EPISODE 16 – JAPANESE AMERICANS ON THE EAST SIDE OF L.A.

In our sixteenth episode, we discuss Japanese American history in Boyle Heights, Roosevelt High school, the Metro Gold Line’s impact on communities in the area, and much more with Victoria Kraus, of the Los Feliz Neighborhood Council. A can’t-miss session for listeners.

J.T.

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Julieta Galan: Memories of our reality

State street park, a comfort zone on the street to me.

I’d go there to play on the swings,

I’d feel the breeze passing through my untamed frizzy hair,

Through leaves of the trees and the rattling grass,

Balancing the warmth of the sun enough to be able to withstand the sun a little while longer.

There are times that the sun gives streaks of golden sunlight on the grass,

The grass that has just been showered with water.

And if you listen closely it’s almost as if mother nature is trying to communicate with you.

This is the park where the recreation center instructor taught me how to play the guitar,

Where I first stepped foot on a stage to perform “Yellow Submarine” by The Beatles in cold December.

The first terrifying moment of my childhood,

My heart was pounding and my hands were sweating,

I felt as if I was a contestant on American Idol,

It was only that the recreation center was encouraging me to practice the confidence I carry within me.

Seven years later when I visit this park it’s only a reminder of how I used to feel towards it.

Returning to it now, I see the saddening truth of it all.

There is a fence dividing the park and the street that gets smashed into the basketball court,

Threatening the lives of the youngsters playing in the court.

Young drunk girls peeing on the grass,

The gang that once used to run the park are all cracked out, not going anywhere with their lives,

Fools only looking for trouble asking the kids “what street they claim.”

In a house across the street the dealers sell drugs to anyone who needs a fix.

The police continuously make rounds around the park day and night staring down anyone who looks suspicious.

I can only reminisce about how I felt,

It’s a different life at State street park when you’re all grown up.

In the first half of the 20th century Boyle heights had a diversity of Japanese, Latinos, and Jewish people, but because of racist banks the Jewish were run out. They couldn’t borrow money or buy houses even after Bill Phillips helped in the process of bringing all these people together. The banks didn’t want to lend the Jewish people money or decide to reconstruct their homes, forcing them to move out. Economics and racism are pretty much still the same thing in Boyle Heights.

J.G.

Julieta Galan is a Boyle Heights native and resident of Los Angeles.

Jeremy Tong: A Remembrance for Demetrio Zuniga Farias, Mayor of Breed Street

On December 2nd, 2019, a small, working class community in Boyle Heights experienced a sorrowful loss when Demetrio Zuniga Farias passed away at his home on Breed Street. He was 85 years old.

Born in 1934, Don Farias made Los Angeles his permanent home in the mid-1960s. In his long tenure in the city, Don Farias was an active member of his community who was constantly providing a lending hand. In 1987, he even earned recognition from the City of Los Angeles and Governor Jerry Brown for his commitment to the public good.

When Don Farias opened and managed his own mini-market in Boyle Heights, he showed much compassion for the community, at times helping families and single mothers in need with items such as milk, tortillas, and more at his expense.

Outside of Boyle Heights, Don Farias also traveled all over Europe, loved baseball, boxing, and Mariachi music. In fact, during the 1980s, he was actually associated with the Dodgers, working with the Spanish translation group for the prized blue franchise. Don Farias also had a network in the world of boxing and counted legends such as Julio Cesar Chavez and Don King among people he knew.

Don Farias was no ordinary man. He knew how to live life to the fullest at the same time that he counted his blessings. This led many members of the community to frequently gather at his home on Breed Street, making him constantly surrounded by people who had nothing but endearment for him. Breed Street was the heart of Don Faria’s pueblo, making him to locals the “Mayor of Breed Street.”

Although this great and honorable man is no longer with us physically, Don Farias’s legacy will always be the soul of Breed Street and a gem in our hearts.

J.T.

About the author: Jeremy Tong is a resident of Boyle Heights on the east side of Los Angeles and an avid supporter of grassroots movements in the community.