Interfaith ceremony at the 2017 Manzanar Pilgrimage. (MARIO GERSHOM REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

On April 16, the Manzanar Committee announced that the 51st annual Manzanar Pilgrimage and the 2020 Manzanar At Dusk program, both scheduled for Saturday, April 25, have been cancelled due to health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 virus pandemic.

The committee announced on March 12 that both events had been postponed.

“This will be the first time in the 51-year history of the Manzanar Pilgrimage that we will not be returning to Manzanar to pay our respects to our families and to remind our country about the injustices of the forced removal of our community,” Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey lamented. “The necessity of cancelling our pilgrimage during this pandemic, in one sense, could not have been more difficult. Clearly, the health and well-being of our community, particularly our elders, is most important, and cancelling is in everyone’s best interests.

“But even though it cannot be helped, the need for us all to tell our stories, to remind our country of the human and social cost of racism, economic greed, and a failure of political leadership, is as great as it ever has been

“Indeed, what is so ironic is that in the midst of this pandemic, our story, and the lessons of the forced removal, are more important than ever. This health crisis is being used to whip up fear and racism, limit people’s rights, and foment old nativist, right wing nationalist sentiments. We hear calls from many corners of our government to suspend constitutional rights, suspend Congress, and eliminate government oversight, all in the name of managing a crisis. This triggers old memories and opens old wounds from our community’s history

“Our story should have taught our nation that it is wrong to persecute and incarcerate anyone who comes to this country seeking a better life, yet, racist and nativist immigration policies continue. The conditions in United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement sites, and in Customs and Border Patrol sites, are horrendous. Just as Japanese American confinement sites threatened the health and well-being of our families, the lives of immigrants and refugees are threatened by the COVID-19 virus.”

The Manzanar Committee also announced that planning is under way for an alternative pilgrimage. Further details will be announced soon. For more information, call (323) 662-5102, or go to

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