The exhibit "Love is LIVING LARGE in Los Angeles" was inspired by "Love is...", a comic strip created Kim Grove in the 1960s and later produced by her son Stefano Casali. The strip is currently syndicated worldwide by Tribune Media Services. "Love Is..." (the title includes the ellipsis mark), started as a series of love notes that Grove drew for her future husband, Roberto Casali. At the Studio our love for Southern California is tempered with a sense of duty in recognizing this place’s history of struggle and cooperation in order to provide models of future behavior.

Profiles were authored by a variety of individuals who represent "experts" in different ways and show the different relationships we have with people and history and that we all are historians. Thank yous go to many people for their entries: Jose Alamillo, Michelle An, Nancy Bautista, Lucas Benitez, Victoria Bernal, Martin Cox, Catherine Gudis, Marilyn Hileman, Darryl Holter, Lanla Gist, Joyce Jacob, Hillary Jenks, Marie Masumoto, Rosa Mazon, Janet Owen Driggs, Monica Pelayo, and Linda Vallejo. Other sources include oral histories, local newspapers, monographs, and images from private and public collections. Martha Nakagawa’s work in the Rafu Shimpo provided information on the Fair Play Committee.

All of the individuals and groups profiled expressed a sense of responsibility to Los Angeles and the people who live here. This exhibit does not merely celebrate these actions but also examines individuals in the midst of struggle. We highlight these people to honor them and, in some cases, to learn from their models and about the Southern California experience over time.

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Oscar Zeta Acosta

Oscar Acosta was born April 8, 1935 to immigrant parents in the border town of El Paso Texas. His parents moved when he was still a small child to the rural town of Riverbank in the San Joaquin Valley near Modesto California. While Acosta was in grade school his father was drafted into service during World War II. Acostaʼs father returned home from the war a legal citizen with a patriotic fervor for his country, a fervor which Acosta didn’t share.

After he finished high school, Acosta joined the Air Force. He served most of his duty in Panama playing clarinet for the fighting 573rd Air Force Band. During his time in Panama, Acosta became a missionary for the First Southern Baptist Church and volunteered to help in a leper colony as well as helping to build churches in the jungles. In Panama, Acosta became devoutly religious. He refrained from drinking and other vices and even refused to play his clarinet with the Air Force Band. Acosta would later reject his religious beliefs and all religion in general before his four-year duty was over.

After his honorable discharge from military service Acosta attended college at San Francisco State and night classes at San Francisco Law School, passing his bar exam on his second try in 1966. In 1967 he began working as an anti-poverty attorney in Oakland, California and would soon grow weary of his work and question its relevance. It was during the summer of this year that he would meet “gonzo” journalist Hunter S. Thompson who helped to spark Acosta’s burgeoning interest in writing. It was also during this year that he would quit his law career and become more interested in finding something significant to document for his writing. In 1968 he moved to East Los Angeles in hopes to document the Chicano Movement and soon became involved as an activist himself.

Acosta returned to legal work with fervor when he became involved in the Chicano Movement in East Los Angeles as an activist attorney. Serving as legal aid to Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzalez, the Chicano 13 (from the 1968 student walk-outs), and the St. Basil 21. In fact, Acosta was prominently involved in legal cases which addressed political, social, and educational injustices against the Chicano community. Acosta was one of the first to voice outrage in regards to the murder of journalist Ruben Salazar at the hands of the Los Angeles Sheriff Department during the 1970 Chicano Moratorium against the disproportionate amount of Chicanos being
killed in Vietnam.

In 1970 Acosta ran for Sheriff of Los Angeles and lost, although he garnered over 100,000 votes. Along with his contributions to the movement as an activist attorney Acosta also contributed greatly to the Chicano Movement through his literature. He documented his experiences within the movement as the character Buffalo “Zeta” Brown in his novel The Revolt of the Cockroach People (1973), as well as documenting his own life and search for self identity in The Autobiography of the Brown Buffalo (1972). In 1974 Acosta sailed off in a small boat off the coast of Mazatlan, Mexico. He was soon reported missing and presumed dead. No one really knows the truth behind Acosta’s mysterious disappearance and death. What we do know is that Acosta will live forever in our hearts and memories for his actions and contributions to the people and the Chicano Movement.


Stepping up for what you believe in because you
are the only one who can or will.
Recognizing one’s own moral failures and still trying
to do the right thing.

by Dewey Tafoya
Dewey Tafoya is an artist who teaches silkscreen
fundamentals for Self Help Graphics & Art.
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Amanda Bass
by Hillary Jenks
Hillary Jenks is an Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies, Social Sciences in the
University Honors Program at Portland State University. She is a Member of the Studio’s Board of Directors.
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Jesse Belvin

Jesse Belvin was born in Texarkana, Texas on December 15, 1932 and moved with his family to Los Angeles at the age of 5. Belvin attended Jefferson High School. He soon became one of the top recording rhythm n’ blues artists, although he possessed a great spectrum of vocal ability. His sounds include jumpin’ jive, “a humorous Casters-like group sound,” and “something evocative of the Drifters’ ‘Latin’ song.” Fellow artist Marvin Gaye confessed that when he first saw Jesse Belvin perform along with Sam Cooke he tried to avoid friends and family for days because he was busy practicing and memorizing everything he heard the two singers do. Belvin’s talent was so great that many songs were written at the spur of the moment and only employed one musical chord. Some hits have the same melody but Belvin imitated different instruments with his voice; specifically “Guess Who” and “Goodnight My Love.”

Belvin was drafted and upon discharge his hit “Earth Angel” was recorded. In 1954, The Penguins recorded and released the song with an 11-year-old Barry White on the piano. This was the first time a rhythm-and-blues single crossed onto the pop charts and one million copies were sold; co-credit on the song was given to Belvin. After “Earth Angel,” Belvin released “Hang Your Tears Out to Dry” followed by the 1957 hit “Beware,” which reached #30 on KDAY and #18 on KFWV on January 18, 1958. This same year he created The Shields, a vocal quintet composed of Belvin, Frankie Ervin, Mel Williams, Buster Williams, and Johny Watson. The Shields recorded “You Cheated,” and another of Belvin’s hits reached the Top 20 charts nationwide. Belvin was then signed to RCA Records and appeared on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and The Ed Sullivan Show, although the availability of these recordings are still unknown.

Jesse Belvin’s fame was short-lived when he and his wife/manager Jo Ann died in a head-on car crash on February 6, 1960. The accident occurred after Belvin performed at the first integrated concert in Little Rock, Arkansas. The other car’s occupants, Mr. and Mrs. Nohls, also perished and the accidents were attributed to tampering with Belvin’s car. After further inspection, it was uncovered that Belvin’s automobile tires were slashed before the accident. Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke explained that Belvin received various death threats before the concert - disgruntled citizens were outraged at the integrated concert. Superstar Etta James further expressed anger at the “lily-white institutions” that decided who should be included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and, although thrilled to be recognized for her work, she believed Jesse Belvin should be included in the list. She called him “the most gifted of all” and “the greatest singer of [her] generation.”

Being an Earth Angel long after writing the song.
Walking the talk and performing amidst death threats.
Humbling musicians and entertaining fans then and now.

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Karen Boccalero

Originally from Globe, Arizona, Karen Boccalero moved to Boyle Heights when she was a teenager. In addition to studying fine arts and receiving an MFA in sculpture, Boccalero was interested in printmaking and in serving her community. In 1972 this Franciscan nun founded Self-Help Graphics and Art, Inc. in East Los Angeles in the garage behind the sisters’ home. Boccalero intended Self-Help Graphics to be a “silkscreen print poster collective” and her participatory model of art-making allowed Self-Help Graphics to develop into a central place to share and practice Chicano art.

Self-Help’s second home was located on Brooklyn Avenue (now Cesar Chavez Avenue) in the heart of Boyle Heights. With funds awarded by the California Arts Council Sister Karen established the Barrio Mobile Art Studio. This mobile art van with its team of artists visited East Los Angeles elementary schools and community centers to teach students how to create silkscreen prints, sculpture, paintings, and photographs. Sister Karen and the leadership of Self-Help designed one of the first culturally sensitive art curriculums focused on teaching Chicano/Latino children about the history and beauty of their culture.

The first Day of the Dead Celebrations took place at the Boyle Heights location with an exhibition of traditional “Dia de Los Muertos” altars, an indigenous blessing ceremony and Catholic Mass at Evergreen Cemetery, and special presentations by Teatro Campesino. This celebration was based on the tradition of the Mexican celebration as a time to honor our ancestors and the blessings of life. Today, the Day of the Dead has become a cornerstone of the Chicano cultural experience with thousands of celebrations taking place each year throughout the U.S.

Sister Karen also established Galeria Otra Vez, a fine art gallery to showcase Barrio Mobile Art Studio student artwork as well as exhibitions by contemporary Chicano artists. Galeria Otra Vez continues today, having showcased thousands of exhibitions and launching the careers of many important Chicano and Latino artists. Today, Self-Help Graphics is a nationally recognized center for Chicano/Latino arts that develops and nurtures artists in printmaking. This vital cultural center seeks to identify and engage young and emerging artists from the community in all aspects of its activities. Sister Karen Boccalero’s vision and commitment lives on in the work of Self-Help Graphics and in the memories of artists that were fortunate enough to work with her in establishing a voice for Chicano art and culture.

