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Francisco Irigon

Interview by Trevor Griffey and Meg Elston, November 23, 2004

Summary by Meg Elston

***Tape 1***

00:00    Born in the Philippines in 1947.  Father joined regular army so he could come to the U.S.  Lived at Army bases in Kansas, Germany, and ended at Ft. Lewis.  His father retired there and the family of 7 settled in Tacoma. Frank was in the Army for 3 years after HS.  He didn’t like the discipline and started to see contradictions in what they were telling him and what he was seeing.  Didn’t go to Vietnam b/c his duty was almost up.  Wanted to leave the Army to follow RFK’s election and the anti-war movement.  When his friend was killed in Vietnam, he thought about re-enlisting to avenge his death but then came to his senses.  Instead he used his GI Bill to attend Tacoma Community College (’68-’69) and then Seattle Central (’69-’70).  His friends from HS helped with the tough transition to civilian life.  His sister was at the UW and encouraged him to enroll.  He moved up there b/c Tacoma was too small.  He came with friends to the UW.

10:00    He started seeing more contradictions in the US Constitution, Bill of Rights, etc. that made him question things.  He remembered that the military stresses that everyone was one color but looking back he didn’t see it that way.  Colored officers always living in poorer quality housing than whites.  There was racism.

12:45    More into the social aspects of life at the UW (1971).  Anti-war participant but not a leader.  Printed flyers and marched in parades etc.  Gets involved with Asian Student Coalition for social reasons.  But then he begins to see that they are doing important things.  Like advocating for more ethnic studies, Asian profs.  He talks a lot about his Filipino identity here.  In order to get money for the ASC, they decide to run for offices in the ASUW.  He’s elected to the board of control.  The following year they put together a ticket with Latinos, blacks, Asians, and women and they win most of the seats.  Some of the Greeks win as well but they all worked well together.  Their common goal was to make students happy.  He never thought that years later his daughter would join a sorority. 

21:34    He joined the ROTC to make extra money.  He didn’t think it was a contradiction.  He made $300 from ROTC and ASUW plus the money from his GI Bill.  His housing was $90…so he was doing pretty well.  He got kicked out of the ROTC b/c of anti-war protests.  Most of the ROTC kids were there for the money, they weren’t the right-wing conservatives that he expected.

23:55    Kingdome protests – argued that it would have a negative impact on the neighborhood.  There were many elderly people at risk of losing their housing.  ASC wasn’t originally involved with the protests until they heard there would be a big ground-breaking ceremony.  They decided they had to voice their opinion.  They marched there peacefully.  Everything was very orderly at first and then some began yelling at the speakers.  The police were caught off guard b/c no one knew the protestors were coming.  Someone threw mud at a plaque which started a mud fight.  Police crowd control came.  Protestors were trying to leave as a group (so as not to leave anyone behind).  The next day, the protest was in the news but many facts were skewed.  Frank challenged her account.  The passive nature that he says is a common stereotype of Asians, often is a helpful one b/c when he takes a stand, people are surprised and they really listen.

37:40    There is a lot here about committees to save the International District.  Also a funny comment about making up committees to get things done like the “Asians for a Fair and Responsible Media.”  The real Concerned Asians for the International District worked towards health care for the elderly as well as getting an Asian on the Kingdome Selection Committee.  Bob Santos got the job, he was good at following through with things.  He talks a little here about Selme (sp?) and Dimicio (sp?) Domingo.

52:24    Asian Family Affair.  The ASC needed something to get their voices heard.  This paper was a political mouthpiece from an Asian viewpoint.  For 14 years, it was printed at the Ethnic Cultural Center at UW.  It reached the entire Asian community each month.  Sometimes the staff wrote their own letters to the editor to get people thinking the way they were.

***TITLE 2***

00:00    EOC founded to give unemployed Asians a place to go.  Model Cities wouldn’t give any funding.  There were lots of problems in schools with Asian b/c they weren’t getting as much attention.  It always seemed to be a “black/white” issue.           

7:50      Money was never going to lower socioeconomic minorities, it always filtered to the middle class.  He explains reasons why black clinics never were successful.

10:42    Asians and blacks worked together, they had different self interests but could move beyond that to accomplish something.

12:30    There is a generation gap between how Asians accomplish things.  Each generation uses different method, but they all have the same goal of advancement.

14:15    People were searching for an ideology.  Many found it in communism.  Frank wasn’t into that but many of his friends were (KDP).

20:00    Committee For Justice, he was not involved.  There were a lot of women on that committee.  Many of these organizations had a lot of women involved b/c there was no discrimination.

23:25    In the 70s and 80s there was a high dropout rate from the Educational Opportunity Program.  Board began making some policy changes.  They wanted to only accept the best and brightest.  Frank disagreed, said he would have never have been accepted.  Students in protest asked Frank to join them protesting at Schmitz Hall.  They were calling President Gerberding names.  They ended up getting the policy thrown out but the students wanted to get arrested so it would make the news.  So they stayed in the building and the campus police arrested them as the building was about to close.  Other groups started to look to Frank as the only Asian who was willing to get arrested for a cause. 

            Frank ends the interview with a lot of insight, and what people should take away from these struggles.  He explains why he’s so outspoken (there’s a bit of swearing in this part).

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