Moving Beyond the Walls of the Classroom


Archives for Time of Remembrance

I’m American Too – A Time of Remembrance Documentary

When the constitutional rights of one group of citizens are violated, all Americans are affected.”  Marielle Tsukamoto

leaving for camp

This year marks the 70th anniversary of a historic event that overnight changed the history of Elk Grove and its surrounding communities: the signing of Executive Order 9066 . With the stroke of a pen, President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the forced removal and unjust incarceration of over 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast during World War II.

Seventy years later, the “relocation” of persons of Japanese ancestry is still not widely understood or recognized by the American public as a one of the worst constitutional violations in this nation’s history. Elk Grove, as a district and as a community, has taken an active role in ensuring that this chapter in our nation’s history when justice failed an entire group of people is documented and preserved.

Beginning in 2005,  Technology Services and Curriculum and Professional Learning, in partnership with the Sacramento Educational Cable Commission (SECC),  have teamed to make the first-hand accounts of racism, discrimination, and forced removal available  to teachers and students 24/7.  Our Time of Remembrance website continues to grow, with new interviews and teacher-created lessons being added each school year.

In commemoration of the profound impact of Executive Order 9066 on our community, our latest venture includes the making of a documentary: I’m American Too – Stories from Behind the Fences:

It is our hope that I’m American Too  will not only shed light on a darker chapter in our history, but, more importantly, will serve as a call to action to ensure that prejudice and fear are not allowed to upset the delicate balance between the rights of citizens and the power of the state.

We hope the documentary will also ignite conversations in classrooms, neighborhoods, and communities on how events from the past connect to the present and on the need to understand and embrace both the rights and responsibilities that are the foundation of U.S. citizenship.

We also wish to acknowledge our heartfelt appreciation for the Time of Remembrance interviewees. Their first-hand accounts of relocation, resistance, and resilience stand as testimony to the power of the human spirit – and as a reminder of how quickly “the thin veneer of tolerance can be ripped off.”

Constitution Day Resources – An Elk Grove Story

Image from

Image from

When it comes to studying about the importance of the U.S. Constitution, Elk Grove students can learn a few lessons  from local Japanese-American citizens. 

Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the history of this once rural community forever changed. As the nation entered World War II, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the removal and “relocation” of thousands of Japanese-Americans from the West Coast. Virtually overnight U.S. citizens of Japanese heritage disappeared from the farming communities of the Sacramento valley.

The Japanese internment story is a powerful example of why it is so important for us (especially educators) to understand – and to be willing to fight for – the Constitutional Rights guaranteed to every citizen.

Last week we uploaded to the district’s Time of Remembrance website 10 new interviews with Japanese-Americans from the Sacramento area. Each story is a reminder of what can happen if we allow the loss of rights to any group of people to go unchallenged.

The new additions to the Time of Remembrance Interview Archives include first-hand accounts of the war years from:

*Marielle Tsukamoto – As an educator (Elk Grove USD) and community activist, Marielle continues the legacy and work of her mother, Mary Tsukamoto, who was a driving force in the Smithsonian’s original exhibit: A More Perfect Union: Japanese-Americans and the US Constitution. Marielle shares her memories of both the camp experience (Jerome, Arkansas) and some of the realities faced by internees following their release from the camps.

* Jack Dairiki – Born in Sacramento, Jack recounts his trip to Japan in 1941, being caught there, and surviving the bombing of Hiroshima.

* Jim Tanimoto – I met Jim last spring during an annual Pilgrimage to Manzanar. Jim’s story is the first in our collection from a No-No boy, a term for resisters. No-No boys answered “No” to questions 27 and 28 on the Loyalty Oath they were required to take.

Tsukamoto Family

Tsukamoto Family

Constitution Day 2011 – a time to reflect on what it means to be an informed citizen.

Elk Grove Pilgrimage to Manzanar

Manzanar - Ansel Adams

Manzanar - Ansel Adams

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.

Manzanar barracks - partial egusd group photo

Manzanar barracks - partial egusd group photo

2011 Manz group with educators in front of monument - Steve K

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 ( or Gail Desler (

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