My Story: Who I Am
I am a college professor, active community leader, lawyer, and a mom who believes that when we take a pragmatic approach to solving problems we create the kind of vital democracies capable of withstanding crisis and improving the lives of all. I live in Edina with my husband in our dream home -- an old house on the hill, in the woods, with a block full of children. We have two children who attend Edina public schools. My husband is a pediatric sports medicine physician and public health researcher, and I teach in the liberal arts department at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.
Childhood: My Heroes
My beloved grandmother was a Japanese immigrant who instilled the values of independence, hard work, devotion to family, and tenacity. I saw firsthand the sorrows of being separated from loved ones by oceans, and deeply admired my grandmother's dignity in the face of discrimination. Knowing what she went through, I have dedicated myself to learning deeply about other cultures and people, and advocating for acceptance and inclusion.
I also grew up in a social worker's house where conversations with my dad about our duties to care for others was the dinner table talk. And I know first hand the tragic impacts that mental health has on families. My dad had to raise three girls on his own because my mother's mental health struggles made her a chaotic and abusive parent, a condition she developed in part because of the discrimination she faced in her childhood as a Japanese American. Hurt people hurt people is not just a cliche for me. My dad was able to care for us as a single parent because of a good public employee job. Dad didn't make enough for us to take vacations but we did have good health care and parental time off, and that made all the difference. When Covid-19 hit I begged him to do work remotely, but he told me that his clients were people abandoned by society -- many of them live month to month between homelessness and shelter and he would never stop showing up for them.
Both my grandma and my dad showed me that hard work is the most important way you show what you value, and in our family that is the people we love and the communities we care for.
I have an undergraduate degree in peace and conflict resolution from American University where I graduated from the Honors Program magna cum laude, worked for the Islamic Center for Peace, and lived in South Africa to learn about the truth and reconciliation commission. At the University of Colorado School of Law I served as editor for the International Environmental Law and Policy Journal, worked for the Natural Resources Center, and was named Federal Indian student attorney of the year. Afterwards I clerked for Justice Brian Boatright (CO Supreme Court) when he was a district court judge. Ultimately law school brought up more questions than answers for me, so I moved to Minneapolis for a PhD in comparative literature and cultural studies from the UMN where I examined the relationship between the atomic bombing of Hiroshima alongside the internment of Japanese Americans. Though I am not a brilliant linguist I do love learning other languages and have studied Spanish, Afrikaans, Xhosa, French, German, and can get around in Japanese.
Since becoming a mother I have dedicated myself to supporting my local community and gained a wide variety of experiences crucial for understanding the complex dynamics of local leadership:
I opened a bookstore and founded a neighborhood business association;
Led a volunteer support group for Planned Parenthood and was named the area Planned Parenthood volunteer of the year;
Helped launch the transformation of an unused railway into a mixed use trail;
Organized sexual violence bystander training for community members;
Advocated for pedestrian safety after a fatality;
Instituted restorative facilitation leadership training for my neighborhood board;
Was part of a team expanding organics recycling for neighbors in rental units;
Created a tenant-to-tenant conflict resolution funding program to prevent evictions;
Defended an urban community garden from pavement encroachment;
And participated in collaborative police reform with community elders and law enforcement leadership.
Before moving to Edina, we lived in the Uptown area of Minneapolis where I ran for city council, coming in second as a grassroots candidate in a competitive field of seven. Then as now, I urged voters to prioritize both police reform AND public safety, and to look for leadership that is courageous AND collaborative.
I currently serve as Board the Secretary for Soo Visual Art Center, and as Board Member for the non-profit Micro Grants. I am active in the Democratic Farmer Labor Party (DFL) as a member of the Asian American Caucus and as Vice Chair for the DFL Feminist Caucus. Previously I served as the Outreach and Inclusion Officer for SD61 and have developed relationships with local Somali American communities from my voter outreach and community inclusion efforts.