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We are so pleased to announce that we have two new finding aids up on the Online Archive of California! Our Getty intern, Robin, deserves the credit for writing and encoding these finding aids.

The Willie Funakoshi Collection is a beautiful set of photos (that we’ve digitized) of the Nisei Week Queens and courts spanning three decades! Nisei Week is an annual festival held in Little Tokyo that was first organized by Nisei, or second-generation Japanese Americans, to celebrate their Japanese cultural heritage, and remains an active part of the Japanese American community. More detailed description, including interviewees and subjects covered, is on the finding aid. You can view a selection of these photographs on our Historypin channel.

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The Little Tokyo Redevelopment Collection is a valuable treasure trove of footage covering the redevelopment of the Little Tokyo neighborhood in Downtown Los Angeles. The Little Tokyo People’s Rights Organization (LTPRO) was founded in 1973 as a result of the Little Tokyo Project, which was adopted by the now-defunct Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles in order to redevelop the neighborhood. LTPRO challenged the ongoing evictions caused by the redevelopment efforts and assisted community businesses and long-time senior residents, who were in danger of displacement by transnational companies. It sought to maintain housing and sustainable living conditions for Japanese American working class people. 

The original format of the materials was 3/4″ U-matic tape, which we’ve all digitized. More detailed description, including interviewees, is available on the finding aid. Footage from this collection was used in Visual Communications’ film “Something’s Rotten in Little Tokyo.”  

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Check it out and share with any interested parties you know! As always, VC films are available for distribution. Researchers can view the footage and photos, along with any other materials from any of our other collections, in-house for no charge. Just make an appointment!

A small selection of VC’s audiovisual materials are now digitized and up on the web!  Last November, VC joined the California Audiovisual Preservation Project as a partner institution to work towards the goal of digitizing and preserving California-based historical recordings. We’re extremely honored to be a part of this Project, and look forward to sharing our materials online!

To participate in the project, VC went had to go through several steps. It wasn’t an automatic process– all materials had to be nominated, and then accepted for inclusion and digitization.  The first step was for us to identify and prioritize materials appropriate for the project.  Because CAVPP’s California Light and Sound project is rooted in California-based subjects and events, we had to choose materials that were California-specific. Although we have certain moving image materials that are worthy of digitization, they didn’t meet the California subject requirement.  Another important factor was to nominate materials that we couldn’t digitize in-house. While we have digitization capabilities for a number of formats, we didn’t have an easy way to digitize 16mm film and 1/8″ audiocassette tapes.  With the resources of the CAVPP, that wasn’t a problem.  We ended up choosing a total of five selections, comprised of multiple tapes/reels, and started the nomination process through the Internet Archive site, which hosts all the CAVPP materials.  The nomination process included entering metadata (data about data), both descriptive (subjects, topics, dates, interviewer, etc.) and technical (format, sound, etc.) The more metadata included, the better! The more information available lends to a better contextual understanding of the materials.

After the nomination process, we were notified which materials were accepted into the program (spoiler alert: all of them!). Five of VC’s AV materials is now part of the California Light and Sound Collection and hosted on the Internet Archive, available online to anyone! Check out the listings below, and follow the links to the videos and audio!

Little Tokyo 1930s Home Movie (1934)

Description: Home movie of pre-World War II Los Angeles, including the Little Tokyo neighborhood in Downtown Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Harbor. Footage documents Downtown Los Angeles night traffic, the annual Nisei Week Parade in Little Tokyo, ships at the harbor, and construction. This internegative was obtained through a restoration process performed on the original 1930s 16mm film.

1930s Little Tokyo Nisei Week Parade

1930s Little Tokyo Nisei Week Parade

Military Intelligence Service Oral Histories (March 11, 1989)

Additional Title:: Saga of the MIS
Description: These oral histories are recordings of a panel featuring Japanese American World War II veterans who served in the Military Intelligence Service, the army’s unit of Japanese Americans that provided translation and interrogation services. Speakers talk about their experiences that range from family life, Pearl Harbor, being incarcerated in the internment camps, joining the military, training for the Military Intelligence Service, and serving in combat in the South Pacific.  Nearly all of these MIS panelists were born and raised in California.

Susan Ahn Cuddy Oral Histories (1996)

Description: This footage is an oral history of Susan Ahn Cuddy, who was born in Los Angeles and the first Korean American woman in the U.S. Navy. he is the daughter of Dosan Chang Ho Ahn and Helen Ahn, prominent Korean independence activists.  Cuddy and her family were one of the first Korean families in Los Angeles.  Cuddy joined the navy in 1942 and went on to become a lieutenant.  She later worked at the Office of Naval Intelligence, the National Security Agency, and the Library of Congress.  She attended UC Irvine.

