I didn’t know what to expect when we got to the first camp…which was Rohwer, in Arkansas. It had a cemetery and a memorial and a row of kiosks to explain what happened there in what is now row after row of flat agricultural farm land, perhaps cotton? Most everything had been harvested. It was pretty warm and it was December.
We just had a rudimentary map and just sheer determination to find all these places. For a city girl who’s lived in NY City, Washington, DC and a year and a half in Tokyo, going to these sites gave me a new insight into my country, what democracy means and what life can be like for folks who don’t live in areas with every amenity available to mankind. Even living in a tiny, sparsely populated rural town in the Berkshire Mountains of MA didn’t prepare me for the sense of isolation at some of these locations, often a vastness which could seem deadly but beautiful at the same time.
The journey also tells a different story of America and Americans (white, native American, Latino and black, rural and remote) than what I was used to, a story which seems more relevant today than when it happened 75 years ago. Back then we didn’t know or didn’t want to know. Today, to do the same would be to return to those days...of looking the other way. On a brighter note, the journey of looking for these places will also take you near some spectacular geological landscapes like the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest, Yellowstone or Crater Lake, depending on how you’d like to connect the dots.
At almost all of these sites, people have taken care to rebuild, resurrect or preserve a part of the history there. A few have amazingly well put together interpretive centers while others are in the process. To let them disappear would be a shame because it means we will lose an essential part of this country's story, the struggle to become an American, which is central to understanding who we are as a nation.
Although the deadline for the Call to Action has passed, I thought I’d share this with you.
JANM is joining Japanese American organizations across the nation in an important call to action to help support continued funding for the Japanese American Confinement Sites grant program. Please consider lending your support by contacting your elected representatives.
Call to Action
Tell Your Representative to Support JACS
Support the continuation of funding for the Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program (JACS) by contacting your representative!
JACS funding is vital to the preservation of the legacy of incarceration endured by Japanese Americans during World War II. This funding is used across the nation in many capacities, such as art, education, and recording of oral histories.
Rep. Doris Matsui is leading a Dear Colleague letter that expresses support for continued JACS funding. We are asking for your help by contacting your representatives and asking them to sign on to Rep. Matsui’s letter. This will show that you, as their constituents, care about this funding. The deadline for the letter is March 16th, so act fast!
Also, if you or your family has any connection to a specific incarceration camps, please consider contacting the Representative of that camp’s location. Below is a list of each camp and the Representative of that area.
Please use the samples below to get in touch and show your support!
Camps by District and Representative
Jerome and Rohwer—Rick Crawford AR-1, French HIll AR-2, Steve Womack AR-3
Granada Amanche—Ken Buck CO-4
Topaz—Chris Stewart UT-2
Gila River—Krysten Sinema, AZ-9
Poston—Martha McSally, AZ-2
Tule Lake—Doug LaMalfa CA-1
Manzanar—Paul Cook CA-8
Minidoka—Mike Simpson ID-2
Kooskia Work Camp—Labrador ID-2
Heart Mountain—Liz Cheney
Dear … :
I am writing you today to ask for your support of the Japanese American Confinement (JACS) Program.
JACS was passed in 2009 with bipartisan support and has funded many important programs.
Preserving Japanese American history is important to me because …
I have personally benefited from JACS through … (list program and its importance to you).
I am asking you to sign on to Rep. Matsui’s letter to the appropriations committee in support of JACS. Any questions can be directed to Andrew Heineman of Rep. Matsui’s office at Andrew.Heineman@mail.house.gov.
If you are unable to sign onto the letter, I ask that you consider including JACS funding in your individual appropriations requests.
Thank you for your time,
Additional Reasons to Highlight
Sample Phone Script
Hi, my name is … and I am a constituent. I am asking Rep. … to support continued funding for the Japanese American Confinement Program. This program is important in educating the public about Japanese American incarceration and preserving this chapter in America’s history. I personally support JACS because … I ask Rep. … to sign onto Representative Matsui’s Dear Colleague letter or to submit an individual request for the continued funding of it. Thank you for your time.
My Yellow Bowl Project hopes to spur discussion around these questions: Who is an American? What does citizenship mean? How long do you have to be in the US to be considered a bonafide member of this group?