Densho Digital Repository
Seattle JACL Oral History Collection
Title: Gabrielle Nomura Gainor Interview
Narrator: Gabrielle Nomura Gainor
Interviewers: Ana Tanaka, Dr. Kyle Kinoshita
Date: December 17, 2021
Densho ID: ddr-sjacl-2-29

<Begin Segment 1>

AT: Well, to introduce myself, I'm Ana, I'm an undergrad, I'm a junior at U Dub. I am studying American Ethnic Studies along with Medical Anthropology. And so I'm really excited for this interview. I think my Zoom is lagging a little bit. It kind of looks like it is, so let me know if it gets kind of like spotty and stuff. Kyle, would you like to introduce yourself? I guess you guys have met.

KK: Oh, yeah.

AT: Okay. All right. So, Gabrielle, I would, just to start, would you want to tell us a little bit about yourself?

GG: Yes, I would love to tell you about myself. So I am -- what can I tell you? I am Gosei and I'm Gosei Japanese American, I'm also multiracial and Filipina. And I am the granddaughter and great grandchild of forced incarceration survivors. I'm a dancer and a storyteller and an Asian American activist. I know Kyle through our work with the Japanese American Citizens League. And I'm also a mom of two little kids. And I identify as Asian American. And I'm Director of Engagement at the U Dub School of Drama. So, in addition to my own dance and choreography, I also work in the arts, I'm an arts advocate. I previously was at Seattle Opera for eight years and did a lot of work on kind of centering, not just Asians, but BIPOC in the art form, and opera is a tradition that's really ripe with a lot of racism and just white supremacy and colonialism. So a lot of my work was examining these historic works through a contemporary and equity lens and centering BIPOC in those art forms. And I'm also a dancer and grew up studying ballet. So that's... the dance world and the opera world are very similar. And now I'm also in theater and that has a similar link. So I'd say I'm really all about using... I'm a person who really exists at the intersection of community activism and arts and storytelling and Asian Americanness. In the choreography I do, I work with... all of my dancers are, for the most part, they are all Asian American, different types of Asian. And a lot of my stories have... a lot of the stories I tell have been related to Japanese American incarceration. But I've also been, I have a grant currently to work with the Nihonbuyo, traditional Japanese dance, teacher. So I've been incorporating some traditional Japanese dance into my choreography as well. And, yeah, and I'm actually working on a duet with my friend, Truong, that's based on Shinto mythology of the -- Truong is going to be, �Truong is also a drag artist. So he's going to be the sun goddess and I'm going to be the moon god [Laughs]. And I'm gonna incorporate traditional Japanese fan dancing. And it's going to be sort of about the breakup of night and day. And I'm actually -- I'm excited about it because I was kind of chuckling slash making fun of myself, but this is like the first piece I've done that doesn't involve healing from our shared trauma or whatever. I'm excited about that. So that's me.

AT: Wow, that's awesome. Thank you for sharing that.

GG: Yeah.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2021 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

AT: So you mentioned being part of JACL and things. How would... how did you become involved in that? What got you into it? Things like that.

GG: Yeah. So back to what we were discussing with the... wow I wish I had majored in Ethnic Studies, because I think I probably would have been less full of rage. When I was going to Western for my undergraduate degree, I was studying dance and journalism. And I was in a very white environment, surrounded by whiteness, really. And kind of went through this period -- I think a lot of us go through this when we're growing up. I feel like I've seen various writings about this for how people of color kind of go through this identity-forming phase, almost like an adolescence or young adulthood of figuring out who they are and also kind of going from, wow I want to be just like everyone else, I just want to blend in, to like, no, what happened to me is racist and it's not okay. And this is now going to be like, and now I'm kind of coming to embrace what makes me different. And so I was just like, I was going to school in this very white environment, but I was really craving just like a sense of identity. And so I was doing all sorts of just, I think I was just kind of doing what I felt I needed to do, which I was like, I was taking taiko classes with Stan Shikuma. I was reaching out to the JACL in Seattle because I wanted to get in involved. And I think it was even, I even reached out to this woman, Kazuko, who I've been working with with the Japanese dance. Because I think I was just really craving a sense of belonging somewhere and probably being in this very white environment only underscored how lonely I was. And just I wanted to feel centered and reflected somewhere. A lot of my JA family are in Los Angeles. So, I feel like I've really had to work to cultivate that sense of family and community. Oh, I also volunteered at what used to be Nikkei Concerns and then became Keiro Northwest because I think I just, again, like I missed being around -- I missed my great grandparents, I just missed being around Nikkei elders, and I miss being around family. And, so I think Bill Tashima just responded to my query -- Bill Tashima from Seattle JACL -- responded to my query on Facebook and kind of just like had lunch or coffee with me or something. Hey, Mika. And kind of just got me involved.

