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We need change

On January 7, 2023, five police officers from the Memphis Police Department severely beat 29-year-old Tyre Nichols during a traffic stop in Memphis, Tennessee. Nichols was hospitalized in critical condition and died there three days later. He was laid to rest earlier today in Memphis surrounded by family, friends, community members, and civil rights advocates. 

Tyre Nichols is only the latest victim of brutality and violence at the hands of the police. In 2022 alone, the number of people who have died at the hands of the police hit a 10-year high, with African Americans accounting for over a quarter of deaths. In the nearly three years since George Floyd’s murder in May 2020, little has changed. Congress has failed to pass meaningful reform at the federal level.   

At our 51st National Convention, JACL’s National Council passed a resolution in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement and specifically committed to advocating for the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and The Breathe Act, which would make significant strides toward reforming police policies. Again, Congress has failed to take action on either of these bills.

We must also focus on the local level. Policing systems are fundamentally broken and not just the result of a few bad apples. Tyre Nichols’ death shows this to be true. Resources must be directed to community-based solutions to uplift communities, not subject them to oppression from over-policing. They also define the ways community care and safety are practiced in our country for future generations. The JACL strongly reiterates the need for major reform in law enforcement, which includes independent community oversight, de-escalation of force, and just and equitable police policies and practices.

It is past time we must make fundamental changes to our law enforcement agencies to ensure Black and Brown individuals are safe from oppressive and abusive police practices. Law enforcement officers must be held accountable for these heinous acts of violence. If we are to ensure justice for those affected by the trauma of these actions, we must reform the systems that have enabled these acts of violence from the state upon the people. We can do better. We must do better. 

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Reflections on Community, Tradition

by Jillian Toda-Currie

The first month of 2023 flew by and I’m already looking back at the holiday time with nostalgia. Snow and ice delayed me from visiting my parents in the Gorge, so this was the first year that I spent the Christmas holiday without them. It made me reflect on how lucky I’ve been to be surrounded by my family – and to have a supportive family who I’d choose to surround myself with in the first place. I know not everyone has that.

My gratitude for having this support system was amplified once I did make it out to my hometown. My cousins hosted mochitsuki for the first time since the pandemic started. It was a celebration of tradition but also of the triumph of just being together. We were missing some folks but had a couple new faces as well. There was a feeling of community, not just because we’re relatives and friends, but also because making mochi is a communal act. We all help make mochi for everyone to take home; it takes a village.

This reflection on community and tradition is what I’m holding in my heart as we get ready for Portland JACL’s New Year’s Celebration. At the time of writing this, the event hasn’t happened yet but I’m looking forward to once again being in community with everyone. The hope for this celebration is to bring our community partners and members together to enjoy each other’s company and be part of tradition.

***

I’ve also recently been reflecting on the balance of tradition and evolution. In particular, this has come up with the Minoru Yasui Student Contest. I’ve been part of the organizing committee for several years and it has been rewarding to see it grow as the essay contest that it has been since the beginning. For 2023’s contest, however, we’ve decided to take it in a different direction and do an art contest.

To be honest, there have been times when I question whether this is a good idea. This is a new endeavor and it’s causing the timeline to be pushed out because we need to work out the details for the new format. But then I think about where we were during the pandemic when many were questioning how to go virtual for Minoru Yasui Day and the contest. Everything could have been canceled but instead a group of dedicated volunteers worked very hard to make it happen. Instead of forgoing the event because we couldn’t do it the way it had traditionally been done, it evolved into something new that is now its own type of tradition.

I have come to realize that it’s not the act of doing the exact same things year after year that make traditions special – it’s the intention and legacy behind those acts being passed down which leaves room for traditions to evolve.

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National JACL Statement

JACL Mourns Victims of Lunar New Year Shooting and Other Shootings this Weekend

For Immediate Release

Seia Watanabe, VP Public Affairs

Matthew Weisbly, Education & Communications Coordinator

What should have been a joyous weekend as the Monterey Park community celebrated the New Year, instead turned into an unbelievable tragedy as 10 people were killed and 10 more sent to hospital emergency rooms from another incidence of gun violence. 

