A diverse crowd, in terms of ethnicity, gender, age and experiences, comes together each year at the Manzanar At Dusk program. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)
A diverse crowd, in terms of ethnicity, gender, age and experiences, comes together each year at the Manzanar At Dusk program. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

Sharing stories and experiences from the unjust incarceration of Japanese Americans in concentration camps during World War II will be the focus of the 2015 Manzanar At Dusk program, sponsored by the Manzanar Committee, scheduled from 5 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, April 25, at the Lone Pine High School gymnasium, located at 538 S. Main St. (U.S. Highway 395), in Lone Pine, across the street from McDonald’s.

The Manzanar At Dusk program follows the 46th annual Manzanar Pilgrimage, scheduled for 12 p.m. that same day, at the Manzanar National Historic Site, between the towns of Lone Pine and Independence, approximately 230 miles north of Los Angeles.

Manzanar At Dusk is co-sponsored by the Nikkei Student Unions at California State Polytechnic University-Pomona, CSU Long Beach, UCLA, and UC San Diego.

Through a creative presentation, small group discussions, and an open mic session, participants will have the opportunity to interact with former incarcerees in attendance and others to hear their personal stories. Participants will also be able to share their own experiences and discuss the relevance of the Japanese American Incarceration experience to present-day issues.

Student organizers began to take the program back to its 1997 roots in 2011, when they resumed their leadership role in organizing the event, and they stressed that Manzanar At Dusk is an event for everyone, not just Japanese Americans, because it deals with issues that affect society as a whole.

“This trip means a lot to me, personally, and I know it means the same to our members who had relatives sent to any of the ten camps across the United States,” said Sam Ebiner, president of the Cal Poly Pomona Nikkei Student Union. “Many of us go to be reminded of the serious injustice our ancestors went through and the strength they had to be able to push on afterwards.”

“There are always groups of people being alienated by certain parts of society, whether it’s because of their ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religious views,” added Ebiner, a native of Glendora who is a senior at Cal Poly Pomona, studying environmental biology. “It is imperative to educate others about their own country’s history, to learn new perspectives about the issues, and to discuss how we can prevent the same unjust treatment from happening to anyone ever again.”

Manzanar At Dusk is also an opportunity to raise awareness of this dark chapter in American history among young Japanese Americans, who are now at least one or two generations removed from the incarceration experience.

“As an organization, we go to Manzanar to preserve and be reminded of our Japanese American heritage,” said Ebiner. “Without this trip, many members wouldn’t know much more about the Japanese American incarceration during World War II other than the fact that it happened, if that.”

“The Manzanar Pilgrimage and the Manzanar At Dusk program are eye-opening experiences no matter how many times you attend,” added Ebiner. “This will mark my fifth time attending both events, and I know, without a doubt, that I will come away with new knowledge, perspectives, and ideas that will help me shape my view of equality and how to help prevent something like the Japanese American incarceration from ever happening again.”

Organizers stressed that along with the afternoon Manzanar Pilgrimage, Manzanar At Dusk offers participants a unique window into the history and issues surrounding the Japanese American concentration camp experience.

“This event is extremely important because it helps us gain more knowledge about one of the most important historical events in Japanese American History,” said Kelsey Nakamura, president of the UCSD Nikkei Student Union. “It provides us with a real, hands-on experience about the concentration camps and an opportunity to learn more about Japanese American culture.”

“For those who have family who were incarcerated in the camps, the Manzanar Pilgrimage and Manzanar At Dusk program are excellent opportunities for us to not only visit the site of an actual concentration camp, but also to understand what our families had to endure,” added Nakamura, a native of South Pasadena who is in her third year at UCSD, studying human biology.

The Manzanar Committee has also announced that a second bus from Downtown Los Angeles to the afternoon pilgrimage program is now available, but seats are going fast.

The buses will depart at 7 a.m., arriving at the pilgrimage at approximately 11:30 a.m., and will also take participants to the Visitor’s Center at the Manzanar National Historic Site following the program. The buses should arrive back in Los Angeles at approximately 8:30 p.m.

Reservations will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. The non-refundable fare is $40 per seat, $20 for students and seniors. Complimentary fares are available for those who were incarcerated at any of the American concentration camps or other confinement sites during World War II.

Anyone wishing to attend Manzanar At Dusk that evening should make other transportation arrangements.

Pilgrimage participants are advised to bring their own lunch, drinks and snacks, as there are no facilities to purchase food at the Manzanar National Historic Site (restaurants and fast food outlets are located in Lone Pine and Independence, which are nearby). Water will be provided at the site.

Both the daytime and evening events are free and open to the public. For more information, or to reserve a seat on the bus, call (323) 662-5102 or email 46thpilgrimage@manzanarcommittee.org. For more information, visit http://blog.manzanarcommittee.org.

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