AT: Hello.

GG: And, yeah, and so Bill -- hi, baby. So Bill got me involved. And it really, it was amazing. It really does... I feel like, with the volunteering at Nikkei Concerns and the JACL, it really does, I can't speak for everyone in the JACL community, but it really, it is like another family. Like it is a community, but it really does give me that feeling of being around my aunties and uncles and cousins and like Baachan and Jiichan, and like all that, and it just, yeah, I think it was really important for my growth in so many ways, like my just kind of spiritual health to be around that sense of family. And then also just like my professional growth of just getting more comfortable speaking in front of people and getting to work together on projects and finding my voice. And, my mom actually got involved with the board after me, and it's been similar for her too. It's like, she is deathly afraid of public speaking and I think JACL has really given her a sense of family and community, and she's grown a lot and even does some public speaking. [Laughs]

AT: That's really cool.

GG: Yeah.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2021 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

AT: So with that JACL experience, have you ever had resistance to kind of what you're doing or, just any sort of, kind of counter to the things that you're doing in your activism?

GG: I guess like where? Or just in general?

AT: I mean, I guess, yeah, it's kind of a vague question, but just like, with what you do in JACL, has there ever been a time when people have disagreed with what you are trying to accomplish? Or, I guess...

GG: Yeah, I would say... well, I just ask because I'm like, is this internal, within the JACL community? Or like, external? I mean, I think internal, it's been interesting, because like... so Kyle and I worked on the anti-Blackness stuff together. So I think that I have been involved in some of those challenging conversations within our own community, with the rise of Black Lives Matter of just like, all of us kind of confronting -- many of us confronting what it means to be placed on this pedestal of "model minority" and coming to that realization in our families that we are reaping the benefits of white supremacy. And that we are also settlers here and what does that mean to be complicit in settler colonialism? So I feel like I've been -- internally, that's been really interesting to be a part of those really difficult conversations, but it's also been really fortifying in a way to embark on those difficult conversations with people like Kyle and in a very inter-generational group. So that's been nice, I would say... I would say externally outside of JACL, I don't feel like I have been... I think, very surprisingly, I feel like I've often gotten a lot of support for the work that I do with JACL. Probably because JACL has such an impressive and strong history being like one of the, one of the oldest and largest Asian American civil rights organizations in the country. I think a lot of people don't argue with that. I would say working at an opera company for eight years, there was definitely sometimes resistance to the activist lens through which I saw the world. Not necessarily at Seattle opera, but just like in the industry itself. Because it's a, it's an art form and industry that still routinely practices, like, yellow face and blackface and brown face. So, I think I actually got pretty good support at Seattle opera for that activist and JACL perspective, but I would say the art form as a whole, still really -- and the arts as a whole -- things are really changing, but I would say it's still often very normalized. It's very normalized to still other us. So, yeah, I guess does that answer your question?

AT: Yeah, yeah, definitely.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2021 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

AT: And this one's kind of off script, but you mentioned how you did ballet when you were younger. And I know that ballet is very rooted in racism. I was wondering if you ever noticed that while you were growing up? Or like, if you've just come across anything that has -- you've experienced like that?

GG: Oh, yeah, definitely. Yes, I remember people, I remember someone telling me, I think it was like another, it was another student. And it was a white student talking to me about how, like, like my flat Asian feet, and how Asian and Black people don't have the right feet required for ballet. And also, just like, I really remember, I really remember... I'm a person who, in my coming of age, I've definitely at times really struggled with disordered eating and body dysmorphia, and stuff like that. And I think that the racial element really played into that. Because I remember being very young, like only six or seven years old, and being the only Asian person with this different body type as my peers. And being that little chunky Asian baby in a leotard with a little Buddha belly and having these flat feet and these larger calves, and everyone else was white and was very... more of that classic ballet body type. And so it, yeah, I remember being very aware of that. And then I also remember, as I got older, there were certain opportunities that I got. I remember there was this one. No, no, I'm not getting off, Mika. There was this famous Black choreographer, Donald McKayle, who we learned his choreography, and it was kind of rooted in the Alvin Ailey tradition, or the Black American dancing tradition. And I got to do that solo. And I remember, my peer, which was like, I also questioned the choice for us to learn this because there were no Black kids in this class. But I remember people being like, "Oh, you got to do that solo, because you're POC," basically. And I would say to this day -- excuse me -- I would say to this day, sometimes there is this feeling, I think, especially because a lot of my work is all about Asianness or Japaneseness in some form or another. I feel like sometimes with my white dance peers, there's this perception of, well, it's kind of easy for you because you always have something to tell a story about. Or you, that you can play that race card or that culture card, and it's going to be meaningful to people every time. And I've definitely felt, I've definitely experienced some of those types of microaggressions with the work that I'm doing now in the dance scene.

