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Remembering Rayko


Dec. 20, 1920 – June 22, 2018

Even on her best day, it would be a stretch to say that Rayko reached 4 foot 10 inches. But I will always remember her as a giant force – of wisdom, of listening and speaking the truth and of carrying the lantern that lights our way toward peace and justice. Rayko was 97 years old when she passed away in June. Her life is an important one for all of us Early Childhood Educators to remember or to learn about and be inspired by. I hope some of you reading this will also remember Rayko and add your own stories, memories or comments.

Rayko was born December 20, 1920 in California. Her parents were immigrants from Japan. As a young woman, during World War ll Rayko was sent to a Japanese Internment Camp in California and that is where she met and married her life-long partner Hideo. Both were also lifelong activists advocating for peace and justice and donated many hours and resources to remembering the horrors of war and injustice. They understood as few of us can, that peace and justice must be the foundation for a more human and humane community and world.

Prior to her retirement in 1985, Rayko’s professional work included (as stated in her Obituary in the Oregonian, June 29,2018): “teacher and parent educator for the Neighborhood House cooperative nursery school; classroom teacher and teacher-trainer for the initial years of the Portland Public Schools Head Start program; child development specialist and training coordinator for the Metropolitan Community Child Care Coordinating Council; faculty member and early childhood specialist for Portland State University's Head Start training office; faculty member at Pacific Oaks College Northwest, teaching courses in anti-bias education and developmental education; and program reviewer and training consultant for the national and regional Head Start training offices.”

Rayko was a key editor for the first edition of the “Anti-Bias Curriculum” NAEYC 1989 and played a central role in anti-bias efforts in Oregon’s early childhood community for many, many years.

In addition to these career paid positions, Rayko served in several volunteer roles for Oregon AEYC through the years. She was instrumental in spear-heading the formation of the Diversity/Equity Committee and served on it for its entire duration of 10 years. That is the context that I most closely spent time with Rayko and want to share a few special memories with you.

On the Diversity/Equity Committee, Rayko not only graciously hosted most of our meetings at her house but she also was the steady force of reason, critical and strategic thinking and thoughtful reflection in our group. Although she was clearly the elder in our rowdy group, she never pulled rank on us. But she did not hesitate to set us straight or to encourage deeper reflection and sometimes call for more compassion in our perspective. She was, above all else, our model for kindness and humility.

Probably the most poignant lesson Rayko tried to teach me was that of slowing down. I can still hear her urging me to lengthen the time line on some project or take more time to gather data or listen to more perspectives on the topic. I remember her stressing to me that people need more time to process change, and that institutions are slow to move towards equity and inclusion. She made the point more than once, that slowing down the process means more people buy into the ideas and that, in turn strengthens the chances for enduring change.

While Rayko was a master of guiding our anti-bias efforts in Oregon, she actually had a terrible sense of direction. We always worried about her driving to meetings alone because she often got lost. One time when we were having a rare meeting at my house in NE Portland and she was, for some reason, also bringing Louise Derman-Sparks (the National Coordinator of the Anti-Bias Movement at that time) to the meeting. Louise also has no sense of direction and I remember thinking we would probably never see either one of them again. Sure enough, two hours after the meeting start time, the two of them showed up. Rayko had a big nervous grin on her face and said, “well, we made it!” She had a way of staying grounded in the positive while never wavering from expecting change. Rayko knew what peace and justice look like and she fully expected us to get there, even if we were a little late. Maybe this was an outcome of her time in the Japanese Internment Camps.

Another favorite memory of Rayko was a moment at the close of an intense anti-bias gathering (prior to D/E Committee time) when the 3 or 4 of us who had planned and led the gathering decided we should de-brief and tape record our thoughts to send to Louise Derman-Sparks as part of documenting the local anti-bias efforts in Oregon. We sat down, turned the recorder on and someone started giggling. That led to a 5 – 6 minute unstoppable round of hysterical laughter, which we sent on to Louise. Rayko summed up the session with, “well, I guess that says it best.”

Rayko would not want us to focus on her individual legacy. She told her family that she did not want a public memorial service. Instead, we are left to honor that beautiful and humble little woman and try to remember and replicate her actions, the lessons she taught us, and her words. I believe she would say, “keep your eyes on justice and inclusion….stay the course….make the time and space to hear everyone’s thoughts….honor the process and the feelings that come up….and, have a little laughter along the way.”

It has been only recently that I realized that the ten years of that committee’s work, Rayko was in her 8th decade of life (70-80 years old). I can only hope for such grace and wisdom as those years rapidly approach for me.

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