Densho Digital Repository
Seattle JACL Oral History Collection
Title: In Memory of Elaine Akagi Interview
Narrators: Ann Fujii Lindwall, Arlene Oki, Karen Yoshitomi
Interviewers: Elaine Kim, Bill Tashima
Date: March 13, 2022
Densho ID: ddr-sjacl-2-36

<Begin Segment 1>

BT: Hi, I want to thank everybody for viewing this video. My name is Bill Tashima, and I'm a past JACL chapter president, and also the current co-chair of our chapter Legacy Historical Project. And our project is funded by a national JACL Legacy grant, and it aims to preserve the rich history and legacy of the Seattle JACL, through online preservation of our historical documents, as well as supplementing this material by adding recorded oral histories and interviews on pivotal leaders. In this session, we will be having a conversation on Elaine Reiko Akagi. Elaine was the epitome of a devoted JACL-er and she devoted her life to JACL and the Japanese American legacy. Leading this discussion today will be Elaine Kim, a University of Washington Junior. She'll be joined by Ann Fujii Lindwall, Arlene Oki, Karen Yoshitomi and, from time to time, me. Each will introduce themselves more fully in a few moments.

And before I turn this over to Elaine, I would like to give a short bio on Elaine Akagi. Elaine was born in Detroit, Michigan, and she joined the Seattle chapter -- excuse me, the Detroit chapter of the junior JACL in the early '60s. And she was a junior JACL chapter president and held various district offices in the youth organization of the Midwest District Youth Council, which had eight chapters ranging from Ohio with Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton, Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis and Twin Cities. And she was really active in this organization, and I think that set a tone for her. She later transitioned to the Detroit JACL and was soon chapter president of the organization, as well as holding a lot of different offices in the Midwest District Council. And it was during her chapter presidency in Detroit that the Vincent Chin event happened. Vincent Chin was a Chinese American who was celebrating his bachelor party at a bar and was brutally murdered by a few white auto workers who saw Chin as Japanese, whom they blame for the American auto industry problems at that time. Many people saw this as a blatant hate crime, and Elaine helped organize a response to this outrage. This incident is seen by many as the beginning of the modern-day Asian American identity.

Elaine moved to Seattle and joined the Seattle JACL. She was a board member from 1992 to 2012. She became chapter president in 1996. She held many Pacific Northwest District Council offices and she served four terms as a Pacific Northwest district governor from 1997 to 2001 and from 2005 to 2009. She served and chaired many national JACL committees including credentials, nominations, the Governor's Caucus and the Education Committee. And while she was chair of the Education Committee, National JACL published their second curriculum guide to assist teachers and instructing students on the lessons of the Japanese American World War II experiences and relating these issues to contemporary society.

Elaine received her bachelor's and master's degree from Wayne State University. She majored in family life education, special education, and education for the visually impaired. Her career and her passion was teaching special education. She was a staunch advocate for the diversity of teachers to ensure that the teachers' diversity matched the diversity of the students whom they taught. As a testament to Elaine, the Washington Education Association in 2014, began the annual Human Rights and Civil Rights Elaine Akagi Award.

2012 was Elaine at her best. She had just endowed the Elaine Reiko Akagi scholarship for Seattle JACL. She was Seattle JACL co-president. She was a chair of the successful national JACL convention in Bellevue, Washington, where she was named JACL of the Biennium and also National Vice President for Operations. Sadly, a few weeks after the convention, Elaine was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. National JACL awarded Elaine the Ruby Pin, the organization's highest honor, at its national gala in Washington, D.C. Elaine was thrilled to receive this award. Elaine passed away about a month later in October of 2012. We honor Elaine. We hope that this discussion today among Elaine's friends will lead to a deeper understanding of Elaine, her accomplishments, and more importantly, her gifts that allowed Elaine to have such a lasting impact for our chapter. And with that, I would like to turn things over to Elaine to introduce herself and to start things off.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2022 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

EK: Hello, everyone. My name is Elaine, I am a UW intern for the Legacy Fund grant project. And I just wanted to say thank you all for being able to be here. Being able to be here with you all as well as learn more about Elaine is really an amazing opportunity and I'm just so grateful to be able to be a part of this. And, so, without... going forward, I just wanted to do a brief introduction of everybody here. And as well if you can share how you knew Elaine Akagi as well. So anybody would like to just go first, you're more than welcome to.

AL: I'll start. Actually, Elaine and I, she was this educator. And so actually, we, I'm not sure for how long, but we did work actually in the same workspace for a period of time, and I actually saw her. I think it's when our offices -- that Seattle district offices moved and they closed some and so we were consolidated, basically. So that's probably why. So it was actually really nice to see her, it seemed like almost every day or pretty frequently, because we could talk about JACL stuff and not just work. Because I didn't really -- our jobs didn't really intersect. But, of course our JACL lives did so, in our friendship too. But Elaine was... I think she really was the person -- maybe not right off the bat -- that maybe focused too, or kind of, she... I think she made me feel that I could be a leader and do important work for the chapter. I mean, a lot of people did that, too, but she kind of was very, I don't know if she was methodical but she was a very nice person. So she had very good intentions, but I did enjoy working with her and I would actually feel very comfortable always asking her questions because I always wanted to learn more and I think always wanted to do more in the chapter, as much as I felt I could. And I always felt I could go to her because she was like -- I mean there are plenty of good leaders in our chapter, but probably for me anyway, it was really, she was a good friend and a good... I learned a lot from her, probably being a good person, too. But JACL became a really important part of who I am today. And as a young person, I don't know how old I was when I started, but probably in my twenties. So maybe right after college, or maybe even during high school, maybe in my senior year, I'm not sure. But my parents were involved in JACL so I probably was somehow connected and met people, the amazing leaders that we had in our chapter. Yeah, I mean, I could maybe save some stuff for later, but yeah.

BT: Ann, I'm gonna just step in for just a second. That you very much, that was very touching. But, for the viewers, would you mind just introducing yourself a little bit?

AL: Oh, sorry.

BT: No, that's fine [Laughs]

AL: [Laughs] Elaine must have been talking through me again. So from, born and raised in Seattle, I grew up on Beacon Hill, up until I was like ten years old, then moved to Mercer Island. And so graduated from Mercer Island High School, went to the University of Washington, graduated in journalism. And then I was like a community journalist for the Asian Family Affair and the International Examiner, and that's where my career as a community volunteer started and lasted probably until 2014, or something, when I kind of decided I was ready to do that. What else... I'm married for thirty years and live in North Seattle now. And working from home, but JACL has always been a very important, pretty integral part of my life, really, because of all the people I know and still know. Is that better? [Laughs] Okay.

