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Pet Sins July 2005

Cross-community networking between people of color in the United States

Black coach takes Navajo basketball team to victory

In the 1980s, African American basketball coach Jerry Richardson took on a coaching job at a high school in a Navajo community. After overcoming culture shock on both sides, the coach and the team worked together to take the team, which previously had a losing record, to the state championships. Their story has been made into a PBS documentary Rocks With Wings and also inspired a movie. For more on Richardson and his team The Lady Chieftains, see 2002 USA Today article Belief in self gives 'Wings'.

Mexicans and Filipinos united in California farm workers' strike

In 1965, a mostly-Filipino chapter of Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) began striking against grape growers in Delano, CA. The National Farm Workers Association, headed by Cesar Chavez, joined the strike in a show of solidarity despite some misgivings among its mostly Mexican members. The two groups merged to become the United Farm Workers (UFW). Together, they won a landmark union contract for better pay and working conditions. For more on the history of the UFW, see

Paving the way for UFW (San Francisco Gate article)
Cesar Chavez and the Unionization of California Farm Workers by Cletus E. Daniel

People of Native and Asian descent in the Black Panther Party

Michael Zinzun, former Black Panther and a founding member of the National Black United Front is the son of an Apache father and an African-American mother. A few individuals of Asian ethnicities became members of the Black Panther Party - they include Veronica Hagopian, who is Armenian American (yes, Armenia is in Asia); Guy Kurose and Richard Aoki, who were Japanese American; and Lee Lew-Lee, a Jamaican-born Chinese.

Asian Americans support American Indian Movement's occupation of Wounded Knee

When AIM occupied Wounded Knee in 1973, supporters from various Indian nations came from all over the country to join them, backpacking supplies into Wounded Knee when the roadblock was lifted. Non-Indians also supported the Wounded Knee occupation - an Asian American contingent from LA went to South Dakota with backpacks to support AIM.

Native Americans in Washington reached out to other demographics of color in anti-Initiative 892 campaign

In 2004,Native Americans in Washington State opposed Initiative 892, which would have allowed slot machines to be placed in non-Indian-owned establishments, including neighborhood pubs and bowling alleys. The Initiative was eventually defeated as the public generally did not like the idea of gambling machines too close to home. The Native American campaign against I-892 made it a point to reach out to Hispanic, black and Asian communities by community meetings and advertisements in minority publications. Seattle public affairs consultant George Griffin noted, "In the I-892 campaign the Muckleshoot Indians and other tribes made sure the communities of color were informed and people responded very well to that... We had a lot of support from communities of color because we engaged them." [Source: "Election 2004: Voters of color proved unpredictable, complex", ColorsNW Magazine, April 2005]

Japanese American Oral History project staff share experiences with Native American leaders

For the past nine years, Densho, the Japanese American legacy project, has worked on collecting individual stories from Japanese Americans in Washington who experience internment during WWII. Ths Seattle-based nonprofit established an educational website to make the information from this oral history project available to the public. Moving forward, Densho's goal is "sharing the story with other communities of color." A current cross-community collaboration is working with Native leaders in Washington State who want to develop a similar educational website documenting the stories of local Native Americans. [Source: "Nikkei Rivival: Preserving the Legacy", ColorsNW Magazine, May 2005]