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Image: Mike Kane

Christina Shimizu can tell you her family history in minute detail: the Japanese ancestors who sold strawberries in Pike Place Market in the early 1900s; their incarceration during World War II; their repatriation to Japan and back again. But this wasn’t always the case. Growing up in Edmonds she knew little of this legacy. She knew mostly disorientation.

A self-described “biracial, queer woman of color,” Shimizu struggled to find common ground in the suburbs; in elementary and middle school, only three other students were of color. Evergreen State College helped, opening her eyes to systematic oppression. Yet that was still white academia’s view. No, Shimizu began to understand her family legacy—and how she fit into it—while working in nonprofit development, first at Seattle’s poverty-fighting Solid Ground, now at the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience. “I’ve developed a language to learn about my identity—and about my heritage and the history of my family and community here,” says the 32-year-old director of individual giving.

Shimizu’s knack for being simultaneously energetic and calming draws others to her, says Wing Luke’s chief operating officer, Gary Yamamoto. “It’s helping us grow our donor portfolio,” crucial for the museum’s survival. There, where 26 Asian cultures are represented, Shimizu says, “people see themselves reflected, people who might not see themselves or their stories reflected anywhere else.” She would know. 

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