Every Saturday we will feature a story about our communities, artists, or unsung heroes as an initiative geared towards changing the negative narrative, anchoring it instead in messages of hope, positivity and above all interconnectivity.
Below please find the weekly archive:
Saturday, July 18, 2020: Community@PAM – Malia Designs
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Help victims of human trafficking, at-risk women, and the disabled when you choose ecological, ethical fashions from Malia Designs handcrafted by Cambodian artisans. Malia Designs is a Shop@PAM favorite that generates life-changing and sustainable employment to over 300 individuals in three fair trade artisan groups. These artisan groups employ women at-risk who were victims of human trafficking, deaf individuals, and disabled community members. Artisans receive a full salary while training for successful careers in design, pattern making, and sewing. Artisans who sew upcycled cotton canvas bags include polio survivors or those with disabilities due to landmine injuries. Due to the popularity of these designs, this community recently opened a workshop with living accommodations for its workers.
In its 15 years of business, Malia Designs has donated almost $170,000 to grassroots organizations committed to fighting human trafficking. They partnered with Damnok Toek based in Cambodia, and are focused on assisting trafficking victims, street working or street living children, and victims of exploitation or abuse. Learn more about their life-changing work by going to www.Damnotoek.org
Malia Designs and the artisans in Cambodia need your support during this pandemic. Carry a cause by purchasing one of their fashionable bags. Hand screen-printed cotton canvas bags are sourced through small local vendors who provide leftover rolls of fabric from garment factories. Recycled feedbags and cement bags are durable, lightweight, and colorful. The material from these repurposed items feature bold and funky designs. Shop@PAM proudly supports statements of positivity and change with handcrafted change pouches claiming, “Women Change the World” and “Badass Feminist.”
Discover more styles by emailing email@example.com today.
Saturday, July 11, 2020 – Community@PAM: World Finds
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Shop@PAM offers apparel, home décor, and jewelry from more than two dozen Fair Trade companies. Jewelry from World Finds is one of our favorites. World Finds employs a strong community of artisans, craftspeople, and entrepreneurs who create products that are not only beautiful to wear but also beautiful in spirit. They observe the principles of fair pay, safe working conditions, children’s rights, respecting cultural identities, and cultivating environmental stewardship. During the pandemic, World Finds artisan partners established a GoFundMe account to provide meals, masks, gloves, and medical supplies to artisan and migrant communities in need in New Delhi. https://www.gofundme.com/f/artisan-support-fund To date, this effort raised over $9,000. In response to the Black Lives Matter protests, World Finds donated 100% of their June proceeds to the Equal Justice Initiative for a total of over $6,000.
Creating ethical fashion for an American market, World Finds employees over 700 artisans, mostly women, in India. Sustainably sourcing cotton saris, called Kantha cloth, artisans repurpose fabric scraps to make jewelry. Wooden beads are carved from wood scraps from a local furniture factory. Each bead is hand covered with the fabric and transformed into jewelry. With a variety of kantha designs, the jewelry pieces are “as unique as the artisan that crafted it.”
Beautiful indigo dyed kantha earrings, necklaces, and bracelets are new additions to this collection. Now one of our best-selling kantha bead necklaces is available in repurposed silk. Shop@PAM is excited to offer a wide range of kantha jewelry from World Finds and other fair trade businesses. We vow to continue to expand our growing fair trade offerings from Asia and the Pacific Islands.
Saturday, July 4, 2020: Community@PAM – Sevya Handmade
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One fundamental way Shop@PAM highlights the various cultures represented in the USC PAM collection is by offering Fair Trade products. Fair trade businesses aim to create greater equity and opportunity to farmers and artisans in developing countries who are socially and economically marginalized. These companies follow ethical principles of fair pay, safe working conditions, ensuring the rights of children, respecting cultural identities and cultivating environmental stewardship. We are pleased to offer almost two dozen different Fair Trade companies and vow to increase our partnerships in the next year.
