Japanese American Citizen's League
Mile High Chapter

March-April 2017

Table of Contents

Day of Remembrance 2017 Recap
Owning Our Stories, Finding Our Light: LGBTQ Acceptance
Fukushima: Six Years Later
Upcoming: CIC Sandpiper Award
HB 17-1230, the Colorado Freedom Defense Act
Community response to Rep. Covarrubias
New Board Member Profiles
Reminder for Membership
Community Partner Upcoming Events

Day of Remembrance 2017

(Extracted from the Post-event Report to Sakura Foundation)

A program to inform and stimulate community conversation

Gary Yamashita, Executive Director of Sakura Foundation, welcomed guests to our commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066, in the History Colorado Center (HCC) Auditorium. We began the program with Derek Okubo, Executive Director of the Agency for Human Rights & Community Partnerships, delivering Mayor Hancock’s Proclamation, and MC Adele Arakawa reading a letter from Senator Michael Bennet. Dr. Lane Hirabayashi presented “Nikkei Resettlement in Denver: The Challenges of Uncertainty”, followed by Q&A and sharing of personal stories of survivors and other community members. After the formal program, participants continued conversations over refreshments.   

Measuring our Success

Attendance: HCC and the DOR Committee had planned for a capacity crowd of approximately 300, the highest in more than five years. HCC provided the official clicker headcount of 482. Informal counts reported attendance as high as “over 500”, or the highest in event history. We believe the current sociopolitical climate was a major factor in individual and organizational decisions to support, attend, and participate (National JACL President Gary Mayeda wrote that DOR events across the country reported historic high attendance). However, we also believe that our unprecedented efforts to publicize and promote the event reached a much larger audience than in the past. We used local television (Channel 9) and radio (NPR/CPR, KGNU), electronic and paper flyers and postcards, email blasts, social media (notably, re-postings of the event from Mile High's Facebook page), and word-of-mouth.     

Level of audience participation: While we did not count the number of audience members who shared their stories and asked questions, we did have to cut short the “community conversation” portion of the program as time ran out. One guest wrote to us, “What a powerful and educational remembrance event! Thank you for letting me know about it. I saw some League [of Women Voters] members in attendance including Rose Tanaka who spoke. It is important that this never occurs again in our history as it is shameful what happens when one group of people are profiled and persecuted.” The diversity of contributors is as significant as the number. The conversation was enlivened by survivors, other Japanese Americans (JAs), and non-JA community members.  

Event day and post-event media coverage: Reporters and photographers from Denverite, the Denver Post, Asian Avenue, and Channel 9 News covered the event. See the links below for samples of coverage:

Lessons learned and the future of the annual Day of Remembrance event

Perhaps the most significant takeaway from this project is that DOR really belongs to the entire JA community. We are transitioning the “ownership” of DOR by Mile High JACL to a “stewardship” approach that rotates primary responsibility for the event among the various JA organizations. Representatives from each of the other JA organizations would serve on the DOR Committee, and the Chair from the previous year’s DOR would serve as the Vice Chair, to ensure leadership continuity and provide practical support. This approach would strengthen connections among the various JA groups (promoting collaboration on other projects), add variety to the event itself, and reduce the burden (and risk) of sole ownership by any one organization. We would also encourage the participation of the general membership of these organizations in the planning and production of this important community event.
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Owning Our Stories, Finding Our Light: LGBTQ Acceptance

By Dylan Mori

On Wednesday, March 30th, a group of people met in Tivoli Student Union’s Multicultural Room in the Auraria campus in Denver to hear from two speakers. These two speakers were both Asian American, and they were there to talk about their personal journeys of support and acceptance for LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer) people in their own lives.

The first speaker, Marsha Aizumi, spoke in great depth about her son, Aiden, and his journey of coming out: first as a lesbian as a teenager, then as a transgender man as a young adult. Marsha touchingly spoke of her journey in dealing with her feelings on Aiden's transition and acknowledging the mistakes she made as a parent. At the same time, she talked about how both she and Aiden have grown as individuals, and their journey into activism for the LGBTQ community.

The second speaker, Pastor Danny Cortez, spoke from a very different perspective: As a Southern Baptist minister who, for the early part of his career, helped promote the homophobic rhetoric of his church. After a series of heart-to-heart talks with several gay and lesbian people in his own life, including his own son, he realized that both he and his church needed to change. Despite the people in his church and community who ostracized him and his family due to his beliefs, he nevertheless continued his advocacy as an LGBTQ ally.

