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 Nanka Okinawa Kenjinkai 1941, (pre-OAA)

A Brief History of the Okinawa Association of America

Records indicate that the first Okinawan landed in North America in 1889. In 1896-1900, the first Okinawan settlement was formed in San Francisco, and in 1901-1902 the first Okinawan mutual aid organization (kenjinkai) was founded there. After the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, most Okinawan immigrants moved to Los Angeles, where about 30 Okinawans had been settled via Mexico since 1905 or 1906. In 1908-1909, the two groups from Mexico and San Francisco were united to form the Nanka Okinawa Kenjinkai, our organization's predecessor.

Over the years, reflecting the needs of the time, the organization has changed the name, structure, and mission. There was even a period of two separate organizations (1925-1941). The two organizations were united in 1941. Shortly thereafter, however, almost all of the members were placed, along with other Japanese Americans, in the internment camps during the war.

Returning from the camps after the war, the Okinawans in Los Angeles started not only rebuilding their own livelihood but also organizing the relief efforts for war-damaged Okinawa. Our Issei members appealed to the Okinawans in other cities and organized collection and shipping of materials and money to the homeland. From 1945 to about 1953, the organization's activities were almost entirely devoted to helping rebuild Okinawa.

In 1954, the group was reorganized as the Okinawa Club of America with the purpose of providing mutual aid to the members and general welfare to the community. In 1986, the name of the organization was changed to the Hokubai Okinawa Kenjinkai to emphasize a tie to the Okinawa Prefecture. In 1994, the organization adopted the name of Okinawa Association of America (OAA) and the new bylaws. The OAA is recognized by the IRS as a charitable organization under Internal Revenue Code 501 (c)(3) and by the state of California as a public-benefit, nonprofit organization.

Additionally, in 1999, we celebrated our 90th Anniversary with a four day celebration that included an Okinawan Dance performance, Banquet, Memorial Service, Okinawa Festival, Golf Tournament, an Okinawa Association of America Summit meeting for the presidents and officers of the Okinawa kenjinkai from several US cities, and a Farewell Potluck.

Also in 1999, we purchased a 2-story, 10,000 sq. ft. building in Gardena and established it as our new corporate and activity center. Fundraising for expansion and improvement is underway.


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