PROJECT TEAM—NEH Landmarks Little Tokyo Workshop
Little Tokyo: How History Shapes a Community Across Generations
An NEH Landmarks of American History and Culture workshop for teachers
Los Angeles, CA
July 17-22 and July 24-29, 2022
Depending on public health guidelines related to COVID-19, plans for a residential offering are subject to change.
Lynn Yamasaki is the Director of Education at the Japanese American National Museum and Project Director for Little Tokyo: How History Shapes a Community Across Generations. She has been with JANM since 2007 and works on developing and implementing student experiences and educational resources for educators and families in support of museum content and exhibitions. Prior to joining JANM she worked in education and programs at the Smithsonian Institution’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Lynn holds a BA from Loyola Marymount University in Art History and Studio Art.
Sohayla Pagano is the Education Specialist at the Japanese American National Museum. Her work includes developing educational experiences and resources for students and educators and overseeing training and coaching for JANM’s volunteer docents and facilitators. Sohayla holds a master’s degree in Art Education with a specialization in Museum Education and Administration from The Ohio State University and bachelor’s degrees in Art History and Architecture from Penn State University.
Nina Nakao is the Virtual Learning Coordinator at the Japanese American National Museum. She identifies as a biracial yonsei (fourth generation Japanese American). In her role developing and sustaining the virtual visits program, she is committed to making JANM’s educational experiences and curriculum accessible nationwide. Prior to this role, she focused on the on-site educational experiences for visitors of all ages. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Vassar College.
Emily Anderson, PhD
Emily Anderson, PhD, is a curator at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM). She is the author of Christianity in Modern Japan: Empire for God (Bloomsbury, 2014) and the editor of Belief and Practice in Imperial Japan and Colonial Korea (Palgrave MacMillan, 2017) as well as articles and book chapters on religion and imperialism in Japan and the Pacific. She has worked on several JANM exhibitions, including the core exhibition Common Ground: The Heart of Community. Among Dr. Anderson’s current projects is co-curating the upcoming exhibition Sutra and Bible: Faith and Japanese American World War II Incarceration, scheduled to open at JANM in 2022.
Kristen Hayashi, PhD
Kristen Hayashi, PhD, is the Director of Collections Management and Access and Curator at JANM, where she oversees the permanent collection. With a PhD in History from the University of California, Riverside, she engages in the study of Public History, Asian American Studies, and the history of Los Angeles. Dr. Hayashi will use artifacts from JANM’s collections to explore the various aspects of the return of Japanese Americans to Los Angeles after World War II. Resettlement in different parts of the country offered unique issues, but Los Angeles provides a good snapshot of the post-war experience as a whole. Most recently, Dr. Hayashi curated JANM’s exhibition Miné Okubo’s Masterpiece: The Art of Citizen 13660.
Karen Ishizuka, PhD
Karen Ishizuka, PhD, is the Chief Curator at JANM. She is a scholar and author specializing in Japanese American and Asian Pacific Island history and culture. Dr. Ishizuka co-founded the Watase Media Arts center at JANM and served as its first director. She curated JANM’s influential America’s Concentration Camps: Remembering the Japanese American Experience exhibition, established the museum’s photographic and moving image archive, and wrote and produced Toyo Miyatake: infinite Shades of Gray, an official selection at the Sundance Film Festival. Her latest book Serve the People: Making Asian America in the Sixties (2016), tells the little known history of Asian American consciousness as a political identity. Dr. Ishizuka will discuss the post-war community building as she shares the people, places, organizations, and campaigns that formed Asian Pacific American consciousness and identity. She is currently working on a new core exhibition for JANM.
June Aochi Berk
June Aochi Berk was 10 years old in 1942 when her family was evicted from their home in Hollywood, California and sent to the Santa Anita Assembly Center before being incarcerated at Rohwer Concentration Camp in Arkansas. After the camp closed, her family moved to Denver Colorado and then returned home to Los Angeles in 1953. Berk has worked as secretary to Minoru Yasui, one of the four lawyers who fought the legality of the Exclusion Order up to the Supreme Court, and she also worked at JANM until she retired in 2001, when she became a volunteer. In addition to volunteering at JANM, she serves as a Board Member on the Tuna Canyon Detention Station Coalition. Berk will share her first-person experiences which include participating in Japanese Ondo dancing in Little Tokyo as a student of Fujima Kansuma.
