Last Thursday evening, a man destroyed several windows of the Wing Luke Museum in the historic Chinatown International District (CID) of Seattle, Washington. At the time of the attack, several members of the Japanese American community, including Seattle JACL chapter co-president Stan Shikuma were attending a meeting at the museum for our partner organization Tsuru for Solidarity. Attendees rushed outside to find the perpetrator outside sledgehammer still in hand spewing anti-Chinese and anti-Asian rhetoric.
This attack is deeply saddening and symptomatic of the anti-Asian hate that is still ongoing nationwide. More troubling was the inadequate response from the Seattle Police Department. Stan Shikuma was quoted by the Seattle Times on the attack and in the Seattle JACL chapter’s statement on the incident that the police refused to respond initially despite calls from multiple witnesses. It took nearly an hour for police to arrive, and the responses some callers received from emergency dispatchers seemed to imply indifference or annoyance.
We expect the attack on the Wing Luke Museum to be given the priority that a high profile crime such as this deserves and is prosecuted for the clear intent that it had to intimidate and directly attack the Asian American community. We also call upon the Seattle Police and 911 response to recognize the impact their disregard for our community has not only in eroding our faith in the ability and willingness of law enforcement to adequately serve and protect us, but the role it may play in perpetuating the devaluation of our community that can lead to further prejudice and anti-Asian hate incidents.
The safest communities are those that have the most resources, not the most police presence. The Wing Luke Museum is one such community resource that is vital to providing education and community engagement to combat anti-Asian hate. We look forward to the restoration of the museum so that it might continue its mission of serving the Seattle community in teaching about Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander experiences to advance racial and social equity.
Monday, August 28, 2023, will mark the 60th Anniversary of the March on Washington, organized by A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin and featured Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. On Saturday, August 26, JACL will join the National Action Network who will be leading the anniversary march, with the theme titled, “Not a Commemoration, A Continuation”. This theme is an acknowledgment that the fight for civil rights today, as it was 60 years ago, is unabating, tenacious, and uninterrupted. From the Supreme Court’s dismantling of Affirmative Action to the book and curriculum erasure happening around the country, it is clear that there is still work to be done and the forces of White Supremacy continue to flourish and exert their hatred and bigotry.
In 1963, JACL leaders and members marched in solidarity, in recognition that the racism they faced was no different from that which formed the basis of segregation laws targeting African Americans. They wanted to ensure that the injustices that led to the mass incarceration of 125,000 people of Japanese ancestry in the United States never befell any other marginalized community. They also wanted to demonstrate that the Japanese American community also had a place in the growing civil rights movement. Engagement in the 1963 march would pave the way for JACL to take a leading role in issues such as the Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court case, and ultimately, empowering our community to achieve redress for WWII incarceration 35 years ago.
In this year’s coming march, we are honored to take part again and to share our voice and our community’s voice. While JACL was the only Asian American organization to formally join the 1963 march, this year we look forward to being joined by hundreds more of our partner Asian American organizations. JACL Executive Director, David Inoue will be one of several other Asian American voices speaking out on Saturday morning where he will highlight the unfinished work to achieve social and economic justice for all in this country.
We acknowledge, just as we did then, that there is much to be done. This Saturday is just one further step we take to ensure the dreams of 60 years ago become a reality.
Chris Lee is Portland JACL’s former co-President and current Vice President. We interviewed Chris and asked him to share his experiences as a board member.
Chris, when did you first get involved with Portland JACL?
I first started attending board meetings in late 2013, but have participated in JACL events for a long time. Before Unite People was created, I was part of the youth group at Epworth. Robbie Tsuboi had us volunteer at community events such as Mochitsuki, DOR, and the community picnic.
How long have you been a board member and what made you decide to become a member of the JACL board?
I’ve been on the board for almost 10 years. Originally, I joined to give back to the community. The demographics in Portland, as a city, and Oregon, as a state, are predominantly white. The experiences that I had growing up in the Nikkei community were really positive for me and would not have been possible without the hard work, struggle, and sacrifice made by generations before us. Having places and events to be surrounded by other Japanese and Asian Americans is really important. Everyone should have somewhere they feel like they belong and have community. My goal was to help ensure that we have that here.
What has your experience been like as a board member?
I’m not sure that I want to help lead an organization through COVID again, but I am very proud of the programming and advocacy that we were able to do during such a challenging time. With so many challenges in the world today, it feels good to be doing something positive.
Being on our board and serving as a co-President has been one of the most fulfilling things that I’ve done in my life. I’ve had the opportunity to meet many wonderful people through the work that we do. Our board members are all very passionate about our mission and our community. We are an entirely volunteer board and you can tell by the energy and passion that people bring with them.
One of the surprising benefits of serving on our board is the impact it has had on my career. Throughout the years, I’ve learned a lot from my fellow board members. Not just about planning and running events, but things that they bring from their day jobs and professional experiences that help our board. Watching how they interact with our community and the various stakeholders that we interface with, has been an incredible learning experience.
