Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Alan Nishio Interview
Narrator: Alan Nishio
Interviewer: Brian Niiya
Location: Gardena, California
Date: November 12, 2018
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-450

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 1>

BN: Okay, so we're here in Gardena at the home of Alan Nishio. It's November 12, 2018. And if you could just give me your name and your birth date to start.

AN: My name is Alan Nishio, and I was born August 9, 1945, in Manzanar.

BN: Manzanar, okay. And I think where we usually start is just to talk a little bit about your family background and maybe just starting with your parents.

AN: Okay. Well, let's see. Family background... let's see, I don't know where to start.

BN: Maybe your dad?

AN: Hmm?

BN: Maybe with your dad.

AN: Well, my father was Kibei-Nisei. He was born in Whittier, California, in 1911. And then he went back to Japan and went to school in Japan, returned to finish high school at Gardena High School, and then after that, he had gotten some support from my grandfather and others and he opened a small grocery. He worked in my grandfather's grocery store, and then was able to start his own grocery store in the late '30s, and so that was his involvement. He married my mom, I think, in 1935. It was kind of an arranged marriage, and so that was my father. And then was in camp, and then after camp was a gardener, and worked as a gardener for all that time. And so that was his background.

BN: What was his name?

AN: Kiyoshi Nishio.

BN: How long was he in Japan?

AN: He was in Japan for probably from when he was about four to about sixteen. And so that was, yeah, his involvement there. For my father, it was a difficult time. Camp was a particularly difficult time for him. Well, I'll get into that later. But then my mom was born in Seattle, Washington, in 1917, and went back to Japan when she was very small, I think three. And then went to high school in Japan, and was living in Japan and then married my father and then moved back out here in early 1934, '35, and they were married. And then she helped out at the grocery store. Then after camp was a stay-at-home mom and then took in laundry, ironing, things like that, and then worked, the last job was at Lindy Pen Company where she was an assembly line worker making pens, and so that was her life. So that was my parents and their involvement.

BN: So when she got married, she was, like, eighteen?

AN: Let's see, seventeen to... yeah, so she was like eighteen, she was young.

BN: And then they're both Kibei, so were their families mostly in the U.S. while they were in Japan?

AN: The families were in the U.S. and then they were sent back to live with grandparents in Japan. So that, for both of them, that was the situation.

BN: But when they came back, they came back to families who were still kind of semi-established in the U.S.

AN: Right, right.

BN: Did your mom get married before she came back?

AN: That's what I'm trying to remember. I think she got married in Japan.

BN: Okay, so she came back kind of as a wife already.

AN: Right, right.

BN: Interesting. And then you mentioned your father had a grocery store.

AN: Yes.

BN: Where was it?

AN: It was in south L.A., I think 41st and Wall Street. So they had started that in the late '30s, 'cause they'd saved enough money to have that, so I saw one picture of the store. So that's what they were doing at that time, was they had just kind of gotten the store going. So my mom worked out of there with my grandmother who was helping out, so it was one of these family businesses that was getting going at that time.

BN: And it's really just a few years before the war.

AN: Yeah, that was what happened, is that they had built the business. It was, from what I gather, it was doing fairly well, and my parents were beginning to start, they had my oldest sister was born in 1941. And so they were kind of, they were on their way to establishing their foundations here in the U.S. And then the camps occurred.

BN: Right. Before we jump to the war period, you may not know this because it was before you were born, but did they ever talk about being involved in any way with the community, with prefectural organizations or churches or any of that kind of stuff?

AN: Before the war? No, I don't recall any... I don't know if they were.

BN: They didn't talk about it?

AN: They didn't talk about it at all, but I know that just from what I gathered from family discussions, they were pretty well... well, my mom was just adjusting to life in the U.S. again, but pretty busy with the store.

BN: They're very young.

AN: Yeah, they were young and that was kind of the main thing that took up their time.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

BN: Then the war comes. What happened? I mean, again, you're not there, but in terms of what the family story was.

AN: Well, so my sister was born at the end of November, 1941, and then Pearl Harbor happens a couple weeks after her birth. And then it was kind of the anxiety of that time. Yeah, my dad kind of sold the store for not much money, so that's what happened. So the life was disrupted with that and then had to sell the store. We stored all of our stuff in the garage in the home that we were living in at that time, and were moved to Santa Anita. So that was during that period and that was before I was born, but that's kind of how it was. The goods that were stored in the garage when my parents returned, the garage had been broken into and everything was taken out, and so that was just kind of lost. And so that was the situation.

BN: So they went to Santa Anita first.

AN: They went to Santa Anita then while the barracks were being built at Manzanar. I don't know when they moved to Manzanar.

BN: Most people who went to Manzanar just went directly.

AN: Directly? Oh, yeah, no.

BN: Interesting. Where were they living?

AN: I think Glendale.

BN: Interesting, okay. That's fairly unusual. And then, okay, so Santa Anita, and eventually to Manzanar. You mentioned that your dad in particular had kind of a difficult time?

AN: Well, in camp... yeah, I must say that my dad and I never talked about those days. We did not have a very communicative relationship. But it wasn't until later that I kind of found what Manzanar was. I didn't find that out until I was in college. But we never really talked about camp. When I raised the issues, he just would refuse to talk about them, and then he passed away fairly early, when I was twenty-two, at the time when he died. So we were never really able to talk much about it, which is one of the major kind of misgivings I have, is the opportunity to get some closure on that. Because when I was growing up, my dad was a gardener, it was clear to me that he hated the job, he hated gardening. He did the minimum that needed to be done, and when we needed money he would take on more customers, when we didn't need as much, he would dump customers that he didn't like, and that was kind of it. He would work probably about half a day if we didn't need money, and then he would buy at the end of his gardening route a six-pack of beer, go into the garage, spend all afternoon in the garage tinkering, and then with his racing form at night, kind of looking at betting on the daily doubles. So that was kind of life. And I started going on the gardening route with him when I was eight, and so I would be going out on Saturdays and summer. So that was life for me, was whenever I was not in school, I was helping out with the gardening route. So I learned that part pretty well. As I got older, meaning about twelve, my father would start arranging the houses he was working at so that we would be in Inglewood around the time of the opening of the racetrack for the 1:30 or something like that. So he would dump the lawn mower, edger, etcetera, and then I would be mowing the lawn and edging and doing all the work. And then he would come back afterwards, and the deal was if he had won the daily double he'd give me some money. But it was our secret, my mom was not to know, kind of thing. And so once or twice a week during the summer when I was working on that, that was the plan is I just kind of did the yards while he was out there. And so he had his other gardener buddies were all out there. But he would only be there for like the first couple races, just to do the daily double and then would return. Then during that time I remember being on the route, and he'd visit some stores that were for sale, but would never have the wherewithal to be able to do that.

But when I was growing up, we very rarely talked. This was not a family that we had much communication, my mom and dad did not speak much. And so I just thought that was kind of a normal family way, is you just don't talk at home. You don't talk during meals, there was never any conversations about, "Well, how's school?" "How are you doing?" It was just kind of, people ate, so that was kind of it. And I remember going on the routes, and we just never talked. I don't remember any conversations we had on any of those things. And so what strikes me was that was my understanding of what a normal life was. The first vacation that I had, which was kind of like getting away, etcetera, was my honeymoon. It was the first time that I had ever kind of gone anywhere, and so it was a very different kind of lifestyle.

And the parts that struck me was especially as I was getting into high school and still helping my dad out, and we had customers that lived in the neighborhoods where I was going to school, so some of my classmates were there. And I was always deathly afraid that I would be running into one of my classmates as I'm helping my dad out gardening. So I remember sometimes I'd be kind of hiding in the truck, hoping not to be seen, etcetera, and know my dad picked that up, that was I not particularly proud of being there and having to do this kind of thing. And I'd always, when I was growing up, I just thought of my father as a gardener who hated his job, who drank a lot, did not communicate, and just was very silent and whatever. So that was kind of my understanding of him, and it was not until later that I had a very different story that my mom told me. Because my mom wouldn't talk about any of this stuff, but before the war they'd go out on Friday nights to go to a movie, and there was a regular kind of routine of these kinds of things. And then my aunts and uncles would talk a little bit more about what my dad was doing, what he cooked and all those kind of things. So I saw a very different kind of picture of him prewar, and it was just not my father but also my uncles. Three of them, they kind of drank a lot in camp, and so they were all gardeners, they all died before... no one got past their sixties. And so they died early, two of them, including my father, from alcohol related things. And so that was kind of life. So I miss, one of the things is not being able to have any conversation about the role of the camps in terms of how it impacted his life. And this was before, so he died before I really was able to understand much about Manzanar. I learned what Manzanar was in my senior year in college, I came home that summer, asked him about, my mom and dad about what was Manzanar, they just didn't talk about it. So we didn't have that conversation, and the next year he passed away. So there was just no opportunity to do any kind of, getting a sense of closure around his life and our relationship.

BN: The uncles you mentioned, these are his brothers?

AN: Yeah. It was my mom -- I'm sorry, his sisters' husbands.

BN: Are they also Kibei?

AN: Yes, they were.

BN: You may not know this, but in terms of camp, were they "yes-yes," do you know?

AN: I don't know, but I assume they were "yes-yes."

BN: Yeah, 'cause they didn't go to camp.

AN: They didn't go, yeah.

BN: Then you mentioned also the stories that they would tell about your dad before the war. You said it was an arranged marriage, essentially. Was it your sense that they kind of got along?

AN: That was my sense, is that, yeah, they would go out on Friday nights and doing things, but it was... yeah, I can't imagine the whole thing. But they worked together in the store, there was a significant age difference, and so my mom was young and she had my dad's sisters, who were older, kind of bossing her around. So my mom was relatively naive, didn't know what was going on. So there was that part, but it sounded like... when my mom talks about my dad, it was in very kind of positive terms prewar, and then after camp, etcetera, it's almost a different kind of relationship, there was just no communication and things going on.

BN: Did you know your grandparents?

AN: Not well. I mean, they were here until I was... my dad's parents were here, they came back after the war, and then, so they were in Manzanar and then they went back to Japan in the early '50s. And so then after that, '54, I think, they went back to Japan and then I never saw my grandfather again. And then after my grandfather died, my grandmother came back to the U.S. and lived with us, so I got to know my grandmother on my dad's side fairly well. From my mom's side, the grandfather there, he was a carpenter in Seattle, then he went back to Japan before the war, and he died in Hiroshima right after the bombing. We lived in a village outside of Hiroshima, but he was part of the civil defense thing afterwards, and so he was helping with the recovery and then he caught pneumonia. And in the absence of medical services, he passed away. Then my grandmother lived in Kabe, the village home in Japan, so she never came back after leaving the U.S. in the '30s.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

BN: You'd mentioned earlier, you had talked earlier that out of camp, the family then moved to, around Inglewood area, near an uncle. Do you remember that?

AN: No, I don't remember any of that. I know that's where we moved, because my uncles came out of camp earlier, and we didn't leave camp until December. And I think part of it was because I was born then, but also they were waiting for my uncle to kind of settle things and have a place to live in, so it ended up being Inglewood where he was able to purchase land for, there was a store there and there was some extra property, so then they built some additional cottages there. My mom and then my uncle, aunts and uncles, a number of them were living there.

BN: So you actually lived in, a number of these families all lived on one property.