Devoting one’s life to one’s community
through art and participatory rituals.
Mentoring dozens of artists who are now
Ambassadors of your vision.
Building an institution in the heart of East Los Angeles
that has inspired art and behavior across the globe.

by Linda Vallejo
Linda Vallejo is a professional artist with national and international exhibits and publications to her credit. She is a former colleague of Boccalero and is also a Member of the Studio’s
Board of Directors.
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Pearl S. Buck

On February 8, 1958, humanitarian, writer, Pulitzer Prize Winner, and Nobel Laureate Pearl Sydenstricker Buck, also known by her Chinese name Sai Zhenzhu, said on The Mike Wallace Show,

“It’s very difficult to be an American…in a sense, we are committed to loneliness. When you have these great ideals of independence and of freedom many of the old bulwarks that the oldest civilizations had are thrown away…If you’ve lived in an old country, you have so much tradition of family, of church…so much less choice as an individual, you have types of support that we don’t have in our civilization. I think it is our strength that we don’t have them. I think often times what we think of as the loneliness of women or the loneliness of men is really a sort of human loneliness which our freedom and independence commit us to…we are living in a country with no boundaries, so to speak, and no patterns. And, immense ideals which are difficult for us to follow and yet which give us an enormous responsibility in the eyes of the world’s people.”

On November 1, 1943, Buck spoke to Town Hall Los Angeles at the Biltmore Hotel. In her address “Race Relations – National and International Problem,” Buck noted that it was time for Americans “to realize that in the world as a whole the whites themselves are distinctly in the minority…This being the case, it is sheer folly for us to talk of annihilating the Japanese or any other colored people…Two alternatives and two only are open to the white minority. One would be the unification of all white nations…but this course would present insuperable difficulties…even if the whites were successful in maintaining world hegemony they would have lost in the process all for which they are now avowedly fighting.”

Her second proposition was “the application of tried and trusted American principles. We should begin by insisting that American citizens, whatever their color or birthplace, be given their constitutional rights. When we permit our tradition of human rights to be broken, we are in danger of losing our own rights.” Speaking specifically of the imprisoned American-born Japanese, Buck flatly advocated the restoration of their rights as American citizens. “It may be granted,” she said, “that a few Japanese will be killed if they are permitted as a group to return to the West Coast. But it is better that a few Japanese be killed in California than that we forsake our tradition of human rights.”

“Once in an eon,” concluded Buck, “one people is given an opportunity to shape the world’s destiny for generations to come. The opportunity is now ours. Californians in particular are in a position to play a decisive role in our acceptance or rejection of this opportunity. The attitude of Californians toward Asia and its peoples will go far toward determining the attitude of the United States… Californians must, therefore, be prepared to assume particularly heavy responsibilities in connection with the fashioning of a post-war world in which we can live harmoniously with the colored majority.”

Buck is most famous for her novel The Good Earth for which she won the Pulitzer Prize for its compelling depictions of peasant life in China where she grew up with her missionary parents and for a period with her husband. Buck was committed to many issues but fighting racism was a central theme in her work. In 1949, she established Welcome House, Inc., the first international, interracial adoption agency.

Using literature to humanize a people to the world.
Showing the world that interracial children are beautiful
and adoptable and providing for thousands of adoptions.
Urging Los Angeles’ business leaders to recognize
the injustice of then contemporary Japanese American internment
and warning of its legacy.

by Chamara Russo
Chamara Russo is a management consultant and a Member of the Studio’s Board of Directors.
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Sal Castro

Born in Los Angeles, Sal Castro was repatriated with his father to Mexico in 1933. He returned to experience discrimination firsthand as a student in elementary school. He became a history teacher and in 1968 inspired students from five East Los Angeles schools to “Walk Out” to protest inferior schools, high drop out rates, and racist teachers. Castro and twelve others were arrested and charged with conspiracy to disrupt public schools and conspiracy to disturb the peace. The charges were dropped after a passionate defense provided by Oscar Zeta Acosta in 1972. Castro was reinstated after huge public outcry but was reassigned to the San Fernando Valley.

History Teachers

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Clifford Clinton

“The necessity to enter in and have a personal part in putting things right” drove Clifford Clinton. The child of missionaries from a long line of restauranteurs, things came “right” for Clinton when he asked: “how would you like to be treated?” and acted in accord with the answer.

"Tantalized by the idea of an independent place…to test my own ideas, unconventional as I know them to be", Clinton moved to Los Angeles in 1931 with his wife Nelda, their three small children, and two thousand dollars, to operate a rundown cafeteria at L.A.’s Olive and Sixth. Renaming the place ‘Cliftons’ he invited patrons to “dine free unless delighted” and “pay what you wish”. After distributing 10,000 free meals in the first ninety days, the Clintons opened the ‘Penny Caveteria’. Over the next two-years two million people ate in the Hill Street basement (hence ‘cave’). Some paid the one-cent-per-dish check, most gave donated penny meal tickets.

Meanwhile business continued as usual around the corner at Cliftons, where ‘usual’ soon came to mean a half-cent profit on an average 35-cent meal, a 15-foot waterfall on the outside, neon flowers, giant bamboo, jungle murals and a meditation room on the inside. A second branch opened in 1935. A pre-Disneyland multimedia redwoods fantasy, it still serves customers on Broadway and Seventh Street.

In September 1942 Time wrote that: “Customers get free birthday cakes for parties (11,000 in 1940), lollypops, advice on personal problems, [and] sherbet that comes out of a tunnel operated by an electric eye”. Perhaps the magazine lacked space to mention that Clinton resolutely refused to segregate his customers, provided his workers with fully paid medical plans (something almost unheard of at the time), opened his Los Feliz home and swimming pool to recuperating workers, and erected a bench and water fountain in his front yard for passerby’s to rest and refresh.

Clinton warranted mention in Time not only because of his business methods, but also, as a founder of the “Citizens Independent Vice Investigating Committee” and a pioneering talk radio host, he led a political cleanup of L.A. during the late 1930s and early 40s. Despite recriminations, including a LAPD-orchestrated bomb at the Clinton home, CIVIC exposed links between City officials and “underworld profits” that led to the recall of L.A.’s Mayor, Frank Shaw.

Throughout his life Clinton worked to feed the hungry. He was a consultant to the U.S. Food Administration and the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. In 1944 he funded the development of Multi-Purpose Food: a tasty, non-rationed, high-protein supplement that cost three cents per meal. By 1956 his not-for-profit Meals for Millions had distributed 6.5 million pounds of MPF to relief agencies in 129 countries, including the US. As grandson Robert Clinton commented in 2003, “Clifford did not like to see people put down and held down.”

Dine free unless delighted!
Meals for Millions.
Cleaning up the LAPD under the threat of bombing.
Showing compassion for everyone.

by Janet Owen Driggs
Janet Owen Driggs is a curator, writer, and artist. She is faculty in the Roski School of Fine Arts at the University of Southern California
and a writer for the Metabolic Studio and coordinates its
weekly Salon Series.
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Jeff Dietrich & Catherine Morris
of the Hippie Kitchen
by Catherine Gudis
Catherine Gudis heads the Public History Department at the
University of California Riverside. Gudis is the author of
Buyways: Billboards, Automobiles, and the American Landscape.
She is a Member of the Studio’s
Board of Directors.
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Rebecca Lee Dorsey

Dr. Rebecca Lee Dorsey came to Los Angeles in 1886 after receiving her medical degree from the Boston University School of Medicine. Prior to arriving in Los Angeles, Dr. Dorsey studied under Louis Pasteur and was familiar with the new concept of vaccinations. This knowledge was useful in 1895 when the city faced a diphtheria epidemic. Dorsey was quick to stem the epidemic by vaccination. She worked in the field of obstetrics and the Los Angeles Times reported upon her death in 1954 that she had delivered over 4,000 babies with not one fatality. Among the children she helped to bring into the world were Earl Warren—California’s attorney general, governor, and later Supreme Court Justice. U.S. Senator Conness of California sponsored Dorsey’s postgraduate work in Europe where she helped Pasteur conduct the first inoculation against rabies in 1885.

Dorsey is considered a pioneer in the field of endocrinology and the study of hormones. She came to Los Angeles to practice medicine on the counsel from Senator Conness that it would accept a woman doctor interested in endocrinology. This was not true. In an interview one month prior to her death Dorsey recalled: “For 40 years I had to do my endocrinological work in secret. Madness was still taken to be the work of God and anybody who said he could do anything to prevent it or overcome it in children would have been run out of town. They did not know that much of such trouble originates in lack of hormones in the placenta. Everybody talks about hormones these days—ACTH, cortisone, and adrenalin. But nobody knew about them.”

Despite Dorsey’s secrecy with her endocrinology work, she was known for voicing her medical judgment, often against public opinion. In 1897 when Dr. Calvin Hastings was tried for performing an abortion on Lillian Hattery, who died late, Dorsey testified at the trial that the abortion was justified for women with heart disease or those who could not stand the experience of childbirth, as in the case of the victim. Dorsey eventually opened up her own practice, which specialized in endocrinology. For many, she symbolized the transition from one way of doing medicine to another, often refusing to leave good traditions behind in favor of new, untested ones.

Helping to develop vaccines.
Using the information that you learned through research and schooling to protect Los Angeles’s sick.
Delivering over 4,000 babies without one fatality.
Protecting the rights of physicians to practice medicine based on patient health and not ill-informed public opinion.

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Ofelia Esparza

Ofelia Esparza is a renowned artist and altar maker born and raised where she still resides, East Los Angeles. In 1945 she attended Belvedere Middle School, where she invited her future husband to the Sadie Hawkins Dance. On her 11th birthday, Ofelia witnessed discrimination against Mexicans at the Los Angeles Theater. While waiting in line to watch the movie Me and My Gal with her brother, a theater worker approached a couple standing in front of them and asked them to leave.

The girlfriend was outraged that her boyfriend, a soldier in full uniform, was not allowed to enter the show. The worker asserted that management simply wanted to avoid “trouble like the Zoot Suit Riots,” but Ofelia’s brother was so upset that he immediately intervened and asked Ofelia to leave with him. Ofelia was so distressed that her special birthday outing was unexpectedly cancelled that she convinced her brother to stay; however, he still reminds Ofelia of the event and that discrimination against one means discrimination against all.

