Japanese American, lIfelong Democrat and founding member of the Arizona Asian American Pacific Islander Democratic Party Caucus, Marian Tadano Shee found her voice as an advocate for AAPI youth after experiencing the silencing of her own voice as a Japanese child in World War II America.
During WWII her family lived on the north side of Grand Avenue where the Government had decided residents didn’t need to be sent to internment camps, and most of them were allowed to stay in Glendale. However, her grandfather and father were sent to Federal prison for a year. In 1943 when Marian was four years old, her father and her family were sent to the Department of Justice Enemy Detention Center in Crystal, Texas. This was an internment camp where Japanese Americans were forcibly imprisoned. As a young child, Marian was told not to speak in Japanese. She learned English but could not communicate with her family members. Marian lost her voice and spoke to no one for several years.
Fortunately, as an adult Marian Tadano Shee found her voice as an Asian American leader in community service, leadership, and justice. Marian was a long-time Chemistry professor and mentor to young Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders at Phoenix College, the flagship of the Maricopa Community Colleges.
Marian became the first Asian American Vice President for Academic Affairs at Phoenix College until her retirement. In 2011-12, Tadano Shee became a founding member of the Arizona Asian American Pacific Islander Democratic Party Caucus, of which she is still an active and engaged member, advocate, campaigner, and mentor to young AAPI Democrats. Marian has also been a strong advocate for racial, social and economic justice with the Arizona Asian Chamber, the Japanese American Citizens League and the City of Phoenix.
Currently, she is sharing her personal stories with children in public schools about her imprisonment as a child during WWII and breaking down the stereotypes and “model minority” myths. Marian does this regularly so that discrimination and injustice will not be repeated and young people will be aware of what can happen if people do not speak up and hate and violence persist. She is also sharing her time and wisdom to mentor and motivate young Asian Pacific Americans to be engaged and be stronger, louder and better leaders for our communities, our state and our country.
Pinny Sheoran is the chair of the MCDP AAPI Committee.