Elaine Reiko Akagi Leaves Legacy of Justice, Dies at 67

Elaine Reiko Akagi. Photo courtesy of Wendy Kimball.
Elaine Reiko Akagi. Photo courtesy of Wendy Kimball.

Elaine Reiko Akagi passed away on October 19, 2012 at the Casey House End of Life Center in Rockville, Md. from aggressive pancreatic cancer.  Her family, friends and supporters will miss her deeply, but know she is no longer in pain.

Born in Highland Park, Mich. on August 23, 1945, Elaine was the only child of Ben Akagi and Dorothy Kinuko Akagi.  Elaine is survived by many Akagi, Nakatani and Yamamoto cousins, as well as a host of friends and admirers of her work as an advocate for both civil rights and children with disabilities.

Elaine modeled continuous learning all her life. She graduated from Cass Technical High School, Detroit, in 1963.  She attended Wayne State College where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in family life studies, a master’s degree in special education, focusing on visual impairments, and later, an additional master’s degree in vocational education rehabilitation.

Elaine taught in Detroit Public Schools as a special education/visually impaired teacher from 1974 to 1985.  She joined Seattle Public Schools in 1987 where she retired in 2010. She taught special education and ultimately became the consulting teacher for the visually impaired.

Elaine’s life was dedicated to her passion for justice born out of the experience of the imprisonment of Japanese Americans during World War II.  She joined the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) in her teens, dedicating the rest of her life to advocating for minorities discriminated against because of their race, ethnicity, religion, color or disability. Her work for the marginalized has been honored by many organizations. Upon her retirement, Gov.Gregoire appointed her to the Washington School for the Blind Board of Trustees.  Just prior to her death, Elaine received the highest awards bestowed by JACL: the Ruby Pin and the JACLer of the Biennium
Her life legacy is seen in the scores of people she encouraged to be advocates for the disadvantaged and marginalized. Through them, her work will continue forward. Her family, friends, and community thank her for her life’s work.

A celebration of Elaine’s life will be held on Saturday, December 8, at the Nisei Veterans Committee Hall on 1212 So. King St. in Seattle. The memorial will begin at 6 p.m.

Remembrances can be made to the Seattle JACL Elaine Akagi Scholarship Fund, the King County Animal Humane Society, the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington or the Seattle NVC/NVC Foundation.

New National Poll: Asian Americans Are the Fastest-Growing Electoral Vote, Increasingly More Engaged

According to a new post-election poll jointly conducted by the Asian American Legal Defense Fund (AALDF) and the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (CAPACD), Asian and Pacific Islander voters in the U.S. are the fastest-growing electorate, up 128 percent since 1996.

A large majority of of Asian and Pacific Americans — 76 percent — voted for President Obama, according to the multilingual poll. Along with Black and Latino voters, Asian Americans made the difference in re-electing Obama, and were more engaged and participatory in the 2012 election than in any other election, determining outcomes in races and ballot measures where the vote was especially close.

Washington is one of the top six states where Asian Americans have the largest, fastest-growing populations. The API vote made a notable impact in a close gubernatorial race, with the final outcome putting Governor-elect Jay Inslee ahead of Rob McKenna.

Though the trajectory of the API electorate is expected to continue, reports of voter suppression in Asian American communities have been documented. In Pennsylvania, reports of segregating Korean voters and letting white voters go first have been noted. In post-Sandy New York City, many voters were turned away without provisional ballots.

The poll also found that 51 percent of Asian American voters were not asked by any campaign, political party or community organization to vote or to register to vote.

The poll, conducted both pre-and-post Election Day, was taken by a nationally representative sample of Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Korean, Vietnamese and Japanese voters.

President Obama Nominates Native Hawaiian to Serve on Federal District Court

Washington, D.C. — Last Wednesday, President Obama nominated Assistant U.S. Attorney Derrick Kahala Watson to serve on the U.S. District Court in Honolulu, where Kahala is currently chief of the civil division for the District of Hawaii.

“[Derrick Watson represents] my continued commitment to ensure that the judiciary resembles the nation it serves. I am grateful for [his] willingness to serve and confident that [he] will apply the law with the utmost impartiality and integrity,” said Obama.

If confirmed by the Senate, Watson will be the only Native Hawaiian serving as an Article III judge, and the fourth person of Native Hawaiian descent to serve as a federal judge.
“Derrick Kahala Watson is a strong selection to serve as a United States District Court Judge for the District of Hawaii,” added Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI). “He consistently displayed exemplary legal acumen, integrity, and fairness during his decade as a federal prosecutor in Northern California and Hawaii, and that will serve him well on the federal bench.”
Watson’s career reflects a longtime commitment to public service. He previously served in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California and was an Army Reservist and Captain in the JAG Corps from 1998 to 2006. Watson also worked as a partner at the San Francisco law firm of Farella Braun + Martel LLP, where his practice focused on product liability, toxic tort and environmental cost recovery litigation. He is a graduate of Harvard Law School, Harvard College and The Kamehameha Schools.

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