This year Marion and I went to Manzanar on the bus that originated from St. Francis Church (Maryknoll) in L.A. I had talked with Bruce Embrey and made arrangements with him to have the bus pick us up at the JA Community Center in the San Fernando Valley.
The bus monitor was Martha Porter, a very pleasant African American young lady who told me she was on the Manzanar Committee and has been a member of JANM for the past 5-6 years. She teaches at a county school for young people who are under custody of the law.
I told the passengers that since the Valley was in the northern part of SoCal, most of those in the Valley were sent to Manzanar. If there can anything positive about being sent to camp, in this instance, the Valley people were able to stay together and in many cases after the war return to the Valley. This helped in establishing the present-day very active and vital community center.
We were able to visit the newly opened barracks displaying new facets of life in the camp. The speaker was Satsuki Ina, author and professor emeritus at Cal State University Sacramento. Her theme was “I Am Manzanar,” helping us to identify with all that Manzanar has come to mean to each of us in the community.
Honored was Rev. Paul Nakamura for his years of tireless devotion to the cause of redress, and particularly to establishing the Interfaith observance each year.
I was pleased to see my pastor, Rev. Ruy Mizuki, who served as Christian liturgist at the interfaith service. He filled in for Rev.Dickson Yagi, who was recently injured in an auto accident.
His liturgy during the interfaith service held at the cemetery was well written and expressed, and I am duplicating it below.
Ruy is a Sansei Brazilian who became a U.S. citizen. His grandfather, Charles Isamu Morimoto, along with his wife Shizue, Ruy’s mother, Miyoko, and aunt, Keiko, were sent to Tule Lake after his parents answered “no-no” to the loyalty questionnaire. The family then went to Japan after the war before returning to the U.S. in the early ’60s.
Leader: I look up to the mountains — where does my help come from?
People: My help comes from the Lord, who made the heavens and the earth!
Leader: And so we acknowledge you, O Lord, as our helper and our creator — the One who calls us by name and knows our hearts and minds.
People: We have made this pilgrimage today and give thanks to you, O God, knowing that as the mountains surround Manzanar, so you surround your people.
Leader: We thank you that we do not walk alone. You have not promised us a life free of difficulties.
People: But you have promised that when we face difficulties, you will walk with us … you will never abandon us or forsake us.
Leader: We thank you for sending your Son, Jesus, to walk in our shoes and identify with our suffering. Jesus was betrayed by friends and neighbors. Jesus suffered insults, shame and humiliation. Jesus was unjustly accused. Jesus was innocent.
People: We remember the insults, shame, humiliation and injustice suffered by the Japanese and Japanese Americans whose only “offense” was to be of Japanese descent.
Leader: When Jesus was an infant, Mary and Joseph were forced to quickly pack their belongings and lead their home.
People: We remember the 120,000 people of Japanese descent who were forced to quickly sell their possessions and leave their homes.
Leader: Jesus was born in a stable.
People: Many of the 120,000 were sent to assembly centers and lived in horse stables.
Leader: Jesus was imprisoned by a decree issued by the Roman governor …
People: Executive Order 9066 led to the incarceration of the Japanese and Japanese Americans at Manzanar and Tule Lake in California;
Leader: Poston and Gila River in Arizona;
People: Topaz in Utah; Minidoka in Idaho;
Leader: Heart Mountain in Wyoming; Amache in Colorado;
People: Rohwer and Jerome in Arkansas.
Leader: Through the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross, God provided a way to life and hope.
People: In spite of the hardships and hostile environment, those who were incarcerated continued to hold on to hope. They were able to build a community — a community of joy and tears; a community of laughter and sadness; a community of singing, dancing and love.
Leader: The Bible tells us that God is able to work all things together for good to those who love God.
People: In spite of all the injustices, we remember the good: the strangers who gave a helping hand; the neighbors who stored belongings; the friendships forged; the love that blossomed and led to marriages; the opportunities for a higher education; the jobs that led to careers.
Leader: For years, those incarcerated suffered alone, holding on to their pain. We give thanks for this great nation that sings, “God mend they every flaw.”
People: A flaw was mended with the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which issued an apology and led to reparations. The healing process began for many survivors.
Leader: The loyalty questionnaires and the draft brought division, suspicion, anger and resentment.
People: Our community continues to bring attention to those divisions and to bring understanding, healing and unity.
Leader: Ultimately, Jesus is about forgiveness, reconciliation, unity, peace, healing, hope and love.
People: May the life, sacrifice and love of Jesus teach and inspire us to love others as Jesus has loved us.
Phil Shigekuni writes from San Fernando Valley and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.
Thank you, Phil, for writing about me in the article. I am happy to volunteer for the pilgrimage to Manzanar every year. Each time I travel to Manzanar, I discover more testimonies from Nisei and Sansei family members.
Each journey to Manzanar is memorable.
I am able to teach my students about the Manzanar imprisonment, discrimination, and the injustices of being forced out of their homes and businesses. Your article and other multimedia resources enable my students to learn about a sad part of U.S. History.
Sincerely, Martha Porter