Over the January 15, 2022 weekend, the students who will be organizing the Manzanar At Dusk program participated in our Katari Program.
Katari, which means “to tell stories” in Japanese, is two days of intensive, experiential, place-based learning about the unjust incarceration of over 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans during World War II, held at the Manzanar National Historic Site.
Katari seeks to bridge the generation gap that has made it much more difficult for young Japanese Americans to teach others about this history. 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.
With the rise in COVID-19 cases, this year Katari remained virtual. We had twelve students from UCLA, UC San Diego, Cal Poly Pomona, CSU Long Beach, CSU Fullerton, and UC Riverside Nikkei Student Unions all join in through Zoom. Over the two, eight-hour sessions, students were able to engage with Japanese American history and contemporary events through oral history interviews and a range of speakers. The speakers ranged from former incarcerees, members of the Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Reservation and the Big Pine Paiute Tribe, rangers from the Manzanar National Historic Site, and Manzanar Committee members.
On Saturday, students learned about Paiute and Shoshone experiences from environmental activists Kathy Bancroft and Alan Bacockwho shared a history of water and its theft in order to illuminate the parallels between Native Americans and Japanese Americans. Students also got to learn about the Manzanar Revolt through a history of Harry Ueno’s care for community, from his small to big acts of resistance: ranging from building a garden for those waiting in line for mess hall food, to concern over the theft of food, to standing up to those who supported an undemocratic and racist administration. Additionally, students got to learn how the Manzanar Revolt influenced the “Loyalty Questionnaire” and segregation.
On Sunday, students learned about Children’s Village, life after incarceration, and about activism (from student involvement in Redress to Sue Kunitomi Embrey’s life-long work). This year, former Katari student, Seia Watanabe (CSULB) participated in the planning of the session on “Solidarity and Allyship” where she discussed her own lobbying work and the importance of supporting African American Reparations (H.R. 40) and Education Acts as a Japanese American. She shared concrete ways for the students to get involved with the community.
While we believe that place- based learning is essential to the Katari Project, we continue to be able to adapt our project for the virtual world that we live in currently. Every year, we are blown away by the knowledge and the interest that the students show throughout the weekend, and we can tell that they were able to take away valuable information that they will now be able to share with their student organizations at their respective schools. We will be sharing the students’ reflections later this month. We encourage everyone to read them.
If you would like to read more about the Katari Project, please visit our web site at https://manzanarcommittee.org/katari.
LEAD PHOTO: Screenshot from the 2022 Katari program, held online via Zoom, January 15-16, 2022.
Wendi Yamashita, Ph.D., a member of the Manzanar Committee, is Assistant Professor, Ethnic Studies, at California State University, Sacramento.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow the Manzanar Committee on Facebook, on Twitter at @manzanarcomm, on Instagram at @manzanarcommittee, on Pinterest and on YouTube.
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