Stand in solidarity against hate

Asian Americans are facing increasingly dire safety conditions in the greater Portland area and throughout Oregon. Recently, a 73-year-old Asian man was brutally attacked and seriously injured while fishing near Waterfront Park. Shockingly, the perpetrator remains at large.

In an effort to demonstrate our collective strength and unity, we urge members of our Chinese and Asian community to peacefully gather at Waterfront Park on April 6 at 2pm. This is not a protest; rather, it is an opportunity for our community to come together in this beautiful park, enjoying the warmth of spring and the blossoming cherry trees. Most importantly, it is a declaration that we are stakeholders in this city, and our safety demands the utmost attention and respect.

Yours faithfully,

Chinese Friendship Association of Portland+14 other organizations


Kokoro Corner: Values-Centered Living

By Spencer Uemura

あけましておめでとうございます。今年もよろしくお願いしす。(Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu. Kotoshimo yoroshiku onegaishimasu.)

Happy New Year to all! Thank you for your continued connection and involvement with our chapter of the JACL. We can’t do this work without you!

For this month’s Kokoro Corner, I wanted to discuss the importance of values-centered living that comes from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). To briefly summarize ACT, the goal is to accept difficult feelings, clarify values, and commit to take action in accordance with one’s values. When our actions are not directed by our values, we can experience fear, avoidance, as well as low mood and motivation.

In the past few months, I have noticed how my own fear has pulled me away from my values, and left me with greater avoidance and hopelessness. Specifically regarding the ongoing crisis in Palestine, I felt worse and worse as news of Israeli war atrocities increased while I continued to feel stuck. In recent weeks, thanks to kind conversation with friends and time for reflection, I’ve looked toward my values of Compassion, Connection, and Justice. I remember the impacts of WWII intergenerational trauma on our community, Japanese people in America and those still in Japan. Our people, too, have felt the pain of oppression and brutality, the sting of barbed wire and the horror of mass bombings.

We carry that pain in us, and that pain can flood back in from time to time. For me, that pain had left me feeling helpless and hopeless, a feeling like “shikata ga nai” or “it can’t be helped”, when there are very tangible ways for concerned citizens to advocate for change. By reconnecting with some of my deepest values, I’ve been able to care for my own pain that I’d been avoiding and see that the egregious violence upon Palestinian people is parallel to the abuses of power that our community has weathered in the past.

For those curious about how Nikkei groups are pursuing advocacy for the Palestinian cause, Tsuru for Solidarity (@tsuruforsolidarity on Instagram) and Vigilant Love (@vigilantlove on Instagram) are organizations that have been co-founded by Japanese Americans dedicated to solidarity, healing, and systems change.

In this new year, I invite you to consider your inner values and how you might let them guide your actions. Whether you have a value for Love, Spirituality, Courage, or Authenticity (to name a few) there are always ways to reprioritize those in our lives.

May our lives be firmly rooted in our deepest values.

*Please note this may or may not reflect the views of other members of the Portland JACL or Portland JACL Board.


Applications are open for JACL Leadership Summit

March 9-12, 2025 in Washington, DC

Established by JACL in 1984, the four-day annual leadership summit program introduces community leaders from across the nation to the national policy-making arena. Co-convened with OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates since 1994, the JACL/OCA Washington, D.C. Leadership Conference is structured to provide a broad overview of the decision-making process at the federal level, including meetings and briefings by public officials, key policymakers who serve in Congress, the White House, federal agencies, advocacy organizations, and the media. Participants also will be briefed on legislative issues affecting AAPI communities and will examine the role Asian Pacific American civil rights organizations, such as JACL and OCA, play in affecting public policy and pursuing civil rights legislation in the nation’s capital!


JACL Comndems Vandalism at Wing Luke Museum

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. 

This also comes on the heels of further criticism surrounding the Seattle Police Department. Earlier this year, an Indian student was struck and killed by a police vehicle while crossing the street. One of the responding officers to the accident is overheard on bodycam footage stating the student, Jaahnavi Kandula, had little value. Our community is hearing that message loud and clear, that we are of little value.

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.


JACL celebrates 60 years since the March on Washington, DC

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: Portrait of a Portland JACL Board Member

Portland JACL board members pose with artist/photographer Kip Fulbeck at the Project workshop in May of 2023

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, but wasn’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

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:

National JACL Statement

Jacksonville Shooting Highlights Need to Continue the Work of Racial Reconciliation and Repair as Highlighted by the March on Washington

On Saturday, August 26th, a gunman targeted and killed three people specifically because they were African American. This is another one of the countless shootings which occurred this year already, but tragically comes on a time of remembrance for civil rights history. 

This attack came juxtaposed on a historically symbolic day for civil rights, where JACL joined hundreds of thousands of advocates in honor of the 1963  March on Washington which featured Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech. This year’s theme, “A Continuation not a Commemoration” is a renewed commitment to build a nation that lives up to its ideals – one that protects and values Black lives. Following this act of racialized violence, this theme could not hold more truth toward the need to dismantle systemic racism and white supremacy in all forms. 

Just as a quarter million Americans led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. first marched against segregation 60 years ago, this year’s march both memorialized and advocated for the continuance of the honorable Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s work against anti-Blackness, segregation, and white supremacy. 