Susan Ahn Cuddy

Susan Ahn Cuddy

Colonel Young Oak Kim Oral History (February 4, 1986)

Description: This oral history is of Colonel Young Oak Kim, a highly decorated World War II veteran. He was born in Los Angeles and grew up in the Bunker Hill area of Downtown. He and his family were one of the first Korean families in Los Angeles. During WWII, he fought with the 100th Infantry Battalion, a segregated unit of Japanese Americans from Hawaii. He was the only non-Japanese American. He later rejoined the army to fight in the Korean War.  Kim was the Asian American to command a regular U.S. combat battalion. He was active with community work and helped establish Go For Broke and the Japanese American National Museum, and served as a board member for Visual Communications.

Filipino American Home Movies (1950s)

Description: These 16mm reels from the 1950s are Kodachrome home movies of a Filipino American family in California and Hawai’i. Footage was taken by George Cayetano. Footage includes arrival of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, Former President and First Lady of the Philippines, at Hickam Field in Honolulu, Hawai’i. Footage also covers the Filipino-American farming community in Delano, California, documenting farming life, community festivals and parades, family life, and social gatherings like a Filipino Debut, a coming-of-age ceremony.

Chinatown: Portrait of a Working Community 

Description: 1977 film about the changing landscape of San Francisco’s Chinatown.

Produced during a volatile period in which community re-development initiatives in most U.S. urban centers threatened the unique community fabric of various ethnic communities, CHINATOWN: PORTRAIT OF A WORKING COMMUNITY juxtaposes the vivacity of the people, businesses and community institutions of one of California’s first and arguably, largest Chinatowns against the violent closure, in August 1977, of the International Hotel, a low-income hotel abutting Chinatown along Kearny and Jackson Streets. Filmed footage of the evictions, a watershed moment in the Asian American progressive movement, was later repurposed by its photographer Curtis Choy for his own landmark 1983 documentary of the incident, THE FALL OF THE I-HOTEL.

Chinatown: Portrait of a Working Community

Chinatown: Portrait of a Working Community

The CAVPP project was made possible with grants from the institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Endowment of the Humanities, and the California State Library.  Thanks so much for helping small institutions like VC make our materials accessible and discoverable to the public!

If you’ve been to Grand Central Market, you’ve been to an interesting, and historic, LA landmark.  Located in Downtown’s Historic Core district, the Market is LA’s first open air market, housed in the first concrete and reinforced structure in LA.  When you visit, it sometimes can feel like you’re traveling through time– the Market has a distinct character that’s very much its own. Inside you can find a variety of foods that makes it hard to choose what to order for lunch– tacos, Chinese, sandwiches, etc. That variety is what makes the market so fun– in fact, we take our interns there on special field trips– we all choose whatever food we want, and then we walk across the street to Angels Flight and ride the trolley up to California Plaza.

We just pinned a Historypin collection of photos of Grand Central Market from the 1970s.  Here’s a preview:

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Hope you check out the rest on the Historypin page!

October is American Archives Month.  This post is one of a series of blog posts that Visual Communications will present of Asian Pacific Americans who have made their mark on their communities and history.

Watershed Moment in Japanese American Civil Rights History: Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, commonly called the Commission Hearings of 1981

By Kathy Nishimoto Masaoka, Educator and Activist

Kathy Masaoka

Back in 1981, VC and NCRR, then known as the National Coalition for Redress and Reparations, worked very closely together to record the events and activities of the campaign to win redress for Japanese Americans incarcerated in camps during World War II.  People like Duane Kubo and Steve Tatsukawa, two of the early staff of VC, had participated in the fight against redevelopment in Little Tokyo and helped to link the work of VC to what was happening in the community.  As active members of NCRR as well, they helped to gather VC volunteers to film all three days and one evening of the hearings conducted by the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) in August of 1981.  And we are so glad that this watershed moment in our history has been preserved, only one of maybe three sets of hearings that were videotaped.

President Jimmy Carter set up the CWRIC with the task of reviewing the “facts and circumstances surrounding Executive Order 9066 and “the impact on American citizens and permanent resident aliens”, “review the directives of the United States military forces requiring the relocation” and “to recommend appropriate remedies.”  With that in mind, the Commission held hearings in ten locations, including Los Angeles.