The Monterey Park community is widely known as the first suburban Chinatown and is over 65% Asian American. The Asian American community has experienced a heightened level of fear over the past three years, in addition to the history of racism and xenophobia directed toward our communities. However, we are not the only communities living in fear of violence, a fear that is only heightened because of the ease with which someone might, in anger, choose to release those feelings in a barrage of gunfire with deadly consequences.

Although the killer’s motivations are still unknown, we do know that a semi-automatic weapon, with a potentially illegal high-capacity magazine, was used to carry out the mass murder. In the time since the Monterey Park shooting, there have already been two mass shooting incidents in Louisiana and numerous individual victims across the country. 

The demographics of all those who were victims of gun violence this weekend are as diverse as the nation we live in. The only commonality was that they were killed or injured by gunfire. We must recognize this commonality and act as a nation to reduce the risk of harm from guns in this country. When will our lawmakers listen to the majority of Americans who agree that enough is enough and we need sensible gun safety laws?

The JACL joins the Monterey Park community and the broader AANHPI community in mourning those lost in this senseless act of violence. Our hearts are with the families and loved ones of the victims, and with those currently recovering from their injuries.

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Deep Breaths into the New Year

あけましておめでとうございます!Akemashite Omedetou gozaimasu! Happy New Year to all of our members. I hope your holiday season had plenty of coziness and quality time with friends and family.

While the holidays and New Year can be a time of joy for many, it can also be a difficult time for many others, filled with the stress of travel or hosting, or a reminder of holidays spent missing beloved family who have passed away. A natural response to this is to find ourselves gradually overcome with worries or sadness, possibly dwelling on things that have happened in the past, or have yet to happen in the future.

To cope with this, I encourage my therapy clients to engage in mindful practices that draw the attention of the mind and body to the present moment, instead of the past or future. There are many ways to develop mindfulness, an active and open attention to the present, but one of my favorites is through breathing. By regulating and focusing on our breathing, our minds get a break from dwelling on distressing thoughts, and our bodies can begin to relax.

I teach a simple exercise called “4-7-8 breathing”, which goes as follows:

  • Close your eyes (if you’d like) and relax your body.
  • For 4 seconds, inhale deeply through the nose, letting the belly expand.
  • For 7 seconds, hold the air in your lungs.
  • For 8 seconds, exhale slowly through pursed lips (as if blowing out a candle).
  • Repeat as desired.

A few rounds of 4-7-8 breathing is often all that?s needed to help us center and refocus ourselves when stress or emotions start to cause distress. And because there are no tools required, this breathing technique can be practiced nearly anywhere, and adapted to your needs and physical ability.

May we breathe deeply so we can welcome all the New Year will offer!

Questions? Feel free to email me at Spencer@pdxjacl.org

-Spencer Uemura

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Apply for a JACL Scholarship

The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) announced that the 2023 National Scholarship and Awards Program is now underway. The JACL annually offers approximately 30 college scholarships for students who are incoming college freshmen, undergraduates and graduates, and those specializing in law and the creative/performing arts. There are also financial aid scholarships for those demonstrating a need for financial assistance.  

Scholarship Program guidelines, instructions, and applications have been posted on the JACL website, www.jacl.org, and can be accessed by clicking the “Youth” tab on the menu bar. You may also click the button below “To Learn More or Apply Click Here.”

Following previous years, the application forms for the scholarship program will be completely online. Freshman applications must be submitted directly by the applicant to National JACL through the online form no later than March 6, 2023, 11:59 p.m. Hawaiian Standard Time (HST).  

These freshman applications will then be disseminated to their respective chapters for review. Chapters will have one month to evaluate their applications and forward the names of the most outstanding applicants to National JACL. It is these applications that shall be forwarded to the National Freshman Scholarship Committee for final selection.

Applications for the non-freshman scholarship categories (undergraduate, graduate, law, creative/performing arts, and financial aid) are also to be sent directly by the applicant to National JACL through the online form no later than April 3, 2023, 11:59 p.m. Hawaiian Standard Time (HST).  

