The Berkeley Chapter of the JACL is committed to upholding the human and civil rights of all people, strengthening community ties and fostering coalitions with groups who have similar interests. We strive to promote understanding, respect and appreciation of the rich diversity and contributions of all cultures by preserving and advancing the history of Japanese Americans and all other groups in the United States.
Learn more about the National JACL and the Northern California Western Nevada Pacific District.
The Berkeley Chapter was organized in early 1942 with Kimio Obata (son of U.C. Art Professor Chiura Obata) as president. WW II and the evacuation of Japanese Americans from the West Coast suspended the chapter’s activities. An East Bay Chapter was formed after the war to include Berkeleyans but was split in 1953 into Oakland, Berkeley, and the Contra Costa Chapters. Later the Oakland Chapter was absorbed into the Berkeley Chapter.
Berkeley was fortunate to include active East Bay members like Tad Hirota, Masuji Fujii, Frank and Toshi Yamasaki, Albert and Ruth Kosakura, George and Bess Yasukochi, Mas Yonemura, Paul and Kay Yamamoto, and Bill Fujita. They carried on a vigorous community program, which included promotion of Issei citizenship, scholarship awards, open forums on civic issues, benefit movies, picnics, talent shows (one of which included the now famous Pat Morita), and sports team sponsorship.
The Berkeley Chapter became beneficiary of an old-time Berkeley Issei Association, which owned a modest downtown site used as the JACL meeting room with one apartment above. The property was sold for $40,000 in 1966 and the fund, supplemented with other donations, has grown substantially and now provides annual income for chapter scholarships, community project grants, chapter sponsored activities, and subsidies for youth to attend major JACL events including the National Student Youth Conference and National Convention.
The Berkeley Chapter’s original membership goal was 200-300 members. In 1957 Ko Ijichi, as Vice President and Membership Committee chair, set a goal of 500. The following year with vigorous effort, under President Ijichi’s leadership, the chapter reached its high of 487. Throughout the years, the Berkeley Chapter maintained a strong membership base. Recently, the chapter is making determined efforts to attract the younger Nikkei crowd, especially those at the university level and young professionals. Their energy, perspective, and leadership are critical to the health and legacy of the organization. We thank them for their service and their leadership in the Berkeley Chapter, ensuring that the organization can continue its critical work promoting and protecting the civil rights of all people for generations to come.