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Special Event: 42nd Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage

Manzanar National Historic Site

National Park News

An estimated 1,100 people attended the Manzanar Committee’s 42nd Annual Pilgrimage on Saturday, April 30, 2011. The event featured guest speakers, music, an interfaith religious service, and a traditional Japanese Ondo community dance. Mary Kageyama Nomura, the famed “Songbird of Manzanar” performed two songs. Mako Nakagawa, primary author of the Japanese American Citizens League’s “Power of Words” resolution, was the keynote speaker.  The Manzanar Committee honored Civil Rights activists Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga and her late husband Jack Herzig as recipients of the 2011 Sue Kunitomi Embrey Legacy Award, fondly known as the “Baka Guts” award. In Japanese “baka” means stupid, yet having “baka guts” means having courage to stand for what you believe in regardless of the consequences. As Sue’s older brother Jack once explained, playing football on gravel takes “baka guts.”

Fifty visitors were sworn-in as Junior Rangers while Manzanar History Association (MHA) hosted filmmakers John Esaki and Amy Kato for two screenings of their film Stand Up For Justice:  The Ralph Lazo Story. The film tells the true story of a Mexican/Irish American teen who chose to come to Manzanar with his friends. Ralph graduated from Manzanar High School in 1944 before joining the U.S. Army to serve in the Pacific. MHA also hosted the Selected Artists from the Henry Fukuhara Annual Alabama Hills and Manzanar Workshop art show and sale.

Saturday evening, nearly 300 college students, former internees, and others participated in intergenerational discussions at the Manzanar At Dusk “MADness” program at Lone Pine High School. Kiyo Sato, author of Kiyo’s Story: A Japanese-American Family’s Quest for the American Dream, signed books at MAD.

Sunday afternoon, guest docent Susanne Norton La Faver presented a program on her great aunt Margaret D’Ille, the War Relocation Authority’s director of Community Welfare at Manzanar.

With the exception of one medical, there were no incidents. While the weather was cooler than in past years, NPS staff provided water stations at the event and around the site. The park staged an ambulance with two paramedic teams, and had two additional medical teams available on-site. Four special use and filming permits were issued.

The Manzanar staff was assisted by 15 volunteers as well as three employees from Devils Postpile National Monument and one from Death Valley National Park.

The Pilgrimage takes place each year on the last Saturday in April. All are welcome.


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