Ofelia served as an educator until 1999, when she retired from City Terrace Elementary School. Before receiving her teaching credential from CSULA in 1975, Ofelia was recruited to become a teaching aid for Spanish-speaking students, although a couple of teachers at her school questioned bilingual education. At one of the faculty and staff meetings, a teacher expressed confusion with the bilingual education initiative because she believed “democracy means the majority” and “why should classes be taught in Spanish when most of the country speaks English?” Ofelia quickly responded, stating that “the essence of a democracy is that you do not accommodate the majority, you integrate the minority for everyone to have equal opportunity.” Surprised by her own strength, Ofelia was determined to go back to school and earn her teaching credential.

Under a 1969 Title VII government grant, Ofelia joined the College Opportunity Program (COP), which required a teaching aid position and full time student status. COP provided special Spanish-language teacher training from the University of Texas, Austin. Soon after, in 1972, she transferred from East Los Angeles College to CSULA, where she graduated and earned her teaching credential.  Ofelia taught from 1975 to 1999, when she retired; the 1998 crackdown on bilingual education persuaded her to stop working.

Although she no longer teaches at a school, Ofelia volunteers at Self-Help Graphics, where she began working with Sister Karen in 1980. Ofelia recognizes the importance of art in education and continues making, and teaching others how to make, beautiful Dia De Los Muertos/Day of the Dead altars. Ofelia has experienced great change over time and smiles when reminiscing about a time when only two art coordinators existed for the entire Los Angeles School District.

Manifesting art and compassion in who you are.
Teaching future generations with a gentle voice.
Using art in all of your teaching.
Representing beauty in action.

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Ozie Gonzaque

When one enters Ozie Gonzaque’s beautiful home in Watts, one cannot tell what color the walls are because they are covered with awards, proclamations, and formal acknowledgements from city and state leaders, all attesting to Mrs. Gonzaque’s commitment to her community. A beautiful woman who is always impeccably dressed, she is a fierce force to be reckoned with should you be unlucky enough to be an obstacle in her path. But she is also the kindest and most sincere person you may be lucky enough to meet. It is such contradictions that make her a charismatic and effective leader.

Born in Louisiana during the Great Depression, Ozie migrated to Watts in 1947 and bought the house that she still lives in. She describes her childhood in Louisiana as one in which her father taught her about self-respect through evoking fear and a multiracial background—her grandfather whom she never met was Irish, and their neighborhood was more class than race-conscious. Her first job in Los Angeles was at the Club Alabam on Central Avenue as a waitress, where she met everyone in the West Coast jazz scene (with a record collection that reflects this history). While working at the Club Alabam she became friends with a Los Angeles beat policeman named Tom Bradley, for whom she would eventually campaign during his runs for Mayor of Los Angeles.

Mrs. Gonzaque’s long career includes different aspects of community organizing, from serving as a civilian raider for the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) to her most recent position as Commissioner of the Los Angeles Housing Authority, a position from which she retired in 2003. As a civilian raider, Gonzaque was responsible for reviewing promotions within the LAPD and made sure decisions were made on merit and not on fiscal costs or attitudes. On one occasion, Gonzaque used LAPD guidelines to recommend a promotion for an officer dying of leukemia. Gonzaque was the only person on the board who saw his promotion connected to his hard work and service and butted heads with the other two police officers who composed the board. The other officers saw the man as a terminal cancer patient and not worthy of a promotion and better pension for his family. As a result, the LAPD removed the other members, installed new ones who gave the man his promotion and, of course, kept Ozie Gonzaque.

Gonzaque served as a volunteer for the Bureau of Consumer Affairs and the Juvenile Justice Center. After the 1965 Watts Riots, Ozie worked with the McCone Commission to identify and ameliorate problems like police harassment that fueled the riots and caused the death of a relative. She is quick to note her husband Roy Gonzaque and his support. Roy Gonzaque worked for Hughes Aircraft and unconditionally supported Ozie in all of her activist efforts. She is proud of her children who have continued her legacy of public service through volunteering. Her daughter Barbara Stanton is spearheading the Wattstar Theatre and Education Center, a development in the Watts/Willowbrook communities that hopes to open the first movie theater in Watts since the Watts Riots over 44 years ago. Ozie reminds us that life is a journey to be enjoyed every step of the way. To do so as an activist means to take moments to recognize joy in your own work.

Going against governmental machines in order to provide
justice to community members.
Fighting for one’s community through the system.
Recognizing that poverty and criminal behavior do not go
hand in hand.
Watts 1947 - today!

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Angustias de la Guerra

Angustias de la Guerra was a born in San Diego in 1815, the daughter of Jose de la Guerra y Noriega, a Captain in the Spanish military. De la Guerra was in Los Angeles during the 1847 Californio revolt against the American takeover of the city. A law-abiding woman, de la Guerra was moved to harbor a Californio soldier. In an interview in 1878 she stated: “I was so angry with the Americans for mistreating my brothers and keeping them imprisoned for no rhyme or reason.” De la Guerra found the soldier, Chavez, and had him come to her home to hide. Shortly after arriving, they heard a knock on the door. De la Guerra recounted that her servant Silva assisted:

“I then told my servants that Chavez was hidden in my room because the Americans wanted to kill him. Silva’s wife went to get him out of the room. In the meantime, the Indian girls took out the blankets that had been used to fill the opening in my bed. We put Chavez inside that opening, with his face toward the wall so he could breathe easily. And since he was so very thin, the empty space around him was filled with blankets so that it would all look even. We placed my baby, Carolina, on top of the Bed. Silva’s wife laid down with me on the bed….Silva opened the door and said that he was not the owner of the home and that the lady of the house had retired to her bed. Lieutenant Baldwin said that it did not matter to him. They searched all the rooms and left a soldier on guard in each one….

The lieutenant and his people finally came into my bedroom without uttering a single word. Baldwin had a pistol in one hand and a candle in the other. He searched underneath my bed and did not find a thing. Then he came close to where I was and put the candle and the pistol to my face. He told me that he had come looking for a man that was said to be hiding in my home. I asked him if he had found him and he said no. I told him that I was very pleased because I never had planned on lying to them. The he said he was rather tired and was very sorry that he had come and bothered me. He figured that I was probably somewhat scared and he wanted to grab a chair and sit down. I replied that nothing frightened me and he could go and rest in his own home, because only my family and friends were allowed to rest in my room. He said good night, but we did not respond in kind…

That search and military occupation of my home lasted from ten o’clock at night until about two or three o’clock in the morning. Chavez then came out from his hiding place and Silva’s wife treated his injured foot. He told me, ‘Señora, I am alive today because of you.’ To which I replied, ‘What I did for you today, I would do for an American tomorrow if you were to unjustly do him harm.’ Chavez left my home two days later dressed as a woman.”

Acting in just and fair ways in a consistent manner.
Using domestic spaces in political ways.
Disguising a man by making him dress like a woman.

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Woody Guthrie

We know Woody Guthrie as the creator of popular songs like “This Land is Your Land,” or as a key figure in the folk music revival of the 1950s, or as the iconic model for Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, and countless other singer-songwriters from the 1960s. However, much less is known about Guthrie’s formative years in Los Angeles, from 1937 to 1941, before his songs were recorded. Arriving in Los Angeles along with thousands of other “Dust Bowl Refugees” in 1937, Guthrie secured a 30-minute show on radio station KFVD. He then teamed up with a female singer named Maxine Crissman and the two specialized in traditional hill country songs, religious, and folk songs – music that appealed to the large “Okie” and “Arkie” population that had migrated to the LA region. The “Woody and Lefty Lou Show” became one of the most popular shows on KFVD. Guthrie supplemented his $20 a week salary from KFVD with the sale of songbooks that he compiled, usually typed lyrics sometimes adorned with cartoon drawings and jokes.

Desperate for new songs, Guthrie began to compose his own lyrics and write about the situations he and other Dust Bowlers experienced in the Big City. From 1937 to 1940 Guthrie wrote more than 200 songs for his live radio performances, with titles such as “Big City Ways”, “Downtown Traffic Blues”, “California, California”, “The Fire in Los Feliz”, “The Los Angeles River Flood of 1936,” and many others.

Guthrie was the link that connected the migrant worker population with the politically active class in southern California – the liberals, progressives, and radicals that made up a Left that was strong enough to elect a progressive governor, Culbert Olson, in 1938. Guthrie’s dramatic performance in 1939 at a large Downtown rally sponsored by the Communist Party captured the imagination of the audience and Guthrie soon became a minor celebrity in local political and intellectual circles. Guthrie teamed up with Will Geer and his wife, Herta, to perform agitprop skits in the migrant worker camps in the San Joaquin Valley. He met John Steinbeck and Theodore Dreiser and had a bit part in a movie with Geer.

A close examination of the lyrics, themes, and political content of Guthrie’s songs from 1937 to 1941 reveals a musical journey from amateur hillbilly singer to professional songwriter/musician. It also shows a parallel political evolution from a Dustbowl Democrat with populist leanings to a streetwise radical and unrepentant supporter of the Communist Party. By the time he arrived in New York in February 1940, Woody Guthrie’s music had evolved decisively. He composed his own songs, relied upon traditional melodies to convey his lyrics, disdained fancy arrangements and musicianship, built songs around current events, and filled his songs with specific detail. Guthrie moved his music in a more political direction in his subsequent compositions for the next decade, until his career was derailed by Cold War repression and incurable disease.