EK: Thank you, Ann.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2022 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

EK: And, I guess, the next individual who would want to go, you're more than welcome to step forward.

KY: I'll go. My name is Karen Yoshitomi. I'm executive director at the... currently executive director at the Japanese Cultural Community Center of Washington. But my relationship with Elaine goes back to my time with the Japanese American Citizens League, mostly at the district and national levels since I was on staff for the regional office. Elaine... gosh, I think Ann mentioned it earlier before when we were just chatting informally, about how we became involved with JACL, and I think it was through volunteering for national convention on a committee. And I'm pretty sure that Elaine was probably part of that group of folks that was putting out a call for volunteers to help with either assembling programs or getting advertisements or what have you. And so, I mean, I met Elaine before I even started working for JACL, but most of the time that we spent together was because of her involvement, either with Education Committee, or with, more specifically, teacher training workshops that we did throughout the district. But then also because she was leadership on the District Council, attending meetings and national, whatever, functions and so forth.

So we spent a lot of time not only doing JACL work, but then we were roommates oftentimes, and so I got to... you know, it's interesting. On the outside, Elaine is a very calm and pleasant -- always, always very pleasant individual, but she had a very complicated life. And, in the evening, as we're in the room, and we're both nervous about the workshop or whatever that we have to do the next day or preparation, we have personal conversations like girl time or whatever chats. And you really get to know what drives a person sometimes when they share maybe their personal experiences and the things that they've gone through. And for Elaine, she was all about... even through her difficulties, personal difficulties, both physical pain, emotional pain, that her life wasn't just her life, that she wanted to help the disenfranchised, the marginalized, the people who didn't have a voice.

And it wasn't the outward leadership of, "I'm going to be doing this, so follow me." It was, "This is how it's done." She was a great strategist, right? I mean, she was good friends with Sheldon Arakaki because she was the power behind his campaign to get elected for national office. She's the one who knew how to count where the votes were going to be and what the issues were going to be in terms of what was important to what district. So her leadership was exactly this mentorship, or this educational piece. She wasn't about developing policy or enforcement or going through and challenging things in court and that kind of thing. I think Elaine was all about education, and education being the pathway to sort of shedding light to clearing pathway to change. I think that that's what motivated her. And I think she's the only person that I know who had so many lifelong friends across the nation. I mean, when you're in a national organization, and you have like conventions that are held in all different locations, right, and in some obscure places, Elaine had a friend in every court, every city of a convention, because she had been involved, I think, for so long. But that's the kind of person that she was, is these lifelong friendships that no matter what came up, where it came up, she had connections or she had some way of making that bridge through her just very nice, compassionate way that she did things. I mean, there's a soft spoken person, but she was not a pushover, that's for sure [Laughs]. Anyways, I'm sorry. I'll turn it over.

EK: Oh, my goodness, no, thank you so much. Especially, I mean, I'm excited just from everything you said about Elaine and the questions that we're about to dive into soon. So, thank you.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2022 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

EK: And I guess, Arlene, if you don't mind introducing yourself and also sharing how you know Elaine.

AO: My name is Arlene Oki and I was raised in Spokane, Washington, where they have a JACL chapter there. My mother was not one of the leaders, but she was always helping with their banquets but didn't attend meetings. My mother was the kind of Nisei woman who was always helping the elderly each day by taking them to the doctor and translating for them. And she was a wonderful mother, but she was also very unhappy because after they got out of camp, she wanted to go back to Los Angeles. They had a very successful, active community in L.A. And my father would not go back. He was so bitter that he didn't want to go back to Los Angeles. So it was sometimes very tense around our house because my mother didn't really want to be in Spokane. Anyway, they were wonderful parents. I feel fortunate that I had such caring parents. They provided for my sister and I very well.

I graduated from high school, Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane and then entered Deaconess Hospital School of Nursing, where I graduated and became a registered nurse. And I went back to college, because I wanted to get a Bachelor of Science degree. So I graduated from Whitworth College and then got married and started having babies. And we moved to Seattle and I was busy raising three kids. They were all born within a period of three years, so I was really busy. But as they got into school, I got more involved with school activities, and became very concerned about the quality of education my children were receiving in the south end of Seattle, so I became active there, and somehow I got to know people in the community, and was asked to join JACL -- not actually join JACL -- work for JACL as their recording secretary. And so it was then that I started become involved with JACL.

And I met Elaine many years later, I had been involved with JACL for quite a few years. And then she came and she was like a bright spark because she was so knowledgeable of organizations all across the country. And I found her to be extremely well-organized. And she was able to lead quietly, not arrogantly, she was just a quiet, stable, well organized leader. And we also roomed together at many conventions, and I enjoyed it. And I was always so impressed that everybody knew her and respected her so much. And she was, in a way, kind of a good role model for me, because I had just been a housewife. And although I... once I started working, I started getting involved politically and worked on many campaigns. And one of the campaigns I worked on was a campaign for Mayor Royer. He won the election, and I became a special assistant, and was with him for almost six years, then went to a department because I wanted to work -- well, he needed someone to work on the incoming problems with the Southeast Asian refugees. So I spent most of my career working with refugees and felt very... it was a satisfying job, but JACL was also something that was a constant in my life. And Elaine was a constant in my life, we would sometimes have dinner and share personal experiences and also grievances. But she remained a good friend throughout her life. I feel very fortunate to have been able to work with her.

EK: Thank you, Arlene.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2022 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

EK: And, I guess, Bill, if you'd like to finish off our introductions.

BT: Yeah, I think I mentioned that I was past chapter president for Seattle JACL, twice, but talking about Elaine is... just to go back, when Karen was talking about Elaine, I just smiled, because she had Elaine down perfectly. And one thing that I remember is that I have been what I consider a lifelong friend of Elaine, one of those folks who she kept in touch with. I first met Elaine in the mid-'60s at a junior JACL workshop in Cleveland. A friend and I were assigned to pick up Elaine Akagi at the bus terminal. I had no idea who Elaine Akagi was. We didn't know how we were going to recognize her. But this was the mid-'60s in Cleveland, Ohio. And as the passengers exited the bus, they were white and they were Black. And then, all of a sudden, we see a smiling Asian face come off the bus. And she says, "Hi, I'm Elaine. Thanks for picking me up." [Laughs] And I think from then on, we just became friends and we've kept in touch ever since the mid-'60s. Even when she was in Detroit, I would have friends in Detroit, I would see her, made it to her wedding. And that -- she would visit her mother and aunt in Seattle and we'd always hook up. And after she moved to Seattle, we kept in touch. We were really involved with JACL at the time later. And it seems like with Ann and Elaine and other folks, we would see each other sometimes two or three times a week. And so, yeah, my friendship with Elaine goes -- and my admiration for Elaine goes way back.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2022 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

EK: Thank you all for sharing your connections with Elaine. We already touched on this through our, through the... how we knew Elaine, but just, I guess, to further ease into these questions about Elaine, can anyone -- if anybody would like to talk to -- talk about what kind of presence Elaine emanated when being a room with her? And what kind of personality would you say best described Elaine? And then if you would like, just to share or note something about Elaine that is special to you. So if anyone would like to come forward with that? Yeah.

