out to be a transformative, inspiring, and maybe even a life-changing experience for the students, for the members of the Manzanar Committee who were part of this project, and for the National Park Service staff at Manzanar who were primarily responsible for putting together the educational tour of Manzanar for our students.

But as alluded to earlier, this was no ordinary tour. Ranger-led tours at Manzanar are nowhere near as detailed, or so chock-full of information.

Despite that, these students took it all in. Not only were they fully engaged, but they also asked wonderful, intelligent questions, their comments were timely and on point, and it was clear to us that they had really bought into everything we were throwing at them…there was a lot of material over the two days.

On March 11, during a discussion in which students read an oral history by Yoshiye Hayashi about her post-incarceration experience, most notably, being afraid to speak to her mother in Japanese in public after the war, the students began to talk freely about their own experiences with racism, being afraid to speak in languages other than English, and other injustices.

They had made the connections to their own lives and to what is going on in our nation today.

Tears flowed as they opened up about their own pain from enduring racism themselves, or seeing friends and family having to suffer the indignities that racism usually causes.

It was an extremely powerful, impactful discussion, and it was at that point that we knew that they had succeeded in learning the lessons we had presented to them, that we had succeeded in giving them an educational opportunity that would serve them now and in the future, and that they will use this new-found knowledge to help teach this history, and the lessons that must be learned from it, to others.

I also posted the following message directly to our students who participated:

The five of you were magnificent this past weekend. That you were fully engaged in an intense dialogue—you had to be participants, not just passive listeners—is a great credit to all of you. The Manzanar staff did a lot of work to put that tour together. Wendi [Yamashita], Jason [Fujii] and I took care of logistical needs and had some input into the tour content. But our roles were pretty minor compared to what each of you contributed, simply by being full participants in your own education. Without that, our efforts would’ve been for naught, so thank you to each of you, and good luck with final exams!

Indeed, the students who participated in this program, Brian Kohaya and Moet Kurakata from the Nikkei Student Union at UCLA, and Lauren Matsumoto, Maru Streets and Erica Wei from the UCSD Nikkei Student Union, were absolutely outstanding. Things began a bit slowly on Saturday morning because they didn’t really know what to expect. But it didn’t take long for them to dive in, head first. They were fully engaged and really were the biggest reason why this past weekend could not have gone any better. It was a tremendous success.

Of course, none of this would’ve been possible if not for the work of the staff at Manzanar National Historic Site: Superintendent Bernadette Johnson, Ranger (interpretive staff) Patricia Biggs, Cultural Resources Division Chief Jeff Burton, Latino Heritage Intern Rocio Gomez, Ranger (interpretive staff) Mark Hatchmann, Chief of Interpretation Alisa Lynch, Vice Chair of the now-defunct Manzanar Advisory Commission Bill Michael, and the person whose “dumb idea” grew and developed into this incredible project, Ranger (interpretive staff) Rose Masters. Thank you so much to all of you at Manzanar.

But now the bigger questions are in front of us: do we continue this project? In what form? Who should the participants be? And so on.

These students have indicated that they wish to keep the stories of Japanese American incarcerees alive, so we’ll see where they, and their peers, take us.

Keeping Japanese American Incarceration Stories Alive – A Two-Day Learning Experience at Manzanar National Historic Site

121 photos by Gann Matsuda; ©2018 Manzanar Committee. All rights reserved. Click on any photo to view a larger image, and to scroll/click through the gallery.


Creative Commons License The Manzanar Committee’s Official Blog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. You may copy, distribute and/or transmit any story or audio content published on this site under the terms of this license, but only if proper attribution is indicated. The full name of the author and a link back to the original article on this site are required. Photographs, graphic images, and other content not specified are subject to additional restrictions. Additional information is available at: Manzanar Committee Official Blog – Licensing and Copyright Information.

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One Response to Students Rise To The Challenge of Keeping Japanese American Incarceration Stories Alive – Photos

  1. Miyano Colleen says:

    I’m so glad all your hard work & preparation came to fruition with such great results! You’ve planted the seed…now watch it grow!

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