NAJC President’s Message – March 2019

by Lorene Oikawa

If you didn’t see last month’s launch of the Heritage Minute about the Vancouver Asahi baseball team, you can still see it on the NAJC Facebook page and also on the Historica Canada website. The Asahi story is an important piece of Canadian history. The story is about the racism faced by the Japanese Canadian baseball players both on and off the field, their resiliency, and how they developed a winning style of play that earned respect beyond the community. It’s a familiar story for many Japanese Canadians who have a connection because someone in their family played baseball. For my family, it was my grandfather who was born in Cumberland on Vancouver Island and was recruited to pitch for the Asahi. I was honoured to be an extra in the baseball scene shot in Vancouver.

Another exciting event where we will be sharing Japanese Canadian stories is at this year’s COPANI XX. The Conventions of the Association of Pan American Nikkei is being held in San Francisco in September (20-22) and will bring together Japanese descendants from countries from North, Central, and South America, and Japan. As I’ve mentioned in previous messages, we’ve been working closely with the organizers and there will be Canadian content in most programming streams. The streams include Business, Youth/Young Adult, Arts and Culture, Family and Community, Civil Rights and Social Justice. It’s a unique opportunity to interact and network with delegates from the Americas and Japan in both formal and informal settings. 

For more information, check out the information page posted in this edition of The Bulletin. Register before March 1st for early bird savings of $50 US and it’s recommended you book your hotel rooms now because of multiple major events happening in September. 

One group that is very interested in participating are the NAJC Young Leaders. I spoke with Alex Miki, Chair of the NAJC YL to find out what they are planning.

LO: Alex, why are the Young Leaders interested in COPANI?

AM: COPANI is a Pan-American Nikkei conference which allows all Nikkei to interact and learn from each other. As this year’s theme is ‘The Future is Here’, the programming will have young leaders in mind in how they are shaping the future of our community. Having representation from the Japanese Canadian Young Leaders (JCYL) is important for us to meet other youth from American and South American Nikkei communities in order to form strong connections and to learn from each other’s history, goals, challenges and projects.

LO: Tell me about the Young Leaders initiative to get to COPANI.

AM: We have a local fundraising initiative where local JC young leader groups have been cutting and preparing fabric together and then sending them to one of our committee members Mana Murata who makes beautiful tsumami-zaiku [traditional Japanese fabric flowers] and sends them back to the communities for young leaders to sell at their local events. The money raised goes to supporting young leaders in their local community to go to COPANI. Vancouver and Lethbridge have already begun selling and Winnipeg, Calgary and Ottawa hope to begin soon. We will also be having a national fundraising campaign beginning in March. Young leaders from across Canada who are interested in attending COPANI will have the opportunity to apply to be a JCYL national ambassador. Chosen applicants will be the face of a GoFundMe fundraising campaign so anyone interested in supporting young leaders can get to know our ambassadors and who they are supporting.

LO: If anyone would like to assist the Young Leaders with their fundraising efforts, how can they help?

AM: Anyone can help both nationally and locally. In Winnipeg for example, there will be a social held in March organized by young leaders and JCAM to help raise funds to send young leaders to COPANI. Whether it is a social, bake sale or craft sale, we encourage all NAJC organizations to reach out and work together with their young leaders in their fundraising efforts. We will also be taking donations nationally for 

anyone who would like to support our national ambassadors.

LO: Thank you Alex and Young Leaders. 

Please check out and support the Young Leaders’ events. 

Thank you, and I hope to see you at COPANI XX.  

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