AN: Right near the store, yeah. So my uncle was fairly, he was able to kind of set up there, I don't know how he got his money, but yeah, was able to purchase the land to do that.

BN: And then later on, your family then moved to their own place?

AN: Yeah, right. So we moved in end of '45, '46 to Inglewood. We lived there for three years and then in 1949, we moved to Mar Vista, Venice/Mar Vista area, which was largely, at that time, kind of farmland. So my father was gardening, and they'd saved enough money so they were looking to buy a home. So they went and were looking in Hawthorne and Westchester, and both of those places, when they found out it was Japanese, they wouldn't sell. And so one of my dad's customers who lived in Westchester, when he found out that they wouldn't sell, was upset about that. And he was a contractor, and so he was actually building a home in Venice where he was going to, as a rental kind of thing. So because of that, he sold it to my father. So that's how we ended up there. So he paid eight thousand five hundred dollars for this home, and there was only like two other homes on the block when we moved there, so it was pretty much all farmland. And so that's where we started, and that was in 1949.

BN: And did they stay there? Did you kind of grow up there?

AN: Oh, yeah, we still have the house. So, yeah, it's where my mom lived there until last year when she had to be moved to a board and care.

BN: Not farmland anymore.

AN: It's not farmland. And it was funny, 'cause later on, I knew it was part of a farm, and so the family that owns the farmland around was the Kita family. They offered the land to my father and others at fifty dollars an acre for developing. But my father said that was too expensive, and so we just kind of... because fifty dollars was, the monthly mortgage was fifty dollars a month at that time.

BN: The land's probably worth double that now. [Laughs]

AN: At least double, I think, per foot, probably. But it was, we were one of the first ones moving into that community, and it's close to the community center there.

BN: Because that became kind of this west side Japanese community.

AN: Yeah, it did.

BN: A fair number of people from Hawaii. Did you grow up kind of amongst that group?

AN: Not really. I mean, where I grew up, probably in the mid-'50s, then they developed this housing project there called Mar Vista Gardens. And so we were like a block from the housing project, and so when I was growing up, most of my friends, where we grew up, that area was not as middle class and well-to-do as a little further north, where most of the Japanese Americans lived. So ours was kind seen as more projects related, so most of my friends either lived next to or lived in the projects. I went to Japanese school, so I met people through Japanese school and through the church that was there, the Free Methodist Church. But in terms of hanging out with folks, it was primarily African American, Latino, white, poor folks living in the projects, and so it was kind of a different experience. So I wasn't involved in any of the JA community things other than Japanese school. And my whose reason for going to Japanese school is it allowed me not to have to go gardening with my dad kind of thing. Anyways, so that was kind of life. But I remember most of the people that I hung out with, they were known as kind of the "project kids," and so that was kind of my peer group at that time, and we were just into all sorts of mischief and things like that.

Yeah, just moving on, we went to the elementary school right there, Braddock Drive, but then when it came to junior high, at that time, there was not a junior high near us. But the closest one was Orville Wright which was in Westchester, but they wouldn't accept us because of the project. And so we were bused to this other, Palms junior high school at that time. So it was an interesting time, because there were like two or three buses that would bring kids there. And Palms at that time was primarily ninety percent probably white and probably seventy-five percent Jewish. So they would see this bus drop off primarily folks of color, and we were known as the bused in kids from the project. This was early versions of busing. So that was kind of the experiences of that time.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

AN: Then you mentioned that after that you went to Venice.

AN: Went to Venice High, and that was where I dramatically changed. And the story is, in junior high, I was just blown away by the culture shock of, you know, we'd grown up in this little bubble with friends, we didn't know any better. And then in junior high, I remember getting invited to a classmate's bat mitzvah, and that was my exposure to a whole other class. Because she lived in Cheviot Hills, my dad dropped me off for this party in his gardening truck. We had to go up these stairs, they had a maid that greeted us. And that just kind of blew me away to experience that kind of lifestyle, because we were just not used to that. But I was very shy in junior high school, I just kind of tried to be under the radar in doing things, and was making this transition from hanging out with the project kids to figuring out the next thing. And then in the ninth grade, this was when junior high was three years, we had voted most likely to succeed and all those things. So I was voted shyest of my class. And that really was kind of... I was embarrassed, because this was for real. This wasn't like just a joke kind of thing. So then that summer, from junior high school to high school, I kind of sat down and told myself... because most of the kids from junior high went to another high school, and only a small portion of the project kids went to Venice High. So I said I was going to really change, and so I just consciously made a decision. And so when I started high school, I was just this awful guy. I would just be very friendly, going up to people, talking to people, and say, "What's your name? Blah-blah-blah." And so by the end of the second semester I was voted class representative, and kind of went through the whole social scene in high school and was senior class president. So high school was just kind of an awful time. I hated high school. I mean, I did all... because I just had lunch with some high school friends, and they said, "You seemed like you were just, had good grades," and I said, "I hated high school. It was an awful time for me, and my grades were not that good." And so that was kind of how I transformed myself in high school.

And then was fortunate to get into UCLA out of high school, my grades were quite marginal. But I was in these classes with other relatively smart kids, and so one of my friends said, "We're taking the PSAT," and I said, "What's the PSAT?" So they signed up for that, I took the PSAT, I did relatively well on that, so then I was encouraged to take the SAT. I took the SAT, did very well on that. My grades were, I was like a C+ student. I wasn't even a 3.0 student, because I remember there was some kind of honor society and I wasn't eligible to apply because I didn't have a 3.0. But I got admitted to UCLA, and my high school counselor -- and this was the best advice I ever got -- she said, "I don't know how you got admitted to UCLA, but if I were you, I would go start at community college or join the military." She goes, "Because you'll probably flunk out after one year, because you're not academically prepared to do it." So I said, "Okay." Then I kind of told myself, I said, "I don't know how I got admitted either," because I didn't see myself as a particularly smart student. So I was scared to death that I was going to flunk out after a year, so I just studied for goodness, to try to stay aboard. Because I was not academically prepared. And after my first year at UCLA, I was so thankful, I came out with a 2.2 GPA, and I said, "Yes, I made it through the first year." And then transferred to Berkeley.

AN: Regarding Venice High, what were the demographics like there? Who were your friend groups?

AN: Well, that's the thing. Where I grew up, most of them were some of the kids from the projects, but I started losing touch with them because we were tracked in different classes. And so the kids that I went through junior high school, we were not in the same classes together. And then I remember just keeping up with them a little bit later and finding out what happened to some. One died in the Vietnam War, another one died of an OD, another one was imprisoned, two of them became police officers. And so we kind of tracked that side. But I started hanging out primarily with white folks, because they were the ones that were active in student government and in the service clubs, and I had this whole vision. I mean, I was such a shallow guy. In high school, every day you'd wear these service club sweaters that you'd wear to kind of show you're an Usher or Esquires. And so my goal was to have a different sweater for every day that I could wear. So a letterman's sweater, Usher sweater, so I was awful. There's someone that I keep in touch with, his name is Mark Mayeda, I don't know if you know Mark, but he's married to Debbie Ching. Mark's father was the minister that used to go to Manzanar every year. And so Mark went to Venice at the same time, and he kind of agreed. He said, "Yeah, you were just seen as this kind of whitewashed soc guy who'd hang around." And he's right. So anyway, high school was not fun, but I was able to get through it.

And kind of started at UCLA as a math major, because math was one of the only classes that I got decent grades in. And I'd get A's in math, B's and C's in English, C's in science, and so that was kind of how it all mushed together. Fortunately, after my first year at UCLA, I had an older sister who was at ULCA and she said, from her own experience, she goes, "You have to leave UCLA, because you're gonna just commute to school and hang out with other folks from the neighborhood," etcetera. So she encouraged me to apply to Cal, so I applied to Cal my next year and was accepted. And that just was where life dramatically changed for me. Because my first semester was the Free Speech Movement, and after that, I changed my major and I developed a certain sense of self confidence and moved forward from there. And that's where I met Yvonne, my first semester, so she was one of the first people I met when I went to Cal, so it was a great time.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

BN: Before we jump to that, I just want to go back and ask a couple things about the growing up period. Your parents were Kibei, so I assume their first language was Japanese?

AN: No. Well, at home, we spoke English. And that was more my mom, I think, than my dad. But because of the camps, they did not want to speak in Japanese. I didn't learn how to use chopsticks until I was in college. We just used knives and forks, we didn't eat Japanese food, we ate, quote, "American fare" most of the time. And so the only kind of accommodation to my Japanese side was Japanese school. And so that was different.

BN: How many years did you go?

AN: I think I went for four years. But I was terrible in Japanese school, I was a terrible student.

BN: Like most Sansei, I think.

AN: I was really bad; my Japanese is horrible.

BN: Did you get the sense that they were kind of... coming out of camp, that they were really trying to emphasize or downplay, I guess, the Japanese stuff?

AN: Oh, yeah, definitely. So that was kind of... my parents were not particularly directive. I don't remember any conversations where they said, "Do this," or, "study." Everything was pretty much on my own with my sisters providing some guidance, but we were four years' difference in age, so even that was... but my recollection is everything was on my own or what friends would say. Like I signed up for this baseball thing, but that was me having to go sign up on my own and bring back the forms for my parents to review. So I was pretty much on my own at that time.

BN: Gardening, of course, was a very popular... I don't know if "popular" is the right word, but profession many Japanese Americans after the war had, particular Kibei. There were gardeners' associations, picnics and all of that. Was your dad involved in that? Did you go to those picnics?

AN: No, we didn't go to any of those things, and so he had his gardener friends who kind of hung out at the lawnmower shop. So they would drink at the lawnmower shop and go to the racetrack together, but he was not kind of sociable in that regard. He really was a loner, so that was kind of how things set up.

BN: Then you mentioned church also.

AN: Yeah. So I started, there was a church a couple blocks away, so I went to that church. And so got involved in church related activities.

BN: What church was it?

AN: Venice-Santa Monica Free Methodist Church. So during high school, I was involved in church related activities.

BN: Were your parents Christian?

AN: My mom was, my dad was a non-practicing Buddhist.

BN: Was your mom Christian from familial, before the war, or something she became?

AN: Oh, no, this was just because of a good friend she went to high school with in Japan was part of a church, and so she got involved. Plus, that was a social outlet for her, because it allowed her to have a circle of friends outside of the family.

BN: But this is a Japanese Christian church?

AN: Yeah, West L.A. Methodist Church.

BN: Which Japanese school?

AN: Venice. So I was there, it was about two blocks from where I lived.

BN: That wasn't tied to a church?

AN: No, it was built as a Japanese school, and then became the Venice community center.

BN: Then you said you weren't really involved in the Japanese sports leagues or any of that kind of stuff?

AN: No. None of that was... well, I played basketball, it was primarily with kids in the projects, so it was a different kind of basketball. Because I remember playing with some of the Sansei later, and it's a very different style. I was used to much rougher play, so you would have to literally be killed to be calling a foul. But I remember how much more polite and organized it was than what I was used to.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

BN: Then did you have a sense of growing up being Japanese? I mean, how did you, to the extent that you thought about it at all, what was your sense about Japanese in Japan? For instance, I remember, as a kid, being kind of appalled that my mom would be rooting for Japan in the Olympic games and that kind of thing.

AN: Not really. I was aware of it at times when, like with the war movies and when we would play war and I would be the "Jap" kind of thing. At that time, again... my friends were primarily kids in the project, so we were not... most of them were immigrants, so there just wasn't that kind of sense of, we just kind of accepted who we were.

