Thursday, April 01, 2021

Memories with Auntie

Auntie Keiko Kuida passed away at the age of 82. She has been present my whole life. From middle school when I was the only person in the family to fit her shoes, I became the happy recipient of her love of shopping, and her generosity, especially shoes, clothes, purses and jewelry.  

When I started working in Inglewood in the 1980s, we would meet for pizza on Fridays. She was an avid bowler, golfer and gambler, who loved the race tracks and Vegas, lover of cats, and was an enthusiastic Tweety Bird, Peanuts, and Beanie Babies collector. When we started carpooling to family gatherings and driving her to doctors appts, at night or long distances, she would show up at our house an hour or two early, sometimes we’d still be sleeping.  

She was a breast cancer survivor, and a fighter. A Nisei, she was born on a canteloupe farm in Canoga Park, incarcerated as a child in Gila River, Arizona during WW2, before moving with her family to the Seinan/Crenshaw area in LA. She attended 6th Avenue School, Foshay Jr High and Dorsey High School. After she retired from the Gas Company where she worked over 30 years, she worked at Eddie Bauer folding clothes and spending way more money than she earned, and also worked for her dear friend Mary at Tak’s Coffee Shop in Crenshaw Square. 

Until the pandemic, she would play cards with her friends Katsu and Fujio every Friday night, and have breakfast with other friends in The Breakfast Club on Saturdays and Sundays, and regular lunches with her friend (over 50 years) Kayko from the Lunch Bunch. Maiya has grown up with her in our lives, with Auntie picking her up from school and afterschool programs, attending her basketball games, Nihon Buyo, karate, taiko and flute performances, and for that I am really happy and grateful.

During the pandemic, I became her shopper both online and in person, and in January she started needing help more and more. On February 3rd, she had another eye surgery, but her troubles breathing quickly took over as she was diagnosed with lung cancer, and I moved my remote work space from my living room to her kitchen, helping her to adapt to make her home safe for walker and wheelchair, dealing with a host of home maintenance issues, and started staying at her home daily for longer and longer hours. We brought in her friend Linda in the afternoons to help with meals and housekeeping as it became too much for me working full time plus. 

After almost a week in the hospital for procedures, I moved in with her March 1st as her primary caregiver and started staying with her weekdays and weeknights about 20 hours a day, with Tony and my siblings Darin and Gayle rotating 24 hour shifts on weekends. A few weeks ago we also brought in our young friend Joanna to help in the mornings as well. UCLA Home Health came in and became our lifeline of support sending nurses Pam, Hannah, Addie, Rebecca, Dr. C, Lillian and Claudia, social worker Luis, and physical therapists Audra and Alecsee who came, called or texted almost daily, who trained me on draining her chest catheter, and taught us about patient care as things progressed and her needs changed. 

Last week I went camping for a couple days of r&r with help from my whole family. The night I came back I called 911 for the 4th and last time since January. Hospice came on Wednesday morning and she passed later that night, at home as she wanted, having talked to and had visits from several close friends and family in her last few weeks.  Grateful to her and my friends, coworkers, family, her doctors, and her neighbors Argentina and Kent for so much support over these last few months. 

Love ❤️ to Auntie.  She will be missed.

Friday, January 01, 2021

Happy New Year - Masking Up for 2021

Mask Up 4 the 2021 New Year.
Jenni (56), Tony (53), Maiya (almost 16), Lola (~11)

Left Center: Tony & Maiya co-emcees for LA Day of Remembrance in Little Tokyo, Feb 2020; Bottom Left at Culver City 4 Black Lives March, June 2020; Top Right at Protect the Results March with Nikkei Progressives in DTLA on Nov 7th. Bottom: Artwork by Tony, 1000 Facemasks by Jenni.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

First Time Baking Pumpkin Pies | Episode 3

Episode 3  of “Building Immunity and Community” with me and Maiya attempting pumpkin pie and bad puns with guest food critic Tony, edited by Maiya on Tony’s iPad Pro. 

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Happy New Year 2020

Happy New Year 2020: (top left counter clockwise)

UTLA Teachers Strike
Kuida-Osumi Anniversary dinner at Roy’s
Never Again is Now: Protesting Fort Sill (former and proposed concentration camp)
Manzanar Pilgrimage 2019
Lola camping
Maiya 8th grade graduation, one of 17 valedictorians

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Happy New Year 2019

Happy New Year 2019:

Photos from 2018:
Top left: Jenni and Tony’s 20th anniversary picnic (August)
Top right: Adopted Lola Kuida-Osumi (September)
Bottom right: Women’s March starting from Little Tokyo (January)
Bottom center: LA Teachers March and Rally DTLA (Nov/Dec?)
Bottom left: Picking up Maiya from Tech Trek girls Science camp at UCSD, Mecha Mural)

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Memories of Grace Lee Boggs (1915-2015)

Tuesday Night Café, Little Tokyo, Los Angeles

Jenni Kuida with Tony Osumi & Maiya Kuida-Osumi

Thank you to Sean Miura for inviting us to share at tonight’s Tuesday Night Cafe.  Our deep condolences to Grace’s family and friends in Detroit and around the country, and our thanks to friends like Shea Howell at the Boggs Center who have taken care of her, especially in the last years.