Sevya Handmade apparel company is one such company Shop@PAM consistently carries. Sevya is committed to preserving indigenous artforms and cultures in India. Employed artisans use traditional weaving, dyeing techniques, embroidery, and block printing which results in beautiful, luxurious fabrics. Sevya works with thousands of craftspeople; an entire village may contribute to the process of dyeing, weaving and stitching a garment. Women artisans are key to the creation of the items Sevya offers; women artisans gain greater economic and social freedom which can have a lasting effect on their lives and their community.
Following the principle of environmental stewardship, Sevya utilizes digital printing technology and eco-friendly fabrics. Cupro cotton is made from repurposed cotton seed filaments. Cupro is hypoallergenic and feels like silk; it can be recycled into new fabric and is biodegradable. Digitally printed scarves are stitched in women-owned and operated collectives which helps empower women in their local communities. We are pleased to partner with Sevya for the creation of our exclusive icon scarf. The icons of the museum are artfully represented on the digitally printed cupro scarf. To purchase your scarf and support the Sevya community, go to Shop@PAM.
Saturday, June 27, 2020: Community@PAM – The San Gabriel Valley
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LA County’s San Gabriel Valley (SGV for short) is an incredibly special and diverse place, known for its Latinx communities and large Asian American population, most of Chinese heritage. In fact, of the ten cities in the United States with the highest percentage of Chinese Americans, the first eight are located in the San Gabriel Valley. Sometimes referred to as “Suburban Chinatown,” San Gabriel Valley has become a destination for anyone interested in the intricacies of Chinese cuisine. And although there have been residents of Asian heritage working as laborers in SGV since the 1870s, most of SGV’s Asian communities were established in the past 50 years.
Asian communities in San Gabriel Valley in the 19th century were integral to the area’s history. San Gabriel Valley was first settled by Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and South Asian men who worked as laborers picking and packing fruit crops. They also built part the infrastructure. These laborers were prone to discrimination, affected by L.A.’s Chinese massacre in 1871, the Chinese exclusion act of 1882, and the internment camps of WWII. Redlining and the restriction of people of color from certain communities created a division in SGV beginning in the 19th century, when Huntington Drive represented a dividing line, north of which people of color could not live, except as servants.
After World War II, a shift from agriculture to manufacturing and technology transpired as the region began suburbanization and responded to Cold War industry demands. Chinese Americans moved from Chinatown and Japanese Americans returned from internment camps to reopen businesses and pursue homeownership opportunities. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 brought more immigrants from Asia to the SGV. Beginning in the 1970s, ethnic Chinese from Taiwan and Hong Kong fled political and economic uncertainty in pursuit of economic, educational, and professional opportunities. Refugees from Southeast Asia, especially ethnic Chinese from Vietnam, also settled in the SGV at this time. Proximity to Chinatown, relatively cheap land, and a well-developed transportation infrastructure attracted ethnic Chinese immigrants looking for business opportunities.
The SGV soon became a top entry point for ethnic Chinese immigrants and a globally significant place for growing ethnic Chinese business networks. The large Mandarin speaking Chinese population from Taiwan in Monterrey Park can be traced to the 1970s and a real estate developer named Fred Hsieh, who formed the Mandarin Realty Company to promote and sell homes in Monterey Park to Taiwanese immigrants. In addition to its affordability, Monterey Park offered newer homes and a superior school system than that of Los Angeles.
By the 1980s, Monterey Park was known among ethnic Chinese as “Little Taipei,” and to the broader world as the first “suburban Chinatown.” In 1990 it had become the first majority-Asian American city in the mainland U.S. During the same decades, the white population of the Western SGV dropped precipitously, from a clear majority to a small minority. Racial tensions were high, with city resolutions that supported English as the official language and police support in assisting federal immigration authorities with immigration enforcement. By the late 1990s and into the 2000s, public libraries and schools began to embrace multilingualism and multiculturalism. Mandarin is incorporated into some schools’ foreign language curriculum. Since 1991, the City of Alhambra and the City of San Gabriel have jointly sponsored a Lunar New Year parade.
In the twenty-first century, San Gabriel Valley continues as an important site for multiracial, regional, and transnational history. Younger generations of SGV’s multilingual, multiracial, and multicultural residents embrace the area’s diversity. As the rest of the United States follows California’s lead toward a nonwhite majority, the SGV stands unique in its position for multiracial, metropolitan history and access.
