54th Manzanar Pilgrimage, 2023

First Pilgrimage to Manzanar since the beginning of the Pandemic. Nearly 1/3 were visiting the Manzanar concentration camp site for the first time.

Transcript of Keynote Speech by Manzanar Committee Chairperson,
Bruce Embrey

We chose our theme: Generational struggles for Democracy because we, like so many others, are concerned about the threats to our democratic way of life. We believe America faces a real threat, an existential threat to our constitutional rights.

We also chose this theme because we know resistance has been a
constant in our nation’s history. We know for generations, long before the founding of our Republic, people have fought for freedom whether it was indigenous people fighting settler colonialism, slave rebellions, the civil rights movement of the 1960s to our decades long struggle for redress and reparations.

As we worry about the future of our country we know we stand on the shoulders of giants, leaders who gave their all for our community. Today we honor two such leaders, Jim Matsuoka, a courageous political activist and Rev. Alfred Tsuyuki, a popular religious leader and Shinto priest, who opened our interfaith ceremony each year with a Shinto purification ceremony. Two men who stood up for and devoted their lives to our community.

While this is our 54th Pilgrimage, we are continuing a tradition dating back to 1946, when the Buddhist minister Rev. Maeda led the first pilgrimage to Manzanar. So, this is, in fact, the 77th annual pilgrimage to Manzanar.

In 1946 they gathered here to pray and reflect on our history, just as we do today, before the Ireito.

Manzanar Committee photo of Ireito

The Ireito has become the most iconic figure of Manzanar and was
dedicated in ‘43 in the aftermath of one of the most troubling times in Manzanar. So, from its inception it was designed to console the souls of our families. It was seen by the Rev. Nagatomi, the Buddhist priest of Manzanar, to be a unifying symbol, and we believe it continues to be.

The Ireito has survived the wind and sands for 80 years. It has survived bullets and shotgun blasts from those filled with hate. Yet, this beautiful cemetery monument, like our community, remains steadfast, unbowed and unbroken.

Manzanar has another iconic feature which we consider a monument. It is the bronze plaque on the walkway leading to the interpretive center. It too has endured the elements and survived the hate that tried to erase its message with bullets, hatchets and chisels.

1973 Plaque at Manzanar

Dedicated at the 1973 Pilgrimage, this plaque, declaring Manzanar a State Historic Landmark, was the first of its kind. The first time any confinement site was recognized by our government. It was the first time the people who had lived behind barbed wire analyzed and debated what happened to them during WWII. The newly formed Manzanar Committee led by survivors of camp including my mother, Jim Matsuoka, and Rex Takahashi crafted the words on the plaque. The words are forceful and honest.

Concentration camp, racism and economic exploitation. They declared America’s concentration camps violated every principle of a democracy. They knew the term “concentration camp” is reserved for sites of the most serious human rights abuses, but they still declared that Manzanar, and all the other camps were not just places where their constitutional rights were stripped away, but were concentration camps where their human rights were violated and abused.

This bronze plaque, set in stone 50 years ago this month by the renowned Catholic stone mason Ryozo Kado, the very same stone mason who crafted the beautiful ireito, calls on us to remember what will happen when racism and economic greed are allowed to override our constitutional rights.

While the words on the plaque are about Manzanar, we know our history is but one part of America’s tortuous path towards democracy.

The survivors of Manzanar knew from direct experience that white supremacy is woven into the fabric of America, but they also knew that we can win justice.

We believe, as Jim Matsuoka did, there is no better place than Manzanar to gather and demonstrate our common bonds. This is why today the Manzanar Committee reaffirms its support for the struggles of indigenous people for land and treaty rights and wholeheartedly endorses reparations for the Black community.

We must embrace the vision and the courage of Jim Matsuoka, Rev.
Tsuyuki, Ryozo Kado and my mother Sue Kunitomi Embrey as we work for social justice. We must for the simple reason that fundamental principles are at stake just as they were in 1942.

This is the legacy of Manzanar, the legacy we have inherited. We must leave this legacy for future generations, so all people of every color and creed, can learn from the past in order to build a more democratic future.


-Bruce Embrey, April 29, 2023

For more information about the Manazanar Piligrimage and work of the Manzanar Committee, visit their website, follow their Instagram account and YouTube Channel

Manzanar Committee

Anti-Asian Violence History

Racism Has Always Been Part of the Asian American Experience

If we don’t understand the history of Asian exclusion, we cannot understand the racist hatred of the present.

April 21, 2021

Mae Ngai

Asian American Studies and history professor at Columbia University

Asiatic exclusion and Jim Crow segregation were two modes of racial management necessary for white supremacy after the Civil War, when the West and the South were being integrated into a national economy based on corporate capital and a polity made up of white male voters. These policies relied on euphemisms and legal fictions—“aliens ineligible to citizenship” and “separate but equal”—to work around the Fourteenth Amendment’s promise of equal protection and due process for all. Indeed, in the late 19th century, the Supreme Court would interpret the Fourteenth Amendment to favor the rights of capital, and not those of formerly enslaved people or Asian immigrants.

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Anti-Asian Violence History

Resistance to State Violence Against Japanese Americans

Seventy eight years ago today — also a Sunday — James Hatsuaki Wakasa was shot to death at 7:30 p.m. at Topaz, Utah, by a guard tower sentry. After we posted a story about the killing, titled “The Demolished Monument,” we received a letter from an 86-year-old Ohio reader who was a child at Topaz at the time. He shared some memories that have haunted him for years.

50 Objects / Stories of the American Japanese Incarceration – Nancy Ukai Tweet
James Hatsuaki Wakasa - National Archives

See also, “The Demolished Monument”

James Hatsuaki Wakasa
and the erasure of memory

At the former Topaz concentration camp in Utah, there’s only dry grass where a concrete monument once stood, to mark where an innocent man was killed by a guard tower sentry. The man was walking his dog after dinner. HIs name was James Hatsuaki Wakasa.

Anti-Asian Violence History

The Bay Area town that drove out its Chinese residents for nearly 100 years

Katie Dowd, SFGATEApril 7, 2021Updated: April 7, 2021 10:44 am

Antioch Chinatown, CA

Before the white residents of Antioch burned down Chinatown in 1876, they banned Chinese people from walking the city streets after sunset.

In order to get from their jobs to their homes each evening, the Chinese residents built a series of tunnels connecting the business district to where I Street met the waterfront. There, a small Chinatown and a cluster of houseboats made up the immigrant settlement. If they ever felt safe there, it was fleeting. Above the tunnels and outside their doors, the threat of violence was simmering.

Read the rest of the article here:

Anti-Asian Violence History Working-Class Power

The Systemic Roots of “Anti-Asian Violence”

Anti-Asian Violence Through a Working Class Lens: Pt. 1
CLICK HERE to read


Individual acts of anti-Asian violence are offsprings of corporate anti-Asian violence

“Racial violence against Asians has been initiated by corporations and the government in order to make profit, and is part and parcel of our political economic system which perpetuates racism for all nationalities in particular working folks.”