AL: I have a story. Because I think, during my time with JACL, there was a period where I think I dropped out for a while. And and I do remember Elaine and Bill kind of tag teaming and saying, "You have to come back." But, and so I'm not sure if it was Elaine or Bill or just both of them together. So they convinced me I needed to come back and help the chapter, but I kind of remember Elaine a lot in that time, because, probably because she was a female and I think I just connected with her. I think she really was -- even though my mother was, because I said my parents were involved in JACL, and so my mother was a good female role model, but I think... and I have certainly a plethora of, especially Asian role models in my life. But next to my mom, who kind of broke barriers and stuff like that, kind of like Elaine, and I think always kind of felt connected to her maybe like a, like a little sister or something. And so maybe that's how I felt like, I was just kind of, maybe I was just kind of like always watching her, I think, and always maybe paying attention to what she was saying. And I just probably internally felt a connection. And I never roomed with her though. [Laughs] I didn't go to a lot of conventions, but she did get, I think, get me involved in the convention, her last convention in Bellevue. And where I felt really -- maybe that was kind of like the culmination of my time with JACL. And even finding out later that she was actually pretty sick during the convention, she wasn't feeling that good, but she was still out there. And since I didn't know, that I probably... I think I roomed with, who did I room with? I can't remember her name now.

But I think I always remember her just being sort of the -- I could always go to her for anything JACL, of course, and because I did do a lot of things... if she -- because of her, I became the scholarship chair for a long time, and I'm not really educated, but I liked... it was really rewarding. I guess I was kind of honored that she wanted to hand it over to me because maybe she had... obviously her plate was really full. But I think I felt like, wow, she wants me to do it, like she thinks I can do it. And then I can, I knew I can always go to her for questions and things because, like I said, we used to run into each other at work, too, so it was kind of nice. And if I had a question and I happen to remember when I saw her, I'd say "Hey," and go talk to her. And so it was nice that our work paths crossed. And, but yeah, I think she was... now that I'm just thinking right now, that I think she was kind of like my older sister. Because I always wanted an older sister, and I have a younger sister. But in my work with JACL it was really, I think, super valuable to have somebody like that too. I think she really wanted to help me. And I know, because I was always raising my hand, I always wanted to do stuff, like on... but you can only do so much, obviously. But I always felt like that urge to like raise my hand. And I'm not really that kind of person, but I think maybe having her around encouraged me to be more like, wanting to contribute and be a part of the community and because I think I figured that that was my calling. And I think she was obviously a part of that, so. Yeah, just...

KY: Elaine was, oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to cut you off.

AL: No, that's okay. Yeah, I'm kind of done. [Laughs]

KY: [Laughs] I was going to say, Elaine was like an information database, a human computer. And an example that I'll give you is brief -- two examples -- one is she could probably name the location and year of every national convention, right? And so for a while there, we did it biannually, but if you said, "What year was it that we were in Philadelphia?" she could tell you the year. Or, if you pick the year, she could tell you where we were for that national convention. By that same token, I was often assigned to the National Resolutions Committee, and the Resolutions Committee, you have to make sure that the national council does not introduce a position or an item that is not consistent with or duplicative of a position that we had already taken. And with an organization that has such a long history, it's very easy to have issues that have come up before, been debated by either National Council, or chapters, or whatever. And, in trying to prepare for the work of these Resolution Committees, through the district office, we put together this index or database of resolutions and what the subject matter was, and what the position was of the organization and, ultimately, what the... so like with Elaine's mind, she has all this information in there, she helped organize on paper, really, an index of the policies of the national organization, just because it touched upon the volunteer work that she was doing with the Resolutions Committee. It would have been the same if she was doing it for the Credentials Committee or in terms of verifying that all of the chapters were in good standing. And they had all of the whatever pieces that they needed to remain in good standing, whether it's a chapter roster or paying their dues, or showing proof of insurance, that kind of thing. I mean, Elaine had this incredible mind in terms of being able to retain that kind of information, detailed information, and then retrieve it. That's the hard part, right? It can go in. She could pull it out of her head when you needed it. That was unique to her. [Laughs]

AL: Yeah, she was like a walking encyclopedia. But like you said, she wasn't pushy about it, she was just...

KY: Always to be helpful, yeah. It wasn't know it at all or arrogant. It was like, okay, can you tell me who the National Vice President of Public Affairs has been for the last... she probably could name them in order, just like she could the national presidents of the organization.

AL: She knew. When you're talking about that, it just makes me think of... that was her, that was her purpose in life. Totally. Oh my gosh. I mean, it's like God said, "Put Elaine in charge of..." because she was really impressive.

KY: Put her in charge of stuff you need to know. [Laughs]

AL: I mean, you could just go to her...

BT: Elaine always volunteered for any activity. And one thing that I like that I remember her is she was very process oriented and very methodical, and very prepared. And I laugh because if you ever saw the trunk of her car, it was like a mobile JACL office filled with all sorts of material and reference material. Or, if there was going to be an instant potluck, she had cups and plates and everything ready for any kind of meeting. And I just remember a lot of times, she would come into a meeting, and she would have a couple of binders, and she would put them on the table, open it up, and then start piece by piece going down every single item that needed to be organized for the event that she was planning. And she was just the model person for any event.

AO: I think about Elaine's accomplishments and one of the most significant accomplishments in my mind that she made was to give the flag -- the American flag -- that former... was he a congressman at that time? But anyway, Norm Mineta gave our chapter the flag that was flying the day that the Civil Liberties Act was signed. And that flag was still there when we were cleaning out the office. And she decided to give it to the Nisei Vets Committee. And you know that we've always had kind of a difference of opinion with the people in the Nisei Vets. And I think that one action that she took, in giving that memorable flag to the Nisei Vets, was one of the nicest things I've ever seen. And that flag still is on the wall at the Nisei Vets Committee building. And every time I see it, I think of Elaine. And I'm quite sure it was Elaine that thought of it. And I think it helped to heal some of the division between the Nisei Vets and JACL. Because we haven't always been together on issues. And the other thing that I really am glad she was able to do is to put on the national convention in Bellevue. She worked so hard to get that done. And it's some -- I remember her saying that that's something she wanted to do for a long time, and she finally did it. And she did it just so well. It was just a beautiful, well-organized convention. And she was there day and night. I remember she took a room in the hotel that the convention was being held at. But I'm glad that she was able to achieve that toward the end of her life.

