Japanese American Citizen's League
Mile High Chapter

January-February 2017

Table of Contents

Revitalization of Mile High JACL
Day of Remembrance 2017
New Board Member Profiles
Opinion Piece - Donald Trump's first week in office
Opinion Piece - Lessons from Incarceration
Mike Shibata's Farewell Letter
JACL at the Women's March On Denver
Community Partner Upcoming Events

Welcome to the Revitalization Issue!

From the Editor


It's been a busy couple of months for Mile High JACL. We've been working to get the new version of the newsletter off the ground, but it's an endeavor that we were happy to undertake. Going forward, the board of Mile High JACL wants to make communication with our members a top priority as part of our new revitalization project. We want to make sure that both our own events and our partners' events are featured for the benefit and interests of all of our members. We also want to use this as a platform for you to get in contact with us! Have an event you think we should be aware of? Want to write for us or voice your opinion on something? Drop us a line - our contact info is at the bottom of this issue.


Revitalization of Mile High JACL

In the August 26-September 8, 2016 issue of Pacific Citizen, Gil Asakawa wrote about the near-demise of Mile High JACL. If you haven’t read it, go pull that issue and read it now, as this is about what has happened after the decision to “stay the course” as a national JACL affiliate.

That decision came with some conditions. As the next step, we established a subcommittee to draft a plan, incorporating these conditions, to “revitalize” the Mile High chapter. The Subcommittee members are: Marge Taniwaki, Seichi Otsuka, Gil Asakawa, Matthew Iritani, and Mary Ann Amemiya.

We began work on September 20, 2016, led by Derek Okubo who had facilitated the August 21 Community Forum. During this initial session, we started developing the Vision, Values and Practices, and Goals and Strategies that would define the new Mile High chapter. We met twice again to create from all this a sort of “roadmap” we then used to draft a very basic work plan to begin making the Vision a reality. The work plan includes roadmap strategies and tasks we consider the most critical for chapter survival, or that present the greatest short term opportunities for meeting our Goals—the biggest bang for our buck. Both the roadmap and the work plan are on the website.

The work plan specifically addressed the conditions we outlined back in August. These conditions, and where we are today in meeting them, including the following:

• Civil rights – We want to make sure that national JACL’s programs will include the investigation of issues with civil rights/social justice implications, such as the TPP trade agreement and net neutrality; and we want to be a part of that investigation and any decisions about JACL’s public position on such issues.  

• Take turns stepping forward – This is about providing chapter leadership without overburdening one or a few Board members. Other JACL chapters use shared roles and responsibilities to even workload. Non-JACL organizations, such as Black Lives Matter, operate without any hierarchical structure (no president). That’s where we are. Stay tuned.    

• Answer the challenge – Gary Mayeda, the new JACL President, has challenged the regions, chapters, and individual members to participate in developing the new JACL “business model.” We have not yet heard anything more about this project. We’re ready when he is…  

• Commit to make things better – We all feel “staying the course” does not mean keeping everything the same. We need to take actions that will improve member engagement and grow membership. We need fresh blood. Since last August, we have added four new Board members; two of them are twenty-somethings, the other two with work-life experience that is new to the Board (read Seichi’s and Bill’s bios in this newsletter). We now have a Technology and Communications Solutions group. Members include Matt Iritani and Dylan Mori (look for their profiles in the March-April newsletter!), Gil Asakawa, and Donna Hansen. If you want to participate, just let us know. They are now working on ways to conduct virtual Board meetings—meetings that our members can attend, if they wish. We’re also focusing on our community partnerships. DOR 2017 is a JACL/JARCC/History Colorado partnership. Check the newsletter and website for information about events throughout the AAPI community, and links to community partner websites (a work in progress).      

• Do our own thing – Mile High has had a unique history, membership, and leadership team. We have led the way with advocacy programs that have resulted in increased public awareness, legislative change. Currently, there is a proposed Colorado bill that would outlaw the incarceration of anybody based on race, ethnicity, national origin, immigration status, or religious affiliation. We have the opportunity to be a part of the legislative process, at every stage. We’re going to take it.

• National has to change – During the August meeting, Gary and Janet shared news and opinions that, for the most part, were encouraging and give us hope. It remains to be seen what they can actually get done, how quickly, and what the role of local chapters will be. Look for communications from Gary and Janet in our newsletter and on our website.  