BN: You were all in the same boat.

AN: Yeah, we were all in the same boat, we didn't know any better. So it was just a different, we all had the family issues, etcetera. No, it wasn't until junior high school that I began to get some awareness that I was, quote, "different" than the others. And also class differences in addition to ethnic differences, etcetera, became much clearer. Because before then, there just wasn't that kind of awareness of things.

BN: And then was there ever awareness of not being able to do things because of either race or class?

AN: Again, not until junior... what we understood life was, like elementary school, we had our bicycles, we would bike around all over the place. And we would just do whatever was available, we didn't have any money, so we would just go to kind of hang out and play in the streets, things like that. They were close to this Ballona Creek, so we used to hang out at the creek a lot. But yeah, that was kind of life. We didn't have any resources, we never went on trips. And most of the folks -- this notion of vacations was totally foreign to us. We never had weekend excursions, etcetera, so it was just like... yeah, I remember we went to the San Diego Zoo, and that was like the only thing I have a recollection of ever leaving Los Angeles, our home, is going to relatives' for dinner or some things like that, in Glendale. San Diego was the only time that I remember leaving and doing anything like that. Yeah, so it was kind of a different... we had a very sheltered, low-key existence. And at the time, because there wasn't any social media or a lot of television, so we didn't know that there was a bigger outside world. This is kind of what most people do. And then again, in junior high school, began to realize that there's people that have money that had different kinds of life experiences and the things that they were doing were very different than what we were used to.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

BN: You mentioned throughout this time you don't know, your parents never talked about camp. What did they tell you in terms of where you were born?

AN: I just assumed Manzanar was just...

BN: You knew that you were born in a place called Manzanar.

AN: And then they would talk about camp, but I always assumed "camp" was like a, if you were to ask me, I'd say it was like an agricultural camp that my family just happened to be at. So I thought of camp as like a different kind of environment. Because we'd talk about, oh, yes, so-and-so was in Block 23, and then you're in camp. It was never put in a broader context, so no, I was born in Manzanar. I didn't even know where Manzanar was until later on. That's why it was such a shock when I saw the, first time I saw "Manzanar" in print, in a book that talked about that.

BN: Which one, what was that?

AN: I was just doing research in the stacks on another topic, and I ran across this book called Managed Casualty by John Kitsuse and I can't remember who the other person was.

BN: Leonard Bloom.

AN: Bloom, yeah. And so I can't remember what I was looking for --

BN: This is in college?

AN: This is in college.

BN: At Berkeley?

AN: At Berkeley. And so I was doing this research and then I was reading, and I can't remember what the class was, and that's when I saw this, it says, "Manzanar, one of ten relocation centers in which Japanese Americans were interned during World War II." And that's the first time I saw Manzanar. But I was busy under pressure to do the paper, but I made a mental note. So when I got home, I said, "What was Manzanar?" and they said, "That was camp." I said, "What were we doing there?" "Well, that's where they put Japanese Americans." But they didn't want to talk about it, said, "No, no, that's kind of the past." And so I kind of put that away until I graduated that year and then started to find more interests of my own. That's when, like in 1967, I started looking up things and I read, what was that? Bosworth's book. That's the first thing, I kind of looked like that.

Because at Berkeley I was involved in a lot of civil rights related things, and this just coincided with, in '66 was when I was involved in SNCC, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and it was kind of like basically this notion of, oh, yeah, this is for blacks in the South. My mentality was almost like a white person kind of supporting, "Oh, it's terrible what's happening to blacks in the South." And so it never occurred to me that I was the victim of racism per se, and that was during the time when Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown, and the whole notion of Black Power emerged. And I remember going to a thing where he says, for white people, if you're really concerned, rather than organizing buses and going out, talk to your parents and your friends and get them. Black people need to organize. And I sat there and thought, "Oh." So was thinking like a white person. And then we began to understand we needed to kind of organize within our own communities, and I didn't know quite what that meant, because I wasn't white, etcetera. And then that's when I started finding out about Manzanar, and that's when ethnic studies and other things all began to coattail together. So during my graduate work at SC, that's where we started to organize these things. But my plans at SC during graduate work were pretty straightforward. I was planning on just kind of getting my masters, going on for my doctorate, but I was offered a fellowship in Washington, D.C. working for Housing and Urban Development, this relatively prestigious fellowship.

And so that's when Yvonne and I got married, because I said, "Well, I'm going to go back to Washington and spend a couple years." And she said, "Okay, have a good time." [Laughs] And I said, "You're not coming?" Goes, "Why would I come? I've got my own life." So that was kind of the plan, but fortunately I had a faculty advisor who was African American, who got a federal grant to do some work on community organizing, so that really changed my life. So I got put into what we called a Center for Social Action, it was an activist center.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

BN: Before we... go back a little, we kind of skipped over the Berkeley stuff. But this is a good transition. When you came across Bosworth, this is kind of later in your Berkeley life. From UCLA, then, you transferred to Berkeley in, you mentioned, the fall of '64, right? During the Free Speech movement. So you'd completed one year at UCLA, right?

AN: Yes.

BN: So you were coming in as a sophomore, second year? So can you talk a little bit about that transition?

AN: Yeah, so it was an interesting transition. One is that I only knew one person at Berkeley and that was it.

BN: Your sister was, remained in UCLA? She told you to go to Berkeley?

AN: She suggested I should continue.

BN: She didn't do that herself.

AN: She didn't have a good experience at UCLA, so she goes, "Don't continue at UCLA."

BN: But she remained there.

AN: Yeah, she remained there. And then from my first semester, I didn't like... it was just too, I didn't feel comfortable. You were kind of pigeonholed into being kind of, I felt, this kind of JA scene, and just felt real limited to where I wanted to be. So it kind of fed my need to transfer to Berkeley. I didn't know anyone there. It was particularly traumatic because on the drive up to Berkeley, I had my car, which was a very important part of who I was. I had managed, with my dad helping me, I got a... it was called a Corvair, which was a pretty cool car in those days.

BN: Unsafe at any speed. [Laughs]

AN: Yeah, right. That fact, I learned the hard way what that meant, because on the drive up to Berkeley with my mom and dad in the car and all my belongings, on the way up, I cracked up on the freeway. And it was related to "unsafe at any speed" because it was so wide. And so this car cut in front of me, and I was partially falling asleep, so then I moved to miss it, and then the car flipped out. And so it flipped out, and so we ended up on an offramp. Fortunately, it just rolled on some ivy at the time, near Santa Barbara, and we ended up okay. But then so I had to take my suitcase and catch a bus from Santa Barbara to Berkeley, and then my mom and dad took a bus to go back home. And so I ended up taking a bus up to Berkeley, I ended up in Berkeley at the bus station at eleven o'clock at night. I called the place that I was supposed to be staying, and so I had to walk, I think, about four miles with my suitcase, and get there at, like, midnight. No one's there, so I just kind of sit there. So anyway, it was a very traumatic time, but I got used to it. So that was my transition.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

And then, yeah, getting used to not knowing anyone. The one person I knew was a person from church, so she was a little older, and she says to me -- because we got together a couple days later. She goes, "Oh, there's a person I'd like you to meet." So she introduced me to Yvonne. And she told Yvonne, "Oh, there's this guy coming up from L.A. that you should meet," so we kind of met. We didn't like each other particularly, she was very conservative. She just finished serving as a Goldwater Golden Girl at the Republication National Convention in Oakland. And so was a very conservative woman, she went to this conservative church, that you couldn't drink Coke, you had to wear skirts below the knee, all those kinds of things. But yeah, I found her interesting. And so that was kind of... but I was a math major just going through life not knowing what I was doing. And then the Free Speech Movement happened, and then that changed my life. It just, I don't know, the lightbulb turned on when I was just going through life as a student. And then with the strike happening, the first time I walked past these picket lines into a class, and about half the students were missing and the TA was gone, so we left. And I was trying to figure out, you know, I got called names for walking across. And so then I decided, well, let's find out why this is happening. So then I joined the lines, and there was a time when, as a student, all of a sudden you felt this sense of empowerment and engaging with students on these issues. And yeah, I just kind of came to life at that point, changed my major, became much more outspoken and finding things to get involved in. It was just a total turnaround from who I was. So, yeah, that summer when I returned, most of my friends were, "Who is this guy?" I was just spouting off all these things and getting involved in this and that. So the people that didn't like it thought I became typically radicalized at Berkeley, but I said, "Yeah." And so that's where I� transitioned to kind of a much more activist mentality.

BN: And then you changed your major to...

AN: Political science. And it was tough, because I was not prepared academically. And in those classes, in the sections, we'd have conversations, and I was just blown away by the level of conversation, and I just didn't know stuff. So the summer after my first year at Berkeley, I have a book of classics, this list, so I worked at a hamburger stand at night and then during the day I'd be reading. Went through the Harvard Classics, War and Peace, so just read like forty books to try to become, quote, "well-read," and nothing stuck with me. But I started getting much more engaged in classes and conversations and much more confident in what was going on. Yeah, it was just a great time for me personally in terms of my maturation and development, to just be in an environment of so much activism and different people thinking about different ideas. Yeah, it was a great time.

BN: Did your parents have any reaction to this?

AN: They didn't know what was going on. We didn't talk about... they just wanted me to graduate, and they couldn't care less, and I was pretty much on my own financially. So they really were not engaged in these things. High school they asked, "Why did you change your major?" and they didn't know what my major was anyway. So it was very different. My parents had great expectations for my sister, because she was pretty smart and did all the right things. They had very little expectations for me in terms of what to do, etcetera, so there was no pressure. But there was also no, really no engagement about any of those things.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

BN: And then you mentioned that you got involved with a lot of, you got politically engaged.

AN: Yeah, first with the Free Speech Movement, and then civil rights, later things, and then near the end, the Vietnam War. But then I graduated and then had to look at what I was going to do with my life. So there was three tracks I was thinking, one was the Peace Corps, another was actually, I was thinking of going to seminary, which is a whole other... during this time, I was studying existentialism, Christian existentialism. And so I was communicating with this theologian named Paul Tillich, I don't know if you've ever heard of Paul Tillich. But Paul Tillich and Reinhold Niebuhr, who were both at Union Theological Seminary. And so I read some of Tillich's stuff, so I was kind of corresponding, saying, "I'd be interested," blah, blah. It was just pretty much a form thing, "Oh, yeah, we have this program." And so I was thinking of going, not to become a minister, but just to study Christian existentialism because both Niebuhr and Tillich were both at Union. So that was a possibility, or doing graduate work. And so fortunately or unfortunately, Tillich passed away during my senior year, and Reinhold Niebuhr transferred, came to Santa Barbara to work at the Center for Study of Democratic Institutions. So then they kind of left Union, so that left that whole branch of theology.

So then I decided to do graduate work, so applied to UCLA and SC. UCLA said, "You're accepted." SC gave me money, so I went to SC. SC was a breeze because Berkeley had prepared me well. But SC was not very rigorous academically. Because what I was studying was called public administration, a lot of students were working professionals, and so it was not particularly hard. Plus, during that time, my dad died during my first semester, and so in the middle of my first semester. And so he died in May, so I guess it was near the end of my first semester. He died in May, but left us with some medical bills. So I had to take over his gardening route while I was going to school. And so this was like, it was a crazy semester and so I had to... and my dad had no records of anything, so I had to rebuild from my working with him who the customers were, and so I took over his gardening route. But he was not, like I say, he didn't work a lot. So I compressed the gardening route so I would go take the gardening truck to school on Friday, do my Friday morning classes, and then go gardening Friday afternoon, all day Saturday, and then what I didn't finish by Saturday I'd do on Sunday. So I'd kind of put together his whole route into two days. So I had to do that while studying. But fortunately, like I said, I didn't have to study that hard. But it was a crazy time. So I did that during that summer and then the year, the next year, I finished all that.