EK: Wonderful. Thank you all. Elaine just seemed like an absolute powerhouse.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2022 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

EK: I mean, if that's one way I can describe her, it just seems from everything that you have all said, just an absolute force of nature. But moving forward, Bill, if you want to begin with this question, because I know that you knew, it seems like you knew Elaine the longest, but, as a JACL leader, both in Detroit and Seattle, but anybody is able to, of course, add, just because it also is contributing to -- it's a question about the Seattle JACL as well. But what were some projects or accomplishments of hers that contributed to both chapters that you would like to share that you were a part of that... something is worth noting about all the projects that Elaine has worked -- Elaine did work on?

BT: Yeah, Elaine, I think... I would start off by talking about the Vincent Chin incident again because I remember Elaine telling me that when that happened, she was chapter president. And one of the first things she did was pick up the phone and call the Detroit... at that time it was OCA, Organization of Chinese Americans, and talk to her and say, "We got to do something about this." That's Elaine's exact words. "We got to do something about this." And, from that time, Elaine was... she wasn't in the spotlight, but she was one of those liaisons between everything going on between Detroit and national and between the legal team that represented Vincent Chin's interests and, in fact, the lead lawyer for that case, Jimmy Shimura, Jim Shimura, was actually one of the people that Elaine grew up babysitting. So they were like family friends. Elaine was really pivotal in that. And it continued, and in, I think it was thirty years later, or forty years later, there was another remembrance of Vincent Chin and it was nationwide, and they got a hold of Curtis Chin, who produced a video and was going to have a nationwide discussion on this issue. And Elaine arranged for a simultaneous broadcast of this at the Wing Luke Museum to go on and coordinated that along with HyeEun Park, who was our chapter president in 2013. So yeah, Elaine was... that was one of her accomplishments in Detroit.

KY: If I could add on to that, I think the Vincent Chin case was the impetus for hate crime legislation, hate crime enhancement. During the trial, I think people -- I should back up -- leading up to what happened to Vincent Chin, I mean, Japan bashing, "Buy American," anti-Asian sentiment was at its height, especially in the automotive industry. And when the two perpetrators were found guilty of basically misdemeanor offenses -- three years' probation, three thousand dollars each. That's what really ignited people in terms of -- it took, I think it was three years, and a civil lawsuit against both the... Ebens and Nitz, I can't remember the names now. But even at that, winning the civil suit against them, it was only like, it was a pittance. There was no time served, and it was monetary, community service and the primary offender never paid up. So I think what Elaine did in terms of bringing national attention to this case, I mean, when she eventually was over in the Seattle Area District Council, she was also involved with Tim Otani, who was my predecessor. And Tim Otani is the one who brought JACL into -- it was a five state coalition called the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment. And that organization too focused solely on looking at hate crime enhancement and adopting. I can't remember what year it was that Washington state adopted hate crime sentencing enhancement for protected classes. But, I mean, Elaine would probably never have put herself -- put the two and two together. But it's because of the things that she did at the local level to make sure that people made the connection between what happened to Vincent Chin was as a result of this ongoing anti-Asian discrimination. So that was, I think, significant. Vincent Chin, it was huge for the Asian American community,

AO: And that kind of incident is still happening today, and to an even greater level.

EK: Absolutely, yeah. I remember learning about Vincent Chin. And it's actually kind of sad because I didn't learn about Vincent Chin, I think, until recently, maybe two years ago, but stuff like that should definitely be recognized more often even... just not within schools or within education or just like, it should be a known fact. And so hearing that Elaine was a big part of, being a part of fighting against that anti-Asian sentiment is very important. But I don't know if Arlene or Ann, if you wanted to talk about any of the bigger Seattle projects that she was associated with or accomplishments within those?

AL: I just, for me, personally, she got me involved in the educational part of JACL which was important, obviously, and bringing in youth to keep the chapter, to keep the organization viable and current. And so she never really... I can't remember if we really talked about it. I'm sure we did talk about the scholarship committee. Because my father was an educator, so, but I think just... it's hard to put into words, but I think I just learned... yeah, maybe that's where -- 'cause I know my father, he was an educator, but he was also a very organized person like Elaine. So... and I didn't really learn about my dad and how organized he really was. I mean, he was an artist, and just good in sports. He was athletic and all that, but I always wondered where I got my organizational part of me, and I guess that's where I got it from. But I think a lot of it, too, was my volunteer work and my community work. I certainly, I think Elaine... she taught me so much about probably, for somebody, maybe, and I wasn't a person that was maybe super confident about myself, but I always knew I wanted to do things for the community. I just thought it was really important. It was like breathing. It was like you have to, it's so hard. I've only run across a few people in my, in all my years of volunteering, work people. I mean, I'm sure people are impressed, but they're not really, if you really haven't volunteered and volunteered throughout a good part of your life, you're really missing out for one thing. And you just, I don't know, being with people that are donating their time and energy, and so I think Elaine taught me that. Because when she told me she wanted me to be the chair of the scholarship committee, I mean, when I joined JACL, I didn't think I would be chair of anything. I mean, I was a vice president, but I don't know if I really did anything vice president-wise, but being part of the scholarship community I think was a really like a promotion for me and Elaine knew that I could do it. And I actually did enjoy it and did it for a long time, not as long as the banquet committee. But she really -- I think it was just something about her that she gave you that I could do it and she's there to help me and I'm just kind of tearing up because she knew I could do it. And I think we need more people like that, too.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2022 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

BT: There was also another activity that Elaine was very active with and goes on with Ann's thing about education. And to piggyback on Elaine Akagi's work on the National Education Committee and, Karen, feel free to help me out here. But Elaine was one of the original members of a project that the Seattle JACL got a grant for called the Shorai Project, which was to bring in teachers to teach them about Japanese American, the Japanese American experience. And using the national curriculum guide, we would have -- the chapter would hold workshops, and offer credit for teachers and bring in maybe thirty, forty teachers at a time and spend a day going through what happened to Japanese Americans. And this is pretty successful. And later, she expanded it -- I remember after 9/11 in 2001-- and these teacher workshops were done in conjunction with, at the time, it was called the Hate Free Zone headed by current Congressman Pramila Jayapal. And the Hate Free Zone was formed right after 9/11 to combat prejudice against South Asians and Islamic folks. And the first part of the day would be spent on telling them what happened to Japanese Americans and constitutional rights issues. The second part would be to talk about what's happening now with Muslim Americans and Arab Americans and South Asians. And so I think that was another one of Elaine's activities that we don't hear about, but it really had an impact. Karen, did you want to add anything to what I just said?

