Welcome to the Berkeley JACL
Founded in 1942, the Berkeley JACL is part of the oldest and largest Asian American civil rights organization in the United States.


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.

Click here to learn more about the national JACL.


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 the more 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.

Membership has waxed and waned through the years. The beginning 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. With so many Nikkei organizations these days, as well as the integration of the community, maintaining a high enrollment has its challenges. Recently, the chapter is making determined efforts to attract the younger Nikkei crowd, especially those at the University level and young professionals. Their energy and outlook add much to the chapter’s well being. Its close proximity to the University of California, Berkeley and other nearby colleges helps. The future of the JACL lies in their hands.

Statement from the Board

In the wake of a divisive election season, many members of the community are filled with fear and apprehension of the uncertain times ahead. The rhetoric of this past election has empowered certain individuals to act in accordance with their racist, homophobic, and Islamophobic beliefs. Since the November election, police and advocacy groups reported an increase in violent attacks based on race, religion, gender and sexual orientation. The Berkeley JACL will not stand idly by or remain silent while members of our community are targeted as victims of violence based on the color of their skin, their religious beliefs, their gender identity, or who they love. We will not allow these types of racist, anti-immigrant, misogynistic, sentiments to be normalized and refuse to accept policies or political rhetoric promoting an agenda of hate and exclusion.

The mission of the Berkeley JACL includes upholding the human and civil rights of all people by strengthening community ties, fostering coalitions, and promoting understanding, respect and appreciation of the rich diversity and contributions of all cultures. As a chapter of the nation’s oldest and largest Asian-American civil rights organization, the Berkeley JACL stands in a unique position to speak out for the rights of others. The Japanese American experience is one stained by bigotry and fear when over 120,000 Japanese Americans were forcibly imprisoned in government-operated concentration camps during World War II solely because of their Japanese ancestry. In present times, this same bigotry and fear has found a new target in the Muslim American community. While the target has shifted, we recognize the same sentiments calling for the derogation and segregation of those seen by a wider American audience as the other—groups such as Muslim Americans, immigrants, and the LGBTQ communities.

The Berkeley JACL stands in solidarity with all groups seeking to build a stronger, more inclusive America built on the belief that the diversity of its people is what makes America truly great.


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Friends of the Berkeley JACL

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Contact Us

We'd love to hear from you! For any comments or questions, please email us at: berkeleyjacl@gmail.com or send mail to:
JACL, P.O Box 7609, Berkeley, CA 94707-0609

The JACL is always looking for new members! To join you can visit https://jacl.org/member/ for more information.

Our college freshman scholarship application (for high school seniors) can be found here!

Our college undergrad scholarship application (for current college students) can be found here!

Our latest documents and newsletters can be found on our Dropbox below. To get the latest information about the Berkeley JACL, please visit our social media below!