AT: Yeah, that's a lot, oh my gosh.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2021 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

AT: So kind of going off the whole dance topic, I saw that you also practiced the kagura, the traditional dance form, or Japanese dance form. And so I was kind of wondering what got you, or what inspired you to do that? How'd you get the idea to do that? And maybe what you took away from that whole process of learning it?

GG: Yeah, so that's... the woman who I mentioned, Kazuko Yamazaki, who's, I guess in traditional Japanese dance, they have names. So she also goes by Kaya, that's like her professional dancer name. But yeah, so I've been working with Kazuko Kaya, we have this year-long grant. Technically, the grant is for the study of kagura, but she, she was basically just like, "I'm gonna teach you all sorts of things, not just kagura," but we are learning that as well which, just in terms of what that looks like, it's very like, it's like a... yeah, it's like a ritual. It's a ritualized dance. It's a dance that's often done in, like at a Shinto -- I guess they do it in Buddhist temples too, but it's definitely something that you would see at like a Shinto shrine in Japan. And what we've been practicing is like, we have these little... [Interruption] We, yeah, so it's, there's ritual kind of bells. And there's like a... yeah, bells and a ribbon and kind of a hakama, which is different from a kimono. And you would perform that at a Shinto shrine. And it's very, but it's very kind of like, it's pretty simple. It's pretty... the dance itself is pretty simple. It's very sort of like meditative. And in the Seattle area, I think it's in Granite Falls, there's the only Shinto shrine in North America, I don't know if either of you are familiar with that place. I think it's called the Tsubaki Grand Shrine of North America or something like that. But Kazuko has a relationship with that temple and she's been doing kind of the... I think they call it like mikomai, that's what kagura is. The, yeah, "mai" is dance and "miko" is like, I think the shrine. So she's been like the -- she's been "mikomai-ing" there for a while and has a relationship with that priest, who I guess is actually a white guy. He's like the only non-Japanese Shinto priest in the world or something, or one of very few, but his wife is Japanese and together they've started this, like, Shinto community in Granite Falls. I haven't been there yet, but part of our grant is that I will be volunteering with her to do these mikomai dances, and it's really interesting. I grew up with Obon and stuff like that, but my introduction to Shintoism really only came when I visited Japan for the first time. I didn't grow up with a lot of those, with those traditions, probably because like, yeah, there's not really like Shinto shrines here. And even though probably a lot of what we do as Japanese Americans, maybe there is Shintoism, Shinto elements in it, it's not, I don't know, maybe this is completely my perception, but I feel like we get more of like the Buddhist elements like with the Obon, Bon Odori, and stuff like that. And there's lots of Buddhist temples in the Seattle area.

So anyway, it's been, yeah, working with Kazuko on that has been really interesting. She, she has her PhD in the anthropology of dance, and she's a classical Japanese dancer. And just learning more about how dance is a part of Shintoism has been really interesting. Because she's also an anthropologist, I feel like I learn just a little bit about the history of Japan in some way. And it's really interesting to me showing up to do this dance and this work particularly as a mixed person and as a Filipina woman as well. Because she's talked a lot about how Shintoism has this history in Japanese mythology and the early history of our people, but what's really struck me is how it was really used to justify the atrocities of Imperial Japan. And we're talking about how the word kami -- and that's a big word with Shintoism -- often when it's translated, people think, oh, it's like God, like a theistic God, whereas, in Japan, it's like, right, there's like the kami in everything. But then Kazuko was talking about like, the kamikaze. And like the young men who really thought that they were doing like the bidding of the deities and of the emperor and how that Shinto mythology was really a part of carrying out the atrocities that impacted my Filipino family members, for example. And just, yeah, and that she... Kazuko was also saying that when the emperor got on the radio and said that the war was lost, how people were so shocked that the emperor had a human voice, and that they really thought that he was divine, a deity. And so, so it's been really interesting to like... Kazuko and I are both Buddhists, and I think when we approach this Shinto dancing, we -- Kazuko talks about this is a time to contemplate your place in the universe. And, I think also, we just use the dance as like a mindfulness practice, but I really carry that complexity, too, that, like, this dance...

