In the summer of 2020, after the killing of George Floyd and the upheaval that followed, Roosevelt Alumni for Racial Equity (RARE) was formed by a multiethnic group of Roosevelt High School alumni to discuss racism in America and in Seattle. We realized anew that, while some progress had been made since our own tumultuous times in high school, there is still a long and challenging road ahead to achieving racial equity. This became the main topic of our discussions, and we found it inspiring and strengthening to reconnect with each other across the decades since high school as well as across our differences in ethnicity and experiences. Conversations were enlightening, honest and accepting. We explored what impact the Seattle Busing Voluntary Racial Transfer Program (VRT) of the late 1960s and early 1970s had on all of us. We shared our personal experiences with racism over the past fifty years.
As our Zoom gatherings progressed, the group expanded and formalized itself as Roosevelt Alumni for Racial Equity (RARE), inclusive of all RHS alumni of all years and the current RHS community of students, staff, and parents. We began with two specific projects. The first is an annual scholarship to honor our late classmate James A. Davis, Jr., an alumnus of the VRT program, a great friend, and an athlete-musician at Roosevelt. The scholarships will be awarded yearly to two economically disadvantaged Roosevelt students of color to pursue higher education or training, beginning Spring 2021.
RARE is also producing a documentary, Roosevelt High School in Black and White, about the students of color who came to Roosevelt through the VRT program and later through mandatory busing. The film will explore the impacts these programs have had on students, staff, the Roosevelt community, and on the goals of integrated education. It will include interviews with alumni who transferred to Roosevelt through voluntary or mandatory busing programs, and with alumni who lived in the Roosevelt neighborhoods, as well as with teachers, administrators and coaches from those times and from today. The film will illuminate contrasts and similarities between past challenges and those faced today. The documentary will be offered as a teaching tool for current and future students at Roosevelt, and throughout the Seattle School District, to share the rich history of the city’s efforts to achieve better racial balance in the schools and to share current issues and concerns.
Both the scholarship program and the film have the support of the current Roosevelt High School administration and the Roosevelt Foundation, a non-profit charitable organization that helps to fund the school’s goals and activities. Golden Grads, a non-profit entity established by Roosevelt alumni to manage scholarships for current Roosevelt students, serves as RARE’s partner and fiscal agent for the James A Davis Junior Memorial Scholarship.
Meanwhile, RARE is continuing and expanding its discussions about race and racism, with expert presenters from inside and outside RARE, and is inviting a broader range of alumni and other supporters to join these discussions. RARE exists as a platform for all interested students, alumni, staff and the entire school community to engage in honest discussion and action aimed at ensuring racial equity in education and in our society at large.
RARE Board of Directors
Joe Hunter Jr., Co-Chair
Joe was born and raised in Seattle’s Central Area and currently lives in the Beacon Hill area, which ranks 18th of 14844 communities in the country based on its racial diversity.
In 1968, Joe and ten of his classmates were asked by a counselor to attend Roosevelt High School as part of Seattle’s voluntary transfer program. His attendance at RHS was meaningful and helped in his early development in learning how to navigate America’s racial culture.
RARE has given Joe an opportunity to collaborate with his high school classmates to change the racial climate at RHS and hopefully to make meaningful change toward racial equity.
Joe has a BA from WWSU in Business Administration and has held several executive level management positions in Merchandising, Operations and Human Resources. In the past, he has served on the boards of the Orange County, CA Urban League and the University of Illinois School of Business. Early in his career, he was instrumental in establishing a Minority Networking Conference in the western part of the country for his former company.
In his retirement and before the Coronavirus, he was a volunteer basketball coach at Seattle’s High Point Park Dept.
Tony Allison, Co-Chair
Tony’s main career was in international trade. He has traveled widely, but has lived in Seattle for most of his life. Following his business career Tony received a teaching certificate and taught History in Seattle high schools. Tony is a 1971 graduate of Roosevelt HS, where he played varsity sports and made many lifelong friendships. He has always been intensely concerned about racial issues, and after George Floyd’s murder in 2020 he contacted Joe Hunter, his high school teammate, to start a discussion group which grew into RARE. Tony currently lives on Guemes Island, WA, and is married with three grown children.
Steve Fisher is a Seattle native and graduated from Roosevelt High School, as did his father 30 years before him. He is also a graduate of Whitman College and has a law degree from Seattle University. Steve is currently a senior partner with a 900-lawyer national law firm, Polsinelli, where he practices business law and is a member of the Technology Transactions practice group. Steve’s mentor responsibilities during the last 20 years have focused on supporting young associates of color, mostly women, all of whom continue to practice law today.
