James and Inja Yates

James and Inja have been married for over fifty seven years. Inja is Korean and was born in Japan. She identifies herself as “a country hick, an American through and through with Korean heritage. A true world citizen.”  James is of African American Indian heritage and was born in Philadelphia, PA. They have three children and seven grandchildren. James and Inja are the founders of Soul 2 Seoul scholarship foundation. Soul 2 Seoul’s primary mission is to provide assistance and options to mixed race students of African American and Asian ancestry, and multiracial students who actively promote racial unity. Their purpose is to encourage young people to build positive futures for themselves, to elevate their self image, facilitate their growth, and to become role models for their success. Soul 2 Seoul has been a dream of theirs inspired in the 1960’s by a promise to a young boy In Korea to help him find his father who was in the military and left Korea without knowing he had fathered a son. “As survivors of almost 50 years of marriage as an interracial couple we’ve come to see that mixed race kids are bright with big warm hearts but the emotional burdens put on them by society are tremendous. They throw bricks at them no matter the community they live in. Mixed race kids face the chaos of statistically unusual high divorce rate that brings on emotional problems. They can’t identify who they are and aren’t always sure where they fit in. We are fortunate to be able to bring our kids up in an educationally and emotionally supportive environment. At the time there was no support from the African American or Korean community. It was us against the world. Soul 2 Seoul wants to help give mixed race kids a chance.” Over the past 14 years they have awarded over 30 scholarships to students from across the country.  James and Inja have photos of the scholarship winners in the kitchen and living room alongside their children and grandchildren and proudly discuss all of their accomplishments. The Yates own a Beachwood Canyon home in California with a perfect view from their balcony of the iconic Hollywood sign. Airbnb did a wonderful article on James and Inja last June. Hosting on Airbnb has helped them expand the scholarship. James was one of four Airbnb hosts that were selected to run the Olympic torch during the 2016 Olympics in Rio. They love sharing their home and meeting new people from all over the world. Inja enjoys cooking breakfast for others. “I went through two wars: World War II, in Japan, and the Korean War. So I know what starvation was like. I used to say to myself, “One day, if I can afford to, I will never let anyone, especially in my home, go hungry.” Recently James and Inja called me to inform me that I have been chosen as one of the recipients of this year’s scholarship due to my work with the Project RACE and the multiracial population.  I am deeply appreciative and they have inspired me to hopefully one day be able to provide scholarships to impact future generations as they are doing. I hope I have the honor of having my picture in their home. Knowing people are waiting on me to accomplish great things is just another reason to continue striving harder for my dreams. Thank you for believing in myself and so many others.

Picture Credit: airbnbcitizen.com

MaKensie Shay McDaniel

Project RACE Teens Co-President