Expanding on the Miné Okubo Collection, history and the arts, and social justice in the Inland Empire…

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Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month at the Center with CHICANO ROCK! on 9/4

Take a trip down Whittier Boulevard with the Center for Social Justice & Civil Liberties, which presents Jon Wilkman’s 2008 documentary Chicano Rock!: The Sounds of East Los Angeles on Thursday, September 4th as part of its Artswalk film series. The sixty-minute film will be screened at 6:00pm and again at 7:45pm in the Center’s media vault. This event is free and open to the public. The Artswalk film series continues on October 2nd with Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin and on Thursday, November 6 with Hidden Legacy: Japanese Traditional Performing Arts in the WWII Internment Camps (Inland Empire Premiere).

Chicano Rock! explores over 60 years of music and social change created by generations of young Mexican Americans in East Los Angeles. Featuring rare film, photos and songs from artists such as Ritchie Valens, Cannibal and the Headhunters, El Chicano, Los Lobos and more, the film captures the boundless creativity and struggle for social justice of the Mexican American youth culture.

Rock and roll music is an exuberant, sometimes plaintive expression of the struggle to assert individual identity that crosses traditional social boundaries. In post-WWII America, young people found revitalization in the “wild” music. A culture of rebellion, independence, freedom and cross-cultural exchange emerged. African American rhythm and blues converged with jazz, swing, country, gospel and folk: musicians covered, rewrote and repurposed beats, lyrics, and rhythms to forge something new out of the old.

In Southern California, young Mexican Americans made distinctive rock and roll music, incorporating brass instruments, Latin rhythms, and English vocals. Their sound was characterized by a musical interchange with African American communities in Los Angeles. From layered roots arose an expression of cultural identity that reflected the struggles they faced as individuals in a multicultural nation rife with segregation and ignorance.

From the 1930s on, East L.A. has been a center of Mexican American art and politics, and music is at the heart of its cross-cultural dialog. Through their art, the Latino musicians on the Eastside scene protested bigotry and defied cultural stereotypes. Today, the music serves as a reminder of the power of expression in the face of injustice and the importance of cultural syncretism in the United States.

This post was written by Center volunteer Danielle Kuffler.

Whittier Boulevard


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Center to Screen “Cats of Mirikitani” for 8/7 Artswalk


The Center for Social Justice & Civil Liberties presents Linda Hattendorf’’s award-winning 2006 documentary The Cats of Mirikitani on Thursday August 7th as part of the downtown Riverside First Thursday Artswalk. The film will be screened at 6:00pm and again at 7:45pm in the Center’s media vault. This event is free and open to the public. The Artswalk film series continues on September 4th with Chicano Rock!: The Sounds of East Los Angeles and on October 2nd with Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin.

Born in Sacramento, California in 1920 and raised in Hiroshima, Japan, Jimmy Mirikitani is living on the streets making art in New York City when he meets filmmaker Linda Hattendorf in 2001. What begins as a portrait of a unique and spirited individual becomes a document of the parallels of life before and after two horrors of recent history: the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Together, Linda and Jimmy confront his traumatic past and attempt to understand the painful present through his art, resulting in an intimate exploration of the lingering wounds of war and the healing powers of art and friendship.

Jimmy’s drawings are indicative of the traumas he survived and the indomitable spirit that kept him going. In 1941, he was sent to the Tule Lake internment camp, where he renounced his American citizenship under duress and watched the decimation of Hiroshima from afar. His whimsical drawings of cats contrast sharply with bleak portraits of the Tule Lake camp and the burning city of Hiroshima. In his displays of art on the sidewalks of New York, Jimmy makes his personal history visible and invites a shared experience of expression.

The atomic bombings of Japan marked the beginning of the nuclear age, and the attacks of September 11 ushered in a period of anxiety in America. Jimmy’s motto remains relevant: “Make art, not war.” Our screening of this film coincides with the 69th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and offers the chance to explore a unique perspective of remembrance. Join us in a shared contemplation of individual experiences of the social injustices of war and art’s revelatory and healing power.

This post was written by volunteer Danielle Kuffler.