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Mananzar Committee Announces Legacy Award Recipient

By April 22, 2024No Comments

Ron Wakabayashi to be recognized as Manzanar Pilgrimage pioneer on April 27.

 Ron Wakabayashi, former regional director, Department of Justice Community Relations Service, has been named as the 2024 recipient of the Sue Kunitomi Embrey Legacy Award.

The award, named after the late chair of the Manzanar Committee who was one of the founders of the annual Manzanar Pilgrimage and was the driving force behind the creation of the Manzanar National Historic Site, will be presented at the 55th Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage on Saturday, April 27, 2024, starting at 11:30 a.m., at the Manzanar National Historic Site.

Ron Wakabayashi, speaking at the seventh annual Venice Japanese American Memorial Monument event in Los Angeles on Thursday, April 18 in West Los Angeles. (Photo: George Toshio Johnston)

Wakabayashi, who was one of the pioneers who participated in the first organized Manzanar Pilgrimage in 1969, was born in Reno, Nev., during the war years and had family members incarcerated at Rohwer and Topaz.

Years after his family returned to Los Angeles in 1947, Wakabayashi went on to attend California State University, Los Angeles before becoming the national youth director for the Japanese American Citizens League in the late 1960s. He was a founder and director of the Asian American Drug Abuse Program and then went on to become the JACL national director during the redress campaign.

Wakabayashi later became the executive director of the Los Angeles City Human Relations Commission and the director of the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations. He served in this position starting in 1999, and provided conflict resolution services related to race, color or national origin until he retired in 2020.

“We are honored to recognize Ron for all his outstanding contributions to our community, and for defending the civil rights of all Americans,” said Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey.

The program will begin at with a performance by UCLA Kyodo Taiko, the first collegiate taiko group in North America, and will conclude with the traditional interfaith service and ondo dancing. The main portion of the program begins at noon.

Pilgrimage 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 pilgrimage.

Due to circumstances beyond the Committee’s control, the large tent covering the main seating area will not be available. Participants are advised to wear hats, use sunscreen, bring umbrellas and pop-up tents, as well as folding chairs.

The 2024 Manzanar at Dusk program, will follow the afternoon pilgrimage program at 5 p.m. PDT, at Lone Pine High School gymnasium, located in Lone Pine, Calif., approximately eight miles south of the Manzanar National Historic Site.

Now in its 26th year, Manzanar at Dusk is co-sponsored by the Nikkei Student Unions at California Polytechnic University, Pomona, California State University (CSU), Fullerton CSU, Long Beach, the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of California, San Diego.

Both the Manzanar Pilgrimage and the Manzanar at Dusk program are free and open to the public. For more information, call (323) 662-5102, or send e-mail to