JACL Pacific Southwest District and Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress Announce the Bridging Communities Program

The Japanese American Citizens League Pacific Southwest District (JACL PSW) and Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress (NCRR) in partnership with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) announce the second annual Bridging Communities program which is funded by the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program (CCLPEP) grant.

The purpose of the Bridging Communities program is to connect the youth of the Japanese American community to the Muslim American community by celebrating the strengths and differences that bind us as a community. The program also seeks to build understanding and a sense of compassion for future solidarity on issues within our communities.

Through a series of interactive sessions, participants will engage in workshops with discussions and group activities as well as visit sites that will allow the participants to fully engage and learn about the Muslim and Japanese cultures. These sessions will focus on topics ranging from ethnic identity, culture/religion, civil rights, and activism.

The program will gather 40 high school students in five weekend sessions in the Spring of 2010. Participants will attend programs such as Day of Remembrance, which will commemorate the lives of hundreds of thousands of Japanese Americans incarcerated during WWII. In the fourth session, the students will participate in the Manzanar Pilgrimage where they will tour the interpretative center and participate in the Manzanar after Dusk program. Parents are also encouraged to attend parent sessions to explain the various topics of the program to discuss with their children.

The program was well received by last year’s participants. One Muslim American student said, “I just think it’s really cool to be doing this. I got to meet many new people, and learn a lot about cultures and religions. I can’t wait until we meet again!” A Japanese American student said, “I hope to learn even more about the Muslim American community and keep experiencing all these incredible cultures. I met so many interesting people and it was amazing to find we all have so much in common!”

Since 9/11 and the start of the Iraq War, Muslim communities throughout the nation have experienced heightened hostility, discrimination, and policies that work against them simply because of their ethnic identity. JACL and NCRR recognize the hostilities and civil rights infringements on Muslim communities as those that were similarly forced upon Japanese Americans during WWII. The joint effort of both communities will heighten awareness through education to the youth.

Applications and more information can be found at www.jaclpsw.org. Applications will be accepted until January 31, but should be turned in as soon as possible. For questions or further information, contact the JACL Pacific Southwest District office at (213) 626-4471 or email dsohn@jaclpsw.org.

Bridging Communities Program Session Topics:

Session 1: Identity | February 20, 2010 (9am-5pm)

Participants will meet at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center to take part of a workshop where they will explore topics on ethnic identity and how understanding identity helps build a better community. Participants will also attend the Day of Remembrance in Los Angeles, which will commemorate the lives of thousands of Japanese Americans incarcerated during WWII.

Session 2: Culture & Religion | March 13, 2010: (9am-5pm)

In the second session of the program, participants will get a chance to learn about the Muslim culture through a site visit to a mosque and attend workshops on how personal ties to culture and religion reflect on their identity and community relations as well as a Q&A discussion on Islam. Afterwards, participants will take part in the Great Leap Performance Workshop run by Nobuko Miyamoto where they will use art to cross cultural borders. During lunchtime, participants will partake in a food exchange.

Session 3: History & Activism | April 10, 2010: (9am-5pm)

The third session of the program will explore topics on history, activism, and the future. Participants will learn about Japanese-American community history through a personal walking tour of Little Tokyo. Workshops in this session will be facilitated by youth already involved in community activism. The workshops will allow participants to learn about the histories of their peers and how understanding the differences can lead to ethnic communities relating and working together.

Session 4: Manzanar Pilgrimage | April 24, 2010: (6am-12am)

In the fourth session of the program, participants will travel to and spend a day at the Manzanar National Historic Site, located in California’s Owens Valley about 200 miles northeast of Los Angeles. Known as the Manzanar War Relocation Center during WWII, it was one of ten remote camps where some 10,000 Japanese Americans were displaced and incarcerated. At the site, participants will tour the interpretative center and participate in the Manzanar after Dusk program.

Session 5: Final Project & Closing | May 8, 2010: (9am-5pm)

In the fifth session of the program, participants will be working on a final project and closing the program with a reflective discussion.