By Amy Wong
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
More than 100,000 people participated in the Womxn’s March on Seattle on Jan. 21, and for some Asian Americans, this protest went beyond representing just women.
Members of the Asian American community said they saw this protest not only as justice for women, but also for their Asian identity.
“I’m doing it because I have an 8-year-old daughter who I don’t want to grow up in a world where her ethnicity or gender would be a reason for someone to put her down,” said Rose Mayeda, as she marched with friends holding signs displaying “We the People” images designed by street artist Shepard Fairey. “I’m tired of sitting down and waiting for someone else to stand up for me.”
The march was created in solidarity with nearly 700 other women’s marches around the world.
Protesters marched more than 3 miles across Seattle, starting in Judkins Park, through the International District, and ending at Seattle Center. The protest aimed to represent other marginalized individuals as well, with the inclusion of over 100 organizations from Seattle.
For many marchers, they saw this protest as a reminder of past injustices against Asian Americans, specifically Japanese Americans who were placed in internment camps during the 1940s.
“My father was interned during World War II, and at that time, they didn’t have marches like this that spoke up for them and I know now that there are people in that same boat,” said Sally Yamasaki, a protester from Lake Forest Park. “I’m going to do whatever I can to exercise my right to vocalize injustices.”
Another protester from Lake Forest Park, Joy Fujihira, was also reminded of her father who was a strong political resister during the 1940s, acting as a “No-No Boy,” a title given to Japanese men who refused to sign up for the draft after being denied basic American rights. Fujihira noted that decades later, after the 9/11 attacks, her father continued to show empathy towards other minorities.
“We were at a park and my father saw a Muslim couple. He separated himself from the group and went up to them and asked, ‘Are you okay?’” said Fujihira. “He himself knew what it was like to be in that situation and deal with that racial judgment.”
In spite of the event’s mission of diversity, some protesters pointed out the lack of Asian representation at the march. Vincent Liu, a Seattle resident who immigrated from China at the age of 12, attributed this to a sense of political passivity in the Asian community.
“If you look around, you don’t see many Asian people, and I think that needs to change,” said Liu.
“It’s unfortunate that the Asian community still has this passivity about political expression. But I have a lot of faith in this next generation that understands that political expression is a part of their rights.”
Liu speculated that the lack of Asian American presence in the protest could be due to the historical political oppression in many Southeast Asian countries.
A sense of hope for change still remains, as Yamasaki noted that already she has seen the Womxn’s March in Seattle spark change within her own community.
“We brought about 20 from our neighborhood to this march. We had three meetings before this and we’re not going to stop there,” said Yamasaki. “We want to start holding monthly events to promote education about things like this. This is just the beginning.”
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