Robin Uchida Lange
Robin Uchida Lange is a 1971 graduate of Roosevelt High School and University of Washington graduate from the College of Forest Resources. She spent 7 years working at Mt. Rainier National Park and 2 years at Crater Lake National Park before taking seven years to have kids. After Crater Lake she and her family moved to Glacier National Park and have lived in the area for the last 40 years. Robin spent 13 years teaching remedial reading, 20 years as an Executive Assistant for the regional hospital while simultaneously teaching piano lessons for 45 years. As a woman of color in a very homogenous state, she is interested in bringing forth the stories, truths, and power of racial equity.
Kristi Gates Blake
Kristi Gates Blake is currently serving as lead director for Avista Corporation (a public utility company based in Spokane) and as a trustee for the Russell Investment Funds (a regulated investment company). She graduated from Roosevelt High School and from the University of Washington where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. After graduating she worked for the public accounting firm of Deloitte, Haskins and Sells before starting her own firm in 1987. Kristi has extensive involvement in the Spokane community having served on many nonprofit and economic development boards. She also served for 12 years as a Regent at the University of Washington. Kristi has two adult children and lives with her husband John and two dogs in Spokane.
Najja’s early years started in the Central Area of Seattle, WA, where most Black families resided. In 1963 her parents moved to the Montlake District, a predominantly White and Jewish neighborhood. During k-12, Najja attended Black and White schools with a mixture of ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic student populations.
In the latter 1960s, as a Voluntary Racial Transfer Student (VRTS), Najja transferred to Nathan Eckstein Junior High and Roosevelt High School (RHS). This journey was bitter-sweet, requiring a whole lot of giving and taking. Najja gave of herself as a proud Black Student Union and band member. But, a rich cultural experience in Blackness was removed. Redlining housing practices were obvious in the north end. And, career counseling at RHS screamed the age-old message that Black students were destined for subservient careers. That was the catalyst for getting to the table as a voice advocating for marginalized populations.
Najja graduated high school in 1972 and pursued a B.A. in Economics, a Master’s in Public Administration, and a Graduate Certificate in Human Resource Management. For 50-plus years, Najja worked in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, including retail; direct sales; insurance; housing; social and human services; transportation; and healthcare. She characterizes her career trajectory as one of advocacy, fairness, objectivity, holding people accountable, and delivering consequences. Before retiring in 2015, Najja investigated workplace discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.
Najja is passionate about racial equity and social justice, hence the reason for her involvement in RARE. Her humble beginnings as a VRTS, a career advocating for others, and lived experiences, fostered relationships with people of all races, colors, religions, gender, national origins, and disabilities.
On a grander scale, Najja’s aware that our Nation has a lot of work to do starting with admitting to injustices perpetrated against Black and Brown people. The struggle at hand is dismantling structural and systemic racism. On a smaller scale, Najja has the “tough” conversations complemented with a listening ear and compassionate heart. Hope in action allows her to be part of the solution, not the problem.
Gregg Blodgett is a retired business executive and volunteer. He graduated from Roosevelt High School and the University of Washington where he received degrees in Business Administration- Accounting and Spanish Language and Literature. After spending 9 years early in his career with a Big 4 accounting firm he worked as a finance and operating executive in banking and several venture-backed early-stage technology companies. He has served as Chair of the University of Washington Alumni Association, the Boys and Girls Clubs of King County, the Washington Athletic Club and as Board Treasurer for Seattle Biomed. He lives in Seattle with wife Jane. They are spending a significant amount of their retired time travelling while continuing to serve as volunteers. Their two adult children graduated from Roosevelt High School.
Jane Harris Nellams
Jane Harris Nellams is a retired journalist and community volunteer. She was graduated from Roosevelt High School and from the University of Oregon where she earned her bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism. After working as a reporter at three Seattle-area newspapers, she directed public relations at Bellevue College and later, at North Seattle College. She served as president of the Junior League of Seattle, the first African American to do so. She has served on diversity, equity, inclusion, and access committees for the Junior League and for Sigma Kappa Sorority. Jane lives in Seattle with her husband, Robert, where she grows roses, vegetables, and herbs. Their two adult children are also Roosevelt graduates.
Teshika Hatch has been an advocate for educational equity and justice since her time at Roosevelt and then Garfield High School. Having studied Sociology and Psychology at Skidmore College, Teshika worked as an admissions counselor and multicultural recruiter at her alma mater, then a case manager and program director at Juma Ventures, a youth development nonprofit organization. The challenges that her first-generation college-bound students faced in school and in life led her to pursue a master’s degree in Educational Policy, Organizations, and Leadership at the University of Washington. She currently works at Equal Opportunity Schools, advocating for Black and Brown students to have equitable access to advanced coursework.
