National JACL Newsletter

2023 National Convention Demonstrates ‘Rooted in Community’

Jillian Toda-Currie

Last month, our Vice President, Chris Lee, gave a preview of the JACL National Convention which we both attended for the first time. I want to give an update and summary of what happened, starting with a reflection on the overall experience. 

Three ways ‘Rooted in Community’ was demonstrated

The 53rd convention was held in Los Angeles in late July with the theme of “Rooted in Community.” The convention embodied this theme to me in three ways. 

First: the convention was hosted at various venues throughout LA’s Little Tokyo, including the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (JACCC), Hompa Hongwanji Temple and the Japanese American National Museum (JANM). Spreading out at various venues isn’t typical. While we had to pay close attention to the day’s locations, we were more integrated into Little Tokyo. We were also encouraged to support the neighborhood’s restaurants, markets and cafes (which we gladly did).

Second: days before the convention began, attendees were informed that our accommodations were moving from the Hilton DoubleTree in Little Tokyo to the Westin Bonaventure in the Financial District. The Local 11 union representing thousands of LA’s hospitality workers went on strike in July. Out of dozens of hotels, the Westin was the only to have negotiated a contract with the union by that time. The move meant many additional hours of work by JACL staff and extra travel time for convention attendees, but this was the right decision. I could hear the workers chanting outside of the DoubleTree as our bus arrived in Little Tokyo and I felt proud that the JACL had supported workers in the community. JACL went beyond just talking about being rooted in community, but also used our finances to take action. 

Third: in the same way that the people of Little Tokyo make it a community, it was the people (JACL members) at the convention who brought the theme to life. There were people catching up with old friends and I met several who had attended so many National Conventions that they were losing count. Hearing from other chapters was a good reminder that while we have many differences, we also have many of the same obstacles and are part of a greater JACL network that hopes to address those and evolve the organization with the changing community. This year’s logo, designed by Tom Watanabe, also recognized change. The logo features a “friendship knot” and Watanabe said, “The use of gradation serves to depict a transition over time while also showcasing the beauty of the Southern California sky.”  

Convention Summary 

The agenda for the convention was packed with plenaries, workshops, receptions, film screenings and more. I couldn’t attend any of the film screenings because of concurrent sessions, but they sounded fantastic. Luckily, two of the six feature-length films shown had been screened in Portland: Manzanar, Diverted, which our chapter screened in spring 2022 and No No Girl, which our chapter screened this past February at our Day of Remembrance event. I’m glad that other JACL members were able to view these important films. 

Another film that our chapter screened for our Day of Remembrance (2022), Reparations by Jon Osaki, was shown at the National Council to all delegates. The short film raises awareness of the work that has and continues to be done toward reparations for the Black community. The film’s message – reiterated by Osaki, who spoke with us – is that we all must stand in solidarity with Black folks in the struggle for reparations because it is part of our collective liberation. This discussion laid a good foundation for one of our resolutions that the delegation voted on. 

The National Council session resulted in all three proposed resolutions passing. The first resolution supports advocacy for the rights of people who are transgender and nonbinary. The second resolution is to oppose legislation which attempts to establish alien land laws that would limit land ownership based on country of origin. The third resolution supports the California AB 3121 Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans. JACL will send copies of this resolution to California Governor Gavin Newsom, Secretary of State Shirley Weber, State Senator Steven Bradford and Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer communicating the JACL’s support for the efforts to address the longstanding impact of slavery. 

The amendment to the Constitution and Bylaws that would standardize and simplify the membership structure was unfortunately tabled until next year’s convention. While it’s disappointing to have to wait a whole year, this will ensure that the topic gets sufficient time for explanation and discussion. Expect to hear more about these changes next summer, when the convention will be hosted in Philadelphia, PA. 

Something else coming up in the near future is JACL’s visioning work. The plenary, “Envisioning JACL’s Future Together,” summarized the hopes, opportunities as well as challenges JACL faces. A visioning initiative will be underway to listen to the community’s ideas, concerns and needs so that JACL can envision the future as we approach JACL National’s 100th year (2029). 

2023 JACL National Convention logo

Although updates on this work at the National level are forthcoming, it’s never too soon for our chapter to do our own collective visioning. We know youth are the future, and the work that Unite People has done demonstrates this. The formation of our chapter’s Advocacy Committee in the last few years highlights collaboration that is essential for maintaining ties across communities. But there is plenty more to be done to ensure our chapter thrives (and continues to be the largest chapter!). 

What do you want to see in Portland JACL’s future? Do you have ideas for how we can strengthen our membership? We’d love to hear from you! Reach out to a board member with your ideas, or contact us on our website: