Tuna Canyon Preservation Efforts

“Two minutes please”

By: Nancy Takayama, PSW District Staff


Last month I was asked by a former CSUN student who was asking on behalf of a California State University at Northridge (CSUN) faculty member, if the San Fernando Valley had a Japanese American history tour.

It was an interesting thought and I answered, No. I had met this student while working on a research grant with the CSUN Asian American Studies, the San Fernando Valley Japanese American Community Center and the San Fernando Valley Japanese American Citizens League.

We interviewed 20 Japanese American Nisei (second generation). The project was to uncover, research, collect and document the lost and forgotten existence of the Japanese and Japanese Americans in the San Fernando Valley, prewar and post war: The lost and forgotten history

Try going to the library or public records. You will find little or no records that the Japanese lived the San Fernando valley. It was through the oral histories collected and the research that were we able to discover that there were 132 Japanese American produce and flower farmers. Since they couldn’t own the land (Alien Land Law), they had to lease it, thus no records.

After WWII broke out, the Japanese and Japanese American families were removed from their homes. It was decades later, 3 decades for my family before they would talk about the removal, the relocations camps and the assembly centers. It took 60 years before the 20 oral history interviewees agreed to talk and record their personal stories about life before, during and after camps. With the discovery of the detention station internees are coming forward.

This detention station is part of our forgotten, lost history. This detention station and the stories that go with it are an integral part of U.S. history from 70 years ago. Let’s remember to not lose or forget the Japanese American part of U.S. history.

The San Fernando Valley has no historical sites representing the Japanese and the Japanese Americans in the valley.”

On Thursday, April 18th in Room 1010 of the Los Angeles City Hall the Cultural Heritage Commission met to vote on the Historic-Cultural Monument Application of the Tuna Canyon Detention Stations site.

The Tuna Canyon Detention Station “operated as a gateway to internment for civilians of Japanese, Japanese Peruvian, Italian and German descent. From its opening until May 1942, 1,490 Japanese males passed through the camp and were transferred to other internment camps…” (http://www.rafu.com/2013/04/commission-to-vote-on-monument-status-for-tuna-canyon-detention-station/)

More than a dozen community members came out to speak in support of designating the site as a Historical Cultural site. JACL Pacific Southwest District Governor, Ken Inouye, PSW District board member, Kanji Sahara and San Fernando Valley JACL board member and SFV Japanese American Community Center President, Nancy Oda.

Ken Bernstein, AICP, Principal City Planner Office of Historic Resources summarized the Los Angeles Department City Planning Recommendation Report stating “That the Cultural Heritage Commission not declare the property a Historic-Cultural Monument”.

The Cultural Historical Commission voted to support the City Planning Report not to support designating the Tuna Canyon Detention Station as a Cultural Historic Monument. The Cultural Historical Commission will now take their recommendation to the City Council for their vote. The application for designation will require 10 votes to pass.

What’s our next step if council votes against the Cultural Historic designation?

-Working with Councilman Alarcon in finding ways to create an educational and appropriate display of the detention station. The Cultural Historic Commission has required him to meet with the property owners.

-Check on other Historic Cultural designations on a State or Federal level.

JACL Pacific Southwest District and the San Fernando Valley Community Center will continue the efforts to save Tuna Canyon Detentions Station history.

For more information about the Tuna Canyon Detention Station, please view the following websites and documentation.

View a documentary short by John Newcombe on the Tuna Canyon Detention Station, “Rancho La Canada” (http://www.gcvoice.org/current-projects/vhgc.htm)

What Does Historic-Cultural Monument Status Mean?

JACL/OCA Leadership Summit Reflections

From left: Amy Watanabe, Eri Kameyama, Priscilla Ouchida, Nancy Okubo

From left: Amy Watanabe, Eri Kameyama, Priscilla Ouchida, Nancy Okubo

By: Eri Kameyama, JACL PSW staff 

Last month, I was given the opportunity to spend a few days in our nation’s capital for the annual JACL/OCA Leadership Summit. Myself, along with another representative of Pacific Southwest District, travelled across the U.S. to learn about the relevant issues in our Asian Pacific Islander communities, and to impact policy through our educated voices.

I applied for this program because I wanted to be better informed on policy making and what I can do as a community worker in urging for legislative changes.  Coming from an academic background in Asian American Studies, I was familiar with many of the community’s issues but I never knew what action I can take to influence the policymakers. This program provided the perfect venue to learn and to practice.

On one of the days, we had a White House Briefing from the Asian American and Pacific Islander White House Initiative. Held in the highly secured building of Eisenhower, we were asked to show our IDs twice. The second time, each of us were given a tag to wear around our necks. Most people wore green tags, but mine was pink with the words “ESCORT.” I realized it was because myself, along with a few others in the group, were non-citizens. I felt somewhat marginalized by this otherization, but also realized the privilege in having paperwork, which allowed me to even be on this trip (and to take a plane to get to DC). 1.3 million Asian Americans today are undocumented, and I cannot imagine how much more obstacles they face on a daily basis by not having so called “proper” documentation.

