Joanna Kim-Selby is the president/executive director of the East Bay Korean-American Senior Service Center, located at 1723 Telegraph Avenue in Oakland, California 94612. Telephone (510) 763-0736 (Korean), -1879 (English). It is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 A.M. to 3 P.M. Lunch is served daily at 12 noon under provisions of The Older Americans Act. The Center is a non-profit 501c3 organization. A fuller account appears on pages 8-9 of UCB Resource Center on Aging’s June 2011 Engaging Aging e-Newsletter.
It must have been 1996 when I first met Joanna. We were both appointees to the Alameda County Advisory Commission on Aging, part of the Area Agency on Aging’s responsibilities, and on which she served from 1996 to 2004, including a term as its president.
xxxxThis column occasionally features a senior citizen whose life exemplifies admirable personal endeavors in behalf of elders. I had Joanna in mind for this feature, and asked her for some what-where-when data. Later, I received an autobiography that is an account of struggles, hardships, and life-changing triumph. I decided to forgo most of my conventional narrative and to include Joanna Kim-Selby’s “story” in her own words, slightly edited:
“I was born to Chang chong Kim, who was educated at Imperial University, Tokyo, and Jin Ok Lee. (In Korea women keep their maiden name). In 1929, when my parents were married in Korea, their weddingwas the talk of the town. My father wore a morning coat, and my mother wore a white wedding gown. A veterinarian, he later turned to medicine. Despite her grandfather’s forbidding it, my mother attended a mission school, sneaking out with her mother's protection. In those days women were not educated outside of the home. They were expected to manage the household and servants, learn to cook fancy Korean dishes, and to write Korean characters-- not the Chinese characters that belonged to males. My mother's mother was very strict about my mother's upbringing. She was not allowed to laugh out loud – “a female's laugh should never go out of the room.” And she should wear bosun(like Japanese tabi socks) even in the sweltering summer.Joanna has been a delegate to the last two White House Conferences on Aging. In 2005 she represented the California Commission on Aging. Currently she serves on the Board of Directors of the Congress of California Seniors. Her accomplishments as a member of the California Senior Legislature are numerous. As only one example, she recognized the need for the CSL to advocate for requiring installation of grab bars in hotel and motel bathrooms and brought this before her colleagues. AB2536 became Executive Order, effective in 2006.
My father was born to Mu-Kyong Kim, a tradesman, and Sung-nyo Cho. He was the second son so he did not have to succeed my grandfather caring for all the elders, his elder brother’s duty. My grandfather was rich so he could send my father to Japan to be educated during the Japanese occupation of Korea. Because he was a veterinarian, he was hired by the Japanese government to train young men as veterinarians. I recall that he was teaching in an agricultural college, constantly holding seminars on cows, horses, pigs, chicken, eggs, etc. My father used to make kasutera(sponge cake) with lots of eggs in a special aluminum oven.
World War II commenced when I was in second grade. We learned Japanese. I never knew how to write or read Korean characters. The Korean War broke out in 1950. South Korea's defense was so weak there were no street fights in Seoul, which the Communists took without bloodshed. I had just enrolled in Ewha Women’s University. They called all Ewha University students, and we were thoroughly brain washed, telling us to head for the North and there was plenty of food and shelter waiting. I had to hide behind a big chest for a couple of months. The Reds were looking for me for their propaganda. I was caught and had to work for them while we were constantly under air raids by the U.N. forces.
U.N. forces finally took over Seoul in September 1950. We were told to get out of Seoul and boarded a flat car with a couple of suit cases, not knowing where it was heading. In Pusan we were homeless. We cooked food on campfire in the streets. When an MP chased us we simply picked up our half-cooked rice and moved. At least our family was together. My sister contracted TB and was no longer able to walk. She died at age fifty-nine, having worked to earn her living despite her disability.
I graduated from college in 1953 in Seoul, which was in ruins. I was very fortunate to be hired by the Women's Bureau. In 1957 I met my husband, who worked at the Catholic Relief Service. We were married the following year. I arrived in the U.S. on August 15, 1958 in Long Beach via ship and then flew to Oakland where he grew up.
Now I had to learn the language, culture, customs, etc. It was a lonely life without friends or relatives. I was so naive to follow a man. But I could not fail-- I worked hard for this marriage and became accustomed to U.S. ways. After one year, my Korean was crumbling. When the melody of the Korean folk song Arirangwas played, I felt nostalgia and yet I could not recall what song it was!
In 1963 I got a temporary job in the Internal Revenue Service by passing a civil service exam. It was a heavenly feeling that I could function in the U.S. although it was really hard work. Having a job I felt I accomplished something here. In 1965 I had a daughter; she lives in San Diego. I am 79 years old.”
