Japan & Black L.A. Initiative: California African American Museum Visit


On November 9, 2021, Consul General and Mrs. Muto visited the California African American Museum with leaders of the Japanese and Japanese American community and Black clergy of local United Methodist churches, joined by Mr. Daniel Park representing the Office of Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly Mitchell.  Executive Director Ms. Cameron Shaw led the tour, which was followed by a discussion moderated by Dr. Curtiss Takada Rooks of Loyola Marymount University exploring the relationship between the historic Japanese and Black communities in Los Angeles.           
The group was given a guided tour of several exhibits throughout the museum, including “Sanford Biggers: Codeswitch,” the first survey of quilt-based works that features nearly 50 pieces that reflect contemporary art, urban culture, sacred geometry and more influences. Biggers, a Los Angeles native, previously studied Buddhism in Japan, and that influence was evident in “Codeswitch.”
Following a tour of the exhibits, the group engaged in dialogue focusing on relationships between the historic Black and Japanese American communities in Los Angeles. The Rev. Mark M. Nakagawa, United Methodist West District superintendent, reflected on the shared histories between the Seinan (Southwest) area of pre-World War II Issei and Nisei and their Black neighbors, who lived side-by-side due to restrictive housing covenants and redlining that were enforced by the real estate and banking industries at that time.
He followed with a poignant story detailing how pre-war members of Holman United Methodist Church watched over items that were stored at the former Centenary United Methodist Church, which was located in the Seinan area at that time, while the Holman congregation worshiped there in the absence of the Centenary congregation during the internment of Japanese Americans.
The participants then engaged in roundtable discussions facilitated by Dr. Curtiss Takada Rooks of Loyola Marymount University.
The Japan and Black L.A. Initiative was launched in October 2020 as a partnership between the Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles and Black clergy of the United Methodist Church in the Los Angeles area. Its mission is to foster relationships and deepen understandings between the Black, Japanese and Japanese American communities.


Group photo of participants
Credit: Rafu Shimpo

Museum Tour
Credit: Rafu Shimpo

Group Discussion
Credit: Consulate General of Japan Los Angeles