All proceeds from the virtual event will be donated to the Greg Marutani Memorial Fund.
By Nikki Hikari
The Northern California Western Nevada Pacific District held its biennial district gala virtually this year due to Covid-19 constraints. Thanks to the 2021 Gala Committee, consisting of NCWNP District Governor Carol Kawase, Janice Luszczak, Thaya Mune-Craig, Debbi Hatanaka Endow and Nikki Hikari, it was very successful.
Those who attended enjoyed 90 minutes of lively talks, beautiful koto music and slide shows of past galas, current Chapter Daruma Award honorees, Youth Daruma Award honorees, the District Award of Excellence honoree, four Sapphire pin awardees and a closing photo montage from all of its active chapters.
Led by Kawase and emcee Jana Katsuyama, news reporter for Bay Area KTVU Channel 2, the awards show ran smoothly thanks to Zoom tech specialist Elise Fujimoto.
The gala began with the Raising of the Colors by Boy Scouts from Troop 58 of San Francisco Konko Church, who also led the Pledge of Allegiance. It was so nice to have the boys on live!
NCWNP galas raise funds to be donated to a specific recipient and project. This year’s beneficiary is the Greg Marutani Memorial Fund. Donations will go directly to the JACL Teacher Education Fund in memory of Marutani for teacher training and classroom materials to promote educational learning about civil rights and the Japanese American incarceration experience.
The keynote speakers were Sharon Ishii-Jordan of the Omaha chapter and Carol Kawamoto from San Diego JACL. Both spoke eloquently about the JACL Teacher Education Program’s history and purpose, as well as elaborated on their own experiences working on the committee with Marutani, including field trips taking teachers to visit the Manzanar National Historic Site.
The gala was graced throughout by the unique sounds of music from koto master Yukiko Matsuyama, who selected pieces from her many albums. Matsuyama then gave a live performance of her original song “Sands of Manzanar.”
The District Award of Excellence is bestowed upon an individual or group who displays excellence in attitude and aptitude in leading programs to benefit the community. The 2021 award was given to NCTOR, the Northern California Time of Remembrance Committee, for its community contributions since 1983.
Christine Umeda spoke on behalf of the 2020 NCTOR Committee, which consisted of Donna Komure-Toyama, Arlene Mataga, Nancy Mune-Whiteside, Andy Noguchi, Dan Okada, Sharon Takeda, Marielle Tsukamoto and Katherine Uemura.
Daruma Awards are conferred upon outstanding chapter volunteers, the unsung heroes and heroines who make the impossible possible through perseverance and commitment to supporting the mission of the JACL and affecting many, many minds and lives.
This year’s Gala Daruma Honorees are Kathy Aoki of Contra Costa chapter, May Saiki of Stockton chapter, Dick “Digger” Sasaki of Eden Township chapter, Marie Sugiyama of Sonoma County chapter, Jean Yamashita of Watsonville-Santa Cruz chapter and High Metcalf of Lodi chapter.
The District Youth had three Daruma Award nominees; one awardee and two outstanding runners up. Congratulations to Yuki Torrey of Silicon Valley chapter, currently a student at the University of California, Los Angeles, and to runners up Bakuhatsu Taiko of the University of California, Davis, and the Japanese American Student Society, also of UC Davis. All are ardent supporters of their local JACL chapters.
The National JACL Sapphire Pin is only awarded to those who have served 10 consecutive years of service to JACL, five of those years to include service at the District and/or National level. This year there are four such dedicated individuals who have each contributed more than 20 years of service to JACL. Congratulations to Jim Duff and Valerie Yasukochi of Berkeley chapter and Thaya Mune-Craig and Jim Craig of Placer chapter.
A special thank you to the gala’s emcee, Jana Katsuyama (daughter of Ron and Jane of the Dayton chapter), and all who participated, contributed and donated to the first-ever virtual gala. Congratulations to all of the 2021 awardees, and thank you for your continued service to JACL!