The annual Manzanar Pilgrimage is a time to remember and honor the past and those who fought and died for civil rights, and a time to reflect upon the future. This weekend marks the 42nd annual pilgrimage to the site, an internment camp complete with gun turrets and barbed-wire fence south of Independence that was the relocated home to more than 10,000 Japanese Americans during World War II.
At the end of April, former internees, their friends and family and many others, mostly from Southern California, make the trek to the isolated camp to pay honor to those who lived and died at the camp and those who have fought hard and those who are still fighting for civil rights.
This year the pilgrimage and its sponsor, the Manzanar Committee, will focus on the power of words in civil rights campaigns.
For example, the Committee calls Manzanar a “concentration camp,” as did President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944 when he signed Executive Order 9066 that created the camps after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Mako Nakagawa, the primary author of the National Council of the Japanese American Citizens League’s “Power of Words” resolution, will be the keynote speaker. The public is invited to participate in free events that start tomorrow.
Tomorrow, the Independence Chamber of Commerce and the Friends of Eastern California Museum will host a public reception from 4-6 p.m. at the Eastern California Museum in Independence. The museum’s exhibits include Shiro and Mary Nomura’s Manzanar collection, a special exhibit titled “1,000 Words or More … Photogravures by Edward S. Curtis and Photographs by Andrew A. Forbes,” and the Anna and O.K. Kelly Gallery of Native American Life. The museum is located at 155 Grant St. in Independence.
The pilgrimage begins at noon on Saturday with a performance by UCLA Kyodo Taiko drummers, a powerful performance not to be missed. There will be awards ceremonies and then a traditional interfaith service at the Manzanar Cemetery followed by traditional Ondo dancing.
The “Manzanar At Dusk” program begins at 5 p.m. Saturday at Lone Pine High School located at 538 S. Main St. in Lone Pine. The program will offer participants opportunities to interact with former internees and each other, and a booksigning by special guest Kiyo Sato, author of, “Kiyo’s Story: A Japanese-American Family’s Quest for the American Dream.”
Manzanar History Association will host filmmakers John Esaki and Amy Kato who will screen their film “Stand Up For Justice: The Ralph Lazo Story” at 3 p.m. on Saturday and 10:30 a.m. Sunday in the West Theater of the Manzanar Interpretive Center. Lazo graduated from Manzanar High School with the Class of 1944 before joining the U.S. Army and earning a Bronze Star.
At 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 1, special guest docent Susanne Norton La Faver will present a program on her great aunt Margaret D’Ille, who served as Manzanar’s director of Community Welfare.
With the exception of Friday evening’s reception and Saturday evening’s MAD program, all events will take place at Manzanar National Historic Site located at 5001 U.S. 395, six miles south of Independence, nine miles north of Lone Pine. The Manzanar Interpretive Center is open daily from 9 a.m. -5:30 p.m. There is no food service at Manzanar. Visitors are urged to bring a lunch or snacks and water, wear a hat and comfortable shoes and dress for the weather.
For more information, call (760) 878-2194 or visit Manzanar National Historic Site’s website at www.nps.gov/manz .