Coming Together to Stand Up – Reflections on the 48th Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage/2017 Manzanar At Dusk

Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey addresses the crowd
during the 48th Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage on April 29, 2017
at the Manzanar National Historic Site
(click above to view larger image)
Photo: Gann Matsuda/Manzanar Committee

by Bruce Embrey

In the days and weeks leading up to Saturday, April 29, the day of the 48th Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage, the phone calls and e-mails poured in. There was no doubt that 2017 was the 75th year since our families, our community, were forced from their homes into horse stalls and barracks sparked interest in this year’s Pilgrimage.

People in their 80’s and 90’s, who had never been on a Pilgrimage before, called and told me their personal stories. Others were matter-of-fact: “Just the details on how to get to Manzanar,” some said. “Have to go before I cannot,” they’d say. Each and every conversation was meaningful.

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Manzanar NHS At 25 Years Old: More Relevant Now Than Ever Before

The following is an expanded version of a story that will appear in the printed program for the 48th Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage, April 29, 2017.


The east side of the Visitor Center at Manzanar National Historic Site.
(click above to view larger image)
Photo: Gann Matsuda/Manzanar Committee

LOS ANGELES — A little over 25 years ago, after decades of hard work, Japanese American community activists, along with allies in California’s Owens Valley, celebrated a victory when the site of the Manzanar concentration camp, located along U.S. Highway 395 between the towns of Lone Pine and Independence, was designated as a National Historic Site on March 3, 1992, by an act of Congress.

It took twelve more years for the Manzanar National Historic Site to become a fully operational unit of the National Park Service, with its Visitor Center opening in April 2004. Since then, several physical elements of the World War II concentration camp have been reconstructed, additional exhibits continue to be developed, gardens are being excavated and rehabilitated, archaeological digs are uncovering more and more artifacts, and oral histories are being collected.

“It’s amazing,” said Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey. “It took 23 years to be designated as a National Historic Site. Then, it took twelve more years to build the Visitor Center and have a grand opening in 2004. It’s an amazing accomplishment.”

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AUDIO: Manzanar, Manzanar Pilgrimage The Focus of 99% Invisible Podcast

The cemetery monument at Manzanar.
Photo: Gann Matsuda/Manzanar Committee

On March 28, 2017, the Manzanar Pilgrimage and its origins, along with the Manzanar National Historic Site, was the focus of 99% Invisible, a podcast that. “…is about all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about—the unnoticed architecture and design [and history] that shape our world. With 150 million downloads, 99% Invisible is one of the most popular podcasts on iTunes.”

You can find out more about 99% Invisible here.

Their podcast on Manzanar features interviews with Manzanar Pilgrimage and Manzanar Committee co-founder Warren Furutani, Alisa Lynch of the Manzanar National Historic Site and Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey. You’ll also hear excerpts from Manzanar Pilgrimage and Manzanar Committee co-founder Sue Kunitomi Embrey’s oral history with Densho.org.

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More Than A Blog Post is Needed From Los Angeles Times Regarding Publication of Unbalanced, Inaccurate Letters About Japanese American Incarceration

Photo: Mary Urashima
(click above to view larger image)

LOS ANGELES — In their Sunday, December 11, 2016 edition, the Los Angeles Times published two reader letters in their Travel section that criticized Caroline A. Miranda’s November 28, 2016 story, “Our National Parks Can Also Be Reminders Of America’s History Of Race And Civil Rights.”

The letters essentially claimed that the incarceration of Japanese Americans and their immigrant parents in American concentration camps during World War II was justified and that those incarcerated posed a threat to national security. One letter even equated Japanese Americans with Japanese nationals, asserting that there was no difference between American citizens of Japanese ancestry and the Japanese military.

Decades of scholarly research, not to mention a federal commission, have determined that none of that was even close to the truth, yet the L.A. Times chose to publish the two letters, supposedly in the spirit of providing “balance.”

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