KY: Sure, I think the other event that Elaine helped to organize -- which was very impactful -- was one similar. Because Seattle JACL was one of the first organizations to reach out to, say, even the Sikh community as well as Hate Free Zone, there was a Town Hall gathering and there were panelists put together, and it was for people to bear witness. Both elected officials -- so I believe that Congressman McDermott sat on the panel. Bruce Miyake was on the panel because he was... I think he was with state attorney's office at the time. I believe we had governor's representative. And, of course, then not senator, I mean, Representative Jayapal, but Pramila was involved in coordinating. But we had Mako Nakagawa speak at that town hall, as well as someone from the community who shared a similar experience of the FBI coming into their home and rounding them up after the September 11th attack. And it was a very powerful, very moving... I think it was an overflow crowd in Town Hall. I think that venue holds like 300 some-odd people. And it caught the ear of, I think, some very important and powerful people just because of the type of people who showed up to bear witness gave powerful testimony in terms of addressing hate crime and what's happening in the Muslim and South Asian community. If there was a major event, Elaine was probably volunteering to coordinate it. [Laughs]

EK: Yeah, I'm sorry. Go ahead. Were you going to say something, Ann?

AL: No, no.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2022 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

EK: Okay. No, I was just going to say, because one of my guiding questions is actually Elaine's role on the national JACL Education Committee, which just were, just touched on. And I know for you, Arlene, you said that you were really invested in your child's -- your children's education and you were �able to get to know Elaine better through her work through the Education Committee. And I know, through that committee, she was really an integral part on creating a guide to help teachers in covering issues regarding Japanese American history, incarceration, and just like the history of Japanese Americans in World War II. And so I was wondering -- like I said, anyone can add to this -- but say, if you can add and talk about Elaine's impact to this work that she did on having teachers teach this history, teach this Japanese American history. But if you could speak to that and anyone else who would like to come forward, yeah. It's a big question, sorry. [Laughs]

KY: Let me ask a question, Elaine. Why do you use the term "incarceration" as opposed to "internment"?

EK: So I actually -- I'm not sure if you know who this is, but Vincent Schleitwiler, when he was my professor for Japanese... I took a class on Japanese American incarceration, and that's the term that was used. And we learned different euphemisms for what was used during the World War II times. And the difference, I guess, the difference that we try to make was between internment for the Holocaust, and everything that happened then. And then whereas you have incarceration -- I guess some people -- and like some people call it like, Japanese American relocation camps and everything and didn't consider it incarceration. But when you really take a look at the history of what happened to Japanese Americans during that time, it clearly wasn't relocation, it was really just a state of pure cruelty, just absolute injustice. And so we, I guess, through Vince and just like reading through history as well, I guess the best term to define it, in that sense was, I learned was "incarceration" but...

KY: Bill is smiling because I think he knows where I'm going with this.

BT: I know where you're going, Karen. [Laughs]

KT: You just -- that's Elaine, Elaine. That's Elaine Akagi talking through you. It's called the Power of Words. It was a JACL campaign and Vincent was one of the teachers who attended a workshop, which was taught by Barbara Yasui, who was taught by Stanley Shikuma, who was a fellow committee member of Elaine Akagi, who developed the Power of Words campaign. So the exact way that you explained it is exactly the way that Elaine wanted it to be explained.

EK: I am glad that... I was like, is this a test? But, if anything...

AL: You passed.

EK: I mean, it's an amazing... I remember reading that kind of... the Power of Words document and just to see how many euphemisms that exist still, sadly, even through history and even today, you'll still hear "relocation," you'll hear like it was a act of wartime, or it's like they were national security measures. It's clearly not that, and it needs to be, that needs to be shared more. And so I'm really glad that I was able to take that class because, I mean, through what maybe like a day of learning Japanese American history and my own education, which is terrible and sad. It's really sad that there's still euphemisms within those textbooks.

AO: I think it's really significant that the Power of Words movement came from the Seattle chapter JACL. And that we had a very strong committee, which Karen was involved in, to move that forward. And it's something that the national organization should have done years ago, but it took the Seattle chapter to get that going.

AL: Wasn't Mako involved in it too, right?

BT: Yes.

AL: Yeah, I thought -- I remember her. Yeah.

EK: I... in itself, that's an impact, too. I mean, it's just, words do so much. And so to know that Elaine was a part of creating that, just creating that, changing those words, making sure that history actually understands and even present today, understands the meaning behind these simple words when they're really not. They carry a lot of stories in history and hurt. But I actually, this is... I wanted to jump back to this question, if you don't mind, Ann, because you said you were more drawn to her as a female JACL leader. And maybe, I don't know if this is what we can call it, but I am a feminist, I am a big proponent of female leadership, I will... I'm just someone who will always be on the wagon for female leadership. And I know that Elaine was a big trailblazer for female leadership. And so, and if you don't mind speaking to just her impact as a female leader, and what that meant to even just -- not just the JACL, but just in general, for all of women's history.

AL: I think I just always connected with her because, like I said, we kind of worked, had the same employer, and we did share physical workspace with the Seattle school district. So, but I always felt really connected to her, and in a really positive way. And that was probably like, in my twenties and thirties and forties and fifties. But... and I'm sure, some of that had to do with... because my mother was, she was on the State Board of Tax Appeals. And she had a lot of, I mean, she was in that position before she got sick. But, so I think I was kind of surrounded by people like that, too. So it wasn't like a big... I think I just valued it a lot because I wanted to learn. Because, like I said, I was always raising my hand to do something at JACL meetings. I really, when I'd look around and go, "Why... nobody else is..." I mean, I'm looking at people more my age maybe, and going, I guess I should have just said, "Why aren't you guys raising your hands?" But back then I wasn't like that. Today, I'm more outspoken, but I was there and I wanted to really do a lot. And so maybe I got a lot of that from...

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2022 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

AO: I never heard Elaine complain about sexist or... she was not an active feminist.

AL: No.

AO: She just quietly proved what women can, are capable of doing. And, I think, being Japanese American, there's a double whammy when it comes to stereotypes. They think we're, because we're Asian, we're very docile and not aggressive. And so when I think about feminism and sexism, it's like, there's a double whammy when it comes to Asian women, particularly Japanese American women. Because Elaine never was a fighter, she just quietly got things done her way. But I didn't hear much in the way of...

