NCRR and Visual Communications to premiered Stand Up for Justice at Day of Remembrance 2004
Ralph Lazo in camp
As a prelude to the February 21, 2004 Los Angeles Day of Remembrance, members of the Ralph Lazo family and several old friends of Ralph gathered together at a luncheon sponsored by the Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress (NCRR) Education Committee and Visual Communications, co-producers of Stand Up for Justice: the Ralph Lazo Story.
Former neighbors, classmates and "Manzanite" friends shared reminiscences about their Mexican/Irish American teenage friend who unexpectedly joined them on their train to the Manzanar internment camp. Two of Ralph’s children also related how they learned about their father’s experiences in camp. After lunch the participants viewed the Stand Up for Justice trailer.
Stand Up for Justice is a 30-minute drama, which explores the enduring values of friendship and loyalty between Ralph, a sixteen-year-old student at Belmont High School and his Japanese American Nisei friends. Ralph is deeply moved by the trauma suffered by Japanese American families after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. When Japanese Americans on the West Coast are forced to sell their possessions and leave for designated concentration camps following the signing of Executive Order 9066 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ralph decides to join them. He obtains his fathers permission to go to camp and manages to board the train taking hundreds of Japanese Americans to Manzanar.
Ralph’s daughter, Laura, knew "her dad had a lot of Japanese American friends for years," but didn’t know the extent of his voluntary internment at Manzanar until she read an article about him in the Los Angeles Times. Daniel, Ralph’s youngest son, said his dad was "a very interesting person and, always an educator, cloaked even serious messages in humor. He had a true love for life and people...his memories of camp were always good ones".
One of Ralphs friends from Central Junior High School, Miyoshi Higa, thought that Ralph knew about discrimination even as a teenager, because he grew up in
Texas, a state where bias purportedly was strong against Mexicans. Ralph lost his mother early, was a year older than most of his Nisei friends and consequently was more mature and independent than them. Ralph told Miyo that he bought his own clothes with the money he earned on his paper route. Because he was new to Los Angeles, Miyo believed that Ralph didnt have an established social base in the Mexican American community and gravitated to Chinese and Japanese Americans. Miyoshi theorizes that Ralph went to Manzanar because he wanted to be with his friends and because he realized the injustice of the U.S. governments actions.
After Ralph was inducted into the army in 1944 he served in the Pacific theater. Terry Hosaka said that Ralph tried to save the lives of the Japanese soldiers that were captured by American soldiers. He didnt want them to get shot. As Daniel Lazo said, Ralph always referred to the Japanese community as his community.
Friends of Lazo
Kazi Nagai who graduated from Manzanar High School with Ralph remembered Ralph as adventurous, a wonderful human being; we didnt think about him being different nationality wise, he was just one of our pals, a nice happy fellow. Kazi added, You would have loved him.
In addition to the premiere of Stand Up for Justice, the Day of Remembrance will honor other individuals and organizations that have stood up for justice. NCRR has sponsored the Los Angeles Day of Remembrance every year since 1980 in commemoration of the February 19, 1942 signing of EO 9066 by President Roosevelt. This years co-sponsors are Visual Communications, the Japanese American Citizens League Southwest District, Japanese American Cultural and Community Center and the Japanese American National Museum
DOR will be held on February 21, 2004, 7-9 PM, at the Aratani Japan American Theater at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, 244 S. San Pedro St. in downtown Los Angeles. General admission is $20 with a reduced rate of $15 for seniors and students. A dessert reception follows the program. For more information call NCRR at 213-680-3342 or Visual Communications at 213-680-4462x30. Tickets may also be purchased through the Aratani Japan America Theater Box Office at 213-680-3700.
Stand Up for Justice was made possible by grants from the federal Civil Liberties Public Education Fund (CLPEF), and the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program (CCLPEP). Stand Up for Justice was shot on film donated by Eastman Kodak. Donations continue to be gratefully received from many organizations and hundreds of individuals. Fundraising for Stand Up for Justice continues so that a videotape copy and a curriculum guide will be available to secondary schools.