Video: Seattle’s hidden history of Filipino struggle

Joaquin Uy explains how Filipino activists were gunned down at this Seattle street corner in 1981. (Photo by Ansel Herz)

On Saturday, the Filipino activist group AnakBayan Seattle will celebrate its tenth anniversary as the first overseas chapter of the democratic youth organization, which is based in the Philippines.

But the history of Filipinos fighting for dignity and respect in Seattle reaches back further to over a century ago. This history isn’t taught in schools, and there are few, if any, public monuments to its impact.

On a rainy November afternoon, Joaquin Uy, one of the founding members of AnakBayan Seattle, showed how the struggles of Filipino writers, poets, workers, and community organizers are woven into this city’s brick and concrete. The past came alive as Uy guided us on a historical tour from the International District, to a dilapidated downtown street corner, to the steps of King County Courthouse, and finally to a hilltop Queen Anne cemetery after dark. To learn this history, watch this video of the tour below.

Today, AnakBayan Seattle and others are carrying on the legacy of Carlos Bulosan, Silme Domingo, and Gene Viernes by advocating for the rights of Filipinos in the US and the Philippines. Just as Filipino cannery and farmworkers of Bulosan’s time fought for better working conditions and livable wages, Filipino workers at Wal-Mart and Sea-Tac airport are fighting for those same rights today.

Separated by an ocean, they still face a similar coterie of exploitative governments and multinational companies. Every year AnakBayan facilitates exposure trips to the Philippines so that local youth can strengthen their connections to struggles back home.

AnakBayan Seattle’s formation heralded the spread of chapters through the United States, from Los Angeles, to New York, to Chicago and other cities. The group organized a series of workshops and events to celebrate its tenth anniversary, which culminates this Saturday, December 1st with historic art exhibit and cultural showcase at Black Co-op Coffee on Capitol Hill (501 E. Pine St), from 2-6pm with a suggested entrance donation of $5-10.


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