Join us in fighting to save the community press

It was nearly five years ago when, during the worst of economic climates in four decades, we launched the Nichi Bei Foundation with nothing more than hopes and dreams, and some vision.

It would have been easier to accept our fate with the old Japanese saying, shikataganai, or “it cannot be helped.” But with almost defiant resistance, we set out to launch the seemingly impossible, with no real blueprint, no model whatsoever. And we launched the first nonprofit ethnic newspaper of its kind in the country.

We thought it was important to be the glue that holds the community together, to keep the community connected, informed and empowered. At the time, it was said that Japanese Americans were “disappearing” as a species. But we needed to continue to support other nonprofit organizations, and to document our experience for generations to come.

I’ve always likened our humble start to that of the Issei immigrants, who came to this country and rebuilt their lives, brick by brick. Little did I know then how it would blossom to one of the most inspirational movements in recent memory.

With community support, and the support of sponsors, advertisers and donors alike, we refused to just die and wither. I still remember our humble beginnings, publishing our first issues in the storage area of the National Japanese American Historical Society. I’m honored and privileged to work with such amazing and dedicated staff; it’s hard to believe all we can do with just the equivalent of four full-time staff.

But as we reach our fifth anniversary, I increasingly realize how fragile our situation is, and how it may be a struggle to even witness our fifth anniversary of the Nichi Bei Weekly in September. This past year, we finally felt the reverberations of a downturn in advertising, although we still produce great publications.

But it is my hope that with your help, we may still be able to realize that milestone. It will take a collective effort, and perhaps a reassessment of what is truly important to our community.

The Nichi Bei Foundation has made some great evolutions in recent months, launching our Digital Edition in January, an Author Series in November, and expanding our Films of Remembrance — dedicated to showcasing films about the Japanese American concentration camp experience — in February. The Author and Films series provide authors and filmmakers a venue to showcase their work, while further educating our community and the public in general. It falls in line with our goals of community empowerment.

Likewise, our Japanese Culture and Cherry Blossom Festival Guide, and its comprehensive Japantown Map and Directory, has the dual goal of preserving culture and empowering one of the last three remaining Japantowns.

We created the Northern California Soy and Tofu Festival in 2011 with little but a dream, paralleling the movement to establish the Nichi Bei Foundation. A great idea, but a silly concept: Turning a FREE festival into a fundraiser.

I’m proud as to how it evolved to one of community-building and leadership development, as we add new creative talent every year to our amazing all-volunteer committee. Our new and continuing committee members alike truly embody the spirit of community service, and we feel that the future of our community, and of Japantown, rests with how we continue to cultivate and engage future leaders.

We hope to continue to provide some great programming and publications like this, but we need your help. We hope that you can continue to support this festival, the largest fundraiser of the year for us.

Please consider a contribution with the form on page 7, or head to our exciting IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign to pay Festival expenses at: http://bit.ly/loveSoyAndTofu.

With your help, we hope to reach our fifth anniversary, as well as many more to come. There’s a lot at stake here, including our community as we know it. Please join us in fighting to save and preserve it.

Kenji G. Taguma is the president of the Nichi Bei Foundation and the editor-in-chief of its publication, the Nichi Bei Weekly. He is also co-chair of the Northern California Soy and Tofu Festival, the largest fundraiser of the year for the Nichi Bei Foundation.

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