• Kenji G. Taguma, President
Award-winning journalist Kenji G. Taguma, a native of Sacramento, Calif., is the founding president and board chair of the Nichi Bei Foundation.
As the Nichi Bei Times was closing in the summer of 2009, he led the movement to create the Nichi Bei Foundation, an educational and charitable nonprofit organization which launched the first nonprofit ethnic newspaper of its kind in the country, the Nichi Bei Weekly. In 2011, he helped launch the Northern California Soy and Tofu Festival, an annual fundraiser for the Nichi Bei Foundation that helps to educate the public on the benefits of soy and tofu with an eye on community-building and leadership development.
Currently, Kenji serves as the President of the Nichi Bei Foundation, the Editor-in-Chief of the Nichi Bei Weekly, and the Co-Chair of the Northern California Soy and Tofu Festival. He also is the Executive Producer of the Foundation’s Films of Remembrance, an annual showcase of films related to the Japanese American incarceration during World War II.
He previously served as the English section editor of the Nichi Bei Times — Northern California’s oldest Japanese American newspaper at the time — from September of 1995 to September of 2009, when that publication folded. In June of 2004, he was named vice president of the Nichi Bei Times.
Prior to his work at the Nichi Bei Times, Kenji was the Community Information Officer at the Human Rights/Fair Housing Commission of the City and County of Sacramento.
While at California State University, Sacramento (CSUS), Kenji also published his own Asian American newspaper, the AsiAmerican Journal. He also organized numerous forums dealing with issues such as hate crimes, affirmative action, an anti-immigrant ballot initiative and ethnic studies. In October of 1998, Kenji received the distinguished Alumni Honors Award from CSUS.
While working to renovate the English section of the Nichi Bei Times, the newspaper was presented the first-ever Pioneer Award from New California Media, a coalition of now more than 2,000 ethnic news organizations and supporters throughout the country.
In 1999 Kenji received the Community Service Award from New California Media for an article that documented the struggle for redress by Japanese American railroad and mine worker families, whose family heads were fired from their jobs during World War II at the hands of the U.S. government. Less than two months after the story ran, the victims were granted redress from the U.S. government.
Kenji was also recognized with an award at the 2004 annual dinner of the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California for his work as a community journalist.
In 2004, Kenji helped to lead a team of Nichi Bei Times staff members who put together a joint Japanese-English series dealing with the issue of whether or not Japanese Americans had a responsibility to serve as a bridge between U.S.-Japan relations, as well as dealing with the issue of cross-cultural communications between English-speaking and Japanese-speaking members of the community. That series won the 2005 Grand Prize Award from the Overseas Japanese Press Association in Tokyo, Japan.
In May of 2013, he was awarded a Consul General Award from Consul General of Japan in San Francisco Hiroshi Inomata, for his “distinguished achievements in contributing to mutual understanding and friendship between Japan and California.”
• Kiyomi Takeda, Board Chair
Kiyomi Takeda, a fourth- / second-generation Japanese American raised in San Francisco, is an occupational therapist at the California Pacific Medical Center. At CPMC, she treats individuals recovering from stroke, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injuries and specializes in hand rehabilitation.
She is the Co-Chair of the Northern California Soy and Tofu Festival, an annual fundraiser for the Nichi Bei Foundation, and is the chair of vendor committees of both the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival and Nihonmachi Street Fair. She is also an active member of nihonmachiROOTS, which is a group of young adults who focus on issues regarding San Francisco’s Japantown, as well as Nakayoshi Young Professionals, which is a group that offers opportunities for networking and volunteerism. A member of the 2010 Queen Court, Kiyomi also volunteers for the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Queen Program.
A graduate of Raoul Wallenberg Traditional High School — where she served as class president — Kiyomi graduated with a B.S. in health science and a M.S. in occupational therapy from Dominican University in San Rafael.
Kiyomi serves on the Programs Committee, and was named the Nichi Bei Foundation’s second board chair in September of 2014.
• Wesley Ueunten, Ph.D.
Wesley Ueunten is associate professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University, joining the faculty in 2002. A third-generation Okinawan, he was born and raised in Hawai’i and spent a total of nine years in Okinawa and Japan learning Japanese and Okinawan languages, studying Okinawan music, and working as a translator and English teacher.
He completed a B.A. in ethnic studies and an M.A. in sociology at the University of Hawai’i, and earned his Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies from UC Berkeley.
In addition to the board of directors of the Nichi Bei Foundation, Wesley serves on the board of the National Japanese American Historical Society, the Japanese American National Library, and currently serves as President of the Okinawa Kenjinkai of San Francisco. He has also served as a researcher for the Japanese Peruvian Oral History Project.
On the San Francisco State University campus, he serves as the co-director of the Edison Uno Institute for Nikkei and Uchinanchu Studies (EUINUS), and as a Faculty Advisor for the Asian Student Union and The Yellow Journal.
A teacher of the Okinawan sanshin, Wesley is a founding member and instructor with Genyukai Berkeley. He serves on the board Programs Committee.
• Graig Inaba
Graig Inaba, a fourth-generation Japanese American raised in Sacramento, is a pharmacy tech at San Francisco General Hospital.
