Last Saturday, Aug. 10, I marched in the Nisei Week parade. Our San Fernando JACL Chapter was part of the Pacific Southwest District, and to my knowledge, it was the first time the district had participated in the event. It caused me to ponder why this was so.
Harold Kameya, our chapter president, organized our part in the parade, from recruiting marchers to even having the signs we carried made up. (He previously owned a sign shop in the Valley.) Carrying our PSW District JACL banner was Stephanie Nitahara, our regional director.
I was one of the sign carriers trailing the banner. My sign indicated my membership in the Asian American & Pacific Islander Christians for Social Justice (AAPI-CSJ), and on the reverse of my sign was printed “SGV API-PFLAG” (San Gabriel Valley Asian Pacific Islander-Parents and Friends of Lesbians, and Gays).
Alongside of me was Joyce Okazaki, who carried a sign indicating her membership in the Greater L.A. Chapter of JACL. Lloyd Ishimaru is a member of the Hollywood Independent Church. He carried a sign that declared, “Our Church Has No Closets.”
At one of the stops in the parade a young girl, 9 or 10, asked Stephanie what the sign meant. Stephanie explained to the girl that that church welcomed everyone, and no one had to hide who they were. The girl seemed to understand this, and Stephanie says that it was a moving moment for her.
I felt indebted to Harold for getting all of us marching together in support of an enlightened acceptance of LGBTQ peoples: Supportive JACL chapters, enlightened Christian groups and churches, LGBTQ advocate groups, as well as the Manzanar Committee. To their credit, 20 years ago, National JACL passed a resolution at their national convention in support of equal marriage, the first civil rights organization to take this step.
Back to the question I raise in the first paragraph: Why after all these years does JACL see the need to march in the Nisei Week Parade? The answer, to me, is obvious: We proclaim an important message concerning a civil rights issue, which is on the cutting edge of social change, for which we call for support from our community.
Flyers were passed out during the parade publicizing “Okaeri,” our community’s first conference dealing with lesbian, gay, queer, and transgender issues. It is scheduled for Nov. 15 at the Japanese American National Museum. Many people and organizations are meeting regularly planning for the event. Do put it on your calendar and plan to attend.
The district office has been favored to have on staff younger members who have initiated some innovative programs for the JACL member chapters. In addition to Stephanie, who came to us from Chicago, we have Traci Ishigo and Nancy Takayama, who also serve on the board of the San Fernando JACL Chapter. Justice for LGBTQ persons being an important part of JACL’s civil rights advocacy, I was pleased to have been able to march in the parade in support this effort on Aug. 10.
The parade was staged from Centenary United Methodist Church, located at Third and Central Avenue. Before the parade and afterwards, a delicious and much appreciated meal was prepared and served by some of the women of the church. I would take this opportunity to thank them for their kind hospitality.
Phil Shigekuni writes from San Fernando Valley and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.