A Rafu Shimpo obituary of renowned scholar and author Lane Ryo Hirabayashi included a tribute from Urban Planning Professor Karen Umemoto. Hirabayashi, professor emeritus of Asian American Studies at UCLA, died Aug. 8 at age 67. “We will sorely miss Lane Hirabayashi, a beloved teacher, mentor and friend,” said Umemoto, director of UCLA’s Asian American Studies Center. “He left us a priceless gift in his lifetime of scholarly research and writings on Japanese American history, and World War II incarceration history in particular.” Hirabayashi authored over 30 scholarly articles, taught courses on the Japanese American experience and Asian American studies, and worked with many community-based organizations. “His work advanced the field of Japanese American studies and also community-driven public history,” Umemoto said. “We are humbled by his selfless contributions to the community as well as to the generations of students and colleagues who were transformed by his wisdom and generosity.”
KABC7 and FOX11 covered a forum featuring several UCLA Luskin scholars who weighed in on the impending threat of eviction and homelessness facing many Angelenos. Calling the tenants rights crisis “The Next Disaster Under COVID-19,” the forum brought together Paul Ong of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, Ananya Roy of the Institute on Inequality and Democracy, Gary Blasi of UCLA Law and moderator Karen Umemoto of UCLA’s Asian American Studies Center, along with several housing justice advocates. The news segment focused on the latest UCLA Luskin research identifying the region’s most vulnerable neighborhoods and outlining steps public officials can take to protect Angelenos at risk of losing their homes. Recommended policies include rent subsidies and the conversion of hotel and motel rooms, which have remained vacant during the pandemic, into housing. The research has also been shared by the Daily Journal, World Journal, LAist and NextCity, among other outlets.
With the eviction moratorium set to be lifted on September 30, 2020, about 365,000 renter households in Los Angeles County are in imminent danger of eviction and homelessness according to a recent study from the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy.
Please join us for a virtual public forum with housing justice researchers and community organizers to discuss the tenants’ rights crisis and what can be done to mitigate the damage to Angelenos through enforceable rights and robust protections.
The event will feature research findings from these 3 reports:
This report projects a surge in evictions and homelessness that will follow the lifting of COVID-19 emergency orders.
This report lays out a comprehensive framework for the conversion of hospitality properties into housing through the large-scale public acquisition of tourist hotels and motels.
This study provides information to public agencies and community organizations to help them better identify neighborhoods with a high concentration of vulnerable renters, to understand the neighborhoods’ socioeconomic and demographic characteristics, and to design outreach programs that address the specific challenges in each place.
Gary Blasi, UCLA Law School
Ananya Roy, UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality & Democracy
Paul Ong, UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge
Jane Nguyen, Ktown for All
Jason Li & Alejandro Cortez, Chinatown Community for Equitable Development
Moderator: Karen Umemoto, UCLA Asian American Studies Center
In an Ed Scoop article, Karen Umemoto, urban planning professor and director of the Asian American Studies Center at UCLA, discussed the importance of translating public health information and recommendations into several languages. UCLA has launched a website with health and safety recommendations related to the COVID-19 pandemic translated into more than 40 languages. The website will help inform the many communities that lack access to official news, public health information and safety recommendations in a language other than English, Umemoto said. According to U.S. Census data, more than 50% of people in the Greater Los Angeles area do not speak English at home. “Los Angeles is home to a critical mass of many non-English-speaking communities, including Asian and Pacific Islander,” Umemoto said. During a pandemic, households representing racial minorities often face a disproportionate burden of illness and death.
