Manzanar: One Weekend, One Incredible Experience

UCSD Nikkei Student Union member Erica Wei (center) is shown here at the location of residential Block 9.
Photo: Gann Matsuda/Manzanar Committee
(click above to view larger image)

by Erica Wei

Leading up to the weekend of the Keeping Japanese American Incarceration Stories Alive trip to the Manzanar National Historic Site, I was actually very reluctant about going. I thought about dropping from participating several times. This was two weeks before final exams and it was one of the last weekends I could use to study for my exams. I was faced with two decisions: Prioritize academics or follow through with my commitment to the Manzanar Committee. Luckily, I chose the latter.

Coming into this project with no expectations, no prior experience of what was going to happen, I was very curious as to what exactly was planned for myself and four other students. We didn’t even know the name of the project. All we were told was that we would be gone mid-Friday to late Sunday. I thought that we were just touring the Manzanar site and doing logistical planning for the upcoming Pilgrimage—while I was partially right, I missed a huge part of the reason we were there.

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Two Reflections on Visiting The Manzanar National Historic Site

During a session in which students read excerpts from oral histories of those who were unjustly
incarcerated at Manzanar during World War II, they began to connect Japanese American Incarceration
to their own experiences with racism, inequality and injustice. The result was a very powerful and emotional discussion. That’s Moet Kurakata and Lauren Matsumoto in front (left and right, respectively)
Photo: Gann Matsuda/Manzanar Committee
(click above to view larger image)

Editor’s Note: Moet Kurakata and Lauren Matsumoto were participants in the Manzanar Committee’s pilot project, Keeping Japanese American Incarceration Stories Alive, which took a group of college students to the Manzanar National Historic Site for a two-day, intensive, placed-based learning experience about the unjust incarceration of Japanese and Japanese Americans in concentration camps during World War II. For more on this project, we urge you to read about it here.

Kurakata, 23 is a senior at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she is the Community Activities and Cultural Awareness Committee Chair of the Nikkei Student Union at UCLA. Matsumoto, 21, is in her third year at the University of California, San Diego, where she is the past Cultural Awareness Chair of the UCSD Nikkei Student Union.

Both shared the following reflections on what they experienced at Manzanar during those two days.

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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:

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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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