Pink Escort Tags

Pink Escort Tags

Later that day, we took a tour of the Capitol building. It was a humbling experience being inside the Rotunda where Senator Daniel Inouye’s funeral service was held a few months prior. If you’ve ever been in the Capitol, you know that there are many sculptures of famous Americans who shaped the nation. I was touched by the figure of Rosa Parks unveiled just this February, who became the first Black woman to ever be included in this collection of statues. As a woman of color, I thought, “Who will be the first Asian American woman to make it in here? Will it be in my lifetime?”

Perhaps the highlight of this Summit was the Congressional visits at the Hill. My group visited Congresswoman Sanchez’s office and spoke to their staffer on two issues. The first issue was for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, which would keep families and siblings together, as well as provide a clear pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers. The other issue was to urge for a policy that stops hate-crimes and bullying. It was empowering to know that even as a mere resident of Los Angeles, I can have a voice in influencing policymakers to make the right decisions for our Asian Pacific Islander communities.

Overall, this experience in D.C. allowed me to reflect on my own privilege, position, and perspective as a Japanese/American resident alien aspiring to make change in my own community.  It was amazing being able to connect with other leaders around the nation, and I definitely urge others to apply for this Summit, if given an opportunity.

(Re)claiming Our Communities: Identity Politics, Youth Engagement, and Building Contemporary Asian Pacific America



The 2012 Collegiate Japanese American Internship program is running full speed with 5 passionate and hardworking interns placed at APIsCAN, OCAPICA, and APALC this year.

They are doing many hands-on advocacy and outreach work such as researching API funders and doing voter mobilization for the November elections. Three of the interns are conducting phone banking sessions every week to speak directly with potential API voters on issues that matter to them. Their work impacts the community in positive ways and their energy is vital towards obtaining social justice.


These great interns are putting together a 1 Day Conference as part of their Program. Please join us as we learn about how youth can make a difference in their post-college communities.

“How do everyday professionals serve as strong advocates for the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities? And how can you likewise utilize your technical and professional skills to empower the AAPI community when you enter the post-college world?

In addressing such questions, this conference offers an open forum for participants to explore various post-college opportunities as well as various forms of activism that align with their future interests. Ultimately, through a series of workshops and panels, this conference hopes to build community while cultivating active and well-informed AAPI youth.”




When: Saturday Nov 17th

Time: 10:00am ~ 4:30pm

Where: Garden Room B @ JACCC

244 S. San Pedro St.

Los Angeles, CA 90012

ACTION ALERT: Request for Information from Dept. of Education

On May 4, 2012, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) issued a Request for Information (RFI), announcing that it is seeking to gather and share information about practices and policies regarding existing education data systems that disaggregate data on AAPI student populations. The RFI can be found at http://1.usa.gov/AANHPIdata.

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The Power of Words: Changes seen in the Incarceration Terminology

By: Marissa Kitazawa

The Power of Words is a grassroots campaign to identify, discuss and implement a plan within the organization of the Japanese American Citizens League  (JACL) to identify euphemisms and misnomers and encourage the use of more accurate terminology as it relates to the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese and Japanese Americans during World War II.  The goal of this campaign was see beyond the old wartime euphemism. These euphemisms, popularized by government agencies, misrepresents the situation and was designed to obscure the mistreatment of Japanese American.

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ACTION ALERT: USC Honoring Former Nisei Students

JACL is extremely pleased that the University of Southern California (USC) will confer Honorary Baccalaureate and Honorary Master’s degrees to Nisei who were forced to interrupt their studies due to Executive Order 9066. The honorary degrees will be presented by President C. L. Max Nikias at USC’s 129th Annual Commencement on May 11, 2012.

Social Media and Community Organizing

By: Kristin Fukushima

So, originally I was going to talk about Little Tokyo and what’s going on with transit and the other issues in the community…. but then that got me thinking about the notion of blogging on these issues itself, and what that means. That is to say… I used to be pretty anti-social media, at least when it comes to any kind of ‘organizing.’ I felt like they were insufficient tools that were overly relied upon – like using a Facebook event as the primary (and/or sole) method of outreach. And while to an extent, I admit I still don’t totally trust things like blogging, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, I’ve seen that they can be effective. In fact, some of the major political movements of the last few years have organized and spread through these same sites (i.e. the Tea Party movement, the campaign of President Barack Obama, and the use of twitter or texting in other countries).

Furthermore, to piggyback off of Craig’s earlier post and the recent flurry of media attention to social networking – I think it’s finally time for naysayers like myself to recognize and concede that this is really how people interact these days and for the foreseeable future. And yes – social interacting does include community and political organizing. So given that my department is our Public Policy Advocacy (holler back if you are confused and need an explanation on what that means)… I probably should be utilizing social media tools to connect with y’all on what is up.

My question to the vast masses of the world (or you know, anyone reading this blog) is: how would you want to be connected to JACL Pacific Southwest District’s advocacy work?

That is to say… what works for y’all? And what is effective in general? Basically, while I’m totally sold on the concept of social media for social purposes (connecting to interact and share), I’m still trying to figure out how we at JACL Pacific Southwest District can use these same social networking sites effectively for the purpose of connecting, educating, and empowering folks to advocate on issues that affect our community. So you know… ponder that for a bit. Get back to me (leave a comment, okay?). Let me know what works for you personally, or any success stories you’ve seen.