Naomi Ishisaka: Stories have the power to change minds, lives, and our society

2019 Globalist of the Year Naomi Ishisaka. (Photo courtesy of Naomi Ishisaka.)

Naomi Ishisaka is being recognized as The Seattle Globalist’s 2019 Journalist of the Year for her commitment to underrepresented voices and empowering communities through her work.

Ishisaka is an independent journalist, photographer, and graphic designer who focuses on racial equity and social justice. Her writing and photography have appeared in the Seattle Globalist, The Seattle Times, Seattle Magazine, the South Seattle Emerald, Heart and Science Magazine and many other
publications. Currently, Naomi is also a mentor for the ReFrame Mentorship program.

Ishisaka served for eight years as the Editor in Chief of the award-winning ColorsNW Magazine, a monthly magazine focusing on communities of color in the Northwest.

Her documentary photography of the Seattle Black Lives Matter movement is featured in a number of shows and galleries as well as in the documentary film “13th.” Her photography is part of the City of Seattle’s permanent collection and she was selected for the Office of Arts and Culture’s Ethnic Artist Roster.

The Globalist will honor her at our 2019 Globie Awards gala on Saturday, September 21, 2019. The Globalist caught up with Ishisaka to talk about her work and her aspirations as a journalist.

What you are currently up to? How would you describe yourself and your situation right now?

I was just hired as the new Social Justice Columnist for The Seattle Times. I start on September 30! It will combine my two lifelong passions — journalism and social justice — and I am really excited about the opportunity to continue to center the margins through this work.

What drives you in your passion for doing journalism?

My passion for journalism is driven by my belief that stories have the power to change minds, lives, and our society. When we understand more about each other, when we understand more about the systems and conditions that undergird our realities, we can make better decisions.

What news story that you’ve reported on are you most proud of?

I think one of the projects I am most proud of was one of the pieces I wrote about gentrification in the Central District through the lens of one family for Seattle Magazine and Crosscut. I think what was important to me about that story was having the opportunity to weave in the history of generational wealth inequality as a legacy of slavery vs. a story that just focused on a family without that historic and systemic context.

What stories are out there that you feel are most need being told? Who’s voices do you think have the most need to be elevated?

I think there are so many stories that aren’t being told and so many voices that need to be elevated. I think the constriction in the journalism industry has devastating impacts on all of us. Fewer people being paid to write and report stories means less information for everyone. Freelance writing is some of the hardest and least lucrative work around. Marginalized folks bear the brunt of this most as fewer stories mean their issues get pushed to the side. We need to dramatically rethink journalism as a civic necessity — as we do other institutions and we should support it as such.

At the Globie Awards on September 21, 2019, The Seattle Globalist is also honoring Abigail Echo-Hawk as our 2019 Globalist of the Year as well as community journalists Thea White and Rahwa Hailemariam. For tickets, and more information, please click here.