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About the SF JACL

 Founded in 1929, the Japanese American Citizens League is the oldest and largest Asian American civil rights organization in the United States.  The JACL champions issues affecting the Japanese American and Asian Pacific American communities and advocates for the civil and human rights of all Americans. The San Francisco Chapter has a storied history as one of the earliest to be formed and has been the home chapter to many national JACL leaders.

Our History


The New American Citizens League (San Francisco), the Nisei Loyalty League (Fresno), and the Seattle Progressive Citizens League (Seattle) join together to form the Japanese American
Citizens League. 


The JACL holds its first national convention and begins to organize local chapters, creating a national network of chapters. The organization begins political advocacy, attempting to dismantle racist laws such as the 1924 Immigration Act that effectively banned all immigration from Asian countries, including Japan (bans and quotas would not be revised until after World War II).


During World War II, Japanese Americans become the target of a racist campaign to remove them from the West Coast. Over 120,000 Japanese Americans are forcibly incarcerated in remote desert prison camps, stripped of their property and homes, their communities, and their Constitutional rights.


The national organization lobbies to end racist laws restricting access to public education (Brown v. Board of Education), interracial marriage (Loving v. West Virginia), citizenship and immigration (the Immigration and Nationality
Act of 1952).


Advocating for civil rights, the organization participates in the March on Washington together with Martin Luther King, Jr. and many other civil and human rights organizations. The JACL contributes to the enactment of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act that significantly expands Asian immigration.


The JACL and several Japanese American organizations including the National Coalition for Redress & Reparations work on securing wartime redress and reparations. San Francisco Chapter members testified at the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians.


After many years of struggle, the JACL and partner organizations achieve what few thought possible: President Ronald Reagan signs the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 awarding redress and reparations to Japanese Americans who were incarcerated during
World War II.


The JACL commissions a study by Deborah Lim, an instructor from San Francisco State University, to examine the role of the JACL in the wartime incarceration. The study exposes the complicity of JACL leaders with the U.S. government in the wartime incarceration of
Japanese Americans. 


Following the publication of the Lim Report, the JACL votes at its national convention to formally apologize to draft resisters who had been condemned and marginalized as disloyal by the JACL. A period of healing between draft resisters, military veterans, and their

families begin.

Black and White Up Arrow


The National JACL becomes a leader in civil and human rights, advocating for same sex marriage, protesting racist policies targeting Muslim communities, and fighting for immigrant rights.

timeline arrow for the SF JACL
Our Mission

The 2020's

Our Mission

Our chapter focuses on

  • Developing future leaders through mentoring, national/regional/local connections, and investment of resources for members

  • Mobilizing members, national/regional/local connections, and resources to advance civil rights with local and global relevance

  • Advancing the stories and historical perspectives of intersectionality and multiplicity of Japanese American identities

  • Enhancing cultural humility within Japantown to foster collaborations across and among different communities 

  • Elevating the voice, priorities, differences, and concerns on behalf of Japantown and within Japanese American communities to advance
    social justice.

JACL in 1942 prior to WWII Japanese American Incarceration.
Defending social justice at SF City Hall.

Our Vision

Ensuring Civil Rights for All.

Our Board

Executive Committee

Judy Hamaguchi

Judy Hamaguchi

Judy Hamaguchi was raised in Japantown and is active in the community she loves. She has served on the chapter board for 18+ years. Judy serves on the board of the Japanese Cultural & Community Center of Northern California. The daughter of immigrants who owned and operated a long-time Japantown restaurant, Hisago, Judy was also a small business owner of Asobi Arts, an inventive craft store there.

Merry Nishimura
Board Member

Long-time San Francisco resident Merry Nishimura joined the board in 2014.  After a long career in biomedical sciences where her work is featured in several published articles, Merry has been an active organizer of the chapter’s yearly community health fair. She is interested in encouraging the general membership to actively participate in JACL in civil rights issues. 

David Takashima

David Takashima
Vice President

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David Takashima is a native Californian who was raised on a family farm in Chula Vista, near San Diego. He is a graduate of San Diego State University and the University of San Diego School of Law. David has been involved with the JACL since his youth, having served as the very first Youth Representative on the National JACL board. He also currently serves on the board of the Japantown Task Force.

Emily Murase

Emily Murase

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Emily is embarking on her second tenure as Chapter Secretary after first serving 25 years ago. In the past, she served on the board of the JACL chapters in Tokyo and Washington, DC Chapters. A former JACL scholarship recipient and the first Japanese American elected to the San Francisco Board of Education, she is passionate about education and outreach. After serving 15 years as Director of the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women advancing the human rights of women, she joined the Stanford University Center for Entrepreneurial Studies as Interim Associate Director of Program Operations. 

Elena A Harumi Nielsen

Elena A Harumi Nielsen

Board Member

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Born in Los Angeles but raised in the East Bay, Elena A. Harumi Nielsen has been active in Japanese American communities across California all her life. A former officer of UC Berkeley’s Nikkei Student Union, Elena graduated with a degree in Sociology. She went on to intern at the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California (“the Center”) before moving to Tokyo, Japan for the JET Program. She lived in Japan for 3.5 years, where she co-founded “Nikkei in Japan,” an organization that sought to bring together Nikkei of all backgrounds living in Japan. She returned to the Bay Area to take part in the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Queen Program and currently serves as Membership Coordinator at the Center in San Francisco Japantown. She is also a member of social justice organization Japantown for Justice.

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