LOS ANGELES (March 22, 2018) — Four national Japanese American organizations signed a groundbreaking memorandum of understanding on Feb. 18 to demonstrate their commitment to the Japanese American Confinement Site Consortium, a group of organizations and individuals dedicated to preserving and sharing the Japanese American incarceration experience. This agreement comes at a critical time, as federal funding to preserve incarceration sites and tell the Japanese American story is currently threatened by budget cuts.
By signing the MOU, the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), Japanese American National Museum, Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation, and Friends of Minidoka expressed their shared enthusiasm, commitment, and responsibilities to the Consortium and the logistics that go into running it. These four groups have pledged to provide significant resources, staff time, expertise, and convening space.
The Japanese American National Museum hosted the February 18 meeting of the Consortium, where more than 40 people shared ideas and worked to further define the organization and goals of the Consortium. Organizations represented at the meeting included the Amache Preservation Society II, Densho, Korematsu Institute, Manzanar National Historic Site, Friends of Minidoka, the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation, the Poston Community Alliance, the Tuna Canyon Detention Station Coalition, and more. Over the course of the day, participants refined their vision of what the Consortium could and should try to accomplish. “We have the potential to channel tremendous energy and resources toward wide-ranging initiatives that illuminate the Japanese American experience and provide valuable social justice lessons,” said Brian Liesinger, Coordinator of the Consortium.
The meeting of the Consortium and signing of the MOU comes at a pivotal time. The Japanese American Confinement Sites (JACS) grant program, which provides project funding to many of the non-profit organizations that belong to the Consortium, has been marked for defunding in President Trump’s 2019 federal budget proposal. Immediately following the February meeting, the Consortium’s member organizations have coordinated with the JACL to successfully lobby for restoration of this funding. The Consortium’s efforts resulted in a bipartisan letter of support for JACS funding signed by 57 members of the House of Representatives.
The JACS program, created in 2006 and administered by the National Park Service, has provided financial assistance to preserve historic structures, build museums, and create educational resources to help raise awareness about the Japanese American incarceration experience. A JACS grant awarded to the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation in 2015 was vital in helping to form the Confinement Sites Consortium. The Consortium will meet again in October 2018 to review their progress and continue to plan for the future.