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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!

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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!

It’s that time of year again when VC hunkers down into the LA Asian Pacific Film Festival planning madness!  This year is special as it’s our 30th anniversary. That’s right, a whole thirty years of featuring films about and by Asian Americans! From shorts to documentaries and narrative features, we’ve screened to many audiences. For this year’s special anniversary, we’ve compiled a timeline and images from the past thirty years, featuring events, guests, and even our catalog covers.  Please check it out.

If you’re in town, please consider attending the festival!  The festival’s gala night opens with “To Be Takei,” a documentary about George Takei that features archival footage from VC’s Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians Hearings Collection, where Takei testified about his internment experiences during World War II.  We’re excited to share this film with our audiences, and hope to see you there!

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George Takei at the Commission for Wartime Relocation Hearings in Los Angeles

 

By Evelyn Yoshimura, Community Organizer

The other day, I was walking from the Gold Line station, headed back to my job at the Little Tokyo Service Center. As I passed the old historic JANM (Japanese American National Museum) building, I had a big flashback.

Buddha’s Birthday (Circa 1956)
My earliest memories of Little Tokyo include Hanamatsuri—the Buddha’s birthday.

Children from temples all over Southern California converged at the old Nishi Hongwanji—our Mother Temple, the previous inhabitant of the JANM historic building on First & Central.

I remember nothing of the service except the smell of incense.  But afterwards, noisy kids rumbled down the stairs from the hondo, down to the ground floor, and burst out through the double doors and spilling onto the streets of Little Tokyo, clutching tightly to little pink tickets in hand.

The tickets were our reward for good behavior during the service and could be redeemed in any number of the shops for treats like manju, the best snow cones in town, gum, candy or an ice cream cone at Kyodo drugstore with the old-fashion soda fountain counter; or comic books from the drug store at First & San Pedro, where you could sit and read them for hours at the very corner of the store that looked out onto that bustling intersection.

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Fast-forward to 2013-14: By next summer, construction will begin on a new train station for the Regional Connector line, taking out Senor Fish, Weilands Brewery and the Spice Table restaurant. This future station will be built one story down underground and will be located across the street from the newer JANM building. And it will change everything.

Predicted to be the second busiest station next to Union Station, this train will bring lots of people to Little Tokyo from all over the region. Could be good for business for those who survive the five-year construction. But the hyper-development that it promises to bring could speed up the changes we already see in the 130-year-old neighborhood.

As a Buddhist, I know that change is the norm and inevitable. Little Tokyo will never be that neighborhood I grew up visiting for Hanamatsuri, Nisei Week carnivals or to buy Japanese goods. I can already see subtle but profound changes with new shops that now cater to a younger, hipper, multi-ethnic crowd. Designer sneaker shops, cafes that spill out onto the sidewalk, young people walking around dressed like anime characters, lots of dogs and even baby carriages crowding the sidewalks.

This liveliness and excitement is pumping new life and energy into the area and giving rise to these new and different kinds of businesses. This is a big improvement from the empty storefronts and broken car windows of the 1990s. But where is the tipping point when Little Tokyo is no longer our neighborhood?

LTPRO_LT01735

Evelyn, in center, with the Little Tokyo People’s Rights Organization, working to save Little Tokyo from redevelopment in the 1970s.

Many in the community who live, work, run businesses, attend temples & churches here, are asking ourselves that very question. We are coming together, looking past old differences and disagreements, trying to and keep a handle on this suddenly-trendy area. The vibrancy is good, but we also need to keep a connection to that 130-year-old story. It’s not easy—to be inclusive and embracing of the future and the new, while remaining connected to so much history and culture. And in a genuine way.

But we’re trying. And we welcome participation from any of you out there who wants to help. The next 5-10 years could be make-or-break time for our neighborhood.

Join us. If you want to help us, email me at eyoshimura@ltsc.org.

Tell us how you made your mark! How has your neighborhood changed over the years? Email us with your thoughts and photo (if you wish) at history@vconline.org. We’ll post it on the VC Facebook 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.

Claiming a Voice DVDs are available for sale!

One of the VC Archives’ 2013 goals is to digitize past VC productions and make them available for purchase.  We hope that libraries, schools, and other institutions will acquire our films and put them into circulation so that more people will discover these Asian American stories that haven’t been told.

Claiming A Voice is the first film we’ve digitized and made available on DVD.  This film tells the story of Visual Communications and its history during the Asian American Movement of the 60s and 70s. Get your DVD copy of Claiming A Voice to add to your library, classroom, or personal collection of Asian American films and documentaries.

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Film Description:
CLAIMING A VOICE: The Visual Communications Story (U.S.A., 1990)
Directed by Arthur Dong
Digital (originated on Beta SP), 57 minutes, Documentary

1969 Campus Strikes. Anti-War Protests. Civil Rights demonstrations. American politics and culture were changing. Third World communities sought self-determination and the Asian American movement sprang up from the storefront organizations all across the nation. And out of this turmoil came Visual Communications.

Claiming A Voice is a one-hour documentary chronicling the twenty-year history of the first group dedicated to productions by and about Asian Pacific Americans. Combining interviews with clips from over twenty Visual Communications films, CLAIMING A VOICE traces the important role alternative media played in the Asian American movement.

Claiming A Voice shows how one grassroots organization survived budget cuts, Hollywood, and the collective process of the 1960s to control their own images. The stories of Visual Communications members along with those of jazz fusion band Hiroshima, poet Lawson Inada, and actors Pat Morita and Mako are among the many in this documentary which reflect personal commitments to claiming a voice in media.

Claiming A Voice is written and directed by Academy Award nominated director Arthur Dong (Sewing Woman, Forbidden City, U.S.A.). Editor Walt Louie, Associate Producer Cheryl Yoshioka. A Visual Communications production in association with DeepFocus Productions.

To inquire about prices, please contact Helen at Helen@vconline.org.  Look out for other VC productions that we will be releasing on DVD for the first time later this year.  We’re excited to share our films with you!

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