SHARON SHAW ON:
Her unofficial-official title:
Ako ang nanay sa palengke. Translation from Tagalog: "I am the Market Mother." (I made her say this.)
I grew up in the Philippines, but I was born in Singapore, because my parents were literally in the jungle in Borneo at the time, and my mom was flown to Singapore for me to be born.
My father was in the service when I was very young. He was in Asia and absolutely loved it and decided that's where he wanted to spend his career. He became a tropical logging engineer and was heavily involved in reforestation. And two years after being in Borneo, my father was offered a job in the Philippines. I spent the next sixteen years in the Philippines. I went to an international school in Manilla. Then, on my own I came to Seattle for my senior year in high school. The Philippines was getting a little scary. It was martial law, Philippines' President Marcos and Imelda were in power. I was not a soft-spoken person. I just knew it was time, and my mom was waiting for me to say it's time. We would come to Seattle every other year on home leave. So for the first six months in Seattle, I stayed with my dad's youngest brother and his wife. Then I got a job and was eventually earning more than enough money to support myself so I moved out on my own.
It was just life for me. I felt I never actually learned about prejudice until I came to the United States. I also didn't realize what a very privileged life we had. We had servants--who were like family, too--and I had a maid, who was also my nanny and we were very very close. One of the really big cultural differences is the value Filipinos place on revering and taking care of their families. That made a huge impression on me.
I never had any household chores. When I moved here my aunt took one whole weekend and showed me how to live a normal life with housekeeping and chores, because I would come in and throw my coat on the floor.
Becoming part of the Market:
I graduated high school and I was not at all interested in going to college. I was working for a property management firm in West Seattle in the early 80's--very understaffed and very poorly paid, and my release was coming to the Market. I met Mike Ruegamer of the Cinnamon Works and he kept asking me to come and work for him, knowing I wasn't happy in my job. Then one week, when work was just more than I could deal with, I came to the Market to walk around, and there was Mike and he asked me again--and I said okay. So I became his manager, and that's where it started.
Where the passion comes from:
That is a big question. The Market is a community and a family I have come to care for tremendously. It's an amazing group of people who look out for each other, and it's just the all-inclusiveness that attracts me so much. I love the fact that no matter who you are or what you are, you are welcome here and you can become a member of our family.
Biggest Market Inspiration:
Market craftsperson, Susan Sauls. Just the nuttiest, craziest, most fantastic person I ever knew. She passed away in 2011. In 2004 we knew each other, but we didn't know each other. She came to me and asked if I wanted to work on the Joe Robinson fundraiser. So we talked about it -- and we became forces beyond.
We got so much media, we got Joe's whole high school involved and it ended up being such an enormous success--and it was just Susan Sauls and I that did it. It made me realize that I'm really good at this.
Susan wouldn't talk to people, but her organizational skills....she would type up things furiously to send to the news stations and we would meet and organize. We did quite a few fundraisers together.
The Market Safety Net:
The Safety Net is a bank account that's open to anyone who works or lives in the Pike Place Market. It will pay an emergency bill of up to $1000 once every two years. It started as a farmer relief fund which I worked on. Then I did a fundraiser for craftsperson Loni McIntosh. We raised something like $28,000. Lillian Sherman of the Market Foundation came to that event and she was completely blown away. She asked if I would do that same thing for the Safety Net, and to open it to other Market people, not just farmers. At first I said that's a really good idea, but my father-in-law got sick and I was taking care of him and I had no extra time at all. Lillian asked Kathy Allen if she would consider doing this. Kathy said if she headed it up and I helped, maybe it would work. And I said yes and that was the beginning of the Behind the Table fundraiser--a silent and live auction with entertainment and dinner. After that first year, Kathy stepped down and Miranda Arney and I talked about it--and with Kenneth Telesco and Laura Killoran--the four of us were basically the root of it. That went on for three more years. We were burnt out, but I knew I could not let the safety net die, because so many people have used it and are still using it, so I came up with the idea to collect $5 a month or $60 a year from anybody and everybody for the safety net. The response is very good. Everybody thinks it's a fantastic idea. [To support the Safety Net, see the "Jump Into the Safety Net" box below.]
Inspirational/successful safety net stories:
No names, but one of our people's mother was on her death bed. She couldn't afford to be there so the safety net provided the airline ticket for her to go. To me, that was incredible. And there was another gentleman with serious dental issues. For him it was a matter of self-esteem.
Grassroots politics for healthy communities:
It's simple. Basic compassion for every person is the key to not only supporting, but guiding this community.
The Constituency's role:
I think it's very necessary and it has been underplayed. There's so much politics involved in the Market that the community needs something like the Constituency to represent them to the PDA. I think the Constituency today is going to be more active; there's more awareness in regards to it.
Why everyone should join the Constituency:
So you feel a part of this family. So you have a voice in how the Market is run and taken care of.
SHARON SHAW--THE QUICK Q AND A:
What does being the Market Mother mean to you?
(laughs) I think that is very funny because I'm just me. I've always been a caretaker.
How did the name Market Mother come to be?
People started calling me Mama Sharon. I think they trusted me to ask a question, and that they would get a straight answer. They trusted me to find out when I didn't know. And then I think Market Master, David Dickinson might have been the first to officially say Market Mother.
What's your favorite season at the Market?
September-October is my favorite time at the Market. The weather's perfect. The customers are easier to deal with. There's still good business, but it's not insane.
If you had a month to go anywhere, where would you go?
Maui. Because it's amazing. I love the energy and the laid-back feeling.
What city would you like to visit that you've never been to?
Growing up, who was your biggest celebrity crush?
David Cassidy. At that point, being in Mindanao, Philippines, American music was really hard to come by. I was given an album of The Partridge Family. I would fantasize about being his girlfriend.
As you know, Constituency dues are only a dollar. If you go back to when you were ten years old and you had that dollar, how would you have spent it?
At ten years old--that would be one peso in the Philippines. I would be saving it for the community movies and buying garlic peanuts.
You are the mother of our Market. Do you have a message for your mother?
My mom is in Tasmania. I guess my basic message is thank you, mom, for creating the foundation that you did.
JUMP! -- INTO THE SAFETY NET
The Pike Place Market Safety Net is "insurance" available to EVERYONE in the Market: Residents, Merchants, Farmers, Musicians, Craftspeople and Agents. You can receive up to $1000 in emergency assistance. Make sure we can continue to help our neighbors -- and ourselves. Recommended support level is $5 a month, ongoing, or $60 annually.
OR - Look for……. the Market Mother, Sharon Shaw.
Remember to join the Constituency today!! Still only $1.00. Sign up cards are available at the PDA office front desk. — Haley Land
Join the Constituency and our Community Today!