My husband Tony and I met Grace Lee Boggs in 1998, the year her autobiography “Living for Change” was published.  Grace stayed at our house when she came for the “Serve the People” conference at UCLA organized by Scott Kurashige.  I had never heard of Grace, but Tony had read Grace and Jimmy Boggs’ 1974 groundbreaking book, “Revolution and Evolution in the 20th Century.”

I remember Grace, then 83 years old, so full of life and interest in everything; sleeping on our futon couch, rummaging through the bookshelves in our den, showing us VHS tape of her husband Jimmy speaking, reconnecting with Nobuko Miyamoto after 30 years (and who will dedicate her performance to Grace later tonight), and having dinner with Grace and Yuri Kochiyama.  Yes.

After seeing the Aloha Grocery mural that Tony and I collaborated on in the Venice Culver community in LA, Grace invited Tony and I to Detroit to help envision a mural with Detroit Summer, whose passion it was to rebuild and re-spirit Detroit, from the ground up.  That’s what she does, she offers invitations, and challenges.  We had no funding, and no agenda; we just went, and it changed our lives.

We found ourselves baling hay from an abandoned crack house into the trunk of our rental car with Farmer Paul, sweating and hauling logs down city streets with Detroit Summer teenagers for a new community garden, and a crash course in Detroit’s history.  Since I had never been to Detroit, I knew nothing of its post-industrial decay, 10,000 empty houses or 60,000 abandoned lots.  

At the time, I was working for Nobuko at Great Leap, and we had been engaging communities in performance residences in Watts, Boyle Heights and Phoenix, so with Grace’s invitation to explore ideas for Great Leap, we went back to Detroit.

Grace introduced us to Gerald Hairston, who created over 200 urban gardens on vacant lots with youth and elders. In 2001, Gerald passed away unexpectedly, and Nobuko was inspired to write “I Dream a Garden,” a Japanese American Obon circle dance, Detroit-style, incorporating multi-ethnic rhythms and movements.  The Fandango Obon, which will take place at the JACCC on October 25th, was born out of the “I Dream a Garden” project.

On our many visits, we stayed at the Boggs Center, upstairs from Grace’s home.  Each morning and night, we would stop in to see her, and she would ask us how our day was, and give us more names of people in the community to meet and connect with.  

Tony and I went back to do another mural in Detroit’s Chinatown Association building in 2003.  The success of these projects would not have been dreamable without Grace’s guidance, the spark, energy and soul behind everything.

Grace continued to be part of our life after our daughter Maiya Grace was born in 2005.  Named after Grace, we continued visiting Grace every year or two. In the last 5 years, filmmaker Grace Lee’s documentary “American Revolutionary” and Grace’s book with Scott Kurashige, “The Next American Revolution” brought her more attention from the API and film communities, progressive, ethnic and mainstream media, and although she slowed down a bit, she seemed to gain energy from the good vibes of everyone she came in contact with.

Grace encouraged us all to think deeper, more creatively and more critically, thinking of ways to meet new demands and consider new approaches.  Grace’s circle of positive change is filled with murals, urban gardens, renovating vacant buildings, intergenerational book clubs, freedom schooling, teens and elders, neighbor to neighbor, with “visions for what Detroit can be and what America ought to be,” as she would say.

For all of you tonight, as activists, creators and producers of community arts, spoken word, music, and comedy, we should draw from Grace’s influence by listening, watching, and interacting with each other.

Grace lived 100 years.  You can read all of the amazing quotes that were trending all over Facebook, Instagram and Twitter yesterday, and even what Obama said about her.

I know that if she were here, and she is, with rockets on her wheelchair soaring high, she would love what happens in this space, on this stage in Little Tokyo on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday from Spring to Fall, and she would challenge us to continue to struggle and keep the conversations going.  We love you Grace.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Goodbye to Nancy

Sharing some of my FB photos here.
 Ms. J-town, the fabulous Nancy Kikuchi at the Taiko Gathering during Nisei Week 2013.  I called her the real Nansei Week Queen and the Mayor of Little Tokyo.
The two girls holding this sign, Olivia and Maiya were born during the making of this mural in 2004 and 2005. Maiya helped by placing her finger on the flame of a candle lit.. Olivia's actual image is in the mural, the baby sitting next to the Little Tokyo sign, under Nancy's image as a Bombu taiko player. Nancy loved babies and children, and this picture was taken for her last month in August 2014.

