At the last INTER*IM pig roast, I thought how the International District has evolved much like the Danny Woo Community Garden.
The hillside property was donated for a community garden by Wilma Woo, in memory of Dan, who hailed from one of Chinatown’s pioneer families. The former blackberry patch and slide area has blossomed through the labors of volunteers and from city, community and corporate donations.
I wandered through the rows of Asian vegetables up to the new observation/vegetable washing pavilion. Used to interlopers, the elderly Asian/Pacific gardeners continued washing their vegetables in the new NW/Asian designed structure. I had a great view in all directions.
To the west was the magnificent Seattle skyline, Puget Sound and Olympic mountains. The tilled hillside stretched from Washington Street to Kobe Park and I-5. It was a idyllic scene of old and new activities residing in harmony.
There were also signs of encroachment and failure from the observation point. A high rise luxury apartment is being built adjacent to the garden. Above the park was the Nippon Kan Building looking as deserted as Ed and Betty Burke must feel about losing it.
The Nippon Kan rehabilitation was completed after the Burkes expended years of sweat equity and money into the building. Taking my first tour of the Burkes’ snazzy architectural office and apartment with it’s great views and in-city convenience, I thought they had it made.
The Nippon Kan was the I.D.’s community center in the seventies. I.D.E.A., the I.D. business group, threw its first Christmas parties there. N.W.A.A.T, the Asian American theater group, used it for all their plays. Unfortunately, Ed learned that there is little appreciation or money for private community projects.
The happy sounds of the I.D. activists enjoying the fruits of their labor disturbed my lamenting.
The INTER*IM pig roast is a Bob Santos tradition.
The occasion for this pig roast was to try out the new pit and thank the University of Washington architectural students who designed and build the new structures with the help of donations from McMillian-Blodel Lumber Company and Safeco Insurance.
The new pig roast area has gone high tech. With the help of INTER*IM director Ken and staff member Cliff, Bob roasted the big in the new flagstone pit with its stainless steel rotisserie earlier that afternoon. It used to take 24 hours to roast a pig. Bob and staff would dig a deep pig pit and would spend the night tending the roasting pig.
The slow cooking of the pig was a great excuse for a party for the volunteers before the community function. It’s a good thing Bob has a new pig roast area; many of the INTER*IM volunteers have moved on to other positions. Most have also married or become young parents and can’t party all night.
Former director Bob Santos, now the District’s public development authority director, and Sue Taoka, presently an aide to Mayor Rice, have moved on. Former staff member Dan Rounds now works for El Centro de la Raza. Like Sue, Elaine Ikoma Ko is a mother of two. She now manages the Women’s Program for King County, and is completing her MBA; Sheri Woo now works in television and radio. But their support and association with INTER*IM continues.
Walking down to rejoin the party, I saw the parallels between the community garden and the I.D. in the efforts to make the areas flower.
It took activism and dedicated volunteers to get the necessary community donations and public grants. Volunteers move on, but there is a continuity.
There were failures along the way. The nonprofits must support community businesses more and suspect them less.
Encroachment is a constant worry. The Garden and the I.D redevelopment is still not complete or secure.
But the District and the Garden is being used by the intended clients and users, the Asian Pacific elderly and/or immigrants. What more can one ask?
Like the pig roast, we will just find better methods to continue the tradition.