BN: So this would be '67-'68?

AN: '67-'68, yeah. So I finished my master's in '68 and was starting the doctoral program, but then I decided I was going to do this fellowship, take a couple years off and then resume my doctoral studies. But then that's when, like I said, we got the Center, so that was an exciting time. We were doing community organizing, training in black and brown communities. And so I was very much engaged in working with the Panthers, at this time Us, which was another organization, Black Congress, La Raza, so there was just a lot of folks, there was a lot of organizing going on. And that kind of changed my life script because I got much more engaged in that. And then after a year of that, I was approached to join the UCLA Asian American Studies staff, so I kind of moved into that. Just transitions from one thing to another. I mentioned that at UCLA it was a great time because of just learning about Asian American Studies, working with students, etcetera.

The first year was an exciting and fun time, and I enjoyed the excitement. The second year was when I had to be the acting director, was not a fun time. I was just blown away by being, when I was, what, all of twenty-five, at that time, and having to be, quote, a department... well, it's what Karen is doing now. But attending these meetings where I was, like, twenty years younger than anyone else there, and I was obviously not taken seriously by anyone, where they just kind of said, "Oh, yeah, well, it's the Ethnic Studies guy, Asian American Studies." So they just kind of patronized or ignored. And then just the dynamics of Asian American Studies, I was must more engaged with the students there, and saw myself as a student advocate. But having to take on these different roles, it was just this strange time to be having to act like a department chair. And then we would play poker like once a month with different folks, including the vice chancellor, was part of this poker thing. So I got to meet him, his name was David Saxon at that time, through poker more than administrative kinds of things. So that's kind of, I got soured on that, so I decided I wanted to leave UCLA and probably leave academia and go back to another life.

BN: And then when you started, you also were teaching some courses.

AN: Yeah, that was awful.

BN: You were kind of making it up.

AN: Literally I was there and we didn't have many classes, and there was this experimental center for educational development. So one weekend I developed this course called Comparative Analysis of Asian American Community Organizations because that was kind of what I worked on. I was a TA at SC, so I tried to adapt that. I put together the syllabus, it was approved, so I was teaching that class, and I didn't know what I was doing, there was no material, so I had to wing that and pull that together. And then developed with Mike Murase and some others, we developed this course for Gidra talking about the role of media in Asian American communities, so we did that class. But that was kind of more of a Gidra related class, and so did all of these things. But it was crazy, and it was very stressful for me, because I just wanted to be doing... but being put in that kind of administrative environment at a relatively inexperienced and young age. No one took me seriously, and I wouldn't take myself seriously either, because just knowing what the dynamics were, but that just turned me off. And then just the teaching was not the most fun. Because, one, I didn't have a lot of material, I wasn't necessarily an expert in the field, because it was an emerging field. And then just the dynamics of students was interesting, because they were just a few years younger than me, and having to deal with that, the pluses and minuses of having some really good folks like Kenyon Chan, Mike Murase, Stuart Kuo, that were in the classes, Bruce Iwasaki, was fun. But also other students that were just kind of looking for easy grades, etcetera, and were trying to cruise through, and were gaming and just trying to think, "Oh, yeah, this is a class that I don't have to do any work." So it bothered me that people didn't take this seriously, so trying to kind of require all that. So it was an interesting time, glad I got through it. So because of all that and all the other things going, I decided not to continue. So I finished my course work for my doctorate, but I decided to -- and took my exams, but I decided I didn't want to continue with that direction, because I didn't see myself continuing in academia. I saw myself doing something other than that. But then I ended up with a career in academia, so it just kind of all fell together.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

BN: Now, when did the JACL thing come up?

AN: I left UCLA to do this study thing in Japan, and then we were in Japan for nine months.

BN: What was that?

AN: This was the Japanese Ministry of Education and Japan Air Lines had some kind of program, they were studying at Sophia University. And so we used to use this as an excuse to travel to Japan. I got in fights with faculty at Sophia my first couple months, because this was white people talking about Japanese culture. Anyway, then I wrote a couple articles that they didn't like, because one was kind of talking about racism in Japan, and I said that both the U.S. and Japan are racist societies where there's institutional racism, but I'm more confident that the U.S. will deal with racism better because at least there's a basis for racism in the U.S., the people look different. But in Japan, you have to really work hard to be a racist, because you have to... because many Koreans, Chinese, they take on Japanese surnames, they speak the language, they were born there. So you have to kind of look at what schools they went to, the occupations, so there's more subtle forms, more insidious forms of racism. So I wrote that and then I wrote another on pollution and misplaced priorities of Japanese progress and development. They threatened to pull the program after I finished with my experience there. So we were in Japan, I was studying Japanese, which I was horrible at doing that.

But actually, the plan was... because Yvonne joined me and then we were expecting our first child, Angela. So this is very romanticized, but our plans were to go to China and have Angela in China. And so that was kind of the plan, but then Yvonne was approved to go to China and I was not. So then we wanted to have the baby together, so then we had to decide, so we came back to the U.S. and had Angela here. And then while I was here, then we came back, I had Angela, where there were some complications, but we had no insurance, we were not employed. So Bob Suzuki offered me a job at the University of Massachusetts, we were working in Pasadena at an alternative school. And then while I was there, that's when there was a JACL position opened up. It was not something that I was interested in, but with Warren and some of the other JACL activists, we felt this was an opportunity to really make a change. Because the JACL at that time was, members were there for the travel program, for the insurance, and social things, but it was not really a serious civil rights organization. And so many of us saw this as an opportunity to change the direction of the JACL, and so we kind of began meeting and thought that this would be a chance to kind of do that. I believed in it, but I was less enthusiastic about the prospects of working for JACL, but I agreed that I was probably the best, quote, "qualified." I had administrative experience at UCLA, and so we went along and we had meetings.

And I don't know if you know the stories, but basically, this was to take the place of Mas Satow, who had been the only national director of the JACL we ever had. And as it got closer to the deadline, I was the only applicant. And so the old guard, especially Mike Masaoka, was very concerned about me and what I represented. So he had convinced, I think a distant relative, David Ushio, to apply at the last minute. David was actually part of this group that were strategizing on what to do with the JACL, so he was part of those discussions. So David applied, so it was David and I, and then I knew pretty much that the fix was in. Because David would not have applied for the job, because he was the Washington, D.C., rep for the organization. He would not have applied for the job unless he was assured of something, because he would know that if you find out someone you're working with strategizing at the last minute applies for the job, if I got the job, he would be history. And that's kind of what happened, is that Mike and his cronies decided what we represented was too much of a threat to where they wanted to take the JACL and kind of that senior leadership that is not part of the formal governance, but still ran the organization. Kind of fixed things so that that would happen.

And so that's what happened, is that I was interviewed in the personnel committee, we provided a platform, I was pretty upfront. So this wasn't a takeover, I mean, I provided a platform and a vision. So it was kind of saying that we saw JACL as a leading civil rights organization that we wanted to model it more, like at that time, the Urban League, which was much more advocacy and issue oriented and get the membership behind developing an agenda. And then the staff would be primarily responsible for helping me implement that agenda. And we saw the Pacific Citizen becoming a national Asian American media piece, not just an organ for the JACL. So we had this whole plan in mind. And it was basically, they were threatened by... because this wasn't a hidden thing, we just presented a platform. We said we wanted JACL to maintain, but to be the impetus for creating a broader Asian American civil rights organization of which JACL would help found, but we're not transforming the JACL into an Asian American... but to be the foundation to really get that going. And so we just had a different picture of where we wanted the JACL to go.

BN: And when you're saying "we," you're working with...

AN: Some of the staff and some of the other activists in JACL.

BN: But they had gone, they had hired people like Warren?

AN: Yeah, Warren, Ron Wakabayashi, Jeff Matsui. So that was primarily the folks that were involved. And I've told people later, but I was relieved when I didn't get the job because it was, one, having to move up to San Francisco, and my dad had died and my mom was pretty much dependent on me. But also I just felt -- and I can laugh about it now -- but I would have had run-ins with the JACL staff, with Warren, because they were just pretty much doing their own thing. And I would have required, okay, what are you going to be accomplishing for this period, and kind of saying, "Okay, give me updates on what you're doing to accomplish this." But they were just used to kind of organizing and doing things on the fly. And I said, "Not acceptable." I had enough training to say that we needed to, one, present a platform to the membership, and saying, "We want you to give us input as to what you think the priorities are, and we're going to implement those priorities." And if we as staff don't like it, then we've got to leave. But membership needs to kind of determine... but it was going to be along civil rights, or creating the media thing for the Pacific Citizen, all those pieces were kind of what they had in mind. And it was a dramatically different view of the JACL. And it was, in many ways, kind of what I said. The JACL members, it's tied to insurance and travel programs and those are changing. And the future of the JACL is to be able to attract new generations of people and need to kind of move beyond this Nisei, white collar mentality to become a broader organization, but have the network to be able to do that, etcetera, but it was way before its time. That's when the few people like the Mike Masaokas, others, were still running the organization, and that was fairly evident in terms of what was going on. So I was personally not upset at all at not getting the job. Because I was enjoying my work with the alternative school, and so that was not disappointing. But I felt obligated that this was a real chance to kind of change things, but at the same time very concerned. It would have strained my relationships with a lot of folks when they saw this side of me that is not just letting people do their thing.

BN: Right. That's funny, because you'd imagine, you'd say you'd have clashed with the old guard.

AN: And be clashing with...

BN: Which you probably would have, but also with the new guard, too.

AN: And also I just thought that my days would be numbered. I think the ability to survive was primarily a Nisei leadership. I think of myself as relatively competent and able to incorporate different things, but I realized that they would... and this was coming off the UCLA experience. They wouldn't be taking me seriously, so I'd have to be at the table and pushing things. So that's what I learned from the UCLA experience, is I don't want to be in situations where I'm not taken seriously. So I knew I was going to clash, and so I wasn't looking forward to the prospects of moving up to San Francisco, reconnecting up there, and having to leave the job after a few months because of clashes or whatever.

BN: Right around that time, Edison Uno was starting to talk about redress. Did you know Edison?

AN: Yes, I knew Edison. Redress at that time --

BN: It was very early.

AN: Yeah, it was not high up on my radar, because they were doing the Title I campaign, and it was stuff that I said, "Yeah, that's important stuff," but mine was... this was in the midst of all the civil rights and things going on. So I saw it as an important thing, but not something that I wanted to devote myself to. I wanted to devote myself to being part of a broader civil rights agenda. And bringing Asian Americans and Japanese Americans to the table to be connecting with African Americans and Latinos. And the Latino community was in a similar situation of not having the infrastructure that the African American community had and the civil rights community, but being able to kind of develop those kind of voices. But I knew Edison, and I knew some of the work that was going on there, but just was not engaged in that.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

BN: Then shall we go to Long Beach?