Today we said goodbye to Nancy Kikuchi along with 600 or more of her friends and family.   It was touching,agonizing, sweet and comforting to be among so many friends and coworkers who were so blessed to know Nancy. She loved Little Tokyo and we all loved her right back. After the emotional service at Higashi, was a lovely meal for us all to meet together and smile and relax a bit, and we were invited to walk the streets of J-town and take flowers over to the "Home is Little Tokyo" mural that is her legacy and her gift to us all.

Everyone loved Nancy... and Jtown just won't be the same without her spark and enthusiasm.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Grandpa Don’s Dogs

Grandpa Don passed away on April 11th.  We were fortunate that we got to travel with him twice last year, a week in Kalamazoo Michigan, and camping up at Lake Tahoe last summer.  He found out he was sick in October 2013. We were able to visit with him at home in Idaho last Thanksgiving and in March/April, less than two weeks before he passed away.  He was a good man, and one thing for sure, he loved Tony's mom Fran, more than anything.  

Maiya wrote this poem within a few hours after learning that Grandpa Don died.  

Grandpa Don’s Dogs
By Maiya Grace Kuida-Osumi

A greatful good grandfather,
5 dogs weren’t a bother.
A dog named Sadie,
Who is a very nice lady.
A dog named Magillicutty,
who’s my grandpa’s buddy.
A dog named Bobby,
who sits in the lobby.
A dog named Tito,
who likes to eat a burrito.
A dog named London Baby,
who could be a hound, maybe.
Who had a great wife,
and a great life.

We all love you Grandpa Don!


Lake Tahoe, August 2013

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Happy New Year from the K-Os!

Can't believe it is 2014!  Year of the Horse!

Friday, August 30, 2013

First time camping

Maiya's first time camping.  We went up to Fallen Lake Campground near Lake Tahoe in August in the Prius.  That was pretty cool.  We drove up in a thunderstorm all up the 395 and through the mountains to Tahoe.  When we got there, a flood had gone through our Campsite.  We met Tony's Mom and Don, along with their friends Gretchen and Bill, who fed us and took care of us, and made Maiya's first camping trip an easy one.  After 2 nights camping, Tony flew up and met us in Tahoe and we spent 2 nights in Tahoe relaxing and hanging out before driving back home.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Kalamazoo Trip

 A week in Kalamazoo Michigan with Tony's family for Passover, March 2013.  We stayed with Fran's cousins Jo and Judy's houses.  We visited freezing Lake Michigan, the Frederick Meijer Garden in Grand Rapids, and just hung out with family.  Grandpa Don bought Maiya her first loom on this trip.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year 2013

Ringing in New Year's Eve with the K-O's!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Children's Day @ School 2012

Children's Day is a big deal at Maiya's school.  It's the day where when the Nihon Buyo (traditional Japanese dance) classes put on full kimonos and makeup and share their dances.  Maiya and Eve were the only 1st grade girls in their class.  It took almost 2 hours for hair, makeup and dressing all the girls, for a 5 minute performance.

1st and 2nd grade girls
1st graders perform Kaeru no Uta Ga and Beethoven on Pianica

And a little J-pop "Oha Raku"

NaBloPoMo12 #11
(Backblogging May 2012)
Happy Bday to Darin, Maura, Erin

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Children Deserve a Future

Contingent walking from LTSC
I've been working in the Child Development field for almost 8 years, as a parent, and 7 years at LTSC.  We have had a lot of successes with families in our Family Literacy program, with parents learning to speak English, gaining confidence and self-esteem, and several of our parents putting themselves out there and testifying before Commissioners at First 5 LA and School Board members at LAUSD Board meetings.  I am so proud of them, and inspired by their courage.   I have done it countless times myself, almost monthly it seems, and each time I am a shaking mess, 
We have gone to rallies, marched from Echo Park to downtown over the years, and in April this year, 55 people from LTSC, parents, children, teachers, directors and friends joined us at the march and rally to save Childcare from budget cuts with another 3,000 people who attended.  My programs were cut $200,000 last year, and this year they were cut an additional $100,000 so when they say that budgets are balanced on the backs of poor families, immigrants, and children, these are the babies, toddlers and preschoolers we work with every day.  

So, enough of my soapbox, here are some pictures of the Childcare Rally in April.  
LTSC Staff, Parents, Children!
Me and Maiya... LTSC Grace Iino Child Care Center Alumni (2005-2008)
Disa, who was Co-campaign manager for Meghan Sahli-Wells
Angelina Preschool teachers
Grace Iino staff and families
Child Development, the personal is political
Peace. Out.
NaBloPoMo12 #10
(Backblogging April 2012)