The night was a mix of emotional stories and a reminder of the work that still needs to be done for the LGBTQ community. In this day and age, much of the discussion on LGBTQ discrimination and oppression is focused on actions taken by the government, including North Carolina’s currently contested HB2 “bathroom bill” and a similar bill, SB6, in Texas. However, while these bills can and should be criticized, the talk from Aizumi and Cortez was also a reminder that support of gay and trans individuals on a personal level is equally important. Going forward, the intersection of race and sexual orientation/gender identity will play a key role in the advancement of justice for all of these movements.
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Fukushima: Six Years Later 

By Gil Asakawa

Consul General Ito welcoming attendees to 2016's Touhoku Today event.

Photo credit: Gil Asakawa
It’s been six years since the 9.0 magnitude Great East Japan Earthquake, as the disaster is now officially called, and the subsequent tsunami devastated a huge swath of the Tohoku region along the country’s northeast coast and caused a nuclear meltdown at Fukushima.

More than 18,000 people died in the disaster, and sadly, many bodies have still not been recovered. Almost 500,000 people were evacuated, and almost 50,000 mostly elderly people are living in temporary housing, unable to go home. The government has rebuilt much of the region, though, and is trying valiantly to urge tourists to visit Tohoku.

The cleanup hasn't erased the memory of the horrible day, though.

The initial news of the earthquake, which struck at 2:46 PM local time on March 11, 2011, were shocking. It was late at night on March 10 in Denver, and CNN showed video of the tsunami devouring entire towns, outracing cars of residents trying to escape its path. The tsunami that wreaked most of the havoc after the earthquake was as high as 40.5 meters, or 133 feet — that’s 13 stories high — and washed as far as 10 kilometers, or six miles, inland. Entire towns were erased in one terrible wave. And with the added terror of nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai Ichi nuclear plant, a town and its entire surrounding have become toxic and closed off for decades, with lives interrupted, homes abandoned.

The reaction to the disaster on both sides of the Pacific was swift and supportive. Nationally, JACL announced a partnership with Direct Relief International, which has now given more than $2.4 million in donations to eight organizations in Japan — 100% of all donations went to recovery efforts, with no administrative fees taken out. The American Red Cross takes out a portion of all donations to pay for administrative fees, but it’s the best-known relief organization in times of crisis, and by the end of summer the Red Cross announced it had given $260 million to tsunami relief in Japan.

Beyond such high-profile efforts, there were dozens of fundraising events and benefit concerts across the U.S including in Denver, where a number of fundraising events were held to channel money to recovery efforts. The Red Cross in Colorado raised $3 million for Japan. The Japan America Society of Colorado raised more than $126,000 over the few months and hand-delivered a check directly to aid agencies on the ground in the affected part of Japan at he end of the summer.

The Asian Pacific Development Center’s “Power of Solidarity” concert, which was held just weeks after the quake, raised over $30,000. There were other concerts organized on the fly to raise money for disaster relief and recovery efforts.

All of the expressions of goodwill and condolences — and donations, and volunteer aid workers — from around the world were much appreciated by the Japanese government. In the run-up to the March 11 first anniversary of the disaster, the Japanese government sent out groups of diplomatic emissaries to thank communities for their help.

The Consulate in Denver has marked the anniversaries of the disaster with events, including a taiko group from Japan performing one year, and last year for the fifth anniversary, Consul General Makoto Ito hosted a fundraising event with speakers and a performance by a new Denver choir, Sakura Mile High Chorus.

The tragedy of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster still echo today, but the Japanese are looking forward -- the baseball games for the 2020 Olympics will be held in Fukushima.

We should always remember the terrible disaster of 3/11, but also remember the uniting spirit that tied the world together in its wake.
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Sandpiper Awards with Coalition for an Inclusive Colorado 

Coalition for an Inclusive Colorado (CIC) and the Minoru Yasui Legacy Project present: "Standing Up & Speaking Out!".

CIC is a non-partisan, interfaith, multicultural group celebrating Colorado's rich diversity and inclusivity. Come view the Colorado premiere of the documentary "Never Give Up! Minoru Yasui and the Fight for Justice", celebrate the 2nd Annual Sandpiper Award for political courage and enjoy an international buffet luncheon.

Donations will help support Project Worthmore, which provides programs that foster community and self sufficiency for Denver area refugees. Visit

Visit here to get tickets.

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HB 17-1230, the Colorado Freedom Defense Act

By Mary Ann Amemiya

House Bill 17-1230, the Colorado Freedom Defense Act (formerly known as the “Ralph Carr Freedom Defense Act”), was drafted to “protect Colorado residents from federal overreach based on a person’s status.” The bill is co-sponsored by District 31 Rep. Joe Salazar and Rep. Daneya Esgar of Pueblo.

