Manzanar Committee’s Bruce Embrey At 46th Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage: “Remembering Is Not Passive. We Must Act On Our Memories”

The following are Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey’s closing remarks at the 46th Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage, held on April 25, 2015, at the Manzanar National Historic Site.

Today, we stand here, at this National Historic Site, on the very land that was once an American concentration camp. We stand here today having had Presidents apologize for this grave injustice. We’ve had Presidents name Fred Korematsu and Gordon Hirabayashi American heroes.

Ours is a powerful story, one we should be proud of telling. It is a story of a resilient people, who, facing one of the greatest failures of American democracy, chose to not only survive, but also to demand justice.

Ours is a powerful story, one of loss of freedom, of racism, and of being marched off to live behind barbed wire, and when forced to leave and resettle with little or no real support, the Japanese American community had mixed emotions. No doubt people were angry. How could you not be angry? Losing homes, businesses, schooling—being accused with absolutely no proof of being the enemy, of plotting to harm your own country, denied your birthright of citizenship, all because of your ancestry. Who wouldn’t be?

It is easy now, some 70 years later, to see why our community wished to forget and get on with their lives. But because of the Civil Rights Movement, and because of people of valor like Rev. Paul Nakamura, Paul Tsuneishi and so many others, our community could not forget. We remembered and chose to act.

We must remember what got us to this point today: First, we remember the strength, resilience and abilities of our families, our people, to endure. We must also remember the righteous anger flowing from this injustice that grew into a demand for redress, a demand that this wrong be righted that grew out of, and became part of the broader civil rights movement sweeping across our country. Rev. Paul is a beautiful example of this unity—from Montgomery to Manzanar—civil rights movement.

Before my mother, Warren Furutani, or the student activists gathered here 46 years ago, not much remained of Manzanar. Broken dishes, half-buried foundations, and the old auditorium that the county was using to store heavy equipment was about it. But after 1969, people chose to remember, chose to return here year after year, telling their stories, just as we are doing here today. The memories, the stories led my mother and others to act to make this this lone cemetery monument and sagebrush strewn land—a long forgotten place—a world class National Historic Site.

You see, remembering is not passive. We must act on our memories. We must stand, today, with all those who face civil rights abuses, stand with those who are unjustly accused or persecuted simply because of their faith, their birthplace or ancestry. We must stand up for others if we are to truly honor the sacrifices of our families of our obasans, ojisans, and all the sacrifices they made so that we may pursue our dreams. We must act if we are to be true to our community and true to our Country.

So, we remember, not to cast blame, or reignite old feelings of bitterness or anger. We remember and work to preserve our story so that our people, our country can learn from our past and not be condemned to repeat it. This is why we remember.

It is our duty as Americans, our duty as Americans who experienced first hand how precious civil and constitutional rights truly are.

Join us in remembering. Join us in preserving our history, our traditions, and join us in preserving this amazing National Historic Site, and all other Japanese American confinement sites—sites dedicated to our quest for justice.

LEAD PHOTO: Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey, shown here delivering the closing remarks at the conclusion of the 46th Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage, April 25, 2015, Manzanar National Historic Site. Photo: Gann Matsuda/Manzanar Committee/

Bruce Embrey’s Speech at the 46th Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage

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

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