• Communicate with members – We need to restore and improve our lines of communication with our members. We understand that the communication needs to be bi-directional. We have re-started our full-membership emails, are using our Facebook page, and relaunched the newsletter! We will be looking for regular member contributions to the newsletter, which will include an Op/Ed section.

Real change takes time, commitment, and involves some risk. We’re excited about what we have started. We need you, each of you, every step of the way. Let’s do this together! 

Day of Remembrance 2017

The Mile High Chapter of JACL is partnering with the Japanese American Resource Center of Colorado (JARCC) and History Colorado Center, with support from the Sakura Foundation to present its annual commemoration of the Japanese American community’s Day of Remembrance.

On February 19, 1942, two months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor that sparked the start of World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, giving the US military broad powers to designate “exclusion zones” and remove anyone of Japanese heritage from their homes and communities and place them in one of 10 American concentration camps. Almost 120,000 people from the West Coast were forcibly relocated, first to temporary camps (many in horse race tracks where families lived in horse stalls) and then to more permanent prison camps built inland from the coast, in California, Arizona, Idaho, Utah, and Arkansas. About 9,000 people spent the war years at Amache, a concentration camp built in southeast Colorado.

A movement demanding redress for the injustice began in the 1970s, and after congressional hearings throughout most of the 1980s, the congressional committee published a report that found the wartime incarceration had been done not out of national security concerns but because of "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership." The efforts led to President Ronald Reagan’s signing of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which apologized for the camps and allowed for about $20,000 in reparations for surviving victims and their heirs.

Many Japanese American communities across the United States now commemorate February 19 as a Day of Remembrance (DoR), and the Mile High JACL has held its DoR event at History Colorado for the past several years.

Because 2017 marks the 75th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066, Mile High JACL and JARCC are proud to offer a special presentation by Lane Ryo Hirabayashi.

Dr. Hirabayashi is a full professor in the Department of Asian American Studies at UCLA, where he is also the inaugural "George & Sakaye Aratani Chair in Japanese American Incarceration, Redress, and Community” (2006 to date). He earlier taught at the University of Colorado’s Asian American Studies department. He is a prolific writer and author of many published works, including the text for a collection of photographs, “Japanese American Resettlement through the Lens: Hikaru Iwasaki and the WRA's Photographic Section, 1943-1945” (University Press of Colorado, 2009). Dr. Hirabayashi has extensively researched the post-war resettlement of Japanese Americans, particularly in Colorado, and he will be speaking about those years at the DoR event.

An audience discussion will follow with Dr. Hirabayashi and KUSA anchor Adele Arakawa, the emcee for the event. Dr. Hirabayashi will sign copies of his featured book, available for purchase in the History Colorado store.

Admission to the 75th anniversary Day of Remembrance event is free, and a light assortment of Japanese food and tea will be served. Attendees will be allowed access to the rest of History Colorado’s exhibits following the event.

New Board Member Profiles

Seichi (Alvin) Otsukua

Born in Sedwick, Colorado in 1945, Seichi (Alvin) Otsuka grew up with limited interest in his Japanese American heritage. He had no desire to spend time with other Japanese Americans and did not anticipate ever visiting Japan. Since 2003, however, Seichi has been actively trying to reconnect with his ancestral roots. Instead of going by Alvin as he has for most of his life, he has taken the name Seichi given to him by his mother. Together with his wife, Seichi has actively volunteered with various social justice moments, working with the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado and collaborating with the Turkish American group Tamra d'Estree of the University of Denver’s Conflict Resolution Institute and the Multicultural Mosaic Foundation. They regularly participate in Harold Fields Second Tuesday Race Forum and recently joined a group of progressive Democrats in dialogue around current political issues. 

Seichi is a retired medical oncologist, graduating from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in 1972. In addition to numerous research publications, Seichi has served as the Chief of Medicine and the Secretary of Medical Staff for St. Anthony Central Hospital and on the Board of Directors for Columbine Medical Group.

Bill Zessar

As the newest JACL Board member let me tell you a few things about myself. 

I was born in Detroit, MI. When I was 10 we moved to Rock Island, IL on the Mississippi River, across from Iowa. I have undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Illinois. Before law school I spent two years in the Air Force as an air police officer. I was in Korea for six months and one year in Japan at Itami AFB near Osaka.

