Cherry Blossom Alumnae’s mission is to give back to the Japanese American community through volunteerism, education, cultural appreciation, leadership and financial support.
Founded in January 2008, Cherry Blossom Alumnae (CBA) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that strives to give back to the Japanese American (JA) community. CBA is comprised of women who were former court members of the Northern California Cherry Blossom Queen Program, and represented the Northern California Japanese American community in the San Francisco/Bay Area, as well as visiting cities including Los Angeles, Seattle, Honolulu and Tokyo/Osaka. This includes Northern California Cherry Blossom Queens, First Princesses/Miss Japantown, Miss Tomodachi and Princesses.
The Northern California Cherry Blossom Queen Program (formerly called the Queen Pageant) began in April 1968 as an opportunity to draw attention to the Cherry Blossom Festival in San Francisco, and it still remains popular today. Over the years, the Queen Program has evolved as the community has grown. The Queen Program is not a beauty pageant but requires a strong level of community service and invites women of at least 50% Japanese ancestry to be selected to represent the Northern California Japanese American community for one year, who are called the Northern California Cherry Blossom Court. While the Cherry Blossom Court falls under the umbrella of the Cherry Blossom Festival, CBA is a separate nonprofit organization that includes women who were previously a member of the Cherry Blossom Court, hence the “alumnae” of the CBA name.
Currently there is no organization that directly connects former Cherry Blossom Court members with the JA community and leverages their experience and leadership skills. CBA fills that gap and provides an opportunity to inspire and motivate others to become involved in the community, as well as educate the general public about our JA culture. CBA also provides a viable way for former court members to remain active in the JA community. Many former court members are in different stages of their life, whether they are single, married, working, with children or without. CBA offers flexibility in allowing former court members to choose the events they would like to participate or volunteer in, based on time availability and interest. CBA events and activities are organized throughout the year, not just during the Cherry Blossom Festival. In addition, CBA serves a broader purpose to help the JA community overall, while also organizing some special activities for former court members such as the Annual Reunion Picnic and serving as a mentor for younger former court members.
CBA’s mission “to give back to the Japanese American community through volunteerism, education, cultural appreciation, leadership and financial support” is important because it encompasses the breadth of focus to help our JA community. It was our Issei (first generation) who came to the U.S. and brought the culture from Japan, and the Nisei (second generation) who made our culture uniquely Japanese American. Today, our younger former court members are Sansei (third generation), Yonsei (fourth generation) and Gosei (fifth generation). Our ancestors worked hard and endured a lot for their children, including being forced into U.S. concentration camps during World War II. Who we are today is a result of those who came before us – so we need to pass on our JA culture and traditions with the same intensity as previous generations. CBA strives to help make that happen.
Board of Directors
- Kaori Saito
- Kelli Sum
- Lauren Kawawaki
- Rachel Kawawaki
- Asaki Osato
- Gail Tanaka
- Kelly Shintani
- Cindy Sakai
- Carla Chun Hoblit
Awards and Grants
AsianWeek Foundation awarded CBA an Award of Honor.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors awarded CBA a Certificate of Honor.
The California State Board of Equalization awarded CBA a Resolution certificate.
The California State Assembly awarded CBA a Certificate of Recognition.