I was honored to participate in my first JACL National Convention this past July, which was held in Little Tokyo. The experience inspired and allowed me to further understand all the sacrifices my late great-grandparents and late grandparents made, particularly during World War II.
I also discovered a deeper gratitude and appreciation for the JACL scholarship I received from the Sacramento chapter to attend California State University, Sacramento.
Although unsure of my career path, I recognized my passion for leadership and advocacy during my involvement with my church’s youth group, summer camp, leadership camps and service with various nonprofits.
When I found my first career job in grassroots advocacy, I discovered the importance of using my voice to instill change through public policies. I learned that calling and emailing my elected officials was necessary to make my opinion known.
Although policy change takes time, knowing I was part of the Democratic process was fulfilling. Sometimes it may take multiple legislative sessions for a proposal to pass and become law, so patience, persistence and repetition is crucial. I know not to assume that my elected officials will vote the way I want, and I make every effort to contact my elected officials and advocate for policies I am passionate about.
At the National Convention, a variety of speakers reaffirmed the importance of our civic duty to speak up and create the change we want to see in our community.
If we do not act, then how can we expect change to come about? One example shared during the National Convention that resonated with me was the story of the JACL community coming together and taking action to preserve Japantowns across the nation. This collaborative effort is to preserve the rich history and public spaces that offer opportunities for our cultural connection and identity.
So, how can you start your advocacy journey today? Start by staying informed. Sign up for newsletters, follow elected officials on social media, sign up for advocacy alerts with organizations that represent issues you are passionate about.
At aarp.org/advocacy, you can sign up to become a mobile activist, e-activist, access policy studies and more.
In the words of AARP’s founder, Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, “If we are not content with things as they are, we must concern ourselves with things as they might become.”
JR Fujita is a senior state and community engagement specialist for AARP and is based in Sacramento, Calif.