Glendale songwriting for America.
Performing for the migrant worker class.

by Daryl Holter
Darryl Holter is a musician, historian and Los Angeles business leader. He is an Adjunct Professor in the Department
of History at University of Southern California, Chairperson of the Community Advisory
Council for the Community Redevelopment Agency for the Exposition and University
Park areas, and a member of the Executive Committee
of the Central City Association.
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Job Harriman

Labor attorney, socialist leader, and founder of Llano del Rio. Raised in Indiana in a deeply Christian family and community, he was surrounded by religious influences and organizations throughout his childhood and adolescent years. He naturally followed the “straight and narrow” path to the pulpit and studied towards a life in ministry. However, as he pursued seminary school, he rejected religion due to the contrast between the theory and practice of Christianity. Religious doctrine did little to change the daily conduct of the members of his church. He thus began to seek other avenues away from the Church. During his transition he was handed Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward, a utopian novel that deeply influenced his desire for an egalitarian society. Soon afterwards, he began to discuss his enthusiasm for a better and more equal society with his confidants when he was introduced to Marx's Capital as well as other socialist tracts, all of which coincided with the ideals he first read about in Looking Backward.

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Helen Hunt Jackson

Helen Hunt Jackson, a writer and activist for Native Americans in California, first wrote the Congressional report “A Century of Dishonor” in order to highlight the dismal state of American Indians. When this effort went nowhere, she wrote the novel Ramona intending it to be the "Uncle Tom's Cabin for California’s Indians." However, instead of humanizing the Indians and then bringing sympathy to their cause through fiction, Ramona’s most enduring impact was the creation of several regional myths that stimulated tourism in Southern California and obscured Jackson’s original goals of reform. The novel was loosely based on the real life account of Ramona Lubo, whose husband was shot by a white man. Lubo (the only witness to the crime) could not testify against him due to California’s law. The discovery of Lubo as the “real Ramona” after a series of tourist exploits from other sources occurred in the early twentieth century. Jackson died one year after the novel’s publication, not seeing its impact upon Southern California.

Not accepting 'no' from the United States Congress.
Thinking outside the box in terms of trying to create social change.

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Barbara Jury

There is a woman in Los Angeles that carries a key chain with the words, WILD AND WONDERFUL. Would you like to meet her? Let me tell you what…I know about her: she was born in Redlands, California; graduated from Redlands High School and entered Nurse’s Training at California Hospital School of Nursing in 1947. She graduated in 1950 with an RN license and B.S. from the University of Southern California. Now what does this tell you about her? She loves USC and Los Angeles. Ask her about any USC football game, she has been there; talk to her about Los Angeles and she has many stories.

As a teenager, Barbara helped heal a wounded hen at her family’s house in Redlands. The hen in question was named “Old Meanie” and earned her name for keeping hens and people in line. One night Old Meanie was defending the other hens against a coyote attack. Although the Jury family was successful in stopping the attack, one of Old Meanie’s wings was bloody and broken. Barbara took Old Meanie up to her room and carefully stitched her wing up. Barbara tended to the hurt bird and put the chicken in her doll’s cradle to recuperate. Within a week, the hen had left the second floor bedroom and returned to the chicken pen on her own accord to return to her duties. I think this is when she realized she would be a good nurse.

Barbara loves classic music, she is creative, she is motivational, and she gets things done. Maybe that is why at present she volunteers at KUSC Radio Station and in the gift shop at Barlow’s Respiratory Hospital. She is on the California Hospital Legacy Foundation Board, on the Board of Soroptimist International of Los Angeles, (held the highest positions, and a member for over 40 years), on the Board of the California Hospital School of Nursing Alumni. She knows every alumnus by name, where they live, and what kind of career they have had in nursing, all 600 of them! They depend on her for support and answers. She loves history and knows the history of Los Angeles. What do you want to know?

She was Director of Nursing for California Hospital and has seen the changes, such as the first emergency room, the new buildings, the people that have come and gone, the doctors that practiced, and the patients. Her best role, she states, was the role of Risk Management at California Hospital before she retired. She loves to travel and has been to many places around the world. She is a very generous person to support music through the DeCamera Society, projects at the Downtown Women’s Shelter, and various scholarship committees. She understands complex situations and enjoys finding solutions. She is a joy to be with, upbeat, positive and a true friend. If you need her, she is there and she has been there for Los Angeles. She can tell you the new nightclubs, the eating places, and the joy of music. She puts extra effort in everything she does.

There is a WILD AND WONDERFUL person living in Los Angeles by the name of BARBARA JURY, who will show you what a wonderful and exciting place we have in Los Angeles.

Rising to the occasion and saving “Old Meanie.”
Making a commitment and sticking to it.
Introducing students to nursing and making lifelong relationships.
Supporting music and women in Los Angeles.

by Joyce Jacob
Joyce Jacob, RN is the President of the California
Hospital School of Nursing Alumni Association. Joyce is also a full time
volunteer and works as a nurse in the Pacoima School district.
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Mary Corita Kent

Dubbed “the joyful revolutionary,” Kent was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa and raised in Los Angeles. In 1936 she joined the Order of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and adopted the name Sister Mary Corita. She also studied at the University of Southern California, where she earned her M.A. in Art History in 1951. In 1946, Kent returned to Immaculate Heart to teach art. Her students received presentations from Kent’s influential friends, who included Buckminster Fuller and Charles and Ray Eames - foremost thinkers and designers in mid- twentieth-century America. Corita left the order in 1968 to live in Boston and dedicate herself full time to art.

A trained artist, Corita’s work pushed themes of peace, love, and understanding through her Pop Art-inspired work. Corita’s cries for peace in the era of the Vietnam War were not always welcome. In 1965 her ?Peace on Earth? Christmas exhibit in IBM’s New York showroom was considered too subversive; exhibit organizers required her to amend it. Kent said: "I am not brave enough to not pay my income tax and risk going to jail. But I can say rather freely what I want to say with my art." In 1985 Kent created the “Love” stamp, the most popular stamp in United States postal history.

Practicing the tenets taught by Jesus.
Using art to challenge the status quo.

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Leo Limón

Leo Limón, a legend in his own right, is a talented and kind man who makes it his mission in life to spread peace, love, and culture everywhere he goes with his art, wisdom and humor. Limón grew up in East Los Angeles, where his mother named him “Yreneo.” In middle school, he changed his name to “Leo.” As a child, Limón experienced many pivotal and unnerving moments in America history, which awoke in him a sense of activism. For instance, at the age of thirteen, Limón watched as thousands of uncontrollably angry residents of Los Angeles began rioting the streets in 1965. “I was standing out on Pasadena Avenue and Avenue 26 just looking out towards the city, seeing a lot of smoke. Martial Law had been called,” he recalled.

His passion for the arts started in his middle school metal shop class when an art teacher told him he had talent. He soon began drawing on the backs of old bakery calendars his parents had lying around. While in high school, Limón got involved with the Chicano artist collective called Los Four. For this pioneering group, Carlos Almaráz influenced Limón the most. From then on, Limón developed his talent and began painting murals in his community. “I draw life in the extreme, the way I see it. It’s right out there in front of me,” Limón says about paining. He participated in the East LA blowouts where thousands of students walked out of classes to demand better education for Mexican-American students in Los Angeles city schools. Their actions focused national attention, for the first time, on urban Chicanos as a vocal assertive minority group. Right after high school in 1972, Limón enlisted in the US Army and became a photographer. After undergoing training, he travelled through Europe: “I wanted to see where art, that’s here now, came from.”

Limón is most famous for the L.A. River Catz, or “Gatitas.” He started adding his cats in 1969 and has since had fifteen featured on the river’s cats-head-shaped storm drains. He has also painted numerous murals in the Los Angeles area. Using Aztec symbols, his work deals with the indigenous ideals of "corazón”. One would think his blood runs thick with creativity when seeing one of his pieces. During his time with Self-Help Graphics, Limón helped develop the Annual Celebration of Dia de Los Muertos and the Atelier Printmaking Program. In addition, Limón helped establish the Aztlan Cultural Arts Foundation, to fulfill his commitment to youth in his community. Limón also worked with the MeChicano Art Center and the Centro de Arte Público.

Limón is still involved within East Los Angeles – teaching art and advocating for education in his community. He often attends or heads programs that keep youth off the streets and puts them in the studio painting, drawing and creating art. His work and his presence in the community span 40 years and he remains active in the art community. Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan dubbed Limón the "Alley River Cat Artist.” For 35-plus years, Limón has painted the Los Angeles River cat faces on the storm-drain covers and has given his time to reviving the Los Angeles River as a historic region, cultural art enclave,
and tourist destination.

Leo’s LA River Catz.
Art Peace Park.

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Walter Lindley

A pioneer in the development of Southern California’s health and social services, Dr. Walter Lindley was called “a friend of the poor & suffering” for his volunteerism and public service. Dr. Lindley was instrumental in starting the Los Angeles Orphan’s Home, the Whittier State School and developing a thriving private practice prior to opening the California Hospital. He was also known as the Physician on call for the French Hospital. He was the City’s Health Officer, and served on Los Angeles Board of Education, County General Hospital, and the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors.

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Charles Fletcher Lummis

Charles Fletcher Lummis spread his love of local history through print as editor for the Los Angeles Times and Land of Sunshine, and in action through the Landmarks Club, which preserved the area’s original Spanish street names and missions. He founded the Historical Society of Southern California and the Southwest Museum for indigenous people’s history. His home, “El Alisal,” was a center for literary and social activity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Visitors to parties at “El Alisal” were required to bring a stone and a story of Los Angeles history. Lummis collected the stones to build the house and his knowledge of this place.

Preserving the largest collection of Native American
artifacts and history in the United States.
Preserving Spanish street names and saving the mission structures. Building “El Alisal” one stone at a time.

