Women Of The Year

2005

Sue Kunitomi Embrey | Jeri Okamoto-Floyd | Yoko Tamae | Yoshiko Yamaguchi

Four prominent Japanese American community leaders have been selected as the 2005 Women of the Year by the Downtown Los Angeles Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League and the Japanese Women’s Society of Southern California.

Sue Kunitomi Embrey, Jeri Okamoto-Floyd, Yoko Tamae and Yoshiko Yamaguchi will be honored at a luncheon on Sunday, May 1st, beginning at 12:30 p.m. at the New Otani Hotel & Garden in the Downtown Los Angeles Little Tokyo area.

“We are very proud of the civic and community achievements of our 2005 Women of the Year honorees. Each of them has helped our community using their own unique talents and abilities,” stated Ms. Kitty Sankey, president of the Downtown Los Angeles Chapter of the JACL.

Sue Kunitomi Embrey
Sue Kunitomi Embrey is the chairperson of the Manzanar Committee, a Los Angeles based non-profit organization which has been in existence since 1971. Born and raised in Los Angeles County she had never left the County until President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Executieve Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, setting in motion the events that would forever change her life. She and her family were removed to the Manzanar Relocation Center and arrived there on May 9, 1942. At the camp, she helped the Maryknoll Sisters found a school, worked at weaving camouflage nets for the U.S. Army, became a reporter and later the editor of the camp newspaper, The Manzanar Free Press. She was in Manzanar for 17 months and 27 days before she was relocated to Madison, Wisconsin in October of 1943. She attended college while her children were in school and received her BA from California State University, Los Angeles and her Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Southern California. She began her career in teaching.

In 1971, she and Warren Furutani, current President of the Los Angeles Community College Board, founded the Manzanar Committee to educate the public on the Japanese American experience during World War II. She helped lead the successful efforts to recognize Manzanar as a State Historic Landmark in 1972 and campaigned to establish it as a National Historic Site. Based on her own experiences and from interview other internees, she began to edit and write articles and books about the internment experience.

From 1975 to 1985, she served on the Commission on the Status of Women for the City of Los Angeles and she was the White House Delegate to the United Nations Mid-Decade Conference on Women in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1980. She was recognized by the National Educational Association with the Ellison Onizuka Memorial Award for Human and Civil Rights in 1988 and also received a Certificate of Appreciation from the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). In 1992, she received awards from the Asian Pacific Family Center, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (AFL-CIO), Little Tokyo Service Center, Japanese American Historical Society of Southern California and the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research for her community service.

She retired from the Los Angeles Unified School District in 1994. She served on the Manzanar National Historic Site Advisory commission from 1994 to 2002 and is the Chairperson, Emeritus. She served on the Manzanar National Historic Site Volunteers in Parks (VIP). In 1997, she was instrumental in gaining passage of the legislation which added 318 acres to the historic site.

She has also served on the board of the Echo Park Community Coordinating Council, Friends of Little Tokyo Branch Library and the National Japanese Americana Historical Society (Board Member, Emeritus).

She has 2 sons, Gary Kinya Embrey, an elementary school teacher, and Bruce Takeshi Embrey, a contractor, and 2 grandchildren.

Jeri Okamoto-Floyd is a full-time mother of two young daughters, currently on hiatus from a legal and public service career. She dedicates her experience, energy and enthusiasm to her family and to her volunteer work in the community. In 1995, she helped found and is the current chairperson of Families with Children from China – Southern California (FCC-SoCal), a non-profit organization that provides educational, cultural enrichment, friendship and support programs and resources for families that had adopted children from China in the greater Los Angeles area, Orange, Ventura, San Bernadino and Riverside counties. Serving over 500 member families, it is one of the largest chapters in the country. The organization also raises funds to benefit children remaining in China’s orphanages as well as domestic charities. In January of 2005, on behalf of FCC-SoCal and in conjunction with Asians for Miracle Marrow Matches, she launched an ongoing international campaign among FCC chapters worldwide to raise the awareness of the need for Asian Pacific bone marrow donors and to register potential donors across the nation and abroad for 4 Chinese adoptees. Separated from their birth families, it is much more difficult for children like these to find matching donors.

