October 3, 2017

Bouncing Back: An Evening of Hope and Resilience with Dr. Isao Fujimoto

From his early days growing up as the son of immigrants on the Yakima Valley Indian Reservation in Washington, through WWII incarceration, starting Asian American Studies, working with rural migrant communities, up to present day issues for immigrants, Muslims, African Americans and others, Isao draws vital lessons about responding to injustice, hatred and anti-immigrant fervor.” – Andy Noguchi, Japanese American Citizens League

Each year Starr King School for the Ministry’s Master of Arts in Social Change (MASC) program sponsors free public events that highlight the work of notable activists, organizers, authors, truth tellers, and other leaders from around the San Francisco Bay Area and country. These special events serve not only as celebrations of Starr King’s pioneering MASC program, but as opportunities to learn and strengthen our community as we work together for sacred social change.

On Tuesday, September 26, 2017, the Starr King community gathered for the first MASC event of the 2017-18 academic year, featuring Dr. Isao Fujimoto.

Dr. Fujimoto is a rural sociologist, longtime community activist, and Lecturer Emeritus of Community and Regional Development at the University of California Davis. The eldest of 13 siblings, Isao grew up in a farming family on an Indian reservation in Wapato, Washington. At the age of eight, he and his family were sent to the Heart Mountain (WY) and Tule Lake (CA) internment camps during World War II. He received his undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences from UC Berkeley in 1955, as well as a Master’s in Education from Stanford in 1960. He received his PhD from Cornell University at the age of 76, after spending 50 years working with marginalized multi-ethnic communities in the California Central Valley. In 2016, Dr. Fujimoto was a co-recipient of the University of California’s prestigious Panunzio Distinguished Emeriti Award.

Isao Fujimoto is “one of our campus treasures who has inspired and challenged students and faculty alike for decades.” — Helene Dillard, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at UC Davis

During his visit to Starr King, Dr. Fujimoto discussed his recently published memoir, Bouncing Back: Community, Resilience, & Curiosity, which traces the life of his family and his work. Isao maintains that his family was able to overcome injustices and hardships through their everyday Buddhist practices, strong ethnic community, and his own curiosity about the world.

In Bouncing Back, Dr. Fujimoto leaves his readers with nine of “the most important lessons I have learned over the course of my life and am still learning”:

Be true to yourself: “Ultimately we must follow our passions and live our own life.”
Take time off:
“My parents recognized the importance of setting aside time for family activities outside of work.”
Stay connected:
“Moments of reaching out, especially in times of need, are long remembered.”
Get to know the world:
“The adventures – and occasional mishaps – we shared were fun and illuminating. Now they are treasured memories.”
Create community:
“We must work together in increasingly intersectional ways.”
Slow down:
“I recognize now how stress and negativity can affect our relationships, work, and health.”
Stay grounded spiritually:
“Being a part of a religious community was important to my parents. But it was how they put Buddha’s teachings into practice in their everyday lives and struggles that really mattered.”
“Even with the best of plans, we all hit bumps, detours, and even stop signs on the paths we take.”
Practice gratitude:
“It is one thing to be grateful when life is good. To be grateful when things are hard – as my mother did – is a far more difficult feat. But ultimately this is what life asks of us.”

Starr King School for the Ministry wishes to thank Dr. Fujimoto for sharing his deeply inspiring experiences, as well as the Rev. Dr. Gabriella Lettini, SKSM Dean of Faculty and founder of the MASC program, for her support of this event.

Dr. Fujimoto’s memoir, Bouncing Back: Community, Resilience, & Curiosity, is available for purchase on Amazon here.

For additional summaries of previous MASC events, click here.


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