Tim is a software entrepreneur specializing in automated publishing solutions. He has years of experience on non-profit boards, most recently with the Cascade Bicycle Club and Washington Bikes. He was born and raised in Seattle and graduated from Roosevelt High in 1971. He received his bachelor’s from Evergreen State College and master’s from Duke University. He gets outside and enjoys biking, hiking, cross country skiing, and sailing. Tim lives in the Methow valley with his wife Catherine. He has three grown children and seven young grandchildren.
Allan L. Bergano, DDS
Allan was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. He is a product of immigrant Filipino parents. His father came to America as a teenager, worked as a houseboy and graduated from Franklin High School in 1928. He worked his way through college and graduated with a BS in Pharmacy from Oregon State University. On a trip to The Philippines, he met his wife, a third-grade teacher who taught in the “jungle” hiding from the Japanese in WWII. They married and settled in Seattle.
Allan was raised in the predominantly Black Central Area neighborhood of Seattle. He helped desegregate all-white Roosevelt High School as a member of the city’s Voluntary Racial Transfer program. In college, he benefited from the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) and affirmative action and became the first Filipino American to graduate from the University of Washington School of Dentistry in 1981. In 1983, he became the first Filipino American to practice dentistry in the Commonwealth of Virginia. He and his wife, Edwina, founded the Hampton Roads Chapter of the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) in 1989. Programs created by FANHS-HR helped students of Filipino ancestry embrace their personal journey by embracing who we are and what we can become. When it comes to racial equity as a Filipino American, Allan knows the way, goes the way, and continues to show the way in the making and shaping of a better America.
Judith (Jude) Anderson Fisher
Jude Fisher is a Seattle native and graduated from Garfield High School as a voluntary racial transfer student from RHS. She is a graduate of the University of Washington and before retirement held a senior property manager position at Urban Renaissance Group, overseeing 300,000 sf of commercial holdings in downtown Seattle. Jude was motivated after George Floyd’s death to become more engaged in racial equity programs.
Bruce Williams graduated from Roosevelt High School where he played football with James Davis, the namesake of RARE’s scholarship. After graduation he and James worked together on a summer job. Bruce graduated from Stanford University and the University of Washington Law School. He served in the US Peace Corps in Liberia, West Africa, teaching at a rural college where he was one of only two white men on the college campus. He worked as a lawyer and at HomeStreet Bank, where his positions ranged from co-chair of the Diversity Committee to CEO. He currently lives in Leavenworth, Washington with his wife, Gro Buer, a Norwegian immigrant. They have one daughter and one grandson. Bruce currently is a hospital commissioner for Leavenworth’s public hospital and serves on multiple community boards.
Lea Vaughn is the Law Foundation Professor of Law, Emerita, at the UW. She graduated from Roosevelt HS in 1971, Princeton University in 1975 and the University of Michigan Law School in 1978. After practicing labor law in Detroit, she returned to Seattle in 1984 as the first Black woman law professor at UW. Her teaching and research focused on employment relations and procedure. She served as Secretary of the Faculty from 1999-2005. She served on the Board at Seattle Girls School, and is currently on the board of the UW Retirement Association. Lea, a third generation Seattleite, lives in Ballard with her husband, where she reads voraciously, gardens, plays piano, and jogs. She has two adult children and one granddaughter.
Bruce is a second generation graduate of Roosevelt High School, he in 1971. He earned a BA in History at the University of Washington and returned to the UW a year afterwards in the Teacher Certification Program in the College of Education. He did his student teaching and his initial year of teaching at Garfield High School. Bruce spent most of his career teaching Language Arts and US History at Whitman Middle School in northwest Seattle. He retired in 2016 and was doing occasional substituting until Covid hit.
Like millions of Americans, Bruce was sickened by the police murder of George Floyd, but heartened by the worlds’s and the nation’s long-overdue outrage and call for change that followed. RARE was part of that reaction, and Bruce is proud be part it.
Bruce is married and has two grown sons. He lives in northeast Seattle with his wife Janine and their dog Stella.
John Tabb graduated with the Roosevelt High School Class of 1971. John was active in student government and served with James Davis not only as senior class officers but also as team members on the football field. John is a University of Washington graduate. During his 30+ years as a small business owner, John served on the Board of the Snohomish County Chamber of Commerce, and he chaired the Youth Challenge Awards Program through the local Rotary Club. John enjoys staying in contact with his RHS classmates and his involvement with RARE continues to inspire him. John lives in Seattle with his wife Bonnie. He is immensely proud of his two grown daughters and their spouses.