After law school, I spent eight years as a California Deputy Attorney General and 28 years as a lawyer for Deere & Company. My legal responsibilities were personnel, equal employment/affirmative action and health care. I retired in 2000 from John Deere Health Care.

I am married with three grown children. One daughter lives in Denver and is an independent college counselor.

My parents were immigrants from the Ukraine and Poland. At least 13 of my relatives died in the gas chambers in Treblinka. In 1982, I and a few others started an annual Holocaust memorial program in the Quad Cities (Davenport and Bettendorf, IA and Rock Island and Moline, IL). That area has a small and declining Jewish population. We had as many as 750 people at our Holocaust programs, more then 90% were not Jewish. Also I acted as the producer of a Holocaust play that was performed in high schools for high school students.

My interest in the Holocaust led me to the incarceration of Japanese Americans in WWII. 

Op-Ed: Donald Trump's First Week in Office


By Dylan Mori, Mile High JACL Board Member

Like many of you, I’ve been following the agenda of the new administration in Washington with great concern. Upon becoming president, Donald Trump has released a number of executive orders (EOs) and presidential memoranda targeting specific groups of people and organizations. Speaking as both a board member of Mile High JACL and as a private citizen, I oppose the following EOs and presidential memoranda signed by President Trump:
  • EO 13767: The construction of a wall on the border of the United States and Mexico (for which Mexico has repeatedly said it will not pay nor reimburse the U.S.).
  • EO 13768: Increasing resources for immigration and deportation law enforcement in the U.S. This EO also requires cities to comply with and provide the federal government with information on the immigration status of their residents, with the threat of blocking federal aid and funding to (or otherwise punishing) “sanctuary cities” that refuse to comply with this order. Under this EO, the Attorney General would additionally publish reports on the immigration status of any people incarcerated for crimes in both federal and state prisons.
  • EO 13769: A ban on all refugees and visa holders from several Middle Eastern and African countries, including Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen (and any other countries the executive branch decides to include in the future). These countries are majority Muslim countries, and the order notes that refugees who are of a “minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality” (i.e. non-Muslims) will be given priority for entry into the U.S. This EO has already had repercussions, with visa holders and green card holders being detained at airports both domestically and abroad. This EO in particular echoes the incarceration of Japanese-Americans during WWII, where paranoia and racial discrimination were used in justifying another unconstitutional EO.
  • EO 13771: Limiting regulatory powers of federal agencies by requiring them to abolish two regulations for every new one they introduce. This would be especially bad for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which would roll back their power to implement environmental standards for the health and safety of our citizens. Military and national security agencies are not included in this EO.
  • Memorandum: Reinstating the global gag order (also known as the Mexico City policy), which defunds any international health organization that mentions abortion as a medical option.
  • Memorandum: Resuming construction on the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines.
An important note: I have devoted this article to only definitive actions that the Trump administration has taken, not things that Trump has only promised to do. I plan on holding the Trump administration fully accountable for any action they take in the future, however, and, if those actions are unconstitutional or otherwise wrong, I will be prepared to oppose them if and when that time comes.

It is disappointing, to say the least, that the hateful and divisive rhetoric that Trump espoused on his campaign has no sign of stopping now that he's in office. His inaugural address promised that he would work to unite the country and be a president for all people. Based on what I've seen, I have no reason to believe that's the case.

This op-ed has been co-signed by Mile High board members Mary Ann Amemiya, Marge Taniwaki, Harry Budisidharta, Richard Hamai, and Donna Hansen in support of its message.

Op-Ed: Remembering Yasui, Endo, Hirabayashi, and Korematsu


by Bill Zessar, Board Member


On the Day of Remembrance we remember and honor four brave Americans of Japanese descent who defied the federal government during WWII. They were Minoru Yasui, Mitsuye Endo, Gordon Hirabayashi and Fred Korematsu.

Hirabayashi and Yasui were convicted of violating curfew orders. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld their convictions and ruled that their constitutional rights had not been violated. In Korematsu v. United States, the Supreme Court upheld expulsion from a person's home and imprisonment for several years without a trial and ruled that Korematsu's constitutional rights had not been violated. Endo was imprisoned in the Topaz, Utah incarceration camp. The government conceded that Endo was a loyal and law abiding U.S. citizen. The Supreme Court ruled that the government had no authority to hold her but declined to rule on the constitutional issues.

