By Sam Catanzaro
In April of 1942, Arnold Maeda was 15 years old when he and his father Takeda were forcibly removed from their home and lined up on the northwest corner of an intersection in Venice. Now this intersection may be designated as a commemorative square by lawmakers.
“Instead of being worried about where we were going, I was obsessed with the fact that I had parted with my constant companion, my pet dog Boy. For a 15-year-old, that was unforgettably traumatic,” reads Arnold Maeda’s quote inscribed on a monument at the very corner of Lincoln Boulevard and Venice Boulevard where he and thousands of other people of Japanese ancestry were forced to report to in 1942 to be taken to the War Relocation Authority camp at Manzanar as prisoners.
In 2017, the Venice Japanese American Memorial Monument (VJAMM) was installed on this corner. Now in 2020, a bill going through Los Angeles City Council would rename the intersection where the monument stands as the “Venice Japanese American Memorial Monument (VJAMM) Square”.
The motion, submitted by Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Bonin, would instruct the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, in consultation with Council District 11, to fabricate, install and maintain four permanent ceremonial signs at the location reading: “Venice Japanese American Memorial Monument (VJAMM).”
“As 2019 commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Manzanar Pilgrimage, VJAMM is a prescient reminder for us, as a people, to be vigilant about defending our rights—including those of our friends and neighbors. Let us remember their sacrifice by heeding the words etched on this monument ‘that the powers of government shall never again perpetrate an injustice against any group based solely on ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, race or religion’,” reads the motion.
The VJAMM Committee, an ad hoc group comprised of former internees and concerned citizens, has been working on this memorial since 2010. The idea for the memorial, however, originated over a decade ago with students from the New Media Academy at Venice High School. Their teacher, Phyllis Hayashibara, took up the cause and formed the VJAMM Committee, with already involved artists and activists in the Venice community. More information about the VJAMM can be found at http://venicejamm.org, or by visiting the memorial itself on the northwest corner of Lincoln Boulevard and Venice Boulevard.