Journalist Andrew Kenney of Denverite described the impact of the bill in his coverage of the House Judiciary Committee hearings: “…If it becomes law, it would make it illegal for Colorado to assist with the creation of any future Muslim registry (which Trump has openly discussed) or internment camps, or with any other efforts to identify and detain people based on race, ethnicity, national origin or immigration status.” On March 16, after hours of testimony by representatives of diverse Colorado communities, including Jo Ann Fujioka who spoke of her family’s incarceration experience, the House Judiciary Committee voted 7-4 in favor of the bill and advanced the bill to the House floor. Judiciary Committee Democrats voted in favor of the proposal, Republicans against.   

After three readings, the bill passed the House on another party line vote, 37 to 28. It was during the second reading and debate that vigorous opposition to the bill included the now infamous comments by Rep. Philip Covarrubias (see related article in this Newsletter). The bill is now headed to the Senate, where Republicans hold a 1-seat majority. The challenge for bill supporters is to ensure a fair (and timely) hearing by a fair Committee in advance of voting in the Senate, before the 2017 legislative session adjourns on May 10. As of this article, a hearing is scheduled for Monday, April 10, at 1:30 pm. Bill supporters encourage all interested parties to attend, whether or not they plan to testify. Supporters can call or email their state senator or Kevin Grantham, the Senate President.

Justin Valas, Asian Pacific Development Center, contributed to this article.
Jo Ann Fujioka testifying before House Judiciary Committee. To her left are Reps. Salazar and Esgar, sponsors of the bill. 

Photo credit: Justin Valas
Justin Valas testifying.

Photo credit: Tezcatli Diaz
Jo Ann Fujioka speaking.

Photo credit: Mary Ann Amemiya
Photo credit: Mary Ann Amemiya
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Community Statement in Response to State Rep. Philip Covarrubias 

Just over a month ago, on February 19, 2017, almost 500 people gathered at the History Colorado Center to commemorate the 75 th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066 that enabled the incarceration of more than 120,000 men, women, and children of Japanese ancestry in 10 American concentration camps across the country. More than two-thirds of them were American citizens, the others barred from becoming citizens because of their race.

It’s unfortunate that State Representative Philip Covarrubias was not there to hear the presentation by Dr. Lane Hirabayashi, or listen to the personal testimonies shared by Japanese American Coloradans (some from his district), and others describing their experiences during those years of incarceration and subsequent resettlement and rebuilding.

Had he been there, he might have learned something about the very real consequences of the “…race prejudice, war hysteria, and failure of leadership” (from the 1982 report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians: “Personal Justice Denied”) that were the causes of the forced removal and mass incarceration of Japanese Americans from the West Coast during World War II.

During the March 22, 2017 Colorado House debate regarding House Bill 17-1230, Rep. Covarrubias stated, “For anybody who has never been in the heat of combat, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and all of that was going on, there’s no time to ask questions about who’s a citizen and who’s not.”

To us, this echoes the infamous words of General John L. DeWitt, head of the Western Defense Command and Fourth Army, reiterating his opposition to allowing Nisei soldiers on the West Coast: “A Jap's a Jap. There is no way to determine their loyalty... This coast is too vulnerable. No Jap should come back to this coast except on a permit from my office.”

If Rep. Covarrubias had even a rudimentary knowledge of modern history, he would know that President Gerald Ford formally rescinded E.O. 9066, and that President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 that provided a letter of apology from the President of the United States, along with a redress check for each of the eligible surviving incarcerees.

We condemn the racial prejudice, failure of leadership, and ignorance of history’s lessons evident in Rep. Covarrubias’ statements.

We, his neighbors, constituents, and fellow Coloradans, demand from Rep. Covarrubias a retraction, an apology, and a commitment to work together to better understand and support the diverse communities and values of this country for which so many have sacrificed so much.


Mile High Japanese American Citizens League
Asian Communities Together
Asian Chamber of Commerce
Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Colorado
Asian Pacific Development Center
Aurora Asian/Pacific Community Partnership
Coalition for an Inclusive Colorado
Denver Asian American Pacific Islander Commission
Japanese American Association of Colorado
Minoru Yasui Inn of Court
Minoru Yasui Legacy Project
South Asian Bar Association of Colorado
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New Board Member Profiles

Matt Iritani

Growing up, I remember my grandparents being involved in the Japanese American community. I can recall sitting in the pews of Simpson Church on Easter Sunday wanting to get home to see what the Easter Bunny had brought us or trying to take my sister’s crunchy chow mein noodles at the annual food bazaar. When I was nine, my grandmother passed away and with her passed a lot of the Japanese American culture in my family. I began volunteering in the Japanese American community when I was in high school to stay closer to my grandfather and learn more about my heritage. I still like to think of myself as Dan and Irene’s grandson.
A couple years ago, I was fortunate to participate in the inaugural year of the Kakehashi project, and it was the first time I really connected with a group of other Japanese Americans my age. Karaoke in Ryogoku, ramen at Shibuya crossing, an onsen at a ryokan in Fukishima – it was one of the best experiences I have had. I am a part of JACL to see what I can do to bring my peers into the organization and help grow youth involvement of our local chapter. I am humbled to be a part of such a storied organization and am looking forward to everything the board has planned.
Matt is currently in his third year in dental school at the University of Colorado Anchutz Medical Campus. In addition to the Japanese American community, Matt volunteers his time at the student run DAWN clinic in Aurora, the Children’s Hospital, and many other organizations around campus. After graduation, he will pursue orthodontics and hopes to practice in the Denver Tech Center with his parents.

