27 Nov Budokan Friendship Garden Dedicated to LTSC Co-Founder Evelyn Yoshimura
By Chris Aihara
Family and friends of longtime community activist Evelyn Yoshimura gathered on Sunday, November 5, 2023 to celebrate the dedication of the Evelyn Yoshimura Friendship Garden at Terasaki Budokan.
In 1980, Yoshimura was one of three original staff members of Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC). During her nearly 40-year tenure at LTSC, Evelyn focused on organizing and amplifying the voices of Little Tokyo’s seniors, low-income residents, and small businesses. She fought to ensure that the community’s voices were heard above gentrifying forces, and that all stakeholders had a seat at the table in shaping Little Tokyo’s future. One of the many community projects she advocated for was a recreation center for Little Tokyo, which was realized in 2021 with the opening of Terasaki Budokan. Her efforts are now permanently recognized at the Budokan facility, with a garden in her name.
At the reception, LTSC’s Founding Executive Director Bill Watanabe recalled the beginnings of LTSC, fondly referring to Evelyn as ‘Ev’:
I remember the three of us–Yasuko Sakamoto, Ev and myself–meeting at Ev and Bruce’s house to come up with the core values we wanted to guide the work of LTSC: treat everyone with respect, no matter who they are or what they look like; provide competent and compassionate care; build LTSC and its reputation as a solid organization; and work as a team, not restricted by our job titles or roles to cover for each other whenever possible.
LTSC’s core values are reflected in the deep work and many projects Evelyn Yoshimura took on throughout her career, along with her personal attributes of intelligence, empathy and a sense of humor.
While Evelyn’s lifelong commitment to social justice and empowering people and communities often included LTSC and Terasaki Budokan, her impact also reached neighboring communities and even global movements. At the reception, many friends and colleagues in attendance had worked alongside Evelyn over the years in numerous projects and organizations, like the Asian American journal Gidra, the Asian American Studies Department at CSULB, the U.S. Anti-Apartheid Movement, Little Tokyo People’s Rights Organization, National Coalition for Redress & Reparations, and Little Tokyo Community Council.
In closing, Watanabe remarked upon Evelyn’s permanent recognition at Terasaki Budokan:
It is appropriate to dedicate a Friendship Garden in honor of Evelyn because a garden represents life and growth and nurturing, which is what Evelyn is all about. However, there is a flip side to this–if you were a college administrator opposing the establishment of ethnic studies, then Evelyn was NOT your friend. If you were the South African government opposing anti-Apartheid efforts, then Evelyn was NOT your friend…If you were a big corporate developer pushing out the little guys in Little Tokyo, then Evelyn was NOT your friend. But if you were part of the community or someone who needs help for a better quality of life, then Evelyn would be exactly the friend you need.
Photo credit: Jon Endow