Duque-Yangson, Rissa

In 2005 my then fiancé, BJ Alisago unexpectedly passed away.  I had been living in the Washington, DC Metro area and felt empty.  I had been a student activist in the SF Bay Area and relocated to the east coast to take care of my family.  When BJ died, I felt a void in my heart and my soul yearned to be part of something more meaningful.  I applied to an open part time position with the I-Hotel Manilatown Center to become inspired. Sylvia Vivar was the interim executive director, Chelsea Sullivan was the office manager, and the Manilatown Heritage Foundation office was in the Mint Mall.  (We used to get contact high from sharing the building with a Medicinal Cannabis Club!  LOL)

With references from Jaymee Faith Sagisi and Erin Dawn Pasaporte, I got the job.  I later became the Program Coordinator when the I-Hotel Manilatown Center opened up.  As we built our programs and conducted tours of this amazing historical site, I became inspired by Uncle Al, Uncle Bill, and so many other OG activists.  My heart swelled with pride and I felt complete.  I later met the archival coordinator, Mitchell Yangson, whom I was warned was a bit inaccessible and difficult to work with.  I was tasked out to reel him in for more gallery hours and team projects.  I was successful in getting him more involved but fell in love with him in the process.  We now have two beautiful children together and I owe it all to the history, love, empowerment, and inspiration of the I-Hotel.  I found my way home to the I-Hotel, filled my emptiness with love from the people, and met my babies’ Daddy.
The journey through our community’s history of resistance and resilience helped fuel my own resilience.  It’s a story I hope to pass on to my children.