Those who were convicted have been vindicated. In 1980 a Presidential Commission stated that there was “not a single documented act of espionage, sabotage or fifth column activity (that) was committed by an American citizen of Japanese ancestry or by a resident Japanese alien on the West Coast.” The Commission called the incarceration of Japanese Americans an injustice based on “race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership.”

All three had their convictions overturned by federal courts in the 1980s. In 2011, Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal issued a statement stating that the Solicitor General who had argued the incarceration cases before the Supreme Court had suppressed information confirming that Japanese Americans posed no military threat to the United States. The Solicitor General is appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate and represents the federal government in cases before the Supreme Court.

The late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia spoke in 2014 at the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa and in regard to the incarceration said “You are kidding yourself if you think the same thing will not happen again.” He added, “In times of war, the laws fall silent.” Ari Soifer, the dean of University of Hawaii's law school, said that he believes that Justice Scalia was suggesting that people always have to be vigilant and that the law alone cannot be trusted to provide protection.

Mike Shibata's Farewell Letter



To Mile High JACL and my Colorado Family Members:
In Japanese culture, family is one of the most important elements of life. After living in the Denver Metropolitan area for thirty-five years, I will be returning to Stockton, California to be closer to my eight surviving siblings in late January 2017. My second oldest brother passed away in September 2009. With my return to California, there will be five of us nine siblings living in the Stockton/Lodi area. In April 2017, we will range from 65 to 79 years in age.
Family is also why it is extremely hard for me to move back to California.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to be a part of your family during the past thirty-five years, whether it is as an individual or part of an organization.
Whether you were at the “surprise” farewell get-together, physically or in your thoughts, at Simpson United Methodist Church on November 12, 2016, I extend my deepest gratitude to you for a most joyful (and at the same time, heartbreaking) and memorable event. Please forgive me as I was remiss to thank the organizers, participants of the community organizations, and all individuals in attendance for all the time and efforts associated with this event. Thank you very much is extended to all individuals and organizations for your kind expressions of gratitude and the honors bestowed upon me.
With my move back to California, I will be taking with me many wonderful memories of my association with all of you. My stay in Colorado would have been shorter if it were not for you in allowing me to be a part of your family.
After I find a house to live in Stockton, you will have a place to stay when you visit Northern California. Stockton is about a thirty-five minute drive south of Sacramento.
Again, thank you very much for being a part of my Colorado family and expressions of gratitude!
In the hope that I will see you again, please take care!
Love and In Deepest Gratitude,

Mike Shibata

JACL at the Women's March On Denver


All photographs taken in Denver, Colorado
Saturday, January 21, 2017
Total attendees: Over 100,000

Community Partner Upcoming Events

February 14-15 (Tues/Wed)
Kodo concerts at Newman Center for the Performing Arts on University of Denver campus (Sponsor: Sakura Foundation)

February 16 (Thurs) 
Colorado premiere of Persona Non Grata at Jewish Film Festival
Mizel Arts & Culture Center
7:45 pm
Sponsors: Sakura Foundation and Japanese American Resource Center of Colorado

February 18 (Sat)
Japanese American Association of Colorado Lunar New Year Dinner

February 19 (Sun)
“Day of Remembrance” Observance at History Colorado Museum (Mile High Japanese American Citizens League)
1 pm - 3 pm

February 23 (Thurs)
“Day of Remembrance” Observance at CU Boulder (Japanese American Resource Center of Colorado)

February 26 (Sun)
Musical Recital Event (Longmont Buddhist Temple)
Longmont Museum & Cultural Center

February 27 (Mon)
Kizuna LA to meet with representatives of local Japanese American organizations at Sakura Square

March 1 (Wed)
Free IMAX Screening of Documentary “Seeds: The Story of the Rice King and His Kin” (Japanese American Association of Colorado)

March 4-5 (Sat/Sun)
Simpson United Methodist Church Doll Festival

March 12 (Sun)
Brighton Japanese American Association Shrimp and Chow Mein Dinner
Copyright © 2017, All rights reserved.

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