Densho Digital Repository
Seattle JACL Oral History Collection
Title: Sharon Sobie Seymour Interview
Narrator: Sharon Sobie Seymour
Interviewers: Kristen M. Eng, Bill Tashima
Date: December 15, 2020
Densho ID: ddr-sjacl-2-27-2

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KE: When did you join the JACL?

SS: Trying to remember, I think it was 1994. I looked it up. I think Ray Ishii was president, I believe. And I think... I thought it was a year before because Kip was on the board. But I think he was doing his last year, you know that? He left there or the year after. So, I think 1994.

KE: Okay, so you were president of Seattle JACL. How would you describe Seattle JACL when you were president?

SS: Ah, the year 2000. It was definitely just... the year 2000, out in the world, out in our community, was just all about change, and technology and everything like that. And I think how I felt was that the... I don't know if this is proper to say, old guard. Bill is that proper to say, "old guard"?

BT: You can say that.

SS: [Laughs] Because we're now the old guard. But then I think it was just a transformation of leadership, kind of from the old guard to the next generation. And so big changes. And as we all know, change is needed, change is necessary, change is good. But change is also very difficult and very hard. You can say you want change, but then when it starts to happen, it usually feels really uncomfortable. And I would say in the, in the chapter and definitely on the boards, that was very true. It was just really an odd time. Exciting, but odd. So that's how I would kind of describe it. We were fortunate we had Niseis, we had Sanseis, and then we had a sprinkle of Yonseis there. So I actually thought that was a big plus. I was very excited for that when I first came on. I just thought, "How do you go wrong with the past, the present and the future all kind of under one roof, and having conversations and hopefully making some decisions?" So...

KE: Yeah, definitely. So what do you consider to be your, your major accomplishments, when, either when you were a part of Seattle JACL or when you were president?

SS: One, that I survived. That you still want to come and talk to me, that is an accomplishment. Because I did not think that would be -- gotta be honest -- by the beginning of 2001. What's our biggest accomplishment? So, at that time... I just want to be kind of clear. So, through JACL, or through myself, or if I can just...

KE: Through JACL Seattle. Yeah.

SS: I had... I'm sorry, I am going to cheat a tiny bit. I started writing things down because I had to kind of go back and look. I can tell you some of the... I don't want to go and do a biography, you guys can do that. Maybe you already have. But some of the things, just to give you an idea of what was going on, too, is a year and a half prior to that we lost, affirmative action was kind of taken away. So that was Initiative 200. And many of us, especially the executive team at Seattle JACL, really fought to fund that and to keep it going. But anyways, we lost. And so, it seemed like I think there was this urgency, this feeling of we don't want all the work that's been done all these years to go away. So one of the things I thought was really cool, was the Aki Kurose school. So it was Sharples. And it got... many people worked on that. But definitely, there was a team from JACL that worked on that. Yeah. And, and so I thought that was wonderful. We also worked on the logo for King County. We helped with... that was something that I thought was great that we got involved with. Changing it... so it's still King County, but changing the logo to represent Martin Luther King instead of, I wrote his name down, trying to remember the gentleman who it was named after originally. He was a slave owner.

BT: Rufus King, I think.

SS: Yes, yes. So, I think those were really important things. Not... I think, for us because they're visual -- I mean, hey, we're not going away. I think the Aki Kurose school being named was one of the first times anything like that has ever happened, so it was very historical.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2020 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.