JA Activism Definition

Japanese American activism is not simply a set of beliefs or a series of actions; more accurately, it is a way of living.  It is practicing militant humility in transforming society while transforming ourselves.  It is learning how to give back our talents – in both big and small ways – to build our community around principles of justice, equality, and righteousness.  It is propagating the tradition of Shared Leadership rather than the individualistic style of executive leadership commonly seen in the U.S. today, even in the progressive movement.  It is honoring our historical legacy – rooted in immigrant worker struggles in the early 1900s and earlier peasant uprisings in Japan – and sharing this legacy with the generations that succeed us.  It is nurturing all these qualities in the way we live our lives.  It is helping people around us deal with uncertain situations and dark times by recognizing the power within themselves.  Obviously, Japanese American activism is not practiced only by Japanese Americans but is common to many people’s struggles against colonialism and oppression.  In U.S. movements today, it is vital for Japanese Americans to share our vision of activism to help others learn to practice humility along with militancy, to engage in personal transformation along with social change, to nurture Shared Leadership rather than individualist notions, and to serve communities instead of exploiting them.

— Glenn Omatsu

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