After a lapse of 41 years, I was chosen, once more, to be president of our San Fernando Valley JACL Chapter. (Come to think of it, I had to be 41 at the time.) As such, I was our chapter’s delegate at our national convention this year. Joining me was Kristi Ishii.
This is the second year the convention was held here. The Monte Carlo is located on the Strip, next to New York, New York, off of Tropicana Boulevard. It is a comfortable, unpretentious hotel, with a food court housing, among other similar places, a Subway and a taco stand.
National JACL, like many similar organizations, has suffered a decline in membership, with the number now at 9,354, which does, however, reflect an increase from 2015. Because of the resulting financial decline, the National Board was considering making major cuts in the operation of its signature newspaper, The Pacific Citizen.
Moving in the same direction as The Rafu Shimpo, the National Board initially thought to shift the JACL newspaper entirely to an online version, but ran into strenuous objections from its subscribers, many of whom are seniors. Also, to cut costs, the board proposed moving the operation of the Pacific Citizen from Little Tokyo to a building, which JACL owns, in San Francisco. Aside from the financial problems with this move, the Pacific Citizen staff, for very good reasons, was unwilling to move their families to San Francisco.
To alleviate this problem, our past president, Harold Kameya, wrote a resolution, which I introduced, calling for a $17 surcharge payable by those who would prefer to continue getting the present “hard copy” of The Pacific Citizen. This surcharge would cover the cost for the publication of the hard copy, as well as forestall, for at least two years, the need to move to San Francisco.
The resolution produced a lively debate, with some feeling that continuing with the hard copy was just delaying the inevitable online version. Also, a surcharge would have to be paid by seniors, some of whom could least afford it. My argument, on the pro side, was that the surcharge would keep in place the dedicated Pacific Citizen staff who have worked many years on the job. Fortunately, the resolution passed, much to the relief of Harold, whom I called after the vote was taken. Our thanks go to Milo Yoshino for working out the mathematics for this resolution.
A dialogue concerning the future of The Pacific Citizen followed. One of the panelists was Gil Asakawa, who writes a column for the “PC”, as it is called. Gil made good arguments for the continuance of the PC, but in his talk he made a comment concerning the financial plight of The Rafu Shimpo, which I had to comment on in the question-and-answer portion which followed.
Gil said something to the effect of The Rafu Shimpo having to shut down at the end of this year. I was glad to tell the audience that due to the energetic support of the Rafu Shimpo staff, things are starting to look up for The Rafu, and I said there has been an encouraging increase in subscriptions. When I finished talking, Toshi Abe, head of membership services, said he wanted to subscribe, and at a luncheon the following day a woman I sat next to, who lives in the San Jose area, said she also wanted to subscribe.
A lot happens in the L.A. JA community. Maybe we need to ask some of our friends and relatives outside of SoCal to subscribe.
“Who Do We Represent? Multiracial and Shin Nikkei Experiences” was the title of a very interesting panel discussion whose members included Dr. Curtiss Takada Rooks, professor of Asian American Studies at Loyola Marymount College in L.A., Sarah Baker and Desun Oka. Rooks is an African/Japanese American whose 17-year-old daughter made a fine presentation at the Day of Remembrance program at JANM last year. One of Sarah’s parents has a Japanese parent, so she describes herself as a quarter Japanese. The term she used to describe herself: Instead of “hapa,” she used “quapa.” Clever.
I was particularly interested in the story told by Japanese/Korean Desun Oka, who said his chapter had sponsored a resolution in support of the controversial comfort women monument in Glendale, but was rejected by National JACL. During the Q&A following the panel, I related how our chapter had supported the Korean community’s stance on the monument, particularly since we saw it as a human rights issue, and the monument was in our “backyard.” NCCR was in strong support; however, none of the JACL chapters have supported our position.
The “comfort women” (sex slaves) were never given an unequivocal apology, and the reparations offered to them did not come from the Japanese government. We saw this in sharp contrast to the apology we received for our internment, signed by President Reagan, along with the redress money. I also mentioned a few of us from our chapter attended a fundraiser, held each year, in Koreatown for Rep. Mike Honda, who authored HR 121 calling for the Japanese government’s apology. We were the only non-Koreans at the event, and I mentioned how happy Mike was to see us there.
After my remarks, I was elated to have Norm Mineta thank me and shake my hand.
The panel was chaired by Kota Mizutani, an articulate young Shin Nisei (meaning his parents came to the U.S. after WWII).
Kurt Ikeda is young man who has become very active in Greater L.A. JACL Chapter. After the panel’s presentation, Kurt related how when he first arrived to the U.S. from Japan with his limited knowledge of English, he was harassed by his JA classmates. “Fresh off the boat,” is a term that is freely used today, but I remember when I attended high school, to call someone a “FOB” was a definite “put-down” referring to the recent immigrant Japanese.
I was saddened for Kurt that he had to endure this humiliating experience. There is a sizable Shin Nikkei presence in our community. We need to reach out to them and not let what happened to Kurt happen to them.
While driving home that afternoon, Marion and I agreed how much we enjoyed meeting so many people from all over the U.S. and all the other good things that happened at the convention.
Phil Shigekuni writes from San Fernando Valley and can be contacted at email@example.com. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.