I remember when I first visited Seattle for the Asian American Writer’s Conference on the University of Washington campus in the late 1970s. We had a writing workshop in one of the rooms in the Ethnic Cultural Center. It was the first time I had a chance to meet some local poets like Al Hikida—writing instructor at Seattle Central—and Ticiang Diangson. Ticiang I remember most for having a mischievous twinkle in her eye and a penchant for speaking frankly.
I didn’t know about her professional career but I would later learn she was a fierce advocate for minorities and the disenfranchised and was always inclusive of the community in her work, whether it was as home energy auditor for Seattle City Light, advocate for recycling at Seattle Public Utilities, or the first person in the country to be appointed inaugural director of the Utilities Environmental Justice and Service Equity Division. She also worked in the Chinatown/ID and South End communities and was co-founder of the Asian Pacific Women’s Caucus in 1978 and the Community Coalition for Environmental Justice in 1992.
I knew Ticiang on a more casual level away from her job. When mutual friends and acquaintances like Yuri Takahashi and Nancy Lim met early, tragic deaths, she was one of the first to offer a helping hand and lead support groups for family and friends. I also recall how she tried to get the board at PCC Natural Markets to make more of an effort at outreach to minority communities in Seattle so that they too, could reap the benefits of healthier eating.
She was an incredibly generous, compassionate being. Her writing would also grace the pages of our newspaper, the International Examiner when she felt she had something important to say. I remember being moved by a poem she wrote about visiting her father in a Chicago hospital on his deathbed.
The last time I saw Ticiang still brings a smile to my face. I was with a friend to catch a set by the wonderful rhythm-and-blues veteran singer Bettye LaVette who was making a come back tour at the Triple Door. Ticiang was in the front row just beaming with her husband by her side, enjoying the sassy voice of a singer who knows how to tell it like it is. She turned to me and said, “It’s my birthday and Greg is taking me out.” Ticiang was another person who knew how to tell it like it is. She not only talked the talk, she walked the walk. Thanks, Ticiang! I know you will rest in peace and in justice.
A Celebration of Ticiang Diangson’s Life will be held on her upcoming 74th birthday, March 15, 2015, from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Filipino Community Center at 5740 Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Seattle.