Racial Healing Begins at Bellevue College

by Emerald Staff

Today was the beginning of a healing process on the campus of Bellevue College. It came after a tumultuous two weeks where a vice president of the college defaced the message of artist, Erin Shigaki, by removing the sentence that referred to Miller Freeman, grandfather of one of Bellevue’s most prominent business leaders, Kemper Freeman, Jr.

It should be noted that the offending vice president, Dr. Gayle Barge, had oversight of the college’s fundraising foundation. As of March 2nd, Both Barge and Dr. Jerry Weber, Bellevue College’s president, were relieved of their duties effective immediately.

This afternoon, the community came from throughout the region, the youngest being toddlers in strollers. The oldest was likely 95 year old Dr. Homer Yasui who came prepared with hat, gloves and blanket to withstand the cold and wind. Yasui is the youngest brother of the late Minoru Yasui who argued to the Supreme Court that the incarceration of 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry in American concentration camps during WWII was unconstitutional.

Today’s ceremony was a short, solemn one of healing for about 200 students, faculty and community people. Seattle Chapter Japanese American Citizens League president and local representative of Tsuru for Solidarity , Stan Shikuma, spoke on behalf of the community. He mentioned slavery, boarding school, exclusion acts and the current incarceration of immigrants in detention camps. Artist Erin Shigaki rang a Tibetan healing bowl as she called out the names of each WWII concentration camps, one by one while participants held placards, each with the name of a camp. Shigaki’s father, Johh, held the placard, MINIDOKA, where he was born.

Another placard was held by Richard Fukutaki, chair of the Bellevue College Board. In conversation with some community members, he pointed out that the Trustees are very diverse (four of the five trustees are people of color, the majority also being women). When being thanked for taking swift action, he recognized their responsibility to act and quickly.

As the crowd disbursed, Asian Pacific Islander community members were grateful for the trustees’ quick action, and ally support, and hopeful that this is the beginning of a new era on the campus and in Bellevue, Washington.

Featured image by Eugene Tagawa