Saturday, May 30, 2020: Community@PAM – “Little India”
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“Little India” is an area that stretches along Pioneer Boulevard in Artesia and serves as an important part of South Asian culture in Los Angeles County. Interestingly, “Little India” is the neighborhood’s unofficial name. The area is officially titled the “International Cultural District” because the City of Artesia did not want to overlook the other groups of people that call Artesia home.
Although the first South Asian people to arrive in America were brought to the colonies as servants by the British East India Company in the 17th century, California only began to see sizable numbers of Indian immigrants in the 20th century, though many restrictive laws made putting down roots and owning land almost impossible. After the passing of the Immigration and Nationality Act in 1965, many Indians moved to the US, with sizable numbers calling Los Angeles and Orange County home.
The first Indian store in Artesia was a grocery store, Selecto Spices, which moved from Hollywood to Artesia in 1971 because of the small city’s affordability. In fact, Selecto Spices was the first Indian grocery store in all of Southern California. The true transformation of Pioneer Boulevard into Little India gradually began in the early 1980s. By December 1981, several markets, restaurants, and clothing shops had opened in Artesia on Pioneer Boulevard between 183rd and 188th streets. This concentration of Indian stores in a small geographic area on Pioneer Boulevard offered customers the comfort of going to a single location for their shopping. By the late 1990s Artesia became known throughout Los Angeles County for Little India, and many people began to visit Pioneer Boulevard.
Little India exists for South Asians in Southern California, and while many people visit Pioneer Boulevard, the area remains targeted toward average Indians and not tourists. Each weekend, hundreds of visitors come from throughout the region to browse through colorful shops and sample delicious food and sweets.
The area offers celebrations rooted in Indian tradition, including India’s Independence, Diwali, Navaratri,and Eid al-Fitr, with crowds, parades, skits, fashion shows, singers and lights for these celebrations. Little India features over 100 Indian-oriented shops, including clothing stores, eyebrow-threading/hair removal places, home furnishers, fabric stores, jewelers, grocery stores, restaurants, video & music stores, and more.
Image 1: Little India Village (photo OC Register)
Image 2: Pioneer Cash and Carry, Family-owned and operated in Artesia since 1982 (from their website)
Image 3: Shops in Little India (from https://ericbrightwell.com/
Image 4: Hundreds of people populated Pioneer Blvd. in Artesia early on during the Diwali Mela 2013, patronizing many of the nearly two dozen booths located on the thoroughfare. (Parimal M. Rohit photo; from www.indiawest.com<http://www.indiawest.com>)
Image 5: Apurvah Shah singing before a crown during Diwali in Little India (from www.indiawest.com)
Saturday, May 23, 2020 – Community@PAM: Little Saigon
USC PAM Curator, Dr. Rebecca Hall, takes us through the history and culture of Little Saigon!
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For our post this week, we are adventuring outside of L.A. County to visit Little Saigon in the city of Westminster, the largest Vietnamese community in the U.S. Vietnamese is the sixth-most spoken language in the US. More than a quarter million Vietnamese speakers live in Southern California and two thirds are in Orange County. Little Saigon has been called a “key part of Orange County’s cultural landscape” and is seen as the heart of Southern California’s Vietnamese community, and even the capital of the Vietnamese diaspora. On June 17, 1988 then-governor George Deukmejian signed a bill granting official designation to the area, which is bordered by Westminster Boulevard, Bolsa Avenue, Magnolia Street, and Euclid Street.
The first Vietnamese to arrive in the U.S. came in the nineteenth century, but the story of Little Saigon is rooted in the Vietnam War and its end. A small number of Vietnamese arrived during the war, but the majority arrived in the U.S. after April 30, 1975: the fall of Saigon. As the war ended and the U.S. evacuated American citizens, allies, and those Vietnamese who had worked for or had close association with the United States. Vietnamese who previously fought against the communist north became refugees in need of a new home. People fleeing their country were desperate to escape reeducation camps and death. The first big wave of Vietnamese refugees arrived in the U.S. immediately after the fall of Saigon. A rescue effort called “Operation New Life” was instrumental in bringing over 130,000 Vietnamese to America (via Guam) in the immediate aftermath of the war. Many of these refugees ended up at California’s Camp Pendleton. Even more – held up in foreign refugee camps, escaping on small boats, or waiting for opportunities to flee Vietnam – came in subsequent waves of migration. The process of leaving Vietnam as refugees and the trauma of survival is an important element of the Little Saigon community.
