The Story of Anaheim’s Little Arabia will be the topic of speaker Amin Nash of the Arab American Civic Council at the May 12, 2022 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30 p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., Orange. Nash will discuss local immigrant communities from the Middle East and North Africa, how they established Little Arabia from the 1960s, and how the area has grown and developed in the decades since.
Tucked along a busy Brookhurst Street in West Anaheim, Arabic signs advertise services from restaurants to lawyers to doctors. Some signs are explicitly in Arabic, such as Forna al Hara, which translates to “The Neighborhood’s Oven,” while others are English transliterations, like Al Tayabat, meaning “Wonderful Things.” The businesses and many others like them are regularly patronized by thousands of Arabic-speaking consumers who have made this part of Anaheim their center of business and culture. This neighborhood has been affectionately named Little Arabia by Arabs and non-Arabs alike and offers a rich perspective of Orange Country’s – and Southern California’s – diverse history. Little Arabia’s story reflects the challenges the Arab community has faced and reveals heartwarming aspects of how Anaheim has supported the Arab community through the years.
Amin Nash is a Ph.D. Student at Claremont Graduate University, where he studies the Arab and Muslim American experience through literature, culture, and history. He is also a Fellow for the Arab American Civic Council located in Anaheim, where he regularly advocates for the Arab community and provides educational materials to the Anaheim population. Amin grew up in Las Vegas, the third child born to Iraqi immigrants, and recalls regularly traveling to Anaheim’s Little Arabia to purchase halal meat during the 1990s and early 2000s. Amin feels that Orange County – and Southern California – has challenged Arab and Muslim Americans and brought an opportunity to the community. He hopes that his work will allow the experiences of this unique American community to be recognized and understood as positive contributors to Orange County and America.
Historian Manny Escamilla will discuss Professor Shifra Goldman of Santa Ana College – one of the first academics to seriously study Chicano/a and Latin American art – at the April 14, 2022 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30 p.m., Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., Orange.
Dr. Shifra Goldman’s pioneering work in the field of Chicano and Latin American art was paired with a lifetime of activism, an encyclopedic knowledge of artwork, an eagerness to teach others, and a willingness to vocally defend threatened Chicano/a and Latin American art.
She was a driving force behind the preservation of Siqueiros’ 1932 “La América Tropical” mural on Olvera Street. She taught courses in Mexican Pre-Colombian, Modern and Chicano Art at Santa Ana College for 21 years where she organized the college’s first mural program. She personally documented thousands of works of art across the country (including here in O.C.) and her collection at UC Santa Barbara remains a starting point for researchers. This presentation will highlight her work and a slide show of murals/paintings from her collection.
Manny Escamilla is a local historian, urban planner, and lifelong Santa Ana resident. He graduated from Santa Ana College, from UC Berkeley with a BA in History, and from UCLA with a Master of Library and Information Science and a Master of Urban and Regional Planning. Manny worked for the City of Santa Ana from 2005-2019 as a local history librarian, management analyst, and urban planner. He was also on the board of the Orange County Historical Society. In 2020 he was appointed to the City’s Art and Culture Commission and is currently working as an urban planner with the City of Oakland. Over the past 14 years he has assisted with, led, and implemented a range of projects covering the areas of urban planning, government administration, digital humanities, historic research, and place-based art.
Janice Munemitsu, author of The Kindness of Color: The Story of Two Families and Mendez, et al. v. Westminster, the 1947 Desegregation of California Public Schools, will discuss her book at the March 10, 2022 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30p.m., Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in the City of Orange. The public is welcome.
The Kindness of Color tells the true story of two immigrant families who came to Southern California for better lives, only to face their own separate battles against racism during the 1940s. One family came by land from Mexico and the other by sea from Japan. Little did they expect their paths would meet and lead to justice and desegregation for all the school children of California in Mendez, et. al v. Westminster (1947) – seven years before Brown v. Education (1954).
Despite the discrimination and racism the Mendez and Munemitsu families encountered, there was one thing that helped them persevere. Acts of kindness by friends, neighbors and strangers encouraged their hearts and souls, opened paths to solutions, and created communities of support and kindness. This is the family story behind the case, highlighting the beauty and power of the Kindness of Color that made the landmark case possible. Photos show Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez on the left and Masako and Seima Munemitsu on the right.
The book tells the story of how racism against the Japanese-Americans led to Tad Munemitsu leasing his family farm to Gonzalo and Felicitas Mendez during the forced evacuation and internment of 120,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II. When the Mendez family moved to the Westminster farm, the Mendez children were denied entry to the “white” school and forced to go to the “Mexican” school with inferior academics. Racism by the government and school districts denied both families of their constitutional amendment freedoms and rights, but acts of kindness along the way created the path to justice.
Janice Munemitsu is a third-generation Japanese American Sansei. A native of Orange County, California, Janice worked on the family farm from age five through high school. She is a graduate of the University of Southern California and Biola University.