By Emily Murase, Contributor
If the first meeting of the JACL National Youth/Student Council’s new board is any indication, the future of the JACL is bright. The NY/SC convened in San Francisco from Oct. 21-23 to welcome new members, hear from JACL National staff and develop a work plan for the upcoming year.
Organized by National Youth Chair Mika Chan and National Youth Representative Sheera Tamura, the fall retreat was an important opportunity for the NY/SC to strengthen its mission, which is to “raise awareness of AAPI issues and to engage and develop young leaders who create positive change in our community.” Nearly every NY/SC member, each a leader in his/her respective communities, participated in the retreat.
To open the retreat, JACL Education and Communications Coordinator Matthew Weisbly presented a brief history of the JACL, from the arrival of Japanese immigrants to the U.S. in the late 1800s through the barrage of race-based discriminatory government actions and laws that gave rise to the founding of the JACL in 1929, to the events leading up to the World War II incarceration.
Weisbly then walked the NY/SC through the postwar and civil rights era that formed the foundation of the redress and reparations movement, the 1980 appointment of the Commission on Wartime Relations and Internment of Civilians and the landmark Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which provided payments of $20,000 to survivors of the incarceration.
The NY/SC also received a briefing about JACL National’s signature programs, including the Kakehashi Program that takes Japanese American young people to Japan, the wide array of JACL Scholarship Programs to recognize outstanding high school, undergraduate and graduate students, as well as next year’s National Youth Conference and the JACL/OCA Leadership Summit.
Showcasing the skills that already exist within the leadership group, NY/SC At-Large Youth Member Claire Inouye conducted a workshop on Canva, an online design tool to facilitate the creation of engaging outreach materials.
The council then participated in a walking tour of San Francisco Japantown led by Lori Matoba, deputy director of the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California, visiting legacy and new businesses that keep the historic neighborhood thriving.
Before WWII, there were more than 80 Japanese/Japanese American communities across the country. Today, there are just three: San Francisco Japantown, San Jose Japantown and Little Tokyo in Los Angeles.
Next, Phillip Ozaki, JACL program director for membership and fund development, and Ashley Bucher, JACL membership manager, provided a comprehensive overview of JACL’s membership, recent campaigns and results of the organization’s 2022 membership survey.
The JACL has nearly 10,000 members in 100 chapters in the U.S. and a chapter in Japan, across seven districts, with the Northern California-Western Nevada-Pacific District Council being the largest with more than 4,400 members.
The NY/SC then spent the remaining time brainstorming membership and outreach strategies, including a homework assignment to reach out to local college campus-based organizations and present about JACL programs and activities. The fall retreat concluded with a Kaiwa Convo session, available on Instagram, that included the Northern California-Western Nevada-Pacific District Youth Board.
The NY/SC is composed of the following members:
- Mika Chan (she/her), national youth chair
- Sheera Tamura (she/her), national youth representative
- Claire Inouye (she/her), at-large youth representative
- Lana Kobayashi (she/her), Pacific Southwest District Council youth representative
- Sarah “Remy” Kageyama (they/them), Eastern District Council youth representative
- KC Mukai (she/her), Northern California-Western Nevada-Pacific District Council youth representative
- Lyra Paez (she/her), Central California District Council Youth representative
- Cameron Sueoka (he/him), Intermountain District Council Youth representative
- Ayako Tischler (she/her), Midwest District Council Youth representative
- Lauren Yanase (she/her), Pacific Northwest District Council Youth representative