By PHYLLIS HAYASHIBARA
The Venice Japanese American Memorial Monument (VJAMM) Committee and the Manzanar Committee announce with great pleasure the outstanding recipient of the third annual Arnold Maeda Manzanar Pilgrimage Grant: Ryan Horio of UCLA.
Horio’s winning essay tied the history of his grandmother, who was six years old when incarcerated at Manzanar, to that of Arnold Maeda, who was 15 when incarcerated at Manzanar. Horio will receive $500 in grant funds from the VJAMM Committee to facilitate his participation in the 54th annual Manzanar Pilgrimage weekend, and to help the Manzanar Committee plan and produce the pilgrimage and Manzanar After Dark, both scheduled as in-person events on Saturday, April 29.
Horio, now a sophomore at UCLA, decided to try an elective titled “Japanese Americans and Incarceration.” He thought he could drop the class if he didn’t like it, or if it interfered with his other general requirements. But he became intrigued with his own history, which he had never encountered before in all of his 18 years, through his senior year of high school, and growing up in a family that did not talk about “camp,” like so many other Issei grandparents and Nisei parents. For his class project, he produced a 25-minute documentary film he titled “Executive Order 9066: Internment, Injustice, and Intergenerational Trauma.” (https://drive.google.com/file/d/1N-ITGL9Uf9hPMA0coi6p8AzAaRuXTIOh/view)
Horio interviewed his grandmother, Toshiko “Alice” Matsunaga, born in Galt, who married Japan-born Seiji Horio, who was a gardener in the San Fernando Valley and eventually became president of the Southern California Gardeners’ Association. They had three children, one of whom is Ryan’s dad, a Yonsei. Ryan’s mom is ethnically Chinese, raised in Vietnam.
In interviewing his paternal grandmother, his dad, uncle, and aunt about their experiences, Horio grew closer to understanding his Japanese American identity. Having grown up in a very Caucasian area, he did not stay in touch with his Japanese or Chinese cultures. In fact, he assimilated so much that he would join in on the ridiculing, racist jokes aimed at him for being Asian.
Working on his documentary film, Horio not only learned about the lives and attitudes of his family members, but gained insight into how one generation’s trauma may be passed down to the next generation. Silence did not erase the trauma of the camp experience for six-year-old Toshiko, who would become his grandmother; silence did not mean his father, uncle, and sister did not suffer in their silence. Horio is determined NOT to remain silent, but to “use [his] voice to connect with . . . and engage with [others] about the incarceration camps and [their] lasting effects on the Japanese American community.”
Horio wants to “speak up about the problems and issues [the Japanese American] community faces, and that others face, that we need to stand in solidarity against.” He wrote that he wants to “follow in Maeda’s footsteps to create lasting change within [his] community, and to become more of a witness to the unspoken lives of Japanese American incarcerees.”
Horio had already been an activist at the high school level, when he co-founded “Knitting for a Cause” with other students and other high schools. He knitted beanies for his friends in the long hours of pandemic isolation, and wondered if he could “support some of the communities hit the hardest from COVID: frontline workers and the unhoused community.” Eventually, his group “donated over 2,500 beanies, blankets, children’s masks, and cards; and raised 1,600 pounds of food, too.”
At UCLA, Horio has joined the Nikkei Student Union and the Kyodo Taiko team. He has shared his family’s stories with his colleagues, and considers “being in Kyodo Taiko … the backbone of [his] college experience, giving [him] lifelong friends and allowing [him] to explore … Japanese American culture with others who had similar and non-similar experiences … growing up.”
Horio says, “It does feel nice to be understood by them, and they are my best friends. I have a greater appreciation for the Japanese American community as a whole through the opportunities I have gained through Kyodo [Taiko], and I hope to give back to this family for the rest of my three years here.”
The late Arnold Maeda, founding member of, and inspiration to, the VJAMM Committee, spoke out at every opportunity afforded him, for support and funding for the creation and installation of the VJAMM on the northwest corner of Venice and Lincoln boulevards in Venice. In April 2017, the VJAMM Committee dedicated the monument, which commemorates the forced removal of some 1,000 persons of Japanese ancestry from Venice, Santa Monica, and Malibu, from that very corner; and their incarceration in what would become the American concentration camp at Manzanar during World War II.
The first in-person VJAMM commemoration in three years will be Thursday, April 20, on the northwest corner of Venice and Lincoln, from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. Guest speakers will include Warren Furutani, longtime community activist, Manzanar Pilgrimage pioneer, and author of a new memoir titled “act-iv-ist”; Bruce Embrey, co-chair of the Manzanar Committee; and Ryan Horio. All are welcome.
For more information about the Arnold Maeda Manzanar Pilgrimage Grant, visit http://venicejamm.org, Facebook @VeniceJAMM, or https://manzanarcommittee.org. 2024 applications and requirements will not be substantially different from those for 2023, but deadline dates will change.