On Sept. 26, the Manzanar Committee, sponsors of the annual Manzanar Pilgrimage and Manzanar At Dusk program, announced that they have been selected by the Oakland-based JA Community Foundation as one of the recipients of the 2023 Fall Grants for its youth education project, Katari: Keeping Japanese American Stories Alive.
Entering its seventh year, Katari, which means, “to tell stories” in Japanese, is a project in which the Manzanar Committee partners with the National Park Service staff at Manzanar National Historic Site. The program seeks to bridge the generation gap that has made it much more difficult for young Japanese Americans to teach others about Japanese American incarceration during World War II.
Due to the shifting dynamics and demographics within the Japanese American community, including a growing recent immigrant population from Japan, and the younger generations, a large group of Japanese Americans are either two or three generations removed from the experiences of those who were forced to endure America’s concentration camps, or they have no connection to this history at all. As such, an increasing and alarming number of young people lack the knowledge and experience to be able to keep the stories of Japanese American incarcerees alive.
To address this need, students from the Nikkei Student Unions at CSU Fullerton, California Polytechnic State University, Pomona, CSU Long Beach, UCLA, UC Riverside and UC San Diego will spend two full days at the Manzanar National Historic Site, participating in an intensive, place-based learning experience about World War II Japanese American incarceration and more. It is a learning experience that cannot be replicated in a classroom, a book, or a video.
Students get to hear first-hand stories from former Japanese American incarcerees and from elders of the local indigenous groups who share the long history of the Owens Valley Paiute and Shoshone at Manzanar. Students are prompted to think about the connections between Japanese American World War II incarceration and other forms of incarceration in the U.S., and that forced relocation/forced removal has been the rule, rather than the exception, throughout American history for minorities and people of color.
“We were ecstatic when we heard the news about this grant,” said Gann Matsuda, co-chair of the Katari program. “This grant will go a long way in supporting our efforts to educate young people, giving them some of the tools they’ll need to keep the stories of former Japanese American incarcerees alive.
“It is absolutely critical that our youth be able to teach this history to others. After all, if we, as Japanese Americans, can’t teach this history, who will? We have a tremendous responsibility to ensure that our youth have the tools they’ll need to be able to teach this history.
“We are honored to be named as a recipient of this grant. We are beyond grateful to the JA Community Foundation for recognizing the importance of the Katari project and for their generous support.”
For detailed information about the Katari project, go to https://manzanarcommittee.org/katari, send email to email@example.com or call (323) 662-5102.