Community News Tuesday, April 26th, 2011 at 12:23 am

Memorial for WWII Japanese Internment Camp Victims to be Installed in Venice

Photo by Toyo Miyatake

It was one of the darkest moments in our nation’s history.  Thanks to a local high school student, Los Angeles Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, State Senator Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) State Assemblymember  Betsy Butler (D-Marina del Rey), and dedicated activists, that history will not be forgotten.

Rosendahl, scores of community members and a handful of former internees gathered at the northwest corner of Venice and Lincoln boulevards – former site of an internment assembly station, and future home of the Venice Japanese American Memorial Marker.

“Today is a special moment for Venice,” said Rosendahl. “People of various nationalities, faiths and ages come together, as one community, to remember an injustice that occurred 69 years ago at this very site.”

Rosendahl officially dedicated the site, a small patch of public land outside a car wash at a bustling intersection, as future home to a memorial marker, which will consist of a four foot concrete pedestal, metal plaques, and historic signs.  Rosendahl also secured $5,000 of the $20,000 needed to complete the project.

In 1942, the U.S. government ordered Japanese Americans from Malibu, Santa Monica, West LA, and Venice to gather at the intersection to be shipped to internment camps. These loyal Japanese American citizens gave up all their possessions, left their lives behind, and spent the next three years in remote and barren camps.

“There are countless people who cross this intersection everyday, yet have no idea why it’s significant to our area and the role it played in history,” said Rosendahl. “The marker will remind us of this dark moment in history and why we need to shine a light on injustices when it comes to our civil rights.”

The project, which sits on a state-owned right-of-way, has won significant support from  Lieu and Butler, who a introduced Assembly Concurrent Resolution 46 on April 6 (a text version of the resolution is here).

“I was thrilled to show my support for this project,” said Lieu. “Even today, we see situations where people are judged by their outward appearance. Those who see the marker will be reminded of the ugly consequences when we rush to judge.”

“I can’t think of a more perfect place for the memorial marker,” said Butler. “Venice is known as a place that celebrates equality and individuality and the marker will help illustrate that only compassion and respect will help us get there.”

The project got its start thanks to a Venice High School student who saw a story in the Venice Beachhead. After seeing an article in the paper, then Venice High student Scott Pine brought the idea of the marker to his teacher, Phyllis Hayashibara. The Venice Japanese American Memorial Marker Committee was formed with representatives from the Venice Arts Council, the Venice Historical Society, the Manzanar Pilgrimage Committee, Venice Community Housing Corporation and volunteers from the local Japanese-American community.

Internee and former Santa Monica resident Arnold Maeda understands the impact this marker will have on this generation living on the Westside. Especially since so few people today know this part of Venice history.

“I want people to be more conscious of the fact that we can learn from what happened in the past and keep it from happening again,” said Maeda, who now calls Mar Vista home.

The event was sponsored by the Venice Japanese-American Memorial Marker Committee. Members include: Don Geagan and Jim Smith from the Free Venice Beachhead, Nikki Gilbert of the Venice High School Alumni Association, Phyllis Hayashibara, Venice Culver JACL Fred Hoshiyama, former internees Mae Kakehashi, Arnold Maeda and Yosh Tomita, Manzanar Pilgrimage Committee Brian Maeda, Venice Historical Society Marc Salvatierra, Venice Peace and Freedom Party Alice Stek, and Co-Founders of the Venice Arts Council Suzanne Thompson and Emily Winters.

Before installation, the project still needs $15,000 in additional funds, and the approval of the California Coastal Commission.

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