She has served on the board of the Little Tokyo Service Center Development Corporation for 10 years and is a past president. She has served on the boards of the Asian Pacific Community Fund, Western Region Asian Project (WRAP) Family Services and has helped to raise funds for other charitable organizations. At the West Los Angeles United Methodist Church, she is a member of the Commission on Church & Society and coordinates and teaches at the Tomodachi Gakko, a Japanese American cultural program for children. She also volunteers at her children’s schools as a room parent and on various committees.

A graduate of UC Santa Barbara and Loyola Law School, she was admitted to the California Bar in 1987. She practiced with the international law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, specializing in media law and business litigation. In 1992, on loan from the law firm, she served as Legal Co-Director of Urban Recover Legal Assistance, a special multicultural legal project of Public Counsel to assist the over 2,000 victims of the Los Angeles civil unrest and spearheaded impact litigation to improve the delivery of federal emergency relief. The State Bar of California commended her twice for her extensive pro bono efforts. In 1993, she left private practice and for 5 years, served as the District Director and Asian Pacific Community liaison for Assembly member Louis Caldera, who represented the heart of Los Angeles including Little Tokyo, Koreatown, Pilipinotown and parts of China town in the state legislature. She helped found the Asian Pacific American Legislative Staff Network. In 1997, she received the Public Service Award from the Asian Pacific American Legal Center for her legislative and community work.

Yoko Tamae, 76, was born Kyoto, Japan. A graduate of Doshi Sha High School, she went to art school and learned to sew. She learned the proper way kimono kitsuke (dressing) from Chieko Misaki, the aunt in famous “Tora-san” movie series. She traveled extensively with her father on his job as a camera sound/color movie engineer. After World War II, she worked oversaw the daily accounting and dining activities at Yokosuka Base where she later met her husband, Seiki Tamae, a Naval Investigator for the Federal government.

After her husband’s retirement from the Federal government, they relocated to Los Angeles in July of 1984. They joined and actively participated in the Okinawa Association of America that same year. She has held many classes in kimono kitsuke, sashiko stitchery and cooking. Whenever the dancers or musicians have special programs at the Okinawa Association, she volunteers her services in dressing the performers. In 1995, she volunteered and held kimono kitsuke and sashiko classes at the Pioneer Center in Little Tokyo. For the past 5 years, she and her students have displayed their sashiko creations for the Nisei Week exhibits and presented the Nisei Week queen and her court with little bags done in sashiko stitchery.

Yoshiko Yamaguchi, was born in Hyogo-ken, Nishinomiya-shi in Japan. She studied English at Kobe College and later graduated from Kansei Gakuin University with a BS in Economics, she was initially on the research staff at C. Itoh Trading Co. She emigrated to the U.S. in 1959 to help her sister who was studying as a Fulbright Scholar at Stanford University where she met her future husband, Hiroshi Yamaguchi. They were married and moved to Los Angeles. While raising her 2 children, Ken and June, she began to teach the Japanese language at the Kyodo System in Los Angeles and later at the San Fernando Valley Japanese Language Institute while attending graduate school at UCLA on scholarship. She graduated in 1972 with a Masters of Social Welfare and became a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at the State of California Department of Social Service, now known as the North L.A. County Regional Center, to provide assistance to developmentally disabled clients.

Retiring in 1993, she taught at Pierce College as an Adjunct Professor of Japanese Language and at the LAUSD Adult School as a part-time teacher in basic education and science. She later taught a U.S. citizen class that enabled many older first generation Japanese to obtain U.S. citizenship. She also served as part time counselor and volunteer for Human Service Program at the San Fernando Valley Japanese American Community Center. She has been on the steering committees of the Japanese Parents Association of Developmentally Delayed Children, the Nikkei Helpline, Nikkei Naturalization Committee and many other community groups. She has served as a board member of the Nikkei Village housing project, the Little Tokyo Service Center and involved with the Asian Pacific Legal Defense and Education Fund. She is an active supporter of a local fair trial committee which supported a case in which Japanese cultural values played a major role. She also volunteers her talents in the traditional Japanese folk dancing (minyo) and contemporary dancing as a certified Natori and Shihan at the invitation of local community organizations.

Tickets for the event are $30.00 per person. The deadline date to purchase the tickets is Monday, April 25th. For further information, please call the Women of the Year Chairperson, Amy Tambara (English/evenings) at (323) 722-3897 or Rodney Nakada (Japanese/days) at (213)628-1800.