“I feel really privileged to have participated in it,” said one of the teachers in commenting on JACL’s recent workshops on the incarceration. The participant went on to say, “I love that it wasn’t just professors imparting their knowledge, but speakers who were instrumental in the redress movement, the Korematsu case, as well as those who lived in the camps.”
National JACL held two weeklong workshops for teachers from July 24-29 and from Aug. 7-12. Titled “Civil Liberties in Times of Crisis: The Japanese American Incarceration,” the workshops were sponsored through a $165,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. A total of 72 teachers from throughout the United States attended the sessions.
The workshops were designed to provide experience-based insight into the incarceration by visiting sites such as the Santa Anita detention facility and Manzanar concentration camp. In addition, the workshops were held at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, and the first session consisted of a walking tour of the Little Tokyo area led by Alan Nishio and his colleagues from the Little Tokyo Service Center.
“The power of place cannot be underestimated,” commented one of the teachers who participated in the workshops. “The trips in Little Tokyo, Santa Anita and Manzanar are experiences I will never forget.”
Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, author of “Farewell to Manzanar,” captivated the teachers with episodes from her book and with the manner in which some of these episodes were translated into a movie version of her work.
June Aochi Berk and Minoru Tonai also shared personal stories about their experiences at Santa Anita as well as at Rohwer and Amache, respectively. Their recollections were a highlight for the teachers who appreciated the opportunity to hear these firsthand accounts.
Valerie Matsumoto, a professor of history at the University of California, Los Angeles, made a presentation on art in the camps by depicting camp life through numerous works of artists such as Mine Okubo, Estelle Ishigo and Henry Sugimoto.
And Mitch Maki discussed the postwar impact of the camps in individuals and the Japanese American community related to the trauma caused by that experience as well as the discussion within the community about remedies in the lead up to the redress campaign.
Dale Minami who led the effort to vacate the conviction of Fred Korematsu during the 1980s, discussed the constitutional issues raised by the incarceration in the cases of Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi, Minoru Yasui and Mitsuye Endo.
In one of the final sessions, John Tateishi, who directed the early stages of JACL’s redress efforts, detailed the legislative campaign that resulted in an apology and compensation for those affected by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066.
Sharon Ishii-Jordan, retired professor in education from Creighton University, and Greg Marutani, chair of JACL’s Education Committee, served as facilitators. They also assisted the teachers who collaborated on a project to develop learning activities to be used in their classrooms.
In a closing comment, one of the teachers said, “I am leaving this workshop with a deeper understanding of a topic that is important, yet rarely or too quickly discussed. I can’t wait to share the wide array of primary sources with my kids! I am so excited to share with other educators whose responsibility it is to highlight the importance of civil liberties and equality.”