S.F. JACL shifts gears during pandemic, distributes safety alarms to seniors


Elena Nielsen hopes to raise an LGBTQ Pride flag next May in San Francisco’s Japantown. The San Francisco chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League, of which Nielsen is a new board member, is pursuing the project. Nielsen has ?had this dream of seeing the pride flag raised in S.F. Japantown, representing our queer Nikkei community.?

The civil rights organization’s San Francisco chapter has always hosted community events and advocated for social justice issues because ?it’s part of our duty and obligation to hang on to our legacy programs,? its president, Judy Hamaguchi, said.

The ?Kenko no Hi Community Health Fair? for seniors, one of the chapter’s annual events, was canceled the last two years due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, its ?Spaghetti Crab Feed? will return next January, as a pick-up only event, Hamaguchi said.

Safety alarm photo courtesy of the San Francisco JACL

To help prevent possible anti-Asian hate attacks from occurring, the 92-year-old chapter conducted a safety training for Nihonmachi Terrace senior residents and provided them with alarms to help keep them safe. Mariel Sallee, the Nihonmachi Terrace property manager, told the Nichi Bei Weekly that more than 100 residents received alarms. Hamaguchi said the chapter donated approximately 500 alarms in total to Japantown organizations.

Additionally, Hamaguchi said the chapter has assembled 200 hygiene kits, which it plans to distribute in the city’s Tenderloin neighborhood Nov. 13 or 14. She said the chapter reallocated $3,000 for the community health fair to support the hygiene kit project.

The chapter has adapted to the pandemic by developing new programs, including a career workshop, which board member Danny Teraguchi created, and a new scholarship program, Hamaguchi said.

?We just had to be creative ? the pandemic ? really made us focus a lot more on community,? Hamaguchi, who has been a board member for 18 years, said.

The career workshops include pre-medicine, engineering and law. Teraguchi will host the pre-medicine workshop in January.

Emily Murase, another board member, first got involved with the chapter in 1996, serving as their board secretary. She remained involved for years, until she became too busy with her work for the city. She said it’s been about 15 years since she rejoined the board to reassume the same position.

Filmmaker and community leader Jon Osaki said the chapter assisted him in distributing his film, ?ALTERNATIVE FACTS: The Lies of Executive Order 9066? to universities throughout the country.

?Because of their commitment, college students of all backgrounds will not only learn that the WWII incarceration was justified by false information and a cover-up, but will understand that it is connected to the systemic racism that continues to infect this country,? Osaki wrote in an e-mail to the Nichi Bei Weekly.

Education is the chapter’s main goal for 2022. Hamaguchi said it is in the early stages of collaborating with the National Japanese American Historical Society on a Nihonmachi history exhibit, which will have a timeline, films and other elements. The exhibit could be up in three months, she said.

The chapter is also organizing a ?shared history? forum several months from now to bring together all communities of color and have a discussion, she said.

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