Los Angeles, CA 90008
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Today, the Crenshaw district of South Los Angeles is known as a predominantly Black neighborhood, while Japanese Americans are most commonly associated with Little Tokyo, Sawtelle, Torrance and Gardena. But after World War II, Crenshaw had the largest concentration of Japanese Americans in the continental United States. People who lived in the neighborhood during the middle of the 20th century often talk about its diversity = public school photographs from that time show classes of Black, Asian, Latinx and white students all posing together, with teachers of multiple races as well.
This diversity was made possible by a 1948 Supreme Court ruling that prohibited the enforcement of racially restrictive housing covenants. Japanese Americans began to move into the previously white area, along with Black and Mexican American families. By the 1970s, many Japanese Americans had left for suburbs further south, but traces of the community's history still remain in Crenshaw and Leimert Park. There's the Seinan Senior Citizens Center, the Japanese American Community Credit Union and watch and jewelry repairman James T. Nojima, who works out of Crenshaw Square.
Some Japanese Americans also continue to live in the neighborhood - like Athena Mari Asklipiadis, whose family has lived in South L.A. since the 1920s. She writes about local businesses for Japanese American community publication Pacific Citizen. 'It is and always will be home,' she says. 'Although there has been gentrification that has changed the culture and landscape, I still feel the comfort of familiar faces and places… I love the people and diversity here. I miss the uniquely Japanese American things that have faded away, but I have come to love the existing cultures (Black and Latino) who make this place home - they are just as comfortable and just as a part of my identity.'
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