As We Stand Here on Land That Was Once Behind Barbed Wire, There Are Other Communities Behind Wire Fences

The following is the text of one of the speeches delivered during the 50th Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage on April 27, 2019.


Hello everyone and good afternoon. My name is Lauren Matsumoto. I am the co-President of UC San Diego Nikkei Student Union and one of the student organizers for this year’s Manzanar At Dusk.

We all take part in the Manzanar Pilgrimage for various reasons. Some of us are here to learn about the truth in history we are seldom taught in class. Some of us are here to reconnect and remember family history—family history that could have been readily discussed or for others, a past that was seldom spoken about or never mentioned, and some of us are revisiting a past, a part of your life that was behind barbed wire.

I would fall into the category of remembering and reconnecting with my family history and I have my Dad, Barney Matsumoto, to thank for being the first to share this knowledge with me, of the incarceration of my grandfather, Bob Matsumoto, in Tule Lake, and my grandmother, Jane Adachi, in Gila River. In addition, he was the one to take me on my first Manzanar Pilgrimage.

I was born and raised in San Diego, so coming to Manzanar is somewhat of a travel but we felt the importance of Manzanar was worth the journey. The time my Dad and I spent traveling to Manzanar allowed us to reflect on how much that part of family history has affected our family and shaped who we have become. The reflection that occurred during that journey is something I greatly appreciate and it is one of the reasons I trek back with UC San Diego Nikkei Student Union to remember and to take part in the discussions that occur.

In 1942, the Japanese American community didn’t have strong allies who would stand up with us to speak against what was happening, and since then, we have seen history repeating itself many times. As we stand here on land that was once behind barbed wire, there are other communities behind wired fences. Some of them are the immigrants currently placed in detention camps that are replicas of these concentration camps we said would never happen again.

When we come to Manzanar, there is always some kind of discussion occurring. Whether silently with the land, or verbally, in the conversations that occur with the people that we’ve come with, or the new friends we’ve made along the way. I think a prominent thought we all have is, how could this happen?

I could list all of the reasons I’ve learned over the years. But I think the one that is important to highlight today, and something we need to change for the present, is that in 1942, the Japanese American community didn’t have strong allies who would stand up with us to speak against what was happening, and since then, we have seen history repeating itself many times. As we stand here on land that was once behind barbed wire, there are other communities behind wired fences. Some of them are the immigrants currently placed in detention camps that are replicas of these concentration camps we said would never happen again.

So let’s have discussions, but also, let’s take action, and there many ways this can happen. Be an active participant in your community. Be a registered voter and go to the polls during elections. Support projects like Katari, a trip organized by the Manzanar Committee and the Manzanar National Historic Site, that focuses on educating the next generation of student leaders on this history.

If you are interested in continuing these kinds of discussions, please join us tonight for Manzanar At Dusk, organized by Nikkei Student Unions of UC San Diego, UC Los Angeles, Cal Poly Pomona, Cal State Long Beach, and Cal State Fullerton along with the Manzanar Committee. We invite everyone to Manzanar At Dusk, which will be held at 5:00 PM at Lone Pine High School. Those who join us will be given the space to reflect on their time at Manzanar, and at the Pilgrimage, and to tell their own stories. Everyone, from all ages and backgrounds, are welcomed, and we especially encourage former Nikkei incarcerees and their families to come join us to continue the discussion and the passing of stories. We hope to see everyone at 5:00 at Lone Pine High School. Thank you.

LEAD PHOTO: UCSD Nikkei Student Union co-President Lauren Matsumoto addressed the crowd during the 50th Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage, April 27, 2019, at the Manzanar National Historic Site. Photo: Gann Matsuda/Manzanar Committee.

Lauren Matsumoto, 22, is in her fourth year at the University of California, San Diego, where she will graduate this summer with a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Business with minors in accounting and Japanese Studies. As she mentioned, Matsumoto is co-President of the UCSD Nikkei Student Union and this year, she also served as one of the student organizers of the Manzanar At Dusk program for her third straight year.

The views expressed in this story are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the Manzanar Committee.


Creative Commons License The Manzanar Committee’s Official web site 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 web site – Licensing and Copyright Information.

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