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People’s artist Iwao Lewis Suzuki recognized for activism

By Masao Suzuki |
August 16, 2011
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Artist Lewis Suzuki
Artist Lewis Suzuki (Fight Back! News/Staff)
Award from La Peña Cultural Center
Lewis Suzuki with Laura Ruiz and Paul Chin of La Peña
Award from La Peña Cultural Center (Fight Back! News/Staff)
Lewis Suzuki with Laura Ruiz and Paul Chin of La Peña (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Berkeley, CA - On Aug. 14, artist Iwao Lewis Suzuki was inducted into the La Peña Cultural Center Community Hall of Fame, which recognizes cultural activism for social change. Previous inductees into the Community Hall of Fame include Dolores Huerta, Victor Jara, Linda Tillery and Angela Davis.

More than 50 people attended the reception at La Peña in Berkeley where Mr. Suzuki was inducted. The reception featured dozens of paintings, posters and other works of Mr. Suzuki that are now on exhibit at the center. Paul Chin of La Peña began the short program by explaining that the cultural center began in the 1970s in response to the U.S.-backed military coup in Chile on Sept. 11, 1973. This coup overthrew the elected government of socialist Salvador Allende and thousands of revolutionaries and progressives, including President Allende, were killed by the military.

Laura Ruiz, also of La Peña, gave a brief biography of Mr. Suzuki, including his art schooling in Los Angeles, New York and Oakland, some of the artistic awards his paintings had won and his service on the Berkeley Arts Commission. “La Peña,” she said, “was inducting Lewis Suzuki into the Hall of Fame for his spirit of social activism.”

Finally, Mr. Suzuki spoke briefly. He thanked those who worked and volunteered at La Peña, saying that they will change society. “We are the richest country in the world,” said Mr. Suzuki, “but there are many people who can’t get health care or who can’t afford to pay for college.” He added, “Let’s get out of Iraq and Afghanistan. One day we will have peace, where U.S. troops are not overseas and we can have freedom throughout the world.”

The La Peña award followed earlier recognition of Mr. Suzuki for his art and activism. In January of 2010 the City of Berkeley honored Mr. Suzuki, and then in May of 2010 the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO), awarded Mr. Suzuki an honorary membership for his life of political activism.

Masao Suzuki is a regular contributor to Fight Back! Newspaper and the son of Iwao Lewis Suzuki.