Marc Stirdivant (third from left) is recognized by the Tuna Canyon Detention Station Coalition. He is joined by (from left) Kanji Sahara, Bill Skilles, Takashi Okazaki, James Okazaki, Hans W. Eberhard, Lloyd Hitt, Nancy Oda and June Berk.

On Aug. 30, the Tuna Canyon Detention Station Coalition Scholarship Committee launched its first annual Marc Stirdivant Scholarship for Justice Program campaign. 

The Tuna Canyon Detention Station was a Department of Justice site in Los Angeles County where Japanese, Germans, Italians and other groups were unjustly incarcerated during World War II. The scholarship is named for an active member of the coalition who passed away in 2019.

This year during the COVID pandemic, the Tuna Canyon Coalition held their first virtual marketplace, which successfully raised funds through a diverse group of participating artisans, shoppers and donors whose support has made this scholarship possible to teach future generations the power of place and the strength of diversity.  

“We wanted to support merchants and artisans while also educating our future citizens — a rare win-win situation.” stated Coalition President Nancy Oda. “As a former principal, I know the value of educating future generations and motivating them to learn about the past and become better people.”  

The essay provides a $500 scholarship to high school students who can best explain (within 400 to 500 words) the power of diversity, the power of place and how the students themselves can be effective in preventing injustice such as what occurred at the Tuna Canyon Detention Station during World War II

Not only literary talent but also artistic talent will be honored with an equal scholarship of $500 for the artist who can create an original work of art that evokes the power of diversity, the power of “place,” and effectively move people to fight against the unjust treatment of people. 

Scholarship Chair H. Ernie Nishii noted, “Art can torch our hearts to fight injustice perpetrated by the powerful against the powerless. My mother, Jane Nishii, as a survivor of such treatment at Tule Lake, knew that the best way to win against racism and hate is to build art that bypasses the brain and touches the souls.” 

The committee believes that high school students can build that better future and this scholarship will motivate them to do so. Although the buildings and fences that held the prisoners are gone and only oaks remain at Tuna Canyon, the place, the essays, and the art will live on and remind us not to repeat the mistakes of the past. 

Jeanette Stirdivant, Marc’s widow and a scholarship committee member, says, “This scholarship is something that Marc Stirdivant would have loved. It embodies exactly what he stood for. He valued teaching the youth about the power of place and the power of diversity.”

The deadline for entry is 12 a.m. on Nov. 1 and winners will be announced Nov. 22. All essay and art entries must be accompanied by a submission form that can be found at www.tunacanyon.org. For more information, email TCDSscholarship@gmail.com

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