All those applying to the National JACL Scholarship Program must be a youth/student or individual member of the JACL; a couple/family membership held by a parent does NOT meet this requirement. Applicants must be enrolled in school in Fall 2023 in order to be eligible for a scholarship. If a student has received two National scholarship awards previously, they are no longer eligible to apply as the limit is two national awards per person.

For more information on the National JACL Scholarship Program, contact Scholarship Program Manager, Matthew Weisbly at scholarships@jacl.org

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National JACL Statement

JACL Saddened by Club Q Shooting

JACL is deeply saddened by the shooting that took place at Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado, one of the only LGBTQIA+ nightclubs in the city, late Saturday night. This shooting is one of over 600 that have taken place this year alone and also occurred on the eve of Transgender Day of Remembrance. This shooting and others that have taken place this year, including some of the deadliest in our nation’s history, remind us now more than ever that steps need to be taken to ensure the safety of all communities from hatred, bigotry, and gun violence.?

Transgender people of color experience some of the highest levels of discrimination in this country. According to a 2021 study conducted by Lavender Phoenix, a community-based research project highlighting the experiences of Transgender and Gender Non-conforming APIs in the Bay Area, 68% of transgender and nonconforming APIs reported experiencing verbal harassment, 40% reported experiencing bathroom-based harassment, and 17% reported being physically attacked. 

This harassment is fueled in large part by the vitriol and disinformation about the LGBTQIA+ community as put forth by too many of today?s political and public leaders. These supposed leaders who spew vitriol against the LGBTQIA+ community must be held accountable for their part in dehumanizing, silencing, and encouraging hate toward the trans and queer community. Their actions have and continue to influence hate and hate based crime at the expense of those most marginalized. Hate speech that results in direct violent action is not part of our first amendment rights. There must be consequences and accountability.

The JACL vehemently denounces violence based on hate and extremism and remains committed to working with its LGBTQIA+ partners in developing and prescribing community-based solutions that are considerate of the different needs and backgrounds of its community members. The JACL recognizes the direct correlation between the hateful and false words of politicians and pundits that lead to targeted attacks and pledges itself to do more to condemn such acts of violence and bigotry and advocate for more legislation that protects LGBTQIA+ individuals and families.

For Immediate Release Seia Watanabe, VP Public Affairs
Matthew Weisbly, Education & Communications Coordinator

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JACL Supports Affirmative Action

On October 31st, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two current affirmative action cases: Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) v. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and SFFA v. Harvard University. JACL has joined 36 other AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) civil rights organizations and advocates in signing onto Asian American Advancing Justice (AAJC)’s amicus brief in support of race-conscious admissions. The amicus brief details the harms and addresses misconceptions of race-neutral admission practices. As we get closer to a decision by the courts in these cases, we must stay committed to preventing any potential action that can impede our ability to express our identities and lived experiences.

SFFA?s representation of the Asian American community as victims of Affirmative Action is a subtle example of how Asian Americans historically have been and continue to be leveraged toward dividing communities of color. As noted in the amicus brief, there is no evidence of the exclusion of Asian Americans by race-conscious admissions in higher education. Furthermore, Harvard, and UNC, among many other institutions that have implemented a race-conscious admissions system have only granted more opportunities for AANHPI identifying students to pursue higher education. It is our responsibility, as a community, to challenge these false notions perpetuated by the SFFA and the Project on Fair Representation, and unify our voice in cohesion with the 69% of Asian American voters that support Affirmative Action, and the millions that benefit from it nationwide.

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“What Can I Do?”

During my time on Portland JACL?s board I have always thought a lot about the question, ?what can I do?? I originally joined our board so I could give back to the community. I?d like to say it was a well thought out and deliberate effort, but honestly it was on a bit of a whim. Growing up in Portland, there were tons of events in the Japanese American community that I attended and enjoyed. Events like Day of Remembrance, Obon, the community picnic, Mochitsuki, bazaars at Epworth, and I?m sure many more. As a multiracial Asian American, having events like these gave me a sense of worth and belonging. I could walk around white Portland and every once in a while, take a break to let my guard down, be at ease, and just exist. So for me, joining our board was a first answer to the question, ?what can I do??

