Some sad news coming out of Seattle. Alan Sugiyama, is extremely well known in Seattle and is considered as one of the great and prominent Asian American activists in the city. Mr. Sugiyama achieved many milestones for the Seattle Asian community and ounded the Center for Career Alternatives. He was also the first Asian-American member of the Seattle School Board, so his record is exceptional and amazing.
Mr. Sugiyama found out he had cancer about 2 years ago. His close friend Frank Irigon who co founded a monthly pan-Asian newspaper, the Asian Family Affair told the Seattle Times:
“We really do believe he didn’t want to go, that there were more battles to do and that he needed to be a part of,” Irigon said. “But he was in so much pain. He was just in so much pain.”
I am in awe of this man as his social activism work spanned for 5 decades, and really started when he finished high school. It is clear he is well respected and has inspired generations of Asian American activists in Seattle. Its so sad that we see a fellow fallen uncle at the start of 2017, but its clear he has made his mark and his memory will never been forgotten. The Seattle Times continues:
Mr. Sugiyama’s activism spanned more than five decades, starting when he graduated from Garfield High School at the height of the Civil Rights era. He co-founded the Oriental Student Union at Seattle Central Community College and organized demonstrations calling for Asians to be hired for higher-level positions there and for the college to offer Asian-American studies classes. He was a leader in the Asian Student Coalition at the University of Washington, where he transferred in 1971.
Irigon said that success was because Mr. Sugiyama was so involved with the community. He had grown up in Seattle and experienced discrimination against Asians firsthand. In a University of Washington interview, he recalled going with his brother to find an apartment on Capitol Hill in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They would see a “for rent” sign and go into the building, but the landlord would tell them it was already leased.
“He would be so angry, because all the places he would go to, they wouldn’t rent to him,” Mr. Sugiyama recalled in the 2004 interview.
Those experiences led him to address discrimination and other issues affecting the Asian-American community, friends said. In 1979, he founded the Center for Career Alternatives, a job-training nonprofit organization that provided services for more than 30,000 people in King and Snohomish counties. He served as executive director for 30 years.
“He took a lot of time with young folks,” said Bill Tashima, former president of the Seattle chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League. “If anybody was a mentor, if anybody was a role model, that was Al. When you were with him, you just felt empowered.”
Rest in peace uncle. You will be missed but not forgotten.
Image via Seattle Times
If you would like to read the full article, please click on: Activist Al Sugiyama, who empowered Seattle’s Asian-American community, dies at 67