In the 60 years since the March’s beginning, our country’s legacy of racism continues to harm, disenfranchise, and claim the lives of Black individuals at the hands of hate-fueled violence. In addition to revealing our country’s longstanding history of anti-Blackness, the shooting also underscored the critical need to ban assault weapons.

The intersection of racism and gun violence is resulting in dire consequences. This is particularly true in a state such as Florida which has passed laws to enable and embolden gun owners to brazenly turn to gun violence as their first option. This mixed with a series of policy changes targeting multicultural and particularly African American communities, incidents such as this are frighteningly more likely to happen. We must do better as a nation if we are to make true on the hopes and dreams of the past.

August 28, 2023

For Immediate Release

JACL National Statement

National JACL Statement

JACL Denounces June 30th Supreme Court Decisions

Following the disappointing decision yesterday by the Supreme Court on affirmative action, the Court has followed up with two more abysmal rulings, again highlighting the radical ideological turn that the Roberts court has taken wielding its 6-3 supermajority.

Despite clear authorization from Congress to act, and in line with relief provisions granted to many wealthy business owners and corporations, the Court demonstrated its contempt for the average American, striking down the President’s student loan forgiveness plan. Combined with the affirmative action decision, the Court affirms its perspective that education should be reserved for an aristocratic minority.

In its other decision today, the Court voted to allow businesses to discriminate against LGBTQIA+ individuals on the basis of religious beliefs. Ironically, the court ruled against affirmative action on the basis of the equal protection clause but does not see our LGBTQIA+ friends and family worthy of the same protection from radical religious zealotry that holds dehumanization and hate as part of its theology.

Combined with yesterday’s decision on affirmative action, these three decisions by the Court are a serious blow to millions of Americans, many of whom are marginalized individuals who now face an uncertain future in varying aspects of their lives. 

In the wake of these decisions, the JACL stands clear in its support of educational access and equity for all students, but especially those most disadvantaged by the extreme financial burden of higher education and the barriers to admission for minority students. We also reaffirm our support yet again for our LGBTQIA+ members, friends, supporters, and the entire LGBTQIA+ community. It has been a year of continued rulings that have taken the liberties of millions of Americans and it is a sad reminder that we must continue to stand against discriminatory laws and legal decisions. 

It is clear from these decisions that the Supreme Court does not stand for justice, nor the American people.

June 30, 2023

For Immediate Release

Seia Watanabe, VP Public Affairs

Matthew Weisbly, Education & Communications Coordinator

National JACL Statement

JACL Disappointed by Affirmative Action Decision

The Japanese American Citizens League is dismayed by the Supreme Court’s decision striking down the use of race as a general consideration in the holistic admissions programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina. These programs had been constructed in accordance with previous Supreme Court decisions, yet the court once again shows blatant disregard for its own precedent, creating new law.

Today, the majority rejected the precedent that race might be considered generally amongst other characteristics. The Grutter case further affirmed the court’s previous support for diversity as a compelling state interest. The opinion by Justice O’Connor in the Grutter case suggested a time limit of 25 years before affirmative action might not be necessary. Unfortunately, disparities in opportunity due to race remain persistent and pervasive, particularly in the education system and college admissions process. For the court to at once ignore a time frame for affirmative action to be legitimized through court precedent, and shorten it when the disparity clearly remains, is concerning and inexplicable. 

Furthermore, the court asserts, “Many universities have for too long wrongly concluded that the touchstone of an individual’s identity is not challenges bested, skills built, or lessons learned, but the color of their skin.” The court has wrongly concluded that these touchstones of identity are NOT also inextricably linked to one’s racial identity. For Asian Americans, while we may all have unique experiences individually, as the past two years have shown us with the increases in anti-Asian hate, discrimination persists against us because of our race, not because of who we are as individuals. This experience is not unlike that of other students of color.

Also in its arguments, the court uses the Hirabayashi case to establish our nation’s distaste for discriminating based on race. We remind the court that the Hirabayashi case, despite this inspirational quote, did actually affirm that discrimination against a minority was legal. It is that backdrop of historic state-sponsored racism that has necessitated programs such as affirmative action, to redress persistent racism, where this country and its institutions have continued to discriminate systematically against minorities making college less attainable, or even a seat on the Supreme Court that has remained elusive to an Asian American.

It is well known that an overwhelming majority of Asian Americans support affirmative action initiatives. We reject the perpetration of the model minority myth, suggesting that Asian Americans are disadvantaged relative to others presumably, by the plaintiffs and the court majority, less deserving minorities in the admissions process.  While these decisions are limited to higher education for now, they may also set a precedent around similar race-conscious initiatives in hiring and other programs, such as workplace DEI initiatives.

JACL remains committed to ensuring that all Americans have the opportunity to achieve the heights of educational opportunity. We also recognize the scarcity of opportunity at highly selective colleges and universities which means the majority of students applying to these schools will not be accepted, despite being highly qualified themselves. We do believe that colleges are capable of selecting individuals for admission who are qualified, and also support the need for diversity and representation. We reaffirm the court’s past precedent affirming the need to create diversity at schools and reject the court’s rewriting of law in today’s decision.

June 29, 2023

For Immediate Release

Seia Watanabe, VP Public Affairs,

Matthew Weisbly, Education & Communications Coordinator,