Okinawan American Activist Dick Jiro Kobashigawa to be honored by Southern California Library

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Community Event

May 200831
2:00p.m.

Southern California Library
6120 S. Vermont Ave
Los Angeles, California
United States

For Immediate Release For more information, contact
May 15, 2008 Michele Welsing, (323) 759-6063

Okinawan American Activist Dick Jiro Kobashigawa to be
Honored by Southern California Library on May 31

Okinawan American Dick Jiro Kobashigawa, age 93, will be honored by the Southern California Library for his more than seven decades of activism for peace and justice.

A ceremony highlighting Kobashigawa’s life of activism will be held Saturday, May 31, from 2 p.m., at the library, 6120 S. Vermont Ave., in south Los Angeles. At the ceremony, a plaque will be mounted on the library’s Wall of Honor that recognizes other long-time activists in the region.

A former long-time resident of the Japanese American Sawtelle community of west Los Angeles, Kobashigawa was born in 1914 in Phoenix, Arizona. He currently lives in San Francisco with his son’s family.

Through Okinawan immigrant organizations from the 1930s to the 1970s, he joined with others to promote peace and justice in the U.S. and Japan, worker rights for immigrants, and political awareness through cultural activities.

In the 1970s, Kobashigawa along with other Okinawa American leaders helped younger activists in the Asian American Movement form new community groups, such as the Japanese Welfare Rights Organization in Little Tokyo.

Kobashigawa and other leaders of the Okinawa Club of America were instrumental in having the UCLA Asian American Studies Center publish in 1989 an English language version of the book History of the Okinawans in North America. The English language translation was provided by his son, Professor Ben Kobashigawa, who now teaches Asian American Studies at the San Francisco State University.

According to UCLA Professor Russell C. Leong, this volume is one of the few collections of translated primary documents of community organizing activities in an early Asian immigrant community and focuses on the key role of the Okinawan immigrant left in influencing political development of Asian Americans.

Kobashigawa has also written several short books, including Hitome-bore (“Love at First Sight”) - published in both Japanese and English, Scotland no tabi (“Journey” – published in Japanese), and Serenity in Gardens, which incorporates some stories about the Issei Left.

“Ever since I’ve known him, Mr. Kobashigawa has served as a bridge-builder between generations of older and younger activists,” said high school teacher and community activist Tony Osumi.

Yuko Yamauchi, office manager for the Gardena-based Okinawa Association of America (formerly the Okinawa Club of America), highlighted the ways Kobashigawa has helped younger Okinawan Americans to learn about their heritage. “Mr. Kobashigawa generously shared his library of books, photos, and films, and was equally generous with his time to meet and talk-story about significant historical events that affected the L.A. Okinawan American community. These events are either unknown or glossed over in most books.”

The Southern California Library was originally founded by Los Angeles activists in 1963 as an archive to document the history of grassroots movements and in recent years has expanded its mission to serve as a social justice resource center for movements for peace and justice today.

The library’s Wall of Honor currently honors 271 activists. According to Michele Welsing, the library’s Communications Director, past honorees have included several Japanese American activists, such as Arthur Takei, James Omura, Flora Murai, and Sue Embrey.

 

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ryukyusoul . Last modified Jul 09 2010 12:11 p.m.


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