Les was born and raised in the Central Area of Seattle after his parents moved there from Oklahoma in the 1940’s. He attended Coleman Elementary and Washington Jr. High before going north to Roosevelt H.S. as part of the Voluntary Racial Transfer Program. His positive experience at RHS via the music program and varsity athletics were the impetus for him attending Western Washington University – College of Humanities & Social Sciences (BA). After college, Les spent the next 36 years engaged in two career paths simultaneously:
The first was with the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, which resulted in his selection as a Chief Warrant Officer (CW5) – coordinating various operations worldwide. The second was with the Washington State Patrol (WSP), which culminated in his promotion to Assistant Chief of the Field Operations Bureau. Les is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and he attended the Princeton Theological Seminary. Along with his involvement in RARE, he is a volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Association and also participates in S.E.R.V.E. (Stafford Emergency Relief for Volunteer Efforts). He is retired and resides in Stafford / Quantico, VA. Regarding the issue of equity, Les believes that:
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
James Baldwin (1962)
Hillary graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1998 and went on to receive an undergraduate degree in studio art from Scripps College, and a Master’s in Education with a focus on curriculum and instruction from the University of Washington. With fifteen years of experience as an administrator for education focused non-profits, Hillary uses her values of creativity, compassion, and curiosity to work toward equitable education for youth. She currently works as the grants manager for Arts Corps, a youth arts education organization focused on Seattle and South King County, and she is passionate about leveraging funding to close race and income-based opportunity gaps for youth.
What first drew me to RARE was the plan to produce a documentary on voluntary busing. My own reflections from that time more than 50 years ago left me feeling unsettled as I remembered my lack of reaching out to the first African American girl who joined my 6th grade class in elementary school. Later as a teacher who taught in highly diverse, low-income schools, I gained a greater understanding of the challenges faced by students of color. Working with RARE has given me a place to put my efforts towards increasing racial equity in our country alongside other people with whom I have some shared RHS history.
Al Herron is a Particle Physicist, Electrical Engineer, numerical analysis specialist, and Serial Entrepreneur, currently pursuing a PhD in Business Management, Strategy and Innovation. He has spent his career pushing the boundaries of Compact Linear Accelerator Technology, driving new business development opportunities, and working with business owners and entrepreneurs for educational and economic equity in the BIPOC and other under-served communities, with a particular focus on STEM Curriculum and Program Development. Mr. Herron is currently serving on several state level committees on education policy and the response to COVID19, the Lake Washington School District Equity Team, the Breakfast Group Advisory Board, the Board for the Seattle Universal Math Museum, the Board for Stemtac Foundation, and the Board for the Black Education Strategy Roundtable.
Racial equity throughout our community, our city, and our country. Every person is accorded dignity, respect, and the opportunity to reach their full potential.
To advocate for racial equity by contributing to a deeper understanding of racism and racial equity, to heal the racial divide, and to enhance equitable outcomes for all people.
VALUES AND PRINCIPLES
- Racial equity: a culture of care and respect for the dignity of every person.
- Education and open communication: the key processes of change and empowerment.
- Truthfulness and honesty: the values that underly all our communication and dealings
- Humility: a willingness to recognize the racism in ourselves.
- Inclusion, collaboration, connection and appreciation: our attitude when listening and engaging the diverse voices in our community.
- Curiosity: a willingness to constantly learn more about systemic and less visible systems that place barriers to racial equity, and the challenges that we face in overcoming them.
- Passion: in pursuit of justice, fairness and equity.
- Creativity: tested and supported by research, critical thinking and analysis, in the search for solutions that work.
- Wisdom: a willingness to admit when we are wrong, and the courage to change our views.
- Accountability: a promise that we will follow through on our commitments
We agree with James Baldwin that “Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” (1962) We are attempting to change the things we cannot accept.
RARE Land and Labor Acknowledgement
We would like to show our respect and acknowledge the Puget Sound Coast Salish peoples, past and present, on whose lands we gather today. The Suquamish Tribe and Muckleshoot Indian Tribe are the federally recognized Indian tribes of greater Seattle, under the treaties of Point Elliott and Medicine Creek.
In recognizing the history and respecting the sovereignty of Washington’s Indian Nations, RARE honors the heritage of Indigenous communities and their significant role in shaping the course of this region.
Further, we respectfully acknowledge the millions of enslaved Africans who provided exploited labor on which this country was built, with little or no recognition. Similarly, we acknowledge the labor of other peoples who, while not enslaved, were exploited, and whose labor also contributed to the building of America.