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About the Okinawa Association of America (OAA)

The Okinawa Association of America, Inc. (OAA) is a public benefit, charitable organization. Its mission is to promote the Okinawan culture, to assist in the social and educational benefit of the members, and to contribute to local and international cultural exchanges. Although the organization has changed its name, structure and mission to reflect the changing times, the basic goals of mutual aid and retention of Okinawan identity have remained the same for a century.

OK Seinenkai baseball team 1924. Photo coutesy of Okinawa Association of America, Inc.

Records indicate that the first Okinawan arrived in North America in 1889. During the period between 1896-1900, the first Okinawan settlement was formed in San Francisco where the first Okinawan mutual aid organization (kenjinkai) was founded in 1902. The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 prompted many Okinawans to move to Los Angeles, joining about 30 others who had settled there in 1905 from Mexico. In 1909, the two groups united to form the Nanka Okinawa Kenjinkai, the predecessor to the OAA.

During World War II, organizational activities were halted as most of the members were placed in American internment camps. Returning from the camps to Los Angeles after the war, the Okinawans started not only rebuilding their own livelihood but also organizing relief efforts to aid war-devastated Okinawa. The Issei members appealed to Okinawans in other cities and organized the collection of materials and money to send to their homeland. From 1945 to about 1953, the organization’s activities were almost entirely devoted to helping rebuild Okinawa.

Himeyuri in 1963. Photo coutesy of Okinawa Association of America, Inc.

In 1954, the group was reorganized as the Okinawa Club of America with the purpose of providing mutual aid to its members and promoting general welfare to the community. In 1986, the organization’s name was changed to the Hokubei Okinawa Kenjinkai to emphasize a tie to Okinawa Prefecture. In 1994, the organization was incorporated as the Okinawa Association of America, Inc. (OAA) and articles of incorporation were filed with the State of California. The following year, the IRS recognized the OAA as a charitable organization under Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3).

Coinciding with its 90th anniversary in 1999, the OAA acquired a group of three buildings in Gardena as a permanent activity center. The OAA Center now includes offices, meeting rooms, classrooms, a library and museum, a kitchen, and rooms for dance practice. Currently, about 800 households belong to the OAA. Throughout the year, the OAA provides cultural, educational and social programs for its members and the larger community. These programs include a New Year’s party, performances, a summer picnic, scholarships for graduating high school seniors, a celebration to honor the senior citizens, Okinawan language classes and participation in the Nisei Week Parade.

Photo coutesy of Lesley Chinen.

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Click here for a Chronological Table of the OAA from 1889 to 2009 >>

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OAA is celebrating its 100th Anniversary this year. A big Celebration Weekend is planned for August 27-30, including an Open House, Wakamun nu Miati meeting (Future Kenjinkai Leaders meeting), Okinawan Identity Through Ancient Ryukyuan Literature lecture with Professor Eikichi Hateruma, King Sho Hashi musical, History of the Okinawan Community Lecture and Inter-Generational Panel Discussion, Bunkasai (Cultural Festival), and more.

For more information, visit www.oaamensore.org/100/.

© 2009 Okinawa Association of America, Inc.

history kenjinkai OAA okinawa