The JACL Awards Luncheon honors Legacy Fund grant recipients, the George Inagaki Chapter Citizenship honoree and JACLer’s of the Biennium.
By P.C. Staff
Legacy Fund grant recipients as well as the George Inagaki Chapter Citizenship and JACLer of the Biennium Award honorees were recognized for their legislative, civic, social and educational activities at the Awards Luncheon on July 12 before a warm crowd of special guests and members.
Program emcees George Kiriyama and Jana Katsuyama welcomed speakers Congressman Mike Honda and Secretary Norman Mineta in discussing the JACL’s future and past accomplishments. Special also guests included Judge Raymond Uno.
“One of the things I want to encourage is for JACL to continue supporting fellows,” Congressman Honda said in his opening speech. “It allows young people to experience and be open to what goes on in Congress. Incarceration happened, building up stereotypes over time, and we need to fight it. We need to ensure that what happened to us will never happen again (and) to say no to the things that we need to say no to.”
Honda also thanked the JACL for its support in funding his current fellow, Kelly Honda, the Mike M. Masaoka Legislative Fellow, as fellowships allow youth members to gain political and legislative experience needed to become future leaders.
Mineta installed the new JACL National cabinet for the next biennium, congratulating David Lin, Matthew Farrells, Jeffrey Moy, Chip Larouche, Toshi Abe, Nicole Gaddie and Michelle Yamashiro on their new positions.
JACL National President David Lin presented the JACLer of the Biennium Award to Lawson Sakai, a veteran of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Sakai, a highly decorated war hero, volunteered for the 442nd RCT while incarcerated in Colorado. He received two Bronze Star awards and four Purple Heart medals, as well as the Congressional Gold Medal for his service and valor. Each year, Sakai speaks to hundreds of students of all levels, church organizations, civic groups and retired military organizations about his experiences and lessons learning during his service.
“I’m just another Nisei JACLer — all of you could deserve this award,” Sakai said, discussing how such a recognition was a tribute to the other men who had fallen during the war to protect their country. “Over 800 young Nisei boys lost their lives. Killed in action, but because of that, today we have what we have. Please do not forget them.”
The second JACLer Biennium Award was given to Grant Ujifusa, Legislative Strategy chair of JACL’s Legislative Education Committee. His work was critical in convincing the first Bush administration to agree to grant the late-Sen. Daniel Inouye’s proposal to make redress payments and entitlement to all those who were wrongfully interned during World War II. As the founding editor of “The Almanac of American Politics,” Ujifusa remains relevant in today’s political landscape. Among his other numerous honors is the Order of the Rising Sun Award from the Japanese government.
Ujifusa was unable to attend the Awards Luncheon due to a long-standing family obligation, but he gave thanks to the National Convention and celebrated the lifelong accomplishments of longtime JACLer Grayce Uyehara, who passed away in June, in his acceptance speech.
“I am greatly honored by the award I received today,” Mas Hashimoto read on Ujifusa’s behalf. “I would like to accept it in the memory of Sparky Matsunaga, Cherry Kinoshita, Denny Yasuhara, Mike Masaoka and Grayce Uyehara.”
The George Inagaki Chapter Citizenship Award was given to JACL’s Seattle Chapter.
“The most impressive accomplishment of the Seattle chapter is their staunch commitment to the youth,” said Venice-Culver JACL Chapter President Steven Sharp.
This year’s Legacy Fund Grant Recipients included:
- Chicago Chapter: The Kansha Project
- Mile High Chapter: The Medal of Freedom Campaign
- NCWNP District: Japanese Culture Activity Book
- New Mexico Chapter: “Confinement in the Land of Enchantment: Japanese Americans in New Mexico During World Wore II (CLOE)”
- NY/SC: 2014 Youth Delegate Campaign
- Philadelphia Chapter: Biography of Kiyoshi Kuromiya
- Philadelphia Chapter: Youth Sponsorship
- Seattle Chapter: Develop an API Support Group for API LGBT Youth and Their Families
- Snake River Chapter: “Russell Lee in the Pacific Northwest: Documenting Japanese American Farm Labor Camps”
The Legacy Fund started a few years after the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, giving financial support to the Japanese American community in research and education to prevent future injustices. Earnings from this endowment are used to grant funds up to $3,000 for projects that implement JACL’s mission. All of the programs listed have shown and will continue the legacy of patriotism and improving civil rights.
“To a lot of young people here, I think it’s easy for us to just go along on autopilot and think of things as being in the past,” Katsuyama said in her closing remarks. “But I think one of the things I’ve learned from JACL and from the people who are here is that there is a daily fight, a daily vigilance that all of us are called upon.”
Originally published on July 25, 2014