By James Tabafunda
Northwest Asian Weekly
Make a positive contribution to the Asian Pacific Islander American community and your efforts can be recognized. A few outstanding individuals and organizations have shown the kind of perseverance worthy of the community’s praise.
Supporters of the Northwest Asian Weekly (NWAW) and the Northwest Asian Weekly Foundation gathered more than 350 community members and their friends to honor the 2008 Top Contributors to the Asian Community on Dec. 5. The community dinner at Renton-based Tea Palace Restaurant also collected three boxes of nonperishable food items for Northwest Harvest.
The dinner emcee, Q13 Fox’s Lara Yamada, announced that the dessert auction raised a total of $7,700 with donations for the Wing Luke Asian Museum and Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS), two of the six honorees.
The whole event netted $22,000.
Assunta Ng, publisher of the Northwest Asian Weekly, said the Foundation would use some of the net proceeds to bring the total donation to Wing Luke and ACRS to $10,000. Each organization would receive $5,000.
After the auction, Yamada said the dinner was to honor “the individuals and groups who have been instrumental in helping Asian Pacific Americans shine.” She named the evening’s first honoree, Aaliyah Gupta, a volunteer and board member of Chaya, a nonprofit organization focused on domestic violence in the South Asian community.
Gupta and the other honorees were introduced by presenters — their friends or colleagues — and then, instead of having them give an acceptance speech, the honorees answered questions composed by NWAW staff.
Gupta was asked about her motivation in helping victims of domestic abuse and how people can help. She threw back a question of her own to the audience. “How many of you know an adult or a child who has experienced abuse in their lives?” she said, asking them to raise their hands if they did.
She explained her involvement in Chaya, saying “I have a very selfish vision for the world. I do this for myself because I want to see a world where people treat each other with love, dignity, respect, and compassion.”
Gloria Ysmael-Adams, a Philippine-born educator, celebrated her birthday at the dinner in addition to receiving her award for her work in implementing a successful peer-tutoring program, mentoring children, and supporting better schools in the U.S. and the Philippines.
“I felt that every student of any color, of any background, should have an opportunity to succeed,” she said. “That child or anybody, for that matter, should be able to be part of a multicultural society.”
Shyness didn’t stop Hyeok Kim from becoming a legislative assistant to State Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos (D-Seattle) at 23. Now 32, she shared a personal story about her presenter “Uncle Bob” Santos.
“To have the HUD regional director [from 1994 to 2001] say to such a young person, ‘You are important. You have an important role to play, not only in the legislature but in the community,’ was really quite profound for me,” she said.
ACRS was the first organization, to be honored, “a dream 35 years ago,” said its executive director Diane Narasaki.
“In 10 years’ time, I see us continuing our mission of social justice,” said Narasaki.
Faye Hong’s perseverance in fundraising played a major role in making the Chinatown Gate a reality, allowing Seattle to join other major U.S. cities with a similar cultural landmark after many attempts over the last 40 years.
“I don’t know how he does it,” said Kevin Hong, Faye’s son. “I want to say congratulations. Good job.”
“I want to thank my son,” Faye said in return. “He’s my son so he has to speak nicely about me.”
Executive Director Beth Takekawa accepted the award on behalf of the Wing Luke Asian Museum. Wing Luke Board Member Gloria Lung Wakayama also came up on stage with her. Takekawa was asked what Wing Luke, himself, would think about the community honor.
After researching his writings, she said, “We hope Wing would say, ‘Job well done!’”“The disappearance of our rich, cultural heritage would be a tragedy,” she said, quoting the founder.
The Nikkei volunteers were last to be honored. Dozens from the group piled onstage, garnering applause from the audience. The volunteers had helped 449 former Nikkei students of the University of Washington (class of 1941-1942), whose education had been interrupted by World War II by internment, receive their diplomas nearly 70 years later.
Volunteer Ken Sato, from the UW Nikkei Alumni Association, reminded the audience, “Our work is still not done,” adding that a biography of the group was being written. UW Associate Professor Gail Nomura told the audience that the volunteer meetings were some of the most enjoyable meetings she’s ever been to because there is always progress being made.
To those involved, the dinner was a success. ♦
James Tabafunda can be reached at email@example.com.