Portland JACL Newsletter: March 2011 Issue
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Membership Chair’s Message
by Setsy S. Larouche


JACL February LGBT

What a fantastic day we had on Sunday February 20th to remember our past and embrace other communities of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender.

Oregon Nisei Veterans Commander Setsy Larouche speaks at the 2011 Day of Remembrance event, Hoffmann Hall, Portland State University, Portland, Oregon. Marty Davis (right), editor of Just Out magazine, spoke as part of the panel.This was one of the largest gatherings for Day of Remembrance for more than ten years with over 350 people in attendance. Co-President Jeff Selby did an outstanding job as the Master of Ceremony. I began the program by giving a quick overview of the events leading up to WWII and the impact of Executive Order 9066. Two veterans from WWII were in the audience and were recognized for their valor. [Right: Oregon Nisei Veterans Commander Setsy Larouche speaks at the 2011 Day of Remembrance event.]

World War II veteran Art Iwasaki talks with George Takei prior to the 2011 Day of Remembrance event.Art Iwasaki a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and Sam Naito, a member of the Military Intelligence Service. Both of them with other veterans will received their Congressional Gold Medal at a ceremony in Washington, DC later this year. [Left: World War II veteran Art Iwasaki talks with George Takei]

The second speaker was Marty Davis, the editor of Just Out magazine. She spoke about discrimination she experienced as a white obese lesbian and spent several minutes explaining how the word “queer” was an offensive word that seems to have returned in popularity to have acceptable usage in many circumstances.

Marty was followed by Jessica Lee, from Basic Rights Oregon. Jessica spoke about her experiences of being a lesbian Korean American. She also spoke in depth about the various changes in laws affecting the gay community.

George Takei speaks at the 2011 Day of Remembrance event, Hoffmann Hall, Portland State University, Portland, OregonThe star of the event was George Takei. He’s best known for his portrayal of Mr. Sulu in the television and film series Star Trek. He was one of the most gracious and accommodating public figures I have ever met. He had already participated in the Oregon Nikkei Endowment banquet the evening before and I was privileged to meet him that evening too. George even danced with Alice Sumida as the Minidoka Swing Band played.

Mr. Takei spoke about his personal life growing up in Southern California and how he was incarcerated at two concentration camps. He talked about how he ended up in the entertainment world and he gracefully connected his personal experiences with and how they related to civil rights/liberties.

Min YasuiHis talk included the story of Min Yasui, a young attorney, who defied the curfew here in Portland shortly after Pearl Harbor attack. He also emphasized that even though he’s legally married to his partner Brad, the federal laws do NOT give him all the same rights and privileges of hetero sexual couples enjoy.

Over 300 people took the time to fill out the survey and most liked George Takei for his candor, his ability to tell a story, and of course his celebrity power added significantly to the message. The audience also appreciated the variety and diversity of speakers and experiences. All in all, the Day Of Remembrance event was a huge success and we are confident that this gathering is another step in reaching out to other communities with common issues and experiences.

Day of Remembrance followed an extremely successful annual Mochitsuki festival which was held at the Scottish Rite Center on January 30th. Over 2,000 people came to enjoy the food, music and arts and crafts. The pricing structure was changed this year giving those who attended a choice of three stage shows to see. The traffic pattern was much smoother this year and the basement was also opened for more vendors and activities. Please save Sunday, January 29, 2012 for the next Mochitsuki event!

All images courtesy of Rich Iwasaki, © 2011 Rich Iwasaki

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