Although I knew about JACL?s mission and advocacy, the importance didn?t truly hit until I saw all of the work that our board does. There were lots of people answering this question in their own way and working together to do it. I think what amazed me the most was that more than just our board, there is a whole network of people, organizations and committees all answering this question. Just within JACL, there is our national organization, plus the regional districts and chapters throughout the country that are doing things for their members. Locally, our board has many ties within the Japanese and Japanese American communities as well as with other communities and organizations. It seems like we?ve needed them more than ever these past few years.

Lately, one way Portland JACL has been active is working in response to the July 2nd attack on Dr. Abe and his family at the Eastbank Esplanade. Originally the emphasis was just to get coverage of this event before shifting to prevent or better handle this type of violence in the future. Thanks to a small group that includes John Kodachi, Chisao Hata, Peggy Nagae, Erica Naito Campbell, Duncan Hwang, and our own Jeff Matsumoto and Amanda Shannahan, we have continued to act and object to hate. We have come together and responded.

On August 12th, Portland JACL in solidarity with 15 other Asian American organizations, submitted a letter to the Oregon Chief Justice?s Criminal Justice Advisory Committee urging them to begin discussions on the inclusion of bias crimes in the hold until arraignment category. This has resulted in a new recommendation that Bias Crime in the first degree will be moved into the ?hold until arraignment? category and there will be further discussion by the committee on moving bias crime in the second degree to that category as well.

While this may not be large sweeping reform of our country?s justice system, it is a small step in the right direction. As I?ve learned during my time on our board, these small steps are what civil rights and social justice work looks like. As we continue to see an increase in hate crimes and bias incidents in Oregon and Nationwide, I?ll admit that it is easy to feel helpless and lose hope. However, I want to remind you that there are lots of people that continue to answer the question with advocacy for Asian Americans and our communities. We deserve to feel safe.

In addition to the fun things that Portland JACL does, like award scholarships, show film screenings, hold community events like the picnic, there is other work that makes a difference too. Recently that has included helping with the Oregon Nisei Veterans World War II Memorial Highway, supporting Minidoka to preserve the site from a wind farm project, working with Metro and the Expo center to provide input on developing what was once referred to as the Portland Assembly Center. We?ve responded to racist license plates and held a few clean ups too. Not everything we do makes it into the newsletter or gets much coverage, but is equally important and helps our board answer the question, ?what can we do??

Let?s continue to take up space and support community events and organizations. Attending the Tiger Tiger event in July was a great reminder for me of how important it is to get out, connect, and find places to be yourself. Looking ahead to the fall, there will be opportunities to engage and be active related to the mid-term and local elections. Particularly a ballot measure that would make changes to Portland?s form of city government. This could have a big impact on how our city is run. Of course, our newsletter and social are great ways to find events that are happening. I?ll simply close by asking you to join me in taking a moment to reflect and think about ?what can I do??

–Chris Lee


Resources/Links:
If you?re the victim of a hate or bias crime please report it to the Oregon DOJ?s Bias Hotline by calling 1-844-924-2427. It is important to record incidents so that it can be counted and justify more resources.

Contribute to the GoFundMe and support Dr. Abe?s family.

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Board Member Message on Anti-Asian Bias Crime

By the time you read this article you may not remember that a terrible act of hate was perpetrated against a young Japanese family visiting Portland. Either because you did not hear about it as it was nearly a week before there was any substantive information in the major media outlets or the from the numbness from being inundated by the tumultuous onslaught of violent events that seem to happen daily.

On Saturday, July 2, 2022, a man, Dylan Kesterson, started verbally attacking by yelling racial slurs and then punching in the head (50 times by the victim?s account) a father, Dr. Riyuichi Abe and also hitting in the head his 5-year-old daughter as they were on a tandem bike ride on the East bank Esplanade. Luckily, because they were wearing bicycle helmets neither was severely injured and good people were able to intervene and get help. The man was arrested at the scene but was released later that same day. He did not appear for his court date three days later but was found that day rearrested and jailed and is currently charged with 19 counts of bias crime as it was found that he also committed as hate crime in April 2022.

