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By April 26, 2024July 8th, 2024No Comments

USC Nixes Speeches, Commencement
In the aftermath of University of Southern California taking the unprecedented step of canceling 2024 valedictorian Asna Tabassum’s graduation speech in advance of its May 10 main commencement, the school’s leadership has announced its decision to sack the entire ceremony, citing “substantial” security risks for the event. The decision to cancel Tabassum’s speech came after outcry over her public support for Palestinians. The self-described “first-generation South Asian American Muslim” was quoted as saying, “The university has betrayed me.” USC’s commencement cancelation also meant the cancelation of the keynote speech by USC alumnus Jon M. Chu, director of the 2018 hit movie “Crazy Rich Asians.” Additional fallout after the decision included pro-Palestinian demonstrations on the campus, just southwest of downtown Los Angeles. Several colleges campuses nationwide have also seen demonstrations roused by the Israel-Hamas conflict, including on the campus of USC’s crosstown rival, University of California Los Angeles.

2024 Women of the Year Selected
The Downtown Los Angeles Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League and the Japanese Women’s Society of Southern California have selected Sue Yanaga Kawasaki, Genevieve Hatsumi Uyeda Lew, Michele (Misaki) Nagata, Trudy Nodohara and Barbara Kato Yanase Shirota as this year’s Women of the Year (see for more information about each honoree). The five Japanese American community leaders will be recognized at 12:30 p.m. on May 5 at Quiet Cannon, Rooms Crystal 1 & 3, 901 N. Via San Clemente in Montebello, Calif. Tickets are $60 per adult and $30 per child, age 10 and younger. On-site registration begins at noon. Make checks payable to Downtown Los Angeles JACL. For more information, call Rodney Nakada (English/Japanese) at (213) 628-1808.

USJC Taps Yamamoto to Lead
The U.S.-Japan Council board of directors announced that it has selected Audrey Yamamoto to be the council’s next president and CEO. Currently chief operating officer at the Asian American Foundation, Yamamoto succeeded President and CEO Suzanne Basalla at the end of March. Yamamoto will lead USJC’s staff in the U.S. and Japan and work closely with the council’s boards in both countries in carrying out the council’s mission of developing and connecting diverse leaders to strengthen the bilateral relationship. “It is the honor of a lifetime to build on the legacies of Founding President Irene Hirano Inouye and President and CEO Basalla,” said Yamamoto.

Medal of Freedom Push for Mitsuye Endo
In advance of the 80th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Dec. 18, 1944, unanimous ruling in Ex parte Mitsuye Endo that the War Relocation Authority could not imprison law-abiding citizens, a petition drive to posthumously award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Mitsuye Endo, aka Mitsuye Endo Tsutsumi, has begun. As a result of the 1944 SCOTUS decision, within two weeks the U.S. government began taking steps to shutter the 10 WRA concentration camps. On the petition drive page, started by attorneys who in the 1980s revisited the three failed Supreme Court challenges to the mass Japanese American incarceration brought by Gordon Hirabayashi, Fred Korematsu and Minoru Yasui using an obscure legal tactic writ of error coram nobis, are the words: “Endo’s courage and conviction are an embodiment of what it means to be a responsible American citizen. … we request that President Biden posthumously award Mitsuye Endo Tsutsumi with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.” Hirabayashi, Korematsu and Yasui all have received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The link to the petition is at Meantime, a link to a column on the same topic by JACL Executive Director David Inoue may be read at Endo died in 2006.

Mint Rolls Out Patsy Mink Quarter
The late Rep. Patsy Mink (D-Hawaii), the first nonwhite woman to be elected to Congress who was also instrumental for her role in the 1972 passage of Title IX has been honored by the U.S. Mint. On March 25, the Mint released into circulation a 25 cent coin bearing Mink’s likeness on its reverse as part of its 2024 American Women Quarters. Title IX — later renamed the Patsy Takemoto Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act — banned gender discrimination “under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” A video from the University of Hawaii about Mink, Title IX and the new quarter can be viewed at Bulk orders of the Mink quarter may be purchased from the U.S. Mint at

Hawaii: Thumbs Up on Shaka Gesture?
Lawmakers in Hawaii have in 2024 introduced a pair of bills — Senate Bill 3312 and House Bill 2736 — to make the “shaka” the state’s official gesture of goodwill and the aloha spirit, and recognize the island state as its birthplace. Sometimes accompanied with a shake and an appeal to “hang loose,” the shaka gesture — a pinky and thumb extended with the remaining fingers curled down — is expected to, according to Hawaii state Sen. Glenn Wakai, “sail through.”

Ventura JACL Hosts Asian American Films
Through a grant from the City of Thousand Oaks, Calif., the Ventura County Japanese American Citizens League is hosting a free-to-the-public mini film festival to celebrate Asian American Heritage Month on consecutive Saturdays in May. Programs 1 and 2 are May 11 and 18, respectively, at Thousand Oaks Grant R. Brimhall Library Community Room, 1401 E. Janss Road. Program 3 will take place at South Oxnard Library, 4300 Saviers Road in Oxnard. To register for Program 1, visit To register for Program 2, visit To register for Program 3, visit For the lineup of films, visit Film festival organizer and VCJACL board member Janice Tanaka said, “I am pleased to announce that filmmakers Paul Daisuke Goodman (“No No Girl”) and Mallorie Ortega (“The Girl Who Left Home”) will be in person to talk about their work and take questions from the audience.” For more info, visit or email

Embezzlement Trial of Girardi, Kamon to Begin Next Month
Barring unforeseen changes, May 21 will be the start date for the federal fraud trial involving disbarred attorney Thomas Vincent Girardi of the defunct Girardi Keese law firm and the firm’s former controller and CFO Christopher Kazuo Kamon. Girardi, 84, is charged with five counts of wire fraud and is alleged to have embezzled more than $15 million from his clients. Kamon, 49, worked at the firm from 2004-20, oversaw the firm’s finances and accounting department, and was responsible for paying the firm’s expenses. The indictment alleges that from 2010-20, Girardi and Kamon fraudulently obtained more than $15 million that belonged to Girardi Keese clients. Kamon is in federal custody. According to published reports, Kamon is alleged to have “used falsified invoices, fraudulent transfers and cash kickbacks from the firm’s accounts to steal millions of dollars” and “improperly used the firms funds for his personal expenses, including … tens of thousands a month for ‘female companionship.’” Kamon’s attorney has not indicated whether he will seek to sever his client from Girardi’s trial.

Japanese Oscar Winners’ B.O. Totals
Two Japanese movies each won Academy Awards on March 10: Studio Ghibli’s “The Boy and the Heron” for Animated Film and Toho International’s “Godzilla Minus One” for Visual Effects. According to figures from, the international total gross boxoffice receipts for the pair, respectively, stand at about $173.3 million ($46.8 million domestic plus $126.5 million internationally) for “Heron” and about $115.9 million ($56.4 million domestic plus $59.4 million internationally) for “Minus One,” which is North America’s highest-grossing Japanese live-action movie.

— P.C. Staff