The very spaces which we call our “homes” can also serve as historic spaces of racial violence and trauma.
Informally referred to as “The Wing,” the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience serves as a forum to engage the Seattle community with issues regarding the cultural history and heritage of its local Asian Americans. As a student whose research focuses on the concepts of cultural and collective memories, I am particularly interested in marginalized communities throughout our history and the voices that arise from their experiences.
For example, the mural above is a remnant of a painted advertisement screen hung inside of a movie theater in Seattle’s historic Japantown. These icons represent the myriad of businesses that served the local Japanese community – from cobblers, to hairdressers, to all-purpose markets. More importantly, they represent the individuals whose lives have been afflicted by systemic racism and xenophobia that led to the forcible relocation from their homes into internment camps from 1942 to 1946.
The U.S. government did not issue a formal apology or reparations to the victims of internment until 1988, over 20 years after the founding of The Wing. And so we can see that this museum provides an intellectual space to explore and empower the histories of the Japanese Americans, as well as a literal, physical space in which we can preserve the narratives of the bustling community living on the mud hills of Seattle that have been crucial in shaping the American identity.
In the same way, the houses that we inhabit today also serve as spaces where generations of language, culture, ideas and emotions have been shared. Who built these homes? Who lived inside them?
At Solid Ground, we actively engage with not only homelessness in and of itself, but also the systems of racism and discrimination that have directly led to increased rates of homelessness amongst communities of color. As such, I believe that we cannot empower and advocate for these communities without first considering the centuries of oppressive policies and practices that affect their lives today. And through my summer internship experience at Solid Ground, I have been provided with the opportunity to deepen my theoretical understandings as well as practical applications of social justice and activism.