“Mountain Movers: Student Activism & the Emergence of Asian American Studies,” a book co-edited by Urban Planning Professor Karen Umemoto, was awarded a bronze medal in the 2020 Independent Publisher Book Awards for “Best Regional Nonfiction” in the West-Pacific region. Umemoto was one of six editors on the team that put together “Mountain Movers,” which chronicles the legacy of student activism at UCLA, UC Berkeley and San Francisco State. Published last year to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Asian American Studies programs that were established on all three campuses in 1969, the book profiles students who mobilized peers and community members to further the study of Asian American communities on their campuses. The “IPPY” Awards, launched in 1996 by Jenkins Group and IndependentPublisher.com, are designed to increase recognition of deserving but often unsung titles by independent authors and publishers. Established as the first awards program open exclusively to independent, university and self-published titles, over 5,500 “IPPYs” have been awarded in the last 24 years to authors and publishers around the world, recognizing excellence in a broad range of styles and subjects.
The Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) has honored Urban Planning Professor Karen Umemoto as the winner of the 2019 Marcia Feld Award for Outstanding Leadership. At the group’s annual conference, held Oct. 24-27 in Greenville, South Carolina, the ACSP honored faculty and students who have distinguished themselves or made major contributions to the planning profession. Every other year, the Marcia Feld Award recognizes a Faculty Women’s Interest Group colleague for outstanding leadership within the ACSP organization. “Quietly, with great talent and courage, [Umemoto] made an indelible mark on the organization and its ability to respond to the challenge of diversity,” said the awards committee, which described her as a “beacon of integrity and solidarity and an agent of positive change.” Although Umemoto was unable to attend the conference, she expressed her gratitude for the award and commented, “Each generation lifts up the next, and I’m very grateful to so many people who have helped me both professionally and personally.” Umemoto said she hopes that the award elevates the importance of research on diversity. A recent UCLA Luskin graduate was also recognized at the conference. Esteban Doyle MURP ’19 received the 2019 Ed McClure Award for Best Master Student Paper, which recognizes superior scholarship in a paper prepared by a master student in an ACSP member school. Doyle’s paper, “The Unequal Dangers of Walking to School,” presented a quantitative analysis of child pedestrian and bicycle crashes in Los Angeles and related their occurrence to neighborhood and built environment characteristics.
By Mary Braswell
Four women who have strived to bring more authentic portrayals of Asian Americans onto the screen and stage shared stories of risk-taking, perseverance and the importance of mentorship at the opening event of this year’s UCLA Meyer and Renee Luskin Lecture Series.
The pioneers from diverse parts of the arts and media landscape came together for “Dawn of a New Day,” a conversation at the Japanese American National Museum in downtown Los Angeles on Oct. 17.
“Tonight we hear from Asian American women who have risen to shape the narrative rather than be dictated by the gaze of others,” said Karen Umemoto, professor of urban planning and director of the Asian American Studies Center at UCLA, one of the event’s co-sponsors.
The audience heard from Grace Lee, director of documentaries and feature films; writer, actor and satirist Fawzia Mirza; Tess Paras, who blends acting, music, comedy and producing; and comedian and performance artist Kristina Wong.
“One of the reasons I got into storytelling and filmmaking in the first place is that I wanted to tell the story that I wanted see,” said Lee, who co-founded the Asian American Documentary Network to share resources and lift up emerging artists. “I just didn’t see a lot of films or stories out there about Asian Americans, women, people of color.”
Lee says she makes a point of hiring diverse film crews and interns to “develop that pipeline so that they can see models just like I had when I was first making films.”
“It’s living your own values,” she said. “It’s really important for us to question, ‘Who gets to tell this story? We get to tell this story.’ ”
Mirza took an unconventional path into the creative arts. She was in law school when she realized she’d rather be an actor. She finished her degree and worked as a litigator to pay off student loans but realized that “art, for me, is a way of figuring out who I am.”
“Talking about my queer, Muslim, South Asian identity through art is a way for me to survive,” she said, but cautioned, “Just by virtue of claiming your identity, sometimes you’re not trying to be political but you are politicized.”
Paras spoke of the one-dimensional acting roles — like the “white girl’s nerdy friend” — that are often available to Asian American women. After a YouTube video she created to satirize such typecasting went viral, she realized, “Oh, this is what happens when you take a big risk and tell your story.”
