In the coming weeks, the college students who participated in our annual program, Katari: Keeping Japanese American Stories Alive, will share their thoughts about this year’s program.
Katari, a program of the Manzanar Committee and the Manzanar National Historic Site, is in its fifth year, working to give young people some of the tools they’ll need to help others learn about the forced removal of over 120,000 Japanese/Japanese Americans from their homes and their unjust incarceration in American concentration camps, and other confinement sites, during World War II.
In this installment, Kenneth Kwon of the California State University, Long Beach Nikkei Student Union shared how the program impacted him.
Katari was an eye-opening experience dealing with a topic I barely knew.
While growing up and studying World War II, the subject of Japanese American internment camps was glossed over, and just barely. The United States has often turned a blind eye to their problems, and to acts that they would hope to sweep under the rug.
I think this is a major reason why this topic isn’t really taught in schools, as it’s a stain on America. But if we don’t recognize injustices then they may continue happening again—we’ve seen similar persecution occur in recent times. For example, following the 9/11 attacks. we saw rampant racism towards various groups. Many people even blamed Asians for the COVID-19 pandemic, and the number of anti-Asian hate crimes began to rise.
One thing that stuck out with me was Pat Sakamoto’s story and her hardships during and after camp—the reality of her situation, and that her father abandoned her mother in a time of need. Spurred by the fact that her family was split and forced into internment camps, it must have hurt her mother so much, and her knowing that her dad left and chose his parents instead of them. This is only one story from many more that existed.
Even then, people found beauty and love in a place like Manzanar’he creation of beautiful Japanese gardens as a way to rebel against the people who put them there. The Japanese Americans making the best out of their situation is something admirable’they were able to find love in a place where so much pain occurred.
29-year old Kennetn Kwon is in his fourth year at California State University, Long Beach, where he is studying Management Information Systems. The native of Anaheim, California served as the 2021-22 Culture Chair of the CSULB Nikkei Student Union, and on the 2021-22 Manzanar At Dusk Organizing Committee.
The views expressed in this story are those of the author, and are not necessarily those of the Manzanar Committee.
LEAD PHOTO: Kenneth Kwon. Photo courtesy Kenneth Kwon.
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