Kristin Fukushima—Little Tokyo Community Council
Kristin Fukushima is the Managing Director of the Little Tokyo Community Council—the nonprofit community coalition of businesses, residents, nonprofits, and other vested stakeholders, representing the interests of the Little Tokyo community. She previously served as the Project Manager for Sustainable Little Tokyo (SLT), and continues to help lead SLT in its mission to sustain Little Tokyo for future generations. Kristin has also served as the Public Policy Coordinator for the Pacific Southwest District of the Japanese American Citizens League and as the Community Engagement Coordinator for the Intercollegiate Department of Asian American Studies at the Claremont Colleges. She is a co-founder of Kizuna, a Japanese American youth development and empowerment organization, and is active with Nikkei Progressives and other Little Tokyo, Japanese American, and Asian American organizations and spaces in Los Angeles. Kristin received her Masters of Public Administration concentrating on Non-Profit Management from California State University at Northridge, and her Bachelors degree from Pomona College.
Hillary Jenks, PhD
Hillary Jenks, PhD is the Director of GradSuccess at the University of California, Riverside. Dr. Jenks holds a PhD in American Studies and Ethnicity from the University of Southern California. Her dissertation, entitled “Home is Little Tokyo: Race, Community, and Memory in Twentieth-Century Los Angeles,” examined the recurring dynamic of displacement and community reclamation and reinvention in the Little Tokyo neighborhood of Los Angeles. Dr. Jenks will discuss the Bronzeville period, and how African American history and culture impacted the physical and symbolic landscape of the neighborhood. Dr. Jenks has presented and published on Bronzeville and is considered a scholar of this lesser-known period in the city’s history.
Dan Kwong is an award-winning performer, director, writer and visual artist who has been presenting his multimedia work nationally and internationally since 1989. Hailed by critics as “a master storyteller,” Kwong often draws upon his own life experiences to explore issues of identity. Most recently his work has focused on the evolution (and destruction) of communities of color in Los Angeles, and examples of solidarity between communities of color in fictional and non-fictional contexts. For this project, Kwong will perform excerpts from his Tales of Little Tokyo performance, a multimedia live theatrical-reading based on first-person interview and including archival photographs.
Mitchell T. Maki, PhD
Mitchell T. Maki, PhD, is president and CEO of Go For Broke National Education Center, where he has served in that role since 2016. Dr. Maki spent more than 25 years in higher education and is considered an expert on the post-war redress movement. He will speak about how Japanese Americans successfully obtained an apology and monetary reparations after incarceration with the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. He is the lead author of the award-winning book Achieving the Impossible Dream: How Japanese Americans Obtained Redress (University of Illinois Press).
Brian Niiya is Content Director of Densho. Niiya has dedicated his professional life to Japanese American public history and information management, having held various positions with the UCLA Asian American Studies Center, JANM, and the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i that have involved managing collections, curating exhibitions, developing public programs, and producing videos, books, and websites. Niiya will examine the return and resettlement of Japanese Americans in post-World War II Los Angeles. Regarded as “worse than camp” by many Nikkei, the immediate post-incarceration period is often overlooked in Japanese American history. Returning families faced continued hostility and backlash coupled with very difficult housing and job markets.
Michael Okamura is a longtime JANM volunteer and the president of the Little Tokyo Historical Society. He identifies as a Nikkei yonsei (fourth generation Japanese American) and has Southern California roots that go back to the early 1900s. He volunteers with organizations in Little Tokyo, Montebello, and at the University of Southern California. Okamura studied at Waseda University’s International Division and spent some years living in Tokyo. He also volunteers for faith-based organizations in the Tohoku region in Japan. He very recently retired after a long and meaningful career in banking. He is contributing as an advisor for this Landmarks project and will share his deep knowledge about the history of Little Tokyo.
William “Bill” Shishima
William “Bill” Shishima was born in downtown Los Angeles on Christmas Eve in 1930. He graduated from the University of Southern California in 1957. He was active in the Boy Scouts—including three years scouting in camp during World War II while incarcerated at Heart Mountain, Wyoming. He was a Scoutmaster and in the Adult Leadership Program for 45 years. After his retirement in 1991 from a career as an elementary school teacher, he has been volunteering at many organizations, including the Japanese American National Museum. Shishima will share his first-person experiences of growing up in Los Angeles and his incarceration experience.
Little Tokyo Historical Society (LTHS)
Little Tokyo Historical Society (LTHS) was formed in 2006 by members of the Little Tokyo community to commemorate Japanese American and Japanese history and heritage through various means, including archival collections, photos, exhibits, lectures, and workshops. LTHS concentrates on the history of Little Tokyo in Los Angeles, rather than the larger scope of Japanese Americans nationwide. LTHS will offer expertise to this project with an in-depth walking tour of the community.