Explore the Mural: Notable Icons, Images & Landmarks

A mural outside the APEN Los Angeles office featuring depictions of AAPI movement leaders and symbols.

Photo by Jireh Deng

Larry Itliong

Larry Itliong was a Filipino American labor leader who organized farm workers in the Central Valley and across California. Along with Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, he helped spearhead the Delano Grape Strike to demand and fight for better working conditions for farm workers. The strike led to better pay and benefits for agricultural workers and the formation of the United Farm Workers.

Yuri Kochiyama

Yuri Kochiyama was a Japanese American political and civil rights activist. During World War 2, her family was forced into an incarceration camp for Japanese Americans by the U.S. government. Throughout her life Yuri spoke out against the oppressive institutions and injustices in the United States. She fought for nuclear disarmament, reparations for Japanese American who were incarcerated in the camps during World War 2 and many other causes.

Photo courtesy of the Kochiyama Family.

Indigenous Climate Activist Bai Bibyaon Ligkayan Bigkay

Bai Bibyaon Ligkayan Bigkay is a Lumad leader and environmentalist. The Lumad are an indigenous group in the Philippines. Bai Bibyaon is the first and only female chieftain in the history of the Manobo people, and has been described as “Mother of the Lumads.” She is an advocate of indigenous peoples’ rights and has been a defender of Manobo ancestral lands and the Pantaron Mountain Range since 1994.

Photo by Kim Requseto.

APEN Founders

Featured here are some of APEN’s founding board and staff: Jack Chin, a long time community worker bridging nonprofit and philanthropic sectors for environmental justice, education justice, youth organizing, policy advocacy; Pam Tau Lee, long time internationalist and labor organizer and formerly with the Center for Occupational and Environmental Health at the University of California at Berkeley; Peggy Saika, long time Japanese American activist for women’s issues, environmental justice, and immigrant rights and formerly with Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy; Martha Matsuoka, Assistant Professor in the Urban and Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College and long time activist and community based participatory researcher; Miya Yoshitani, former APEN Executive Director who started as a Richmond Youth Organizer in the 90’s; Torm Nompraseurt, Laotian community leader in Richmond, current senior organizer and one of APEN’s first staff members.

Donut Shop

In Southern California, donut shops have become synonymous with the Cambodian community. According to California Sunday Magazine it is estimated that over 1,500 donut shops are run or owned by Cambodian refugees or their children. In Ted Ngoy’s book The Donut King: The Rags to Riches Story of a Poor Immigrant Who Changed the World he chronicles the beginning of the donut shop industry in relation to the Cambodian refugee community and subsequent generations of Cambodians in America.

Image courtesy of LAist.

Folklorico Dancers

Wilmington is a predominantly Latinx community. According to the 2010 U.S Census, it is estimated that over 80% of the residents of the City of Wilmington are of Latinx descent. Also known as Baile Folklorico in Spanish is a term used to describe traditional dances that infuse characteristics of ballet, which emphasize local folk culture. These dances are unique to communities across Latin America.

Ship/Shipworkers and the Anchor

Wilmington, California is also known as The Heart of the Harbor. The term harks back to the city’s history and connection to the port and fishing industry that has been vital to California’s economy. Immigrant and refugee communities played an integral role in building out these industries. Wilmington along with San Pedro and Long Beach today form one of the world’s largest import and export centers. The anchor represents the residents’ connection to the harbor as well as communities planting roots in the region.

Image of Wilmington shipyards, 1944.

Scales of Justice

Wilmington, CA has the highest concentration of refineries in California, the 3rd largest oil field in the continental U.S and according to the Environmental Protection Agency has been ranked as the city with the worst air quality for the 13th consecutive year.  In addition, 40% of all goods shipped into the U.S enter through the Port of Long Beach and Los Angeles. The movement of goods from the ports through the Alameda Corridor via the 710, the 110 and the 1 freeway all contribute to the worsening air quality in the region. The “Scales of Justice” image represents how for decades industries have been prioritized to the detriment of the well-being of residents. 

Filipino Nurses

According to a March 2021 National Nurses United report it is estimated that Filipinos make up roughly 4% of the registered nurses in the U.S. Throughout the pandemic Filipinos have been one of the largest ethnic groups serving on the front lines. The connection between Filipinos and the nursing industry dates back decades as Filipinos began to immigrate to the U.S to fill in the nursing needs in the country. Filipinos have shaped the nursing field and have infused their cultural familial values with the health and care of their patients.

Image courtesy of the New York Times.

Tuna Can

In 1903, Terminal Island’s first and only cannery at the time, California Fish Co., perfected a method for canning tuna in order to market it as an affordable substitute to chicken. With expertise from their home region of Wakayama, Japan, the new Japanese settlers soon proved to be master commercial tuna fishermen. The Japanese single-handedly created California’s tuna fishing industry. The Tuna Can image is a celebration of this particular contribution by Japanese communities to the Harbor Region.


