Editor’s Note: The 2020-21 Katari program, which is usually held in early November at the Manzanar National Historic Site, had to be moved to an online format due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the loss of the extremely important placed-based learning component of the program, by all accounts, it seems that we were able to deliver an effective and meaningful educational program for our students, who will be sharing their thoughts about their Katari experience over the next few weeks.
As someone who is shin-Nisei, whose family does not share the World War II incarceration experience with the Japanese American community, I am so grateful and inspired by the stories that the survivors of the camps and Indigenous people shared. I learned that stories are important, not only because they are told, but because they have the power to drive people to action. I see storytelling as an action, a reclaiming and asserting of your place in history, a story that, if not shared, might not otherwise be told or known.
Personally, one of the most significant things about Katari was learning the power of storytelling and how much knowledge our communities hold. Especially with everything going on, something that I have been thinking about is how there is systemic erasure of people’s stories and experiences. The way that the Manzanar Committee continues to challenge and put the history of Manzanar in the current political context, allows for the many layers of the history of Manzanar to be unearthed. The unearthing and telling of the Japanese American incarceration history at Manzanar led to the elders and other leaders in the Japanese American community to pass the spotlight to indigenous people to tell their history and share the importance of the land with our community. It also led to intersections between the Civil Rights Movement and the Asian American Movement that must be remembered. Lastly, we must recognize the parallels and connect with the current experiences of Latinx and Muslim communities as they struggle, as the Japanese American community did, with family separation and racial discrimination.
One piece of an oral history that we were fortunate to hear, and one that really stood out to me, was Jim Matsuoka’s statement, “I would rather we learn how to fight, so that we can come to the aid of other people.” Katari has built on the foundation of my experiences to emphasize the importance of the “fight” and gave me the tools to continue to uplift different stories and fight for marginalized groups.
A 21-year-old native of Los Gatos, California, Yuki Torrey is a senior at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she is majoring in Asian American Studies. She is a member of the Nikkei Student Union at UCLA, serving as Co-Chair, Cultural Awareness Community Service Committee. She also serves on the 2021 Manzanar At Dusk Organizing Committee.
LEAD PHOTO: Yuki Torrey. Photo courtesy Yuki Torrey.
The views expressed in this story are those of the author, and are not necessarily those of the Manzanar Committee.
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