Members of Unite People pose for a group photo with Secretary Norman Mineta (c) at the 2014 JACL National Convention, DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, San Jose, California Photo by Rich Iwasaki
by Connie Masuoka
On July 9, 2014, I was fortunate to accompany 10 youth members of Portland JACL’s Unite People to the JACL National Convention in San Jose, California. This is the fourth time Unite People has chosen to participate at the national convention and the first time they worked on presenting a workshop at the convention. This year the group facilitated the workshop: "Model Minority: Do the Math", with Prof. Darby Li Po Price that discussed topics of Asian stereotypes and their inherent problems and pressures on young Asian Americans.
I am very proud of their work and the energy and enthusiasm in participating in the convention. The following are some of the reflections of those who attended the convention.
Abby Matsushima Grant High School:
The 2014 JACL convention opened my mind to various number of social media stereotypes, both related to Asian stereotypes but also other non-American cultures. I never really thought about how Asians were played as a certain type in the media; but the lectures that were held, showed me how the public perceives Asians. I learned a lot about the discrimination that Asian face every day. I see myself playing into the stereotype as well; we all have different ways of seeing the issues our country. The JACL looks at problems from all angles.
My experiences at the convention were one of a kind. The memories I made will last a lifetime. I was given so many opportunities to branch out and expand my knowledge of having a voice. The JACL give so many young adults the opportunity to be apart of their communities and connect with people from all over the country. As one of the youngest youth chapters, United People represented a group of mature youth.
We led a workshop along with Darby Li-Po Price to talk about the issues of Asian stereotypes and school. Many Asians are said to be excellent at science and math but it is not always the case, they aren’t fitting the stereotype. I feel like I need to live up to the expectation at some points in time.
The JACL conference exposed the discrimination that Asian’s face in social media and in communities. A lecture included live polls within the room, it amazed me how big of a difference the youth reacted to social media discrimination and how the elderly reacted. There is an expectation that must be met and if it is not met then you are not "Asian." I feel like I have a bigger voice after attending this conference. It taught we had to interact with people much older than me and how to handle discrimination on the daily basis.
Kirt Achterman, Central Catholic High School:
This year’s JACL convention was a fun and rewarding experience. I am grateful for the opportunity provided by JACL to attend the convention. I learned a lot while meeting many new people. I can only hope that next year’s convention is just as fun.
Running the Model Minority workshop with the rest of Unite People was a lot of fun, and a good experience. Being involved in the planning, and setup of the workshop was great practice. It’s not something I would normally do, and it was a bit out of my comfort zone, but sparking discussion and hearing every ones opinions was really fun. To run the workshop, we had to do a quite a bit of research on the topic of Model Minority, doing so we found how much it played a part in all of our lives. This was a great experience, and next year, I hope we can plan another workshop and do an even better job using our experience from this one.
Being from a younger generation, I found many of the topics at this year’s convention much easier to relate and connect to. The focus on Asians and stereotypes in media felt more meaningful to me because of how much my generation uses and relies on media. I see offensive things on T.V. all the time, and seeing them addressed and discussed at this convention was reassuring to me that other people notice and recognize it. The voting that we did was one of my favorite parts of the convention; it was fun and got me engaged in the meeting and topics. It was interesting to see the results of the voting, especially between the different generations. I think these things got me much more involved in meetings, and are going to inspire me to do much more with JACL throughout the year.
My favorite part of JACL conventions is meeting people. People come from all over the nation, and from many different backgrounds to attend these conventions. It’s interesting to hang out and talk to all the youth delegates from different states. I think while spending a week together at conventions, we form unique friendships, and I can’t wait to see all of them at next year’s convention.
Editor’s note: There were other excellent essays that were not printed due to space constraints.