Dylan Mori

Dylan was born in Los Angeles, and he moved around a lot while he was young, living in Japan, Connecticut, Arizona, and Illinois, before moving to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for college. He graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in 2013 with a B.S. in chemistry and a minor in biomedical engineering. He’s currently a fourth-year PhD candidate in materials chemistry at the University of Colorado: Boulder, and once he graduates, he wants to become a materials engineer.

Dylan is a sansei on his paternal grandmother’s side and a yonsei on his paternal grandfather’s side, and he is biracial (half Japanese, half Caucasian). Growing up, he never had much exposure to Japanese culture. The only connection he had to Japan was through his grandmother, who immigrated from Japan after WW2, and his grandfather, who was interned during the war, died before he was born. In spite of this, the question of his heritage was always in the background. After visiting Japan as part of the Kakehashi project in early 2016, which was suggested to him by a college friend, he realized that JACL would be a good way of combining his interest in his Japanese heritage with his involvement in political activism. He’s especially interested in the intersectionality of JA with other social, economical, and racial identities. Along with being a board member, Dylan is also the editor of Mile High JACL’s newsletter.
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Reminders for Membership 

A reminder to all JACL members:

Make sure your membership status is up-to-date! Members receive a number of great benefits, and it's easy to let your membership lapse without realizing it.

Click here to apply or renew online.

Membership rates:

Associate Membership (PC Excluded) – $25.00
A 2 year level available to any new members of the local Mile High Chapter. Although members will not be recognized by National JACL, they will receive all local benefits including discounts to chapter events, when applicable.

Individual – $65.00

Couple / Family – $110.00

Thousand Club – $200.00

Century Club – $350.00

Millennium Club – $1,000.00

Spouse of 1000 or Century Club member – $37.00

Spouse of Millennium Club member – $30.00

Student / Youth (PC Excluded) – $30.00

Thousand Club Life – $3,000.00

Century Club Life – $5,000.00
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Community Partner Upcoming Events

April 8 (Sat)
2017 Sandpiper Awards for Political Courage
Park Hill United Methodist Church, 5209 Montview Blvd., Denver
11 am - 1:30 pm
Coalition for an Inclusive Colorado (CIC)

April 13 (Thurs)
Our Immigration Stories
Tivoli Student Union, Room 444, Auraria Campus
5:30 pm -  7pm
Asian American Student Services, University of Colorado: Denver

April 18 (Tues)
Denver Takayama Monthly Meeting
See website for location and signup
7 pm
Denver Takayama Sister Cities Program

April 19 (Wed)
SEEDS: The Story of the Rice King and Kin
Denver National History Museum, Phipps Theater
Doors open 6:30 pm
Japanese American Association of Colorado (JAAC)
Japanese American Resource Center of Colorado (JARCC)
RVSP with how many to expect

April 22 (Sat)
Japan Cup Competition
Sturm Hall at University of Denver
9 am - 3 pm

April 24 (Mon)
Honoring the Life and Work of Joyce Chapman Lebra
Norlin Library at University of Colorado: Boulder
4:30 pm - 7 pm

April 25 (Tues)
Before the Mass Incarceration
Tivoli Student Union, Multicultural Lounge, Auraria Campus
1:30 pm - 3:30 pm
Asian American Student Services, University of Colorado: Denver
Mile High JACL

May 6 (Sat)
Asian Food Bazaar
Simpson United Methodist Church, 6001 Wolff St., Arvada, CO
11 am - 3 pm
Simpson United Methodist Church

May 6 (Sat)
City of Takayama Park Cleanup
City of Takayama Park, Colorado Blvd. & Cherry Creek Drive North, Denver
9 am - 12 pm
Denver Takayama Sister City Committee
Visit website to sign up

May 20 (Sat)
Cleanup of Fairmount Cemetery
Nisei Veterans Heritage Foundation

May 20 (Sat)
Amache Pilgrimage
See website for details

May 21 (Sun)
Colfax Marathon
Tri-State/Denver Buddhist Temple

May 29 (Mon)
Memorial Day Service at Fairmount Cemetery
Nisei Veterans Heritage Foundation
Simpsons United Methodist Church
Tri-State/Denver Buddhist Temple
Other community organizations

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P.O. Box 13061
Denver, CO 80201

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