Japanese Americans Mobilizing in Asian America, the title for the retreat which was the brainstorm of creator, Traci Ishigo from the San Fernando Valley. The one-day series of workshops was held Saturday, July 15, 2012 at the SFV JA Community Center.
Traci, who is the Student Body President at UC Irvine, had the support of the JACL to present a program which introduced the JA community to various political considerations and examined our individual identity and attitudes toward those political issues. Her well developed approach challenged us to look at our preconceived notions, set aside our long held ideas and formulate a broader, more encompassing political perspective.
By including a Samoan panelist, Natasha Saelua, associate director of UCLA’s Community Programs office, who brought a Pacific Islander perspective with divergent and shared interests. Also, on the same panel were, Jessica Kawai with the Little Tokyo Service Center, Seniors Program and a current Miss Nisei Week princess, Yuka Ogina, a UCLA student organizer, and Marissa Kitazawa, PSW JACL staff who spoke about the Bridging Communities Program that united Asians with Muslim students whose families faced a similar situation post 9/11 as that of the 1942 Japanese American community. Also leading the gender workshop was Riku Matsuda, a Senior Intergroup Relations Specialist for the L.A. Country Human Rights Commission.
One workshop issue rarely discussed in the Asian community was services for persons with disabilities. Patty Kinaga, an employment law attorney and chair of the Asian Pacific Islanders with Disability of California, APIDC, a non-profit organization, and Peter Wong, a doctoral candidate at UCLA’s School of Public Policy, led this workshop. They reported that compared to the rest of America, the Asian and Pacific Islander community is about thirty years behind. They noted that this is also the case in Japan where the shame associated with and attaching to the families with disabled family members makes the Asian community reluctant to seek out assistance. As the state and nation have passed legislation to insure fairness for individuals with disabilities, they emphasize this issue needs to be brought out of the shadows, especially as our sansei generation is getting older and like their parents are likely to need greater access to these kinds of services.
Takayama is a San Fernando Valley JACL Board Member and has overseen the chapter's recent campaign against hate speech on talk radio.