Each eNewsletter will feature a profile on an alumni from Sakura Foundation’s Mirai Generations Leadership Program. This edition will acquaint you with Adam Lisbon.
I lived in Japan for four years as a participant in the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program. I’m the Japanese Studies Librarian at the University of Colorado Boulder and read, write, and speak Japanese. However, I have no Japanese ancestry and until I moved to Colorado I had never truly engaged with the Japanese American (JA) Community. That is why I think the Mirai Generations Leadership Program (MGLP) is so fantastic. The inaugural MGLP Class led the way in 2017, seeking out leaders of the Japanese/JA community. Little did I know that my name was included in a list of people involved in Japan affiliated organizations: I was president at the time of the JET Alumni Association’s (JETAA) Rocky Mountain chapter. When I sat down to be interviewed three years ago by MGLP participant Courtney Ozaki, I was actually the one who had so much to learn.
From that first meeting with Courtney, my friendships in the JA community grew rapidly. In parallel, I was exposed to a great deal of history on Executive Order 9066, incarceration, Amache, and Colorado’s own unique JA history. I knew CU Boulder had its own treasure trove of archival materials on Japanese/JAs who helped teach Japanese to Naval officers bound for the Pacific Theater in World War II, but our archival materials only have a handful of Japanese names.
The bridge that the MGLP built between myself and the JA community was pivotal when Megan Friedel, head of the CU Boulder Archives, and I were awarded a $24,000 grant to document J/JA experiences on our campus. Without MGLP I wouldn’t have had the community connections and friendships to know that we could commit to this project. It’s been seven months since then and we have identified nearly 500 objects for digitization thanks to three amazing student interns who have meticulously reviewed our archival collections for J/JA activities at CU.
We are starting to reach out and collect oral histories and have had several small donations. Reconstructing CU’s JA legacy with stories and memories about athletics, academics, social life, incarceration, city life, friendships, and work life has been rewarding. Many stories are quite happy; a few have been sad to hear. But in totality it gives us an honest and complete picture of J/JA life at CU Boulder. If you have photos, diaries, audio recordings, film, or just want to meet with us and tell us your own story in an oral history, please contact us. While an archive is never truly finished, I look forward to the day when we can celebrate with the JA community an archival collection that represents their story and history, preserved for generations to come. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303.492.8822.