love list: sprout bunny, marathon running, rock climbing, green tea lattes, Jonathan safran foer and his novels, Jason Mraz and his music, community service, peanut butter mochi and The Office.
hate list: Creed from The Office, that sound of silverware scratching plates, fur and the people who wear them.
profession: Programs Associate at the JCCCNC
If I told you I wasn’t a spaz, you would say “Do you like to swim in large rivers located in east Africa? Cause you’re in de-nial!” (get it, “the nile”). Ohh that joke never gets old. I think the simplest way for me to describe myself is to offer some designations others have branded me with over the years. The few I have selected are: cultural-less child, California roll and hippie.
Now that I’m a little older, a bit wiser, and a lot poorer I know more clearly what kind of person I want to be, and that person is: a nakayoshi young professional! (that was intended as a joke but i do truly enjoy being in the group). Thanks for skiming, see you at the bar crawl!
I was born in Everett, Washington and moved through Torrance, CA and back to Washington before ending up in Laguna Hills, CA where I attended high school. Upon graduating, I attended UC Davis and earned double majors in International Relations and Japanese. This included a one-month study abroad program at Ryukoku University in Seta, Japan just outside of Kyoto. It was my first time over there during the rainy season and I just couldn’t get used to the hot and humid climate! I visit Japan every few years as all my relatives are out there. I speak relatively fluent Japanese, but find it hard to keep up with vocabulary and oftentimes will substitute English into my sentences when I talk to Mom. But reading the Japanese newspaper or listening to the news? Forget about it!
I can’t say I was ever actively involved in the Japanese-American community. I was technically a “paid member” of the Japanese American Student Society at UCD for a few years, but didn’t participate too much in its activities and events. That was my only exposure to this group and when I think back, I regret not taking advantage of the opportunities available (like most things in hindsight). Through Nakayoshi, I’d like to 1) Volunteer and otherwise help out and become involved in the community; 2) Learn about Japanese-American history and issues; 3) Meet others with the same interests as above. I find it hard to completely relate to Japanese American or Japanese culture as a whole; I’m somewhere in the middle. Culturally, I grew up Japanese in regards to food, language, and customs. As time went on, I became more accustomed to “American” values. Not until I went to Davis did I start meeting other Japanese people and start to practing speaking again as I took up Japanese courses. At this point, I’m trying to embrace both and I think this organization would be a great opportunity to learn do so. I’ve already had great experiences in the few events I’ve attended through Nakayoshi and met some great people!
My interests include running, hiking, camping, and generally being out doors. I love watching football, basketball, and most other sports. I attended some Rams and Raiders games while they were in LA, but now that they’ve moved on, LA doesn’t have a football team! I grew up watching the Lakers with Chick Hearn’s commentaries so I’m partial to them (sorry Warriors!). I’m also an avid Netflix user and am like a kid in a candy store when I get those red envelopes in the mail. I also enjoy stand-up comics (Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, etc). Those that know me well will say that I eat like there is no tomorrow. As they say, you only live once, so you get one chance to eat all that you can. I love trying out new restaurants and cuisines, especially where the choices are aplenty here in the Bay Area. Lately, I’ve been trying out new cooking recipes, and am currently looking for the perfect hot wings recipe (for the Superbowl)! Any tips?
Full Name: Emily Yukiko Leach
Profession: Formerly Interactive Marketing, Transitioning to Nursing
A Few of My Favorite Things: Planetariums, Rainy Weather, Audrey Hepburn, Pembroke Welsh Corgis, Zombie Contingency Plans, Japanese Dramas and Naps
Power Animal: The Sqwerl
Now it’s my turn to apologize for taking so long to put my piece on the blog. Or, perhaps I should congratulate myself on my excellent procrastination skillz.
I came to Nakayoshi by way of invitation from Megumi. I am not now nor have I ever been a member of the JACL. That is not to say that the JACL isn’t a wonderful organization – it really is, and it holds a great role in the history of the Japanese American community. I certainly recognize its continuing contribution and importance. I’m happy to be involved in Nakayoshi because there are not many organizations available for young JA’s of my demographic. Nakayoshi is also the most inclusive JA organization I have seen.
My relationship and upbringing in the Japanese American community is a little different, but more common now-a-days. I am Hapa, a Japanese American of multiracial descent, specifically Japanese, Irish, English, Argentinian and host of other ethnicities my dad occasionally (and seemingly arbitrarily) reveals. Although I am aware of the current debate over the appropriation of the word Hapa from its Native Hawaiian origins, and I don’t have any other words to describe my identity and I take a little leeway in using the term because of the fluidity of language and all. If anyone objects, I can totally appreciate that. Please leave your thoughts in the comments.
I was born and raised in San Francisco. On my father’s side I am a 5th generation San Franciscan. My mother was born en route to the Jerome, AK camp and eventually returned to Fresno with the rest of her family. She was the lone black sheep of her generation to leave the farming town and move to the big city, where she met my dad. At the time (and to some extent, still today), the San Francisco Japanese American community was very insular and hard to penetrate, so I was raised with some distance to the community. The Japanese aspects of my upbringing consisted mostly of my mother’s friends, family and food. My father also coached in the J-basketball leagues. This amalgam of experiences formed the backbone of my heritage.
I was also raised in a time when many prominent JA’s scapegoated “out-marriage” as the cause of the downturn of the community, with mixed children like me embodying that collapse. That exclusive rhetoric shaped my relationship to the community, and not surprisingly by college all my Japanese American friends were also Hapa. My activism began as a first year at UC San Diego in our Hapa Club (our branch of Hapa Issues Forum, that link is from 2002 and you can see some circa 2002 photos of me on there), where I eventually became President in my second year, going on to represent UCSD at national multiracial conferences, raising awareness of multiracial issues and encouraging inclusivity in our local Asian American organizations.