In Orange County, refugees were able to work with resettlement agencies that taught them how to speak English, how to find employment, and provide a foundation for how to adjust to life in America.
In the mid-1970s, Westminster was a quiet municipality of around 60,000 with industrial machine shops and large parcels of land rooted in its agricultural past. It was affordable and a prime location, giving the new residents an opportunity to live together in their family units and affiliations brought with them from their hometowns in Vietnam. By the late 1970s, Vietnamese businesses had increased together with shopping centers and other facilities by and for the Vietnamese community. By 1980, newly arrived refugees could buy authentic Vietnamese food in Orange County. They could get prescriptions filled in Vietnamese and buy insurance from agents who spoke Vietnamese.
Today, Little Saigon in Westminster is part of a larger regional identity across Southern California. Little Saigon has proven to be a vital part of Orange County, driven by a community that values family, education, hard work and freedom. In only a few decades, the Vietnamese – many of whom arrived with nothing but the clothes on their backs – have become prominent teachers, entrepreneurs, business leaders, elected officials, doctors, artists, and more.
Image 1: Governor George Deukmejian visited Westminster in 1988, officially naming the district “Little Saigon” and unveiling freeway signs to promote it. (OC Register)
Image 2: Women washing their clothes at Camp Pendleton. The refugee camps were only open for a few months before the refugees were resettled. (Photo: Camp Pendleton Archives)
Image 3: Phuoc Loc Tho, a.k.a. Asian Garden Mall, stands as the center of activity in Orange County’s Little Saigon | Photo: Elson Trinidad
Image 4: From the “Orange County’s Little Saigon: Evolution of a Community,” exhibition at Old Orange County Courthouse in 2015
Image 5: Parade organizers and VIPs light firecrackers Saturday at the 2020 Little Saigon Westminster Tet Parade. Photo from Voice of OC, courtesy of Alan Vo Ford.
Saturday, May 16, 2020 – Samoan Community
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Community@PAM ~ Read & SWIPE ⬅️ to learn about LA’s Samoan Community from our Assistant Curator, Rebecca Hall
With the sizable population of AAPI communities in the Los Angeles area, it can be easy to forget that not all communities have successfully campaigned for named neighborhoods. A lack of a named designation does not indicate a lack of size or representation. In fact, Los Angeles County has a significant population of Samoans who continue to work for recognition, representation, and the opportunity to thrive since the mid-1950s.
American Samoa is a U.S. territory in the South Pacific comprised of six islands. The Samoan community in Los Angeles County has its roots in a group of Samoan-born men who had enlisted in the U.S. Navy when the U.S. Navy ruled over American Samoa, from 1900 to 1951. In 1952, authority over American Samoa was transferred to the U.S. Department of the Interior and this group of men, nicknamed the Fita Fita, were given the option of transferring to Hawaii. Almost all of these men emigrated, and their families joined soon after. Some of the Fita Fita stayed in Hawaii while others moved to California, which now has the largest concentration of Samoans on the U.S. mainland. This is referred to as the “Great Migration.” A number of Samoans had already moved to Los Angeles in the early 1900s, finding work on farms or in factories. Because they were American nationals, Samoans did not have the same restrictions and national quotas as other Asian and Pacific Island peoples.
In Southern California, over half of the Samoan community is centered in the cities of Carson, Long Beach, and Compton. The background and culture of the Samoan immigrants different greatly from that of the U.S. Many of the Samoan immigrants were from rural villages with few technical skills and little formal education. Samoan culture is communal, focusing on clans, families, and communities, rather than the individualistic nature of U.S. culture. In addition, because American Samoans are U.S. nationals but do not have the right to vote in U.S. elections, establishment of a strong Samoan political voice has been challenging.
