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Remembering Phil Hayasaka, Asian American and Civil Rights Activist

by Frank Irigon

The Asian Family Affair was the first pan-Asian community newspaper in Seattle which I co-founded in 1972 with Diane Wong, Norman Mar, and the late Alan Sugiyama. In April 1975, we published an interview with Phil Hayasaka for our Asian American Movement issue. At that time, Phil was the Director of the Seattle Human Rights Commission and Kathy Tagawa was the paper’s editor.

In the editor’s note preceding Phil Hayasaka’s interview, Tagawa wrote Phil “was one of the prime movers in beginning the Asian American Movement in Seattle. In 1969 the Asian Coalition for Equality (ACE) was begun. ACE was involved in such activities as picketing the Elks Club for its discriminatory policies, and shutting down construction sites with the United Construction Workers Association.”

Fifty years have passed since ACE was begun to bring about social change in Seattle. Although it had a short shelf life as far as community advocacy organizations go, it did leave its mark on Seattle’s Asian Movement. After ACE, Phil plowed ahead with his passion for civil rights. In 1972, he served as the first chairperson of the Washington State Asian Advisory Council under Governor Dan Evans. He used his position as Chair to convene the first national panel to bring awareness of institutional racism against Asians. 

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