JA Living Legacy's Sue Uyemura conducts oral history training for the "Keepers of the Flame" project.
JA Living Legacy’s Sue Uyemura conducts oral history training for the “Keepers of the Flame” project.

WEST COVINA — They are in their “twilight time.” The flame of their lives burns softer. It is time to gather their stories so that the light, warmth and wisdom of their lives will never be extinguished or forgotten.

The personal stories of our elders are their legacy. And their legacy is our heritage. “Keepers of the Flame” is an oral history project of the ESGVJCC, started in late 2012, and is dedicated to recording and preserving the stories and personal histories of the pre-World War II Japanese American pioneers of the San Gabriel Valley.

Bacon Sakatani, a Nisei elder of the ESGVJCC, is the inspirational founder of the group. His reunion photo history of the pre-war San Gabriel Valley, first published in 1987, along with the aging of the Nisei provided the compelling concerns to start the project.

To date, there is no comprehensive documented history about the important pioneering role that Japanese Americans performed in developing the San Gabriel Valley. The current plans for the collected works will be to distribute them in the following formats: digital archives accessible to the community, publications, oral performance and readings, and documentaries.

Initial interview training was provided by Susan Uyemura, CEO of the JA Living Legacy Organization, affiliated with CSU Fullerton. Additionally, a grant from the Capital Group Companies Charitable Foundation provided funds to purchase video cameras, digital recorders, lighting equipment and more to help start the project.

Time is of the utmost importance. Volunteers are needed to help with interviewing, transcribing, research, collection of family histories, writing, camera work, recording, fundraising and more. This is an inter-generational project, so all ages are welcome to join.

For more information, please contact Pearl Omiya, executive director, at pomiya@esgvjcc.org or (626) 960-2566.

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