AN: Well, so after I'd not been accepted for the job at JACL, I was planning... I was enjoying the work. We were creating a K-12 alternative school in Pasadena that was part of the Pasadena school district. So it was a precursor to charter schools that we have now, and magnet schools, so it was an exciting time. And so I enjoyed the experience of kind of creating alternatives within public education. And so our philosophy was to offer alternatives in the way curriculum was taught, but at the same cost per student as other schools, but having a diversity of students that would be representing the district. So we had a good ethnic, gender diversity. And so that was kind of our thing, was to be able to show that you could offer alternatives within public education on how things were taught. And ours was much more kind of small group, participatory approaches, and breaking down rather than having everything by grade level, that you have different experiences and different groupings and mixes of things going on. So I enjoyed it. In fact, after I left, the program continues to exist now and is very well-recognized. So that was fun.

BN: What's the name?

AN: Hmm?

BN: What's the name of it?

AN: It was at that time the Pasadena Alternative School, and now I think it's called the Pasadena Basic School. It's part of the... what high school was that? Marshall High? Anyway, but I know people that graduated from that school. So it's actually a very desirous school to attend, and I believe in alternatives within public education. And obviously, later on, I tried to create a public charter school in Little Tokyo, you know about that. So I was doing that, and I was approached by Jim Matsuoka, who said, "Alan, we have this job opening in Long Beach. We already have someone in mind, his name is Bill Shinto," he was a minister at Evergreen, that was teaching in Asian American Studies there. And he goes, "But we need to have more applicants because we have to submit three names to the administration." But he goes, "We already know who we want. But you we willing to?" And I go, "Sure." I didn't have a problem, so I just turned in my application. And then Jim contacts me and he goes, "Well, you have to come in for an interview." I said, "Well, that wasn't part of the deal. I got to go all the way to Long Beach to be interviewed?" He goes, "Yeah," so I said, "Okay." So I said, "Send me the job description." So I kind of looked at the thing. I drove from Pasadena to Long Beach. I, with very little preparation, showed up about ten minutes late to the interview. I walked into this interview room, and there's like twenty-five people sitting there. I go, what is this? And like half the group were students. So I apologized for being late, but I said the traffic was... and then they started asking me. I was not prepared, but I was just talking as I do. And then after we were done, Jim contacts me, he goes, "Well, Alan, the one that we wanted, the committee didn't like him, so he's out. And there's two other people, but they're awful, so you have to..." and I said, "Jim, this isn't part of the deal." And he goes, "Well, the students really loved you," blah, blah, blah. This was actually, there was a time when they had black, Latino, Asian and American Indian, EOP, and they had some other programs and they were trying to consolidate them together. So I said, well, let me look into it.

I went over there, and then I met with the BSU, the four student organizations, and I told all of them, I said, "I don't need this job, but I think there's some good possibility here. But if any one of your organizations don't want me, let me know now and I will not accept the job. So this is only going to be workable if all the organizations feel that I can do the job." So they were shocked. I said, "I'm employed now, I'm fine, but I see the potential here." So then I asked, "Well, what do you need?" So then this was the Vice President for Academic Affairs, so I contacted him when they offered me the job and I said, well, before I decide, I want to meet with the president. So this guy, he's pretty... I'm like all of twenty-seven, he's going, "What?" And I go, "I'd like to meet with the president before I make a decision." He goes, "Why?" and I go, "To be quite honest, what I've been told is the president makes all the decisions on this campus, and I need to get some commitments from him before I decide to take the job." He was very upset, he goes, "Well, I'll have to get back to you." And I thought, "Well, that's that. I've done my job." So then the next day his assistant called me and he goes, "Okay, the president's agreed to meet with you, so you're going to have lunch." So I had lunch, and we were talking. So I said, "Well, I think this has potential. But before I decide, I need to have a commitment for budgetary authority, I need to know if they have the money, ability to know what my allocation is and handle it directly, I need a new facility, I need an additional position to support my thing," and I can't remember one of the things. And he looked at me and he goes... and I said, "I need to tell you, I think this has potential." And I said, "If I can't deliver what you want in a year, you don't have to fire me, I'll resign. But this is what I think I need in order to be able to make this work." I said, "If you provide these resources and this commitment, then I will work... and if you are not happy with it, then I will... if you want that in writing," 'cause I said, "I have no problem with that." And he basically -- 'cause I got together with him, he became a congressman so we would talk later. He says, "You're a pretty nervy guy to do all that." But he said, "Okay." So I go back to the Vice President for Academic Affairs and said, "Well, we have these commitments." So he was not happy that I kind of did this end run, that I came aboard and pulled all that together.

It was a job that I ended up just loving because it was working with... unlike UCLA, these were students of color, there was much more acceptance there, these were more working class folks, it was kind of meeting my needs because it was like communities they were recruiting from that I felt comfortable with. The challenge of getting the different folks of color to figure out how to work together was challenging, but at the same time I just... but the roots were there at Long Beach. They were never, everyone wasn't divided as you were on other campuses. There was enough interaction. And so we were able to kind of pull that together, and it ended up being a great experience. I was planning on being there for five years, but it just kind of ended up, I just loved the experience. And what I just enjoyed was being able... we had a high school program, middle school program, so being able to identify students and track them and provide support was just, I had a great time.

BN: It sounds almost like they were people, similar to people you grew up with.

AN: Yeah, exactly. And being able to touch their lives in different... and so I just fell in love with some of the students. Like some of the Yellow Brotherhood students, I remember getting them into school and kind of supporting them and getting them, Gary Fujimoto, Iris, that were there, and kind of getting them connected. It was just a great time to be able to have enough access to resources. And so I would always kind of take on a few students every year that I would just work with. And it was a crazy time, but I don't know if you know Mike Yanagita, but Mike is someone who was active. And so he was involved, he moved out to California from Michigan and was working with YB. So I just got together with him and he goes, "Yeah, I'd like to go back to school." He said, "Well, I was at the University of Michigan." I said, "Okay, were you in good standing?" He goes, "Yeah." I said, "Okay, well, give me your application." And so he came in on Monday, school started the following Monday. And so he came in Monday with his transcripts, I mean, with his application, and I said, "Okay, if you can get your transcripts in by a certain date, you're in." So then he got a letter of admission on Tuesday, and those are the kinds of things that I just loved being able to control enough resources to be able to touch lives of folks, and stay in touch with all these various people that have moved on, some successes, some failures, but I just loved the experience of Long Beach. And then as I spent years, we changed, I took on broader responsibilities.

I say this story a lot, but when my retirement came, I said, what I'm most proud about this university is we get the son of a doctor coming from Newport Beach, drives a BMW to campus, we get the daughter of an undocumented immigrant coming from Huntington Park, taking the 90, the blue line of the 90 bus, and they come to the same classes. And if we do it right, they benefit from each other, but it's always a fine balance because the son of the doctor, if we're not providing the educational quality, they're going to leave and go to other opportunities. But that's the level of opportunity and resources that the daughter of an undocumented deserves. And if we do it right, we both learn, and that, to me, was the pinnacle of the vision I had. It was not just providing access and letting people get a second level of education or were not doing well, but providing that with kind of the rigor and other things to make it a worthwhile experience for everyone. So I was just very proud. And Long Beach, to this day, continues, it's in the top ten in the nation in terms of graduation rates for the demographic profile of students that are served. And I like to think that I was a part of helping to create the enrollment environment to do that.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

BN: So you were, how long were you at Long Beach in total?

AN: Thirty-five years.

BN: Starting...

AN: 1972, and then I left in 2006. And so it was a run that I never expected.

BN: A little more than five years.

AN: Yeah, but like I said, I just loved the students and I loved the ability that I had. But as I kind of moved up the ranks, so to speak, I was just fortunate in that I've always had the attitude that no matter who my boss was, I could say, "You can take this job and shove it," that I can leave at any time. But as I got into my fifties, I thought, "Maybe that's not a wise approach." But fortunately, I had the ability to kind of work with students and students all the time, so my strong space of support was students. But I decided to leave just because the job was so demanding, and plus, my community, all this time I was involved in redress, community stuff, and then I had a demanding job that I probably was on campus probably twenty-something weekends a year. Because student organizations had their activities, and so I was a sponsor for the Pacific Islander Association, the Cambodian Student Association, so I was just connected in so many ways with the students. And I came to the realization, I said, I love this job, I love what I do, but I can't continue doing this community stuff in Little Tokyo and this stuff, this job is so demanding. And I said, "I'd rather leave Long Beach while I'll be missed." I don't want someone saying, "Oh, you should have seen Alan five years ago when he was on his game." And so when I was sixty I decided I'm going to transition out, and I decided to retire from Long Beach.

And then my plan was actually to start a charter middle school in Little Tokyo. And so I started developing, at that time the JACCC building was significantly underutilized, and so I had conversations with the board and they were going to commit to allow me to use three floors of the building, one floor each year, to build to a middle school. And that's the biggest problem with charter schools was the facility. And then at that time, I knew people at LAUSD and also in UTLA, and so through the LAUSD with the administrators, Mayor Villaraigosa, who was the mayor of L.A. at the time, his wife Corina was a former student of mine at Long Beach, and so I had met with Corina and talked to Mayor Villaraigosa about my ideas, and he says, "Oh, yeah, sounds good," blah, blah, blah. And I was working with UCLA, with folks in the IDEA, the Institute for Democracy, Education, & Access, so everything was coming together. And because it was going to be a charter public school, and it was like a teacher-centered school where everyone was a teacher. So the principal was a teacher, the maintenance person was a teacher, the food preparation person was a teacher, and they all taught. And so teaching was engaged in everything, so students would be involved in maintenance, but they would be a classroom environment where there'd be learning objectives and curriculum, and so it was that kind of thing. So it was a teacher center, everyone was on the same pay scale, the principal would be teaching but also doing administrative things, but called the principal. But the idea was everyone is the teacher. It was going to be focused on cooperative learning, using the community as a learning resource with project-based activities like working at the L.A. Times, putting together a youth edition. Because I had enough contacts -- over the years I had developed contacts in L.A. and with the charter school folks, and so I was in a unique position. And it was a very marketable idea because, one, I had a facility, but two, what I'm saying is I'm going to do this for five years, I'm not going to get paid at all. And I just want to do this, and then I want to turn over the operation. And corps will be the teachers, and my pitch to the LAUSD folks was, I said, there's enough really good, dedicated teachers in LAUSD that will want to be... and I said, "If they're not part of it, they're going to leave. They're going to leave the profession or they're going to leave the district, because they're tired of the bureaucracy and all the other kind of things." And I said, this will be a chance to -- and it will be a public school, and it will be teaching, two-thirds of the students will be local residents or basically low-income immigrant students, and one-third will be permits to transfer from folks who worked downtown. Again, that was my model. I said, we need to be top quality to be able to attract people who work downtown who have choices. So someone is coming from Torrance, for them to decide to put their child into this charter school as opposed to a Torrance school, they've got to feel that it's benefiting them, again, I think it would. But that's the level that, again, the immigrant kids deserve. And so that was kind of what I was pitching, and yeah, I had a lot of faculty support from both Long Beach and UCLA to be able to do training and creating all these opportunities. So everything was in place, and I'd gotten a grant from the Gates Foundation to do something.

