It’s been a long time coming, and long overdue, but we are finally able to announce that the 2023 JACL National Convention will be held in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo. The dates will be July 19-23, and its theme is “Rooted in Community,” where we will look to highlight the many aspects of the Little Tokyo neighborhood and community.
For many Japanese Americans such as myself, we did not have a community center like Little Tokyo growing up. But if we aren’t vigilant, there won’t be one for future generations either.
We are now down to only three historic Japanese American neighborhood communities: San Jose, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Los Angeles now also has the Sawtelle neighborhood in West Los Angeles as a second Japantown.
These communities continue to be places for members of the community to live, but more so, they serve as cultural centers, drawing people for community events and activities. The threat of gentrification and other competing urban needs still threaten the viability of these centers and is one of many topics we will be highlighting at the upcoming convention.
There are many issues that have come to the forefront that we will also look to tackle. In Texas, legislators have proposed to reinstate Alien Land Laws to prevent the purchase of property by foreign nationals with citizenship from China, Iran, North Korea and Russia.
Less than five years after Florida became the last state to repeal its existing Alien Land Laws, politicians are proposing to bring the same laws back. At the same time, Florida’s governor is seeking to control what is taught in Florida schools — and effectively all schools — by refusing to include a course on AP African American History. Attacks on education cut especially close to JACL, as so much of our work is to ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to learn about the Japanese American experience during World War II.
And for JACL, we have much work to do internally. We can’t ignore the crisis we experienced at our last meeting, where if not for the last-minute entry of Larry Oda to the elections, we could have been left without a duly elected national president.
We will need to take some time to have conversations about the future of JACL and what we need to do to ensure the future success of the national organization and our chapters.
But we hope that it will not be all work. Meeting in Little Tokyo opens up so many opportunities to see the local community. Attendees can go to the Japanese American National Museum to view the exhibits before they close for renovation and find their family members in the Ireicho, a book listing all Japanese American incarcerees on display for this year.
We will also have events at longtime anchor of the community the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center and one of the newest pillars of the community, the Budokan. And, of course, there are the many local small businesses available to eat and shop at, and we hope that you will patronize as many of the local businesses as possible.
Finally, there are so many possibilities for other activities. Live performances. A trip to Manzanar or Santa Anita. Guided tours of JANM, the Go For Broke National Education Center and the Little Tokyo neighborhood itself. There are so many places to visit during convention.
The possibilities are endless within the city of Los Angeles and its neighboring communities. For those with young children, extending your stay a few days might include a trip to a certain magical place for kids in Anaheim.
The staff and local Pacific Southwest District chapters and members are all excited about the possibilities of the 2023 convention in Little Tokyo, and I hope you are as well.
We look forward to revealing more information in the coming weeks and seeing you all in Little Tokyo in July!
David Inoue is executive director of the JACL. He is based in the organization’s Washington, D.C., office.