Seventy Years After Voluntary Internment, Ralph Lazo's Story to Screen in Santa Ana

ralph-lazo-1.jpg
Ralph Lazo
Ralph Lazo, a Mexican-Irish teenager from Los Angeles who voluntarily went to the Manzanar Japanese interment camp in California, should be better known by history. A screening of the docudrama Stand Up for Justice: The Ralph Lazo Story tomorrow at the Old Orange County Court House in Santa Ana will aim to alleviate the historical amnesia of the United States and tell the tale of the unsung hero.

As a sixteen-year-old Belmont High School student, Lazo's decision seventy years ago in May 1942 to depart by train would note him as as the only unmarried non-Japanese person detained at Manzanar. Why would someone voluntarily subject himself to one of the more shameful episodes in U.S. history? Lazo told the Los Angeles Times in a 1981 interview that "internment was immoral...It was wrong, and I couldn't accept it."

Back in the day on February 19, 1942, Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 following the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japan the previous December. It paved the way for more than one-hundred thousand Japanese-Americans to be forcibly relocated into internment camps in desolate, inhospitable areas like Manzanar. Lazo, who had many Japanese-American friends, bore witness to families frantically selling personal possessions before uprooted from their daily lives by the egregious injustice and took action to suffer alongside them in their struggle.

As a collaborative effort between Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress and Visual Communications, the half-hour feature Stand Up For Justice retells this inspiring history of inter-ethnic solidarity. NCRR members Patty and Steve Nagano will be on hand for a discussion of the film at tomorrow night's screening. Written and directed by John Esaki, it retraces Lazo's more than two-year interment, but the story doesn't end there. He would go on to graduate high school and be drafted into World War II serving in the Pacific Theater. It was only then that government officials realized that Lazo wasn't Japanese!

Later in life, his cause never strayed far from his heart, joining efforts to gain reparations for surviving Japanese-American internees. "There are those who struggle all their lives," as the old quote from playwright Bertolt Brecht goes, "these are the indispensable ones." So too, are their memories. See you there!

Stand Up for Justice: The Ralph Lazo Story screens tomorrow (con subtítulos en Español) at the Old Orange County Court House, 211 West Santa Ana Blvd., Santa Ana, 7:00 -9:00 p.m.

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16 comments
Paul Lucas
Paul Lucas

My Godfather was interred at Manzanar. benny Marumoto was there as a kid in WWII.

mitch young
mitch young

Oops, gotta admit a little egg on my face here.

"Government officials finally realized Lazo was not Japanese-American when he was drafted in August 1944. "

Thing is, if he was so convinced his government was wrong, why  let yourself be drafted? 

mitch young
mitch young

Good way to dodge the draft -- just sayin'.

gustavoarellano
gustavoarellano

Same reason why so many Nissei went off to fight for Uncle Sam, showing bravery your pathetic ass could only dream of. Go for Broke!!

C Donahoe
C Donahoe

Do you think it's possible that he disagreed with the internment but not the war itself?

gabriel san roman
gabriel san roman

Yeah, not only that, he received a bronze star medal for heroism in service, too!

BetaRayBill
BetaRayBill

Must you breath the same air as the rest of us?

mitch young
mitch young

Says the guy who never spent a day in uniform in his life. 

mitch young
mitch young

Well, given all the endless angst over this wartime policy, it would seem to me that fighting for the government that instigated the policy was a contradiction.

Johnrose7588
Johnrose7588

If we had a camp for the muslims there would be a lot less terrorism out there.

gustavoarellano
gustavoarellano

Deflect, evade—you're sounding like Nativo Lopez. Serving in the military doesn't automatically give you a hero card, pendejo.

C Donahoe
C Donahoe

 Whose "endless angst"? are we talking about here?  Lazo's?  Just because you can't conceive of supporting a government even when you don't agree with all of its policies doesn't mean he couldn't.

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