40 Years of History: Founders’ Panel
March 6, 2013
In celebration of AACI’s 40th Anniversary, South Bay First Thursdays hosted a luncheon on Saturday, February 23, to honor the original twelve founders and board of directors for their extraordinary efforts in advocacy and community advancement for Asian Americans during the 1970s. Community supporters joined members of the original twelve founders, former board members, and early staff at the California History Center at De Anza College to celebrate four decades of service and hear about the environment and social context in which AACI was founded.
At the tail end of the Civil Rights Movement discrimination was still prominent in the work place as well as educational institutions. Dr. Allan Seid, Edward Kawazoe, and Paul Sakamoto, all AACI founders from 1973, brought together concerned citizens in Santa Clara Valley to make effective change by encouraging individuals to run for commissions and boards, collectively fighting workplace discrimination, and leading campaigns to change policies.
The ceremony began with a special presentation from Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, who presented President and CEO, Michele Lew, with a U.S. Flag in honor of AACI’s 40th Anniversary. AACI founders, Connie Young Yu, Jeanette Arakawa, and Eimi Okano spoke about the factors that inspired them to be actively involved. Author and historian, Connie Young Yu, who was heavily involved in the peace movement joined Jeanette and Eimi on a textbook campaign to successfully change the State Educational Code to include accurate information on diverse communities as well as increase multicultural representation.
Original Founding Board Member Congressman Mike Honda and early participant and former Board Member Assemblymember Paul Fong also spoke about their involvement. Congressman Honda, who was an educator when he first became involved with AACI, spoke about spending his early childhood in an internment camp and serving in the Peace Corps. His experiences led him to a lifelong journey to advocate for social justice. Assemblymember Fong shared his memories as a young man being present at meetings with the original founders (his mentors) around kitchen tables when the concept of AACI was being formed. Soon after AACI’s founding, he joined the board.
It was inspiring to hear from AACI’s leaders from the early years and Eimi Okano stated well that there is still more work to do so we all need to keep knocking on doors and “Keep on truckin”!”