The Bon Odori dancing will be led by Elaine Fukumoto, James Harada, Christine Inouye, Toru Nagao and Bev Toyama.

Save Our Seniors Network presents “Kansha (Gratitude) Obon 4: Caring for Our Seniors” to commemorate 115 seniors who died of COVID at Kei-Ai L.A., California’s deadliest COVID nursing home, and 19 deaths at the other Pacifica facilities.

The event will take place Saturday, Aug. 26, from 7 to 9 p.m. in the plaza of the Japanese American National Museum, 100 N. Central Ave. (at First Street) in Little Tokyo.

Actor and comedian Derek Mio will serve as emcee. Award-winning jazz flutist Nori Tani will be joined by Maceo Hernandez, the “Demon Drummer from East L.A.,” and SOSN-appointed poet laureate Mike Sonksen, aka “Mike the Poet.”

The program will also support Rep. Judy Chu’s (D-Pasadena) passionate demand for a thorough investigation raised at Kansha Obon 3 almost one year ago when she stated, “I will demand answers! We must be assured that these complaints and these lives are not swept under the rug. This community and these seniors are too precious a resource to just abandon.”

By April 29, 2021, Kei-Ai L.A. had 230 cases and 105 deaths for a jaw-dropping 45% mortality rate. The average mortality rate for all other California skilled nursing facilities was 8 to 10% during the height of COVID.

Since Chu’s call was raised, Reps. Maxine Waters, Jimmy Gomez and Ted Lieu and Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi, as well as the Torrance City Council, have joined the call to seek answers, avoid further debacles, and bring closure for the families. The call for investigations has won the support of over 60 organizations and individual leaders.

Hernandez, a taiko master and cultural activist, will lead off the program for the third year. He is a teacher for J-town Taiko Club and has been a stalwart in supporting many events and causes in the Japanese American and broader communities.

Mio, a Southern California native, is currently featured in the Netflix anthology series “Medal of Honor” and was the lead in the critically acclaimed AMC series “The Terror: Infamy.” He has appeared in several other television shows, including “Greek,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” and “Hawaii Five-0.” He has performed stand-up comedy at The Comedy Store, The Laugh Factory, The Hollywood Improv, The Ice House, HaHa Comedy Club, and other venues.

Sonksen is an award-winning L.A.-centric poet, essayist and board member of Rissho Kosei Kai Church in Boyle Heights.

Tani, who was born in Tokyo, studied classical flute from age 9 and started playing alto sax during high school, where he taught himself jazz. In 1980, he came to Los Angeles, where he studied flute and became friends and performed with legends such as James Newton, Hubert Laws and Peter Erskine of Weather Report.

Rev. Ray Fukumoto, SOSN interfaith network director, will preside over the candle-lighting ceremony. He stated. “The Bon Odori is our way of blending our culture and spiritual values with urgent social needs. We also just need to have fun.”

Obon enthusiast Elaine Fukumoto will coordinate the Bon Odori, featuring four well-known local teachers: Toru Nagao, dance instructor emeritus; James Harada and Bev Toyama, Senshin Buddhist Temple; and Christine Inouye, Sun Valley Buddhist Temple.

Actor Derek Mio, emcee; Maceo Hernandez, “Demon Drummer from East L.A.”; Nori Tani, classical flutist; Mike Sonksen, award-winning L.A.-centric poet.

Partial list of supporting organizations and individuals:

Asian Americans for Housing and Environmental Justice

API Rise

Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance

Boyle Heights Community Partners

California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform

Chinatown Community for Equitable Development

Foothill Pasadena Democratic Club

Gardena Bowl and Azuma Restaurant

Gardena Pioneer Center

Health Care 4 All–L.A.

Japanese American Bar Association

Japanese American Citizens League-National

Mile-High JACL

Twin Cities JACL President Vinicius Taniguchi

Greater Los Angeles JACL

San Diego JACL

J-Town Community TV

Kimochi Inc. of Colorado

Little Tokyo Historical Society

Mothers of East Los Angeles

National Action Network-Western Region

National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association

Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress

Nikkei Progressives

Nikkeijin Kai of Colorado

Organization of Chinese Americans-Los Angeles

Pilipino Workers Center

Rissho Kosei Kai Buddhist Temple

Sansei Legacy

Southern California Leadership Conference Action Network

Thai Community Development Center

Torrance City Council

VietRise-Orange County

West L.A./Sawtelle Neighborhood Council

Japanese American Resource Center of Colorado

An interfaith candlelight memorial service will be led by Rev. Ray Fukumoto, SOSN interfaith network director.

Community leaders:

Dr. Kelsey Iino, Los Angeles Community College District Board

Dr. Steven Gibson, Pasadena City College Board of Trustees

Jan Perry, former L.A. city councilmember

Grace Yoo, community advocate and candidate for L.A. City Council District 10

Efren Moreno, former Alhambra mayor

Dr. Takeshi Matsumoto, attending physician to seniors at Kei-Ai L.A. and other Pacifica facilities,

Bill Watanabe, founder of Little Tokyo Service Center

Ron Wakabayashi, former regional director, U.S. Department of Justice Community Relations Service

Mike Watanabe, former CEO, Asian American Drug Abuse Program Inc.

Hideki Obayashi, community activist and co-owner of Azuma and Gardena Bowl restaurants

DJ Ida, Ph.D., executive director, National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association

Kaze Jones, poet and rapper

Dr. Nadine Diaz, fourth-generation Boyle Heights/East L.A. stakeholder

Mo Nishida, organizer of Manzanar Run

Marge Taniwaki, Nikkeijin Kai of Colorado board member

Tony Marquez, Boyle Heights Preservation Society

Mark Miyoshi, Winnemem Wintu Tribe historic preservation officer

Dr. Sonia Pawluczyk, USC geriatrician

Rita Rodriguez, former MTA Review Advisory Committee member

Guests are encouraged to park in City Parking Lot 7. Enter on the east side of Judge John Aiso Street by Union Center for the Arts, about 50 yards north of First Street.

For more information, call (626) 999-7528 or email

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *