State Sen. Steve Bradford (D-Gardena) shared some of his remembrances of visiting Japan and growing up in Gardena during a discussion at Cal State Dominguez Hills. (Office of Sen. Bradford)

On May 14, California State University Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) and the Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles co-sponsored an event featuring California State Sen. Steven Bradford. 

The event was held on the campus of CSUDH and included remarks by Bradford and a panel discussion moderated by CSUDH President Dr. Thomas A. Parham with Bradford, Africana Studies Department Chair Dr. Donna Nicol, and Consul General Akira Muto.

In his opening remarks, Bradford shared his childhood experiences visiting Japan, where his grandparents had been living, and growing up in Gardena, where Japanese Americans were among his earliest friends. He reflected on the shared history of the African American and Japanese American community in the Southern California region and his experiences bridging the two cultures in his various roles, including as Gardena city councilmember and California state senator. 

During the panel discussion, Parham addressed various topics including the Japanese Consulate’s Japan & Black L.A. Initiative, Japanese and Black community relations, multi-community relations, and the future of the relations between the two communities.

Muto shared the origins of the Japan & Black L.A. Initiative as a partnership with the United Methodist Church black congregations facilitated by California Pacific Conference West District Superintendent Mark Nakagawa, and the numerous events that have taken place since November 2020. 

From right: Consul General Akira Muto, State Sen. Steven Bradford, African Studies Department Chair Dr. Donna Nicol, and CSUDH Presiden Dr. Thomas A. Parham. (Courtesy CSUDH)

Nicol shared her passion for encouraging students to pursue connections beyond their own communities to expand their horizons. All panelists echoed the importance of breaking down barriers to overcome prejudices and increase harmony in society by enhancing dialogue among various ethnic groups. 

The panelists discussed the potential approaches in developing relations and the range of opportunities in various sectors, including trade, business development, entertainment, and culture. Internships, externships, and international travel were also identified as key avenues for developing increased understanding, particularly among students and younger generations.

The panel discussion was followed by questions from the audience and a networking reception.

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