Environment, Parks, Libraries

Day of Remembrance

Day of Remembrance photo

The Board of Supervisors present a scroll commemorating the Day of Remembrance to leaders of the Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute. Photo by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors.

Saying no community should be singled out for violations of constitutional and human rights, the Board of Supervisors proclaimed February 19, 2017, as a Day of Remembrance to mark the 75th anniversary of a presidential decree that authorized the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

Executive Order 9066, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 19, 1942, forced more than 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent – including children and the elderly – from their homes and businesses and incarcerated them without charge or trial under the pretext of national security. None were ever found to have committed sabotage or espionage.

“We should never forget this dark period in our nation’s history,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, principal author of the motion, said. “The civil liberties of the County’s most vulnerable communities continue to require vigilant protection from infringement justified by national security.”

“We cannot forget the injustice that Japanese-Americans endured at the hands of our government during World War II,” the motion’s co-author, Supervisor Janice Hahn, added. “While we can never take back what victims went through in the internment camps, we can tell their stories and pledge that this will never again happen in the United States of America.”

About a month after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Board at the time adopted a resolution urging the federal government to remove Los Angeles County residents of Japanese ancestry from their homes and hold them, involuntarily, in remote areas. The motion passed on January 27, 1942, as federal and state officials were weighing the merits and legality of detaining West Coast residents without criminal charges. Executive Order 9066 was issued two weeks later.

The violations inspired three generations of Japanese-American leaders and families across the nation to seek redress, which resulted in the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, providing for a government apology and reparations for over 82,000 survivors.

On June 6, 2012, the Board rescinded and revoked its previous resolution endorsing the internment of Japanese-Americans. The historic action followed testimony from those who had been held captive or their relatives.

In declaring a Day of Remembrance, the Board emphasized that “no community (should) suffer such violations of constitutional and human rights.” It also encouraged County employees to voluntarily participate in Day of Remembrance events to be held through October, as listed on the websites of the
Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute; the Japanese American National Museum; and the Japanese American Citizens League.

“Even after 75 years, we choose to remember and commemorate this event because we believe that what happened to the countless number of people during World War II – when many were Americans – is something no one should have had to go through,” said Nicole Sato, program coordinator of the Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute. “We believe by continuing to teach the next generations, we can educate those to come that something like the Japanese American incarceration cannot not be tolerated.”

“In the light of todays’ events happening around the world and in our country, we believe even stronger that what happened to the Japanese American community 75 years ago should not happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, or religion. Civil liberties should not be taken away or denied to anyone by Executive Orders or such actions,” she added. “We should be celebrating and accepting our differences, cultures, heritages, and traditions – not letting it divide us.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said, “We should take stock of our moment in time right now, with respect to others who are under the hammer of unconstitutional behavior. I did say it, I meant it, and I will not retract it.”

He presented a scroll to the Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute for its work to educate and inform the community of this dark period in the nation’s history. On February 25, the institute will host a panel of former internees who will share their experiences of life at the camp in Tule Lake. On April 15, it will host an exhibit showcasing artwork that depicts life in the internment camps.

Generations of Leadership Celebrated at Kenneth Hahn Park

Photos by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

A new visitor center is open at Kenneth Hahn Park. The center, which pays tribute to the late Kenneth Hahn, examines the legacy, leadership, and life of public service of one of the longest serving members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

A video posted by Leroy Hamilton (@photoham) on

“We look into the past and use that as inspiration to celebrate our collective future,” said Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas.

img_0178Chairman Ridley-Thomas invited Supervisor Janice Hahn, former Mayor and now Los Angeles County Judge James Hahn, and California Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas recently for a tour of the new center. The center showcases Supervisor Kenneth Hahn’s meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1961. Hahn was the only public official to greet Martin Luther King Jr. when he came to Los Angeles after confronting the police dogs and water hoses of Birmingham. It also showcases his work on the Los Angeles City Council (1947 to 1952), and his 40 years of service as Los Angeles County Supervisor (1952 to 1992). The exhibit reflects the depth of work done over Hahn’s career from advocating for enhanced parklands across the district, to bringing the Dodgers to Los Angeles, and ensuring that call boxes were added to major highways.

“We remember when this was just the oil fields up here and our dad’s dream to turn this into a wonderful recreational facility,” said Judge Hahn.

The Baldwin Hills Regional Conservation Authority, Chaired by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, provided $1.3M in funding to the Department of Parks and Recreation to transform the community center into a state of the art visitor center.  Hunt Design was hired to develop exhibits to  showcase Kenneth Hahn’s legacy, and tell the history of the Baldwin Hills and various amenities at the park. ‎

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“My grandchildren and my daughter-in-law right now are swinging on the swing set in the park,” said Supervisor Hahn. “To see our father’s legacy displayed in such a beautiful 21st century manner is incredible – a mini-presidential library in the second district. Nothing made my dad happier than seeing people using this park.”

Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area, managed by the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation, includes large areas of native coastal sage scrub habitat, lawns and landscaped areas, picnic sites, tot lots, fishing lake, lotus pond, community center and five miles of trails. One of the most actively used features is the park’s variety of footpaths and trails.

Other recreational improvements in the surrounding area include the Park to Playa Trail which will soon connect the Baldwin Hills Parklands to the Pacific Ocean and the Stoneview Nature Center which will be completed later this year.

The visitor center is now open to the public from 8:30-4:30 daily.

