Tsuguo “Ike” Ikeda receives an award for his years of service to the nonprofit community from the Nonprofit Assistance Center. Ikeda has a long history of activism beginning during his internment in Minidoka and including work with the Black Panther Party and as the first executive director of the Atlantic Street Center. He was the first Asian American director of a major nonprofit organization in the United States.Photo by Chris Bennion, 2006.

“Bob, Ike Ikeda is getting an award today. Can you get down there and get a photo or two to put with a short article for our newsletter?”Joyce Yoshikawa, Asian Counseling and Referral Service

I was a newcomer to Seattle and I didn’t know much about Tsuguo “Ike” Ikeda, but I learned a lot about him at the reception held in his honor. The most important lesson: Ike was a very important person to the Black Community in Seattle.

What follows is excerpted (and edited for length) from a handbook, “Ike’s Principles,” developed by Ikeda to guide himself and others, in both nonprofit management and individual management throughout life. Principle 10 refers to a time when Ikeda had to decide very controversial matters involving the Black Panther Party, while he headed up Atlantic Street Center.

Principle 10
MIZU (water)
“Don’t fight it”

By observing the nature of water in different circumstances, I can learn there are times to choose accommodations or not fighting, and at other times it is better to fight with focus and perseverance.

At a Law and Justice Seminar I met Elmer Dixon (a senior at Garfield High School and head of the Black Panther Party). He asked me if their Black Panther Breakfast might use our Atlantic Street Center (ASC) facilities. I first asked him for a week to think about the answer.

We had support from the national United Methodist Women’s group among others, while Elmer had no financial support. The rumor was the Party was getting food from Safeway by intimidation. I had my ways and Elmer had his. It occurred to me God’s observation of the two of us would show little difference in outcomes and our intent. After a discussion with the staff and board, I told Elmer to come right in. I did not “fight it” and of all the groups, the Black Panther Party was the most responsible in cleaning up after each breakfast session.

“Fight it”

ASC had a program for Juvenile Delinquents bound for correctional institutions. We hired a male and female couple from the Black Panther Party who were skilled in relating to the children. Subsequently, two reporters from the Seattle Times claimed that the program was too expensive and suggested a congressional investigation of the program.

The couple in charge of the program thought they should resign to protect the program from charges that Black Panthers were on ASC’s payroll. They said they would not take the severance pay and would resign immediately. I knew they needed the money to continue their University studies. Because they were thinking about my welfare, I did not accept their resignation.

At times, one has to “fight it.” Having Black Panther Party activists on our ASC team was a highly unusual management decision. The Panthers were “fighting” for social justice. Their methods were not mine. But I understood that fighting for social justice is a long-term struggle. Like the thousand drops of water on a sheet of rock, it takes a lifetime and a variety of advocacy efforts to make a major impact.

“Ike’s Principles” is available at Japanese Cultural and Community Center, 1414 S. Weller, Seattle 98114. Black Panther 50th Anniversary Celebration, April 26-28. Visit their website at seattlebpp50.com.

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