By MIYA IWATAKI
On Saturday, March 6, at 11 a.m., the Little Tokyo Historical Society (LTHS) will celebrate their 2021 Shinnenkai. The theme is “A Virtual Success.”
Despite the worsening pandemic in 2020, LTHS along with other Nikkei groups and organizations, learned to soldier on through the use of Zoom and other “virtual” forms of gatherings and celebrations. The downside was not being able to share meals and meet friends in Little Tokyo. The upside was entering into an era of virtual meetings, family gatherings, programs, webinars. We saw new faces, and larger attendance. Programs and events were a “virtual” success.
The broader use of social media also put us up close and personal as witnesses to racist violence and injustice sparking a nationwide wake-up call, as thousands of people from all walks of life took to the streets to march for justice. Unceasing police violence against Black lives, an increase in hate-based attacks on Asians, and the racist tone and actions of the past administration had us reflecting on our shared histories.
Everything was affected by the pandemic. And Little Tokyo responded in ways that made us proud to be Japanese American. Although we were literally next door to early massive demonstrations targeting City Hall and the Federal Building, very few storefronts in LT were attacked. Many stores boarded up with some painting messages of solidarity for Black Lives Matter and an end to racism.
The Little Tokyo community sprang into action. Community programs delivering food to homebound seniors; meals for workers laid off due to the pandemic; community working arm-in-arm with legacy restaurants to provide delicious, nutritious meals – feeding residents by doing business with local restaurants. Small business counseling and assistance with navigating complex bureaucracy to get government assistance due those impacted by COVID.
Little Tokyo was looked upon with respect by other communities as a model for community-resident-business cooperation.
LTHS is proud to honor four of the key innovative programs as a highlight of our Shinnenkai program this year: LT Eats, Community Feeding Community, GO Little Tokyo, TeraMeals. A “Tribute to the Fallen” will remember the legacy and other businesses that were forced to permanently close due to the pandemic (exacerbated by the impact of construction already creating havoc).
A short video will highlight some of LTHS’ programs like Bronzeville/LT Finale Club and Imagine Little Tokyo Short Story Contest – our first foray into virtual programming. And together we will raise a glass to “Toast the Future,” and hear ideas from community participants on the role of LTHS in post-pandemic Little Tokyo.
Please join us. The LTHS Shinnenkai is free. People can RSVP and receive instructions on how to access the program by registering online at: http://bit.ly/LTHS2021
After registration, you will be emailed instructions on how to join our program via Zoom (a video conference platform). Please confirm that the email that you register with is the best way to reach you.
For questions or assistance, please email: [email protected]