AT: Oh, I think you muted yourself. Oh, okay.

GG: So I think this dance is also connected to Shintoism, which has like, a complex, a complexity with all that, with that history of the imperialism. And it's been really rewarding to get to go deeper in that way.

AT: Yeah. That's really, that's really awesome. And so let's see, where was my... I know that dance is obviously very central in your life, and I was wondering if you connect that to activism in general or I guess just how you consider dance within your life as part, whether it's something used to express yourself or as something to kind of, yeah, as a form of activism or if you -- just what it means to you and how you've kind of grown up with that.

GG: Yeah, I don't think that my dance started out as activism, but I would say that it is now. Sometimes I call myself an "activist artist." And I think that one thing I've seen both through my own art making and through like the, just working in the arts as an administrator, too, I see how art really has the power to connect to people I think in a way that sometimes history or other forms of activism can fall short. And it's not always fun being that person who has to bring the reluctant people along, but I think sometimes storytelling and stage performance really can be the thing that makes people have a change of heart about some of these issues that are important to us as Asian Americans and as people of color. And I think just the... I think even just showing up on stage, even if my dancers and I weren't doing anything, any story that was particularly related to Asian America, but just the fact, even if we were to just show up and do a completely neutral dance, but just with our Asian bodies on stage, like that in itself feels like kind of a radical act. And, yeah, and I think that, I mean, and oftentimes I am telling stories that are activism because I've done a lot of storytelling about the incarceration, and not just like trying to tell that story, but kind of trying to reclaim it and take it back and to express my anger and then also my hope for the future in a way that also is trying to encourage other Asian Americans to process. I think that there's a lot of outpouring of art and storytelling that's happened from the younger generations because we are really carrying those pent up, that pent up sadness and rage and all of those difficult emotions from our elders and ancestors, and it's coming out in us. And so I think it's like, it's both for those -- it's both to kind of... art as activism and my art as activism, I think it's both to change the hearts and minds of people who are not from my community, and it's also for, kind of more importantly, it's also for my community who has not seen themselves reflected at the ballet or the opera, or whatever it is, and to try to hold a mirror to some of their experiences and help them to connect to their own humanity and their own feelings. Which I think is activism because we've been told in so many subtle and loud ways that our feelings and stories and experiences don't matter.

AT: Yeah, I think that's really cool especially because dance is so rooted in that othering and that racism that you're using that to reclaim history and kind of show that radical stance of Asian Americans onstage and dancing. Yeah, I think that's very cool.

GG: Thanks.

AT: Yeah.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2021 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

AT: And so you mentioned your grandfather being born in camp during World War II and I know that that's often not something that a lot of Japanese Americans like to talk about. So I was kind of wondering maybe if you have had those conversations with him or within your family, and I know he was young, wasn't he born there? So he might not remember it too much, but I know there's a lot of generational trauma that comes with that, too. So I was just wondering kind of how that, if there's been conversation around that and how it maybe has affected you in terms of...

GG: Yeah.

AT: ... generational trauma, things like that. Yeah.

GG: Yeah. It's interesting, because in some ways I feel like my story is a little bit different because that whole thing of being born in camp, I mean, I think a lot -- I've talked to other people where they or their grandparents were very young in camp, but I think being born in camp is kind of a unique experience that... he's sort of like a, he's still a part of that group of people, but also kind of has a very different perspective. My jiichan growing up was a little bit of like, a little bit of a rebel, which I think he would agree with. He was actually really involved in the farmworkers struggle -- what's the kind of like, official name for that, Kyle?

KK: Well, there are lots, but United Farmworkers is an organizational...

GG: Yes.

KK: Yeah.

