This is the original proposal of the Azusa Street Project that was submitted to the Japanese-American Cultural and Community Center (JACCC) in 2013. The JACCC gave preliminary and conceptual approval of the first phase of the mural project.
by Barry Deguchi
In the fall of 2009, I met with Bill Watanabe in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles to discuss business plans for my church, Catalyst Christian Community (CCC) in Long Beach. While meeting with him, he told me about a project he had worked on called the “Azusa Street Project”. I heard of the Azusa Street Revival, but did not know the significance of it until he told me this was one of Life magazines 100 most significant events in world history in the last 1000 years. Bill continued to tell me about wanting to have a memorial wall in place for the 100th year anniversary celebrating the Azusa Street Revival in 1906. He formed the Azusa Street Centennial Committee to start on the project. Unfortunately, the project was not approved, but a couple of plaques in the plaza and a sign were put in place along with a grapefruit tree that was planted in honor of Reverend William Seymour.
In the subsequent years after talking with Bill, I formed an Azusa Street core group of Japanese American pastors and leaders from six churches: Pastor Ron Miyake (Evergreen SGV, La Puente, CA), Pastor Ron Tanaka (Ascent, San Gabriel, CA), Pastor David Hino (The Light,Long Beach, CA), Pastor Eric Kakimoto (Cerritos Baptist Church, Cerritos, CA), Pastor Joe Yoshihara (Cornerstone Christian, Seattle, WA), and my church. We have been meeting for the past two years to pray and discuss what we could do to honor Reverend William Seymour, the Azusa Street Revival, and the land.
As Japanese Americans, honoring the people and the land is very important to all of us. This community is rich with honoring people and the land. As Japanese American Christians, we would like to honor Reverend William Seymour, the Azusa Street Revival, and the land in several ways over the next few years.
Last year on December 7, 2012, we replanted a grapefruit tree in Noguchi plaza, with the approval of the JACCC to acknowledge the significance of our Christian roots and give honor to Reverend William Seymour who started a movement that continues to impact our churches today. In one year of the planting we would like to get approval to graft the existing grapefruit tree to the newly planted grapefruit tree, honoring the past that gives life to the present.
We would like to seek approval to create a memorial wall on the face of the existing wall on the south side of Azusa Street. This would not change the look and appearance of the Noguchi Plaza in any way. The memorial wall concept would be similar to the Azusa Street Centennial Committee’s (Bill Watanabe, Lydia Takeshita, Pastor Fred and Wilma Berry, Dr. Cecil Robek, and Les Hamasaki) project, “Spirit Walk L.A.”, to honor Reverend William Seymour and the Azusa Street Revival (See Attached).
Some suggested ideas for the wall mural (A) could include a wall similar to the Biddy Mason wall (B), and or panel relief sculptures (C) similar to the existing sculptures in Little Tokyo.
We would like to have a sculpture of Reverend William Seymour done in a similar style as those already being displayed in Little Tokyo (A and B), to be placed near the steps on San Pedro Street (C) or where the tree planter is located (D):
We can also foresee the Japan American Theater being rented in the future hosting conferences and events for groups and organizations with interest in the historical significance of Azusa St. both within and outside of the Japanese American/Asian American Christian community. This possibility could help generate revenue for the JACCC. All of the events and projects will be solely funded by the Asian American Christian community and the Christian community at large.
Rev. William Seymour was a pioneer and promoter of diversity and multiculturalism as evidenced by the Azusa Street Mission. He embraced and empowered people of all ethnic backgrounds. So, while the Azusa Street revival would be at the heart of the memorial wall, in the spirit of Rev. Seymour we would seek to recognize and acknowledge the cultural and religious diversity that exists in the Little Tokyo community today. We believe these projects will have a positive impact for Little Tokyo and the Japanese American community financially, physically and spiritually.
Previous documents showed much effort by the previous committee to move forward on their projects. Although the projects were not approved, we see the importance and merits of those projects and would like to reinitiate a process to having the projects approved. In order for us to move forward, we would like to propose a three phase approval process.
Phase 1 – The JACCC Board gives tentative approval of our overall concepts and ideas which involve a memorial wall, a statue identifying and honoring Reverend William Seymour, and a visitor center/gift shop/museum to be placed in the first floor of the JACCC building.
Approval of Phase 1 by the JACCC Board would signal to our committee an openness by the Board to further explore and pursue the proposed projects.
Phase 2 – Once we receive Phase 1 approval of the concept, our group will provide conceptual designs, artwork, and plans with estimated costs for each of the three components of the project. We will also present an outline of how we propose funding the project. We would like to present these documents to the JACCC board within the next three to six months for consideration and approval.
Phase 3 – Once funding is secured we would approach the JACCC Board for final approval to begin the project. We foresee the project proceeding in three stages. The first stage would consist of the memorial wall. The second stage would be placement of the statue. The third stage would involve installation of the visitor center/gift shop.
Thank you for your time and attention in considering this proposal. Our desire is not only to have the site of the Azusa St. Revival recognized and acknowledged in a more significant way but that the JACCC might continue to grow and thrive as a leading organization that promotes and fosters Japanese American culture and the Japanese American community.
Pastor Barry Deguchi
Senior Pastor, CCC
Azusa Street core group