Artwork Reunites JA Community of Monrovia

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Japanese Americans gather with city dignitaries at 300 Cypress Ave., Monrovia.

By SUSIE LING

There were about a dozen Tsuneishis, three Morimoto sisters, three Sakatani sisters, three Asano cousins, Kuromiyas, Nakanos, Satas, Inouye, 98-year-young Ted Hashimoto, 99-year-young Helen Mimaki Munekiyo, and their families and friends.

There were also Monrovia City Council members, Monrovia Historical Society folk, the past mayor of neighboring Duarte, the communications vice president from Irwindale Speedway, and many others to spike up the outdoor party.

The occasion on June 8 was the unveiling of a bronze art piece by Maryrose Mendoza that honors the history of Japanese Americans in Monrovia. It is a “Neighborhood Treasure.”

Steve Baker, the town’s historian, said, “Records show that Monrovia had 71 Japanese Americans in 1920.”

Sakatani granddaughters and great-grandchildren with Strawberry King’s tiller

Monrovia is not unique in that Japanese Americans came in the early 20th century to work as farmers, vegetable peddlers, and entrepreneurs. And they came to raise families.

Monrovia is unique in that the Japanese Americans mingled with African Americans and Mexican Americans – south of the streetcar tracks. There was a small gakuen before the war, and after the war, a Holiness Church.

During World War II, most Japanese American Monrovians were sent to the Pomona Fairgrounds assembly center and Heart Mountain concentration camp in Wyoming. From there, some Nisei went into the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and Military Intelligence Service, while another was a draft resister who was arrested.

But today, Monrovia embraces all this history as part of its legacy. Artwork stimulates. Art brings together people and memories.

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