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Apolinaria Lorenzana

Born in 1793 near Mexico City, Apolinaria Lorenzana was left as an orphan in front of a church and sent to colonial California in 1800, where she was given to the Sal family from San Diego. She spent time at the Mission San Diego de Alcala, serving as godmother to its Indians. At one time, she owned a rancho but lost that land through the American courts. She never married. She was interviewed in 1878 in Santa Barbara and at the close of the interview she insisted she was remembered for her caregiving: “Many times each year I would take the sick women and even the sick men from the mission to Agua Caliente, which was in the Sierra de Santa Isabel, twenty-four leagues from the mission. I would stay there with them for two months. I would bathe them and take care of them.”

Taking care of the needy.
Recognizing the value of caring for the needy and wanting to be remembered for it.

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Bridget "Biddy" Mason

Born into bondage on August 15, 1818, Bridget “Biddy” Mason lived in Hancock, Georgia during the height of slavery. She was torn from her enslaved mother and sold to a slave owner, John Smithson, who traveled with her to Mississippi in 1838 in search of better cropland. She was soon thrust into the backbreaking existence of planting and picking cotton beneath the sweltering Southern sun. Legally, slaves could not learn to read or write so Biddy never acquired such literacy skills. However, slave women schooled her in the skills of nursing, midwifery, and livestock care. She learned the natural healing traditions slaves adapted from Africa, the Caribbean, and Native American culture. In 1844, her master gave Biddy away as a wedding gift to Robert and Rebecca Smith who desired Biddy’s unique set of skills.

by Lanla Gist
Lanla Gist is a teacher in Southern California. She continues a tradition of storytelling that began in her native Liberia, West Africa.
It was there that her beloved Grandmother Victoria spun
wonderful stories that continue to dwell within her heart.
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Mauricio Mazón

I never got to know Dr. Mazón in the ways his other students did when I was getting my doctorate in History at the University of Southern California. As Chair of the History Department, his office was always packed with students, faculty or staff who were looking for his advice. And although he didn’t know me personally, he always acknowledged all of the graduate students when we passed in the hallways. I was always impressed by how he was impeccably dressed in pressed suits and how everyone wanted to be around him. It made sense to me later, when I learned he had two doctorates and was a practicing psychotherapist in addition to being an historian.

Mauricio Mazón was born in Laredo, Texas in 1945, the first American son of Mexican immigrants. The family moved to San Diego in the 1950s. He was drafted into the Army and began as a medic. He served in combat in Vietnam for one year in 1968. He received a Purple Heart for his service and immediately returned to school upon his return home—something he reminded his children of often.

Like many other gentlemen of his generation, he walked a fine line between his heritage as a Mexican American man and a society that did not accord people of color the same rights and privileges as white people. His curiosity into the discovery of the self was a life long pursuit that required skill and humility. Mazón lived large by leading an examined life that often had no right or wrong answers. Mazon’s real interest was studying the marginal groups in society, people that were considered by the majority to be "deviant." And he liked to take a psychological approach to history and when discussing the status quo, what is considered 'normal behavior.'

Mauricio Mazón was hired as a professor of History at the University of Southern California (USC) in 1976 after he received his PhD from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and was one of the department’s first ethnic hires. He was immediately assigned Mexican American history classes to teach, even though that was not his area of expertise.

After the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, Mazón was instrumental in creating the University’s Program in American Studies & Ethnicity with Fred Cervantes. This program is now a full-fledged department with a top-ranking PhD program. Mazón eventually chaired the History department twice and served as Vice Provost. A unique intellectual, Mazon had dual doctorates in Psychology and History; his academic work intertwined these two fields. His 1984 The Zoot-Suit Riots: the Psychology of Symbolic Annihilation was cited as making, “immense contribution to the study of the Mexican American" by the American Historical Review. This investigation into the 1943 zoot suit riots provided a detailed look at the different agencies that created the riots and the actual actions of rioters in the context of wartime Los Angeles. In so doing, Mazon set the bar for further studies of the events and in ways that few historians have successfully revised due to its scope and sophistication of argument. Rather than seeing them as race riots, a popularly held opinion, Mazón discovered a much more complex pattern of behavior tied to the military’s lack of control of servicemen and the military’s use of the term “race riot” as a way to hide this fact.

A rigorous scholar, Mazón required the same sense of engaged scrutiny from his students—from junior high school to graduate students. In 1985, Mazón collaborated with Roosevelt High School students who made a documentary about the Zoot Suit riots. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times about the project, Mazón said:

“I suggested to them something that was rather shocking: They weren't riots in the usual sense. One of the things that had happened was that . . . men from the Navy, Army, Coast Guard and Marines were running around the city . . . AWOL. The Navy acknowledged that there were some confrontations going on with zoot suiters. They acknowledged that the zoot suiters had initiated these confrontations and that they represented a bad element of the community. However, within their own communications that were classified . . . what they noted . . . (was) that the servicemen were attacking innocent people. They were concerned about the problem of enforcing their own jurisdiction on the servicemen. If they ordered them to return to base and the servicemen refused, which they were doing, what do you do? Court-martial them? The penalty for refusing an order during war is very severe. How do you handle it?”

Mazón’s questions revealed his skill as an historian and as a teacher of history. He reminds me of how messy history is and how easy answers are usually incomplete ones. Although Mazón was consulted as a Mexican American scholar, he was quick to show inclusion and to provide a critique of groups who sought to essentialize groups of people, like using the term “Latinos,” or those groups who sought to deny any Anglo European influence upon ethnic identity. Rather, he sought to understand and reconcile the myriad of elements that make up identity.

Teaching your students long after you have left the classroom.

by Sharon Sekhon
Sekhon is the Founder & Executive Director for the Studio for Southern California History.
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Isa-Kae Meksin

I first met Isa in 1989. I later became neighbours and close friends with her. I have never met such a combative, uncompromising person.

Through her demanding gaze I grew to love and comprehend our neighborhood of Echo Park.

She is involved in local politics and historic preservation. Her family originally came to New York City from the Ukraine. Her father Arnold Meksin was a concert pianist and her mother Clara, a homemaker, showed her how to think on her feet and to question authority by example. She was a former secretary to visionary C.L.R. James and the political group known as Correspondence, which included James, Grace Lee Boggs and Raya Dunayevskaya. They believed in observing how workers, African Americans, women and American youth were agents of change. It was this work that led her to Los Angeles, ultimately to connect with and record the activities of factory workers. She then reported her observations to the larger group.

Isa-Kae attended California State University, Los Angeles for her teaching credential; she received her BA earlier from Hunter College. Ms. Meksin is also a retired teacher from the Norwalk-Los Angeles Mirada School District where she worked with students with disabilities, specifically those who were vision impaired. She maintains lifelong relationships with some of her past students.

A great patroness of the arts, Ms. Meksin has hosted numerous Los Angeles artists and artist collaboratives at her home including El Teatro Campesino in the early 1970s.

Isa-Kae is proud of the work that she did against the Briggs Initiative in 1978. This California initiative sought to bar homosexuals from having jobs with access to children. The proposition would have affected those individuals who were “out” and living an openly gay life, those who were homosexual but not “out” and those individuals who were sympathetic to the rights of homosexuals. As someone who fell into the third category, Isa-Kae testified to the horrific outcomes of such a political initiative and how the legislation perpetuated inaccurate portrayals of homosexuals as pedophiles. The Briggs Initiative did not pass.

Isa-Kae prefers to do good work or to talk about others who are doing good work: currently she is dedicated to the Watts Gang Task Force, which she attends regularly on Monday mornings. She was inspired to work with this dynamic group after learning of a child’s death in Echo Park. She also is a regular volunteer for the American Civil Liberties Union, the Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park, the Central City Action Committee and the Studio for Southern California History, among many other worthy causes.

As an artist her support was amazing, she's a true booster. I came to understand how fiery her support was and how much energy and engagement and financial support she had for artists, art institutions, social organizations and volunteering. A truly generous person, Isa does not like the limelight herself, but seeks to introduce people and ideas for "useful" purpose. Isa can spread the word faster than facebook, she was already the internet before it existed.

Isa's skill in matching people, ideas, and institutions is true community building and the benefits of her actions are infinite. Not one for small talk or files and taking notes, she hurtles from one community action meeting to council meeting, to a police meeting to a documentary film showing, to lecture at a museum. In one day she will imbibe the cultural landscape of LA for what most might take a month to digest. From all this input she then redistributes leaflets, fliers, petitions and information and ideas to an even wider group, always looking for connections.

There is a fearlessness about Isa who demands excellence and clarity while retaining a more private giddy humour and enthusiasm.
We love you Isa.

Testifying against the Briggs Initiative.
Showing us that anyone can be an agent of change.

by Martin Cox
Martin Cox is a professional photographer (including above) and co-author with Gordon Ghareeb of the book Hollywood to Honolulu, the Story of the Los Angeles teamship Company.
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Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe was born Norma Jeane Mortensen in 1926 in Santa Monica, California. Her childhood was defined as unstable, with moments of insecurity as she moved from family to years of perilous foster care. She was undoubtedly abused in the different homes she grew up in, and this led to her marriage at sixteen to a neighbor’s son, James Dougherty. There have been many apocryphal stories about her “discovery” in Hollywood, but we do know she modeled throughout her early career, including a calendar in 1950 in which she posed nude. The calendar became an instant hit and a scandal when she emerged as the starlet known as “Marilyn Monroe.” However, when asked by reporters about the calendar, she responded, "It's not true that I had nothing on. I had the radio on." She later married American popular heroes-- baseball player Joe DiMaggio and playwright Arthur Miller. Both marriages ended in divorce.

