Charles Payton Award for Cultural Advocacy – Tom Ikeda

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Charles Payton Award recipient Tom Ikeda speaks to the crowd at the AKCHO Awards Program.

Ed.note: this is the final piece that spotlights the recipients of the 2017 AKCHO Awards. Special thanks to the Pat Filer, the AKCHO Awards Committee, Judie Romeo, the AKCHO Board, and all of the sponsors (highlighted earlier in Heritage Advisor) who made the Awards Program possible. And congratulations here to Charles Payton Award honoree Tom Ikeda, whose civil rights advocacy today is a reaction to the injustices suffered by his ancestors.

Tom Ikeda is a sansei (third generation Japanese American) who was born and raised in Seattle. Tom’s parents and grandparents were incarcerated during World War II at Minidoka, Idaho. 

Tom had always realized the importance of preserving the stories of the Japanese Americans, like his family members, who had been unjustly removed from their homes and businesses so in 1996 he helped start a new non-profit to digitally preserve and share the personal stories of Japanese Americans who were incarcerated during World War II. They named this project “Densho” which means “to Pass on to the next generation” or “to leave a legacy.” On Densho’s website, there are over 900 in-depth video interviews and 50,000 historic photographs, documents, and newspapers.

Tom has received numerous awards for his contributions, including the Humanities Washington Award for outstanding achievement in the public humanities, the Hamer Kegan Award from the Society of Archivists, the National JACL Japanese American of the Biennium Award for Education, and the Microsoft Alumni Fellows Award. 

This is an especially timely year for Tom to receive our award which celebrates those who create and promote public awareness for heritage resources. It is the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066 which sent the Japanese and Japanese Americans to incarceration camps. Tom is an outspoken advocate that intolerance towards immigrants never happen again. Last month Densho hosted 1,500 people at a standing-room-only program called “Never Again” that examined Japanese incarceration history as it related to American Muslim rights in the present day. The program asked participants to examine what we can do to prevent discrimination, protect civil rights, and explore and protect democracy.


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AKCHO was established in 1977 to encourage cooperation among historical organizations; promote and encourage the study and preservation of the history and heritage of King County through member organizations, individual members, and the community they serve; and support such preservation efforts through public awareness and understanding of legislative issues.

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2017 Awards Program

Click here to download our
2017 Annual Awards
Program Invitation