He is a leader of the Nakayoshi Young Professionals, the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Queen Program, and has taught sushi-making classes in the community.
Graig has organized numerous fundraising events, including the VIP Reception for sponsors of the Northern California Soy and Tofu Festival, and coordinated food booths at the past two Festivals.
A graduate of University of California, San Diego with a degree in Bio Chemistry, Graig currently resides in San Francisco. He serves on the Programs and Membership committees.
• Al Matsui
Al Matsui serves as ClassOne Insight’s Vice President of Business Operations. Al has spent many years managing operations at companies that serve the healthcare and life sciences industries. Prior to ClassOne, he was Vice President of Finance and Operations of Edge Dynamics, a leading provider of channel commerce management solutions for the life sciences industry, and Director of Finance and Operations at Confer Software, a provider of enterprise process management solutions for the healthcare industry. Al also held finance and operations positions at Siemens, IBM, and ROLM, and served as an auditor for Deloitte, Haskins and Sells. He is affiliated with the Konko Church of North America and Konko Church of San Francisco.
• Mark Osaki, Ph.D.
Mark Osaki is a development professional, policy analyst and poet.
He has more than thirty years of fundraising at private and community nonprofit organizations. His development background includes strategic planning, grant writing, major gifts, corporate and foundation giving, annual fund, capital campaigns, marketing and outreach. He has held principal development positions at the RAND Corporation, University of California at Berkeley, Toigo Foundation and Support Network for Battered Women among others.
Mark’s poetry has received awards from the Academy of American Poets, University of California, San Francisco Arts Commission, Seattle Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. His work has appeared in various journals and anthologies, including: The Georgia Review, Carrying the Darkness—The Poetry of the Vietnam War (Texas Tech University Press), South Carolina Review, Men of Our Time—An Anthology of Male Poetry in Contemporary America (University of Georgia Press), Breaking Silence—An Anthology of Contemporary Asian American Poets (Greenfield Review Press) and Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac (National Public Radio).
Mark received a B.A. in English as an Alumni Scholar from U.C. Berkeley where he received the university’s highest award in the creative arts, the Eisner Prize. He also has a Ph.D. in International Relations from Georgetown University.
• Keith Stevens
Keith Stevens is a software engineer for Google Translate. He works on multiple levels and is currently developing Translate Community, a platform giving language enthusiast tools to improve Translate. Previously, Keith earned a M.S. in Natural Language Processing from UCLA.
As part of the community, Keith is involved in numerous groups including community building, youth development, and expanding Buddhist presence in America. He’s on the planning committee of the Technobuddha conference for young professional Jodo Shinshu Buddhists, previously coordinated volunteers for Karma Kitchen, an organizer and active member of Nakayoshi in Japantown, and a youth leader for a Chinese Zen Youth Group.
Keith also serves at the Vendor Committee Chair for the Northern California Soy and Tofu Festival, the main fundraiser for the Nichi Bei Foundation. He serves on the board Budget and Finance Committee.
• Jeffrey T. Yamashita
Jeffrey Yamashita, who was born and raised in Hawai‘i, is an ethnic studies Ph.D. student at the University of California, Berkeley specializing in Japanese American studies.
Receiving his undergraduate degrees in history and American studies at Macalester College, he understands the importance of supporting and maintaining the Japanese American community through academic scholarship. His research is on an Afro-Japanese comparative project that examines the construction of the war hero through the lens of race, gender and sexuality.
When not studying, Jeffrey, a past co-president of the Berkeley JACL, is passionate about confronting and combatting regimes and institutions of oppression that challenge Japanese American civil rights of the past. Jeffrey is both excited and honored to be on the board of Nichi Bei because it will allow him to give back to the community while reinforcing the longevity and vibrancy of Japanese America. He serves on the Programs and Membership committees.
In Memoriam … Wayne Maeda
Wayne Maeda retired after 40 years as a senior lecturer in the Department of Ethnic Studies, California State University, Sacramento (CSUS). He is one of the founding members of the Asian American Studies Program and Ethnic Studies Department. He taught the first Asian American course in 1970. He also taught at Sacramento City College, and periodically at UC Davis as a Senior Lecturer in Asian American Studies.
Wayne wrote a book that provides a regional overview of the Japanese American communities (Vacaville, Walnut Grove, Loomis, Penryn, Auburn, Florin, and Sacramento) from the 1860s to 1980s, “Changing Dreams, Treasured Memories: A Story of Japanese Americans in the Sacramento Region.” He is also the co-editor of “Ethnic America: Readings in Race, Class, and Gender.” He is a former board member of the National Japanese American Historical Society and the Gold Hill-Wakamatsu Project, dedicated to preserving the first settlement of Japanese immigrants in America. He had been a contributing writer for the Nichi Bei Times since 1995 until his passing in February 2013.
After his passing, the Nichi Bei Foundation created the Wayne Maeda Educational Fund as a means to honor his legacy and fund the Foundation’s educational initiatives.
In May of 2014, the California State University, Sacramento launched the Wayne Maeda Asian American Studies Archives.
Former Board Members
Jason Okazaki, Esq.
Tim Yamamura, Ph.D.