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APA Spotlight

Craig Ishii, Japanese American Citizens League Pacific

Craig Ishii is the Regional Director with the Japanese American Citizens League Pacific Southwest District (JACL Pacific Southwest District). Craig is a 2007 graduate of UCLA, majoring in history and economics. He was an active member of the Nikkei Student Union (NSU) at UCLA where he was involved in a variety of cultural, political, and community issues. During his junior and senior years, he served as Internal Vice President and the Board President of the NSU.

The mission of the Japanese American Citizens League is to advocate for civil rights and community preservation for the Asian and Pacific Islander community through empowerment and activism.

What is the mission statement of your life?

I would actually say “enjoying myself” and finding happiness in simple pleasures. I’ve never felt like I need to go on extravagant trips or have nice things (although I don’t mind a few nice suits and some cool shoes); instead I really like a simple ice-cream cone when I crave it, or gummi bears when I want them, simple things. I would say so far that I’ve been pretty true to my mission; but it’s really easy to stay on track when you have good people surrounding you and supporting you in whatever you do…. or in some cases not supporting you when you do something dumb.

How did you end up doing what you’re doing?

I started at UCLA with the Nikkei Student Union, Kyodo Taiko, and the Asian Pacific Coalition. I would say that these organizations alone and more importantly the people that were involved pushed me to what I was doing. I had this mentor Dawn (who’s actually my current roommate) and this best friend Jason who introduced me first to myself (helping me to build some confidence) and then to these opportunities that built my community consciousness. Even in my first years of college, I have to admit that I wasn’t the most politically correct individual… Sometimes I’m still not. But having my close friends and mentors who really guided me down the path of service to community was ultimately what kept me around. I really enjoy more than anything what I’m doing now, but how I ended up here was pretty coincidental, getting involved in the right places, and meeting some of the right people.

If Hollywood made a movie about your life, whom would you like to see play the lead role as you?

Koji Sakai. Koji is HELLA DOPE (I’m not even from NorCal but I feel entitled to use hella)!! Although…. Koji might portray me as a super confident, cocky guy who thinks he’s a stud…. Wait am I describing Koji? Or describing how Koji would portray me.

But my vote is still with Koji Sakai. PLUS, Koji is a screenwriter, ANYONE WHO IS READING THIS BLOG CHECK OUT KOJI’S NEW FILM, The People I’ve Slept With. (Also check Koji's article on Discover Nikkei) It’s a quality film, one of the features at Visual Communications Asian American Film Festival!!! For those people who don’t like “racy” films, “The People I’ve Slept With” can be deceiving; it’s got a racy title, but is actually a very classy film. CHECK IT OUT!!

How can people find out more about your organization or get involved?

Go to:
Call: 213-626-4471 and ask for Craig


If you had a crystal ball, what do you see for the future of the Asian Pacific Islander American community?

I see a community that is pretty integrated in the future, or hopefully. I know that the communities are still somewhat operating independently and of course the API community is the most diverse community, but I’ve been seeing a trend of our organizations coming together on a number of different issue areas. I think that community organizations lead the way in terms of cultural and community bridging, but I’m hoping that the community at the grassroots level will start to fuse together and be mindful of our independent cultural heritages, histories, areas of advocacy, etc, but at the same time find the common ground and connectivity to truly say that we ARE the API community, instead of we are API’s who are comprised of several ethnic groups yada yada yada.

Bonus Question: What’s your guilty pleasure?

World of Warcraft.

* This article was originally published in on August 5, 2010.

© 2010 Koji Steven Sakai

asian pacific coalition civil rights craig ishii jacl jaclpsw koji sakai kyodo taiko nikkei student union NSU the people i've slept with UCLA

About this series

"APA Spotlight" is a regular interview series on by Koji Steven Sakai interviewing Asian American community leaders from around the country.
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