Off the Press: Profile of a zainichi …

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Kei poses by a mural near downtown Oakland.

I had the honor of writing an article about Kei Fischer, an Oakland-based activist, for KoreAm Journal’s February issue. (Read article.) In 2008, Kei and her friend Miho Kim founded Eclipse Rising, an organization for zainichi Koreans in the Bay Area.

A piece of artwork by Kei's mother.

Zainichi Koreans, with a population of more than one million, are Japan’s largest minority group. Though they trace their roots back to the early 1900s, they are still discriminated against socially and politically. Many zainichi choose to “pass” in their everyday lives by using Japanese names. Sometimes they even hide their identities from their own children.

Kei has two master's degrees: one in ethnic studies and another in education.

Eclipse Rising, named in reference to Japan’s emblematic Rising Sun, aims to create a community among zainichi Koreans living in the States. Its members also work to improve the treatment of zainchi Koreans and other minority groups in Japan.

In concert with the Japan Pacific Resource Network, Eclipse Rising has been raising funds for the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in March 2011. The Japan Multicultural Relief Fund aids underserved minority communities that have been overlooked by mainstream relief efforts. These include zainichi Korean schools, Korean comfort women, migrant workers, single mothers, and children and adults with special needs.

At their annual holiday party, Kei and fellow Eclipse Rising member Kyung Hee Ha send out letters thanking donors to the Japan Multicultural Relief Fund.

Please consider donating to this important cause.

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All a Buzz: The first annual Hapa Japan Conference

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Spent this past Friday and Saturday at the first ever Hapa Japan Conference, which was held on the campus of UC Berkeley, my beloved alma mater. The event was organized by Duncan Williams, the head of the Center for Japanese Studies. Luminaries on the subject were abundant. Found myself engaged in thrilling discussions with so many of the scholars whose books and academic papers I studied as an Asian American Studies major.

Professor Michael Omi, who I took many classes with as an undergraduate, moderated the session, “A Changing Japanese-American Community,” which featured presentations by Cynthia Nakashima, another instructor of mine, and Christine Iijima Hall, whose ground-breaking work on African American Hapas I also studied in college.

Rebecca Chiyoko King O’Riain, an old acquaintance from the Berkeley Hapa Issues Forum days (HIF), presented “Cherry Blossom Dreams: Racial Eligibility Rules, Hapas and Japanese American Beauty Pageants.” If you get the chance, check out her book, Pure Beauty: Judging Race in Japanese American Beauty Pageants (U-Minnesota Press, 2006). She’s an amazing woman and an amazing scholar too!

My friend Tony Yuen (M.A. UCLA Asian American Studies and a director at UC Berkeley’s Education Abroad Program) organized an HIF reunion. It was fantastic to see so many of these incredible folks again. Awesome work, Tony!

I could go on and on … And I will when I finish this darn project of mine. But in the meantime, I leave you with this iPhone snap of my copy of Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s by Michael Omi and Howard Winant. I am such a dork that I accosted Professor Omi with my copy and begged for an autograph. He obliged. πŸ™‚