In 2007, four persons nominated Joanna for a California Senior Leaders Award, recognizing her twenty-plus years of volunteer service devoted to improving the lives of California seniors and Korean immigrants. She has served on the boards of the California Commission on Aging and the Older Women’s League (OWL,) and is a past president of OWL-California.
Joanna has been a leader and driving force at the East Bay Korean American Senior Service Center. She coordinates programs and bilingual services to help newly arrived Koreans adjust to life in the United States. In 2003 Joanna Kim-Selby received the Medal of Honor from the president of the Republic of Korea.
The benefits Social Security pays many Americans are earned as the result of lifetimes of hard work. It is the largest part of income for most recipients. For almost 80% of them, it is half or more; for 60%, it is more than half; for 30% it is all their income. A majority are women. The average benefit is $1100 a month. This successful, self-funded program becomes more vital every day and should not be part of any debt-reduction deal-making. Urge President Obama and members of Congress (1) not to sacrifice the security of current and future retirees, and (2) to take Social Security off the bargaining table. The debt must be addressed, but not at the expense of senior citizens. President Obama told us when he was a Presidential candidate that he would not cut Social Security benefits, including the COLA. Call him now at (202) 456-1111 and tell him to keep that promise!
Over 5 million seniors aged 60+ struggle with one of the most basic needs of life--food. Sometimes they must choose between paying for food or medicine. Now Congress wants to cut food programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Email Congress.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR: July, August, September 2011, Call to confirm, date, time and place.
Readers are welcome to share news of future events that may interest boomers and seniors. Daytime, free, and Bay Area events are preferred.
Wednesday, July 20 1:30 P.M. BerkeleyCommission on Aging. Meets at South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis. Confirm (510) 981-5178.
Sunday, July 24 4 P.M. Patti Deuter, piano concert. BerkeleyArts Festival, 2133 University Ave. Free. Continues daily. Website: http://berkeleyartsfestival.com/
July 26, August 2 and 9: Noon: Jerry Kuderna, concert
July 30: 4 P.M. Rachel Durling/James Carmichael, violin, piano
August 14: 4 P.M. India Cooke/Bill Crossman, violin, piano
Monday, July 25 7 P.M. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. Book Club: Seeing, by Jose Saramago. Each meeting starts with a poem selected and read by a member, with a brief discussion following. New members always welcome. Free. (510) 524-3043.
Monday, July 25 10:30 A.M. San Francisco Gray Panthers. Next door to Orpheum Theater box office, in the downtown direction. 1182 Market St, at Hyde and 8th Sts., Room 203. Book Club. (415) 552-8800. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, web: http://graypantherssf.igc.org/ Wheelchair-accessible.
Tuesday, July 26 7 – 8 P.M. El CerritoLibrary, 6510 Stockton Ave. Book Discussion Group: Chronicle of a Death Foretold. Feel free to come to one or all discussions. (510) 526-7512.
Tuesday, July 26 3-4 P.M. Berkeley Public Library, Central. 2090 Kittredge. Tea and Cookies. A book club for people who want to share the books they have read (510)981-6100.
Wednesday, July 27 1:30-2:30 Alameda County Library, Albany branch. 1247 Marin Ave. Great Books Discussion Group. Caesar and Cleopatra by George Bernard Shaw. Facilitated discussion. Come to one meeting, or all meetings. Books are available at the Library. Parking! 526-3720 x 16.
Wednesday, July 27 1 P.M. Gray Panthers of Berkeley. North Berkeley Senior Center. 1901 Hearst. (510) 548-9696.
Wednesdays, beginning in August – 10:30-12 noon Parkinson's Yoga & the Art of Moving. Jewish Community Center East Bay – Oakland Branch, 5811 Racine St. (58th & Telegraph). $120./month. (925) 566-4181.
Monday, August 1 7 P.M. "Castoffs" - Knitting Group. Kensington Library. An evening of knitting, show and tell and yarn exchange. All levels are welcome and some help will be provided. Free. 510) 524-3043.
Wednesday, August 3 10 A.M.-noon North Berkeley Senior Center Advisory Council meeting. Public invited. Call to confirm (510) 981-5190.
Wednesday, August 3 6-8 P.M. Albany branch of the Alameda County Library. Lawyer in the Library. Free 15 minute consultation with an attorney. Advance registration required. Sign up in person at the Reference desk or call (510) 526-3720 x 5.
Thursday, August 4 1:30 PM to 2:45 PM Emergency Preparedness. Albany branch of the Alameda County library. Speaker Colleen Campbell, Senior Injury Prevention Coordinator, will discuss materials and lead a discussion on benefits of being prepared. Free program for older adults, caregivers and service providers. No reservations required. (510) 526-3720 x16.
