Mike Murase is joined by Rep. Maxine Waters at his retirement celebration on April 14 at the Terasaki Budokan. (MARIO GERSHOM REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

RAFU STAFF REPORT

Mike Murase was recognized on April 14 as he celebrated his retirement from the Little Tokyo Service Center with a gathering at the Terasaki Budokan.

Murase was part of the core group who founded LTSC, served as board president for its first five years and returned in 2012 to join the executive staff.

Murase was the enthusiastic campaign director for the Terasaki Budokan, which recently marked its official opening.

Speakers, including Alan Nishio, Bill Watanabe, Yasuko Sakamoto, Budokan director Ryan Lee and social worker Vivian Lee, gave testament to Murase’s activism and leadership in the Japanese American and Black communities.

Murase moved from Japan to Los Angeles when he was just 9 years old. He was an early opponent of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War and at UCLA co-founded Gidra, a landmark Japanese American Movement publication, and also helped to create the Asian American Studies Center.

Murase was a member and leader of such seminal organizations as Asian Americans for Nuclear Disarmament, the Little Tokyo Peoples Rights Organization, the National Coalition for Redress/Reparations, Unity Los Angeles, and the California Rainbow Coalition.

Murase with Yasuko Sakamoto, who was the long-time LTSC director of social services. (MARIO GERSHOM REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

He was Rev. Jesse Jackson’s deputy field coordinator and the California Asian American coordinator in Jackson’s 1984 presidential run; and the California campaign director for Jackson’s 1988 effort.

Murase served as the district director for Rep. Maxine Waters for 14 years. She joined in the festivities, and in remarks that Waters entered into the Congressional Record, she said, “He was a highly skilled manager who was also an extremely talented graphics designer, writer, public speaker, and organizer, who, utilizing all of his skill set, led and trained my staff magnificently. He knew my district well and was able to meet challenges of every type, creating positive outcomes on many levels.

“Mr. Murase was instrumental in organizing the California Rainbow Coalition after serving on the Rainbow Coalition’s national board. He was chair of the Los Angeles Free South Africa Movement from 1986 to 1990, helped Quincy Jones and myself produce the city-wide welcoming reception for Nelson Mandela attended by 79,000 people at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1990, and was an observer to the African National Congress conference in South Africa in 1991.”

Members of the Watts neighborhood came to show their support. From left: Ronald “Kartoon” Antwine, Mike Murase, Curtis Wilson and Greg Brown. (Photo courtesy Mike Murase)

Sequoia Olivia Mercier, who co-chaired the Los Angeles Free South Africa Movement with Murase, gave a poetry reading.

Ronald “Kartoon” Antwine, a Watts resident, joined by Greg Brown of Souls & Sounds of Watts and by songstress Marva Smith, read a poem he wrote for the occasion, titled “Mike, Mike, Mike.” Antwine concluded by saying:

You teach us all how to stand up

You teach us how to speak and never shut up

You taught so many how to fight

The injustice, the wrongs, negative things in life

So now you are retiring, yeah that’s a big joke

That’s like eating egg whites without the yolk

Mike, I am as serious as one can be

Take a look around, for they feel just like me

We all know you are the man

Yes, Mike, you are the man …

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  1. Congratulations Mike, a resume to be very proud of.
    Pleased to have known you for or family’s times together.