GG: That's what he was involved with. And, so which, like, again, I think that that's not something I've heard, like, that seems like I haven't really heard about other Sanseis doing that. So he was really, like, growing up in East L.A. and growing up with other, with Japanese kids and Mexican kids, I think that my jiichan feels very deeply connected to the Mexican American experience as well. And, of course, Filipinos were also part of that movement. And I think he, and also he, at the time, which I think was kind of not typical, he had the long hair, like he grew his hair long, he wore sunglasses. And I remember him talking about walking to Little Tokyo in L.A. with his sunglasses and his, yeah, his long hair and how he looked like an activist and other JA men did not, and he thought he was so cool. [Laughs] And it's interesting because like, I don't know if it's because he was a boy or what, but he, like so my aunties, his, my great aunts, his sisters, they were really much more of like the traditional Japanese American women in a lot of ways. But he, being the oldest, and maybe the boy, just, like really kind of did his own thing, and also married two white women, which I think was also kind of a big deal. The first being my grandmother and then the second being my step grandmother. And so that was also very, like, I think, controversial. But he, so he's a Buddhist and considers himself an activist and was an educator for many years. He had his own school and kind of worked with that free school education model, which is about very like "free to be you and me" and not labeling kids. And I think that that is also... that kind of progressive idea of educating children kind of also stems from his activist roots. And I think that a lot of his activism is really inspired by the incarceration as well. And, I think he did feel angry about what happened to him and his parents and wasn't really seeing that anger... yeah, sort of, like, reflected or validated in a way as a young JA man growing up. And it's interesting that he, it's interesting to me that he, like, yeah, that he was into these, he ended up with two white women. I think he, I think he sometimes felt like within his own community at the time that it was more that like Japanese American culture and community was a very conservative place, was how he perceived it. And he kind of felt like he needed to go outside of that community to feel seen and validated with some of those desires.

AT: And so how do you think that his incarceration and the trauma that goes along with it, how do you think that it has affected you and kind of what you do now?

GG: Yeah, I mean, I'm very, very close to my grandfather. And I think all of us, like both me and my mom and aunts, I think all of us growing up, as young children, had like that, you have that painful moment of recognition when you're sort of old enough to really understand what happened to your family. And it's very, it's very painful. And it's funny, I remember actually being a young kid and just being horrified and figuring this out and being so mad. I mean, I think I was probably only like, yeah, maybe like, six or something, six or seven. And I remember like, I was with my grandma all the time, my grandma who was white. And I remember just being so mad at her and being like, "Your people did this to my people." Like what the fuck, basically, and not... and I remember when my mom came to pick me up that day, my grandma was explaining to her that I just got really mad at her for being a white person for kind of like, no reason or whatever.

So I think it just, I think that his, I think that my grandfather's incarceration experience, it just kind of like... I was already experiencing a lot of traumatic things like growing up just for looking, for being Asian basically. And I think that figuring out what happened to him, it only further solidified my feelings of otherness and of not belonging. So it really kind of contributed to, yeah, to like, it was just one layer on top of like Chinese, Japanese, "dirty knees, look at these," and "ching ching chong" and all that stuff. And I think that it also kind of brought me closer to my family in a way, too, because I really wanted to learn more about what had happened to him and what had happened to my family. And I think that was the beginning of me trying to, yeah, just ask him questions about his story. And my mom had me when she was only eighteen, so I'm really fortunate that I got to know both of my great grandparents who had been incarcerated. My great grandmother, my hibaachan, she died when I was in college, actually, so I got to know her for a lot of my life, which was, which was awesome. And I remember wanting to, yeah, like being curious about her experience. And she did not, she was Kibei, so she had been raised mostly in Japan and did not speak the best English, but I remember just having a curiosity about wanting to know her perspective. And so I think it added to the overall trauma, but it also just brought me closer to my family and really wanting to know where I come from and what is my story and wanting to get very close to... just what, yeah, wanting to look into my ancestry more.

AT: That's really cool that you were able to talk to your hibaachan because...

GG: Yeah.

AT: Yeah, I'm also Gosei and my baachan was born in camp as well.

GG: Oh my gosh. Wow.

AT: So that's really cool. Well, not cool, but a commonality.

GG: It's not cool, but I feel like I hardly ever meet any -- I haven't, all the Goseis I've met are like, very small, very small children. And yeah, and that's, I mean, not cool that she was born in camp, but like, yeah, I haven't really met very many other people with that experience so...

AT: Yeah, and I definitely agree, like, the perspective is very different, just because like, they're born in camp so then they technically experienced it, but then their experience is much different, obviously. So yeah, I totally understand that. But yeah.

GG: Just one more thing to say. So we did all, I think it was for it was for my jiichan's -- I want to say his seventieth birthday, we all went to Heart Mountain together. And that was very, that was very powerful. His sisters came with him, too. Of course, they were born after camp. But I remember him saying, like looking at Heart Mountain from a distance as we were driving up, and I remember him saying that his heart was like pounding.

