Project Update: Unity Roadtrip: Community Building through Interfaith, Inter-ethnic, Cross-Generational Storytelling

Torran Anderson, an alumnus of the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program to Norway, is bringing together youth from different backgrounds to explore the impact of fear and discrimination on the histories of their own communities. His Unity Roadtrip immerses the Arizona youth in stories from Japanese Americans formerly incarcerated in internment camps during World War II, relying on cross-cultural, cross-generational storytelling to unite diverse communities.

Find out more about Torran and other U.S. Alumni TIES Small Grant projects from the seminar in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, “Building Resilient Communities: Religious and Ethnic Diversity” here.

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On October 20, 2017, students at Nosotros Academy in Tucson Arizona learned about Japanese Incarceration during World War II. This often-untaught period of history has deep Arizona roots as over 30,000 people with Japanese ancestry were incarcerated in Arizona in Gila River and Poston. 75 years after the signing of Executive Order 9066, the legacy of this decision raises important civil rights issues for all Americans. Terry Matsunaga shared his parents’ experience being incarcerated and answered students’ questions.

The following day we took a field trip to the Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Site on Mount Lemon, which was the former site of the Catalina Federal Honor Camp. Susie and Terry Matsunaga took us on a tour of the site and Susie shared her parents’ experience being incarcerated at Gila River.

The students learned about Gordon Hirabayashi who opposed the racial discrimination of Japanese incarceration and later said in petitioning his conviction, “This is not only my case. This is not only a Japanese American case. This is an American case! Since the answer to the question, ‘Can it happen again?’ is ‘Yes,’ it is vitally important during relative periods of calm to ensure that ‘bizarre solutions’ have less opportunity to occur again.”

Students explored the ruins of the prison camp site, wrote in their journals, had small group discussions at Aqua Caliente Park, and asked Terry and Susie questions.

The next phase of the project will be students interviewing those who were incarcerated in the concentration camps and their family members in order to share this story with the public. The student interviews will become part of an exhibit at the Holocaust History Center of Tucson. If you know someone who was incarcerated during World War II, please send an email to alex@nosotrosacademy.org to set up an interview with the students of Nosotros Academy.

Written and contributed by Torran Anderson.

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