At that time, that's when I found out I had cancer. So I had to do surgery and then after all that, it became fairly clear that my life was no longer going to be, I couldn't plan beyond three month scans to determine what to do. There was no one else that could take... because this was, you have to get five years, and it's not something I could ask a current, someone working, to do, because it's somewhat speculative and a lot of it's development that you have to do, and I didn't want people having to sacrifice their careers to do something that there's ups and downs to that thing. So the idea was to kind of start with my sixth grade cohort and gradually move it up to a hundred students per year. So that was exciting, but just couldn't pull it off. But it was fortunate that I was able to unretire from Long Beach, because I was still using accumulated vacation time. Then dealing with cancer for twelve years has changed my life significantly because I've had to have been focusing for twelve years now on short term projects and my engagement in organizations and things like that.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

BN: So I wanted to go back, kind of a little bit of a tangent --

AN: Sorry for distracting here.

BN: No, no, this is great, we were going to get there. But just to go back to the '70s and you have a young family you started in Long Beach, when did you move to Gardena?

AN: In 1985.

BN: Oh, later, okay.

AN: Yeah, 'cause we were living in Chinatown and Yvonne was teaching and working in Evans Adult School which is in Chinatown, or right at the edge of Chinatown. And we were involved in the LA stuff. So my goal all along was to probably transfer to work in Cal State LA. So with Bob Suzuki, when Bob was the Vice President for Academic Affairs, we arranged, because Bob knew my interest, and so he arranged a meeting with the president, we had dinner, and so he says, "Oh, yeah, we'd love to have you." So he kind of created a position, and it was a strange thing. So then I was interviewed by phone by this Vice President for Administration, and then I was offered a job. And it was the strangest thing because there was never a committee. So I looked into things and I found that the administration was this dysfunctional administration, that the president was not well-liked by students or anyone, and that I would be brought in as, quote, "one of the president's team" to carry out his things. So I said, "I don't need this." So I told Bob, I said, "Bob, I'd love to work at Cal State LA because as a campus, that's the community that I want to serve. But Long Beach, I've got the support and the administration and other things that I could actually get the job done," and I didn't feel at LA that that would be the opportunity to be able to do that. So I turned down the job at Cal State LA, then I decided that I'm going to stay at Long Beach, so then it was too much of a commute, so then we came to Gardena. So this is after living in Chinatown for twelve years.

BN: And I was going to ask you, because, of course, Gardena kind of became one of the suburban Japanese American communities.

AN: Not when we moved here. No, it was, and it was a kind of halfway commute because Yvonne continued to work in Chinatown and she continued her involvement in Chinatown in L.A.

BN: It's almost right in the middle.

AN: Yeah, it was kind of in the middle. We were not able to really connect that much to the city of Gardena, but we enjoyed the community. But most of our stuff is in L.A.-based kinds of things, and Yvonne was, and remains, active in a lot of other nonprofit stuff. When we think about the '70s when we had two kids, and Yvonne was chair of this Chinatown Service Center and then the Foundation for Early Childhood Development, and was active with the Teacher's Union. I was doing redevelopment stuff. It was a crazy time. We started a childcare center there, so it was all kind of a crazy time. We don't know how we did all that. It was part of a collective effort, so it was all doing everything together. But yeah, it was a crazy time.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

BN: Which is a segue to, I want to now talk about redress, but also, I think, the roots of it in some ways came from the LTPRO and the whole Little Tokyo housing situation. How did you get involved in that?

AN: Well, initially, it was, again, one of the organizations that we started in the late '60s was the Asian American Political Alliance in L.A., where we were kind of already established in the Bay Area. And so then we wanted to connect with communities, so for JAs in Little Tokyo, there wasn't a lot of connection there. So we began to... first it was serve the people programs, doing things, we started the JAX Asian Involvement Office, etcetera. And then redevelopment was occurring, and so that became kind of the focus. Because the immediacy was the issues of evictions and things like that that were going on. So that's when we started the Anti-Eviction Task Force, then ultimately we realized that we needed, rather than just this anti-eviction kind of thing, we needed to broaden the scope to the Little Tokyo's People's Rights Organization. And so that's what we kind of took on, and we began to kind of work in Little Tokyo more. We were kind of seen as outsiders in a very set community, etcetera, so then we started rocking the boat in terms of fighting against the evictions, etcetera. But it was kind of a thing that we realized, some of us, that Little Tokyo was a community in need of redevelopment in some ways. So we needed to, rather than just kind of focusing on stop the evictions, really talk about how to fight for certain other things like the community center, location for small businesses, senior housing. And so, fortunately, it was at a time where those involved in redevelopment were also committed to Little Tokyo, so there was enough common ground that we didn't take the position of adversarial, they're the enemy, but rather saying, we are going to fight for these things, but at the same time, work together on these issues, if there's replacement housing, if there's commitment for cultural... so actually, when I was head of LTPRO, I testified on behalf of the redevelopment project of City Hall, the city council, saying that our priorities are all of these things. And so that's how we emerged. So LTPRO was involved in those efforts, and as the redevelopment project began to wind down, and the evictions had occurred and Little Tokyo Towers was started, JBP, etcetera, that we began to kind of look for the next steps. And so we began to look into redress as one activity, continuing to focus on immigrant and workers' rights as another issue, continuing our efforts with Nikkei and news.

So then I kind of took on, with some others, looking at redress. So that's when we took on, we started the Los Angeles Community Coalition for Redress and Reparations. Because our approach, this might work from other places, was we didn't want to create another organization, we wanted to create a coalition. From my other work, I was a firm believer in the value of one-issue-oriented coalitions, to bring together broader segments of people rather than trying to build an organization and that being the focus. Because we didn't want to build an alternative to JACL, we wanted to build a coalition that could include the JACL as well as others. Because recognizing the JACL, there's people that would never join the JACL. And if the JACL were to be the organization for redress, large segments of the community would not engage and participate. But yet, the JACL was critical. So that's why this notion of a community coalition including the JACL... and some people, the grassroots membership understood it, and so they joined NCRR, the leadership of JACL obviously had problems with it.

So we started the Los Angeles Community Coalition and then worked with activists in the other communities to try to then form a national network. So we involved the JACL, some chapters agreed, others, the national didn't want to have anything to do with us. We wanted to involve Bill Hohri and the National Council folks, involved in that, and Bill came out and we had a meeting. But Bill's was the class-action suit and that's it. And our position was class-action is great, but there were multiple strategies, and we felt that the legislative process was better because it allowed opportunity to engage the community more. Where class-action, it's raising money for attorneys and doing those things, which is important, but we felt for our base, they wanted to roll up their sleeves and feel that they're involved in a movement. And it's more than just raising money. So unfortunately, Bill was Bill. He was just so single-minded, and some of us... I talk about, we're not the enemy, and can't we just agree that you're going to do your thing? But he was... and he and many were so virulently anti-JACL, and so it was awkward because they saw us as kind of being like, just collaborating with JACL. So it was just kind of an awkward time. But we created NCRR, and that kind of got involved. It was something that when I initially was involved in it, I was saying, well, yeah, we were doing this, but I saw this as an issue that, yeah, this is going to be at a certain scope, but it just took on a much larger scope than I had ever imagined. And at a certain point, it was just not a political -- for me it was a political issue, to continue organizing, etcetera, but then it became, quote, "personal," but also a commitment to community that we had to see this thing through. So it was a crazy time, we were putting in an inordinate amount of meetings and things like that. And all of us were working, we had a lot of other things going on. So I just don't know quite how we managed it, and I could keep my employment job at Cal State Long Beach during that time, staying busy with doing all that.

BN: Raising kids.

AN: Yeah, with my kids. And I remember Angela, who was the oldest, was somewhat resentful for the fact that Yvonne and I didn't spend as much time with her and whatever. And so she was in childcare a lot and doing other things. So she was kind of resentful about those things. And where it kind of changed, the lightbulb turned on, was that I was invited to speak to her high school assembly about camp and redress. And Angela was so afraid, she goes, "You're what? No, don't do it, Dad, don't do it, Dad." How's she going to live this through? And so I did the presentation and it was well-received. And all of a sudden she saw what camps and redress was from a broader perspective and that changed our relationship, and I think the things that she saw. But yeah, it was a time when I think both Angela and Mia, it wasn't, I don't think... of course, I'm biased, but it was so traumatic that it was terrible, but they, especially Angela was very resentful. She said, "I remember that you weren't there for this thing, and Mom wasn't..." and so we said, well, yeah, but we were busy doing other things. And she understands it now about how you balance all these things. She says I guilt trip her now with her kids.

BN: Probably doing the same thing.

AN: Yeah, it's the same issues, but she's an OBGYN, so hers is just her job. She loves what she does, but she spends an inordinate... it just defines her life, because she's delivering babies at all hours.

BN: They don't come on schedule.

AN: No, and she's engaged with a lot of the, quote, "community," our people that are her patients. She loves it, but she also realizes it's so consuming and so demanding. We have conversations about what the next phase of her life is, and how she's going to prepare, looking to be engaged and other things. Because I remember when she graduated from med school, she said to me, at her graduation from med school, she goes, "Dad, I know you're disappointed in me that I didn't go into teaching and education," like Mia did, etcetera. I said, "We're not disappointed in you." So she always feels that politically, she just feels that she's not an activist enough. I said, but everyone finds their own routes, and I'm not saying you've got to be an activist, you just have to find your passion for what you want to do. But hopefully it's something that contributes beyond yourself to a broader good. And I said, "You're doing that, so just find your own path." I'm sorry, I digress.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

BN: What I wanted to do then is, actually, a couple more things about redress. And one thing I've always wondered is where did that come from? When did that, to your recollection, did that idea first occur to you, or when did you first hear about that?

AN: Well, I first heard about it during the Title I campaign. And Edison Uno was really critical. And then folks up in Seattle began to push this.

BN: Were you in contact with the Seattle people?

AN: Yeah, but never really closely.

BN: But you knew what they were doing.

AN: Oh, yeah. Shosuke Sasaki and Henry Miyatake. At the time we thought it was pretty outrageous, but a just political statement to demand monetary reparations, etcetera. So when Edison was right on, but I was very pessimistic that JACL would ever embrace that position. And when they did, then that's when we felt we needed -- it was an important position to take, but again, what we said was we needed to involve the JACL and support the Edison Unos and that segment of the JACL in their efforts. But at the same time, I felt, and many of us felt that if we let the JACL be the organization to drive that, that it was doomed for failure on a number of things. One is they would sell out, but two, just a core of their hidden leadership that have their own self interests, that would not want to rock the boat, that would want to just settle for an apology or do things that they think are politically acceptable and would not be willing to push the envelope. But I'm always saying JACL was critical to the redress campaign and its success. Because it had the framework and the network to do that, etcetera, and to their credit, I think were able to broaden their own... and partly it was a generational change that allowed that to happen. But yeah, initially it was really getting the inspiration from others. And us, coming from the LTPRO perspective of, we saw it as an issue to organize around that was really unique. And for me personally, it was almost in a manipulative sense, that yeah, this is another issue that we're never gonna win it, but we can organize, we can get people up in arms, etcetera.

