By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer
April 30 marked the end of Craig Ishii’s tenure as director of the Japanese American Citizens League’s Pacific Southwest District, a position he held for four years.
Asked for his parting thoughts, Ishii told the Rafu Shimpo, “JACL has provided me an unforgettable experience and a countless number of memories and cherished moments. In retrospect, working with JACL really helped me to understand that people really do make the world go round. Our community friends, mentors and allies, our chapter members and district board members and especially the staff support network is really what kept the JACL moving.
“When I think about the gratitude that I have for the people around me, I’m speechless.”
He said that he is most proud of “our contribution to a movement of young people engaging with the Japanese American community. Everything from youth leadership programs to culture-sharing and internships helped to build a passion for community service amongst young people.”
Ishii added, “Leadership development can sometime be a misleading name because we’re not really ‘developing’ leaders as if they’re a machine. Instead, we’re just discovering them and providing them an avenue to be involved.
“One of the most incredible things about working with JACL is all of the amazing people you meet along the way. We met some of the most inspiring young people who will one day do great things in the community. Although we provide mentorship to them, they in turn remind us why the work we do is so important.”
Ishii said he will not be involved in the 2011 JACL National Convention, which will be held in Los Angeles in July.
Regarding a successor, he said, “Due to budget constraints, as of now, they won’t be renewing the position.”
Two other PSW staff members, Program Coordinator Stacy Toyota and Public Policy Coordinator Kristin Fukushima, have also departed this year.
In a March 21 message to friends and colleagues, Fukushima wrote, “As of March 31, 2011, I will be leaving my position with the JACL Pacific Southwest District. I am grateful and honored to have worked with so many amazing people, and this position has brought me great memories, lessons and experiences. I’ve truly enjoyed getting to know the fabulous people in our communities, and I’m thankful for the new relationships and experiences I’ve gained in this position. I’m especially grateful for all the support and guidance that so many of you have provided me, so I want to say thanks to all of you.”
She added that she will continue her involvement with the Little Tokyo Community Council.
JACL National Executive Director Floyd Mori also plans to step down before the end of the year. He made his announcement at the JACL National Board meeting held April 16-17 in San Francisco.
Among other activities this year, PSW representatives joined a protest against hate speech in Yorba Linda. Ishii appeared before the City Council there on March 15 with members of Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress, Council on American and Islamic Relations, and Asian Pacific Islanders Community Action Network. At issue was a February rally in which some Orange County residents verbally harassed Muslim Americans attending a fundraiser for women’s shelters.
In a joint statement, Ishii and NCRR Co-chair Kathy Masaoka said, “As stewards of the Japanese American community, the JACL and NCRR stand in solidarity with our American Muslim brothers and sisters after this unfortunate incident of hate in Yorba Linda …We urge the Yorba Linda City Council to issue a resolution condemning hate speech and promoting a safe, inclusive neighborhood for all its residents.”
Headquartered in Little Tokyo, the PSW District has 31 chapters, mostly in Southern California, plus Arizona and southwestern Nevada. In addition to the staff, it has a volunteer Board of Directors headed by Governor Kerry Kaneichi.
As a cost-saving measure following last year’s National Convention in Chicago, the PSW staff was moved from the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center into the offices of the Pacific Citizen, JACL’s newspaper, in the Kajima Building.