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JAPANESE AMERICAN CITIZENS LEAGUE HISTORY

HISTORY OF THE CLEVELAND CHAPTER OF THE JACL

Cleveland Chapter of JACL was founded under the leadership of Abe Hagiwara and others in 1946.  At that time, the membership numbered 145 and had the annual budget of $14,000.  Joe Kadowaki, Henry Tanaka, Bill Sr. and Mary Sadataki., Ken Asamoto are remembered as the early leaders.

The chapter started its community newsletter, The Bulletin in 1946 also.  It started as a mimeographed paper using a typewriter and stencil. It continues today written on a computer and is available on line at the chapter website, www.lkwdpl.org/jacl .

Traditionally, the program activities included bowling, Tennis club, picnic, Easter party with an Easter Egg Hunt, Halloween party, Christmas party, Bazaar known as Holiday Fair, Installation Dinner, Day of Remembrance and Scholarship Luncheon.  JACL sponsored several elegant formal dances in the major hotel ballrooms in late 1950s and early 1960s. 

There was a Women’s group known as Junior Matrons that provided social and educational programs for younger women.  Many young Christian Niseis attended the Japanese Christian Fellowship group which offered religious education and social activities. 

More recent programs include active community-wide presentations of traditional dancing by the Shojoji (children's) Dancers sponsored by the JACL Cleveland Chapter.  The group was founded in the 1950’s by Linda Omura, Yoshiko Baker and Dolly Semonco.  This dance troupe was active and well received in 1970s but it died down as the original group of children grew up and moved on but it was revived in mid 1990s by former dancers, Beverly (Hashiguchi) Kerecman and Nanci Taketa who are the current instructors. Again, they are in high demand for many cultural diversity programs countywide.   

Under the strong leadership of Henry Tanaka, Edwin  Ezaki and others, the Education committee presented an  all day seminar for social study teachers on Japanese Internment Experiences in 2002  and the Speakers Bureau continues to be very active and in high demand.

Day of Remembrance: Japanese Americans across the United States will be observing Day of Remembrance in February to mark the signing of Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942 which forcibly incarcerated more than 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry in U.S. concentration camps during World War II. With the help of the chapter's speakers bureau the event welcomes former internees will speak of their experiences in the relocation camps. This has grown into an educational event to inform the Greater Cleveland area about this chapter in American History.

A/PAF Annual Heritage Day: The Asian American communities found camaraderie in sharing like experiences and purposes. Out of this event was formed a permanent organization in 1983 by the 10 Asian Pacific American Organizations in Greater Cleveland. The Cleveland Chapter of the JACL was a founding charter member of the Asian / Pacific American Federation and continues to participate in this annual event. A/PAF has continued celebrating Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month using a variety of issues and topics of interest to Asian Americans ever since.

Scholarship: In 1959, the Cleveland Japanese American citizens League established a Scholarship Fund to give recognition to all high school graduates and to those who have exemplified academic excellence and involvement in community activities. The Scholarship Fund is maintained primarily by income from the Cleveland Chapter Endowment (Legacy) created in 1990. Today, the Scholarship has grown with the help of the JACL Community with various one time and continuous Honorary and Memorial funds. Scholarship awards like the Amy Ono Memorial Scholarship, the Hank Tanaka Memorial Scholarship, the Helen Furuki Memorial Scholarship, the Philip Yasaki Memorial Scholarship Award, Tatsuo & Teru Anraku Scholarship Awards, and the Tom & Martha Oye Honorary Scholarship have been granted for high school graduates to continue higher learning.

Japanese Taiko Drums: the Cleveland Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) Taiko Fund was established and founding in September 2003 by Dr. Roy Ebihara, Mari Kuroda, and Michael Reynolds and in 2005 the Mame Daiko Taiko Group was established as a youth based taiko group. The Mame Daiko Group wishes to continues to develop and grow into a performance, education and participation, programs to spread the art of Japanese Taiko Drumming. The six youth members of Mame Daiko and one adult member decided in 2009 to reestablish a JACL sponsored taiko group, along with the support of their parents and other members of the Japanese American community's desire to start a new JACL taiko program and the rebirth of the Mame Daiko Taiko Drumming Ensemble was formed from Volunteers with the support of JACL.