There is a hunger for honest portrayals of diverse communities, Paras said, a lesson she learned through a crowdfunding campaign for her film about a young Filipina American who struggles to talk to her family about a sexual assault.
“Folks came out of the woodwork because I was creating something that had not to my knowledge really been told,” Paras said. “There were a bunch of young Filipino women who were like, here’s 15 dollars, here’s 25, here’s 40, because I have never seen a story about this.”
Three of the four panelists — Lee, Paras and Wong — are alumnae of UCLA, as is moderator Ada Tseng, entertainment editor for TimesOC.
“I was convinced that the rest of the world looked like UCLA, … a world where everyone is super-political and talks all the time about politics and identity,” said Wong, whose senior project for her world arts and culture major was a fake mail-order-bride site that skewered stereotypes of Asian women.
“So much of the path I’m on felt quite normal because there were other Asian American queer and non-binary folks who were creating solo work,” Wong said. Not until she left California to go on tour did she find how misunderstood her edgy humor could be.
The event was also the closing program for the multimedia exhibit “At First Light,” organized by the Japanese American National Museum and Visual Communications, a nonprofit media arts group. The UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs co-sponsored the lecture, along with the UCLA Asian American Studies Center and its Center for Ethno Communications and the Asian American Studies Department at UCLA.
“The panel tonight is a testament to how far we’ve come, though we all know there’s still so much further to go,” said Umemoto, noting that UCLA’s Asian American studies and urban planning programs are marking 50-year anniversaries this year.
Also celebrating a milestone is the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, which just turned 25, Dean Gary Segura told the crowd. The Luskin Lectures are a key part of the School’s mission to hold a “dialogue with the people of Los Angeles and California on issues of public concern,” Segura said.
View additional photos from the Luskin Lecture on Flickr.
Urban Planning Professor Karen Umemoto was one of six editors on the team that put together “Mountain Movers: Student Activism and the Emergence of Asian American Studies,” a book about the legacy of student activism at UCLA, UC Berkeley and San Francisco State. “Mountain Movers” profiles students who mobilized peers and community members to further the study of Asian American communities on their campuses. The joint publication commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Asian American Studies programs that were established on all three campuses in 1969. Three of the nine activists profiled in the book are UCLA alumni. Preeti Sharma, who came to UCLA in 2006 to earn a master’s in Asian American studies, became involved in community organizations in the area, including Khmer Girls in Action and Chinatown Community for Equitable Development. After migrating to Los Angeles from the Philippines, Casimiro Tolentino became involved in the Asian American movement at UCLA while earning bachelor’s and law degrees in the 1960s and ’70s. He went on to serve as an attorney for the Asian Pacific Legal Center, among other roles. After joining the movement during the ’60s, Amy Uyematsu joined the staff of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center, where she worked as a researcher, publications coordinator and instructor. The center, now directed by Umemoto, celebrated the 50th anniversary of Asian American Studies at UCLA with a book launch in May. “Mountain Movers” reflects the social transformation of ethnic study in higher education as a result of the efforts of student activist groups. — Zoe Day
Urban Planning Professor Karen Umemoto spoke to the Chicago Tribune about third- and fourth-generation Japanese Americans’ resurgent interest in the internment of their ancestors during World War II. Umemoto went on her own pilgrimage to what remains of Manzanar, the camp where her father was held. “Any Japanese American who saw and understands what our parents and grandparents went through is left with a feeling that they don’t want to see anyone else go through that experience,” said Umemoto, director of the Asian American Studies Center at UCLA. “So when there is talk of Muslim bans, deportations based on race or ethnicity, or just the overall racial hatred being sown against immigrants … well, we know what terrible things that can lead to.” Umemoto said her visit made her father’s experience more real. “You feel how it might have been for the families who were put behind barbed wire with armed guards, not knowing when they could leave or what would happen to them,” she said.