Mark Ridley-Thomas, representing the 2nd District on the Board of Supervisors of Los Angeles County, has sent a generous contribution of $5,000 to the Venice Japanese American Memorial Marker Committee.
In their letter of appreciation to the supervisor, the VJAMM Committee also thanks Ridley-Thomas for leading the board’s unanimous vote in June 2012 to rescind and revoke the 1942 Board of Supervisors’ approval of Executive Order 9066.
In signing EO 9066, President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the military to designate areas in Washington, Oregon, and California from which residents could be forcibly removed. The VJAMM Committee “stands in concert that such an abrogation of civil rights shall never occur again.”
The future location of the VJAMM, at the northwest corner of Venice and Lincoln boulevards, lies just outside the 2nd District. Many supporters of the VJAMM, however, lie squarely in the 2nd District, including Venice Hongwanji Buddhist Temple, Venice Japanese Community Center, West Los Angeles United Methodist Church, West Los Angeles Buddhist Temple, King Fahad Mosque, and Asian American Drug Abuse Program.
The quotes on the monument come from former Manzanar internees who now live in the area: Amy Takahashi Ioki of Malibu, Arnold Maeda of Santa Monica, Brian Maeda of West Los Angeles, and Mae Kageyama Kakehashi of Venice.
• “This is the very corner my family reported to, before being sent to Manzanar concentration camp, with only what they could carry. They, like many other families, lost everything: their homes, their businesses, their liberties.”
Brian Tadashi Maeda, who was born in Manzanar, is a filmmaker currently working on “We Said No No,” a documentary about the Tule Lake Segregation Center. He also directed his brother Arnold in his docudrama “Music Man of Manzanar,” about Lou Frizzell, who taught music and dance to the teenagers incarcerated in Manzanar.
• “Instead of being worried about where we were going, I was obsessed with the fact that I had to part with my constant companion, my pet dog, Boy. For a 15-year old, that was kind of traumatic.”
Arnold Tadao Maeda, who became president of his senior class at Manzanar High School, returned to Los Angeles to regard that intersection with seething hostility, as a U.S. citizen whose constitutional rights had been violated, and whose draft status of “enemy alien” added further insult to injury. His participation with the VJAMM Committee, however, has filled him with hope that soon the intersection will play a positive role in educating the community about the history of the forced removal and incarceration of persons of Japanese ancestry.
• “When the camp closed, they gave us $25 and told us to go. But we had nothing when we left camp – no home, no money, no jobs. It was very hard on all of us.”
Mae Kageyama Kakehashi celebrated her 90th birthday last May at the Venice Japanese Community Center. Mark Antonio Grant, once special assistant to Los Angeles City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl of the 11th District, now on staff with Councilmember Mike Bonin, presented Kakehashi with a city resolution that commended her for her decades of volunteering to counsel fellow breast cancer survivors and for her participation in the VJAMM Committee’s efforts.
• “As a 16-year-old, I didn’t realize it fully, but in time we learned how our rights as citizens were ignored. Thanks to the strength and resilience of our Issei parents, we were able to survive.”
Amy Takahashi Ioki’s family was the only Japanese American family in Malibu when Civilian Exclusion Order No. 7 excluded “all persons of Japanese ancestry, both alien and non-alien” from Malibu, Santa Monica, West Los Angeles, and Venice. American-born Amy, her two older brothers, and three sisters went with their Yokohama-born parents to a barrack in Block 23 at Manzanar. Ioki gives credit to her parents, who never complained to their children about having to pick up everything and just go where the government directed them, and never even criticized the United States. Ioki feels the VJAMM pays respect to her parents and to all the mothers and fathers who were forced to uproot their families and yet survived their wartime experience.
The 9-foot, 6-inch-tall black granite VJAMM obelisk will permanently acknowledge Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ generosity. His name will join other donors of $5,000 or more, including former Councilmember Rosendahl, who contributed $5,000 in April 2011; the National Park Service Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program of the U.S. Department of the Interior, which awarded the VJAMM Committee a 2:1 matching grant of $50,000 in March 2012; and Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky of the 3rd District, who donated $5,000 last February.
The VJAMM Committee has raised over $86,000 to date, well over the initial target of $75,000, which includes the $25,000 independently raised to qualify for the NPS JACS matching grant. Unexpectedly high bids, however, have added to the costs of reworking civil engineering drawings, required geotechnical testing and possibly a city grading inspection, architectural drawings and structural engineering calculations. The VJAMM Committee hopes to raise an additional $20,000 to meet its anticipated expenses.
The federal government shut-down temporarily closed all operations of the National Park Service, and the turn-around time for NPS JACS reimbursements for VJAMM expenditures is uncertain.
The text to be inscribed on the monument states that at the intersection of Venice and Lincoln, “in April 1942, during World War II, more than a thousand American men, women, and children of Japanese ancestry in Venice, Santa Monica, and Malibu reported … with only what they could carry. The Western Defense Command and Fourth Army issued Civilian Exclusion Order No. 7, which gave them only days to dispose of their property and possessions. Buses transported them directly to Manzanar War Relocation Authority camp in Inyo County, where many internees were incarcerated for more than three years.”
The VJAMM Committee’s letter to Ridley-Thomas quotes from the text: “The forced removal and imprisonment of citizens of the U.S. without any regard to due process or the writ of habeas corpus violated their rights under the U.S. Constitution. May this Venice Japanese American Memorial Marker remind us to be forever vigilant about defending our constitutional rights, so that the powers of government shall never again perpetrate an injustice against any group based solely on ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, race, or religion.”
For a complete list of individual donors and organizational supporters, visit www.venicejamm.org. To make a much-appreciated, tax-deductible donation, send a check payable to VCHC/VJAMM to Venice Arts Council/VJAMM, P.O. Box 993, Venice, CA 90294.
The non-profit Venice Community Housing Corporation is the fiscal sponsor for the Venice Arts Council and the Venice Japanese American Memorial Marker Committee.