Turkey Day ToM style: Food, Drink and Cultural Politics on Thanksgiving


So the last couple months haven’t been easy. International terrorism in Paris and Beirut along with the domestic variant in the U.S. (yes, shooting five people at a Black Lives Matter protest counts as does the slaughter of innocent church goers in Charleston, SC this summer to namely only two incidents), the first stages of a brutal (in nearly every way) 2016 election that promises to only get more debased, and well, Donald Trump. Be sure to throw in a depressing debate about Syrian refugees that seems like history is stuck in an endless hamster wheel of miserable repetition (see WWII and Jewish refugees and the Vietnamese in the late 1970s for two examples or you know the whole birth of … [Read more...]

From South Gate to L.A. Live: Demographic Change, Homeowner Ethos and Redevelopment in Southeastern Los Angeles


When Becky Nicolaides chairs or comments on a panel, people show up. The author of the now seminal My Blue Heaven: Life and Politics in the Working Class Suburbs of Los Angeles, 1920-1965 always draws a crowd. As her book has assumed a sort of Crabgrass Nation status, the suburb at the heart of it, South Gate, has become an ur-text for Southeast Los Angeles more broadly. Nicolaides ended her study in 1965 but in her epilogue noted that twenty-first-century South Gate now served as a predominantly working-class Latino American suburb, representative of larger structural shifts in economics, demographics, and perhaps even immigration (though commentator Philip Ethington might differ on this … [Read more...]

Beyond the Valley: Demography, Failed Secession and Urban Politics in San Fernando Valley

Map of proposed San Fernando Valley Secession | Image: LA Almanac/Valley VOTE

When one thinks of San Fernando Valley, visions of ranch home subdivisions, shopping malls, and valley girls bound about the mind. In the second episode of season three of Entourage, "A Day in the Valley", Vince and his idiot chorus get trapped in SFV during a debilitating heat wave that threatens to undermine the success of his big action feature "Aquaman." The tone of despair present in the crew's intonation of "the Valley" says it all. More recently, the Comedy Central series "Workaholics" depicted the travails of three white stoners devoid of ambition, but not bong hits. Does anyone even remember the dizzy, faux documentary stylings of the 1990s Showtime series "Sherman Oaks"? In … [Read more...]

Opening the Waves for Everyone: Surfing, Race, and Political Awareness


  In recent months the sight of NFL, NBA, and NCAA athletes donning t-shirts protesting the deaths of Ferguson’s Michael Brown, Staten Island’s Eric Garner and other black Americans by law enforcement officers has become commonplace, as have critical reactions to such symbolic acts. The St. Louis Police Department and the Rams’ now famous passive aggressive Twitter battle serves as only one example of the friction that arises when athletes voice a political position. Still, recent protests like those described here seem a far cry from the 1980s. Michael Jordan never did tell kids to stop shooting each other over his sneakers, and when pressed about his politics or rather the lack thereof, … [Read more...]

Surfing for Freedom: Black Surfers and Reclaiming Cultural History in Los Angeles


In 1991's surfing bromance "Point Break," former Big Ten quarterback and F.B.I. agent Johnny Utah infiltrates a notorious ring of "surfing bank robbers" led by the late great Patrick Swayze's Bodhi (short for Buddhavista of course). They play beach football, go night surfing, and eventually end their relationship in a confrontation on an Australian beach as 100 foot waves from a fifty year storm crash on the beach. "Point Break's" ridiculousness has long been acknowledged, from Keanu Reaves performance -- "I am an F.B.I. agent!" -- to Swayze's mix of extreme sports and white Eastern mysticism; yet the film, and others like it, also perpetuate a problematic vision of surfing and a form of … [Read more...]

East of East: Mapping Community Narratives at Mountain View H.S.


Hello Everyone on the Internet! In continuing our live-blog on History in Action, here is the second of our entries on “East of East: Mapping Community Narratives in El Monte & South El Monte”. Yesterday, we held our first event at Mountain View High School on the east side of El Monte California. I gave a talk and then a discussion with students studying journalism. Michael Weller teaches journalism, his students this year have been involved in a yearlong collaboration with KCET Departures. With the help of Ruby Fregoza, students from five different schools in El Monte and South El Monte have learned to become student-journalists and citizen activists. At Mountain View High School the … [Read more...]

“Taking Compton National”: Schools, Race, and Modern Suburbia in 20th and 21st Century California

1974 - Defender cites 6 of the new black mayors of '73

 “Our nation is moving toward two societies, One Black, One White – separate and unequal,” announced the 1968 Kerner Commission. In 1967, following riots that had erupted across urban America, President Lyndon B. Johnson enacted the commission, appointing former Illinois Governor Otto Kerner Jr as its chairman, to delineate the causes of American unrest; unsurprisingly, the report concluded that poverty, segregation, and lack of economic opportunities corroded urban minority neighborhoods while whites fled to middle and upper class suburban environs, taking income and businesses with them.Undoubtedly, the Kerner Commission correctly identified many of the systematic problems afflicting … [Read more...]

The American Military: Nineteen Histories about War, Society, and the U.S. Military’s Influence on the Nation


Even today, the category of military history still elicits a bit of head scratching. Our own John Southard noted as much in a 2012 essay for ToM: “Crayons, Fraternities, and Military History.” Southard pointed out that in the last throes of the twentieth century and the first decade of the new millennium, there existed among historians a great deal of doubt regarding the efficacy of military history. At the 1997 meeting for the Society of Military History, John Lynn publicly confided that one of his University of Illinois colleagues inquired, in the best voice of academic condescension one can imagine, if military historians “write in crayon.” At the 2008 meeting of the American Historical … [Read more...]

“Capital within a Capital”: Covert Action, the Vietnam War, and Creating a “Little Saigon” in the Heart of Northern Virginia


“That flag is the symbol of the spirit of the refu­gee,” Springfield resident and Vietnamese American talk show host Liem D Bui told journalists in 2012. The flag to which Bui referred is that of the fallen South Vietnam government and it along with an American flag fly over Eden Center shopping plaza in Falls Church, VA, a symbolic embodiment of Vietnamese American culture that some call “a capital within a capital,” for D.C.’s 80,000 residents of Vietnamese descent. Unfortunately, in recent years, the shopping center has garnered attention for more than its restaurants and markets. A murder-suicide left two men dead in July of 2012 and gambling raids in 2011 linked Eden Center and its flag … [Read more...]

Not Bowling Alone: How the Holiday Bowl in Crenshaw Became an Integrated Leisure Space


In May 2000, the New York Times reported the upcoming demolition of the Crenshaw District's Holiday Bowl. Built by Japanese American investors in 1958, just as Crenshaw and neighboring Leimart Park were reemerging as one of the city's most diverse neighborhoods, the bowling alley served as an integrated leisure space where African, Mexican, and Asian Americans could interact. "It's like a United Nations in there,'' longtime employee Jacqueline Sowell told writer Don Terry. ''Our employees are Hispanic, white, black, Japanese, Thai, Filipino. I've served grits to as many Japanese customers as I do black. We've learned from each other and given to each other. It's much more than just a bowling … [Read more...]


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