Over time, the Samoan presence in L.A. County has increased. Many Samoans are avid churchgoers with Samoan churches or those with predominantly Samoan congregations spread throughout the Harbor region. Polynesian groceries and restaurants are popular. And the celebration of Los Angeles Samoan Flag Day, in Carson, has been the biggest locally observed Samoan festival since it was implemented in 1985. The holiday commemorates the first time the US raised the American flag in Samoa, but it is now a celebration of Samoan heritage and culture. Los Angeles Samoan Flag Day is celebrated each year for a week in August in Carson’s Victoria Park.
Image 1: Blessing of the mural (photo, Long Beach Post)
Image 2: Mural celebrating the Samoan community in Long Beach, by Samoan artist, Jason Pereira (JP), Photo by Sue Pereira
Image 3: Poasa Imports/Samoan Market in Carson (photo from their facebook page)
Sunday, May 9, 2020: Cambodia Town
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Community@PAM ~ Read & SWIPE to learn about LA’s Historic Cambodia Town from our Assistant Curator, Rebecca Hall
The largest and oldest Cambodian community in the United States is in Long Beach, California. Cambodia Town, in Long Beach, has the greatest concentration of Cambodians outside of Cambodia. The history of Cambodian immigration to Long Beach is closely tied to war and genocide, but that is only part of the story.
In the 1950s and 1960s, specially selected Cambodian students attended colleges and universities in the U.S., including California State University, Long Beach, to study applied subjects that would be helpful to their home country. Upon completing their degrees, the students returned to Cambodia. The program was stopped in the mid-1960s when diplomatic relations ended. But not all students returned home; some ended up staying in the United States. Beginning in 1975, Cambodians arrived in the U.S. as refugees, fleeing the devastating “killing fields,” a campaign of terror and genocide that lasted from 1975-1979. Nearly 2 million Cambodian people died from starvation, exhaustion, disease, or execution at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. During that time, civil rights, politics, and private property were abolished in Cambodia. Schools and colleges were closed and used as army bases. Hospitals were demolished to rid the country of modern culture. Survivors of the genocide had experienced great trauma, which continued its effects long after their relocation to the U.S. A study of Cambodian refugees in Long Beach found that 90% of those surveyed had friends or family killed in the genocide.
The first wave of refugees in Long Beach were primarily elite members of the country’s armed forces, diplomats, and Cambodians who were outside of the country when the Khmer Rouge took over. When this first wave arrived at Camp Pendleton, they were visited by the former students who lived in Long Beach. These former students sponsored refugees to gain citizenship and helped them adjust to their new lives. This support system resulted in the formation of the Cambodian Association of America, a group that supported more refugees to come to Long Beach.
A second, larger wave of Cambodian refugee migration to Long Beach occurred in the 1980s, mostly composed of farmers from small villages with little formal education. Long Beach was affordable, with inexpensive property and an established Cambodian community, providing refugees with opportunities to start their own businesses and establish the cultural institutions that continue today.
The Cambodian community has been hit by poverty and its effects, but an investment in beautifying neighborhoods, expanding access to education, and facilitating economic mobility continues. In 2007, the Long Beach City Council approved the designation of “Cambodia Town” to a one-mile stretch of Anaheim Street between Atlantic and Junipero Avenues. The Cambodian community in Long Beach is focused on improving the social and economic development of residents, preserving Cambodian heritage and culture, and supporting the success of young Cambodian Americans. Festivities including the annual celebration of the Cambodian New Year help to celebrate Cambodian culture and share it with the larger Long Beach community.
Sunday, April 4, 2020: History of Little Tokyo
Following the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, barring Chinese laborers from settling in the U.S., American businesses looked to Japan. By the late nineteenth century, the number of Japanese laborers coming to the U.S. was growing. Most of these men headed for the west coast, including Los Angeles. The first known Japanese owned business in L.A., Kame Restaurant, opened in 1885 in the area now known as Little Tokyo. Since then Little Tokyo has been the commercial and cultural heart for Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans in Southern California.
