Our Fellows
State House Fellowship Program 2011 Fellows
Misaki Nishimiya  Hometown: Gloucester, Massachusetts

School/Major: UMass Boston /B.A. in Theater Arts |  Ethnicity: Japanese-American | Other Language(s): Japanese

On first finding my political voice:  I was never interested in politics until the spring of 2010.  At this time, tragic news reached my church community about our members in Japan being abducted because of their religion. Many young women were being raped to force them to denounce their faith. Worst of all, the Japanese government knowingly wasn't taking any action against these violations. The church leaders here in the United States talked to representatives in Washington D.C. about these violations of human rights in Japan, hoping that in turn the representatives would put pressure on the Japanese government to take action.  I was angry. I wanted to do something.  I wasn't in Japan.  I wasn't in Washington D.C. What could I do?  I was in a playwriting course at the time, and that's where I found my outlet.  I wrote about religious freedom and was able to educate my peers in class.  In writing this play, I found a voice for myself as well as for the victims on the other side of the world in Japan.

My hectic fellowship semester:  When I started the fellowship program, I was thrown into a very different environment.  Literally, after my hours at the State House, I jumped onto the T to class at UMass where I was building and painting set pieces and constructing costumes for the school production.  I'd then return to my apartment to read lengthy articles on the experiences of multiracial individuals and prominent plays written in the 20th century. Any free time I had went to my work-study hours, any theater electrician work I could find to bring in some sort of income, or AAWPI fellowship meetings.  It was a whirlwind of a semester that only intensified after the tsunami in Japan; the anxiety of having family in the affected area weighed heavily on me. Ultimately, the very thing that pulled me through was the incredibly supportive network of people in AAWPI.

What I learned during my fellowship: Through this fellowship, I now feel that I have a strong grasp on how the legislature, and state government as a whole, functions.  I also found myself reading newspapers consistently about politics and policies and seeing the connections between my life and the things that were happening in the legislature.  In attending meetings, hearings, and ceremonies at the State House, I could see the voice of the people at work.   I am so grateful to be a part of AAWPI and to have been able to explore the field of politics and public service as well as look inside of myself.

What I'm doing now: Assistant Stage Manager, New Repertory Theatre

Placement: State Representative Kay Khan (D-Newton),
Chair of the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities

Leading the movement
to engage and empower
Asian-American women
in politics and government