Last week Los Angeles, the community development field, the Asian American & Pacific Islander community, our friends across the country, and the Matsubayashi family all mourned in collective sorrow the passing of our beloved Dean Matsubayashi. It has taken several days and countless attempts to even begin to find words to possibly capture the simultaneous feelings of love, gratitude, unbearable pain, and disorientation. The only language that has made any sense during this time has been the language of music - a language Dean and I shared regularly throughout our friendship and the language that will always allow me to feel his energy and presence despite our unbridgeable distance.
"Reflection is a collection of memories...bringing back sweet memories."
- Memories Live (Reflection Eternal album, Talib Kweli + Hi-Teknology)
Dean - I cherish every single memory of you my aging brain has managed to hold on to. From Sunday brunches and drinks at K-town pirate bars, to sitting in the backseat between carseats and on spilled, crushed cereal and left-behind pieces of cookies en route to work meetings, to dissecting newly released albums and comparing them to what we considered unsurpassable classics, to listening to you process being a father and worrying about whether you were doing it right (you absolutely were!), to our fairly regular heated debates on the best political, organizational or strategic decision we were facing (guessing you didn't think I'd be such a pain when you hired me), to never letting work arguments interfere with our friendship, to processing very big and very private personal and professional choices and struggles and fears with you, to those memories that will always just remain between you and me, and everything in between.
Yet your undeniable legacy extends so much further than any of these personal moments. You were a man of the people, of community; a man of action and lived values whose work spoke for itself. While your impacts on Little Tokyo, Los Angeles communities of color, National CAPACD and its member organizations are too numerous to recount here, the common denominator was always your generous and strategic collaboration. Always inclusive, always embracing the messiness of lots of perspectives around a table, always open to big and out-of-the-box ideas, you created space where everyone felt safe and welcome and valued. You were the magnetic force pulling all of us together - up until the very end.
It is, hands down, the biggest honor of my life to have been with you and your family and our friends during the final days and hours of your time here on this earth. For this, I thank you and I thank Kim and your parents and Craig and Tina and Erik for their generous inclusion of me in such a sacred space.
"Yo, on The Amen, Corner I stood looking at my former hood Felt the spirit in the wind, knew my friend was gone for good Threw dirt on the casket, the hurt, I couldn't mask it Mixing down emotions, struggle I hadn't mastered"
- Respiration (Black Star album, Mos Def + Talib Kweli)
We now carry on your light, channeling your clear intention and stubborn resolve, to build, support, strengthen, and uplift community and all of our allies in the beautiful struggle. And last, but certainly not least, we - Emma and Sei's aunties and uncles - surround your family with a love that is unbreakable despite our broken hearts, and everlasting despite our physical impermanence. That is the only gift we can give you now.
"I know in these tryin' times it feels confusin' That's why I came to y'all to dance to the music Unless, we face it first and try not to lose it Even if it gets worse, they Can't Stop This"
- Can't Stop This (Game Theory album, The Roots)