Categories
Blog Statement

Asian American Community Responds to Hate Crime in Portland

As a coalition of Asian American organizations, we are horrified and angered by the racially-motivated violent attack against a California family visiting Portland, Oregon. The family was attacked simply because they were Japanese.  

On Saturday, July 2, Dylan Kesterson, 34, brutally attacked a 36-year-old father and his five-year-old daughter in front of the father’s wife while they were all bicycling on the Eastbank Esplanade around 3:45 pm. Without any provocation, Kesterson, who is 5’11” and 200 pounds, approached the vacationing family and verbally assaulted them using anti-Japanese slurs. Kesterson then pummeled the father over 50 times in the head before punching the five-year-old daughter several times in the head.  Fortunately, both father and daughter were wearing their helmets before right-minded bystanders intervened to chase off Kesterson. 

We are further outraged that Kesterson was released from jail on the very same day he brazenly attacked the family. It is disgusting and incredulous that despite being arrested and charged with violent hate crime (Bias crime in the first degree, a Class C felony punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment), he was allowed to walk free even without any bail required by a Multnomah County judge. While recently adopted pretrial release guidelines issued by the Oregon Supreme Court may have contributed to Kesterson’s initial release, District Attorney Mike Schmidt subsequently charged Kesterson with additional “assault” crimes after he simply walked out of jail.  These additional assault crimes, which include the intent to cause serious physical injury, stemmed from the original attack, then allowed the court to hold Kesterson in custody without bail once he was re-arrested.

Despite clear evidence from the outset of his racial animus and use of physical violence on complete strangers, nothing prevented Kesterson that day from inflicting further attacks on other Asian community members after he was released. As the father later said of the traumatizing attack: “We felt we may be killed.”  The actions of both Kesterson, who attacked a young family because of their race, and Oregon’s criminal justice system, which allowed the immediate release of a violent hate crime perpetrator, are completely unjust and unacceptable. 

Our hearts go out to the family members directly impacted by this terrible assault.  Because this is yet another horrendous act of anti-Asian hate, we know that members of our community are experiencing anxiety about their personal safety and the safety of loved ones. We need to know that Oregon’s criminal justice system works to protect our communities, too.

Also troubling and disturbing is the recent report that this is not Kesterson’s first racial assault.  According to news reports, Kesterson now faces 19 counts for two separate hate crimes, including a prior attack for which, for some unknown reason, he was not arrested or charged at the time.   In addition to the vicious attack on the young Japanese family riding their bicycles along the Willamette River on July 2nd, he is now accused of racially intimidating, assaulting, and harassing three Asians on April 17th.  

According to news reports, on April 17th, Kesterson attacked an Asian woman coming out of a coffee shop after he had just yelled racial slurs and chased a teenage boy.  After the Asian woman and friends came out of the coffee shop, Kesterson is reported to have slapped a full carrier of coffee out of her hand while later screaming “Are you Filipino?”  Kesterson then grabbed the back of the Asian woman’s head extremely hard, ripping strands of her hair, and threw her on the back of her car where she eventually fell to the ground.  The police never arrested Kesterson despite pleas from the victim.

These unprovoked racial attacks continue a despicable pattern of hostility and horrific hate crimes perpetrated against Asians throughout this country. We demand greater acknowledgement that people of Asian descent are being hurt by hate and racism, and we call on all state and City of Portland elected officials to immediately correct the extreme failure of the system, including adding bias crime in the first degree to the category of non-releaseable offenses under the new pretrial release guidelines, to prevent a violent hate crime attacker being released back into the public while awaiting trial.  Additionally, we demand to know why the Portland Police Bureau failed to arrest Kesterson for the racial attacks involving three Asian people on April 17th.

No progress around social justice can be made if violent perpetrators of hate crimes remain unchecked. Racism and racial prejudice cannot be solved with tools of an oppressive system. The criminal justice system should work to keep all communities safe and encourage public support instead of alienating those who are marginalized or merely given lip service. Hate crimes are traumatizing not only to the victims but to the entire related community members as well.

