Slow Down With
BAY AREA, CALIFORNIA
Meet Emi Ito, a mom, ethnic studies educator, and founder of @buyfrombipoc residing in the Bay Area. She shares her passion for bringing social justice to the classroom, being a practicing Buddhist, and how she shows up authentically in life and motherhood.
Where do you find your inspiration (drive, passion, etc.) in work and life?
My biggest inspiration has always been the young people I’ve had the honor of teaching and learning from. And now that I’m a mother, I’m constantly inspired by my own brave and wild child. After this summer, I will enter my twentieth year as an educator. I would not have lasted this long in teaching without being passionate about bringing social justice- specifically, ethnic studies, to our classrooms– and seeing the profoundly positive impact this kind of approach to education brings to the lives of our young people.
What hobbies/interests/activities are a large part of your identity?
Being a classroom teacher typically means having very little time to do much else. Still, on some level, I have always been involved with grassroots organizing work connected to identity and social justice. It wasn’t until I became a mother and could work part-time, which I want to acknowledge was a privilege that not all educators can do, that I explored more hobbies. I learned how to sew, began writing more, and realized I wanted to ensure my child was grounded in a Buddhist practice, so I joined our local temple and became a Dharma School teacher. Cultural and ancestral connection is extremely important to me. Most of my interests are tied to those themes.
Where can we find you on the weekend?
On weekends we might be at a protest, a cultural or community event, hiking, camping, or playing board games, but on a Saturday night, you can find us snuggled on the couch with a bowl of popcorn for family movie night. We rarely miss a family movie night!
What slow moments in life do you savor the most?
I’m so grateful to live in the Bay Area on unceded Lisjan Ohlone land, which has such accessible nature all around. Taking our child on hikes, walks, or camping– by the Bay or in the redwoods- is a gift. I especially savor those family moments because I get to support and witness how our child is nurturing her own relationship with what Japanese American artist Chiura Obata called dai shizen, or great nature. I want our child to love the earth deeply to understand how our wellness and future are tied together. These family excursions let her develop that relationship with the natural world and herself. She is her truest and happiest self when she is outdoors.
What steps do you take to show up authentically in your work and relationships?
As an educator, strong relationships are the foundation of a strong classroom community. I do my best to nurture kind and respectful relationships in all aspects of my life. I don’t always succeed, and I’ve certainly made many, many mistakes in my years of teaching and living, but as a practicing Buddhist, I want to keep trying in each new moment, to show up fully, to do the work within and without to make my community a better place. That means I apologize to my child or other young people when I make mistakes that harm them. It means I’m accountable to adults in my community and do my best to own my part and speak my truth. It also looks always remembering that I’m my child’s first teacher. I have a responsibility to be in a constant self-inquiry process to do and be better. The lesson I’m working on teaching her and re-teaching myself is that it’s okay to take up space as a girl/woman of color; that our voices and stories matter.
What are you wearing when you feel the most like yourself?
I feel the most me– when I’m comfortable. I’m now in my 40s and must wear comfortable clothes and shoes. I don’t want tight-waisted pants that pinch me. I don’t want shoes that make my feet ache. I want to feel stylish, yes, but comfortable, hell yes. My style is increasingly turning into my mother’s style, and I couldn’t be happier. She wore linens, wools, and natural fibers with touches of her Japanese heritage, and I have been emulating that more and more.
What do you love about the ZX style you chose, and how has it filled gaps in your wardrobe or solved a styling rut you previously had?
I’m a Cancer, for my fellow astrology nerds, and I love wearing vintage clothing and items that conjure up nostalgia. I adore the Uchi Flat in Marfil because they take me back to the 1990s when I was a pre-teen and teenager, but with a grown-up twist that makes me feel like I’m not just copying the young kids who are just now discovering the joy of the 90s! Sadly I didn’t save any of my Doc Martens, crushed velvet tops, or slip dresses, so the Uchi Flat scratches that itch to join in on the trendy fun subtly and tastefully. They are incredibly comfortable. I wear them to park playdates, grown-up friend playdates and also dates with my hubby. I love their versatility and how the cream color makes each outfit pop.