NAJC President’s Message – July 2019

by Lorene Oikawa

I hope you have plans to enjoy the many events and festivals happening this summer and also include a bit of rest, too.

If you haven’t participated in a BC Redress community consultation, there are more in-person and virtual meetings taking place in July. Please go to our webpage for the dates and times. I brought greetings from the NAJC at the in-person community consultation in Burnaby. I heard some familiar themes about more visibility for our history and education. Even if think you have the same ideas, please make sure your voice is heard. We need to hear from different voices to make sure we are hearing about your priorities. Your input will help shape the recommendations we present to the BC government. If you have already participated then please find one other person from our Japanese Canadian community, maybe a family member or friend, and ask them to attend. Sometimes it takes someone to ask and maybe it’s a reminder in case they have forgotten. Every voice is important.

Executive Director Kevin Okabe and I also attended the Circle of Friends meeting organized in Vancouver by the GVJCCA, and it was an opportunity to meet with individuals and organizations outside of our community to let them know about our BC Redress initiative. We shared the information we are providing at our community consultations. We noted that we have appreciated the support from allies and have worked with them on other initiatives. Allies were a huge support in the Federal Redress campaign. While we have the support of the current government, we are just starting our process and we are mindful of possible changes such as a change in government. It was also an opportunity to talk about working together to proactively counter the rising hate and violence we are seeing. I shared my experience with the Anniversaries of Change initiative which brought together cultural groups, Indigenous peoples, academia, labour, and community to mark the 100thanniversary of the 1907 anti-Asian riots and other significant dates for racialized people. Participants were open to further dialogue so we will continue our outreach.

Festival season has started. Look for NAJC presence/materials at the Summer Festival in Toronto on July 13 and in BC, the Surrey Fusion Festival on July 20 & 21. Powell Street Festival in Vancouver is August 3 & 4, Calgary Omatsuri is August 10 and Winnipeg Folklorama is Aug 4-17. If your member organization is involved in a festival this summer let us know by emailing national “at”, and we can send you brochures and help promote your presence on our social media.

Congratulations to the Victoria Nikkei Cultural Society (VNCS) who celebrated their 25thanniversary with a gala dinner. I was at the BC Redress Community Consultation in Burnaby the same day and couldn’t attend so I contacted president Tsugio Kurushima and sent a virtual message. If your member organization is celebrating a significant anniversary, please let us know.

Also, congratulations to the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre on the completion of their recent renovations and reopening of their exhibit space on July 20.

On June 22, I joined a large gathering for the unveiling of the Nikkei Memorial Public Art project in Steveston. The project spearheaded by Kelvin Higo commemorates the Japanese Canadians who were forcibly uprooted from Steveston, their resiliency, and those who returned. The pavers that form a pathway in the project were inspired by the 90+ year old Japanese Canadian women who weave salmon tin labels into mats. It was inspiring to see elders in attendance including 99 year old Jack Harada who was in an internment camp in Slocan and returned to Steveston.

Top – Award presented to Florence Bell for her work to preserve Japanese Canadian history in Cumberland and Royston. Below – NAJC president Lorene Oikawa in front of the Cumberland Museum display showing Royston Lumber Mill children including her uncle (far left) and mother.

Earlier in the month, I made a family trip to Cumberland on Vancouver Island and attended the unveiling of interpretive signage at the #1 mine townsite – site of a pre-1942 Japanese Canadian community and the Royston Lumber Mill exhibit launch. Royston Lumber Mill families included my mother’s side of the family and NAJC member organization KJCA (Kamloops Japanese Canadian Association) past president George Uyeda’s family. George presented long time Cumberland resident and unofficial town historian Florence Bell with the NAJC National Merit Award for her work to preserve Japanese Canadian history in Cumberland and Royston. The award was a surprise to Florence and to me. I was visiting Florence who was my mom’s best friend when they were children.

I hope you make some good memories with family and friends this summer. We’ll see you at the first virtual NAJC AGM on August 24.


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