By Janet Komoto, IDC governor
Happy New Year of the Dog for those of you reading this! First of all, I’d like to highlight some of the key activities that occurred in our district in 2017 and secondly, give you my hope list of things to strive for in 2018.
When I first became governor in 2016, I looked at the health of the chapters in our district and could see that we had seven thriving chapters and two not in good standing. I decided that something had to be done with the two chapters that needed help.
Therefore, I contacted National JACL to find out who the current members were. One chapter had only two names attached to it, and the last contact with that chapter, Arkansas Valley in Colorado, was eight years ago. Through research and phone calls, I found out that both those members had moved out of the area and concluded that there was no reason for the chapter to be listed on the JACL roster. After much consternation and discussions with membership, I asked that the chapter be closed in 2017. This is not something you do lightly.
Tackling the second chapter, Fort Lupton in Colorado had a very different outcome. After finding out that there were only about eight current members, I started making phone calls and asked if its members wanted help in reviving the chapter or if they wanted to dissolve the chapter or possibly merge with Mile High.
Fort Lupton decided that it wanted to become a chapter “in good standing” and increased its membership to 27 within a year. In February 2017, it was named our chapter of the year for the largest membership increase in our district.
IDC has an ongoing membership competition for the biggest percentage gain each year that determines our “Chapter of the Year.” This healthy approach has led to our district having membership increases in both 2016 and 2017, bucking the national trend. Every chapter needs to make membership recruitment a priority!
Most of our chapters had a Day of Remembrance activity in 2017. We held one of our IDC meetings in Denver in February and attended theirs as well. Mile High had a wonderful program that featured speaker Dr. Lane Hirabayashi and Gil Asakawa signing books at History Colorado. They had planned for 300 attendees and ended up having a standing-room-only crowd. They are planning another great program this year and will be prepared for a larger audience.
In other highlights, three of our chapters received Legacy Fund Grants. Boise Valley is working with filmmaker Karen Day to help complete the film “GAMAN: The Story of Minidoka,” which will be a one-hour TV documentary. Salt Lake will be creating and installing a Redress Exhibit at the new Topaz Museum. And Snake River produced an eight-week social justice film and discussion series focusing on these marginalized populations: undocumented, physically challenged, addicted, incarcerated, mentally ill, homeless, LGBTQ and working poor. The chapter has received many inquiries from around the state about reproducing the program in other cities.
At our fall IDC meeting in Salt Lake City, we learned that several of our students received National scholarships and that students from our district participated in the Kakehashi program. Our youth group has been re-energized by new leadership and will focus on getting more youth involved in JACL this year.
In 2018, I foresee more meaningful DOR programs and chapters presenting more events on top of their traditional ones that highlight social justice and civil rights in our district by partnering with like-minded organizations or institutions that help get the word out about JACL.
We will continue with our civic engagement, voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts funded by remaining Coulter funds. The fact that our chapters share newsletters helps to keep our district informed and feel like a more cohesive unit.
Wishing you all good mental and physical health, joy and prosperity in our personal friendships and business associations in the year ahead.