By the 1890s, large numbers of mostly male Japanese immigrants were living in boarding houses in the areas around East First Street. They had initially come for short term stays, but many decided to remain. Two significant but very different events in the early 20th century directly impacted the Japanese community in Los Angeles. First was the San Francisco earthquake in 1906, which sparked the relocation of thousands of Japanese residents to Los Angeles. And in 1907, an informal “Gentlemen’s Agreement” between the US and Japan was a reaction to intensely growing anti-Japanese sentiment in the greater population. This Agreement, brokered by President Theodore Roosevelt, saw the government of Japan agree to not issue passports to Japanese immigrating to the U.S., with some exceptions. Family migration continued and the U.S. agreed to allow Japanese children to attend school with white students. Soon L.A. County had the largest and fastest growing Japanese community the United States.
Little Tokyo was thriving. But suddenly everything changed. The bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japan in 1941 brought Little Tokyo’s prosperity to an end. Fear and hysteria resulted in Executive Order 9066, signed by President Franklin Roosevelt, which ordered over 120,000 Japanese Americans and residents of Japanese descent to be evacuated and incarcerated in relocation centers across the country. People were forced to abandon their homes and businesses. They experienced indescribable financial and emotional hardship. Little Tokyo was abandoned. Thousands of African Americans then came to L.A. as laborers and found residence in the neighborhood which then became known as Bronzeville: a flourishing community with nearly 80,000 residents.
When the war ended, industries shut down their wartime operations. Residents of Bronzeville left to find jobs in other parts of the country. Japanese business owners and residents returned to Little Tokyo to reestablish their community. Many of the returning Japanese bought out the Bronzeville business leases. The Common Ground Committee was formed to foster better interracial relations. Many Japanese business owners hired African Americans and remaining Bronzeville businesses hired Japanese Americans. Eventually the central commercial core of Little Tokyo was revived, but many of the returning residents decided to live in outlying areas around Los Angeles. Only one-third of the original residents returned to Little Tokyo.
The revival of the neighborhood happened in the 1970s and 1980s. Japanese businesses wanted revitalization of Little Tokyo as Japanese corporations expanded into the U.S. and established headquarters in Los Angeles. In 1992, the Japanese American National Museum opened, helping to anchor the historic commercial district. Today the neighborhood is once again thriving. In the commercial heart of Little Tokyo, two blocks of the original pre-World War II commercial buildings are preserved as part of the Little Tokyo Historic District National Historic Landmark.
Sunday, March 28, 2020: History of Chinatown in Los Angeles
The gold rush brought many people to California, including Chinese prospectors from Guangzhou Province. Beginning in the 1860s, Chinese immigrants settled to the east of the old City Plaza in Los Angeles. This was one of only a few places in the city where Chinese were permitted to live unless they were servants in the homes of white families. Laws including the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 prevented any substantial growth or integration for decades. Violence against Chinese throughout the United States led to massacres and the forced removal of Chinese residents from their homes. And yet through the restrictive legislation born from economic inequality and racism, Los Angeles’s Chinese community found a way to thrive.
From 1890 until 1910, the population grew to over 3,000 people. The neighborhood had its own newspaper, a theater, and temples. Family and district associations were established. But the land was valuable and in 1933, the demolition of Old Chinatown began.The new railroad terminal, Union Station, was built on the land. Much of Old Chinatown was leveled at this time. Innovative and business savvy residents purchased land nearby and created the New Chinatown in 1938; this is the neighborhood that still stands today. The people and organizations behind the development of the new Chinatown found a way to embrace the old and create space for the Chinese community while bringing in people from all over the city to see, enjoy, and support Chinese businesses. Iconic buildings such as the Golden Pagoda and the landmark East Gate were built during this time.
In the 1960s through the early 1980s, new immigrants from Hong Kong and Vietnam transformed the cultural landscape of L.A.’s Chinatown. More changes came in the 1990s and 2000s as art galleries moved into the Chung King Road area. The Metro Gold Line and new buildings have brought about more pronounced changes that leave many wondering about how this historically significant neighborhood will stay connected to its past.