And I tell the story of, I made a presentation on redress at the Little Tokyo Towers. And after the presentation, this Issei woman comes up with this crumpled, I think it was a five dollar or ten dollar bill had just kind of said, "Here, do what you can do." And then one of LTS's social workers kind of told me, "This woman is on a fixed income, she doesn't have much money. This represents a significant part of what she lives on. And then I said, this is for real, that we have people that really... this is important for their lives. And then I realized for my life, then it became personal. I said, this is beyond a political issue, it's something, it's a statement for our community. And then it took on that significance. When we got closer to, quote, winning, that we realized this takes on a much broader kind of thing. And at the time, we never, I mean, I didn't ever envision that. In retrospect, it just kind of took on a life of its own. Redress is such an interesting story, when you think of all the twists and turns, how we were so fortunate in the timing of so many things, Barney Frank being the chair of that subcommittee, his position, Jim Wright being speaker of the house, just so many things falling in place at the right time to be able to have this happen. So that was kind of, to me, an important highlight, and reinforcing the issues of what I was continuing to believe in as the importance of grassroots, community organizing, and just kind of reinforced to me. And so that's why I continue to feel that sense of optimism, despite all the other crap that goes on. We see the small victories that create change.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

BN: Continuing with the redress, what were your, what do you remember about the commission hearings in the summer of '81? You yourself testified?

AN: Yeah, I testified on behalf of LTPRO.

BN: Right, and I know you guys did a lot of organizing or arranging for people to testify.

AN: So during those days, when the commission legislation came out, we were opposed to it. And it was, again, that's where, I think, JACL and their perspectives were correct, and the elected officials were just correct. And we were looking at it from a very small perspective, saying, "Why do we need another commission to just restudy what we already know?" etcetera, etcetera. So we opposed it. But once it passed, we said, okay, how are we going to use this? And so we decided to push for regional commission hearings, bilingual, all those things, because our concern was that this notion of a commission was they were going to meet in D.C., they were going to take public testimony for a day or whatever, then they were going to close the doors and issue a report. And then the report would gather dust on a shelf, etcetera. And so fortunately, the people that were involved in the commission saw the value of doing regional hearings. So we were just fortunate with all of the people that were on the commission. And to a person, I think it was great. Even having Dan Lungren was great. So that's kind of how it happened.

But we realized, pushing for this, when we had it in L.A., we felt, okay, we pushed for this, and we didn't want the scholars. Then we realized, who were we going to get to testify? [Laughs] And at that time, it was hard to find people that were willing to testify. Or the people that were willing to testify would be the same people that you would be inviting to go to D.C. to testify. So that became the real challenge. The L.A. hearing was the first one, regional. It's got to be something that is real, because we were pushing, it's got to be in the communities where people can tell the story. So you push that, and if they go, "Fine, we'll do it," then the burden is making that, having it happen. Because it would have been the worst thing to have a commission hearing in L.A. and the only people that were testifying were scholars and civil rights activists, etcetera. So when we looked around, there weren't many people that... but there were so many people that had stories, but they just didn't want to tell it. So then we tried to convince people to tell your story, and then we started having workshops where we'd be practicing the testimony and things like that. And so that's where it went. So the few people that were just willing to tell their story, it kind of took off and created a kind of energy of itself. When people heard those, then they wanted to step up and tell their story, etcetera. And what was so nice is it's so unscripted that you could see that what came out were regular people. And that was the power of the D.C. delegation. You can tell that these are not lobbyists that were out there, or members of a union that are out there with their talking points.

And so, to me, it was powerful. It was powerful for so many reasons, but where it hit the most for me and for many of our community is the emotion of people that had not told their stories for years being willing to share that. And then the groundswell of others saying, "Oh, finally." And then it helped that the Rafu Shimpo did their survey during that time, when Dwight was the editor, and telling people, "It's okay to support redress." Because the storyline from the, quote, "community leaders" was, oh, no, we shouldn't demand money. It's below us, it's unrealistic, it's shameful. And then when it came out, and through that kind of thing saying, oh, no... so redress became -- and in my family, I know that's what happened. When I started initially involved in redress, my mom... well, one of my aunts disowned me. They just were embarrassed that one of the relatives was involved in this thing. So anyways, that's kind of -- and so the commission hearings were critical, and in retrospect, we were glad that we decided to support it rather than oppose that kind of thing. Anyway, that was kind of the key turning point in the redress movement, is it then became a community issue. And I think really, the momentum built from then on.

BN: Did you ask any of your... your mom or any of your relatives to testify?

AN: My sister did. My mom, no.

BN: Your sister did testify?

AN: Yeah, she did. But yeah, it was a crazy time. We just didn't know what to expect. But it was great, in retrospect, the VC videotaped that, and who would have thought at the time? But yeah, you just never know when you're at key moments in history until after the fact. Oh, that was an important time.

BN: Yeah, and we're still trying to find video for some of the other hearings. It doesn't exist, or someone filmed it and no one knows what happened to it.

AN: I know, and that's the value of some of these. But it's how you delegate how you tell the story and carry it on. So the commission hearings, to me, were a key kind of event in terms of moving redress forward.

BN: Were you there with the Lillian Baker episode?

AN: Yeah.

BN: Did you know her? She's from this area.

AN: Oh, yeah, we knew Lillian Baker. Because she'd come to other things, there was a smaller group of people that kind of did that. But we were surprised that Lillian would go up and do the things she did, but we knew their position, and a few of them would come to other events and be fairly outspoken. In many ways, it's somewhat helpful to... we were fortunate in that there are reasonable people that could oppose redress. Like Dan Lungren is someone who was somewhat reasonable, and then there's the racists that can't differentiate between Japanese and Japanese Americans. And we were fortunate that the racists were identified as the opposition. And so it kept a lot of more reasoned opponents to redress from being visible during that time.

BN: Interesting perspective, but it's true.

AN: Yeah, I think that it was helpful that the anti-redress were kind of caricatured in terms of their opposition. Because there are some very reasonable arguments that could be made to oppose redress, but they were never able to take traction and there was never any self interest of any groups to really take that position on.

BN: Were there any kinds of threats or did you get any people threatening to blow things up or any of that kind of stuff or were the Lillian Bakers of the world more...

AN: Yeah, they were pretty isolated.

BN: You never saw them as dangerous?

AN: No, no. There was never... and we got some racist mail and things like that, but didn't think that was, nothing we would consider a threat.

BN: Did you get to know Lungren?

AN: I knew him because he was congressman in Long Beach.

BN: He was in your area.

AN: Yeah, yeah. And we had meetings. And at the time, he's conservative, and was obviously working off of... but this was not during the Trump era, and so it was a different kind of time.

BN: I mean, he supported the apology.

AN: Yeah, yeah.

BN: Not the monetary side.

AN: He realized that there was no self interest for his political career to kind of be an outspoken opponent. So he raised his opposition, but not in a way that I think he could have if he thought it was a political platform, and he could have played much more of a role on the commission. But there no interest to him, because he was thinking of running, as he did, for higher office, and didn't see... if this was during the Trump era, there would be a wholly different set of dynamics, and he and others would have been jumping on this as part of the line. But fortunately, the Republicans, there was much more of a sense of bipartisan cooperation and appealing to the middle.

BN: You had a fair amount of Republican support.

AN: Yeah, and so because of that, there was not, the Republican party was not defined by the fringes, and so we were able to kind of get through. But the level of bipartisanship was critical. If you think of the Senate in '87 versus the Senate of today, I mean, there's no way you can get many bills that's gonna have bipartisan support. So for all of those reasons, we were just fortunate to have done things at the time that was done with getting bipartisan support for redress.

BN: At what point did you think this was really possible?

AN: It was actually when this bills were introduced with a number of, particularly on the Senate side, the cosponsors, you go, whoa. But the number of House and Senate cosponsors began to say that this can happen. And so we became very optimistic and we were having, when we did the lobbying delegations before a lot of that, that became optimistic. I didn't think that Reagan would sign it. But the level of Senate support was critical. And so that's why I think Spark Matsunaga's efforts using... my analysis, although I'm not, by far, an expert on this, was that Dan Inouye had to play a background role because he was hoping to become Senate pro tem, that he didn't want to be too identified with a self-interest kind of thing, and that he appeared to defer to Spark Matsunaga, who did not have the most impressive legislative record, but was just liked, and had principles. He was a man of principle, well-liked within the "club," the Senate, and so my sense is that he stood up and said, "This is an issue that I believe in," and he called in his relationships with people. And I think, fortunately for Daniel Inouye, was kind of saying, this is Spark's issue. And also it allows him to not, he wanted to position himself to be the head of the Senate, so he didn't want to be too overly identified. So that all kind of worked out, and I think it was nothing but, the Senate was enough of a club, and a lot of people, I think, really liked Spark, and oh yeah, this is an issue that... there's not a lot of downside politically to support it. And so I think that really gave a lot of the impetus to kind of move that forward.

So that's when I began -- but I didn't feel that Reagan was going to sign the thing. I thought it was a victory to just get Congress to pass it. And I saw this was an ongoing effort beyond that. But then when Reagan signed it, it was surprising, but then in retrospect, it was not surprising, because I was naive about the difference between authorization and appropriation, that you can have a President authorize and then never fund. There's all sorts of legislation, I guess, that are authorized that are never funded. I think this was the plan. Reagan's plan would be, well, there's no reason not to sign it because there's more negative, the downside, but he's never going to recommend any significant appropriations to ever have this thing happen. And that's where Dan Inouye steps in. So it's all timing, so Dan Inouye steps in at a time when he did not get the President pro tem position, that was George Mitchell, and so Dan's in a position where he has nowhere to go. He's as high up within the Senate as he's going to go, because he was the natural person and was not accepted. And so I think he was able to bring his expertise and other things to bear to kind of ultimately get the appropriations that were necessary. So, to me, it's an amazing story, but then I'm biased. But to see how things fell into place at all the different points, we just had the right people in place to be able to do things.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

BN: But then NCRR, kind of even after this all happened, I mean, it's playing a role in the appropriations process and all of that, but did you remain involved in NCRR through the shift and change of the name?

AN: I've always been involved in NCRR, but I had consciously decided after -- one, because it had taken a significant time commitment, so I was looking to do some other things. And also I always believed in this notion of coalition. And so one part of me said I didn't want to be involved in an organization that...

BN: You kind of evolved away from it.

AN: Yeah, and it was important to us. I still support NCRR, but I didn't want to be an activist and attending all those meetings. There were other things that I wanted to get involved in. And it just happened at that time that I became involved in the College Board, and that was fighting for... first it was a Japanese-language subject exam, and then this English exam for immigrants versus the TOEFL examination. And then it was during the time of changing the name from the Scholastic Aptitude, but there's a lot of things going on. But it was an interesting environment for me, and so I was part of the elected leadership. So I was elected to the regional head of the College Board group and then I was appointed on the trustees and then became vice chair of the trustees and overseeing their educational equity initiative. Because this is a three-quarter billion dollar a year corporation, so it was a different... governance took on a very different kind of environment. So like the CEO that we hired, he was a good guy, but he was making, at that time, ridiculous amounts of money. But he was making more money being on the boards of Campbell's Soup and whatever than he was getting... so it was different world, ball game. But I enjoyed the experience because I interacted with a variety of people. One of the people I did a lot of it was Steve Sample, who was the president of USC, and Peter Stanley, who was the president of Pomona College, because we would be taking flights back to go to meetings. And so I had a change to kind of interact with... and then Ramone Cortinez, who was district superintendent for L.A. Unified. So it gave me a chance to interact with a lot of people.