In Solidarity,

Portland JACL

Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon

Chinese American Citizens Alliance

Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans, San Francisco

Epworth United Methodist Church

Gresham-Troutdale JACL

Hiroshima Club

Henjyoji Shingon Temple

Japanese Ancestral Society of Portland

Japan-America Society of Oregon

Japanese American Business Association (Shokookai)

Japanese American Museum of Oregon

Minoru Yasui Legacy Project

National Asian Pacific American Bar Association

Nichiren Buddhist Temple

Oregon Nisei Veterans

Portland Taiko

Unit Souzou

Veleda Club

Community leaders held a press conference addressing the recent bias crime against Dr. Abe and his daughter. Dr. Abe’s lawyer, Bonnie Richardson, read a statement on his behalf
Categories
Blog Newsletter

Reflections on what it means to be an American

By Amanda Shannahan

With the Fourth of July right around the corner, I’ve been reflecting on what it means to be an American. In the more recent years, I’ve felt conflicted about celebrating the 4th and I know I’m not alone. For many, the Fourth of July symbolizes some of the very ugly truths about the foundation of our country and the ongoing legacy of white supremacy in the United States.

Many Black people were still enslaved when the Declaration of Independence was signed. How can we celebrate our freedom as a nation on a day when we were not all truly free?

Who Gets to Be an American Like many other practices and policies in the United States, the Fourth of July reinforces who gets to be an ‘American’. It suggests to us who is worthy of and who is excluded from the freedoms and justices that are, supposedly, a birthright in this country. It is part of the marginalization that takes place on a daily basis in the United States that tells us who fits in and who is an ‘Other’.

I remember being a participant in an equity training several years back. The facilitator asked us to close our eyes and imagine an ‘American’. When we opened our eyes, many of us described a similar person: a white, cisgender, straight and able-bodied man. The facilitator encouraged us to explore the messages we’d received- through movies and television, representation in leadership, whose stories were told in classrooms, etc.- that had shaped how we viewed ourselves and others. The same messages that had constructed my idea of who is an ‘American’, also painted Asian Americans as ‘perpetual foreigners’, suggested the inferiority of Black and Brown people, and made invisible Native Americans.

These messages can impact our sense of self, how we relate with other people, and further cause harm by normalizing the inequities that are produced by racist and oppressive policies.

How We Resist
Messages that other and dehumanize are all around us, but we also get a say in our own narratives. We get to choose what and how we celebrate. While long overdue, Juneteenth is now a recognized federal holiday thanks to decades of organizing and advocacy by Black leaders and activists in the Juneteenth movement. Even before it was established as a federal holiday, though, people honored the day through local celebrations.

This summer, there will be more opportunities to celebrate our community and culture, like Obon and the annual Nikkei community picnic. When we build community and honor our traditions, we are claiming our space and our right to exist and to thrive. It is through these small acts of resistance that we can help create a United States in which we are all included and belong. And that, to me, is something worth celebrating.

Categories
Blog Statement

Using Korematsu to Reverse Roe v. Wade is Intellectually Dishonest:

A Statement from Legal Teams Challenging World War II Japanese American Incarceration Cases

As members of the legal teams that challenged the World War II U.S. Supreme Court cases upholding the removal of Japanese Americans from the West Coast, we are compelled to speak out about the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization leaked opinion and the use of Korematsu v. United States to justify overruling a major civil rights case, Roe v. Wade. Below is our statement.

Korematsu cannot be used to jusity reversing Roe

ENOUGH. We will NOT be used.

Justice Alito’s draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization seeks to justify overturning Roe v. Wade on grounds that “Roe was egregiously wrong (emphasis added) from the start” in the same vein as two other notorious Supreme Court decisions upholding blatant racial discrimination, Korematsu v. United States and Plessy v. Ferguson. The leaked draft references a past concurring opinion by Justice Kavanaugh in which he stated that the Korematsu v. United States decision (1944) was discredited because it was egregiously wrong when decided. However, citing to cases discredited for their blatant racially discriminatory underpinnings to justify reversing Roe v. Wade is intellectually dishonest and a mischaracterization of the essence of both cases.

Read the full statement

Categories
Blog Events

Resources for Okaeri

Okaeri

Instagram: @Okaeri_LA

Website: https://www.okaeri-losangeles.org/ 

Email: Okaeri.LA@gmail.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OkaeriLA/


Portland Resources

The Q Center:

As the largest LGBTQ+ community center in the Pacific Northwest, Q Center proudly serves the LGBTQ2SIA+ communities of Portland Metro and Southwest Washington. 

Our drop-in and event space on North Mississippi Avenue is a frequent first stop for new arrivals in Portland, and for longtime residents who are newly out or questioning their sexual or gender identity. 