AT: Wow.

GG: And that he felt like he was reacting like very viscerally to it and.. yeah, so...

AT: I mean, that's crazy, because he doesn't probably remember being there, but he feels that, yeah.

GG: He feels it, yeah.

AT: My gosh, that's, that's crazy.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2021 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

AT: I guess sort of on a different topic, I saw that you recently moderated a panel with multiracial artists. And I was kind of wondering what inspired this panel? And like, what were the things that you talked about? And, I guess, who was the panel for? Like was it for just conversation to have or were people... were there people there that were kind of listening in and interested in the topics that you're talking about?

GG: Yeah. So the panel was part of Seattle JACL's Mixed Race series which we had originally, we were planning a mixed race conference for right when the initial Covid shutdowns happened. And then kind of waited six months and saw that we were not going to be doing any sort of in-person anything because this pandemic thing is going to be much longer than we anticipated. So we converted all of that programming in 2020 online. And then we still had some money left over from that, from the grants and stuff that we got. So we did another round of workshops this year. And so the mixed race artists panel was part of that. I would say, in terms of where that came from, I think that we just learned from the census that Japanese Americans are the most multiracial Asian group out of any Asian group in the United States. We know that our Japanese American community is increasingly multiracial. And so this series was really kind of born -- and also I think we have a lot of hapa, or mixed race identifying Asians just in general in Seattle and the West Coast and it's just, it's a thing. And so this was really kind of born out of wanting to serve that community more and serve those families. I'm also involved with a group called Families of Color Seattle, which is serves all kind of, all BIPOC families. And then also, I think that there was a really interesting link between that mixed race series and the anti-Blackness series that that I was doing with Kyle, just, it was really all coinciding at an interesting time because we were also really trying to -- as much as we could with this mixed race series -- center the experiences of Black and indigenous and Nikkei who were not necessarily mixed with white and really center those experiences as much as possible. So that's just kind of like some context for that series.

And yeah, the mixed artists series, as I said, it was kind of just born of that. We did a mixed artists series in 2020 as well, and it just, it went really well. And so I thought we should continue it. That first round we did have other types of mixed folks -- there was like a Black person and indigenous person, also an Asian American. This year, it was all, it was all mixed Asian women. But I think it was, I think it was really interesting. It was, we had a photographer, a writer, a painter, and then I moderated. And, yeah, and there were Chinese, Japanese, and I'm Filipina. And I think it's just, it was very, thematically, it was very similar to some of the things I've been talking about here. These women really showing how they tell their own stories and kind of reclaim their own experiences, not only as Asian American, but also as people who kind of exist in this liminal space and kind of in between both worlds. And I think it was a very, yeah, I think it was powerful. I think that one thing I was really trying to get across in the panel is that we all, as people of color and as mixed race people, really have something to learn from artists and storytellers because we all have our own stories to tell and can learn how to kind of better own that story whether you're doing that in some artistic medium or not. So that's really kind of what I was trying to get across. I think in, we also have, because we've done this mixed series, we also have a lot of like, parents of mixed kids, like white parents of mixed Asian kids contacting us because they want resources, and just other family members of mixed kids contacting us. So I was also hoping that this could be a resource for them to see like, this is what your kid can be like when they grow up, but also for them to encourage them to seek out role models because, as we know, it is so detrimental when we're not reflected in the art or media or books that we consume. So I think it's really important to center where that's happening that we are reflected.

AT: Yeah, yeah.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2021 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

AT: So, let's see. I also saw that you have collaborated with the Wing Luke Museum and, kind of just in general, what have you done there? And like, I think your activism within Seattle I think is very strong, and so you what has continued, what has motivated you to continue doing these things within Seattle? And kind of, this is a very broad question, but what you've learned along the way?

GG: Yeah, so I... well, right now I'm working with Wing Luke Museum. They have an upcoming exhibit on incarceration resisters which is inspired by a graphic novel that recently came out that they... what is it called? We Hereby Refuse?

