A professor and a playwright, Judi Komaki can’t honestly say which thrilled her more – her book about leaders in action or her Off-Off-Broadway play. She’s now passionate about promoting social justice at work, though the journey has not been the most direct. Despite coming of age during the heady 1960s, she assiduously avoided anything to do with discrimination. The impetus came from her art.
In 1995, Komaki wrote a play about a woman of American Japanese descent like herself. In struggling to explain why her character shunned anything to do with her race, Komaki was forced to see how the slant of her eyes had affected her own life and those of her aunts and uncles who were imprisoned in internment camps during World War II by of one the greatest democracies in the world.
In 1996, when Texaco executives were accused of disparaging African-American employees, she was struck with the enormity of the problem and explored potential solutions. As a researcher at Georgia Tech, Purdue, Maryland, and now CUNY, she visited poultry processing plants and the U.S. Marine Corps to improve the results in such areas as incident reduction and equipment maintenance. Komaki is particularly proud of her article “Daring to Dream,” which contains recommendations for the CEO of ChevronTexaco about how to promote even-handedness of evaluations and increase minority representation at the executive level.
Coming full circle, Komaki has incorporated the results of her research into her art. In her next play, Brothers Want Beets, the brothers and their modern-day counterparts discover how to overcome their “blind spots.”