Lawrence Lan

As part of the Nikkei Community Internship program, Lawrence will be contributing this summer to the Discover Nikkei website in his capacity as the Discover Nikkei intern at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM); he will also be working with the Japanese American Bar Association (JABA) to preserve the legacy of prominent Nikkei jurists in the community.

Update June 2012 

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Connecting Movements and Memories: On Karen Ishizuka’s Serve The People and the Making and Meanings of the Asian American Movement

“You have to keep changing, because what has happened and what you have been a part of is no longer there. The ideas that we develop remain in our heads … So our challenge constantly is both to learn from the past and also not be bound by the past.”

—Grace Lee Boggs1

The words of the late political thinker and activist Grace Lee Boggs offer a good reminder that in our struggles for personal and collective transformation, we must indeed learn from the past and also adapt to the changing material conditions of our own experiences. What, then, might ...

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Investing in the People

As part of the Nikkei Community Internship (NCI) program, I have spent the past eight weeks not only working with the Japanese American Bar Association (JABA) and the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) but also learning more about the non-profit community work being done throughout California’s three Japantowns—Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo, San Jose’s Japantown, and San Francisco’s Nihonmachi. It’s been an eye-opening experience.

I’d like to begin by thanking my supervisor from the Japanese American Bar Association, Alex Fukui, for finding the time outside of a hectic work schedule to help and support me ...

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The JABA Legacy Project: Pioneering Jurists in the Nikkei Community

Judge Jon Mayeda: The Right Place at the Right Time

Judge Jon Mayeda—a retired Los Angeles County Superior Court judge who currently works with JAMS, an Irvine-based dispute resolution and arbitration company—was always in the right places at the right times…or so he claims when he says, “It felt like the right thing to do.” But luck and serendipity can only go so far before passion and vision come into play.

As a pioneering jurist in the Japanese American community, Mayeda was instrumental in the founding of several organizations, including what is now the Asian Pacific Islander Law Students Association (APILSA) at the University of California, Los ...

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The JABA Legacy Project: Pioneering Jurists in the Nikkei Community

Judge Vincent Okamoto: Fighting for Justice - Part 2

Rear Part 1 >> 

Law School 

It was in Vietnam that Okamoto first started thinking about the rule of law, and the lack thereof around him at the time. 

“I really did say to myself—and it sounds kind of corny—that if I am fortunate enough to live through this experience, then when I get back to the world—to America—I’d like to go through something that has rules, where people don’t throw grenades at each other and shoot at each other,” Okamoto said. “So I gave [law school] a shot.”

For Okamoto, law school proved to ...

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The JABA Legacy Project: Pioneering Jurists in the Nikkei Community

Judge Vincent Okamoto: Fighting for Justice - Part 1

“I was in a position in Vietnam—to be in an arena where men with guns made the rules. And there really wasn’t anything called the rule of law. Those on the battlefield prevailed not because of better argument or because the facts were on their side. They prevailed because they had superior firepower.”

So says Judge Vincent Okamoto who sits on the Los Angeles County Superior Court bench as he begins to explain just how the most highly-decorated Japanese American Vietnam War veteran ended up a Superior Court judge.

In Okamoto’s chambers at the Inglewood Courthouse, fourteen ...

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