Bridging Communities students and staff visit the marker designating Tule Lake as a California historical landmark. (Jess Kyo, © JACL and NPS)

From June 10 to 13, students in JACL’s Bridging Communities: Preserving the Legacy Program went on a four-day Intensive Leadership Summit at the Tule Lake National Monument.

Through interactive workshops, the high school participants engaged in a variety of topics such as intersections of identity, American Muslim and Japanese American history, civil rights, and activism.

The students were able to see, hear, and feel the gravity of this moment in history through visiting the former incarceration site and hearing a very personal account from former incarceree and current Tule Lake Committee President Hiroshi Shimizu.

The National Park Service provided students with a history and tour of the confinement site, and two service learning projects. The students’ work on these projects helped contribute to NPS’ ongoing efforts to document the remaining physical features of the segregation center, and added to the students’ understanding of the complicated history behind Tule Lake. These projects will have a lasting effect by impacting the monument’s interpretation and education program.

Through this transformative experience, students not only learned about often underrepresented topics in history, but they also formed close relationships.

“The Bridging Communities Program is a great learning experience and taught me to be humble,” said 14-year-old Jibraan Qureshi, while Nina Abshar, 16, believes that the program helped her “understand the importance of ‘bridging communities,’ that is, to [have] compassion and empathy for communities that may not be our own, and realize that we are all more connected than we think.” 

They ended the trip by contemplating the importance of remembering all facets of history, and the Bridging Communities students left with a shared sense a purpose, as stated by Nina Bazan-Sakamoto: “The knowledge that we gained on this trip has empowered us to understand what our ancestors have experienced. It has also allowed [us] to work towards preventing discrimination by creating understanding, starting from ourselves and the people around us.”

The Bridging Communities Program was established as a proactive response from JACL, NCRR (Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress), and CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) to a number of incidents of hate and intolerance experienced by the American Muslim community in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. The program seeks to connect Japanese American and American Muslim youth, and allies, by synthesizing the differences and commonalities that bind them all together.

The program is funded by the National Park Service Japanese American Confinement Sites (JACS) Grant Program.

On the Web:

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Japanese American and American Muslim students take part in a group discussion. (Jess Kyo, © JACL and NPS)
Participants view an exhibit on the town of Tulelake, located near the Tule Lake camp site. (Jess Kyo, © JACL and NPS)


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