Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Shigeko Sese Uno Interview
Narrator: Shigeko Sese Uno
Interviewers: Beth Kawahara (primary), Alice Ito (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: September 18, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-ushigeko-01-0027

<Begin Segment 27>

BK: You were at Rainier Heat and Power for twenty-eight years, you said, before you retired. And during this time, you had five children, working full time, and yet you were so involved in the community. Can you tell us a little bit more about the community activities that you were involved in?

SU: Yes. We were first in, we organized Interim. And after that we went into IDEA, International District Economic Association, those of us who had businesses. Instead of all the social things that Interim was in. And then after that, the International District Chinatown Public Development Authority was formed. [Ed note: Full organization name is Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority] So I was elected there by the mayor. And I served quite a few years under them. And when I was on the PDA, especially, we were, the city wanted to buy Bush Hotel. So I negotiated with them. And zoned, and so now, it's quasi-city building. And then at that time, we were on the same board with Bea Kiyohara. And she wanted to start a theater off Jackson. So since I knew Dr. Toda and his family well, we negotiated with that and started the theater.

But in the meantime, we certainly had a lot of conflict with the Chong Wah Chinese group, that didn't want the name International District. They wanted Chinatown in there. So we bravely went to Chong Wah meetings, where the whole place was filled with the Chinese people who thought that Chinatown should be Chinatown. But we tried to tell them that it's no longer a Chinatown. In fact, before the Chinese got in there, before war, it was Japanese Town, because they were so many more Japanese businesses than there were Chinese. But Ruby Chow and that group wanted the name Chinatown. So we had to put that name back into the International District.

And also we got involved in political things. Well, you know, after all, the political figures are the ones who set the laws and all that, who can help us or break us in the, whatever we attempted to do. So we started out small. Now we've gotten so involved, that we can really help in the election of officers and people that are kind to us. Even the hakujin people. So it's been fun. And the one good thing about Seattle, it's small enough that we can get to know the mayor and all the council members, and be able to address them by name, and ask for different things that we would like to have done in Chinatown. So I've always been involved in the International District, for the betterment of the district. And I think, I'm sure we've succeeded in a lot of ways. Those old buildings are being renovated, and new buildings have come up, all for the betterment of the International District, which should be International District, because we have Japanese, Chinese, Filipino businesses down there. So it's been a very good involvement. Interesting.

BK: And as a female, was there ever any difficulty, or was that an advantage, or --

SU: I think it was an advantage. Because, well, they're not as harsh to females as they are to males, when they come to being on opposite sides and all. I remember going to a, a dinner that Washington Natural Gas Company did for the business people all over the city, their customers. And I remember going there. And our chief engineer, the man who helped us a lot, over 6 feet tall, and he came with his sons. And they're all these tall, tall men. And here I am, just right in the middle. And I think the roomful of men, and they're only about three or four of us, including hakujin people, who were representing property owners. But I, they all treated me well.

BK: Wonderful.

SU: I didn't feel like an outcast. In fact, I enjoyed it. I enjoy that attention.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.