A team of Elk Grove educators traveled south to the Owens Valley over the April 29th weekend to participate in the 42nd Annual Pilgrimage to Manzanar.
The journey was in commemoration of an injustice that began during the spring of 1942, when the U.S. government, in an act that denied thousands of citizens of their constitutional rights, rounded up the entire West Coast Japanese-American community and “relocated” them to mass incarceration camps.
Through the sponsorship of the Florin JACL (Japanese American Citizens League), CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), and the district’s Teaching American History grant, and funding from the State Library’s 2010 California Civil Liberties Public Education Program, the Elk Grove teachers were provided with transportation (tour buses that stopped along the way at such scenic spots as Mono Lake and Mammoth Lakes), the spectacular scenery of the eastern side of the Sierras, and amazing stories of resilience, resistance, and civic commitment shared by former internees of Manzanar and other World War II incarceration camps.
The Saturday event began at the Manzanar National Historic Site. Following a visit to the interpretive center, a tour of the latrines, gardens, and barracks, and lunch in the Mess Hall, the Elk Grove group joined visitors from all over the state and country at the camp’s cemetery for a program that included taiko drumming, Japanese folk dancing, and an interfaith service.
In addition to the daytime program, the Pilgrimage continued that evening with the popular Manzanar At Dusk (MAD) program at the Lone Pine High School, nine miles south of the Manzanar National Historic Site. College students were facilitators for the MAD activities. Through readings of first-hand accounts, small group discussions and an open mic session, MAD participants had the opportunity to interact with former internees to listen to and learn from their personal stories. Participants were also be able to share their own experiences and discuss the relevance of the internment experience to present-day events and issues.
The annual pilgrimage is sponsored by the Manzanar Committee, an organization “dedicated to educating and raising public awareness about the incarceration and violation of civil rights of persons of Japanese ancestry during World War II and to the continuing struggle of all peoples when Constitutional rights are in danger.”
“The Pilgrimage to Manzanar was a life-changing experience for me,” said 5th grade teacher Nancy Vallercamp. “Interacting with and getting to know former ‘incarcerees’ on such a personal and deep level was an extraordinary and inspirational experience.”
Franklin high school history teacher Dawniell Black added, “The Japanese-Americans’ overnight loss of Constitutional rights based solely on their ancestry is an important reminder and lesson of how wartime hysteria and prejudice can lead to grave injustices.”
“In view of recent acts of intolerance in our own Elk Grove community, I believe it’s more important than ever to weave the lessons of Manzanar into the curriculum,” said Tracey Panuschka, 5th grade teacher from Robert Fite.
Thanks to funding from the 2011 California Civil Liberties Public Education Program, recently awarded to EGUSD’s Technology Services in partnership with SECC (Sacramento Educational Cable Consortium), highlights and interviews from the Manzanar event will soon be available online as part of the growing collection of resources on the district’s Time of Remembrance website.
For more information on the Pilgrimage to Manzanar or Time of Remembrance events, please contact Don Azevada (email@example.com) or Gail Desler (firstname.lastname@example.org).