keeping ethnic enclaves alive

This is a really interesting TIME story on the tiny town of Locke, California (population: 80)—America's last rural Chinatown: Saving a Countryside Chinatown. In 1915, after a fire wiped out a nearby Chinatown, 600 Chinese workers got permission from a local orchard owner to build and inhabit a new settlement, which eventually became the tight-knit Chinese community of Locke. The town is a true national landmark, a fascinating, little-known nugget of Asian American history... that's pretty awesome. Unfortunately, today the town's legacy is in danger of becoming faded memory. Only 12 of the 80 residents are Chinese, with whites and Latinos gradually replacing the founding population. However, this month the town is erecting an eight-foot-tall bronze monument dedicated to Locke's Chinese pioneers. Hopefully, there will be continued, active effort to the keep the important history of this town alive.

Speaking of ethnic enclaves... Los Angeles' Little Tokyo needs your help! I've been getting a bunch of emails about some distressing stuff that's been going on in the community. Long story short: some private developers who aren't so concerned with the history and future of Little Tokyo have bought big chunks of land. Who knows what could happen now? Concerned folks are calling for an inclusionary community planning process, and are circulating a petition to gather public support. Here's a letter that's been circulating from J-Town Voice:
Friends -

It's happened again!

As you may already be aware, several recent property transactions have put the future of Los Angeles' Little Tokyo in jeopardy. Japanese Village Plaza was sold to American Commercial Equities in late July, and on August 17, the New Otani Hotel and Weller Court Shopping Mall were bought by 3D Investments—the SAME company that bought the large chunk of San Francisco J-Town from Kintetsu Enterprises last year. While neither of these companies are inherently bad, it is also clear that neither company has a strong tie to Little Tokyo. With only three Japantowns remaining, there exists a critical need to maintain Little Tokyo as an important historic cultural neighborhood. When a company decides to purchase a main commercial and gathering area of Little Tokyo, they should also take the initiative to develop the properties in a responsible manner with community input.

Little Tokyo community members have a history of being actively involved with the changes in Little Tokyo, and we are proud of our community's achievements. It's time again to make our voices clear - Little Tokyo is our home. Little Tokyo is our history. Little Tokyo is our future. And the people who share that home should have a say in what happens to it.

If you feel similarly, we would urge you to take the following action:

1) Sign the following petition: http://www.petitiononline.com/jtv1/petition.html. Doing so will send a message to 3D Investments and American Commercial Equities that they can not buy and develop land in our neighborhood without taking into consideration the wants and needs of the existing community. Further, it will also ensure that the Kajima Corporation is held responsible for their secretive sale to 3D Investments. Although their transaction may be completed, they have not heard the end of this from the Little Tokyo community. Third, it will reinforce to Jan Perry (Little Tokyo's City Councilwoman)that there is broad support to maintain active community involvement in determining the future of Little Tokyo. Finally, it will put current property owners and potential buyers on notice that our community is organized and not afraid to take action to ensure that they act responsibly and remain sensitive to the historic and cultural importance of Little Tokyo.

2) Attend the Little Tokyo Community Council's public meeting at 6:30 PM on Thursday, October 4, 2007, and the Japanese American National Museum. This meeting will be an important opportunity for Little Tokyo's stakeholders (that's you!) to make their voices heard and demand what is due to them.

Please don't miss out on this opportunity to demand respect and justice for our community!

Your friends at J-Town Voice

PS. To find out more about the petition, the Little Tokyo Community Council meeting, or how you can make your voice heard during our community's planning process, contact jtownvoice@yahoo.com.
If you feel strongly about this, then lend your name to the petition here: Preserve LA's Little Tokyo! And if you're in the Los Angeles area, go to the Little Tokyo Community Council's public meeting this Thursday, October 4, 6:30pm at the Japanese American National Museum. Make your voices heard, and ensure the future of Little Tokyo.

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