By Charles Lam
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
More than 270 were present at the New Hong Kong restaurant on Thursday, Sept. 20, to honor 14 local women at the Northwest Asian Weekly Foundation’s Women of Color Empowered luncheon. The theme of the luncheon was “Women of Power: Future Builders,” and the women honored have each played a role in advancing the future, whether through teaching, mentoring the next generation, or leading community organizations and businesses.
One of the main areas of focus was the importance of teaching and spreading history and culture.
Dr. Charlotte Cote, professor at the University of Washington and author of “Spirits of our Whaling Ancestors: Revitalizing Makah and Nuu-chah-nelth Traditions,” has worked tirelessly to dispel mainstream views of First Nation culture.
“In one of the classes I taught, I asked my students what they knew about native culture,” Cote said when asked about the importance of teaching First Nation history. “One of them said, ‘They’re the people who have casinos.’ ”
To combat such narrow views, Cote teaches undergraduate courses and is a driving force behind the construction of the “House of Knowledge,” a longhouse-style facility on the University of Washington campus.
The importance of involving more people in culture was also touched upon.
“It’s a myth that you bring culture to people,” said Sandra Jackson-Dumont, adjunct curator at the Seattle Art Museum, when asked about bringing culture. “They already have culture. The idea that you have to bring it to them is problematic in a lot of ways … what we do is we ignite curiosity. That’s how we do it. We create opportunities for people to interact with each other using art.”
King County is one of the most diverse counties in the United States, presenting many challenges in education.
Toni Castro, one of the honorees, is the vice president of student services at Highline Community College, the most diverse two- or four-year college in Washington state. She uses her experiences growing up to help guide her actions now.
“I grew up with my lola in Stockton, Calif. She worked for 70 years as a hairdresser. She ended her career at 88, but wouldn’t have stopped if we didn’t take the car keys … she used to say, ‘Toni, there are two things in life you can be sure of. One, you will pay taxes, and two, eventually you will die, so, between then, live life.’ ”
Following the advice of her grandmother, Castro took chances on her students, including allowing a young Sandra Jackson-Dumont to curate an exhibit while she was still an undergraduate.
Including all people was highlighted as being extremely important.
“We need to make sure that our parents can connect with our schools,” said State Representative Marcie Maxwell, whose district includes Bellevue, Beaux Arts, Issaquah, Mercer Island, Newcastle, Renton, and Sammamish. “We need to make sure our schools are inviting places to be. We have to understand that when we say we want to help all kids, that all means all. All kids.”
Leading for the future
The importance of working together and helping each other was also discussed.
“Leaders generally have a certain core list of skills. Integrity and trust, ethics and value, intellectual horse power, good decision making abilities, risk taking qualities, many of these qualities many of us have in this room,” said Colleen Fukui-Sketchley, the Corporate Center Diversity Affairs Director at Nordstrom, when asked about the important aspects of leadership. “But the one attribute I think is most important to me is the people who are climbing up the ladder with one hand behind them, bringing others up with them.”
Julie Pham, the managing editor of the Northwest Vietnamese News, summed the entire sentiment in one quote.
“There’s an African proverb,” she said. “If you want to go fast, you go alone. If you want to go far, you go together.” (end)
Charles Lam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.