Monroe was known as a “difficult” actress to work with and sometimes kept the cast and crew waiting ridiculous amounts of time for her to get ready, but her onscreen performance created dazzling results. Her own struggle with the heads of 20th Century Fox Studios was legendary. She received a relatively small salary for her films, although she brought in thousands of fan letters daily and millions of dollars to the Studio through film portrayals of a money-hungry and/or vapid blonde bombshell in films like How to Marry A Millionaire (1953), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), and The Seven Year Itch (1955).

Often people confused her with the onscreen characters she portrayed, which made her ruefully joke: "That's the trouble, a sex symbol becomes a thing. But if I'm going to be a symbol of something, I'd rather have it be sex than some other things we've got symbols of." Whenever possible, Marilyn learned to be in control of her image and understood the technical underpinnings of how filmmaking and photography worked.

In 1955 Monroe created Marilyn Monroe Productions, Inc., which gave her control over much of the scope of her future films. This power and her training at the Actor’s Studio under Lee Strasberg led her to take more substantive, though still comedic roles. When she announced her plans, critics questioned with headlines like: “Will Acting Spoil Marilyn Monroe?” Her body of work at this point in her career includes the best of American cinema classics including Bus Stop (1956), The Prince and the Showgirl (1957), and Some Like It Hot (1959). When she could, she chose to work with Hollywood’s best directors including John Huston, Joshua Logan & Billy Wilder.

Monroe was known throughout her life as a humanitarian and a lover of animals. She donated money and gave away her possessions to friends and the needy whenever asked. She arranged appearances on television shows in order obtain cars for friends. When she could, she did fight in the ways she knew how. In 1955, Monroe paved the way for Ella Fitzgerald to break into the previously whites-only Mocambo nightclub in Hollywood. Monroe phoned the manager and told him that she would book a front row table every night Ella performed there, knowing that her presence would get a lot of reporters there and a lot of publicity for the club. Ella Fitzgerald was booked and Monroe kept her promise.

Opening the door for Ella Fitzgerald to play for broader audiences.
Creating your own production company in order
to truly make meaningful films.

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Alice Kemmer Moore

Alice Kemmer Moore led an adventurous and unique life. She was born in 1875 in Dutch Hill, Ohio and traveled around the world, ending up in Los Angeles at the end of her life. Graduating from nurses’ training school in Missouri, Alice was chosen for service in the Spanish American War. First, she was sent to Chickamauga, Georgia to take care of Civil War veterans. The nurses lived in tents swarming with flies and no plumbing. A steamship ride to Havana, Cuba brought the pioneer nurses into the harbor. She saw the masts above the water of the Battleship Maine. Alice wrote about the importance of doing a good job and representing nurses in the military— she understood that she was a pioneer.

It was 1900, and upon return from Cuba and a three-month wait at the presidio in San Francisco, Alice was off to new adventures in China. She joined General Chaffee as an army nurse in the Boxer Rebellion and nursed pneumonia patients in Peking. While visiting the Forbidden City, Alice sat on the throne of China, but just for a moment. The Empress had fled for the hills. Alice married and moved with her husband and children to Napa, California, where she worked as a nurse in a psychiatric hospital. She would be invited to speak at meetings about her travels and adventures. My mother remembered going with her and sitting in the audience.

In the 1930s Grandma Moore returned to work due to the premature death of her husband, my grandfather. She worked at the Veterans Administration in Sawtelle throughout the 1930s. Later, she retired there and reunited with nurses from the Spanish American War, who also retired there. As I grow older, I realize what a jewel my Grandmother Moore was—I was fortunate to know her for twenty-six years. She wrote her autobiography at the end of her life. She was living in the VA in West Los Angeles and entrusted her detailed story to me (there is so much more to tell!). Alice Kemmer Moore was a grand lady; independent, patriotic, positive and supportive. She passed away in 1965.

Serving as a pioneer nurse in the American military
and setting the bar for future nurses.
Upholding a vision of the VA and a memory of the place that we can work towards today.
Daring to sit on the throne of China
and knowing to do it for just a moment.
Making your grandchildren happy long
after you have left the planet.

by Marilyn Hileman
Marilyn Hileman is Alice’s granddaughter
and a retired teacher.
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Kiyoshi OkamotoWe are indebted to Martha Nakagawa's research on Okamoto in the Rafu Shimpo.

Kiyoshi Okamoto was born on August 8, 1889 in the Republic of Hawai’i. He was best known for starting the only organized World War II draft resistance movement from within one of the ten War Relocation Authority camps. Okamoto started the Fair Play Committee to protest the unconstitutional incarceration of people of Japanese descent in U.S. concentration camps. Frank Emi, one of the last surviving FPC leaders, said the resistance movement began when Okamoto started referring “to himself as the ‘Fair Play Committee of One’ and would give talks like a sidewalk preacher whenever he could gather a few people who would listen to him.” Okamoto challenged speaker Shig Kawai, Pasadena Japanese American Citizens League head, who was urging the crowd to answer “yes” to two controversial loyalty questions. “When Mr. Okamoto stood up, he asked some very hard questions,” said Emi. “And his statements were based on the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights, but he said them in some pretty salty language.” Afterwards, Emi met with Okamoto. “About four or five of us young men, who were very concerned about this callous action by our government, held a long talk with Okamoto,” said Emi. “After a couple of more meetings with him, the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee was born as an organization with Mr. Okamoto as chairman.”

When the government started drafting Nisei men out of the ten WRA camps, the FPC organized public meetings. The late George Nozawa, a draft resister and self-appointed FPC historian, described Okamoto as the “fiery gung-ho man who spoke with full-blast fury of a flame thrower and wrote with the brilliance of Clarence Darrow.” Nozawa described the FPC meetings: “With full house crowds, the early meetings were as lively as pre-rodeo dance halls. The speeches by the trio (Okamoto, Emi, Paul Nakadate) and then the rebuttals and questions from the audiences; this would go on for hours…after all, the issue was a grave one.”

The FPC ultimately took on the U.S. government, declaring they would not report to the draft board, if called upon, until their rights as U.S. citizens were restored. The government responded by plucking Okamoto and Isamu Sam Horino from Heart Mountain and shipping them to the Tule Lake Segregation Center. Emi then took the lead in what Nozawa described as Phase II. “…The true spirit and brute determination of the FCP emerged,” wrote Nozawa. “Frank Emi was unquestionably the great source of inspiration.” Emi described Okamoto’s writings as “powerful and brilliant.” “We incorporated much of his writings in what was to become FPC’s manifesto in our constitutional challenge against the federal government.” On July 21, 1944, seven FPC leaders (Okamoto, Emi, Nakadate, Horino, Tamesa, Wakaye and Kubota) and James Omura, English-section editor of the Rocky Shimpo who had been the only editor to publish the FPC’s press releases, were arrested.

The FPC leaders were charged with conspiracy to violate the Selective Service Act and aiding, abetting, and counseling others to resist the draft. Omura was found innocent but the FPC leaders were convicted in November 1944 and sent to the Leavenworth Correctional Institute. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, however, overturned their conviction in December 1945. Shortly after his release, Okamoto formed the Fair Rights Committee and tried unsuccessfully to seek Nikkei redress for their incarceration in concentration camps. Okamoto died on December 28, 1974. He is buried in a now marked grave at Evergreen Cemetery.

Starting a "Fair Play" committee of one.

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Olive Percival
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Los pobladores

Though the official founding day of Los Angeles is September 4, 1781, scholars have now discovered that the pobladores did not arrive in one single group from San Gabriel to Los Angeles. In the summer of 1780, Rivera y Moncada was contracted to recruit settler families and soldiers for Alta California. By early 1781, he only had half the family settlers he needed but he was instructed to move northward to Alta California. The families and soldiers met up in Alamos, Sonora where they were divided into two groups.

The first group, led by Alferez Jose de Zuñiga, went on lanchas (flat boats) through the Gulf of California and traveled on foot the rest of the way to San Gabriel Mission. The second group, led by Rivera y Moncada, went through the desert, resting at newly founded missions and presidios along the way. The Rivera y Moncada group reached the Colorado River in June of 1781. Rivera y Moncada sent half of the group up to San Gabriel, while he and the other half stayed to rest with the livestock. The Quechans and Mojave made a pact and rose up against the party, killing Rivera y Moncada and ninety-five soldiers and settlers. Part of Rivera y Moncada’s land party and part of the Zuñiga sea-land party arrived to the San Gabriel Mission between June and August 1781.

They moved into Los Angeles before September 1781, but Felipe de Neve, the governor, arbitrarily chose September 4, 1781 as the founding date, as it was when the colony’s financial records were first recorded. The city’s name became El Pueblo de La Reina de Los Angeles del Rio de Porciuncula. The settlers remained close to the river; however, a flood in 1801 caused the population to move further south. In 1815, another flood hit the region, and the pobladores moved to what is now known as El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument.


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Leo Politi

“The storyteller of the angels”

Many years ago, an angel descended upon the sidewalks of the City of Angels to illustrate the lives of the people of downtown Los Angeles. Although he was influenced early in life by Van Gogh and Renoir and studied at the Royal Palace at Monza, Leo Politi found his true and lasting inspiration in the neighborhoods of Olvera Street, Chinatown, Bunker Hill, Echo Park and Little Tokyo.

As a storyteller, artist and children’s book author, Leo Politi was passionate and dedicated to preserving the culture and sharing the traditions of his adopted city, especially near his home of Bunker Hill. He was especially fond of the children of the area and often integrated their lives into his stories. He said in his acceptance speech for the Caldecott Medal, “In all my books I try to embody certain universal things- the warmth and happiness of family life; my love for people, animals, birds, and flowers… I feel that it is only through the respect and continuity of our heritage that we can build a foundation with strong roots for our future.”

