Name: Jigme Ugen
What is your job?
Vice-President of SEIU Healthcare - Minnesota (Service Employees International Union) representing over 17,000 healthcare workers in the state, part of the largest and strongest labor union in North America with over 2.2 million members.
What causes are most important to you – and why?
I participate and stay involved in any and all causes and fights that emphasize the disparity on racial, social and economic justice, anywhere in the world. But my most important fight of course is for my country Tibet’s independence.
Since China illegally invaded Tibet in 1949, over 1.2 million Tibetans have been killed, more than 6000 ancient monasteries destroyed; there are countless political prisoners, genocide , population transfer, environmental destruction, and the list goes on. Innocent Tibetans peacefully rallying on the streets of Tibet are mercilessly shot with automatic weapons, ruthlessly beaten with spiked batons or were later arbitrarily sent to prison to be tortured or killed.
What organizations do you support – and how?
For almost my entire life, I have been a member of the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC), based out of Dharamsala, India. TYC is the largest Tibetan non-governmental organization in the world fighting for Tibet’s independence.
Why do you have a passion for this one in particular, is there a personal tie?
I have had the honor to serve three terms (2 years each) at different times as an Executive member, General Secretary and President of its regional chapters. My late father strongly supported and stood with this organization’s aims and objectives; one of his proudest moments (which I heard later) was my service to this organization. I still overhear my nine year old daughter proudly speak of my roles with TYC with her friends. This organization serves as one of the most powerful platforms for Tibetans in-exile to effectively and effusively realize their responsibilities and duties towards their country and its people.
Is there a particular way you would want to encourage readers to be involved?
Over a hundred young Tibetans have burned themselves calling for the return of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama to Tibet and for Tibet’s independence. So long as China continues to illegally occupy Tibet, the indefinable oppression of the Tibetan people will continue; and so will continue rightfully demanding for independence.
I urge readers to stand with Tibetans and supporters who’ve been repeatedly calling on governments of this world and the United Nations to heed to the demands of the Tibetans suffering in Tibet. They can call on their government and speak to their elected leaders to recognize the Tibetan people’s aspirations and to help ensure the demand for an independent Tibet.
Do you have any tattoos that relate to your work?
On my right hand: A sad cherub. Medusa. Themis, the Goddess of Justice.
These are dedicated to the determination and defiance by women who have successfully fought back and won when society underrated, devalued, cursed and misrepresented them. It was to honor my grandmothers who taught me to fight back.
On my left arm: A faded red dragon - a reminder of impermanence, no matter how terrorizing and powerful it once may have been.
My next tattoo will be on my left wrist: “Tibet Forever”
Mention artists if you’d like:
Someday when I visit Dharamsala, I look forward to working with my Tibetan brother, the amazingly talented tattoo artist Tamding Tseten