Manzanar: What You Get, Only If You’re There

By: Eri Kameyama, PSW District Staff

I woke up at 5AM this past Saturday to get ready for the long drive to Manzanar, the incarceration camp that held thousands of Japanese Americans from the Los Angeles area.

I was partaking in the Annual Pilgrimage program organized by the Manzanar Committee and the National Park Services, being a participant along with the rest of the Bridging Communities Program. Bridging Communities, now in its fifth year, has always made a trip to Manzanar; bringing the Japanese American and American Muslim high schoolers to this historical site. This year, there were 9 Bridging Communities students, 3 program leaders, and 5 family and friends who went together as a group. We caravanned in 3 cars and made the four hour journey from Little Tokyo…

When I first learned about the Japanese American camps, I was a junior in high-school, and I recall seeing this photo of children behind the barbed wires. In the background were the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Since then, I’ve learned so much more about the history and heard personal stories of Manzanar. I’ve probably seen a few dozen photos of the camp and always noted the beautiful mountain range that sat at the backdrop of this prison camp.  Therefore, it didn’t surprise me that I knew exactly when we were near Manzanar because I recognized these mountains from miles away.

I was the most moved when I saw the monument in the cemetery because it was no longer just a story or a just a picture in a textbook. It became a lived experience being at Manzanar in near 100-degree heat. As I sat through the program in the beating sun, I thought, “for me, it is just one day, for the incarcerees, it was as long as three years.”

Wilbur Sato, a former incarceree, gave us a tour of what was left of Manzanar. He showed us a site where a garden used to grow and where a small pond used to be. A garden! In the middle of the desert! To me, this was the sign of resilience of the Japanese Americans. To thrive and the make the best of what is given. The Japanese mentality of shikataganai turning into the will power to survive, ganbarou.

Wilbur Sato leading us on a tour of Manzanar

Wilbur Sato leading us on a tour of Manzanar

Although it was not easy driving almost 8 hours round-trip to be a part of this pilgrimage, I do not regret the experience. Many things can be learned through textbooks and oral-histories but physically being at a site where history occurred is an emotional experience that can only be understood by being there. I truly hope that the Bridging Communities participants gained something valuable from this mini road trip. I sure did.

(Re)claiming Our Communities: Identity Politics, Youth Engagement, and Building Contemporary Asian Pacific America



The 2012 Collegiate Japanese American Internship program is running full speed with 5 passionate and hardworking interns placed at APIsCAN, OCAPICA, and APALC this year.

They are doing many hands-on advocacy and outreach work such as researching API funders and doing voter mobilization for the November elections. Three of the interns are conducting phone banking sessions every week to speak directly with potential API voters on issues that matter to them. Their work impacts the community in positive ways and their energy is vital towards obtaining social justice.


These great interns are putting together a 1 Day Conference as part of their Program. Please join us as we learn about how youth can make a difference in their post-college communities.

“How do everyday professionals serve as strong advocates for the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities? And how can you likewise utilize your technical and professional skills to empower the AAPI community when you enter the post-college world?

In addressing such questions, this conference offers an open forum for participants to explore various post-college opportunities as well as various forms of activism that align with their future interests. Ultimately, through a series of workshops and panels, this conference hopes to build community while cultivating active and well-informed AAPI youth.”




When: Saturday Nov 17th

Time: 10:00am ~ 4:30pm

Where: Garden Room B @ JACCC

244 S. San Pedro St.

Los Angeles, CA 90012

Katarou Histories Culmination Announcement

by Eri Kameyama

I can’t believe it’s already week 8 of Katarou Histories, inter-generational oral history program, held at the San Fernando Valley’s Japanese American Community Center. This inaugural program has shown that a multi-generational program is possible and that dialogue can happen and community can develop across ages. Throughout the program, participants have gotten to really know each other’s histories and how their Japanese American family histories fits into the larger Asian Pacific Islander history, become more familiar with their intersecting identities of race, ethnicity, gender, class, ability, nationality, and have learned how to use this knowledge to move forward and take action for the larger API community.

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In college? Interested in API issues? Looking for an internship?

by Eri Kameyama

I was in college not too long ago. Two years ago to be exact. And I wish I knew about opportunities like this one to get myself more involved with the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. This regret and a desire to reach a wider audience is partly why I am so passionate about this program that I am now working on– Collegiate Japanese American Internship or CJAI.

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“JA MIA? Empowering Nikkei for the AAPI Community”

Join us this Saturday!!

Traci Ishigo, one of our beloved student activists from San Fernando Valley, has put together an amazing day full of workshops, panels, discussions, and food for the Japanese American community in the valley. Come out to the San Fernando Valley JACC (yes it will be hot in the valley, but the room will be cool!) to learn about how your identity fits into the larger Asian American identities. Do you want to know how you can be an Asian American activist from your home, in your school, in your workplace? You’ve found the right place. We’ll see you there!!

Katarou Histories Session Progress

by: Eri Kameyama

The brand new inter-generational oral history program, Katarou Histories, is off to a great start! On June 14th, as students were finishing up classes and finals and getting ready for summer, 14 participants gathered on the hot evening at San Fernando Valley’s Japanese American Community Center for their first session of the program.

On the first day of the program, 8 high school and college youth as well as 6 adults (ages 40+~89!), kibei-nisei, sansei, yonsei, gosei, and shin-issei came together in one space to discuss and share their identity as Japanese-Americans. As they listened to others’ stories and defining moments in their lives that brought them to this program, participants were able to connect with one another despite the age differences.

My personal favorite moment of the day was when the oldest member of our program shared memories of his female friends playing with hagoita (new year’s badminton-like game) in kimonos. He said, “the girls had to hold their kimono sleeves so that it wouldn’t get in the way when they hit the birdie!” Can you imagine having to play badminton in a tight kimono with long sleeves and wearing a geta on your feet?! I thought it was such a cute memory to share with us.

I am so excited to see this program develop! It’s our first EVER multi-generational program and it looks like it’ll be a great success. This week’s session is on API/JA history where they’ll place their own family histories into the larger API narrative for a non-traditional way of learning our communities histories! Will keep you all updated on the sessions so check back soon!

Seeking Applicants for our new oral history program in San Fernando Valley!

Seeking Applicants for our new oral history program in San Fernando Valley! (by: Eri Kameyama)

Have you ever heard your grandmother talk about her childhood memories? Have you ever wanted to share your family history? Well, here is your chance! High-schoolers, college students and adults are highly encouraged to apply now for our new program!!

JACL PSW, SFV JACL, and the SFV Japanese American Community Center (JACC) is partnering up to run this new multi-generational oral history program called “Katarou Histories” for this upcoming summer. “Katarou” means “lets share stories” and this is the purpose of this program– to tell stories across generations.

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JACL/OCA Leadership Conference Reflections


By Marissa Kitazawa

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege and honor of attending the JACL/OCA Leadership Conference held in Washington DC. This was an amazing opportunity for me to meet other activist and community organizers, learn about pertinent issues affecting the AAPI community and discuss proactive ways to create change for the future.

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