Atiglio Leoni Politi was born in 1908 in Fresno, California to immigrant Italian parents. His family returned to Italy when he was six years old, and he spent the next fifteen years in Europe. At age 21, Leo returned to his homeland of California, obligated to his desire to work independently as an artist. He found his muse in the small, charming neighborhood of Eylsian Heights in downtown Los Angeles, and settled there with his wife Helen. As a newcomer to the area, he often ventured out and about to take in the unfamiliar sights and sounds. One memorable day, he stumbled upon the Mexican town of Olvera Street and felt he was “in heaven.”

During the 1930s, Olvera Street was not the tourist attraction it is today, but an intimate community and artists’ enclave. The discovery altered his course as an artist and changed his life. It was here, in the cafes of Olvera Street, that Leo became a sidewalk artist. The lively scenes he sketched soon evolved into books for children, launching a successful career spanning over sixty years. Leo reached significant acclaim with the publication of his second book, Pedro, the Angel of Olvera Street, in 1943, a story about the Olvera Street festival Las Posadas, a Christmastime tradition of the re-enactment of the procession of Mary and Joseph. He dedicated this book to the children- “the angels”- of Olvera Street.

Leo continued his love affair for downtown Los Angeles with additional children’s books based on Chinatown, Little Tokyo and other Olvera Street traditions, such as the Blessing of the Animals. He continued to express an unconventional perception of Los Angeles, a city known for its urban progress and modernization, with a “small town” feeling, focusing on children, families and a close-knit community spirit. Most significantly, he broke children’s literature barriers by focusing on non-Anglo families and traditions and the considerable Mexican, Chinese and Japanese communities of the city. Over the years, he expanded his attention to other folklore and regions of California, including the return of the swallows to Mission San Juan Capistrano and an Italian fishing community in Monterey. Leo Politi was not simply an observer but active in the community he illustrated in his books. He gave children drawing lessons at the Los Angeles Public Library every week and spoke at countless schools and other libraries. In 1950, he was recognized for his exceptional work with a Caldecott Medal.

Later in his life, Politi developed an interest in preserving the neighborhood he saw was slowly slipping away to urban development, especially in light of the demolition of the old Victorian homes of Bunker Hill, for “faceless modern skyscrapers.” This awareness shifted his focus to an adult audience, and he published Bunker Hill, Los Angeles: Reminiscences of Bygone Days in 1964. He continued to practice his mantra throughout the rest of his career: “we must keep our roots alive and functioning or we have nothing.” He believed by denying this to ourselves, “we are denying our children the precious knowledge of the past which would greatly enrich their lives.”

In 1991, Leo received the greatest gift of all. For his contribution to the spirit and children of Los Angeles, a new elementary school in the Pico-Union neighborhood was named for him. He was delighted to have this dream of his come true.

Publishing children’s books that portrayed children of color.
Returning to California after living in Europe.
Being the “storyteller of the angels.”

by Rosa Mazón
Rosa Mazon is a staff member of the Studio and
at the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum.
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Earl Rogers

Born near Buffalo, New York, Earl Rogers was the son of a Methodist minister who settled in Los Angeles in the mid-1870s. After a short stint as a journalist, he studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1897. Although he preferred civil law, he found that trying criminal cases appealed to the actor in him. He went on to score 183 acquittals out of 202 cases. Earl Rogers was a legendary criminal attorney with extraordinary experiences and clients whose life became the basis for "Perry Mason," a television show featuring an infallible and just defense attorney. Rogers was also known for his theatrics in the courtroom. Rogers defended Alfred Boyd, a man who shot and killed a professional gambler known as the “Louisville Sport” during a poker game at the Metropole Hotel in Avalon on Catalina Island. Rogers challenged a key prosecution witness who insisted that he was not intimidated when Boyd pulled a gun. To prove that men were naturally afraid of guns pointed at them, Rogers suddenly waved a gun at District Attorney Rives; in front of the entire court, the petrified prosecutor immediately dove under a table. Rogers’s bravura performance and Rives’s cowardly behavior demolished the prosecution’s case and Boyd was acquitted.

Defending the innocent and criminals
(someone has to do it) with flair and humor.
Inspiring the infallible and unflappable Perry Mason.
Waving a gun at the Los Angeles District Attorney in Open Court.

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Room Eight

Room Eight joined Elysian Heights Elementary School as a thin cat in need of attention and found a loving home. He lived at the school from September through June for over fifteen years. The school’s principal used Room Eight to teach respect for other creatures and gave the feline full reign of the school. No student could touch Room Eight unless he touched the student first. Those who knew Room Eight still speak of his influence on their lives and public art at the school illustrates his power with testimonies and paw prints marked into the cement.

Each year Room Eight’s relationship with the school ended just as the students’ did—he left on the last day in June, heading for Elysian Park, and arrived on the first day of school each September. His punctuality was legendary as he attracted much media attention. He was featured in Time and Look magazines as well as covered by the local news. Room Eight also received thousands of fan letters and had books written about him.  

Having a frolicky fun-filled summer and wanting
to go back to school in September.
Sleeping on students’ books in the middle of class
—and not getting shooed away!
Purring your way across time into the hearts of
contemporary Los Angelenos.
Teaching humans about respect.

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Upton Sinclair

Prolific author, health-food enthusiast, prohibitionist, Christian socialist, Upton Sinclair moved to Southern California in 1915, “attracted west by H. Gaylord Wilshire, the eccentric millionaire socialist,” and resided in Pasadena. Earlier, in 1906, Sinclair gained notoriety when he wrote about the dangerous, inhumane, and irresponsible practices at the Chicago stockyards in The Jungle. He had a chance to personally observe the meat packinghouses, converse with employees, and see first-hand the maimed bodies wrought by the destructive nature of the unregulated factory. He sought to expose the exploitation of workers in The Jungle, a text that provided impetus for the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act. 

Using the media to shape legislation.
Confronting poverty and social inequity in search of a solution.

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Christine Sterling

In 1881, Christine Sterling was born Chastina Rix in Oakland, CA. Her family was middle-class and of British descent. She attended Mills College in order to study art and design but left to marry Jerome Hough, a San Francisco attorney. The Houghs relocated to Southern California, where Mr. Hough found clientele through the entertainment business. Shortly after, Jerome died from a stroke and Chastina was left alone with their two children. It was at this time that she changed her name to Christine Sterling.

According to her diary, Sterling was walking through downtown in 1926 when she came across the abandoned Avila Adobe. This building was one of the last remaining Los Angeles adobes of the city’s Mexican era. In the 1920s, Southern California, and much of the Southwest, was in love with “Spanish” architecture and art. Using her knowledge of design and her experience in Southern California, Sterling developed the idea of a Mexican marketplace and coupled it with the preservation of Avila Adobe. She began a one-woman campaign for the preservation of Avila Adobe. However, no one paid much attention to her until the day the city planted a Condemned Notice on the doors of the building. Sterling placed a notice of her own, recounting the history of the building as the last remaining adobe of Los Angeles’s Mexican past, and its role in the Mexican-American War where Stockton used it as his headquarters. Anonymously calling all of the local newspapers, Sterling built a publicity stunt that provided her with the names of prominent businessmen including Harry Chandler of the Los Angeles Times. As the city had just passed an ordinance for a new Union Station in the nearby Chinatown area, Sterling and Chandler created a master plan that would open Olvera Street and Avila Adobe to a tourist industry. After the acquisition of monetary funds, the labor force of Los Angeles’s incarcerated, and the city’s ordinance to make Olvera Street a pedestrian-only street, Olvera Street opened on Easter Sunday of 1930. Touted as the “Mexican Marketplace of Yesterday in the City of Today,” Olvera Street became an instant success and remains a much-visited tourist attraction in Los Angeles.

Armed with her success, Christine Sterling moved to create China City across from Olvera Street. Her impetus for this space derived from the fact that Chinatown was being demolished to make way for Union Station. With the Chinese needing a place to live and work, Sterling stepped in to open China City in 1938, two weeks before the opening of the alternative, merchant-developed New Chinatown. As Olvera Street, this space was a romanticized version of what a Chinatown “should” look like. This space had curio shops, stores, cafes, a temple, and garden. Sterling also added rickshaws and secret passageways for the tourists’ entertainment. Many of the Chinese vendors and residents were actors. Moreover, many of the buildings were either donated by the MGM studio or constructed using MGM personnel. Women’s organizations and women also became an important component in the China City landscape. After two fires, China City was closed within a decade and Sterling dedicated the rest of her life to Olvera Street. After living in Chavez Ravine, she permanently moved to Avila Adobe were she died in her sleep on June 21, 1963.

Christine Sterling is an important figure to highlight in Los Angeles history. Despite becoming a widow in the 1920s, Sterling went against the odds to make a mark in Los Angeles’s landscape and to keep her family’s respectability. She is now commemorated as the “Mother of Olvera Street.” However, she remains a controversial persona in the Chinese American community. By the early 1950s, Chinese tenants had occupied the Lugo House for over seventy years. When the city threatened to demolish it, the Chinese community tried to save it along with other historical buildings. Unfortunately, Sterling stated that the “Chinese must go!” in order to clean up the area and the house was demolished on February 7, 1951. The Chinese American Museum of Los Angeles is now housed at the Garnier Building within El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument, and they are working to recognize the experiences of the Chinese in the space and in Los Angeles history.

Preserving history for the benefit of the people of Los Angeles.
The Chinese American Museum’s victory and success.
Understanding the motivations behind different public
history projects and that well-intentioned people may have
intolerent attitudes--and this is not acceptable
in today’s concepts of public history.

by Monica Pelayo

Monica Pelayo is a PhD student in the Department of History at the University of Southern California.