In fact, I was offered a job at the University of Virginia with the president there, and I said, "There's no way I'm going to go to Virginia for anything." So I enjoyed the interaction. And one of the real fun things was I had dinner one night with Martin Myerson, who was the acting president, chancellor at UC Berkeley during the Free Speech Movement. Because this is when... was Clark Kerr... anyway, someone resigned as chairman, I think it was Clark Kerr, and then Martin Myerson was the dean of the School of Architecture there, stepped in during the Free Speech Movement near the end. So it was fun talking to him about his perspectives on the Free Speech Movement and Mario Savio and all those other things going on. He thought Mario Savio was an opportunist ass. But it was just kind of interesting.

So I enjoyed those levels of interaction, and trying to move a more progressive agenda forward for the College Board and what we were trying to... democratize Advanced Placement and making it more available, etcetera. So I was trying to press a change agenda to use. Because at that time, whether we liked it or not, the SAT and Advanced Placement was a part of life, and so it was how to make it more accessible and something that we could do. So anyway, I spent probably like eight years of my life, but it was just too... it was almost as consuming as redress, so it just moved from one to another. Because I was going back...

BN: This was after, this would be in the '90s?

AN: Yes, this was in the late '80s and '90s.

BN: So even a little overlap.

AN: Yeah. But in the late '80s is when I was getting involved in regional, and then in the early '90s, then I was on the board of trustees and then executive committee. But the executive committee was meeting monthly, and so it was having... and it was just taking its toll. Initially it was fun to go back to New York, but then it was like there were times when I had to take the red-eye, get in at six o'clock in the morning in New York, rest up, go into a nine o'clock meeting all day, then having a dinner that night, then next morning, meeting, finishing the meeting at two, catching a four o'clock flight back. And then all the time on the flight over reading agenda materials and then having to deal with work stuff. The worst time was we had a new president of Long Beach who had a mandatory meeting for senior leadership on Friday, so I had to go to the executive committee meeting on Thursday, I had to fly back home for the meeting on Friday, then Friday afternoon I had to fly back to New York for a Saturday thing, so it was a crazy time. And then I started getting sick from all the travel, so then I just decided it was just too much. So I dropped my College Board stuff and became involved with LTSE more.

BN: With doing all of these things, especially things like redress which had a fairly high public profile, was there ever an issue with your day job, in terms of, was there ever conflict?

AN: I mean, there were issues, but I was very careful. I documented everything, and I was pretty good about... and plus, I kind of worked a lot, weekends. So there was never any issue about those things. And like the biggest thing, when the new president came in, I had spoken at a rally in Sacramento against the Bakke decision. And then the chair of one of the assembly subcommittees was this Republican from Chico called the chancellor and then the president complaining about me speaking there. And so the president, who was relatively new, called me in and said, "I got this report." So I didn't know him well, and he was a good guy. But I go, "I took a vacation day, I paid for it myself, I made clear in my statements which you can see, I said I'm not representing the university, I'm speaking as an individual, not even from my position. I'm speaking as an activist." And so I said, "I covered all these things." "Well, I told them I would call you in, but for what it's worth," he goes, "what you did is absolutely fine with me, and continue doing it." But I would always kind of cover myself with separating that in terms of when I did things that it was clear that it was not representing the university or those positions.

But I was blessed in that I always had people I worked with that had similar or accepted that view. But also, especially with President Matson, who was there the longest when I was working with him, he knew that I had connections with students and then I had the support of students. I was virtually untouchable near the end of my career. There's no way that anyone could get rid of me even if they wanted to, because it was just the connections I had built over the years with students, etcetera. Yeah, but it was always a balancing act. But also it affected my career. I could only go to places where they could accept me for how I am and who I am. I'm not a yes-man moving up the ladder kind of guy. The job at Long Beach I applied for was the only job I've ever applied for in my life, in terms of actually applying. Oh, and then the JACL thing. I was always, I've never been career-oriented, I've always been oriented to things that I believe in. And I told people, I'm just blessed that I was able to find a career where I was able to do that, and live a comfortable life. I feel very blessed in so many ways to have been able to do that. But I don't feel I've had to, quote, "compromise" any of those things. But then, also, I'm a fairly reasonable guy. I'm not like this crazy ideologue that's "my way or the highway." But I'd like to think of myself as someone who's driven by values and things like that. I've tried to remain true to that. That's very important to me, especially at this point in my life, that I want to feel that my life represents something beyond myself. Because I'm dealing with cancer, so it's kind of challenging for my life. That's kind of a legacy that I'm hoping... it's important to me. It's important how my family sees me, it's important how Yvonne sees me and how my children see me, but it's also important beyond that with friends that know me, that I'd like to think that I'm seen as a person of principle. It makes my life very fulfilling and meaningful. I'm sorry, I'm digressing.

BN: No, no.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

BN: I think maybe we should start to wrap it up, and maybe I just want to end talking a little bit about, segue into your role in LTSC.

AN: Well, I've been a board member since 1984, so it's been a long time.

BN: We should say Little Tokyo Service Center.

AN: Oh, Little Tokyo Service Center. And so, when I started it was a three-person organization with Bill, Yasuko and Evelyn, and joined the board in 1984, and continued as a board member and then chaired the board during the '90s, and then we took on affordable housing and things like that and then we kind of split into two organizations. And then I stepped down as the chair to be able to kind of be on both groups as a board member. And then when we reemerged in the early 2000s, I became chair again. So I've probably chaired the board about ten, twelve years, I don't know. But yeah, it's been an organization that's near and dear to me, and represents an extension of who I am, and provides the avenue to really be able to express my values. And it's a testament to Bill Watanabe for the kind of organization that he was able to build in his own understated way, it empowered others to do work. So I just am fortunate that I found a vehicle through that to transition this point in my life. Because I think LTSC has grown, the affordable housing, they helped me in my own political maturity, because we moved from opposing everything, to when we had to build the San Pedro farm building to actually begin to do work raising money and doing other things. So I was able to use my work. On the one hand I was at Long Beach doing administrative work in the community being, riling things up, etcetera, but it allowed me to kind of pull some of these together and starting transitioning my own thoughts about taking values and creating and trying to implement things like that. The affordable housing, the community development piece really started my own transitioning of more, building things that were reflections of my values rather than just merely opposing things that happened.

And so I moved into the affordable housing, community development stuff, it was exciting because it was an organization that was based in Little Tokyo, grounded in the community, but serving a much broader constituency and its perspectives were much broader, and I just loved to be a part of that vision for an organization that, to me, represents my values. I believe in Little Tokyo, I believe in Nikkei and all those things, but there's broader issues within the community that we want to address. And so being part of that in terms of the vision and work they're doing. So it's exciting now because LTSC and staff, they're the critical people thinking about the future of Little Tokyo and how to sustain and survive and build a community that we can be proud of. And I think as I look at JANM, JACCC, Go For Broke, they're doing important work, but they're consumed with doing the work that they have to do, and do not have the, quote, "luxury" or the staff expertise to be able to really devote a lot to, well, where do we want to go? And LTSC has the somewhat luxury of having some expertise, but also the time, and it's part of our mission to think about where do we want this community to go. And it's important, and it plays an important role in the community, much beyond the social services, but also just the thinking and our ability to attract visionaries, like trying to recruit Dr. Umemoto to our board, people who...

BN: Sounds familiar.

AN: I know, I know. But that, to me, is exciting. It's exciting to me to take a historic JA community and to value the history and the legacy and the stories that we have, but to make it relevant to the current area of things and not make it just... and not just the JA community, but something that values inclusion, that values all the other kinds of things that are important to me, and then also looking to the future on how we build, sustain things for the next generation. So it meets so many of my values. I don't want Little Tokyo to just be old Sansei activists. I wanted to bring in new people, other ethnic groups. We want it to be a place where there are some yuppie types that have money, but also we want a place where people working in Little Tokyo can also live in Little Tokyo. So balancing all of that to me is, it's real, and it's frustrating because there are so many challenges. But like I said, it's nice to be able to continue to try to build and move forward some visions. So my work when I was with LTSC, JACCC, with Kizuna, because I think those represent, to me, key organizations. The museum is also critical, but it has its own sense of priorities, and I only have so much time. So I really kind of focus on JACCC because I think it's, the art and culture piece to me is critical, and the role and the campus, with the theater and the plaza, it provides the future. To me, that represents the future of my bringing together a lot of these pieces. LTSC is like its values, and brings in those things to the community. Kizuna with the pipeline is really a critical kind of component. The museum is also important in terms of being able to tell our story, so it's all of those pieces all come together.

BN: Yeah, it's interesting hearing you talk, it really does... consistent, it's a theme consistent with a lot of the other work you've done, this idea of bringing these different people, different places all together. Whether it's a college setting at Long Beach in the community setting, even with redress, it's bringing all these different people to the table.

AN: Yeah, I like to think so. I've always tried to network and build and engage people into the different parts of what I do. And at this point, I tried to consciously spend time working with students and younger folks to try to convey some sense of vision for Little Tokyo and themselves.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

BN: So I want to just... I think we need to wrap it up, and I want to end by asking you a question, in part because I don't know the answer to it and I want to know how to answer it. Which is, given where we are today, what lessons can we draw from what happened to Japanese Americans during World War II, forced removal and incarceration? What value is there, can we take from that today?

AN: Well, I think it's a critical story, and the lessons we can learn, the obvious lessons of what can happen when a group is scapegoated and identified, when those who know better choose not to be stepping up and defending, so the need for justice-minded people to step up and be counted during these periods of time, the importance of us being willing to tell our story and be engaged in the broader scheme of things. And so to me, it continues to be, but it's like how do we move this on? I make the parallel in a very small way with Go For Broke. It's an important story, it's an important chapter, there's so much that can be learned, but it's not a story that stands on its own. As long as the vets are around it becomes outsized in terms of what it is, but fifteen years from now, it'll be part of a story. And it's how do we build it, the key pieces so that it continues to be a part of important stories and not the story. And redress is the same thing. Those of us that are directly involved in the camps, etcetera, we need to continue to be vocal, etcetera, but our perspective is always got to be, how do we extend it so it goes beyond that? The work that Densho's doing is obviously a part of that strategy, but it always concerns me that if you go outside California and the coasts, there are still people that don't understand what happened during World War II, and it's scary. But we're in a bubble, so to speak, and California, very people would say, "Oh, I've never heard of Manzanar." But outside of that, if you look, and especially with Republicans and all that, and the numbers of Republicans who feel the camps were justified, so it's frustrating, but it's figuring out how those of us that are around, that's what bothers me to a degree. That we spend so much time talking about camps and redress, but it's to ourselves. And it's great to see the people, but it's kind of depressing, when I go to something and I know seventy-five percent, eighty percent of the people there. Because you're going, okay, it's good to see everyone and to kind of get new ideas and whatever, but I'd much rather speak to, like I spoke to this Campbell Hall, this high school, to their assembly. That was fun, to speak to a much broader audience, because I've got to tailor the message so it's not so, quote, "JA." But it's got to take the personal stories, but make it relevant to, what would you do in this situation or when confronted with an issue of conscience, I kind of focus on those issues. There are people that stood up against the tide, because they knew it was wrong, and where would you be? So it's trying to personalize it, but that's the frustrating part to me, is that I don't want the story and the importance to die as the generation goes on. I applaud the work that Densho does, and the museum for continuing to tell that story, but it's kind of like how to continue to expand that. And that's something I don't know quite how to do, but we've to go to take, when we find teachable moments, find those opportunities to do that.

BN: Thank you. Is there anything else you'd like to add?

AN: No, I think I've talked quite a bit. Thank you, Brian.

BN: Thanks so much.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.