Ai Means Love


Activists protest evictions from the Sun Building and Sun Hotel in Little Tokyo, which were demolished to make way for Weller Court and the New Otani Hotel.


By MIYA IWATAKI

A program highlighting JACS-Asian Involvement (AI) and the cultural explosion it brought to Little Tokyo and the Asian American community in the 1960s-’70s will be presented Saturday, Sept. 9, beginning 11 a.m. at the Japanese American National Museum. Asian Movement panels, performances, archival photographs and Shonien Powerpoint will be featured.

Japanese Americans and Asian Americans put their own unique signature on these turbulent decades by speaking out on key issues and building services to address the basic needs of those with no voice in our community. “Serve the People” programs created services for and exposed issues that the JA community did not speak openly about.

The deadly drug epidemic taking lives of Sansei, neglected Issei in need of healthcare and basic services, and other issues were finally brought out in the open with programs run by those being helped, with a philosophy of “Self-Reliance, Self Determination and Human Need over Monetary Greed.” There was no federal funding in those days. These Serve the People programs would shape and lay the foundation for the API social and human service programs of today.

JACS-AI burst on the scene in 1971, working with the two most neglected segments of our community, the Issei living in Little Tokyo hotels and Asian American Hardcore (AAHC), an organization of ex-addicts and ex-felons.

“Helping the Issei was helping ourselves giving back and getting back into the community. We were making social change by building a community that took care of each other,” says Richard Toguchi, founding member of AAHC, who will be on a panel.

Most social service programs today can trace their roots back to the JACS-AI Serve the People programs. For example, AAHC led to Asian Joint Communications, organized by AAHC member Tommy Chung to promote correspondence between brothers and sisters doing time in prison, and to inform them of community prog