Local and Community History the Focus of APALA Program

By Frederick J. Augustyn, Jr.
The Library of Congress

A program co-sponsored by APALA and the Librarians of Color on Sunday, June 24 titled “So You Think You Can Write: Librarians and Friends Gather and Preserve Our Community History” featuring five books produced under the auspices of Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series attested to the use that diligent librarians and historians can make of personal and institutional, especially pictorial, records. Florante Peter Ibanez, Manager of Library Computer Services, Loyola Law School, Los Angeles who co-authored with his wife Roselyn Estepa Ibanez Filipinos in Carson and the South Bay (2009) made the general introduction to Asian-American ethnic enclaves. He noted that there are many artifacts of history, not all in print or already on film. A challenge to historians is to record what exists in oral tradition and in other non-tangible forms, such as dance.

Jenny Cho, Chair of the Oral History Program, Chinese Historical Society ofSouthern California, spoke of capturing the memories of those aged 75 and older in her book Chinatown in Los Angeles (2009.) Chinese immigrants have been in America at least since 1850, which coincidentally is when Los Angeles was founded. She noted the 1871 Chinese Massacre in the city, the worst anti-Asian event ever in the U.S. History is ever present with us as was indicated by the bill of apology for the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act issued within the past week.

Lessa Kanani’opua Pelayo-Lozada, Palos Verdes Library, one of the authors of Hawaiians in Los Angeles (2012), said that the photos that she used in her presentation were largely from her family in order to safeguard others’ privacy. Her grandparents and her wish to write her library school thesis on this topic were inspirations for her work on the perpetuation of Hawaiian identity in a new “’aina” (land) outside the home islands. Among the things revealed in her project was that many left what others regard as paradise for educational advancement, for economic reasons, and to pursue mi l itary careers. Pelayo-Lozada listed challenges such as: “community politics” – disagreements among those who supported statehood and those for ethnic sovereignty; time constraints, especially those on “Hawaiian time;” and people reluctant to share personal photos. She admitted that this is “not a definitive history, but a snapshot.” Elnora Kelly Tayag, John Spoor Broome Library, California State University Channel Islands, shared methods that proved effective in producing her book Filipinos in Ventura County (2011). She surveyed local collections although most pictures came from personal rather than corporate collections; engaged in much cold calling because not everyone uses email; attended weekly and monthly meetings of many ethnic organizations to advertize her project and to build trust; and applied for (and fortunately received) a few grants.

Bill Watanabe, founding Executive Director, Little Tokyo Service Center, recounted the themes from the book Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo (2010). Among them were: enterprise, tradition, World War II, sports, and creativity. Many do not know that basketball is very popular with Japanese-Americans in southern California both as a spectator and a participatory sport. Another little-known fact is that the world-wide Pentecostal movement began on Azusa Street in Little Tokyo in 1906.

From ALA Cognotes Annual Conference Highlights (2012)

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