By YUKIO KAWARATANI
“Lil Tokyo Reporter” is a short narrative film to bring to light and honor the major accomplishments of Sei Fujii, Issei pioneer, leader and publisher.
He immigrated to America in 1903 and graduated from USC Law School in 1911. Unable to become an attorney because he was not an American citizen, he worked for decades with classmate J. Marion Wright, a civil rights attorney, to help the Issei and the Japanese American community with racially discriminatory legal issues.
Their biggest legal victory was to appeal and win a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1928, to allow Japanese doctors in Los Angeles to build the first Japanese hospital in the country.
In 1932, Fujii started publishing The Kashu Mainichi, a Japanese daily newspaper. He advised the Issei on how to best survive in America. He told them to put down roots and to encourage their Nisei children to fully participate in the mainstream community.
When World War II started, Fujii was among the first incarcerated in the Department of Justice Detention Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Upon his release, he purchased a small parcel of land to challenge the California Alien Land Law that since 1911 had prevented aliens ineligible for citizenship from owning land in California. Under Fujii v. California, he and Wright fought and appealed their challenge to the California Supreme Court. In 1952, the court ruled that the California Alien Land Law was unconstitutional.
Fujii was one of the outstanding Issei pioneers in America, but shamefully, very few people even know his name or what he did. The “Lil Tokyo Reporter” film is a nonprofit, mostly volunteer, but non-inexpensive venture intended to start the recognition of his leadership and deeds that greatly benefited the Japanese American community.
We owe so much to him and all our Issei pioneers. They suffered greatly but persevered on behalf of their Nisei children and future generations. Please consider supporting and donating to this worthwhile cause.
The film sponsors invite you to a fundraiser at a Palos Verdes home overlooking the Pacific Ocean from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, May 20. The film is currently in post-production and will be released this summer. The program will include Italian cuisine and wine, live entertainment, a look at the filmmaking process, a sneak preview trailer, and the perspectives of the director and lead actors.