The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays
A native New Yorker, Ms. Suki Terada Ports has been a pioneering force in community-based activism for Japanese and Asian Americans for several decades. After graduating from Smith College in 1956 and then teaching at a community school in Turkey. She then returned to New York City and readily became engaged in local educational and social issues. In addition to being a wife and mother of three children, Ms. Ports devoted herself to improving the quality of life of Japanese Americans through leadership positions in the Japanese American Citizens League and the Japanese American Association in New York, and to increasing services to Asian Americans with HIV/AIDS through her co-founding of APICHA, the Asian and Pacific Islander Coalition on HIV/AIDS, and the establishment of the Family Health Project in 1989.
Ms. Ports has been active in JAA, the Japanese American Association of New York since the 1970s, motivated by her deep interest in cross-cultural exchanges and the well-being of aging Japanese Americans. She began serving on its board in 1985 and carried on the important work of creating JAA’s annual Sakura Matsuri (Cherry Blossom) Festival in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in 2003. This made possible a fervent wish held by members of the Japanese and Japanese American community in New York since the end of the Second World War, and also has been a source of invaluable cultural exchanges between Japan and the U.S. Her work in the Japanese American community has been further strengthened by her involvement as a board member of other mainstream organizations and foundations.
Named JAA’s Vice President in 2008, Ms. Ports has endeavored to meet the needs of Japanese American seniors in New York City and surrounding areas, by promoting a survey designed to better understand their situation. She also organized meetings with professional speakers to offer explanations about the Affordable Healthcare Act in Japanese, the new American health insurance system introduced in 2013, which had caused confusion in the Japanese and Japanese American community.
She has also contributed greatly to the advancement of health services in the Asian American community. When AIDS became one of the most serious health challenges in the mid-1980s, Ms. Ports became aware of a lack of information about the incidence of HIV/AIDS among Asian Americans and so established the Asian and Pacific Islander Coalition on HIV/AIDS (APICHA) with other Asian American co-founders. Designated a Federally-recognized Community Health Center in May of 2015, APICHA now provides HIV tests, treatment and prevention resources to Asian Americans and has served approximately 100 Japanese patients, and other Asians.
As a member of the local board of the New York City Board of Education to help achieve the improvement of integrated neighborhood schools, and as the Chair of the New York State Division for Youth's Independent Review Board to oversee the quality of incarceration and to advocate for the prevention of juvenile delinquency, Ms. Ports’ work proves her commitment to serving underserved communities on a grassroots level.
In these multiple capacities throughout the years, Ms. Ports has been tireless in ensuring advancements in cultural understanding between the people of Japan and the U.S., and in improving the quality of life for the Japanese and Japanese Americans in New York.