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Cameron Thom

The word ‘overachiever’ begins to describe Cameron Thom. Cameron Thom arrived from Virginia to California as a ‘Forty-Niner’ - someone who came as a result of the discovery of gold in 1848. He came to Los Angeles in 1854 and was elected Los Angeles District Attorney (DA) in the same year. He served as DA for three terms from 1854-1857, 1870-1873 and 1877-1879. He served in the State Senate from 1859-60. He was Mayor of Los Angeles from 1882–1884, when he was responsible for the creation of Elysian Park. In 1856 he was both City Attorney of Los Angeles and District Attorney of Los Angeles. He took advantage of the 1851 Land Act by serving the Land Grant Commission and ensuring he and his friends became large holders of former rancho land. He founded Glendale, then 3,000 acres of Rancho San Rafael, which Thom and others obtained from the Verdugo family. His son would become prominent in Glendale real estate development and his nephew, Erskine Ross—also his law partner—would become a justice of the California Supreme Court and would give his name to the Rossmoyne section of Glendale.

Cameron maintained ties to his southern heritage during the Civil War and was regarded as a man of honor. He left Los Angeles during the Civil War to serve as a major in the Confederate army. He fought in 15 battles, and was wounded twice. After the close of the war, he returned to California to learn that he had lost his property, his fortune, his career, and even his wife, who had returned to her family, taken ill, and died.  He needed a pardon from President Andrew Johnson to return to the practice of law in Los Angeles. In 1871 he was instrumental in protecting Chinese people from rioters during the Chinese Massacre. Many Chinese were taken to the city’s jail for safety and many fled the city. Thom joined Sheriff Burns in quelling the rioters. As DA he indicted 37 participants and six were convicted. However, all were released within a year of their imprisonment on the basis of a legal technicality.

Walking the Talk—a man of honor does not
lose his values in a new land.
Serving almost every possible public office,
sometimes simultaneously.
Creating Elysian Park—a Park that is much loved and
still protected by Los Angeles citizens.
Protecting those under siege against a mob mentality and seeking justice for victims through the court system.

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Tongva shaman Toypurina participated in a conspiracy to destroy Mission San Gabriel at the age of twenty-four. Born and raised in the Gabrieliño village Japchivit near Mission San Gabriel, Toypurina saw firsthand how the missions destroyed her culture and people. When questioned about her role in planning the revolt, Toypurina defiantly stated: "I hate the padres and all of you, for living here on my native soil, for trespassing upon the land of my forefathers." Although banished to Mission San Carlos Boromeo in Carmel, after her release Toypurina was later baptized (though historians argue over her intention in doing so) and married a Spanish soldier named Manuel Montero. The couple had three children.

Placing yourself in danger in order to save
your people and its culture.
Speaking the truth in the midst of one’s prison and making
it into the historical record so future generations know this history.
Exercising agency in the best ways you know how.

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Fernando Valenzuela

No other Latino athlete has stirred the passions of the Mexican American community in Los Angeles like Fernando Valenzuela, nicknamed “El Torito” (the little bull). His dramatic professional debut for the Los Angeles Dodgers began in the 1981 season when he pitched for a 2-0 victory. Armed with a hypnotic screwball, he went on to win his next seven games, completing 17.2 innings without having surrendered an earned run, threw four shutouts, and compiled a 0.50 earned run average. Valenzuela went on to become one of the most dominant pitchers during the 1980s, earning Rookie of the Year, the Cy Young Award, and appearing in the All-Star Game six times. But his 1981 breakthrough went beyond the baseball diamond and was a watershed moment for all Latinos.

by José Alamillo
José Alamillo is an historian and author of
Making Lemonade Out of Lemons. He is the Chair of the Department of Chicana/o Studies at California State University Channel Islands. He is a Member of
the Studio’s Board of Directors.
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Tiburcio Vasquez

Tiburcio Vasquez, a native Californio and notorious bandit, blamed his life of crime on "a spirit of hatred and revenge" born from poor treatment of native Californios by the Americans. In 1874 Tiburcio Vasquez was hiding out at a ranch in Nichols Canyon; he was wanted for robbing a Los Angeles bank and for murder in the northern California town of Tres Piños. Vasquez was shot six times in the course of his capture at a ranch in present day Hollywood. 37 year-old Vasquez denied any involvement in the murder though he freely admitted to being a thief. 

Vasquez was a romantic figure for Los Angeles. Enchanted ladies sent bouquets on a regular basis, filling Vasquez’s cell with flowers. His capture inspired local merchants to run newspaper ads like:  “Vasquez says that Mendel Meyer has the most finest and most compete stock of Dry Goods and Clothing.” Another advertised: “Everyone of the men who captured Vasquez eats of the fine, courage giving, brain-enlightening meats procured at McDonald’s market. We knew that if Vasquez was ever captured, it would be through the instrumentality of Mac’s meats.”

While an imprisoned Vasquez recovered from his wounds, the play “The Capture of Vasquez” opened at the Merced Theater on May 23, 1874 to packed houses and splendid reviews. Anxious that the play should succeed, Vasquez coached the actor portraying him and loaned his own clothes to wear in the play. The day after the play opened, Vasquez was taken to Monterey County and tried there in order to avoid his popularity in Southern California. He was convicted and hanged. Vasquez Rocks State Park near Saugus was named for him; it was his usual hideout area.

Controlling your image in a hostile environment.
Inspiring a play and advertising while in prison.
Having a location named after you, even though you are convicted and hanged for a murder that you deny committing.

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Bill Watanabe
by Nancy Bautista
Bautista is studying to get her Masters in Social Work.

Bill Watanabe is the Executive Director of the Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC) and has served as such since the organization’s beginning in 1979. Watanabe recalled LTSC’s first move to the quaint and then-new cultural center where the 1,500-square-foot empty room (with one desk in the corner) housed the mind that strenuously developed a comprehensive program to help the community or anyone in need.  Since the LTSC team was initially bilingual in English and Japanese, the community service that the center offered mostly catered to the Japanese and Japanese American communities, with a large percent composed of senior citizens living in Little Tokyo. Currently, LTSC provides over a dozen programs in at least seven different languages including English & Spanish.

Prior to attaining a Masters in Social Work from UCLA and fully focusing on LTSC, Bill Watanabe earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from CSUN and briefly worked as engineer for Douglas Aircraft, Lockheed, and the City of Los Angeles. Additionally, he worked at the only Asian American Christian Commune of the time in Silverlake, where he and wife Gladys met, lived, and married. In 1968, with the desire to help others, Watanabe applied and was accepted to the Peace Corps. However, a 1968 newspaper report of 35 Sansei in the South Bay dying of “unstated causes,” which turned out to be drug-related deaths, helped him decide to stay home because Japanese Americans clearly needed more social services available to them. Watanabe explained that the repeated use of “unstated cause” as reason of death amongst the 35 Japanese American youth reflected and perpetuated the “model minority” myth; chiefly, the belief that young Asian Americans are overachievers and problem-free. This, along with his parent’s silence about Executive Order 9066, sparked his interest in social work, although his parents continuously warned him to “never make waves because if you make waves you will be like the nail that sticks up and you are going to get pounded.”  

As an undergraduate, Watanabe’s exploration of The Autobiography of Malcolm X raised a personal and political consciousness that was obscured by the complexities of mechanical engineering. After reading about Malcolm X, Watanabe better understood and questioned his internalized ideas about race. He recalled an instance in grammar school when a friend touched his arm and he quickly pulled away, noting the clear contrast of his friend’s fair hand on top of his. Another time, he declined to attend his friend’s party for fear of not fitting in because of his ethnicity. Watanabe’s life experiences allowed for surprising career changes and personal discoveries that ultimately led him to his calling. As stated by him, “life takes its various twists and turns but you can only do so much.” He considers himself lucky because he loves what he does and the people he works with and that is “priceless.” With the ongoing support of his family and friends, Watanabe’s continued involvement in the well-being of the Japanese American community in Los Angeles and his inspiring transformation from engineer to social worker marks him as an exceptional person and one of my personal heroes.

The Little Tokyo Service Center.

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Paul Williams

Paul Williams became a certified architect in 1921 - the first African American west of the Mississippi to do so. He started his career as a designer of interesting homes by winning three national design competitions. He perfected the skill of drawing “upside down” so his white clients would see the drawings right side up, across the table from him. Many homes he designed were on parcels whose deeds had covenants barring blacks from purchasing them - something that would not change until 1947 and the federal ban on racially restrictive housing.

The Encounter Restaurant at Los Angeles International Airport, or LAX, is one of his beautiful designs. However, Paul Williams’ scope included commercial and residential dwellings. He designed over 2,000 homes in Southern California and in various sections of the United States, Mexico, and South America. According to Williams, the popularity of his homes was the result of his immersion in the designs: “The principal formula which has made these homes so popular is that they are designed around the way an owner lives, which gives them personality.”

Seeking and attaining excellence in your field.
Representing Los Angeles and its future in an iconic structure.
Creating a prolific record that still exists today for
everyday and elite Los Angelenos.

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Henry Gaylord Wilshire
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copyright the Studio for Southern California History
Jeff Dietrich and Catherine Morris watanabe leo limon Isa-Kae Meksin Fernando Valenzuela Ozie Gonzaque Mary Corita Kent Barbara Jury Kiyoshi Okamoto Jesse Belvin Marilyn Monroe Pearl S. Buck Christine Sterling Room Eight Charlotta Amanda Bass Clifford Clinton Woody Guthrie Olive Percival Upton Sinclair Alice Kemmer Moore Earl Rogers Henry Gaylord Wilshire Charles Fletcher Lummis Toypurina Angustias de la Guerra Bridget Biddy Mason Rebecca Lee Dorsey Tiburcio Vasquez Job Harriman Walter Lindley Helen Hunt Jackson Cameron Thom Leo Politi Sal Castro Ofelia Esparza Paul Williams Mauricio Mazon