Iconic 1973 CANE group photo in front of the residential building at Sutter and Buchanan streets that CANE tried to stop the Redevelopment Agency from demolishing. (Copyright Richard N. Wada, All Rights Reserved)

SAN FRANCISCO – On Aug. 19, members of CANE (Committee Against Nihonmachi Eviction) will gather here to recall their decade-long effort, which began 50 years ago, to preserve Nihonmachi in the face of evictions and gentrification of the community by the Redevelopment Agency and corporate interests.

Active in the 1970s and 1980s, CANE, through grassroots organizing and mass protest, succeeded in helping residents and small shopkeepers delay eviction, sometimes for years. CANE also supported and helped realize the construction of the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California, Hinode Towers, and Kimochi Home.

Poster advertising a CANE rally.

CANE expressed the urgency of preserving and protecting Nihonmachi and helped inspire similar efforts in Los Angeles and San Jose. That urgency later fueled the successful effort to save the Sutter Street YWCA and preserve it as part of the Nihonmachi community. 

CANE, which later became known as Japanese Community Progressive Alliance, was a multi-generational organization in which Issei, Nisei and Sansei united “to stop the Redevelopment Agency’s attempt to destroy Nihonmachi,” said Kitty Mah, one of the organizers of the August gathering.

The upcoming event is “an opportunity to celebrate activism in the community,” said Joyce Nakamura, another event organizer. “CANE’s legacy of activism continued in the reparations movement of the 1980s,” she added.

“Celebrating Activism and Community!” is the theme of the event.

Organizers hope to bring back together many CANE members and supporters as well as former residents of Nihonmachi, some of whom will make brief remarks.

The event will feature a clip from the new documentary by Boku Kodama about CANE and the effort to save Nihonmachi, tentatively called “Ganbaro! The Fight for the Final Four Blocks.”

Video or film excerpts of former residents and shopkeepers who were part of CANE, such as March Dobashi of Yamato Auto, will be shown at the event, along with a slideshow and exhibit of CANE photos.

Reunion organizer and long-time Nihonmachi resident Mickey Imura stressed, “The CANE story – largely unknown – is really worth remembering and recognizing as an important chapter of grassroots struggle in our community’s history.”

For more information, email CANE50th@gmail.com.

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