Fortunately, LA had both the grassroots organizers and the film experts to mobilize people to testify and attend the hearings as well as to push for larger facilities and translation for the Japanese speaking Issei (first generation Japanese American).  Setting up the equipment and filming of the three days and one evening of testimonies was not as simple as it is today, but the videographers were able to capture the emotion and anger of the Nisei (second generation Japanese Americans) who spoke for the first time about a brother being shot in the back at Manzanar, losing a baby in childbirth and how stunned they felt at being treated as aliens and not as Americans.  The boos shouted at Senator S.I. Hayakawa who called the camps a “three year vacation” and the shouts of “get her out” directed at Lillian Baker who attempted to grab the testimony out of the hands of a 442 veteran are all recorded.

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In the late 1990s, VC and NCRR realized that these tape recordings, now over ten years old, needed to be preserved and shared.  With a grant from the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund (CLPEF), a committee of volunteers from NCRR under the guidance of John Esaki (then of VC), reviewed all 161 testimonies to summarize and index into a Viewer’s Companion.  The thirteen VHS tapes were packaged and made available to institutions which could now have the tapes in their libraries for individuals who could find testifiers or research specific topics more easily.

Fast forward another ten years and these VHS tapes now needed to be further preserved.  With another grant from the California Civil Liberty Public Education Program, the Japanese American Community Services and the Aratani Foundation, VC’s Jeff Liu worked to digitize the tapes, add subtitles for the Japanese testimonies and enhance each individual DVD with additional visuals and information so that each could stand alone.

Why are these important?  Recently, NCRR members used the testimonies from the hearings at a workshop moderated by Professor Lane Hirabayashi of UCLA at the Japanese American National Museum conference in Seattle.  We knew that many people had never seen the tapes and may not have even known about the hearings.  Some of us were lucky enough to be at the hearings and to even testify.  My mother had passed away a few months before the hearings and I had a newborn daughter, so the significance of this event hit me hard and I felt the need to share my mother’s experience.  Her father had been picked up by the FBI, leaving her mother with a family of ten kids to deal with the farm in Santa Maria and the eventual incarceration at Gila River, Arizona.

We thought this was a good way to share how the hearings allowed our community to speak out, many for the first time, about the injustice and how important that was to building a movement for redress in the 1980s.  What was really surprising and enlightening was the reaction of the audience.  Most were initially quiet until the very end after seeing and hearing the experiences of the Nisei and Issei on the screen.  When one woman spoke about how her husband, who was sitting next to her, never shared his experiences with his children, she opened a floodgate for others who wanted to talk about how these stories impacted them.  Two sisters, who grew up in the Midwest, became very emotional about their father who also never told them about the camps.  One young Sansei (third generation Japanese American) father expressed how his father’s pain during the incarceration had been passed on to him and he did not want to pass that onto his son.  He felt that hearing and feeling that history would help him understand his own parents and himself.  We realized that these testimonies continue to have relevance for many people who were not part of the redress campaign or the camps.

Where are we at now?  As educators and former teachers, we still conduct workshops on a film called Stand Up for Justice about Ralph Lazo, and realize that testimonies are valuable resource for teachers and students.  Sadly, there are not many of the older Nisei who can speak to classes directly anymore and these DVD are a good way to bring those first hand stories and voices into the classroom.  We are seeking funds to make the DVDs more useable by adding a menu so that viewers can more easily find specific testimonies. For teachers, we have a short DVD with a variety of the testimonies along with plans to compile testimonies along certain topics that can be posted on our web site. Along with VC, we are working with Densho with plans to have about twenty selected testimonies on their site which anyone can access. Anyone can currently view or request any of the testimonies at VC. Our main hope is to make the DVDs available and accessible to the public and to educators.

For more information on the CWRIC Collection, please view our finding aid on the Online Archive of California.

Tell us how you made your mark!

How have you raised your voice to be heard?  Email us with your thoughts and photo (if you wish) at history@vconline.org. We’ll post it on the VC Facebook page.

Another one of our finding aids is up on the Online Archive of California! This finding aid describes our collection of testimonies from the Commission on the Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) Hearings held in 1981 in Los Angeles.  In these hearings, former internees, community leaders, and others gave testimony about the impact that internment had on Japanese American individuals, families, and community as a whole. More detailed description, including interviewees and subjects covered, is on the finding aid.

CWRIC Finding Aid

Visual Communications, along with NCRR (Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress) produced a 12-volume set of the testimonies entitled “Stand Up for Justice.”  Researchers can, however, view the footage in-house for no charge.

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