Make It a Community Night

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TaikoProject performs at the 2009 JACN. (MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS/Rafu Shimpo)

By JORDAN IKEDA
Sports Editor

Last month, thanks to the efforts of many in our community, including the amazing determination of Rafu’s English editor, the Rafu Shimpo held a forum that acted as a means for the community at large to be informed about the paper’s struggles. At the same time, the forum allowed the community to share its ideas, frustrations, suggestions, criticisms and desires concerning both the print and online iterations of the Rafu.

But one of the lasting impressions that I took away from the meeting is that despite a shrinking Little Tokyo, despite the demise of the Hokubei Mainichi and Nichibei Times, despite the overall economic morass this country can’t seem to get out of, there are a great many people out there who truly care and love this community.

One such individual is John Tamaki. Most of you know him as JT, a regular in Little Tokyo, a vital

John "JT" Tamaki (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

member of the Nisei Week Foundation, and a commercial, television, movie actor. But many might not know that he’s also been instrumental in developing the Clippers Japanese American Com¬munity Night (JACN).

“My family has been season ticket holders for 20 years,” JT told the Rafu Shimpo. “Five years ago, when they picked up Japanese player Yuta Tabuse, I thought this was a great opportunity to get a Japanese fan base.”

Backed by the Nisei Week Foundation, JT did his connection thing and got the ball rolling and the Los Angeles Clippers made sure everyone scored.

“This event is a great opportunity for the Japanese American community to come together and enjoy NBA basketball,” JT said.

The fruition of everyone involved will be on display Wednesday, March 3 at Staples Center which will mark the fifth annual JACN. For those who attended the Rafu Forum, who understand the need for a community voice, this is an opportunity to once again step up to the freethrow line and knock a pair down.
At last year’s World Baseball Classic at Dodgers Stadium, I was overwhelmed by the amount of support that Korean and Korean Americans brought to the stadium when cheering for the Korean national team. I want that for our community. You should want that for our community too. I want us to fill Staples Center with our cheers.

Come out and watch Venice Ko¬shin Taiko rock Staples Center during halftime. Get to the arena early and take the opportunity to meet and greet the lovely 2009 Nisei Week Queen and court.

“I’m really excited because I’m a huge Clipper fan,” said Queen Dana Heatherton. “I went to UCLA so I’m also a big Baron [Davis] fan. Having the JA Community plus the Clippers, it’s like a double win situation for me.”

Bottom line, it’s a double win situation for everyone, even those who aren’t Clipper fans.

“I’m a Lakers fan,” princess Whitney Itano said laughing. “But I’m a proud LA girl. We support any LA team. Besides, we’re really, really ex¬cited. Steve Nash is going to be there. Oh. We love him.”

And what’s not to love? For those who follow the game, the Clippers (now mercifully sans Mike Dunleavy) will be playing the Phoenix Suns and two-time MVP Steve Nash. Even die¬hard fans of the college game who have sworn off the NBA can’t deny the sheer awesomeness of Nash or the exciting style of play of the Phoenix Suns.

To top everything off, the tickets are a phenomenal price ranging from $15 to 40.

JT has given us this perfect vehicle to help build a better community—to connect, to reach out, to have fun. Basketball bridges the divide between the young and old because of how prevalent it is in most of our daily lives. There’s literally thousands of JA basketball teams in Los Angeles alone.

Coaches, use March 3 as a means of team building and bonding. Parents, have a family night out. Kids, get excited about seeing basketball at its pinnacle. All of you college kids, rally your clubs or organizations or roommates. Churches, have a night of fellowship and fun. Organizations, reward your members with NBA basketball. Blossoming lovebirds, make it a date night.

Send out emails. Facebook your friends. Tweet and blog about it. Send out texts and snail mail. Or, hey, do it the old-fashioned way and call someone up, or, you know, visit them and ask in person. These are things that we all can do and all must do if we hope to keep our community alive and well. We’ve been doing better lately. Nisei Week has seen a bit of growth. Still, it’s time to step up JA community. But hey, you don’t have to listen to me. Listen to your queen.

“I’m hoping this JA Community night will be an example of what the Budokan will be in Little Tokyo,” Heatherton said, pretty much summing up this entire article. “Raising excitement for basketball, for physical activity in Downtown and getting the JA community together through sports. I’m hoping everyone will come out to this, have a great time, and hopefully bring that excitement when the Budokan opens.”

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For ticket info call Charlie Arviso at (213) 742-7544 or [email protected] There’s a link to Ticketmaster to order your tickets online.  The password is “clippers.” If you have any JACN questions, feel free to call “JT” at (323) 394-5106.

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