AL: What was it like? She wasn't angry. Yeah, right, yeah. She was, I think, maybe that's what made her more receptive to connecting with her because, I don't know, it was just, like I said, I think she was, this was her calling, and she was, there will probably be no one else like her, or whoever that other person could be. But because all the timing of all the things that have happened in the Seattle chapter, we're such a strong, progressive chapter. But I think a lot of that had to do with the women. And so even though there are plenty of good, awesome male leaders, I mean, it just astounds me today that makes me so proud to be part of it. And so, but, yeah, I think, personally, I mean, it's not like I spent a lot of personal -- I think we probably did like go to dinner sometimes before a meeting or something like that. And we will probably -- I can't remember what we talked about, but I'm sure a lot of it wasn't JACL, a lot of it was other stuff too. But I just always felt almost like an obligation because she had already done so much, and I kind of wanted to maybe carry on in her footsteps in my own way. And that's why I said before that I think it's really important to have leaders like her, and maybe female leaders. But even, I don't think the sex maybe matters, it's the person. Because she had so much... she was just like, she was born into JACL, really, she just was, like, so committed to it, and, but she didn't come off like she was the expert or anything, but she, I think everybody nationally would go to her because she just, I think everything, she just created a good energy.

AO: Well, she was especially supportive of other women, Asian women. Always willing to listen and just be understanding.

AL: I always felt I could go talk to her. And that's, I think, a good sign of a good leader. Because leader -- because you want to pass on your knowledge and your wisdom. And she was willing to do that, she did do that. That's probably why I liked being around her because she was a kind person, like me, and I think I probably just picked up a lot of good characteristics about -- kind of person because I was still kind of young and learning stuff, but I think that just impressed me. And because JACL is mostly a men, male dominated organization, so, I think, I just thought, "She's really cool and she thinks I can do stuff." And in a time in my life where I thought I wasn't sure about who I was and stuff. So I was kind of figuring out what I wanted to do. And I found out, probably through her, that I could make community work my mission in life -- not my nine to five job, but my, really what I'm, was born to do, and so, I think that's, I think what I'm getting really, I'm kind of digging deep, figuring, I think that's what she really meant to me as a person.

EK: Absolutely, I mean, just from hearing about Elaine, like, she didn't mind being a female as a certain, she's like, I'm going to do it and that doesn't have to do anything with the fact that I'm a female, or, yeah, just because I'm taking a bunch of classes on women's rights and women's history, and it's always the, especially for Asian women, Asian American women, just Asian women. There's this stigma I know, especially back in the '70s and like '60s, that Asian women were these individuals who could just succumb to a certain individual or they would succumb to a certain standard. And so, but, I mean, Elaine didn't let any of that, it seemed like, stand in her way.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2022 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

EK: But, just wondering, I mean, I know, Bill, you could speak to this, but I think that there are difficulties and hardships in life that shape individuals and leaders who they are today. And so I'm wondering if anyone could share specifically on the barriers that Elaine faced as a leader or just in her lifetime, and even if you don't necessarily overcome them, they still shape an individual. So, if anybody could attest to that, I would love to know.

AL: Well I knew she was diabetic, and I'm not diabetic, but we occasionally talked about it and... because I knew she would tell me -- oh, she had, I was working at a hospital at the time and she actually went to that doctor. And she felt, maybe she changed doctors actually because the one that I knew of at Virginia Mason was... because she was a very good student of being, because she knew she was diabetic and she took care of herself and she would go to this doctor... what was his name? And but she didn't like him because he would not really... she was, took care of herself, she did all the right things, she did the things that he said to do, and she took care of herself. She was really adamant about... and so she told me these stories, and I said, so she felt like she was sort of like being punished for taking care of herself because the doctor really didn't... she didn't really connect with him because her health was obviously really important to her. And she knew she had, it's a big deal to be diabetic. So I'd hear bits and pieces about that, maybe in our personal conversations, but so yeah I think...

BT: Yeah. Oh, go ahead.

AL: No, go ahead.

BT: No, I was gonna say that I think that you're absolutely right. Elaine attacked her diabetes like she did any issue. She was very aggressive and when she was diagnosed -- I'd known her for a long time, she actually lost a lot of weight in this process, and she was constantly checking her blood sugar. And if you were, went out with her at all, some time or another, she'd be checking her blood sugar. That's how conscientious she was.

AL: Yeah, it says a lot.

BT: One issue that we did talk about, because we're both from the Midwest -- I grew up in Cleveland -- is coming to Seattle, and coming to the Seattle JACL, up until, I don't know, the mid-'90s, maybe, Seattle JACL was very different in that it was very much a homegrown organization. So the members were all friends from elementary school, junior high, high school, a lot of them went to a Minidoka, were incarcerated there. Many of them served in the services, 442, or MIS, and then they came back, endured the same experiences. And so there was a real kind of, I don't want to say club atmosphere, but there was that closeness that they would normally have as an organization. And this was between officers, members, everyone. And for... they were, everyone was very welcoming to new members. I'm not saying that. But you always knew that you were on the outside, that you weren't fully a member when you couldn't talk about the high school days or things like that. And we would talk about that every once in a while. And Elaine said, "Well you just have to, you have to just keep working. Get yourself involved, and it'll happen." And, I think over a period of time, yeah, it did happen. But I remember that was one barrier that both of us had to overcome a little bit.

AL: Yeah, I think she kind of shared that with me, I'm sure. I'm not sure what our age difference was. I mean, I don't think it was that much. But she, but that goes to show she had so much wisdom and knowledge. Now that I think, it's just incredible. I mean, to have somebody like that now would be like, amazing, because you sometimes need that person to kind of remind you of things and what's important, and it's not, what we're doing, the kind of work that we did in JACL was so important. And so it kind of made me sad. Like when, even like for the banquet committee and not having people enough people to run the committee effectively and how, back in the day, we had all kinds of people helping and people were just, would love, would want it to really be there and be a part of it. So I'm sure a lot of that had to do with her, and because now it's not the same. And I really value that time in my life. I remember making name tags at like three o'clock in the morning or in working on the spreadsheets, it'd be all alphabetized and categorized like five different ways, and it's like, god. But I think a lot of that had to do with her, herself, you know how she was as a leader or just a person to kind of help guide, always guiding us in the right direction, I think, and you just sometimes don't totally appreciate. I mean, I think we did. But now that I'm talking about her this way, it's like, it's making me sad.

