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Title: Stanley N. Shikuma Interview I
Narrator: Stanley N. Shikuma
Interviewer: Barbara Yasui
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: October 11, 2022
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-517-18

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SS: And then I got a part-time job with the regional district office of JACL, Pacific Northwest District of JACL. At that time, they had an office with a district staff person, Karen Seriguchi, and it was in the middle of the redress movement. It was after the commission hearings had happened, and legislation was being crafted and there was a big push to convince members of Congress to vote for a redress bill. And so there were all kinds of things to do that. In Washington in particular, Washington Coalition on Redress was really active trying to get local support. So there were a bunch of school clerks, Japanese American school clerks, who were fired in 1942 because someone said, well, "They might poison our kids' lunches or do something to hurt the kids, so they can't be in our schools." So  we got them redress for that. May Namba was one of the leaders in that group. They got the City of Seattle and King County to pass resolutions or redress, in support of redress or to actually give redress to certain people. The Seattle School District passed a redress resolution, T.J. Vassar was really helpful in that, and we got the state to pass a redress bill. So there were all these local, from city to school district, city up to the state level where we were gathering support and putting pressure in that way just to show all the members of Congress that there is widespread support for redress. And so I was able to be part of that as well as other things.

Like we did the first, now we call it From Hiroshima to Hope, that's an annual commemoration of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, first use of nuclear weapons, very timely, unfortunately. And we did the first one of those programs at Blaine Memorial Methodist Church because Mike Lowry, who had also introduced the first redress bill in Congress in '78 was still in Congress. And he was fighting against the cruise missiles that the U.S. were, was planning to put into Europe, which would have really put a short fuse on nuclear escalation. Because cruise missiles could reach, in Europe, could reach Moscow in, like, ten or fifteen minutes. So it was very destabilizing. Anyway, so we invited Mike to be the keynote speaker, and we got, like, three hundred people at Blaine, almost all of them Japanese Americans, which was pretty amazing for this Hiroshima day event. And that eventually got picked up and carried on, so that was one of the things that I worked on as a staffperson there.

BY: So it sounds like, although this was a job, a part-time job for you, that you obviously became much more engaged in it than you were with the sani-cans and the chimney sweeps. [Laughs] How did that experience influence your later political activism?

SS: Oh. Well, it launched my political activism in Seattle, because through that, I was able to meet pretty much everybody who was active in the Japanese American community, and was able to meet a lot of the people who were active in the CID, Chinatown-International District, because the district office was down there and JACL was also interfacing with a lot of the ID folks, Uncle Bob Santos and InterIm and IDEC, that's how I met Donnie Chin. Coming into Seattle as an outsider, there's a certain... especially back then, there was a certain insularity our distrust of people from outside, especially if you're from California. And I think to be accepted as an activist in the Asian American community in that time, anyway, you really kind of had to win people's trust. And so working with the JACL, and so being in the ID literally on a daily basis was a big step towards that.

BY: So where was the office?

SS: It's on... remember Toda's optometry place on the corner of Seventh and Jackson? So it's sort of above that, it's on the second floor. It's still there, actually, the Seattle JACL, even when they closed the regional office, the Seattle JACL kept the office space. So the space is there, but it's mainly used as storage right now, we're trying to get it fixed up so we can actually hold meetings. But since we're not meeting in person due to Covid, that's kind of on hold.

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