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Panel Discussion: The Resilience of Monterey’s Japanese with Susan Kamei, Larry Oda, Jerry Takigawa

December 11, 10:00 am11:00 am

Join MMA for a virtual panel discussion with the Monterey Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), featuring JACL Board Member Larry Oda, JACL Exhibition Curator Jerry Takigawa, and USC Japanese American Studies Academic and Author Susan Kamei. Engage in important dialogue around the shared history of many Japanese Americans and the American concentration camps and learn about Monterey’s unique role as a sanctuary city. 

 

Virtual MMA

$15 General Admission, Free for Students and Educators

 

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The Resilience of Monterey’s Japanese  

Immigration and war often reveal the dark side of human nature. Yet, they can also unveil the potential for resilience and nobility of the human spirit. This exhibition touches on this paradox by providing examples of the arc of the Monterey’s Japanese community story.  

 

The first immigrants from Japan to Monterey arrived during the 1890s and quickly established business prominence in abalone and salmon fishing, farming, restaurants, hotels, and retail stores catering to daily needs of a growing population. Prior to 1940, about 70% of the fishing boats operating out of Monterey and 80% of the fish processing businesses on Wharf No. 2 were owned by Japanese families. 

 

Most of Monterey’s Japanese community lived and worked in nihonmachi (Japantown), a district bordered by Alvarado, Del Monte Avenue, Webster, and Camino El Estero. In the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, anti-Japanese racism and wartime hysteria led to E.O. 9066. This precipitated a denial of constitutional liberties, forcible removal of 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry, and their incarceration in America’s WWII concentration camps. 

 

Early camp life was defined by anger, shock, and shame. Over time, gaman (enduring the unbearable with patience and dignity) transformed grief into resilience enabling therapeutic cultural activities and hand-crafted artifacts. 

 

As the camps closed, Japanese Americans asked: Could they return to their former West Coast homes? In the spring of 1945, a petition signed by 434 persons on the Monterey Peninsula supported the right of Japanese Americans to return.  

 

In Monterey, the nobility of humankind triumphed over the dark forces of hate. 

JACL Monterey Peninsula California – Japanese American Citizens League of Monterey Peninsula  

 

About the Speakers

 

Jerry Takigawa studied photography with Don Worth at San Francisco State University and received a degree in art with an emphasis in painting. He has been the recipient of a variety of photographic honors and awards including the Imogen Cunningham Award; nominated for the Santa Fe Prize; twice nominated for the Prix Pictet; Critical Mass Top 50 (2017, 2020); The Clarence John Laughlin Award (2017); LensCulture, Fine Art Photography Awards Finalist (2018); New York Center for Photographic Art, Humans, First Place; CENTER Awards, Curator’s Choice—First Place; the Rhonda Wilson Award; and Foto Forum Santa Fe Photography Award. He has exhibited internationally, and his work is included in the permanent collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Crocker Art Museum, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the Library of Congress, and the Monterey Museum of Art. Takigawa lives and works in Carmel Valley, California. 

Home – Jerry Takigawa (takigawaphoto.com)  

 

Larry Oda, a third-generation Monterey resident, is a current board member of the Monterey JACL, a former chapter president, and general chair for the 36th biennial national JACL convention.  In 2007, he was a member of a JACL Leadership Delegation to Japan. Larry was elected to serve two terms as president of the national JACL. Larry’s grandfather was the owner of Seapride Cannery on Cannery Row. Currently, He is employed as the maintenance superintendent for the City of Salinas, CA. Larry is the author of Seapride Canning Company and the Oda Family History.  

HERITAGE BOARD MEMBERS – JACL Monterey Peninsula California 

 

Susan H. Kamei is the granddaughter of Japanese immigrants. Her maternal grandparents were part of the Japanese classical music community in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo, and her paternal grandparents were vegetable farmers in Orange County. During World War II, her mother and her parents were incarcerated at the Santa Anita Assembly Center in Arcadia, California and at the War Relocation Authority camp in Heart Mountain, Wyoming. Her father, together with his grandparents, parents, and siblings, were detained at the WRA camp known as Poston II in Arizona. 

 

Susan graduated from the University of California, Irvine with B.A. degrees in Russian and Linguistics, summa cum laude, and received her J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center, where she was an editor of the Georgetown law journal Law and Policy in International Business.  From the time she was in law school in Washington, DC and while she practiced corporate law, Susan was a member of the legislative strategy team for the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) in the successful passage of federal legislation that provided redress to Japanese Americans for their wartime incarceration. She has been recognized for her service in the redress campaign, which included volunteering as National Deputy Legal Counsel for the JACL Legislative Education Committee. 

 

She now teaches undergraduate students at the University of Southern California (USC) about the constitutional, historical, and political issues of the Japanese American incarceration and the importance of those issues today. She also serves as the managing director of the USC Spatial Sciences Institute. For her contributions to the USC community and for enriching the educations of students of color and LGBTQ students, she received the 2018 USC Undergraduate Student Government Community Achievement Award. She also was recognized for her leadership and service in business, academia, and the community with the “Woman of Courage” Award in 2000 from the Friends of the Los Angeles City Commission on the Status of Women.  Susan H. Kamei (susanhkamei.com)  

 

Image Credit: Jerry Takigawa (b. 1946), EO 9066, 2016, pigment print on rag paper, 32 x 40 inches. Image courtesy of the artist.