EK: Yeah, like I said, she -- just everything that I'm hearing so far, just a force of nature. She's a community person.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2022 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

EK: But, just in the interest of time, I'm just going to go straight to the bigger impact questions. I'm gonna go directly through each question. And also, specifically, what I wanted to jump forward to is that, because I guess this is a good way to slowly close in on Elaine. But Elaine was just the biggest, I mean, from what I've researched so far, and hearing from you all, that she's just the biggest proponent on expanding, protecting human rights, civil liberties. And that seemed to be at the root of Elaine's work, and just her as an individual. But everyone has purpose and expanding their, their people have different philosophies and principles. I know, for me, it's, although I am very privileged enough to not have gone through anything significant. But I know that through reading other -- hearing and reading the stories, and for me, I feel like it's still a growing kind of philosophy. But I know that for me, I want to keep working on expanding or protecting human rights because of the idea of never again. Like, some things should just never happen in the first place and they should never happen again. And so, for me, that's kind of my principle going forward. And so I'm wondering, for Elaine, what do you think was really at the... what was her philosophy, her purpose, the principles that she carried as an individual who really took on this work as an activist, especially when -- fighting for human rights is not an easy thing to do, because unfortunately, there are just individuals who cannot understand what it means just to have equality and what it means to be just and fair to one another. So if anyone would like to share that. It's a very broad question. It's a heavy question, but yeah.

AL: I guess that probably just speaks to who Elaine is. And not everybody's gonna be like that. But that's what good leaders do, they kind of keep it going, or get it as far as they can, and then hopefully their message and their work kind of continues in a different way. But I think I feel fortunate that I was there at a time where she was there, I had the opportunity to know her, be her friend, and even know her through work a little bit. Because I think just... and we can't be like her, but we can certainly remember her and appreciate what she did and then kind of carry on in our own way through her. And I wish, because when I was really involved, I think I really enjoyed it. And I knew it was really important. And that's probably what kept me involved because I knew it was, even though we did a lot of... I remember when my parents were involved in like the casino nights and stuff like that, so it's very, I mean, I think that's how JACL started, more of a social thing. But my parents were also very kind of socially conscious, and my dad would always talk about the camps. Always. Always [Laughs]. And so that's ingrained in me, I think, is... and so I, that was, Elaine is like taking on... because back then it wasn't like the popular thing to do back then. Now it kind of is, but back then it was like, like a Japanese getting married to a Black person or something, it was like, she just did it because she knew it was right. And I don't know if we have that kind of... I don't know if we're like that anymore, it's kind of, we're kind of soft. But I got involved in some... like I remember walking for the Bakke, remember Allan Bakke? And we did a walk for that, the reverse discrimination thing and... so it really taught me a lot about, I think... and I know she, besides my parents, I think she just really, yeah, she was just quiet, but she was, had a loud voice. And that's kind of a good way to describe her -- you knew she was there. And even if she wasn't saying anything, she was listening to what you were saying. And she kind of, it's like she had ears everywhere because she was pretty smart, but didn't brag about it or anything and I think that's... she was kind of like stealth-like, I think, or something, but she really cared about way more than I think all of us put together. It has to be because she just did so much. Yeah. Now that I'm looking back on this, I really realize how much she did.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2022 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

BT: Yeah, Elaine, that's a really good question. And it had me thinking, as Ann was touching on some of the issues that I was thinking about, is I think one thing that was core to Elaine is just compassion. And thinking about when she grew up and she was, her family was in Detroit, solely because they went from the camp, incarceration camp, and could get freedom by going to Detroit or a Midwest city. And then, in the late '40s, there were terrible race riots in Detroit, and later in the '60s were race riots. And I think that she... it was this background of her family and areas where she was growing up that instilled a real compassion toward understanding issues of prejudice and biases that need to be fought against. And it's more than that. It's like, it dawned upon me, the core of Elaine was compassion. And that's why when she went into education for special ed, she developed that compassion for students. And one thing she always, the special ed teachers said is that, "Students learn best when their teachers look like them." Okay. And that's why, when she retired, she used some of her savings and endowed a scholarship. We have in our chapter, the Elaine Reiko Akagi Scholarship, which is aimed for people of color going into special education. That's her compassion. And one thing that was talked about is Elaine loved animals. She was a really big dog lover and cat lover. And this is her heart. And she even took in a feral cat, which, after she passed away, and some of us were cleaning up her house, I don't know if we ever found that cat, but we found a lot of evidence of it. But Elaine took this cat in. This is the compassion, this is who Elaine was. So when you're asking about her thoughts of incarceration, civil rights, human rights, I think it all goes back to: she had compassion.

AO: Didn't Elaine belong to an animal rights organization?

BT: Yeah, she was big with the Seattle Humane Society.

AO: And I didn't know all of her other involvements until recently, but she, �JACL was not only, her only civic involvement, she was involved with many other committees.

BT: She was involved with a lot of committees with the Washington Education Association.

AO: There was another group, but I was surprised, I don't know where she found the time to...

BT: She was also on the board for the Washington State School for the Blind and Deaf, and I don't think -- in Vancouver, and I don't think a lot of us knew that. She had a lot of outside activities.

AO: She must have been attending a meeting every night. [Laughs]

KY: Yeah, I think her, her leadership style, if it were compared to, say, like a family structure, wasn't so much like parental, but like a sister. I mean, in terms of, so even with JACL being highly, oh, gosh, sexist, and back when, she was never confrontational about it. But she let her friends know when situations made her feel uncomfortable. I mean, JACL nationally is notorious for like their shindigs and parties and that kind of thing. And she never had to say anything directly to an individual in terms of, "I don't like what you're doing," but in her friends knowing what made her feel uncomfortable, or situations that she... they looked out for her just like they would a sister, you wouldn't treat a sister like that. And so even among the most unconsciously sexist members of the organization or whatever, they still respect her because she was like a sister. And that's part of leadership, too, is that you treat people who you consider like family a little bit differently than if they're just someone you just have a temporary brush with and you don't ever have to deal with them again, whether you agree with them or disagree with them. But that was Elaine. I mean, she's like a sister in terms of you want to do things for her because she asked. You trust her, you respect her. And you know that she's not going to turn around and there's no ulterior motive. Whatever she's up to, that's what she's up to.

AO: Well, Karen, do you feel that Elaine's presence in the national organization changed the national organization's image of the Seattle JACL as a radical chapter? Because of the way she was kind of listening to all sides and being very... she wasn't considered a radical like some of the people in our chapter. I remember they used to call our chapter the "radical chapter." But that changed after Elaine and Bill got involved.

KY: Well just like, even on a political spectrum, if you feel you have an extreme out there, and then you have someone who, Elaine is more centric, then even the extremity doesn't seem so extreme [Laughs]. I think that's the effect that she had, right? In terms of...

AO: But that was a major change in perception of the Seattle JACL.

