The consortium is set to participate in the upcoming JACL National Convention
By 2019 JACL Convention Committee
The upcoming JACL National Convention will include several interesting plenary sessions and workshops under the theme “Inclusion, Advocacy and Action.” These are topics that are important to all JACL members.
With 2019 being the 90th anniversary of the JACL, the convention’s theme is a reminder that we must keep fighting for the civil rights of all Americans. Japanese Americans, in particular, have suffered greatly over the years, and we need to continue to tell our story so that no one else will ever have to endure the unjust treatment that Japanese Americans experienced during World War II.
Bill Thomas, a former Republican congressman from Bakersfield, Calif., was chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee when he introduced the Camp Preservation Bill on April 6, 2005, with Rep. Mike Honda and Rep. Doris Matsui as co-sponsors along with 112 others.
The bill was originally introduced in January 2005 but died in committee. With Manzanar located in his district, Congressman Thomas took a personal interest in ensuring passage of the bill.
The sponsors of the bill on the Senate side were Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) and Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii). It was important to gain Republican support. President George W. Bush signed the bill. The result was Public Law 109-441: Preservation of Japanese American Confinement Sites, including the provision of grants to organizations “to preserve and interpret the confinement sites where Japanese Americans were detained during World War II.”
Gerald Yamada, who was national coordinator for the Japanese American National Heritage Coalition, had been working on the camp preservation issue before the JACL became involved.
The Japanese American Confinement Sites Consortium was established in 2016 and is a network of organizations that are committed to preserving, protecting and interpreting the history of the WWII experiences of Americans of Japanese ancestry and elevating related social justice lessons.
Members include the 10 War Relocation Authority confinement sites, as well as historical organizations, endowments, museums, commissions, advocacy and educational institutes.
The Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation began seeking support and funding in 2015 for a consortium of sites related to the Japanese American experience. The HMWF secured funding from the National Park Service’s JACS grant program to jump-start the organization, which first met in July 2015.
The consortium met again in 2016 in Washington, D.C., where the framework and mission for the group was established while expanding its participants.
The HMWF received a second JACS grant in 2017 to continue the consortium. Advisory council members established in 2018 were the Friends of Minidoka, Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation, the Japanese American National Museum, the Japanese American Citizens League and the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation.
President Donald Trump’s proposed budget defunded the JACS grant program in March 2018. But after a grassroots advocacy campaign to encourage legislators to protect the program, funding was restored for 2018 and fiscal year 2019.
The JACL is partnering with the JACSC to provide workshops about the camps at the upcoming JACL National Convention. The JACL has worked with members of the JACSC in the past, so this is a good effort to ensure that future funding for the preservation of the camps is assured.