Hundreds of people come and go from the Northwest corner of Lincoln Blvd. and Venice Blvd. every day thanks to a busy bus stop but most of those walking or driving by are unaware they stand on historic ground.
In the early days of WWII, the corner was the departure point for Japanese Americans forced to leave their homes due to their internment at camps like Manzanar and efforts to build a permanent memorial at the site are near fruition with a stone obelisk now in transit to Los Angeles.
The Santa Monica City Council approved a $5,000 donation to the Venice Japanese American Memorial Marker Committee (VJAMM) last week in support of efforts to install the Marker at Lincoln/Venice Blvd.
The memorial is the result of a persistent effort by a dedicated group of local volunteers who have spent years raising awareness of the local connection and generating the funds to pay for the work. They have secured the actual stone and organizers said it is now in transit to the area where it will be engraved and installed.
Japanese American Memorial Marker is a stone obelisk standing almost 10 feet tall. The marker will be engraved on four sides with historic text, quotes from former Manzanar internees, acknowledgement of major donors ($5,000 and above), and a map from Venice to Manzanar.
Mayor Tony Vazquez, Mayor Pro Tem Ted Winterer, and Council Member Kevin McKeown made the request.
“The date was April 25, 1942, and it’s one of those dates that most people don’t remember, but we all should. Because on that date, a thousand Japanese American families from the Westside peaceably assembled, under order, and were trucked away from their homes, their businesses, their friends, their lives, and put in internment camp for the duration of World War II,” said McKeown.
McKeown said the donation would be a way to honor everyone that suffered in the camps.
“This $5,000 would be a way for us to mark that history in a meaningful way that will help the pain of lot of people who went through a great deal,” he said.
Santa Monica native and longtime resident Arnold Maeda was sent to Manzanar at age 15 after attending elementary, middle and two semesters of high school in Santa Monica. He said the work on the memorial has helped him process the trauma of the experience, particularly a set of emotions that he felt when passing the corner of Venice/Lincoln or Samohi.
“I found myself welling up with a gut wrenching, emotional feeling which I hadn’t known had been harboring within me,” he said. “It wasn’t until sometime after I joined the Venice Japanese American Memorial Monument Committee that my visceral, emotional feeling began to ease up. Today I am full of hope that this nine foot six-inch monument project will be completed soon. We hope that this monument will help thousands and thousands of us to be alert so that nothing of this nature will ever happen again.”
The obelisk was shaped, polished and crated in India in August and is expected to arrive in Los Angeles in October. It will then be shipped to David Williams of the Williams Monument Company in Arvin, to be engraved.
The VJAMM Committee also received a donation from the Abbot Kinney Festival Association Community Grants Program recently to support education associated with the marker.
The $1,700 donation will support education materials for 5th, 8th, 11th and 12th grade classes.
According to the organization, “The curricula will address the forced removal and incarceration of persons of Japanese ancestry in general, and the Venice Japanese American Memorial Monument in particular. The VJAMM Committee intends that the VJAMM will inspire and engage students to know and appreciate their Constitutional rights, and to celebrate and respect their diversity,” said their announcement of the donation.
VJAMM Committee member Phyllis Hayashibara, a retired teacher, will work on the material.
“The VJAMM Committee has worked so hard to make the monument a reality,” said Hayashibara. “But the monument must also inspire the next generation to heed the historical and Constitutional lessons of the forced removal and incarceration of persons of Japanese ancestry during World War II. We must continue to educate our children to this historical injustice so that they have the knowledge to fight prejudice, discrimination, and violations of Constitutional rights in their own life times.”
The committee plans a dedication ceremony for the memorial in the last week of April 2017 to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the internment camps.
For more information about the marker, events and ways to get involved, visit www.venicejamm.org.
BY MATTHEW HALL