As many of you know, JACL is comprised of many chapters like Portland which are part of larger districts like our PNW (Pacific Northwest) district which comprise our National Organization. As dictated by our constitution, once a year member chapters in good standing along with our National Board hold a business meeting which is our National Convention.
This July I had the privilege of attending the 2014 JACL National Convention in San Jose as one of the official delegates for the Portland Chapter. Over the better part of a week, I participated in a full agenda of National Council meetings, informative Plenary Sessions, listened to fact filled reports, voted on emergency resolutions, as well as voted to elect our incoming National Board.
From the moment when I arrived and attended the new delegate orientation until our final bit of business was completed, I wanted to retain as much of it as I could. Despite the fact that my head is still spinning from all of the activity, I thought I would provide a summary of some of my personal highlights from this year’s Convention.
Members of Unite People lead breakout group discussions during the workshop sessions at the 2014 JACL National Convention, DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, San Jose, California.
On the first day, a Plenary Session hosted by Gil Asakawa immediately grabbed my attention. The topic of the session he moderated discussed Asian Americans finding their voices through social media. During this session the panelists relayed how Asian Americans were the fastest growing minority in the US. They cited statistics reinforcing how much more Asian Americans used Social Media and technology like smartphones and tablets than their non-Asian counterparts. They discussed how by being traditionally shut out of mainstream media outlets, Asians Americans became early adopters of social media and have been able to create a strong footprint in that space. They cited examples of blogs like AngryAsianMan.com and websites like 18millionrising.com to YouTube stars like Ryan Higa and Michelle Pham with 12.5 & 6.7 million subscribers respectively. Using growing numbers and traction in the Social Media space, Asian Americans are successfully branching out into mainstream culture and media with new TV shows like, “Fresh Off the Boat,” on ABC.
The next day, I made it a point to attend a workshop hosted by Portland’s very own JACL youth group, Unite People. With guidance from board member Connie Masuoka, UP was able to qualify as a recipient of JACL’s 2014 Legacy Fund Grant. With this grant, Connie was able to bring 10 of our youths to the National Convention to host a breakout session. This session was presented by Professor Darby Li Po Price who screened his documentary, “Model Minority: Do the Math,” along with an engaging round of discussion led by UP members. The documentary and subsequent discussions hinged upon the enormous pressures placed on Asian American youth to excel in school and to enter what their parents and society deem respectable careers. They spoke from cultural dynamics of trying to live up to family expectations as well as those brought upon our young people by the rest of society and how they perceive certain stereotypes.
Above: Connie Masuoka accepts the JACL Legacy Fund Grant award for Portland chapter during the Awards Luncheon at the 2014 JACL National Convention, Gatewsay Ballroom, DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, San Jose, California. Ms. Masuoka is chapter adviser for Unite People, the youth group affiliate of Portland JACL.
The last area I thought I would mention was the Resolution Sessions. These sessions were placed upon the agenda to bring items forward to be voted upon by the National Council for the next year. During these sessions we had five emergency resolutions that were brought before the review committee. Of these five, two of them were championed by none other than our very own Chip Larouche. The first resolution that Chip brought to the floor to be voted upon was a resolution for the National Council to endorse and commit support on the national, district and local level to the campaign to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Minoru Yasui as an exemplary American and an authentic national hero. This resolution was met with flying colors and was passed immediately. The second resolution he brought to the floor was for the National Council to commend General Eric Shinseki for his selfless devotion to duty and to all veterans and Americans and to thank him for making our country a better America. This second resolution was met with a bit of opposition which was eventually overcome with a rewrite of the resolution the next day. After some compromises with the language were agreed upon, the resolution passed with flying colors as well.
All throughout the conference, a number of awards were given out to worthy individuals and organizations. Those recipients were as follows:
- Governor Ralph Carr Award for Courage: American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), for their opposition to Japanese American Incarceration during WWII as well as their continued commitment in the pursuit of peace, social justice, and human rights.
- Edison Uno Civil Rights Award: Stewart Kwoh, the founding President and Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – LA, for his civil rights and human rights activism.
- Japanese American of the Biennium Award:
– Marsha Aizumi, for her support of the LGBT community.
– Dale Minami, for his legal work and civil rights activism with an emphasis on his involvement to challenge the conviction of Fred Korematsu.
– Roy & PJ Hirabayashi, for their contributions to the arts as founders of San Jose Taiko.
- JACLer of the Biennium Award: Lawson Sakai, for his service during WWII as a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and his continued service to the community
The theme of the 2014 National Convention was, “We Are America.” I believe this speaks to us not as a minority, but as an integral part of what makes this country great. It is our task to raise our voices and to take action when the situation calls for it. Maybe that means reaching out on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to get your message out. Maybe it means volunteering your time to make a difference in your community and supporting the causes you care about. Whatever it means to you, I believe that each of us can make a difference in our community and country. We just need to take those first couple of steps.
Domo Arigato Gozaimasu!