The Venice Japanese American Memorial Monument just went through a thorough cleaning at the end of July and beginning of August, thanks to the efforts of Venice Community Housing, Westside Youth Academy, and Girl Scout Troop 5325 sponsored by Venice Hongwanji Buddhist Temple.
Adults from VCH, youth from WYA, senior Girl Scouts and their families, and members of the VJAMM Committee pitched in to scrub the black granite with Windex and towels, brush-clean the white ink inside every etched letter, and sweep up debris from the adjacent sidewalks and curbs along Venice and Lincoln boulevards.
Dedicated on April 27, 2017, the VJAMM has weathered for the past six years rain, sun and heat, occasional painted graffiti, and even a three-car collision that temporarily and superficially marred the black granite surface.
At the VJAMM dedication, keynote speaker Warren Furutani advised the VJAMM Committee to let any vandalism remain on the monument as a reminder that the prejudices that led to the forced removal and incarceration of persons from the West Coast during World War II had not gone away. With all due respect, responded committee member Suzanne Thompson, the committee will certainly clean up any intentional and unintentional damage to the monument as soon as it’s reported by vigilant members of the community.
The VJAMM Committee thanks Marisol Perez of Venice Community Housing, the fiscal sponsor of the committee, for recruiting volunteers to help maintain the monument on a monthly basis, usually the third Friday of each month from 12 noon.
Volunteers enjoy a complimentary lunch to take home, courtesy of several generous donations from Dr. Thomas Yoshikawa. In appreciation for Thomas and Catherine Yoshikawa’s major donations, their names were permanently engraved on the east side of the VJAMM after the 2017 dedication, in memory of Isao and Kiyako Yoshikawa.
The VJAMM Committee also thanks Girl Scout Troop 5325 Troop Leader Victoria Yamashita for stepping in with her senior and ambassador Girl Scouts to maintain the VJAMM and the sidewalks before the April commemoration, and to help with this summer’s extraordinary three-day effort to spruce up the monument’s black granite and white lettering.
The VJAMM Committee congratulates the Abbot Kinney Festival Foundation for organizing the first post-pandemic street festival of foods, drinks, specialty goods, and community organizations. Admission is always free, and on Sunday, Sept. 24, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., the committee will share a booth with the Venice Arts Council and Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center.
The VJAMM reminds everybody of the 1,000 persons of Japanese ancestry who were forcibly removed from Venice, Santa Monica, and Malibu, and who lined up with only what they could carry on the northwest corner of Venice and Lincoln, where the monument now stands. These 1,000 persons represent a fraction of the more than 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry who were forced to leave behind their homes, businesses, and liberties from the states of Washington, Oregon, and California.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on Feb. 19, 1942, after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, which he called “a date that will live in infamy.” Michi Weglyn titled her groundbreaking 1975 book “Years of Infamy: The Untold Story of America’s Concentration Camps.”
The VJAMM reminds everyone that “the powers of government must never again perpetrate an injustice against any group based solely on ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, race, or religion.”
For more information on how your youth organization can volunteer to help maintain the VJAMM, or how your teens may earn community service credit maintaining the VJAMM, contact Phyllis Hayashibara at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the monument or the Arnold Maeda Manzanar Pilgrimage Grant, visit www.venicejamm.org.
Photos courtesy Phyllis Hayashibara