Updated: Nov 20, 2020
By Hale Chiba, Emi Matsumoto and Emily Sarashina
2020 Southern District Jr. YBL Conference Co-chairs
The 2019-20 term for the Southern District Junior Young Buddhist League (SD Jr. YBL) was unique and probably the most challenging in its 70-year history.
What started out to be a normal and active year, which began in September 2019, quickly changed when 2020 arrived. The effects of COVID-19 began to take its toll on activities in February and by mid-March, all the district’s and temple chapter’s activities were shut down.
Since May, the SD Jr. YBL members faced many challenges which led the Southern District cabinet to continue meeting online virtually. When the cabinet realized that all in-person activities would be canceled, cabinet members thought about how everyone could stay connected with the 13 chapters in the Southern District.
The cabinet planned a series of chapter outreach called “Zooming Together,” which included mini trivia games and social time with the YBA members during quarantine.
With the status of the annual in-person conference in doubt, we were all saddened when the 70th annual SD Jr. YBL Conference that was going to be hosted by the Arizona chapter was canceled.
This gave the SD cabinet the idea of hosting the first virtual conference. The cabinet chose the date of Sunday, Sept. 6 to host the annual gala. Traditionally, the Labor Day weekend is the time to celebrate a successful year with a conference overnighter at a temple and hotel.
Planning for the virtual gala was quite difficult, especially with a little more than two months of planning.
The nine cabinet members met over Zoom throughout June and into August discussing and planning the conference. We had to think about many things: How are we going to keep the participants engaged? What if the power or internet connection goes out? Will the Jr. YBA members enjoy what we present?
In addition to the district’s chapters, we decided to extend the invitation to other YBA groups. We were very happy that chapters from Florin, Fresno, Hawaii Federation, Mountain View, Oakland, Sacramento, Salinas and San Jose participated in the conference and activities. It was so exciting to have so many people attend from all over! Thank you all for attending!
We began the conference with our last delegates meeting of the term on Aug. 30. The SD Cabinet introduced the theme: “Sharing the Dharma Virtually,” the five-day scavenger hunt (Aug. 31-Sept. 4), the conference program and introduced the incoming 2020-2021 cabinet.
For the scavenger hunt, we emailed a list of activities chapters/teams were to accomplish, take a photo and send it to the SD cabinet. Our YBA members built amazing boats that floated on the water, cozy pillow forts, and even recreated famous Disney scenes. Each submission had an incredible incorporation of Buddhism.
The conference was held over Zoom and the attendance was close to 150 participants, including delegates, advisers and ministers. There were 32 from outside the district that participated.
Rev. William Briones, Rinban, and Rev. Hibiki Murakami from the Los Angeles Hompa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple and Rev. Kory Quon, SD ministerial adviser, from the Venice Hongwanji Buddhist Temple led the opening service.
Rinban Rev. Briones gave a welcome message, Rev. Murakami rang the kansho (calling of the bell) and the ministers led the chanting of “Juseige.” The guest speaker was Rev. Jon Turner from the Orange County Buddhist Church, who gave a wonderful Dharma talk about various ways on how we can teach and learn the Dharma virtually.
We even had a special guest, Rev. Marvin Harada, Bishop of the BCA, to share some encouraging words.
The SD Cabinet was very excited to share our final product after weeks of planning, which included gathering photos, interviewing Jr. YBA members for their reflections, rehearsing lines, the timing of the slideshows for the PowerPoint presentation and working on live and prerecorded presentations.
The conference gala showcased Southern District events over the past year, the 2019-2020 Religious Award (winner: Nishi Jr. YBA), Chapter Sign contest (San Diego), Scavenger Hunt (Hawaii Federation) along with the teams/chapters that participated, commercials, recognition of the graduating seniors and installation of the 2020-21 SD Cabinet.
Five graduating seniors received the Chuck Matsumoto Kokoro Scholarship Award for their achievements throughout their Jr. YBA years. The recipients included Hale Chiba (San Fernando Valley), Taylor Kawate (Oxnard) Melanie Oda (Gardena), Katie Shue (Pasadena) and Kellie Yada (Orange County).
We wish to thank everyone who participated in this year’s virtual conference. It would not be possible without all of you. We hope that SD Cabinet opened the door to new opportunities to host more virtual activities. Thank you to the outgoing SD Cabinet for hosting such a successful conference.
Looking forward to the 2021 in-person event in Phoenix, Arizona!