Saturday, August 6 11 A.M. – Noon. End of Life Planning Workshop. Berkeley Public Library West branch, 1125 University Av. Learn basics of wills, trusts, powers of attorney, advanced health care directives. (510) 981-6270.
Wednesday, August 7 6-8 P.M. Albany branch of the Alameda County Library. Lawyer in the Library. Advance registration required. Sign up in person at the Reference desk or call (510) 526-3720 ext. 5. Free.
Monday, August 8 7 P.M. Musical Performance by The Hot Frittatas. Kensington Library. This event is sponsored by the Contra Costa County Library Summer Reading Festival. Free. (510) 524-3043.
Wednesday, August 10 10 A.M – 2 P.M. 10th Annual Healthy Aging Fair Festival. Chabot College, 25555 Hesperian Boulevard, Hayward. Free lunch. Raffle prizes. Entertainment. Free shuttle from South Hayward BART. (510) 577-3532, 3540. Sign up at your senior center for free bus service. In Berkeley, contact Deborah Jordan (510) 981-5170 for information.
Saturdays, August 13 & 14 1:30 P.M. music; 2 P.M. show. SF Mime Troupe's 2010: The Musical. Live Oak Park Live Oak Community Center in Live Oak Park, 1301 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA. ASL interpreter on site on August 14. Outdoors. Free. (510) 227-7110. AC bus #18 stops nearby.
Wednesday, August 17 1:30 P.M. BerkeleyCommission on Aging. South Berkeley Senior Center. Call to confirm (510) 981-5178.
Saturday, August 20 11 A.M. Landlord /Tenant Counseling. Central Berkeley Public Library. Also Sept. 17.
Tuesday, August 23 3-4 P.M. Berkeley Public Library, Central. Tea and Cookies. A book club for people who want to share the books they have read. (510)981-6100.
Tuesday, August 23 7 – 8 P.M. El Cerrito Library book discussion group meets the 4th Tuesday of each month: “The Glass Room.” Feel free to come to one or all discussions. (510) 526-7512.
Wednesday, August 24 1:30-2:30 P.M. Alameda County Library, Albany branch. Great Books Discussion Group. Eliot's The Hollow Men and The Waste Land. Facilitated discussion. Come to one meeting, or all meetings. Books are available at the Library. Parking! 526-3720 x 16.
Monday, August 29 7 P.M. Book Club:Dubliners by James Joyce. Kensington Lirary, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington, CA. Joyce declared Dubliners to be a chapter in the moral history of Ireland. This is a collection of 15 tales that offers vivid, tightly focused observations of the lives of Dublin's poorer classes. Free. (510) 524-3043.
Wednesday, Sept. 7 Noon. UC,B Music Dept. Hertz Hall. Noon Concert Series will resume with Joe Neeman, violin and Miles Graber, piano, performing works by Bartok and Sarasate.
Wednesday, Sept. 7 10 A.M.-Noon North Berkeley Senior Center Advisory Council meeting. Public invited. (510) 981-5190.
Saturday, Sept. 13 10 A.M. – 3 P.M. 34th Annual Health Fair. Allen Temple Baptist Church, 8501 International Blvd., Oakland. Free health screenings. (510)544-8910.
Friday, Sept. 16 10 A.M. – 1 P.M. 14th Annual Senior Resource Fair. Presented by San Leandro Senior Services. San Leandro Senior Community Center, 13909 East 14 St. (510) 577-3462.
Saturdays, Sept. 17 & 18 1:30 P.M. music; 2 P.M. show. SF Mime Troupe's 2010: The Musical. Willard Park, Berkeley, CA. Outdoors. Free.
Saturday, Sept. 17 11 A.M. Landlord /Tenant Counseling. Central Berkeley Public Library.
Wednesday, Sept. 21 1:30 P.M. BerkeleyCommission on Aging. South Berkeley Senior Center. Call to confirm (510) 981-5178.
Tuesday, Sept 27 3 P.M. Tea & Cookies Book Club. Central Berkeley Public Library.
Tuesday, Sept. 27 7 – 8 P.M. El Cerrito Library book discussion group. Feel free to come to one or all discussions. Let the Great World Spin. (510) 526-7512.
Wednesday, Sept. 28 1:30-2:30 P.M. Alameda County Library, Albany branch. Great Books Discussion Group. Morrison's Song of Solomon. Facilitated discussion. Come to one meeting, or all meetings. Books are available at the Library. Parking! (510) 526-3720 x 16.
Helen Rippier Wheeler can be reached at email@example.com. Please, no phone calls.