Name: Don Nakanishi
Hails from: El Sereno, CA (via East LA)
Occupation: Educator, author, engaged citizen, activist
Known for: Pioneering the field of Asian American studies from coast to coast. Former national president of the Association of Asian American Studies and longtime Director of UCLA’s famed Asian American Studies Center, Dr. Nakanishi is a lifelong Amazian, though his epic list of awards and achievements are too numerous to list here (Well, we’ll include some: He co-founded and published Amerasia Journal, which has run since 1971, and founded AAPI Nexus–which makes him a fairy godfather of sorts to AAPI opinion in print, and so a man to whom we at DISGRASIAN are heavily indebted). [Ed note--Imagine being his actual kid!?]
The LA Times recently featured Nakanishi in a story detailing his own personal debt–to his childhood neighborhood of East Los Angeles. Before pursuing undergrad and grad degrees at Yale and Harvard, respectively, Nakanishi was born and raised by formerly interned Japanese American parents in the ethnically diverse community of East Los Angeles, where his identification with Chicano culture helped him to forge a deeper identity as an Asian American. To LAT‘s Hector Tobar he said, “What makes me into an Asian American was getting an identity as a Chicano first.”
Nakanishi is now hard at work advocating cityhood for the unincorporated area of East LA, a move he has been backing since the mid-seventies. He believes that independence would help the neighborhood avoid further segregation and urban decay while developing the community’s structural, social and economic resources.
Learn more about the movement to make East LA a city here.
Thanks, Cate! Hi, Tom!
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