LOS ANGELES — On January 30, the Manzanar Committee, sponsors of the annual Manzanar Pilgrimage and Manzanar At Dusk program, announced that they have been selected as one of the recipients of the 2019-20 George and Sakaye Aratani Community Advancement Research Endowment (Aratani C.A.R.E.) grants from the UCLA Asian American Studies Center for its youth education project, Katari: Keeping Japanese American Stories Alive.
Katari is a project in which the Manzanar Committee partners with the National Park Service staff at Manzanar National Historic Site and the Nikkei Student Unions at California State University (CSU) Fullerton, California Polytechnic State University, Pomona, CSU Long Beach, the University of California (UC), Los Angeles, UC Riverside and UC San Diego.
Katari, which means, to tell stories in Japanese, seeks to bridge the generation gap that has made it much more difficult for young Japanese Americans to teach others about Japanese American Incarceration during World War II. Due to the shifting dynamics and demographics within the Japanese American community, including a growing recent immigrant population from Japan, and the younger generations, a large group of Japanese Americans are either two or three generations removed from the experiences of those who were forced to endure America’s concentration camps, or they have no connection to this history at all. As such, an increasing and alarming number of young people lack the knowledge and experience to be able to keep the stories of Japanese American incarcerees alive.
To address this need, Katari students spend two full days at the Manzanar National Historic Site, participating in an intensive, place-based learning experience about World War II Japanese American Incarceration and more—it is a learning experience that cannot be replicated in a classroom, a book, or a video. Students get to hear first-hand stories from former Japanese American incarcerees and from elders of the local indigenous groups who share the long history of the Owens Valley Paiute and Shoshone at Manzanar. Students are prompted to think about the connections between Japanese American World War II incarceration and other forms of incarceration in the United States, and that forced relocation/forced removal has been the rule, rather than the exception, throughout American history, for minorities and people of color.
Wendi Yamashita, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity, Ithaca College, and a member of the Manzanar Committee, said that the grant will allow a greater number of students to participate in Katari.
“We are beyond grateful to the UCLA Asian American Studies Center and the Aratani C.A.R.E for their generous support,” she said. “With this grant, we have the ability to increase the number of students who can benefit from the project, and we’ll be able to continue our work of empowering Japanese American college students to teach and share their community’s World War II Incarceration history with others.”
Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey noted that the UCLA Asian American Studies Center and the Manzanar Committee share some common bonds.
“We are honored and, honestly, more than pleased to receive the Aratani C.A.R.E grant,” he said. “The UCLA Asian American Studies Center has a long, rich history of supporting and nurturing a wide range of community-based initiatives. The role they’ve played in our communities since their inception in 1969 has been indispensable in every way.”
“We haven’t forgotten that many from the UCLA Asian American Studies Center, including our co-founder, Sue Kunitomi Embrey, helped put the first organized Manzanar Pilgrimage together in 1969,” he added. “It was no coincidence that it happened at the same time as the birth of the Center, and of ethnic studies.”
“We are grateful, humbled and indebted to the UCLA Asian American Studies Center and the Aratani C.A.R.E. for their generosity and support. This substantial grant will enable us to continue and expand our work to keep our community’s history and stories front and center. We see, with every Katari trip, with every Pilgrimage, how important on-site learning is to truly understanding what happened to our families during their forced removal and unjust incarceration during World War II.”
The Manzanar Committee is dedicated to educating and raising public awareness about the incarceration and violation of civil rights of persons of Japanese ancestry during World War II and to the continuing struggle of all peoples when Constitutional rights are in danger. A non-profit organization that has sponsored the annual Manzanar Pilgrimage since 1969, along with other educational programs, the Manzanar Committee has also played a key role in the establishment and continued development of the Manzanar National Historic Site. For more information, check out our web site at https://manzanarcommittee.org, call us at (323) 662-5102, and e-mail us at email@example.com. You can also follow the Manzanar Commitee on Facebook, on Twitter at @manzanarcomm, on Instagram at @manzanarcommittee, on Pinterest and on YouTube.
LEAD PHOTO: From left: Nikkei Student Union at UCLA members Jason Muljadi, Timothy Suen and Kimi Kodama, shown here while Kodama reads an oral history excerpt aloud at the site of Manzanar’s Children’s Village, the only orphanage in the ten World War II American concentration camps, during the 2019 Katari weekend, November 2, 2019, at the Manzanar National Historic Site. Photo: Gann Matsuda/Manzanar Committee.
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