WEBSITE: https://www.pdxqcenter.org

DONATIONS: https://secure.givelively.org/donate/qcenter

SMYRC:

Here at SMYRC, we provide a safe, harassment-free space for queer and trans youth ages 13-23, where you can create art, play music, and join in on our open mic nights, drag shows, and support groups. You can access services like counseling, school support, and much more. Whatever you are looking for, we are here to honor, empower, and support you

WEBSITE: https://newavenues.org/smyrc/

DONATIONS: https://newavenues.org/donate/give-online/

Categories
Blog

Portland JACL Joins Over 360 Groups Urging US House Leadership to Make H.R. 40 a Priority

Portland JACL has signed onto a letter sent to House leadership calling on them bring H.R. 40 to the floor for a vote. H.R. 40 would create a commission to study the legacy of enslavement and develop reparations proposals.

It's time for the United States to repair its legacy of slavery. #reparationsnow. Human Rights Watch.
Human Rights Watch graphic

Read the letter on the Human Rights Watch website.

As we start Black History Month, the same month as Day of Remembrance, let’s urge our representatives that reparations are still on the top of our mind and that we haven’t forgotten.

Also, if you haven’t RSVP’d for our Day of Remembrance event, register here. This year, Portland JACL will host a screening of Reparations followed by a panel discussion. Learn more about the event.

Categories
Blog Events

Portland JACL Book Club

Join us in coming together as a community and spending time discussing and reflecting on ‘How to be an Antiracist’ by Ibram X. Kendi. Virtual Meetings on Tuesdays from 6:30-7:30 pm held the following dates:

  • January 25th Chapters 1 – 4: Definitions: DuelingConsciousness, Power & Biology
  • February 22nd Chapters 5 – 8: Ethnicity, Body,Culture & Behavior
  • March 29th Chapters 9 – 12: Color, White, Black& Class
  • April 26th Chapters 13 – 16: Space, Gender,Sexuality & Failure
  • May 24th Chapters 17 & 18: Success, Survival & Wrap-Up

Learn more, register for the zoom link and request a free copy of the book at: https://tinyurl.com/PDXJACLBookClub

Questions? Email contact@pdxjacl.org

Categories
Blog Election

Candidate Bios

Board Members for the 2022-23 Term

Jeff Matsumoto

President – Jeff Matsumoto

Jeff Matsumoto is a Yonsei born and raised in Lodi, CA. He has worked as an elementary teacher since moving to Oregon in 2000. He looks forward to continuing the work started by the Portland JACL since joining the board a little over 2 years ago with a focus of greater membership engagement and strengthening our ties in the AAPI Community.

Chris Lee

Vice President – Chris Lee
I’m a fifth-generation, multiracial Asian American. Currently I am serving as Co-President for Portland JACL and am seeking a 5th term on the board to continue ongoing work with the finance committee and Mochitsuki. My academic background includes a Bachelor’s degree in Asian Studies, a Master’s degree in International Management, and I have over ten years of experience in the energy industry.

Heidi Tolentino

Secretary – Heidi Tolentino
Heidi Tolentino has been on the Portland JACL board for 11 years and is the current secretary of the chapter. She works as a high school counselor at Cleveland High School in Portland and was a high school English teacher prior to becoming a counselor. Heidi has a 12-year-old daughter, Malia, who is part of the Portland Public School Japanese
Immersion Program and has been married to her husband, Patrick, for 23 years.

Setsy Sadamoto Larouche

Membership Chair – Setsy Sadamoto Larouche
I would be honored to be your Membership Chair again as Portland has continued to be the largest Chapter in the Nation to include the one Chapter in Tokyo. I’m a product of Nisei Kibei parents from Hiroshima, Japan and we moved back to PDX when I was a child. My bachelor’s degree is in education and my master’s is in logistics. As a retired US Army Quartermaster Officer, I would like to continue my volunteer service to our community.

Jillian Toda-Currie

Treasurer – Jillian Toda-Currie
Jillian Toda-Currie is a fourth-generation Japanese American who grew up in The Dalles, near where her grandparents had a farm and cherry orchard. Jillian currently does marketing research in the healthcare industry. She has volunteered with various organizations in the Portland area including APANO, Minoru Yasui Student Contest, and Impact NW. She is the current Treasurer for the Portland JACL board.


Board Members at Large

Sachi Kaneko

Board Member – Sachi Kaneko
I am a fourth-generation, mixed-race Japanese American and Jewish American. I have been passionate about social justice since I was in high school and have found various ways to stay involved with our
community over the years. I have served for four years on the Portland JACL board. If reelected, I hope to keep serving our community as well as continue advocacy work for BLM, LGBTQIA+ communities, indigenous communities, and other minority groups.