My position in the multiracial activist world enabled me to work on multiple transborder and intercultural platforms. I studied human trafficking around the Pacific Rim, worked with an NPO and sex workers in Thailand and as a Hapa, paid particular close attention to the close relationships between the US Military and Amerasians. I also held the position of Student Affirmative Action Committee (SAAC) Chair at UCSD – a completely under-appreciated position and I give mad props to whoever is holding it down – meaning I represented and organized the school’s small but strong coalition of underserved students.
And then, I burned out. I’ve been taking a break from major organizing but I still enjoy contributing to community dialogue and volunteering at events. I believe the JA community views and treats its multiracial members from an educated perspective with more respect now than when I was growing up. However, I still believe a lot of work needs to be done in order to fully embrace Japanese of mixed descent into the community, and the same could be said of getting youth involved in the community. I’ve found that as an adult much more of my activism has been focused on the JA community. You may also see my writings in Asianweek every now and then.
Anywho, this post has been rather serious. If you get to know me you’ll find that I’m a lazy but open-minded lady. I’m slow to judge people and my ideal is to lead a happy-go-lucky lifestyle. Yoroshiku ne!
Ok, I totally lagged (like 2 months!) on getting this spotlight done. As you can see, I was busy helping Nakayoshi put on events and writing other posts on this blog. So, so busy.
Anyhow, about me… I was born in Tokyo and moved to San Francisco when I was two, and grew up in the Bay Area in San Bruno on the Peninsula and later in Lafayette in the East Bay. I went to UC San Diego where I graduated in 2005 with a major in Political Science and a minor in Japanese Studies.
Growing up, I never had much exposure to the JA community until I went to college, where I served as an officer of the UCSD Nikkei Student Union all four years of undergrad. I also first got involved with the JACL at that time through the San Diego chapter. Since graduating I have served as the Youth Representative on the advisory committee of the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program and am also currently a board member of the San Francisco chapter of the JACL, where I have served the past two years. My job is also centered around civil rights issues, where I work on prison reform issues such as monitoring compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act in California state prisons and also providing full due process rights for juveniles undergoing parole revocation proceedings in California.
I’m not entirely sure of how to define my generational identity within the community. Technically, I’m shin-issei, but have essentially lived my entire life in the US and became a naturalized citizen, so I might be more accurately described as being 1.5 generation JA, with an upbringing closer to the experience of being shin-nisei. Anyhow, even though my mother speaks to me in Japanese, I’d say my fluency in Japanese is closer to that of a three-year-old child. In many ways, I’m just another person exemplifying the underlying diversity that is increasingly characterizing the current generation of youth within the Japanese American community.
My own experience in finding my place within the JA community has come out of my experience exploring my heritage and building up the Nikkei campus community at UCSD through the Nikkei Student Union, and quickly realizing the full scope of the community beyond my college campus. I found further opportunities to stay involved through JACL and volunteering around Japantown after graduating and moving back to the Bay Area. Although I did not grow up connected to the Japanese American community, in the short time since I have gotten directly involved, it has been one of the greatest sources of support, security, pride and purpose in my life. I have found immense gratification in helping build up that community and in turn helping connect my peers and others to it. All this more or less explains why I have been so invested in helping get Nakayoshi off to a strong start. I would love for Nakayoshi to serve as a social outlet for other young JA’s to get together once we’ve graduated and moved on from our campus organizations. Just as importantly, I want Nakayoshi to provide us younger folks a means to connect directly with the rest of the Japanese American community and the other individuals, institutions and organizations within it. Regardless of our prior history, background or experience (or lack thereof) with the Japanese American community, I want to ensure that there are more opportunities for the younger generation to get involved and eventually contribute to a process that will provide a source of sustainable leadership for the community in the future.
When I’m not spending the majority of my free time involved with the community, I enjoy food (eating and cooking!), spending time with my friends and girlfriend, reading, playing video games(nerd alert!), listening to and playing music, cheering on the SF 49ers/SF Giants/SJ Sharks/Golden State Warriors, riding my bike, snowboarding in the winter, and in general enjoying all that San Francisco has to offer!
Full Name: Alec Yoshio MacDonald
Favorite Pro Sports Team: Chicago White Sox
I’ve written lots of profiles of Japanese Americans, but never of myself, and it feels a little weird. So let’s keep this brief.
I joined Chicago JACL five or six years ago, editing the chapter newsletter, serving on the board, and (as in the accompanying photos) helping organize youth programming. I also volunteered a little with the Japanese American Service Committee and put together an online multimedia exhibition on Chicago JA sports leagues for the Chicago Japanese American Historical Society.
I used to contribute to the Chicago Shimpo, and am currently a staff writer for the Nichi Bei Times in San Francisco, a newspaper which you should subscribe to. Like, now. Stop reading and go subscribe. You can do it online.
Okay, now that that’s taken care of… I figure it might also be relevant to mention that I recently curated an exhibit that’s on display through the end of this week at the National Japanese American Historical Society; it’s about my former campus group, Hapa Issues Forum, which I belonged to as a student at UC Berkeley.
In my spare time, I play Asian league basketball, go on hikes with my girlfriend, and contemplate how to be less curmudgeonly.
Done and done.
Before I became involved with Nakayoshi, I was active in various student orgs at UC Santa Cruz. My love and commitment to community organizations and desire for social change began during my undergrad years and through meeting so many amazing friends and mentors, my eyes were opened to a whole new world.
Graduating in June of ’06 with a BA in Sociology and minor in Education, I moved to San Francisco to survive the “real world”. I currently work as a Marketing Coordinator for TechInsights.