Merced Assembly Center Memorial. Photo courtesy of JACL Merced

By P.C. Staff

Like with so many JACL chapters, the Livingston-Merced Chapter (Central California) relied on the Nisei to respond to requests from schools and organizations to share their “first-hand” experience about the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans in the “relocation” camps, but with the passage of time, that number has declined.

In an effort to recruit Sansei and Yonsei to continue on with the work they have been doing for the past 20 years, the Livingston-Merced Chapter’s Education Component was fortunate to have the Sonoma County JACL’s Jodi Hottel and Cynthia Kishi describe some of their organizational tools and show their PowerPoint presentations that were developed for their chapter’s Speakers Bureau. Hottel generously gave materials that her chapter created over the years so that the Livingston-Merced Chapter would not have to “reinvent the wheel.”

After the initial meeting, the Education Component had a small core of potential participants. Their next step will be to create a common presentation that any speaker can use going forward. Once the curriculum is prepared, they hope it will encourage retired and/or “empty-nester” Sansei and others to join the chapter’s Speakers Bureau, as it is an important tool to educate both young and old about U.S. history and the importance of safeguarding our civil rights.

Throughout a three-day period recently, more than 230 third- to eighth-grade students were the beneficiaries of “bus grants” made available to the local schools courtesy of the Education Component of the Livingston-Merced JACL. The students visited the Merced Assembly Center Memorial at the Merced County Fairgrounds and, with the assistance of 14 volunteer docents who also answered questions posed by the young students, made rubbings of names on the Wall of Names while others read the names of the camps on the benches; the students then were able to go to the map to see the actual location of these places.

The Merced Assembly Center Memorial is currently in Phase II, with plans to have a mural on the back of the Wall of Names of those who were held there. A garden is included in Phase II, but it is currently on hold due to a statewide requirement regarding water consumption limits on fairground landscapes during the current drought.

The Education Component hopes to continue and improve upon this successful school program next year.

For more information, contact Kiyono Kishi at kkishi@gvni.com.

Originally published on July 25, 2014