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Seattle JACL 100th Anniversary

Seattle JACL poster committee. Photo: David Yamaguchi

By David Yamaguchi, The North American Post

The Seattle Japanese American Citizens League marks its 100th anniversary this month. To commemorate the centennial, the chapter developed a set of nine banner posters highlighting the organization’s civil rights history. Spearheaded by Bill Tashima, poster committee chair and former board member, they recently recovered “parts of our history that were in danger of being lost forever.”

Owing to COVID-19, the centennial was kicked off by the poster committee previewing the project to a small gathering of board members, external participants, and a few friends at Terry’s Kitchen on Friday, August 27.

Bill Tashima

The start of the Seattle civil rights organization precedes that of the national JACL organization, which did not form until 1929.

According to the Densho encyclopedia, key early issues tackled that were relevant to both Japanese Americans and to the entire country included lobbying Congress to amend the Cable Act of 1922 and obtaining US citizenship for Issei who were veterans of World War I. The prejudicial Cable Act stripped women of their US citizenship if they married “aliens ineligible for citizenship” (Asian immigrants) or lived abroad with a foreign husband. A few Issei served in WWI, seeing it as a path to citizenship. Both JACL lobbying efforts ultimately proved successful. More importantly, they demonstrated that the fledgling JACL could move the nation.

the first of nine Seattle JACL 100th anniversary banner posters Photos DY

The Seattle JACL envisions using its new banners as a traveling exhibit, to be circulated in places such as city halls.

Bill: “It’s been a joy to work on this and to discover what we are proud of at Seattle JACL. We have always fought for civil rights, for ourselves and for others. We know how it feels [to be discriminated against]… and [to] speak up for other people.

“Our leaders took stands when they weren’t popular… We stand on the shoulders of those who went before us.”