I’ve even been able to include my participation on our board as part of my development plan at work. For the last 12 years I have been working at Western Energy Institute, a trade association in the energy industry. I started as a Program Manager and am now the Director of Program Development. I am responsible for our leadership development programs and creating new programs. When I first joined our board, it was early in my career. Both my President and COO at that time were curious about JACL. I was on an ok career trajectory at that point, butwasn’t always passionate about my work. Being a part of our board helped me change the narrative with them in a positive way. It also gave me an opportunity to show leadership skills that I otherwise would not have been able to display in the office.
Who would you encourage to consider becoming a board member?
I think there are many different reasons that somebody should consider joining our board. First and foremost is the community aspect of our organization. As a board member you’ll have the chance to meet people and build community. The other part of our mission is around civil rights. If you’re curious about social justice and advocacy then this is a great way to learn more and engage more actively. As a volunteer board, there is flexibility for board members to bring in their own interests and pursuits too. Ultimately, anybody that is looking to give back or get more involved in the community would be a great candidate to join our board. Even though it is work, we have fun too. I would be happy to meet and talk with anybody that is curious.
Thank you, Chris, for sharing your experiences with us and for all the work you have done for our community! If you are a Portland JACL member and are interested in learning more about being part of the board or volunteering with our organization, please reach out to Chris at Chris@PDXJACL.org.
In March, I had the opportunity to join 36 other participants and three chaperones from across the country to participate in the first in-person KAKEHASHI Project trip in three years. On this trip, I had the pleasure of traveling to Gifu, and I also had the opportunity to meet high-ranking representatives of the Japanese government, including Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary and Special Adviser to Prime Minister Kihara Seiji and Parliamentary Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Yoshikawa Yuumi. One thing that stood out to me was that everyone greeted us by saying, “Welcome back to Japan” rather than “Welcome to Japan,” acknowledging our family’s history.
This trip was not my first time traveling to Japan, but it was the first time I was able to meet and travel with individuals who identify as Japanese American in a similar age range. Throughout my life, my family has been involved in the JACL Cleveland chapter. Every summer, we have a community picnic. It was through this involvement, that I was able to learn about the Kakehashi program. Visiting Japan with the intention of making a cultural pilgrimage was very different than visiting Japan as a tourist.
I was adopted from China, but I identify as Japanese American. One of the most memorable experiences on this trip, was that I was able to meet another participant, besides my twin, who was also adopted from China and was raised in a Japanese American household. We immediately connected during the trip, and soon realized that our stories were very similar. Prior to the trip, I felt confused about my identity, but the Kakehashi program enabled me to embrace that I identify as a fourth-generation Japanese American woman. It was very refreshing to hear that other participants could not speak Japanese, and no one judged one another for not being able to because we all understood why.
My favorite part of the trip was in Gifu Prefecture. Gifu is known for its beautiful waterfalls and abundance of nature, similar to Portland where I currently reside. In Gifu, we had the pleasure of traveling to the timeless village of Shiragawa-Go, a historic mountainside settlement registered as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. It was fascinating to see how everything in the village was created with a purpose. For example, farmhouses were built to face the sun so that snow would melt from the roof to provide water for crops. We also visited the Gifu Sekigahara Battlefield Memorial Museum, where Japan was reunified under the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1600. Despite not hearing about this battle prior, it is considered as impactful to a nation’s history as Waterloo or Gettysburg.
Another memorable moment was the opportunity to meet with the Gifu World Youth Organization. Through this meeting, we were able to connect with community members aged 10 to 80+. I was amazed by the sheer number of community members who attended. During this meeting, we shared our families’ stories of immigration. Though I had assumed that Japan did not particularly care about those who had left the nation, it was clear some still do. Despite a few difficulties communicating, many community members asked insightful questions about our American experiences, and it was reassuring to hear that many community members wanted us to return to Japan and stay with them in the future.
Prior to the Kakehashi program, I was hesitant that I would be able to connect with my fellow participants. But, after the fact, I am blown away by the level of connection I was able to feel and am appreciative of the various conversations we had about our identities. I can now confidently say that everyone who was in Group A is my friend, and we continue to stay in touch via group chat and by planning meetups. By participating in the program, I feel an even stronger connection to my Japanese American identity and am more motivated to get involved with the Japanese American community in Portland. I am extremely thankful to JACL for organizing this program, and especially to our JICE coordinators, Hiroko Taniguchi and Haruka Tsuda, as well as local travel agent Ryohei Shimizu for going above and beyond. I highly encourage anyone who identifies as a Japanese American to participate in this program if they are able.
Last Spring, I joined my dad on a tour of Gresham Pioneer Cemetery. Most of the graves there were of notable families who have streets named after them. Nestled in a cemetery once reserved for Europeans is the resting place of the first known Japanese settler in Oregon, Miyo Iwakoshi. As the partner of a Scottish man, her grave was unmarked until 1988. Her story represents an important piece of our region’s Nikkei history. I grew up in Oregon and only learned about her a few years ago. This is disappointing. Actually, I’m a little mad about it. Especially considering she and her family may be the reason many Issei, including my great-grandfather, decided to settle here.
