AKEMI JOHNSON

DEVELOPMENT AND COMMUNICATIONS ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR

Akemi is a writer, educator, and nonprofit professional whose passion for the Korematsu Institute's mission stems from her own family history. Her maternal grandparents were among the thousands of Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II, an experience they didn't speak about during their lives. Now, Akemi is thrilled to help tell their story and others through the Institute's work.

Akemi has contributed to the development departments at KQED public media in San Francisco and the University of Hawaii, and created communications materials for The Asia Foundation in Cambodia. She also has taught writing at the George Washington University, the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and the University of Iowa, and holds an MFA in fiction writing from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and an AB in East Asian Studies from Brown University.  As a Fulbright scholar to Japan, she reported on local communities and the U.S. military presence in the southern prefecture, and her first book, Night in the American Village: Women in the Shadow of the U.S. Bases on Okinawa, will be published by The New Press in 2019. Her writing has appeared in The Nation, NPR’s Code Switch, Travel + Leisure, Anthony Bourdain's Explore Parts Unknown, and other publications.  

FREDA LIN

EDUCATION PROGRAM DIRECTOR

Freda is a long time advocate of social justice issues and has promoted awareness of this for 16 years as a history teacher in Chicago and San Francisco Bay area secondary schools. She initiated new diversity programs and activities at the schools in which she worked by collaborating with students, staff and the surrounding community. Her main goal was to always transform people’s perspectives on various issues they never knew about while affirming voices that are rarely heard.

As a result of her accomplishments at Lake Forest Academy, the school has a permanent administrative position dedicated to fostering cultural awareness. Further, Freda’s experiences of teaching for social change in Chicago Public Schools are featured in the Teaching for Social Justice series book, See You When We Get There.

Her quest for cultural and social awareness began as an undergraduate of Northwestern University, where she learned about Asian American history and perspectives never taught throughout all her years of schooling. This led to Freda leading a campus-wide and community supported movement for an Asian American Studies Program. Several years later, this program was established as a minor and continues to thrive today.

Freda also works as a Research Consultant and Lead Guide for Freedom Lifted, a business dedicated to promoting awareness of social movement history through educational travel for young people and adults. In her leisure time Freda enjoys exploring nature and writing. She earned her BA degree in History and International Studies/Asian Studies from Northwestern University and her Masters degree in Teaching from Brown University.

AKSHAYA NATARAJAN

ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT

A student of racial justice and Asian American history, Akshaya graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2017 with a B.A. in Political Science and Asian American Studies, where she received the Yuri Kochiyama Award for Activism and Community Service for her campus activism. During her undergraduate career, she studied abroad at the National University of Singapore, one of Asia’s top universities, where she was a student of South and Southeast Asian cultures and history. Akshaya plans to attain her J.D. and become an immigration and civil rights attorney, and hopes to further the legacy of legal advocacy of activists like Fred Korematsu.