WRITTEN BY LINDA HOSMER
Meet Craig Ishii – the Executive Director of Kizuna, an organization in DTLA dedicated to “educating, empowering and engaging the future generation of Japanese-Americans.” Craig grew up in the OC and describes his childhood as the typical Japanese-American childhood – he practiced Buddhism, played basketball and little league and got good grades.
But he’s quick to point out the hurdles 4th generation Japanese-Americans like himself face, “It’s very easy to assimilate. It’s very easy to say ‘Oh you know what I’m looking out for my future. I’m going to do what’s best for me.’” This brings us to what Craig sees as the core mission of Kizuna, “It’s all about flipping that and saying ‘You know what? It is about you but you have not come this far on your own. You have come this far with the help of your community.’”
At Kizuna Japanese-American kids get the chance to participate in various programs, each one targeting a specific age group. And just to be clear Craig defines Japanese-American in this context as a cultural and inclusive term so that means anyone interested in the roots of what it means to be Japanese-American is welcome.
Craig describes Kizuna’s summer camp program (Ages:7-13) as an opportunity for kids to learn about their culture while playing games – in return they’re rewarded with candy. But it’s in the reward that the kids reap their most valuable lesson.
“They have 3 choices: They can eat it which some of them do. They can save it for later. They can choose to do that or they can donate it to the community fund. At the end we just have this giant jar with all this donated candy in it. It’s not just about sharing but all of us contributing to the greater good.” The donated candy then scores the group an activity everyone can enjoy.
In his every day Craig finds it necessary to be comfortable and he’s found the perfect balance of feel and fit in his Third Uprising tees. ”There’s a softness to the shirt that is different than a normal t-shirt,” says Craig while also stressing the importance of Third Uprising’s mission - transparency.
And for those of you #Uprisers ready to take on the world, Craig has a very simple slice of advice - “Be patient.” Put in the work, do what you love, look out for others, and give back to the community that raised you to be your best you.