How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Growing up Nisei: The social clubs of Japanese-American girls

Nisei social clubs

Courtesy of Sumi Hughes

Members of Just Us Girls, a social club for Japanese-American girls, pose in Boyle Heights.

Nisei social club

Josie Huang/KPCC

Several members of Just Us Girls try to meet every couple months at the Pasadena home of fellow member Sumi Hughes, for dinner and poker night.

Nisei social club

Josie Huang/KPCC

Sumi Hughes, 81, was known as one of the group's best dancers.

Nisei social club

Josie Huang/KPCC

Teresa Montelongo of Monterey Park says her fellow J.U.G.'s comes naturally, even after long separations - like riding a bike, or swimming.

Nisei social club

Josie Huang/KPCC

Just Us Girls members Yuri Long (l.) of Inglewood serves apple pie brought by Sumiko Long of Reseda.

Nisei social club

Josie Huang/KPCC

Sumi Hughes keeps photos of fellow Just Us Girls members, some of whom have since died.

Nisei social clubs

Courtesy of Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga.

Dancing was a focus for social clubs, like Junior Misses of which Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga (third from left) was a member.

Nisei social club

Josie Huang/KPCC

Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga would like to have a reunion with fellow members of Junior Misses but says she's only able to locate a couple.

Nisei social club

Courtesy of the Atomettes

Social club the Atomettes of the West LA United Methodist Church helped to propel the tradition of bazaars.

Nisei social club

Josie Huang/KPCC

Rose Honda served as an advisor to the Atomettes, who are now working on writing a book about their history.

Nisei social club

Josie Huang/KPCC

UCLA historian Valerie Matsumoto gave a talk at the Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute on her book 'City Girls: The Nisei Social World in Los Angeles' which features Rose Honda.

As pompadoured teenagers, the members of the Japanese-American social club Just Us Girls seized on all the nightlife 1940's Los Angeles had to offer. 

They rode the streetcar to the Million Dollar Theater to see big bands. They danced into the night to Louis Armstrong. Sumi Hughes, then known as Sumi Fukushima, was particularly light-footed.

"I always had boyfriends who were good dancers," Hughes, 81, explained. "That was a prerequisite."

From the 1920's through the 1950s, Los Angeles abounded with hundreds of Japanese-American social clubs for second-generation or Nisei young people, especially girls. It was a social phenomenon that allowed the daughters of strict immigrant parents to explore their American identity.

"I’m sure parents thought it was one way to keep an eye on their daughters and know who their friends were," said UCLA historian Valerie Matsumoto, who wrote about these clubs in her book City Girls: The Nisei Social World in Los Angeles.


In immigration news: New detention center proposed, feds say no border ISIS threat, deportations slow, more

Female detainees stand at the fence in t


Female detainees stand at the fence in the exercise yard inside Homeland Security's Willacy Detention Center in Raymondville, Texas, May 10, 2007. Federal officials are proposing a new immigrant detention center in South Texas, one that would house families, in response to the recent Central American migrant crisis at the border. The government was sued over inhumane conditions at a different family detention center in Texas in 2007.

Federal officials propose Texas immigration lockup - Associated Press On a proposal to build a new immigrant detention center in South Texas that would house families. From the story: "Immigration and Customs Enforcement is proposing a residential center in the town of Dilley, about 70 miles southwest of San Antonio...The plan is being decried by advocacy groups, who point to the fraught history of a past Texas family immigration lockup." Federal officials were sued over conditions at the T. Don Hutto family detention center in 2007.

DHS Doesn't Think ISIS Is Plotting Attack Through U.S.-Mexico Border - Huffington Post Department of Homeland Security officials said during a Senate hearing Wednesday that there's no evidence of the Islamic State terrorist organization planning to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, as some reports have claimed. From the story: “'At present, DHS is unaware of any specific, credible threat to the U.S. homeland from ISIL,' DHS Undersecretary for Intelligence and Analysis Francis Taylor said, according to a transcript."


In immigration news: Deportations down, church sanctuaries, migrant influx at schools

American Wife Reunites With Deported Husband In Mexico

John Moore/Getty Images

U.S. citizen Lace Rodriguez reunites with her husband Javier Guerrero, who was deported home to Mexico.

Report: US Sharply Cutting Deportations - Associated Press This year is shaping up to have the fewest deportations since at least 2007.  The AP found that the Homeland Security Department removed under 259,000 between the 2013-2014 budget year, compared to about 320 people over the same period last year. That's a drop of nearly 20 percent. Over the course of the Obama administration, more than 2.1 million immigrants were sent home. Possible reason for the decline: the Obama administration switched its focus to deporting criminals, so others facing deportation are instead having their cases pend through immigration court. Also, the recent surge of migrants over the summer has led immigration officials to "release many people into the U.S. interior with instructions to report back to authorities later."


Coachella Valley High settles on new 'Mighty Arabs' mascot

Coachella Valley Mascot

The new face of the 'Mighty Arabs' (l.) replaces the retired 'Arab' mascot that triggered complaints by Arab-Americans.

Coachella Valley mascot

Coachella Valley High School

A physical education uniform available for $15 through Coachella Valley High School's web store shows "The Arab" mascot, which has become the center of a controversy over demeaning stereotypes.


Yager 91/Flickr Creative Commons

An image of the Coachella Valley Arab mascot.


Michele Sabatier/Flickr Creative Commons

A view of Coachella Valley High School in Thermal. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee say the image of the Arab mascot on a carpet with a woman is an example of "gross stereotyping."

Out with the sneering, hook-nosed 'Arab' mascot of old.

In with the new face of the "Mighty Arabs" — an ethnically ambiguous-looking man sporting a manicured beard and a kaffiyeh, the traditional Arab headscarf.

"The new mascot is a distinguished-looking Arab gentleman in historical dress," Superintendent Darryl Adams Coachella of the Valley Unified School District told KPCC. "It's a stoic figure but a very classy figure. It symbolizes pride and leadership for the football team, or just the school in general." 

The district's Board of Trustees on Tuesday approved the new mascot and name in a 5-0 vote.

The decision comes nearly a year after the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee protested the mascot in a Nov. 2013 letter, bringing national attention to an area best known for date farming and hosting the Coachella music festival.


Reports of anti-South Asian bias, violence higher in California

sikh temple

Courtesy SALDEF

The Riverside County Sheriff's Department is looking for whoever vandalized a Sikh temple in Riverside with the word 'terrorist.'

California trails only New York when it comes to the number of suspected hate crimes against South Asians, Muslims and Arabs, according to a new report from a civil rights group.

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) has tallied 76 reports of violence and harassment against members of these communities between 2011 and April 2014.

Thirteen of those reported incidents occurred in California — a surprise to executive director Suman Raghunathan given the state’s diverse make-up which includes one of the largest South Asian populations in the country.

She was also taken aback that some of the incidents took place in “long-standing South Asian communities such as Ontario, Fresno, Stockton, Hayward.”

They ranged from beating deaths to verbal threats and graffiti.

“It instills a profound sense of fear, lack of security and instability,” Raghunathan said.