Sumi Haru, leading advocate of actors of color, dies

The Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists issued a statement on the passing of national board member and former interim Screen Actors Guild President Sumi Sevilla Haru, who died Oct. 16 at age 75.

SAG-AFTRA President Ken Howard praised Haru for having “notably represented SAG-AFTRA and its predecessor unions for decades on our local and national boards, and as Screen Actors Guild recording secretary and interim president.” He added that she also “served our members through her lifelong dedication to actors, the labor movement, and civil rights and equal employment. She did that with conviction, passion and grace. Our deepest condolences go out to her loved ones. We will miss her.”

Haru joined the guild in 1968 and the association in 1972, serving  as a national board member for both organizations for multiple terms since 1974, the statement said. She served as interim president of the guild in 1995, the first and only woman of color to hold the position, the statement said. Haru also served as a delegate at both AFTRA and SAG-AFTRA conventions. In 2013, she was elected for a two-year term as a member of the first elected national board of the merged SAG-AFTRA.

In 1995, she became the first Asian Pacific American to serve as a national vice president of the AFL-CIO. She held the position for six years. 

Haru was a co-founder and national chair of SAG’s Ethnic Employment Opportunities Committee and Western national chair of AFTRA’s Equal Employment Opportunities Committee, the statement said. It also noted that she  originated the EEOC Career Day and helped develop SAG’s affirmative action conferences. She was a negotiator of “American Scene” language and affirmative action clauses for SAG’s national TV/Theatrical and Commercials contracts and for AFTRA’s national Network Television and Commercials agreements. In 2009, Haru received SAG’s Ralph Morgan Award, for distinguished service to SAG’s Hollywood Division.

Haru was born in Orange, New Jersey on Aug. 25, 1939.

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