Angry Reader of the Week: Leslie Ito

"Passively observing the arts is part of the past."

Hey, everybody! You know what time it is. It's time to meet the Angry Reader of the Week, spotlighting you, the very special readers of this website. Over the years, I've been able to connect with a lot of cool folks, and this is a way of showing some appreciation and attention to the people who help make this blog what it is. This week's Angry Reader is Leslie Ito.

Who are you?

I am a Yonsei (fourth generation Japanese American) leading a 38 year old cultural institution called the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center.

I have been thinking a lot of lineage influencing who we are. Traditionally, lineage is traced through blood. But I've been tracing my artistic, professional lineage. I am a descendent of those that came before me, Gerald Yoshitomi, Linda Mabalot, Paula Rao -- and I am a product of their fathers and mothers of thought, practice, and creativity.

What are you?

A partner, mom, daughter, granddaughter.
An arts advocate.
A cultural bridge builder.
A spacemaker.
A calculated risk-taker.
A social & creative entrepreneur.
A lover of fried, sour & savory.
A newbie to karaoke, public baths and Buddhism.
An ornithaphob.

Where are you?

I am mostly in Los Angeles' Little Tokyo, where we are practicing placekeeping in the 134-year old neighborhood.

Where are you from?

My great grandparents came from Fukuoka, Wakayama & Kumamoto Prefectures in Japan at the turn of the century. I have a hunch that when I take a DNA test that I will also be part Korean since the Kyushu region of Japan is the closest point to Korea.

My family history in Los Angeles spans five generations and over 100 years across Southern California from Santa Ana, Glendale and Pasadena to Terminal Island, Boyle Heights and Crenshaw. They have also lived in Denver, Chicago, Minneapolis, Gila & Poston Concentration Camps in Arizona and Yokota Air Force Base.

All of these ancestral places have influenced where I'm from, what I eat, how I process life. As for me personally, I am from all the neighborhoods that I have had the opportunity to live in:
South Hadley, MA
Dupont Circle & Georgetown, Washington D.C.
West L.A.
West Village, New York City
Arts District
Silver Lake
South Pasadena

What do you do?

At this very moment, I am helping lead our team to wrap up one of the most ambitious, bold projects that JACCC and our partners, East West Players have ever produced. Allegiance, the Broadway musical about the Japanese American experience during World War II. We have four shows left through April 1 and by the end of the weekend will have served nearly 20,000 audience members and every show with a standing ovation.

I have dedicated my life work to creating cultural experiences and raising money, building partnerships and leveraging opportunities to support them. Passively observing the arts is part of the past. I enable people of all ages and cultural backgrounds to engage in arts and culture whether it be through playing the ukulele, celebrating Dia De Los Ninos and Kodomo No Hi (Mexican & Japanese Children's Day) at Fiesta Matsuri, making Japanese pickles or learning about the Japanese American incarceration through musical theater.

What are you all about?

I am continuously seeking opportunities to engage diverse arts audiences, tell our own stories which are often untold, and create environments for artists to flourish. I am trying to create a more just world for my kids and their generation. I believe that the arts and artists play an influential role in making change and building community.

What makes you angry?

I get angry when "mainstream" arts institutions expect people and organizations of color to drop everything and help them diversify their audiences and programming and then turn around and take all the credit and get triple the amount of funding for it. I get angry when our own people power/ego trip, when they should be working together to help us move our agendas forward. I get angry when people call me cute because I'm vertically challenged, pat my head or try to pick me up! It's true. I'm not trying to be funny. I'm angry!

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