Returning to South Los Angeles as a Japanese American
Los Angeles
May 2 - May 10, 2015
3741 S. La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90016
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Returning to South Los Angeles as a Japanese American

Apr 24, 2015

Written by: Tom Nakanishi

As a fourth generation Japanese American, being part of Manifest:Justice has allowed me to reexamine my family and community's history in LA, in particular our history in South LA. Whether from my family's employment in South LA before and after the World War II internment, the resettlement of Japanese Americans to the area after the war or the radical multiculturalism spurred by diverse communities living and working with each other, I am re-inspired by the stories of our past to continue fighting for justice.

Like others in my community, the World War II Japanese American internment serves as my foundation for justice. Growing up listening to my grandparents' stories about having their property taken from them, including a small produce stand in South LA, being sent to remote, barbed-wire lined camps with guns pointing in at them from guard towers, and resettling back into society with nothing after the war continues to inspire me to protect the civil liberties of all.

While my grandparents ultimately resettled on the Eastside in the multiracial enclave of Boyle Heights, the largest concentration of Japanese Americans in the U.S. resettled in South Los Angeles alongside pioneering African American property owners in the area. Class photos from the 50s and 60s, remnants of Japanese American-developed properties along Crenshaw, the Japanese-style gardens in the area that my grandfather tended throughout his life, and the work of the multiracial Crenshaw Neighbors Homeowners Association to preserve integration and persuade white homeowners there was no need to flee reveal how we grew up, lived and worked with each other as the civil rights movement gained momentum and radical multiculturalism began shaping our personal and political development.

It is this history of collaboration that brought together multiracial coalitions to elect Mayor Tom Bradley and fight for and secure my father's tenure with UCLA's Asian American Studies Center and that continues to inspire us to build bridges and strengthen relationships across our communities along issues of shared interests like justice. I am grateful for the opportunity to do this here at Manifest:Justice with a multicultural team of community leaders, activists, and artists hoping to expand the discourse around justice and spur new collective actions that will inspire us to create the more just and equal society that we have been fighting for throughout our histories.