AT: Oh, I wrote a review on that in the International Examiner. [Laughs]

GG: Yes. So which, I was also part of the kind of initial consulting team for that graphic novel. I think I was there sort of on behalf of JACL. Now, I'm just kind of part of this group on behalf of myself, but... but yeah, so I was a part of that process and now I'm a part of this process. And one thing I've really been advising Mikala Woodward, who's the curator of the exhibit, is really trying to kind of draw the link between... we've been talking a lot about looking at, trying to be as intersectional as possible in this exhibit. We often hear about like our uncles, and jiichans and whatnot and the 442 and all those "brave men," not to dis those brave men in any way, but like, I think Densho has done such a great job of talking about queer and trans Nikkei experiences from camp and centering youth and women as well. So we're really kind of being open-minded with looking at this word "resistance" and what did it really mean to resist? Even just like, perhaps like a mother teaching her children to be proud Japanese kids in some ways, like teaching them some Japanese art form inside of camp could really count as resistance because that was so against what people were trying to do. So we're talking about that and then we're also trying to... I've been talking to Mikala about -- I don't know if you're familiar with this, Ana -- but there are so many Yonsei and Gosei activists in the Instagram and social media space I feel like, so talking about how millennials and Gen Z are really carrying the torch of our elders and ancestors through social media activism and also through participation within Black Lives Matter and other forms of resistance in collaboration with other people of color.

So that's kind of how I'm working with them as well. I've also collaborated with Wing Luke in the past to present my own dance pieces there. I curated this event called Never Again is Now, the Art and Activism of Millennial Nikkei. [Laughs] And that was me and Troy Osaki, who does spoken word, and Kayla Isomura, who did the suitcase project. And it was just an event that was all about kind of the same thing of like how that was specifically looking at millennial Nikkei art activism related to the incarceration. Yeah, so I've been, I'm really honored. I'm super honored every time I get to work with the Wing Luke Museum. What have I learned along the way? I think that it's really interesting being in this Asian space. I think that Wing Luke is at a time when it's really trying to grapple with a lot of these interesting discussions that like we, that I was talking about, Kyle and I were talking about in the anti-Blackness group of, like, what does it mean to center ourselves as Asians to work for our own liberation while being a part of these other movements like Black Lives Matter? Or looking at what's happening, the border crisis and family separation. How can we show up to center ourselves while also seeing ourselves within this bigger picture because we know that we're not special. It's not just about us, it's about, like working in collaboration with other communities of color for our collective liberation. And I really see that conversation happening at Wing Luke and in these kind of all-Asian spaces. I think it's a question that we're having as we curate this exhibit, because I think that if you're doing a piece about resisting incarceration, and it's linked to today, you can't help but talk about these other resistance movements. So I think, yeah, just what I'm learning is that, like, what I'm learning is that it's complex, and the conversation continues. And even the way that we -- JACL talks about carrying on the Japanese American legacy. But that's not a straightforward thing. Like, yes, we do proudly carry on that legacy, but we have new conversations about it. And I think I'm just really excited to continue to have those conversations in community with others who are also critical thinkers and people who turn towards history and continue to ask questions about where we've been and where we want to go.

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AT: Yeah, kind of on the same wavelength as that, what are your kind of thoughts on the current Japanese American activism within Seattle or within the JACL in Seattle and kind of beyond that? Being part of the younger generation, I think it's a lot different because it's kind of like this, it almost feels like this, to me at least, it feels like this new wave of activism, just with the younger generation. And you being part of that, I was just kind of interested in what your thoughts are on kind of the trajectory and things like that.

GG: I mean, I'm feeling pretty great about it. [Laughs] Maybe that's a super simple answer but... yeah, honestly, I'm feeling really energized about it. I'm feeling really excited. I'm feeling so... I think now -- I'm about to turn thirty-four and I feel like I'm feeling more centered and in community with other like-minded individuals that I kind of ever have before at any point in my life. And I think I see, yeah, I see like progressive, young Nikkei, not just in Seattle, but like, as I said, on Instagram, and kind of along the West Coast. And they're involved in a lot of progressive causes that I'm really interested in like Black Lives Matter or family separation. Even like climate change and environmental stuff, I'm really seeing a lot of young people taking what happened to our community and letting that inspire them and running with it in new ways and... and I think it's just, yeah, like through JACL, too, I've met a lot of people who are my age too and even are also mixed race Nikkei, which is so heartening as well. People like Sarah Baker and Toshiko Hasegawa and just to be able to be in community with people who share a similar experience for me feels like a very big deal because that's not something that I really had growing up. So I'm feeling really excited and energized, and I think that the issues that are, that I'm seeing that are important to this generation are really issues that matter to me as well. And so I'm, yeah, I think that we're doing the work and we're going to keep carrying on the torch and we will continue to, I hope, make our elders and ancestors proud.

