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What You Need To Know Today: Exploring Little Tokyo, the ‘Mandela’ Act, Messaging Around Hispanic Heritage Month

Man in white shirt and a medical mask leans on the counter of a shop
Brian Kito, the third-generation owner of Fugetsu-Do, leans on the counter in his mochi shop. It's one of the stops on the How to LA tour podcast tour of Little Tokyo.
(Josie Huang/LAist)
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Today in How to LA: Discover the past and present of Little Tokyo; plus Governor Gavin Newsom signs and vetoes bills with only four more days left to get through the legislation on his desk

We love the neighborhoods that make up this city so, today, we are going to take a casual cruise through Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles. Why? We asked you to tell us what areas of L.A. we should profile and Little Tokyo was one of the first tips we got.

There’s also good food, culture and community. It is home to the oldest Asian American theater company as well as the oldest media arts organization for the Asian American community. It’s an area rich with a unique history that not only includes Japanese Americans, but other ethnicities as well.

In today’s How to LA podcast episode, host Brian De Los Santos explores the streets of Little Tokyo with a few folks who represent the area well. One of the people he talked to was Grant Sunoo, the director of community engagement at the Little Tokyo Service Center.

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One thing I learned from Brian’s conversation with Sunoo is that right around the time people with Japanese ancestry were being incarcerated during World War II, African Americans moved to the area from the south in search of a better quality of life. During The Second Great Migration, Black people saw a land of opportunity in what had become a ghost town. For a short period of time, the neighborhood became known as Bronzeville, an area that had breakfast clubs like Shepp’s Playhouse and The Finale Club.

“We think about Little Tokyo as primarily a Japanese American neighborhood, but it’s a lot more than that,” Sunoo says. “It’s a much more layered neighborhood ethnically. It’s a sacred place for people who are Tongva, people who are Japanese, people who are Black, people who are Latinx and other Asian American identities.”

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I don’t want to give too much about this super cool podcast episode with Brian De Los Santos, so listen to the rest of it here. If you want us to visit YOUR neighborhood next, tell us what makes it special. 

As always, stay happy and healthy, folks. There’s more news below — just keep reading.

The News You Need After You Stop Hitting Snooze

*At LAist we will always bring you the news freely, but occasionally we do include links to other publications that may be behind a paywall. Thank you for understanding! 

  • The “California Mandela Act'' would limit statewide solitary confinement to 15 consecutive days and no more than 45 of 180 days in a year. It is currently awaiting the signature of Gov. Gavin Newsom.
  • Governor Newsom signedtwo bills that will officially make it harder to steal and sell catalytic converters. There’s been an increase in catalytic converter thefts so Senate Bill 1087 and Assembly Bill 1740 will now require they be sold by authorized parties. (Los Angeles Times)
  • But the Governor vetoed a bill that would make kindergarten mandatory, citing the cost.
  • University of California schools are suffering from a housing shortage, forcing students to find other options, including taking out additional loans. Here is one student’s account of their current living situation. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Are we ready for a “twindemic''? Experts are anticipating a surge of the flu during the winter here in the United States, referencing the Southern Hemisphere’s recent winter as “one of the worst flu seasons in recent years.”
  • Last week, President Biden created quite a stir when he stated the pandemic was “over.” Infectious-disease experts are, instead, saying that COVID-19 is under control
  • ICYMI watch the moment the NASA spacecraft hits an asteroid in a defense test.

Wait! One More Thing...Getting Hispanic Heritage Month Messaging Right

A man in a colorful sombrero stands next to a woman in a crowd holding a sign that says "Inmigrante"
Mexican Independence Day is one September 16, the start of National Hispanic Heritage Month. This image is from a celebration in L.A. in 2019.
(Mario Tama/Getty Images
Getty Images North America)
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As you know, we are right in the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month. One thing I definitely try to do this time of year is seek out articles, events, literature… basically anything I can find that’s written about the culture. One of the best tweet threads I’ve seen about how to approach Hispanic Heritage Month came from Dani Fernandez, a Chicana actress and writer. Even though she tweeted mostly about the TV and film world, I think her thread is relevant in a lot of fields.

This brings me to marketing and advertising. Some businesses have been just outright cringeworthy when it comes to how they market to the Latino audiences. For example, NPR points out a few blunders by DC Comics with superheroes eating tamales and tacos. The National Football League posted a tweetwith a tilde over the “N” in NFL stating “the shield integrates an unmistakable Latin flavor.” Meanwhile, the league only has two Latino head coaches and eight Latino players out of 1,657.

But not all hope is lost. There have been some companies that have got the messaging right. Check them out in this NPR article

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