Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Gary M. Itano Interview
Narrator: Gary M. Itano
Interviewer: Linda Tamura
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: August 21, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-479-13

<Begin Segment 13>

GI: So that was a little bit of motivation, because before going to Japan in my, when I was seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, I was heavily involved in the anti-war movement. For example, I was introduced to Angela Davis at one of her monthly meetings where she would sit there and there'd be a gathering of people at her feet.

LT: And Angela Davis was?

GI: Angela Davis was one of the leaders of the civil rights and anti-war movements. And at the time, it was told that she was the most famous person on the planet, the most well-known name on the planet because of her philosophy. And my friend Malik, this black guy, who I was told Malcolm X himself had converted to revolutionary while they were both in this prison at the same time. And Malik came into our anti-war commune and he took us, all of us kind of kids and underlings under his wing and I became his, kind of like, driver. And he would... so he introduced me to Angela Davis as the most revolutionary person he knew in the L.A. area. And I'm going, like, are you kidding? I guess because I was very studious, and I read nine volumes of Lenin and I was all into it, I guess he was impressed by that sort of thing. And then he introduced me to Hakim Jamal, who was Malcolm X's cousin-in-law, he had married Malcolm X's cousin. And Hakim had the same look and the Kufi hat and all that kind of thing. And he would tell me all these amazing stories about hanging out with the Redgrave acting family in England. And I was supposed to go to, I was supposed to... well, at the time the COINTEL program was executed, and all of the anti-war groups were shut down. And in terms of, the violence was in terms of how dark you were. If you were black, Black Panther, you were shot up and killed. If you were white, like the newsreel guys that took all these news films from all over the revolutionary world and we would show them, they would just be thrown up against the wall and harassed. And I was, like, right in the middle of all this stuff, personally.

LT: What does COINTEL stand for?

GI: Covert Intelligence Program. And we found out later that in our own little commune of about two dozen people, we had an infiltrator who had, he was very clever. He knew everything about everybody, so he would know how to ingratiate himself to the leadership. So he would do that, and he would get the... it used to be, before he came, we would all meet communally and discuss our plans to have a free concert in Seventh Street Park or an anti-war demonstration here or whatever. But once he came in, he isolated the leadership, and the leadership would prevent us kids and younger people from engaging in the discussion. So then when COINTELPRO, it was a nationwide smackdown of all the anti-war groups and civil rights groups. And so we got dispersed, and, for example, Lowell Bergman, who was an editor of the Long Beach Street Journal, our cohort from the Long Beach Free Press, we were down in San Diego. Lowell became a 60 Minutes correspondent, and he gained notoriety from the film The Insider with Russell Crowe, and was it Al Pacino, I think, that played Lowell? And the 60 Minutes guy, and they broke the story about the tobacco industry, and caused the whole tobacco industry thing to crash. And Lowell is now teaching, he's an emeritus instructor at Berkeley. But he had me type in his copy into this ancient art deco looking linotype typing machine that would punch tapes and columnize his text, and then we would take it to the press that printed the L.A. Free Press, and the owner of that would do our paper, print our papers for free if we would, his paper had like a center section, like a regular section and then a center adult section. But the adult section, he didn't have the equipment to automatically insert the centers, so we would do those by hand in exchange for him printing our papers.

LT: So getting back to your uncle in Japan, what was his advice for you when you came back, and how did you follow up on that with your work? What was your uncle's advice, and how did that prompt you?

GI: He didn't really give me any direct advice, just, "Do the best you can," I guess. But like I said, from that trauma when I was thirteen, I was just head down, doing whatever was right and had to be done without questioning anything, it's just like, had nowhere else to go. So that's basically what I did wherever I happened to find myself.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.