As horrified and angry as I am that such a racial motivated hate crime happened in my town, I know it is not an isolated incident and that it happens here regularly, and most incidents go unreported and/or unacted on. But this crime is the act that broke the proverbial camel?s back. Not only was this family viciously assaulted, but the criminal justice system failed in that it allowed this man to walk free without consequence that same day. And it has been learned that this same man attacked others for racial reason a few months earlier and was not arrested. It
would appear that racism is not just relegated to deranged individuals but is also present in our justice system where the system underplays bias/ hate crimes.

I am grateful and proud of our community members, Chisao Hata, Mike Irinaga, Rich and Yoko Iwasaki, John Kodachi, Weston Koyama, Joni Kimoto, Jeff Matsumoto, Anne and Erica Naito-Campbell, and Amanda Shanahan who immediately spearheaded actions that have brought attention to and hopefully a way to stop racial hate and violence in our city. This is not over at the time of this writing our leadership is waiting to meet with the district attorney?s office, police bureau and court officials and there is the pending trial of Dylan Kesterson.

And beyond the scope of social justice, we need to extend empathy to the Abe family. As Portlanders it is incumbent on us to help the family heal the emotional and psychological scars they have incurred. Their words haunt me; ?I want to get out of the city as soon as possible, I want to leave the United States. I never want to see this city again.? Let us find a way to help them.

A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help the family get the support services they need.

–Connie Masuoka

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Healing From Community Trauma

Our community is strong, with deep roots in Japan and America. We have contributed positively to the present and future of this country, despite difficult circumstances. And last month, it was disappointing to hear that racist violence not only continues nationwide, but impacted a Japanese family as they were enjoying the Eastbank Esplanade. This is our community, these are our neighborhoods, these are the streets we walk.

Our minds and bodies remember the pain of the past,
and hearing about this unsettling event in the present can trigger a kind of emotional flinching reaction in which we are flooded with memories of similar events we have experienced. While many of us may have not experienced incarceration in World War II, it is natural to have a resurgence of memories from times when we have been bullied, isolated, or otherwise singled out based on our race. A common response is increased fear, isolation, and avoidance of things that remind us of the past.

An excellent solution for this community trauma is community care, where support is mutual and shared among members of a community. This type of support, in conjunction with policy change efforts, is vital to our healing and the prevention of similar attacks. So what can we do to respond to what happened at the Esplanade?

  • Recognize that it could be beneficial to talk about how you?ve been impacted by news of the attack.
  • Consider checking in with your Japanese American elders, family, and friends. How are they doing? How are you doing?
  • What are the places or events where you might feel some support and shelter in community? You might consider coming to Obonfest at OBT on Sat 8/6, or the Annual JACL Picnic at Oaks Park on Sun 8/21. Community spaces can be powerful reminders of our shared resilience and joy.
  • Mental health therapy might also be beneficial. For more information about how to seek therapy, please see my brief tips below or email me at Spencer@pdxjacl.org.

The recent attack is a frightening reminder of violence, but we are not strangers to coping with trauma. Repeated reminders to ?gaman? may have carried our community through the past, but we have the chance to make a new way forward.

May we lean into community in times of pain and fear, both giving and receiving care.

How to start therapy:

  • Helpful NPR article: Things to consider when looking for a therapist, where to start looking. https://bit.ly/NPRstarttherapy
  • Open Path Collective: Listing for therapists who offer lower cost, out-of-pocket options. Can filter based on a number of criteria. https://openpathcollective.org/find-a-clinician
  • Psychology Today: Online therapist listings, searchable based on insurance, therapist identity, therapy approach. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us
  • There may be other opportunities for mental health supports through an employer?s Employee Assistance Program, or other local low-cost options.
  • Other questions? Feel free to contact Spencer@pdxjacl.org.

Reporting incidents of bias and hate: https://bit.ly/ORBiasHotline.

Survivors or witnesses of hate crimes can use the hotline to talk to trained staff, receive a referral to law enforcement, or be put in touch with a social service agency. Interpreters available in 240 languages. Can report online or over the phone (1-844-924-2427).

–Spencer Uemura