In school, the lives of Native peoples and non-European settlers were at best side notes to the Oregon history curriculum. Multicultural perspectives were lacking. How we ended up at the cemetery that day is thanks to my dad who had found a card addressed to his grandparents from Miyo’s daughter, Jewel Nitobe. Ever curious, he discovered her mother’s historical significance and final resting place.
I think about myself as a child growing up in the 80s and 90s, and how meaningful Miyo Iwakoshi’s story would have been to me then. I’m a mixed yonsei, raised in a predominantly white community. I never saw representations of Nikkei Oregonians. Having something to connect to in the past helps us better understand our experience of the world and form our ideas of self. It would have been validating to learn about her as a child. All children should have an opportunity to link to their history.
After this year’s Day of Remembrance where we showed the film No No Girl, the panel was asked and grappled with some tough questions from the audience. How do we keep the past alive as we near the 100th anniversary of Executive Order 9066? What happens as the younger generations become more diverse? Will we forget? Will history keep repeating? I share these anxieties. It’s in part why I started volunteering at JAMO and Portland JACL–to help preserve memories of our families and friends for the generations to come, to have some small hand in keeping the past alive. Sometimes the act of remembrance may feel repetitive, like the dominant culture doesn’t care. But I think of my younger self and feel what is at stake personally if we were to stop. I don’t want us to forget. As I shouldn’t have learned about the first Japanese Oregonian for the first time in my middle age.
Involvement in this community is an important part of this. We are fortunate to have many active members in Portland. Thank you for supporting us and showing up to DOR, the Nikkei picnic, Historic Plaza clean-ups, mochi-making, Unite People (Portland JACL’s youth group). All of this is valuable! I’m also grateful to those in the JA organizations who came together to dedicate Miyo Iwakoshi’s headstone. Without those pushing for her remembrance 35 years ago, half a century after her death, I’m not sure I would have learned about her.
On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which authorized the forced removal and internment of Japanese Americans living on the West Coast during World War II. Over 120,000 Japanese Americans, two-thirds of whom were U.S. citizens, were uprooted from their homes and sent to internment camps in remote areas of the country. The legacy of Executive Order 9066 is a painful reminder of the injustice and discrimination that can arise in times of fear and uncertainty, and the importance of learning from past historical mistakes.
The internment of Japanese Americans during World War II was a gross violation of their constitutional rights and civil liberties. It was based on racial prejudice and unfounded fears of disloyalty and espionage, rather than on any actual evidence of wrongdoing. Japanese Americans were forced to abandon their homes, businesses, and possessions, and were subjected to harsh living conditions and strict military supervision. The trauma and loss experienced by these individuals and their families cannot be overstated, and the effects of internment are still felt today.
However, the legacy of Executive Order 9066 is not only one of injustice and suffering. It is also a legacy of resilience, courage, and resistance. Despite the hardships they faced, Japanese Americans found ways to maintain their dignity and agency, and to assert their rights as American citizens. Many resisted the unjust internment by filing legal challenges, organizing protests, and creating art and literature that captured their experiences. They also made significant contributions to the war effort, serving in the military and working in essential industries.
Today, it is essential to remember the legacy of Executive Order 9066, not only as a cautionary tale of the dangers of discrimination and xenophobia, but also as a testament to the strength and resilience of marginalized communities. We must learn from the past to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.
One way to do this is to ensure that the history of the internment of Japanese Americans is properly taught in schools and other educational settings. Many students are still not exposed to this history, and some textbooks do not accurately depict the causes and effects of Executive Order 9066. By incorporating the stories of Japanese Americans into the curriculum, we can help students understand the complexities of American history, and the importance of protecting civil liberties and promoting diversity and inclusion.
Another way to learn from the legacy of Executive Order 9066 is to support policies that promote equity and justice for all individuals, regardless of race, ethnicity, or national origin. This includes advocating for immigrant rights, fighting against Islamophobia and anti-Asian hate, and working to dismantle systemic racism and discrimination. It also means recognizing the contributions and value of all members of our society, and creating inclusive spaces where all people can thrive.
Finally, we can honor the legacy of Executive Order 9066 by supporting and uplifting the voices of those who have been marginalized and silenced. This includes listening to the stories and perspectives of Japanese Americans and other communities who have experienced discrimination, and working to amplify their voices and advocate for their rights. It also means promoting diversity in our media, arts, and culture, and recognizing the value of different viewpoints and experiences.
In conclusion, the legacy of Executive Order 9066 is a painful reminder of the injustices and discrimination that can arise in times of fear and uncertainty. However, it is also a legacy of resilience, courage, and resistance, and a call to action to learn from the past and work towards a more just and equitable future.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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