View Park Declared a Historic District

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The Doumakes House PHOTO CREDIT: Dick Whittington Collection and Pierre Galant Photography

View Park, a neighborhood that has come to be known as the “black Beverly Hills,” has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

With about 1,800 homes near the stretch of La Brea Avenue to Crenshaw Boulevard in unincorporated Los Angeles County, View Park is the largest National Historic District in the United States based on African American history.

That distinction is particularly significant, considering the developer who built View Park starting in the 1920’s intended its architecturally distinctive homes with sweeping views of downtown LA for sale to white homeowners only. According to the 1930 Census, View Park had only one Japanese and two black residents, and all three were servants.

It took a U.S. Supreme Court battle to lift the racist restrictions on home ownership and open doors for minorities. In a landmark ruling in 1948, Justices held racial covenants on real estate to be unconstitutional. Prominent members of the African American community, mostly business owners, doctors, lawyers, entertainers, athletes and civil rights activists, began moving into View Park in 1950’s.

“The cohesive View Park neighborhood would eventually begin a fairly rapid, if sometimes uncertain, transition into an affluent African American neighborhood in the postwar period,” National Register historian Paul Lusignan wrote in his evaluation of View Park.

“Often facing intimidation and violence, View Parks’ new African American homeowners broke down significant barriers and paved the way for the creation of a vibrant integrated neighborhood that would earn it the nickname ‘the black Beverly Hills,’” he added.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Dick Whittington Collection

Among View Park’s most famous residents were the legendary Ray Charles and Ike and Tina Turner. It remains one of the wealthiest African American neighborhoods in the country, an enduring symbol of African American success.

In 2014, residents Andre Gaines and Ben Kahle co-founded View Park Conservancy, the volunteer nonprofit neighborhood organization that led the initiative to nominate View Park for the National Register. Along with seven other longtime and new residents, they hosted more than 25 community meetings to build awareness and raise funds to preserve the history and legacy of their neighborhood. About 670 View Park residents made a donation to pay for the complicated process of seeking a Historic designation.

“Listing View Park on the National Register is the culmination of over two and half years of hard work and dedication to our mission,” Gaines said. “It was truly a community effort and, without the overwhelming support from our neighbors, this day would have never been possible.”

Kahle lives in the Doumakes House in View Park, the County’s first historic landmark. He said the National Register designation “will create additional community pride and awareness for what makes View Park such a prestigious and special neighborhood.”

“Several studies have also proven that property values in Historic neighborhoods are 10 to 30 percent higher than in non-historic neighborhoods,” Kahle added.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose district includes View Park, also celebrated the National Register designation. He authored the motion that enabled residents of the County’s unincorporated areas to benefit from the Mills Act, a 1972 state law that provides tax incentives to preserve historic homes and property.

“View Park’s inclusion into the National Register of Historic Places underscores its historic, social, cultural and architectural significance, not only locally but across the country,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “This designation  helps in preserving the community’s noteworthy legacy, while at the same time, charting its path forward.”

View Park Conservancy

PHOTO CREDIT:  Dick Whittington Collection

Citizen Scientists

20160414_0788_UNRClaunch_MDThe Natural History Museum (NHM) is turning all of urban Los Angeles into a field site for wildlife research – with residents pitching in as “citizen scientists.”

From its newly-launched Urban Nature Research Center (UNRC), the museum is conducting the largest urban biodiversity study in the world, dubbed SuperProject. The objective is to extend scientific research and investigation beyond its Exposition Park location and, with the help of local residents, inventory the myriad species of animals and insects that live throughout Los Angeles.

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Supervisor Ridley-Thomas as citizen scientist, examining specimens in their urban habitat at NHM

Mark Ridley-Thomas lauded the museum’s efforts to engage the community in its groundbreaking research. “This urban biodiversity research is a new frontier for all of us, and I look forward to children, teachers, and librarians across Los Angeles County joining the museum’s army of citizen scientists,” he said.

Hundreds of citizen scientists have been trained to collect data and submit it to the museum’s scientists via iNaturalist, a free app for reporting personal observations of any plant or animal species. Already, UNRC’s SuperProject has led to many exciting discoveries about the regional environment.

“There’s often a misconception that Los Angeles is a concrete jungle, when in reality the city is home to one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world,” NHM Curator of Entomology and UNRC Co-Director Dr. Brian Brown said. “At NHM, we’re committed to learning more about the extraordinary plants and animals around us, and to making L.A. a better place for wildlife — and, by extension, humans —to thrive.”

The biggest challenge to studying urban biodiversity is that a significant portion of the habitat exists in backyards and other areas inaccessible to scientists for research. “We are excited to partner with volunteers across the region to establish citizen science as one of today’s foremost scientific research methods,” said Dr. Greg Pauly, Associate Curator of Herpetology at NHM and UNRC Co-Director.

2MZ_4348At the launch of UNRC, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas presented NHM President and Director Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga with a scroll declaring April 16 as Citizen Science Day, and she talked about envisioning the museum as “a hub for the investigation of urban nature, shaped not only by scientists and experts, but by user, visitor and educator interests.”

“It’s a new approach to science: using the expansive and diverse Los Angeles landscape as a field site to look at things in a less compartmentalized way, and conducting research in the urban matrix — with the help of the public,” Dr. Bettison-Varga said.

With human populations worldwide increasingly concentrated in cities, urban biodiversity is quickly becoming a central part of the future of plants and wildlife on Earth. However, much of it remains a mystery. NHM Research and Collections Vice President Dr. Luis Chiappe hopes that by analyzing historical data and gathering new data through the SuperProject, NHM can become “a major think tank for urban issues relating to climate change, pollution, urban habitats, and ecological resource management.”

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