Tuesday, January 16, 2007

JANM: Memories of the Children's Village at Manzanar

On Sunday, January 14th, I attended "Because they might be a threat...": Memories of the Children's Village at Manzanar at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM).

Despite working for ExperienceLA and being a JANM member, I honestly wasn't aware of this event until I saw it in the featured section of the recent ExperienceLA newsletter (See Issue 148: Traditional to Contemporary). I was enticed to attend because of two things: the topic (children at the Shonien, the Japanese Children's Home, Mary Knoll Home and Salvation Army Home were relocated to the Children's Village in Manzanar) and the panelists (including Lillian Matsumoto who took care of these orphans and Lillian Yoshiko Bonner who was an infant at the time of internment).

It was a worthwhile event as it was a part of Japanese-American internment during WWII that I wasn't aware of at all. I had never given thought to what happened to Japanese-American children who didn't have parents at the time of relocation...and now I know. It was nice to know that despite the situation, overall, these children were well taken care of and all were placed into some type of housing situation at the end of the war. The event was also quite moving as it was also a reunion (and the first time Lillian Bonner met Lillian Matsumoto since that time period). One woman stated that her childhood and her time at Children's Village was one of the best times in her life.

Perhaps the most touching story relayed took place when the children were bused to Manzanar. The younger children were told that they were going on a picnic and they sang songs and played games on the journey to the camp. At one point a four-year-old girl wanted to sing and she sang what she knew of "God Bless America" which caused one of the soldiers watching over them to shed a tear.

See all the other events coming up at JANM, including Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment and Lost & Found: Reclaiming the Japanese American Incarceration by Karen L. Ishizuka , on JANM's ExperienceLA profile page.

-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator

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