For the vast majority of Asian communities who reside in the Harbor Region today, their journey began in places far away from the U.S. The push and pull factors that drove Asians from their homelands to America have contributed to diversity that exists in the region. The crane represents that journey and how we’ve carried our cultures, hopes and dreams to the U.S.

Image via Wikimedia.


From 1863  to 1869, roughly 15,000 Chinese workers helped build the transcontinental railroad. They were paid less than American workers and lived in tents, while white workers were given accommodation in train cars. Chinese workers made up most of the workforce between roughly 700 miles of train tracks between Sacramento, California, and Promontory, Utah. During the 19th century, more than 2.5 million Chinese citizens left their country and were hired in 1864 after a labor shortage threatened the railroad’s completion.The work was tiresome, as the railroad was built entirely by manual laborers who used to shovel 20 pounds of rock over 400 times a day. The transcontinental railroad served as a vital vehicle for commerce for the U.S.

Photo of Chinese American railroad workers courtesy of UC San Diego.

Philippine Expressions Bookstore

Linda Nietes-Little; also known as Tita Linda, founded the Philippine Expressions Bookstore in 1984. The bookstore is a resource dedicated to Filipino Americans in search of their roots. The bookstore is a mainstay in San Pedro’s Arts District located on 6th Street. It houses a one-of-a-kind collection of Filipino art, literature, artifacts and many more. 2023 marks the 37th Anniversary of the bookstore!

Photo courtesy of Philippine Expressions Bookstore.

About Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN)

Asian Pacific Environmental Network is an environmental justice organization with deep roots in California’s Asian immigrant and refugee communities. Since 1993, we’ve built a membership base of Laotian refugees in Richmond and Chinese immigrants in Oakland. Together, we’ve fought and won campaigns to make our communities healthier, just places where people can thrive.

But our work is not only local. Our members have always lifted up the importance of making connections with other frontline communities and the need for organizing more people to build power for Asian immigrants and refugees. Our members recognize that our local neighborhoods are impacted by decision-making happening not only at the local level, but also at the state level.

That is why APEN is also deeply invested in building power across the state. Since 2012, we’ve engaged in statewide power building efforts, like talking to Asian voters statewide about critical Environmental and Economic Justice issues.

Through deep conversations with our members and partners, it became clear that we needed to invest in deeper organizing in another region in order to realize our vision and make meaningful impact and continue to deepen our roots and build power for working class Asian immigrant and refugee communities.

Los Angeles represents a unique and dynamic opportunity for APEN to build a deep impact in Asian immigrant and refugee communities around environmental justice issues.


Team APEN in the South Bay!

AAPIs in the South Bay

Our community art project is aimed at telling the story of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities in the South Bay — their history and their hopes. AAPI communities have a long history connected to the South Bay.

The earliest enclave of Chinese in Los Angeles centered around Los Angeles Plaza (El Pueblo de Los Ángeles), the original settlement of the City of Los Angeles, bounded by North Spring Street, Cesar Chavez Avenue, Alameda Street, and Arcadia Street. Chinese farmers were a visible and important part of the Los Angeles economy through the twentieth century and established themselves as a powerful political group. The earliest farms were small plots surrounding Chinatown. As Chinatown developed into a populous residential and commercial center, Chinese entrepreneurs moved to farms outside of the urban center, migrating westward toward Santa Monica Bay, and southward to South Los Angeles and the communities of Watts, Wilmington, and San Pedro.

In 1885, Japan legalized the emigration of labor and Japanese were recruited to the United States to fill railroad jobs previously held by Chinese immigrants since barred by the Restriction Law of 1882, or Chinese Exclusion Act. In addition to filling the gap created by the lack of Chinese laborers, the demand for labor in Southern California increased due to rapid industrial expansion. As a result, not all Japanese took positions with the railroad. Similar to the Japanese, Filipino immigration to Southern California was influenced by the Chinese Exclusion Act and its later extensions. Because the Philippines was under American colonial rule from 1898 to 1946, these exclusionary immigration policies did not apply to Filipinos. As such, Filipinos were targeted to meet labor shortages in Hawaii and California.

In 1903, Terminal Island’s first and only cannery at the time, California Fish Co., perfected a method for canning tuna in order to market it as an affordable substitute to chicken. With expertise from their home region of Wakayama, Japan, the new Japanese settlers soon proved to be master commercial tuna fishermen. Word spread quickly back to Japan of the success to be had at Terminal Island, and by 1907 an estimated 600 Japanese fishermen operated out of the area. This wave of immigrants came mainly from the Wakayama and Shizuoka areas, via San Francisco and Seattle.

