Connecting The Past With The Present To Be The Focus of 2017 Manzanar At Dusk

A small group discussion during the 2016 Manzanar At Dusk program.
(click above to view larger image)
Photo: Gann Matsuda/Manzanar Committee

LOS ANGELES — Sharing stories and experiences from the unjust incarceration of Japanese Americans in concentration camps during World War II and connecting this history to present-day issues will be the focus of the 2017 Manzanar At Dusk program, sponsored by the Manzanar Committee, scheduled from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM on Saturday, April 29, 2017, at the Lone Pine High School gymnasium, located at 538 South Main Street (U.S. Highway 395), in Lone Pine, California, across the street from McDonald’s (see map below).

The Manzanar At Dusk program follows the 48th Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage that same day, at the Manzanar National Historic Site, between the towns of Lone Pine and Independence, approximately 230 miles north of Los Angeles (see map below).

A performance by UCLA Kyodo Taiko will open the Pilgrimage at 11:30 AM PDT, while the main portion of the program starts at 12:00 PM.

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The Pain Of Unjust Incarceration Transcends Generations, Ethnicity

UCSD Nikkei Student Union member Rena Ogino (left) and
Susanne Norton La Faver, shown here during the open mic
portion of the 2015 Manzanar At Dusk program.
(click above to view larger image)
Photo: Gann Matsuda/Manzanar Committee

by Rena Ogino

The 46th Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage on April 25, 2015, was my third Pilgrimage and my first with the UCSD Nikkei Student Union as a second year student. As a shin-Nisei (second generation Japanese American, the children of recent Japanese immigrants), I initially felt like a black sheep amongst Japanese American youth that are mostly Yonsei and Gosei (fourth and fifth generation Japanese Americans, respectively). But at UCSD NSU, I was able to change my perspective on our community, learn to appreciate the differences, and identify with Japanese American youth from a different, unique, and necessary viewpoint.

None of my relatives were sent to the camps in which over 110,000 Japanese Americans and their immigrant parents were unjustly incarcerated during World War II. But I understand the fear of something similar happening again to American citizens who have goals and aspirations they have every right to fulfill. Returning to Manzanar and helping to organize the 2015 Manzanar At Dusk program reminded me of how our community is currently healing and learning from the Japanese American Incarceration. The monument, the terrible weather, and the beautifully daunting Sierra Nevada Mountains have not changed since I last went, but every time I return my experience is different due to my growing involvement with the Japanese American community.

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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.

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Hearing Stories About The Japanese American Incarceration Opens Doors To New Perspectives

Following shortly after the annual Manzanar Pilgrimage each year is the Manzanar At Dusk program, an interactive event in which participants can hear first-hand stories from those who were incarcerated in America’s concentration camps during World War II, and talk about the issues surrounding that experience and their relevance to what’s happening in our communities today. Julia Teranishi, who helped organize the 2014 Manzanar At Dusk program, spoke briefly at the 46th Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage on April 25, 2015, about the significance of these events and she invited everyone to join us at Manzanar At Dusk later that evening.

Former UCSD Nikkei Student Union President Julia Teranishi, shown here during her
remarks at the 46th Annual Manzanar
Pilgrimage, April 25, 2015,
Manzanar National Historic Site.
(click above to view larger image)
Photo: Gann Matsuda/Manzanar Committee

Before my first Manzanar Pilgrimage three years ago, the little I knew about internment camps, I learned in grade school. After that first trip, I shared the stories I heard at this ceremony, and at Manzanar At Dusk, with my family and unknowingly started a conversation about my own ancestors. Turns out, my Dad’s side was both interned and fought in the war.

On a personal level, these pilgrimages helped paint a picture of my family’s lives.

Even for students whose families haven’t been touched directly by internment, hearing these stories opens doors to new perspectives, and I think seeking to understand each other is a powerful tool.

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