AT: Yeah. And I don't want to take up too much of your time and I have to get to something later, but just like as a couple closing questions, if there's anything else that you would want to mention, and then also if there is any other people or events with JACL that you think we should consider and... or people we should contact or yeah, just anything else that you think is important to talk about?

GG: Yeah, are you reaching out to Sarah and Toshiko? [Laughs]

KK: We have a list and we're trying to figure out how to actually address that list because that list is getting pretty long.

GG: Yeah, yeah.

KK: But really important. So, yes, everything that you said is, kind of validates the fact that we definitely are going to figure out how to connect and reach out to those people as well as the ones who are in a prior generation. So, yeah, work in progress.

GG: Yeah, I'm trying to think about other JACL events. I'm not... nothing's really coming to mind. Yeah, I think it's just so... one thing I'm always -- I think I already kind of touched on this before, but I think that I'm always just so struck by how nourishing this community is. It's... I think it's kind of rare, sadly, for millennials and Gen Z and young people to get a chance to work intergenerationally with other, yeah, like in an intergenerational community. That kind of strikes me as rare, I feel like. And it's really a shame because I think it's been so nourishing for me personally. I don't know why that seems like it's hard to come by, but I feel like I'm not... I'm only in intergenerational community in this space in my life. And yeah, I think that, I see my other activist friends, they're often in more youth oriented movements, or yeah, I just, I don't see elders in a lot of these other movements. And I think that that's really a shame because I think that we, I don't know, I think that we kind of all need each other. I think we kind of need each other. And that's just my, that's just my own opinion anyway. So I'm just really grateful to get to do this activism in collaboration with people of different, people of different ages and have different lived experiences that they're bringing in. That's a really special thing about JACL.

AT: Yeah, I definitely agree. I think it's cool to work with people that are in different ages too because the perspectives are so different.

GG: Yeah.

AT: I mean, we all have the same end goal, too. So it's like, those different perspectives, it's important to get all those.

GG: Yes, because I think too, like in our anti-racism work, particularly as someone who is partially white myself and has that extra bit of work that I need to do, I'm always thinking about what kind of ancestor do I want to be or what kind of elder do I want to be. And I think that, being in the intergenerational community, it's like, you have those role models that can help take you through the life cycle in a way and can kind of like shepherd you along your life path. And it's, I am a millennial, still, but like, but you know, I have two kids now. I'm going into my next phase in a way of, I'm becoming, I'm learning to more be like the auntie and like the mentor, and I'm reaching that next place, and it's helpful that I just love that I'm both the young person -- in my community, it's like, I am that young person who can learn from my elders, but I'm also the auntie who can teach, and I just love that beautiful reciprocity. Audrey Remley, Kyle, who's also previously a JACL member, she just got a job, I helped her get a job at my daughter Kiyomi's preschool, which is the Pike Place Market daycare and preschool. And I gave her, of course, a glowing recommendation. But I was like, "Oh, Audrey is like my little sister" and she and I worked together on the mixed race series. And she, so Audrey is Nikkei and Black and Native American. And I think has really struggled with her racial ambiguity, with looking different, with not feeling Asian enough, but just not really being sure where she belongs. And JACL is the community that brought us together. And I've, I feel like she's a little sister to me. And, so yeah, I'm really like, I'm relishing, like stepping into that auntie role, and I feel like JACL has prepared me for that place in the community.

AT: Yeah. That's cool. And I think it's really -- this is off topic, but I think it's really interesting that you're a millennial, so technically a generation above, but we're also both Gosei, so that's interesting to me. Well, if there's nothing else that you'd like to bring up, I just want to thank you so much for meeting with both of us today. I know with kids, it's really difficult to find time to just sit down for even an hour. But yeah, thank you so much and we got a lot of information so...

GG: Good.

AT: Yeah.

GG: Well, really great to meet you, Ana. And really a pleasure to see you, Kyle. And, yeah, this is such a fantastic project that you're working on. I'm so delighted that this is happening. So thank you for including me.

AT: Yeah.

KK: Yeah. And I'd have to echo all of that. By the way, it's like you almost wrote the introduction of the project in this last couple of comments about why we're doing this. But and we're still in the process of trying to figure out how to actually represent all these experiences that we're gathering. But we definitely want to get back to the folks who responded to us to kind of explain how that happens. But boy, that's another work in progress. And I know we'll be processing afterward how to actually put all of this amazing, amazing account together. So, yeah, so we'll be in touch after this.

GG: Great, great. Well, thank you both.

AT: Thanks so much.

KK: Thank you.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2021 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.