By Melody Perez Kidd
Summit 2016 Co-Director, UniPro Seattle
Our community mourns the loss of an incredible activist and leader. Uncle Bob Santos spent his life in Chinatown Seattle fighting for our civil rights and paving the way for future generations. Through marches, protests and sit-ins, he was a driving force that brought forward social justice issues and raised awareness in our Asian American community. Uncle Bob was the voice for those who could not speak. He built bridges between community organizations, business leaders and government agencies to create change.
Donny Rojo and I were blessed to have had the chance to listen to him speak about his life and his experiences at the Gang of Four Forum on December 9, 2015 at El Centro de la Raza. One event that he spoke about that stuck with me was a particular experience he had in elementary school during World War II that opened his eyes to discrimination. He was in first grade, with mostly Japanese American classmates. One day, his classmates didn't show up to class and he learned that his classmates and their families were rounded up to be brought to concentration camps. He didn't quite understand why they were taken to camps while the German and Italian kids were not. From that experience, he remembered throughout the rest of his childhood the difference between us as Asians and them. Listening to him reminded me of the struggles we face now, the similarities and differences but most importantly, the determination and passion necessary to continue fighting against oppression and bringing awareness to our community.
UniPro Seattle had the pleasure of meeting Uncle Bob at various events this past year. Each of us were fortunate enough to have had a chance to speak and listen to him. For our annual Summit, Reach, Uncle Bob was invited to serve as a panelist that will focus on multiracial unity. His experiences and impact on the community would have brought invaluable knowledge to our delegates and been a great example of reaching for a better today.
Aside from being a great leader, he was also an easy-going and charismatic man who knew how to make people laugh. If Uncle Bob was at an event, you know that the event was full of laughter and jokes. He knew how to have fun and share that fun with those around him. We will never forget his contagious laughter and his constant jokes.
Without his voice and his leadership, our community would not be what it is today. He championed causes that would end injustices in our backyard. Uncle Bob genuinely loved this community. He worked tirelessly to ensure that we continued to be the voice and generate leaders of tomorrow.
He laid the foundation. It is up to us to continue the movement.