Two Nikkei among Oakland fire victims

Jennifer Akiko Morris. courtesy of UC Berkeley

Jennifer Akiko Morris. courtesy of UC Berkeley

Two Japanese Americans are among the 36 victims of the devastating Oakland, Calif. warehouse fire that struck the night of Dec. 2.

Jennifer Kiyomi Tanouye, 31, of Oakland, was a music manager at Shazam, a mobile app. Prior to that, she was a manager at Issues, a periodicals store in the city, her LinkedIn profile states. Tanouye, known by most friends and family as Kiyomi, loved music and the arts and helping to organize the Mission Creek Music and Arts Festival, KQED Arts reported.

“Kiyomi was such a vibrant, fun-loving young woman with such a big, kind heart,” Ellen Tanouye, her aunt told the Nichi Bei Weekly. “She was an ally to all those marginalized.” Her family misses her “sweet, quirky artistic spirit,” Tanouye said.

KQED reported that Tanouye’s Japanese heritage was “incredibly important to her identity.” In an interview with her father, Court Tanouye, KQED said he “remember(ed) one day during their trip to Japan last summer when she convinced him to get sushi at 6 a.m. and then go to Tokyo Disneyland. ‘If you just would hang on to her, she would take you to places you would not normally go,’” he said.

Tanouye also painted nails, running the Instagram account “Underground Nail Bar.” According to her final post, she had attended the rave at the warehouse known as Ghost Ship, to paint attendees’ nails.

Jennifer Akiko Morris, 21, of Foster City, Calif., was born Dec. 20, 1994. She was a University of California, Berkeley student. According to the university, the media studies major previously attended University of California, Santa Cruz. Both Morris and her roommate Vanessa Plotkin perished in the fire. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Morris, known to friends as “Jenny,” graduated from San Mateo High School in 2013.

The Chronicle quoted her father, Michael Morris, during a vigil held Dec. 8 at UC Berkeley as saying, “This is devastating as Jenny was such a beautiful, intelligent, creative, caring and sincere young lady with a bright future ahead of her,” he said. “I feel her right here in my heart.” The Mercury News reported that Morris played the piano, guitar and ukulele and was “a normally quiet woman who had a dazzling voice when she sang. She also enjoyed painting and photography.”

According to her obituary, a celebration of her life will be held Sunday, Dec. 18 at 3 p.m. at the Westgate Church Saratoga Campus, 1735 Saratoga Ave., San Jose, Calif.

The city of Oakland has linked to two funds to help support the victims of the fire. The Oakland Athletics, the Golden State Warriors and the Oakland Raiders will “each match up to $50,000 that fans donate for a total of $150,000”: http://tinyurl.com/oakfiredonate and the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts is accepting donations at http://tinyurl.com/oakfiredonate2.

Tomo Hirai/Nichi Bei Weekly contributed to this report.

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