By David Inoue, JACL Executive Director
Why should I go to convention? It’s a valid question. Convention is expensive to attend, and honestly, National Council can be pretty boring if you’re not a delegate and therefore not voting on behalf of your chapter. I, myself, had only attended a few conventions before becoming executive director. I hope to change that mind-set though.
First, the business aspects of convention are obviously very important. Hopefully, even if you are not a voting delegate, your representatives will listen to you! We will be holding elections of our officers this year for the next two-year period; that alone should be enough to make you want to play a part in determining our board leadership for the coming two years.
We also need to pass our biennial budget, and we will soon know what resolutions will come before the council and if there will be any proposals to amend our constitution and bylaws. Yes, there will be a lot of business to be done — but all very important.
Breakout sessions will be aplenty for all to join in and participate. Many of the themes will be recognizable as traditional topics from past conventions, and in going with our theme of “Redress, Resistance and Reconciliation,” we will be looking at the tensions between the resistance and reconciliation in the advocacy work that JACL focuses on today and in obtaining the progress for civil and human rights for all. We will particularly focus on some women’s issues as a part of JACL’s response to the #metoo movement.
What about having some fun? Philadelphia convention chair Rob Buscher also happens to be the festival director for the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival. This year, we are looking to benefit from Rob’s vast expertise with a rich explosion of films about the Japanese American experience as part of a series of films to be shown throughout convention, both as part of the formal sessions but also concurrently with some of the National Council meetings. For some of those who are not delegates, these films will provide a nice alternative. And what better way to spend a hot summer day than watching a movie?
Our hotel, the Sheraton Downtown Philadelphia, is located at the heart of downtown just steps away from some of the greatest museums in the world.
Friday’s event at the Barnes Foundation features a special performance by critically acclaimed spoken word artist G Yamazawa. Yamazawa is a Shin-Nisei who won the 2014 National Poetry Slam Competition and has obtained numerous other accolades, including the Individual World Poetry Slam Finalist and Southern Fried Champion. He has participated in the Heart Mountain Pilgrimage the past two years, including co-facilitating a storytelling workshop with pilgrimage attendees.
And, of course, Philadelphia has much to offer as a city. Our hotel, the Sheraton Downtown Philadelphia, is located at the heart of downtown just steps away from some of the greatest museums in the world.
Walking down Ben Franklin Parkway, you will pass the Franklin Institute, Barnes Foundation and Rodin Museum — ultimately finding on your path the iconic Philadelphia Art Museum. If you’re up to it, run up the steps to re-create the famous scene from the original “Rocky” movie.
Continuing past the art museum and up the Schuylkill River, you will be able to see Philadelphia’s famous boathouse row, followed by the zoo and on to the Shofuso Japanese House and Garden. Let’s not forget that as the birthplace of our nation, you can also visit Independence Hall, site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution. And just outside Independence Hall is the iconic Liberty Bell, which is located in Independence National Historic Park.
Oh and the food! The options are limitless, including the famous cheesesteak sandwich. There are plenty of places to get a great cheesesteak in the city — everyone has their own allegiances, so perhaps try several!
There is much to do both as a part of convention, but also in addition. We hope to see you all in Philadelphia in July!