Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga Interview II
Narrator: Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Torrance, California
Date: July 7, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-haiko-03-0020

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TI: Okay, and so, and coming back to New York, and then it sounded like you went back to school or something? I guess maybe that was where...

AH: That was before I married.

TI: Yeah, '54 now, what happened?

AH: Oh, I went, when I went to New York, I got a job back that I had held before I went to Japan. I worked in a nonprofit health organization. I started out as a clerk, typist clerk, and I moved up until I became an assistant director of the international division for this health organization, which was called American Social Health Association. And they used the word "social health" because they thought it would turn off the public if they use what actually we were involved in, which was education (about) venereal diseases. As ASHA, American Social Health Association, we were part of a larger group called the International Union Against Venereal Diseases and Treponematosis. [Laughs] IUVDT, yeah, that's right. And I became part of that organization and I represented the (IUVDT's regional office for the) Americas at the United Nations on this particular subject. So I represented ASHA, which was an (instrumentality), part of IUVDT at the United Nations. So that was what I did until I decided I wanted a change. During that time, I also had a second job at night working for a industrial production company, private, small private company, that helped industry promote its goods, and I was secretary/office manager. Did everything required of a small, one-person, small, three or four-person operation to put on these shows, whether it was a video or a stage show or recording, getting the actors together, helping write the script -- type the script, I didn't do the writing -- getting all the equipment ready for shipment if it had to be in Florida or Chicago or someplace. And it was very taxing, but I did that as a second job. And eventually, I quit my health organization job and went full-time to this other job. It was getting, two jobs was too much for me, nine to five and then eight to twelve, so it was a little hard.

TI: And how was it that you could, what were the children doing during this period?

AH: I had hired a nanny who lived nearby, an Irish lady who helped take care of the kids while I worked. And then my family lived close by, too, so if necessary, I had to call on them. I usually didn't have to.

TI: But during this time, you were working two jobs, a single mother raising three children. So again, that seems like a difficult time or a busy time, I guess.

AH: Yeah. Difficult and busy. I think my regret there is that I didn't have enough time with the kids at that time. But then it was a little bit better, (when) I quit that job and I became office manager for a black organization in Harlem called Jazzmobile. And Jazzmobile was begun by the well-known pianist, Billy Taylor. It was a wonderful idea that he had. He wanted to make sure jazz wouldn't die, (and) so he wanted to continue to perpetuate the love for jazz, and started by offering inner-city black kids a chance to learn from the greats. He got Milt Jackson, the bass fiddle, I guess, and Max Roach on the drums, Frank Foster on the sax, Herbie Hancock, Monty Alexander on the piano, Jimmy Owens on the trumpet, Jimmy Heath, all those big musicians, he encouraged them to come and help instill the love and continue the love for jazz. So these great names, you know, Dizzy Gillespie and Clark Terry, they would donate their time for minimum wage, minimum honorarium, to teach the inner city kids these wonderful instruments. And Billy Taylor was successful in getting some of these greats to come down to Harlem once or twice every month to teach on Saturdays. And also, he got these small groups to play concerts for free on the streets on top of a, what (you) do call it, flatbed, open flatbed truck, (...) just parking themselves someplace in Harlem to play jazz for free, instead of having to pay sums of money to go to Carnegie Hall or someplace, for the people, and to arrange for some of these concerts that Jazzmobile put in the summertime, on the streets of Harlem. Also went to Boston, Baltimore, and different venues on the East Coast, and I was in charge of some of the arrangements to make. I didn't get to meet everybody, but I made out the paychecks for some of these famous people.

TI: And about what years were these? What year was this?

AH: This was in... let's see. End of the '60s, early '70s, beginning of the '70s, I think.

TI: So it was a pretty turbulent time, too. This was after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

AH: When was that?

TI: That was '68.

AH: Yeah, it was just about right after that time, I think, just about that time.

TI: So it was kind of a, so a pretty turbulent time, I would classify.

AH: Yes, it was. And it was the first time I had such close contacts with blacks. It was only, the office where I worked was only a block or two from where Mary Yuri Kochiyama lived. And, of course, we were involved anyway, starting with AAA then. But it was such a wonderful experience for me to be able to relate to the blacks, and to understand what they meant when they said, "I wake up in the morning and think, 'What kind of shit am I gonna face today?'" You know, just to be, understand their feeling. Whereas it was a good experience for me to get to live among them for so many hours a day.

TI: And so how, I'm curious how you got this job. Because here you're kind of in your early forties, you're a Japanese American, and this is right after a lot of racial unrest in places like Harlem, and you're now right in the middle of that. I mean, how did you get that job?

AH: Well, when I was working for this industrial production company, there was a photographer, a white guy, who used to do our photography and things like that for the company. He had a good friend who was black, who was a musician. And this black friend, at that time, had just become executive director of Jazzmobile. And he, David Bailey, had been the drummer for many groups, many famous groups like Dave... not Brubeck, Mulligan, Gerry Mulligan. Gerry Mulligan, he was mostly known as the drummer for Gerry Mulligan's band, but he also played for lots of other bands. But he was tapped by Billy Taylor, who organized Jazzmobile, to become executive director. Okay. Now, the photographer for the industrial production show was a friend of David Bailey's, and through that (job), I met David. And when David found out I was gonna leave this other company, he asked me if I would become the manager, office manager for Jazzmobile. That's how I got roped into that. Roped into, I enjoyed it. I really enjoyed it a lot. And after that, let's see, I was there for a few years. Then the last job I had before I married Jack Herzig was with a church board. Sort of jumped from Jazzmobile to the United Church of Christ. [Laughs] United Church Board for Homeland Ministry, I was the clerk of the board of directors of that organization for a few years before I remarried and moved down to the Washington, D.C. area.

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