Pictured from left (front row): Rev. Dr. Kathey Michele Wilborn, Rev. Adrienne Zackery, Misako Muto, Consul General Akira Muto, Rev. Mark Nakagawa, Mime Hiromi (consulate staff). From left (second row): Jimmy Nichols, Rev. Ivan Sevillano, Rev. Edward Hawthorne, Dr. Curtiss Takada-Rooks, Rev. Dr. Ken Walden, Ryoki Tanaka (consulate staff).

The Japan & Black L.A. Initiative met in the historic community of Watts on Aug. 28.

In a “meet and greet” held in the sanctuary of St. Johns United Methodist Church, Japan Consul General Akira Muto and consulate staff gathered with Los Angeles-area Black UMC clergy with whom they have met in virtual contexts since the initiative’s inception in October 2020.

Members gather across the street from St. Johns UMC at the Watts Towers, built by Italian immigrant Simon Rodia.

During the session, various persons shared the history of the Watts community and the important role that the church has played throughout its 60-year history. References were also made to the Watts Riots, which took place in August 1965. 

Following the presentations, the group walked across the street to the world-famous Watts Towers, built by Simon Rodia, an Italian immigrant, between the years 1921-1955.

The Japan & Black L.A. Initiative aims to work with children, youth, and adults in the Los Angeles community — a city that represents the diversity of the U.S. — to share aspects of Japanese and African Amercian culture that will broaden mutual understanding as global citizens.

St. John’s UMC member Jimmy Nichols shares the story of his family moving from Mississippi to California in the 1950s, eventually settling in the Watts community.

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