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Petty Officer 1st Class Alisha Clifton chats with Seaman Jazmine Russell and Petty Officer 1st Class Antonio Arrington and other members of the Multicultural Committee meeting earlier this month.
Petty Officer 1st Class Alisha Clifton chats with Seaman Jazmine Russell and Petty Officer 1st Class Antonio Arrington and other members of the Multicultural Committee meeting earlier this month. (Allison Batdorff)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — There is little racial tension or racial conflict at Yokosuka Naval Base, says Petty Officer 1st Class Nickole Palmore-Seay.

Multicultural misunderstandings here are more like language barriers, she said.

“Mostly its just miscommunication or lack of information,” Palmore-Seay said. “We hear a lot of ‘I didn’t know that about so-and-so.’ So we say, ‘Come out and learn.’”

She is a member of the base’s new Multicultural Committee, or MCC. After only a year and a half in existence, it’s turned into the best team base commanding officer Capt. Greg Cornish has seen to date, he said.

The MCC “is providing an outstanding service for our community,” Cornish said, citing events held recently celebrating women’s history, black history and the upcoming Days of Remembrance honoring Holocaust victims and survivors.

The group’s roots are humble, founder Chief Petty Officer Annette Wright said. At first, she joked, they couldn’t give their event tickets away.

“We had nothing,” Wright said. “We had to start from scratch.”

The group, once formed, decided the first order of business was to get rid of the “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” adage. They wanted to plan and organize events that nourished both the brain and belly, such as luncheons and dinners with diversity as the centerpiece.

“You pay for speakers and rent and food — and soon you’re talking $10-18 a plate. We couldn’t expect an E-3 to pay that for lunch,” Wright said. “We realized we needed funds for that.”

So, the MCC became a nonprofit organization to allow fundraising. Then the 20 or so members started baking and barbecuing. Word of mouth spread news of the group’s existence.

Soon, they started giving away 40 free tickets to their events for those ranked E-6 and below. People started pouring in — not just from the base, but also from outside the gate, Wright said.

“We had 300 Japanese nationals come to our gospel event,” Wright said. “We’re reaching out to the community.”

MCC also wants to involve schoolchildren and hopes to run a $500-$1,000 scholarship contest with “Valuing Diversity” as the theme, Wright said.

The group draws members from all commands and includes Petty Officer 1st Class Ben Martinez, who likes the wide range of topics MCC tackles.

Petty Officer 1st Class Yenta Thierry joined to return some of what he’s received, he said last week at MCC’s bimonthly meeting.

“I joined to give back,” Thierry said. “My seniors helped me out and now it’s up to me to turn it around.”

The group doesn’t expect their events to make people treat each other any differently, said Wright.

“But someone might leave with a better understanding of why people are the way they are,” Wright said. “Or maybe they’ll leave with more respect for their own culture. That’s all we can ask.”

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