KY: Oh, yeah. The rogue, the rogue chapter. The... I can't remember. Had a couple of tags for the Seattle chapter.

BT: "Rabble Rousers."

KY: Yes, that's it. The "Rabble Rousers." That's okay. I mean, that's the whole part of revolution, right? In order to have change, something's got to be different. [Laughs]

AL: Well they say, if you get people upset, and talking, then you're doing something right. So, that was good.

BT: We were always right. [Laughs]

AL: I mean, we weren't afraid to, like, come out and... I was always proud of that. Having that tag that we were the... I mean, there's a lot of good chapters, but geographically, we're way up here and, I mean, we're near California. But we just made it, put our stamp on things, and that's why I think all these people that I grew up with like Chuck Kato and Don Kazama, I mean, I'm just I can't remember everybody, but just these amazing people. I just found like an old picture of... because I was connecting with Frank Abe, because he wanted this picture of my dad and, and I found this one with him. And I think it was, oh, Roger Shimizu and some other... I think it was another �JACL person, I can't remember his name, but they were at a party at my dad's and mom's house and how... because that's kind of how I grew up. I grew up with a lot of parents that were very social, and they're very community minded. And so, I think, I already kind of had that built into me. And then when I got involved in JACL and kind of progressed in my involvement and then got connected with Elaine... I think she was like an older sister to me, I really do. That's probably why I trusted her. And I always wanted -- �I say it occasionally because I have older cousins, and they're like my older sisters. And so I think Elaine was that too, my community work especially.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2022 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

EK: Yeah, it seems like we lost Arlene. But I just wanted to say that if I could spend an entire day, maybe even a year, just hearing stories and experiences that everyone has shared with the Elaine, I would give up anything to do so. I mean, it almost feels so unfair to have a time limit, I guess, on talking about someone so impactful, someone who, like you said, is just a sister. And being considered, I guess, like, even family is... it just says a lot. But like I said, Bill, if there's anything about Elaine -- if there's an Elaine Akagi Day that I'm unaware of and it's just constant story sharing, I would love to attend. But, I guess, yeah, for, I guess, the interest of time, if there are any lasting thoughts or things that want to be shared about Elaine before we close, I would say this is the time and I also would love, love, love, love to hear it.

AL: I do have a story about her animal... because when her mother was in Keiro, and her mother was pretty sick and, and she told her mom, she said, "I have to go home and feed the cats," and then she, "I'll be right back." And so she went home to feed her cat. And then when she came back, her mother passed away. So she waited for Elaine to come back and... 'cause I was working at Keiro during that time, so I would see her. And she told me that and I thought it was just, kind of, I knew she was close to her mother. And then I... she's also buried at the same place where my parents are and I always have this hard time finding her spot, where she's buried with her mom. Who was I talking to somebody... oh, I think at when I was talking to Elaine -- obviously before she passed away -- but said, "Where is your mother's... I can't find it?" And she keeps telling me where it is. Because one day I think Elaine saw my mom's grave, where my mom was buried and she actually put flowers there because she knows me. She probably... I don't know if she knew, my mom knew Elaine, but after she did that I thought that was such a nice thing for her to do. And then, so now I want to go, when I do go out there I want to... but I still have this thing that she goes, "It's like right, straight, this way." [Laughs]

KY: You can't find it. [Laughs]

AL: I can't even find it, it was like this, it like disappeared or I don't know. But she'll, when she told me that one time when she put flowers there, because she happened to see my mom's grave marker and so she put some flowers there. And I thought, "Oh, thank you." Because... so now I kind of want to reciprocate. And I did when Elaine was around, too, because I would, asking, "Tell me again where it is because I keep..." it's like giving directions to somewhere and I can't find it. And those are just a couple of little stories that I kind of remember obviously because it's been a long time. But it kind of, when you piece them all together, they kind of tell you something about Elaine. So...

BT: I have a real quick thing to say. And it's a response of what Elaine said about if there's ever a celebration for Elaine. We had a memorial service for Elaine Akagi on December 8, 2012, two months after she passed away. And it was at the Nisei Vets Hall and there were a lot of people that attended. And one of the things that happened was the mayor issued a proclamation and these are pretty common. And so it was... as he read all the "whereas, whereas, whereas" when he got to the, "Now, therefore, be it proclaimed" we were waiting, okay. December 8th will be what, Elaine Akagi Day, that's what we were expecting. What was read was "December 8th will be, in the city of Seattle, the annual Elaine Reiko Akagi Day." So, by proclamation, every December 8th will be Elaine Reiko Akagi Day in the city of Seattle.

EK: I'll have to note that in my calendar every year.

BT: Okay. [Laughs]

AL: And that was... what was it? Our mayor was oh, McGinn, right?

BT: Mayor McGinn, right.

AL: McGinn, yeah.

EK: And then, Karen, I don't know if you want to finish off. I know like Bill said this is for individuals who don't know Elaine and are able to go back to this recording and learn more about Elaine. So if you don't mind finishing off on a note where... something that you would like individuals in the future or individuals who don't know Elaine, something to note about Elaine through these last minutes. We appreciate it. Big task? Sorry.

KY: Yeah, "Karen, wrap this up." I'm still trying to get my emotions all in check here. I think maybe the best tribute to Elaine is to do what you're doing here today, Elaine. Is to remember someone who really was all about education and about, I think for her, it was making connections to people. And that if you learn about what has happened in the past, and you know in your heart that you can do something, then you need to take action, whatever it is. And it's the volunteerism, whatever your personal skill sets are, apply them to helping others. I think that was her message. And I think that that would be the most gratifying thing for Elaine's legacy. The scholarship that she has, I mean, educating a whole other host of teachers who will teach about not only the Japanese American experience, but the human experience and how important it is to provide leadership and community in whatever capacity you can. That's the key. That's, I think, how Elaine should be remembered.

EK: Well, I, like Bill said, every December I will mark that on the day as Elaine Akagi Day. But I just wanted to say thank you all for being able to share about the, I mean, "amazing" is not even a word that could describe Elaine, it's a word that doesn't exist. But, I mean, I'm feeling... I'm just super grateful that I was able to hear from individuals who knew Elaine and, I mean, I am just -- even if I was not able to meet Elaine, I feel so fortunate and lucky enough to be able to have heard about her. So I just wanted to say thank you so much for being able to speak on that, share your memories, share your stories about her. And yeah, I don't know, Bill, if you want to wrap things up or end the recording soon.

BT: No, I want to thank everybody and, Elaine, thank you for your great job of moderating the discussion. Well, thank you.

AL: Thank you, Elaine.

EK: Thank you.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2022 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.