Making Hoop Dreams Come True...
Act Today

by Jenni "Emiko" Kuida

One of the greatest things the Issei did for their children and grandchildren, was build for the future. They had the foresight to start tanomoshis, build churches, community centers, sports leagues and Japanese American community organizations.

For about 30 years, the idea of having a sports and recreational facility in Little Tokyo, has been a dream that the community has been trying to fulfill. During that time, a generation of Sansei and Yonsei kids have been born and raised, and yet the gymnasium is still in the planning stages.

Based on input from the community, the concept of a basketball, volleyball and martial arts gym in Little Tokyo has grown, and includes a senior lunch program, taiko, music, dance, performance workshops, and possibly, affordable housing and office space.

The facility will serve Japanese Americans, as well as other multiethnic youth and adults who live and work in Little Tokyo. It will bring families back to J-Town, and help revitalize the area.

But this hoop dream needs help to be achieved. While the community has raised $1.2 million for this project, more money is needed. Proposition 12 (park bonds) co-author Speaker Emeritus Villaraigosa requested a $6.7 million appropriation of Prop. 12 funds for the Little Tokyo Sports Center at the beginning of the budget process.

Currently the 2000-2001 California Senate version of the state budget includes a line item for $1 million for the Little Tokyo Sports Center from general funds. The next few weeks are going to be crucial in obtaining funding from the California state budget in order to help make the Sports Center a reality. While not listed in their budget, the Assembly is still requesting that the original $6.7 million from Prop. 12 funds be included in the final version of the budget.

Over the next two weeks, members of the State Senate and State Assembly will meet to decide whether or not the gym remains in the 2000-2001 budget. Like with the struggle for redress and reparations, we all need to join together and make the state legislature hear our voices. By the end of June, the budget will go to Governor Davis for his approval.

So there’s no time to waste. It’s Lakers vs. Pacers, and the 24-second shot clock is running. If we don’t shoot the ball now, we’re going to lose possession of the ball (and $6.7 million). To make this happen, the Little Tokyo Service Center Community Development Corporation (LTSC CDC) and the Little Tokyo Gymnasium Board are coordinating an emergency letter writing campaign.

How you can help today

This week, we are urging folks to write letters to members of the State Senate and Assembly to vote to include the Little Tokyo Sports Center in this year’s budget. Letters, such as the sample form letter below, should be signed and sent to LTSC CDC, 231 E. Third Street, G106, Los Angeles, CA 90013. LTSC will copy and forward the letters.

Or, you can send e-mails to the following (if you do, send a blind cc to):

Other ways to get involved

1. Join the campaign as a supporter, which puts you on a list of people to be kept updated on the progress of the Little Tokyo Sports Center.

2. Help us with outreach. Set up a presentation with athletic, church/temple, community/campus groups that you’re involved with. Tell your friends and family, and ask them to support the campaign.

3. Volunteer to help strategize with the political process, outreach, PR, and/or event planning. You can also help with web design, work on a video, set up a database of supporters, do mailings, etc.

4. Attend Gym Coalition meetings on the fourth Saturday of every month. The next meeting is on June 24th at 9 am at Centenary Church in Little Tokyo.

One of the greatest things that we can do for Little Tokyo and for our children is to build for the future, just like our Issei grandparents did for us. Let’s not wait while another generation of kids passes us by. Together, we worked to win redress, surely we can do this!

If you have questions about the letter writing campaign or about the Little Tokyo Sports Center, call 213/473-1687.

Jenni Emiko Kuida is co-author of the original "101 Ways to Tell You're Japanese American." She is a member of the Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress (NCRR) and a volunteer for the Little Tokyo Sports Center Campaign Coalition.

Originally published in The Rafu Shimpo, June 7, 2000

Updated: 11/10/02

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