Not long afterward, the Japanese single-handedly created California’s tuna fishing industry. Albacore tuna had never been caught commercially in California prior to the introduction of the hook-and-line method that Japanese fishermen began employing in 1912-13. According to author Naomi Hirahara, “3,000 Japanese lived at Terminal Island or Fish Island in some 330 houses almost identical in size and appearance except for long houses designed for multiple occupants.” The residences were typically two-bedrooms with a porch and a small fenced-in yard, and rented for $6 per month. Bungalows were located along Tuna Street and Terminal Way. The fishing village also included a school, churches, and community meeting centers for social and sporting events.

Cannery workers were typically Filipino men and the Japanese women who came to the village as picture brides. None of the canneries remain. Most Filipinos on the West Coast became migratory laborers, traveling throughout California and the Pacific Northwest, following harvest and canning seasons. Filipinos who settled in Los Angeles year-round found work as house servants, janitors, dishwashers, bus boys, and other jobs in the service sector. Most of the significant resources associated with Filipino American history in Los Angeles were found in the Temple-Beverly and Wilmington areas. These areas have been the largest and longest-continuously populated of the known Filipino American neighborhoods in Los Angeles.

During the 1920s to the 1940s, the largest concentration of Filipinos outside of Little Manila was found in the Los Angeles Harbor area, especially around West Long Beach, San Pedro, and Wilmington. Early Filipinos who had completed their military service settled in areas near Navy ports. From 1919 to 1940, the U.S. Navy Battle Fleet’s Home Port was in San Pedro. By the 1920 Census, one-fourth of Filipinos in Los Angeles worked in various shipyard occupations at the Port of Los Angeles and lived in San Pedro and Wilmington. In the wake of the removal and forcible incarceration of Japanese Americans on the West Coast during the war, many Filipinos were recruited to fill the labor vacuum left by Japanese agricultural workers.

Following the war, many Filipinos returned to their old neighborhoods in San Pedro and Wilmington, where they found work, housing, and a sense of belonging. In 1945, Filipinos living in San Pedro, Wilmington, and Long Beach formed the Filipino Community of Los Angeles Harbor Area, Inc., and one year later pooled their resources to build a community hall at 323 Mar Vista Avenue in Wilmington to provide a community gathering place for Filipinos in Los Angeles for decades to come.

The Samoan community in Los Angeles County has its roots in a group of Samoan-born men who were enlistees in the U.S. Navy. When authority over the six islands that make up American Samoa was transferred from the Navy Department to the Interior Department in 1952, 300 men dubbed the Fita Fita–the Island’s native Navy contingent–were given the option of transferring to Hawaii. Almost all of the Fita Fita emigrated. Their dependents , about 1,000 women and children, were allowed to join them in Hawaii in a voyage that has gained some infamy among Samoans. Later, many of the Fita Fita were posted to the West Coast, and they brought their dependents with them to settle near Navy bases. By the time Carson incorporated in 1968, a large Samoan community had taken root there.

California is home to the largest concentration of Samoans on the mainland United States. Many of the new immigrants, largely driven from the U.S. territory by poverty, have settled in Carson, Compton and Long Beach.

Today, AAPI communities who have settled in Los Angeles’ South Bay Region face a unique and pressing challenge. Residents live against the backdrop of rail lines, freeways, oil wells, smokestacks, industrial storage tanks and the constant flow of trucks moving goods throughout the West and beyond. As a result residents who live in the region are at higher risk of cancer, asthma and other respiratory illnesses as compared to the rest of LA County.

The good news is that our community has and is fighting for a more just reality. Community members have organized to stop the expansion of refineries in their neighborhoods, they’ve fought and won to phase out oil and gas drilling across LA County and are continuing to fight for a clean and healthy environment where they can live, work, learn, plan and thrive.

APEN staff painting the mural in progress

APEN staff painting the AAPIs in the South Bay mural.


About the Artist: Bodeck Luna

A person in a yellow shirt with long hair faces away from the camera, in front of a mural that includes Jackie Robinson.

An immigrant artist from Manila, Philippines, Bodeck Luna creates pieces that explore the relationship between nostalgia, social empowerment, and decolonization. His background in street art heavily influences his figurative paintings, illustrations and murals. Some of his notable collaborations include Apple, LA Metro, Long Beach City Hall, Music Center LA, Aquarium of the Pacific and Covered California.

Bodeck showcases paintings, murals and curates other artists’ pieces in pop-up art shows throughout the city to display other emerging artists. Bodeck was appointed as the Art Director for the first annual Long Beach Filipino Festival in 2018. From commercial and private commissions to album covers, he aims to bind the community by showcasing local talent and businesses.