Weston Koyama

Board Member – Weston Koyama
Descended from Japanese immigrants, Weston Koyama is
a fourth-generation Japanese American. Weston maintains a passion
for Japanese culture, speaks Japanese fluently, and strives to foster connections with Japan. He seeks to help the JACL continue its tradition of social justice advocacy as a voice for the Japanese American community. Weston is an Oregon lawyer and a graduate of the U.O. Law School. His hobbies include languages, piano, and
currently studies Cantonese.

Spencer Uemura

Board Member – Spencer Uemura
I am a Yonsei/Shin-Nisei from the Los Angeles area, but I’ve been in Portland for four years. By profession, I’m a mental health therapist,
drawn into this work by a passion for stories and connection. Lately, I have been enjoying documenting my family’s history and requesting and translating koseki (family registry documents) from Japan. I’ve been eager for an opportunity to give back to the Nikkei community, so I’m honored to be considered for the JACL board.

Connie Masuoka

Board Member – Connie Masuoka
I am a Portland born sansei with over 40 years invested in the Portland JACL. You might say I was born in to JACL, as my parents were both active JACL members. My avocation is being the Oregon group leader to the annual Minidoka Pilgrimage and my regular job is being a general dentist in Portland.

Amanda Shannahan

Board Member – Amanda Shannahan
Amanda Shannahan is a mixed-race yonsei. She currently serves as Portland JACL copresident and leads our chapter’s Advocacy Committee. She is passionate about community organizing and working with other marginalized communities to achieve social justice. Amanda is a strong advocate for equity in our education systems and has a background in supporting schools to be
anti-racist and anti-oppressive. She currently works at the Oregon Health Authority promoting access to sex education across
the state.

Marleen Wallingford

Board Member – Marleen Wallingford
I am a Sansei who was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. My first job was working as a clerk in my father’s bakery in Hillsdale. I graduated from the University of Oregon with a master’s degree in speech and language pathology and worked for almost 30 years
for Portland Public Schools. As a retired educator, I became active with the Portland JACL, volunteer at the Japanese American
Museum of Oregon and am a court appointed advocate for children in the foster care system.

Jenny Yamada

Board Member – Jenny Yamada
As a fourth-generation Japanese American who grew up in Corvallis, I wasn’t able to be part of the JA community outside of family gatherings. Inspired to make more connections, I joined the Portland JACL Board in 2020. During my first term, I updated the website, helped implement the email newsletter and participated in the Newsletter and Advocacy Committees. Besides serving on the board, I volunteer at JAMO as a docent and work at a local marketing agency.

Categories
Blog Events

Oregon Japanese American World War II Veterans’ Stamp Dedication

Stamp dedication for Nikkei vets

Oregon Nisei Vets’ Stamp Dedication

Portland JACL joined other local organizations in the unveiling of this US Postal Service stamp. The program included former Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski as Honorary Chair. Tributes included four generations of Japanese Americans and feature vignettes of Oregon Nisei military service portrayed by Oregon Asian Americans.

Watch the event recording here: vimeo.com/543729988

Categories
Blog Events

Asian and Pacific American Heritage Month 2021

Happy API Heritage Month! Here are some ways we’re celebrating this year.

Liberation in Practice: Anti-Racism Workshops for Asian & Pacific Islander Heritage Month

This May, the BIPOC community is invited to join APANO to dive deep with leading social justice experts and community-based organizations to expand our knowledge of anti-racism in theory, work, and practice.

Portland JACL is honored to work with APANO on the May 12 workshop dealing with the model minority myth. Check out the full schedule and sign-up!

Radical Self-Awareness Flyer

Member Spotlights

We’re also celebrating by spotlighting some of our members on Instagram and Facebook. During the month of May, we will be showcasing our diverse community of members to honor our histories and strengthen our connections.

We’re still looking for volunteers to be spotlighted! Are you willing to answer a few questions about yourself? Fill out our form today!

Categories
Blog Election

Voter Engagement

There are fewer than 100 days until the 2020 Presidential Election and with the mournful passing of civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis, we wanted to begin our efforts for voter engagement with Representative Lewis’ own words…

“My dear friends: Your vote is precious, almost sacred. It is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have to create a more perfect union.”

John Lewis
United States House of Representatives / Public domain

This champion of our voting rights compels every eligible voter to register and then vote in this upcoming election. You can check here to see if you are registered. You can update your voter information from this section of the Oregon Secretary of State website, as well.

Please join The League of Women Voters in partnership with Portland JACL at a virtual community meeting on October 10. The League of Women Voters will be providing information on the various measures on the November 2020 ballot (more information to follow). 

The deadline to register to vote in the 2020 Presidential Election is October 13. Register to Vote online.

It is our civic duty to vote. Congressman Lewis’ legacy demands no less!