Each eNewsletter will feature a profile on an alumni from Sakura Foundation’s Mirai Generations Leadership Program. This edition will acquaint you with Courtney Ozaki.
I am a third- and fourth-generation Japanese American (JA) born and raised in Colorado. My family relocated to Denver following the closing of WWII’s incarceration camps. As a taiko player and a member of the Tri-State/Denver Buddhist Temple, my Japanese heritage has always been an integral part of my life, but it wasn’t until I returned to Denver after five years in NYC that I deepened my investment into Colorado’s Japanese & JA community.
I received my MFA in Performing Arts Management from Brooklyn College and worked as a dance producer in NYC. It was always my intent to return to Colorado, bringing back a new wealth of professional knowledge. Upon my return, I was invited to join the board of the Japanese American Resource Center of Colorado and I became involved with organizations like Sakura Foundation, helping them to connect our community with international artists like KODO and On Ensemble. During this time I learned about the Mirai Generations Leaders Program (MGLP). This seemed like an ideal program to be involved with, given its emphasis on building the next generation of local leaders through community engagement.
Our MGLP capstone project was an event which brought together a multi-generational spectrum of people from diverse backgrounds; connecting community members in a casual and accessible environment. The success of this event brought to light that not enough spaces like this exist. After the close of our MGLP session, I engaged fellow classmates to begin a monthly session called “Next Gen JA” which provides a place for like-minded individuals who have varying connections to Japan + JA culture to come together. We provide a sounding board for one another’s ideas, thoughts, questions, goals and aspirations, envisioning an inclusive community that challenges and re-defines what it means to be “Japanese American.”
My time with MGLP and my work on additional community boards and committees for organizations like the Tri-State/Denver Buddhist Temple, Mile High JACL, and U.S.-Japan Council, in conjunction with my professional performing arts experience, inspired me to found the Japanese Arts Network (JA-NE), a national resource for artistic collaboration and connection which provides access to resources and develops programs and platforms that support and strengthen visibility for Japanese Artists in America. I also formed a business with eight other MGLP alumni called Hakken Denver, which will support Japanese-owned businesses in Colorado through a searchable online directory and a ‘Discovery Book’ program to launch in 2021. I also recently started work as Business Manager for the Taiko Community Alliance – a national organization which empowers people and advances the art of taiko. I am grateful for many opportunities to have a meaningful impact on our community and society and thank MGLP and Sakura Foundation for their support throughout my journey. If you would like to connect with me, I can be reached at: JapaneseArtsNetwork@gmail.com.