At last year’s pilgrimage, the monument in the Manzanar cemetery is adorned with strings of paper cranes as pilgrims offer flowers and prayers. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)
The 50th annual Manzanar Pilgrimage, sponsored by the Manzanar Committee, is scheduled for Saturday, April 27, at the Manzanar National Historic Site, located on U.S. Highway 395 in California’s Owens Valley, between the towns of Lone Pine and Independence, approximately 230 miles north of Los Angeles.
Manzanar was the first of the American concentration camps in which more than 120,000 Japanese Americans and their immigrant parents were unjustly incarcerated during World War II.
Each year, more than 1,000 people from all walks of life attend the Manzanar Pilgrimage, including students, teachers, community members, clergy and former incarcerees. Planning is under way for the afternoon event, as well as for the annual Manzanar At Dusk program, which follows each pilgrimage that same evening.
This year’s event will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first organized Manzanar Pilgrimage in 1969.
“The fact that the Manzanar Committee and the Manzanar Pilgrimage have been in existence for 50 years, enduring and spanning generations. is very important to take stock of,” said Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey. “The Manzanar Pilgrimage has endured. It has become an important part of our community’s effort to make sure our nation remembers what can happen when the rights of any community are trampled upon under the guise of national security concerns or because of xenophobia.
“The pilgrimages were a quest, searching for the truth of what happened, led mostly by young Sansei. As it got more established, the pilgrimage became a safe place for the survivors of camp to talk story, revealing the atrocities of camp, and educating the younger generations and broader public about our story.
“In some ways, pilgrimages created the basis for the redress movement to be established and grow, and it helped prepare the community to talk about their unjust incarceration at the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians hearings in the early 1980s.”
Embrey added that over the past 50 years, the Manzanar Pilgrimage has sought to honor and remember the strength, endurance and dedication of the former incarcerees.”
Embrey stressed, “We always try to remind everyone how the endurance and strength of those Issei, Nisei, Sansei and others who survived camp and the aftermath of their incarceration was remarkable. This year, we hope to capture how strength and endurance has been central to demanding justice over the decades, as well as to winning redress and reparations. It is this enduring spirit and search for truth that has kept the pilgrimage alive and relevant, and has made it an important voice in our nation’s dialogue about civil rights.”
Cultural performances will begin at 11:30 a.m., while the main portion of the program begins at 12 p.m.
Participants are advised to bring their own lunch, drinks, and snacks, as there are no facilities to purchase food at the Manzanar National Historic Site (restaurants and fast food outlets are located in Lone Pine and Independence). Water will be provided at the site, but participants are asked to bring a refillable water bottle that can be filled at refilling stations on site.
Those who wish to participate in the traditional flower offering during the interfaith service are advised to bring their own flowers.
Participants should also be aware that weather in the Owens Valley can be unpredictable and can change rapidly. The Manzanar Committee advises participants that they should always wear a hat, use sunscreen (ultraviolet light is not affected by clouds and is more intense at higher elevations), and to be prepared for any kind of weather, including high winds, heat, cold, and rain.
The Manzanar At Dusk program, which is co-sponsored by the Nikkei Student Unions at CSU Fullerton, CSU Long Beach, Cal Poly Pomona, UCLA, and UC San Diego, will follow a couple of hours after the pilgrimage at 5 p.m. at Lone Pine High School, 538 S. Main St. (U.S. Highway 395), approximately eight miles south of the Manzanar National Historic Site, across the street from McDonald’s.
Through a creative presentation, small group discussions and an open mic session, Manzanar At Dusk participants will be able to interact with former incarcerees in attendance to hear their personal stories, to share their own experiences, and discuss the relevance of the concentration camp experience to present-day events and issues.
Further details will be announced at a later date.
The Manzanar Committee has also announced that bus transportation to the pilgrimage will be available from Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo. The bus will depart at 7 a.m., arriving at Manzanar at approximately 11:30 a.m., and will also take participants to the Visitor Center at the Manzanar National Historic Site following the afternoon program. The bus should arrive back in Los Angeles at approximately 8:30 p.m.
Reservations for the Little Tokyo bus will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. The non-refundable fare is $45 per seat, $30 for youth (17 and younger). Complimentary fares are available for those who were incarcerated at any of the American concentration camps or other confinement sites during World War II.
Anyone wishing to attend the Manzanar At Dusk program that evening should make other transportation arrangements.
Both the Manzanar Pilgrimage and the Manzanar At Dusk programs are free and open to the public. For more information, or to reserve a seat on the bus departing from Little Tokyo, call (323) 662-5102 or email email@example.com.