Densho Digital Repository
Seattle JACL Oral History Collection
Title: Akemi Matsumoto Interview
Narrator: Akemi Matsumoto
Interviewers: Alison Fujimoto, Dr. Kyle Kinoshita
Date: December 1, 2020
Densho ID: ddr-sjacl-2-26-6

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AF: And were there any other events or people related to Seattle JACL that you think are worth mentioning that we haven't mentioned before?

AM: Yes, I really want to talk about the Nisei women. So JACL is an all-volunteer organization, and it was really built on the backs of Nisei women after World War II. So without that volunteer group that was so dedicated, oh my god, every week, and in those days, we used to lick the stamps and fold the newsletters and mail them out, the postage on it. And yeah, it was a lot of hard work. But those little activities are the things that sustain an organization and build community. So you know, you talk to each other, you get to know each other really well, when you're making sushi to sell at Cherry Blossom Festival, or fighting over the recipes or whatever, whatever activities you're doing. But without the help of all those Nisei woman, the organization would not have sustained itself. And I see that with these pan Asian organizations. And I don't say it's uniquely Japanese, that the women volunteered so often and over such long periods of time, like thirty-five years, every week they would do things. But there's something probably having to do with the incarceration, where you pull together as a community.

AF: Yeah.

AM: And if you said you were going to do something, you did it. So I think those are the real heroes of Seattle JACL.

AF: Got it. Were there any other topics that you wanted to discuss that we missed today, on a more general note?

AM: Just about JACL? Well I'm just so proud that we're the rogue, rogue progressive chapter. And I'm so proud that it was founded in Seattle in the building where we used to have prayer meetings. And that, I think one of the things that's the hallmark of Seattle JACL is that we're very inclusive. So even though the Nisei men were very sexist, they were sexist in the way that they grew up, right? That was their world, and yet they were willing to expand. So first, you started seeing more women's leadership. You started seeing more presidents who were women, and then welcoming gays, welcoming other ethnicities as our presidents. So you go to national JACL meetings, and there would be Vietnamese presidents from Texas of JACL. So that's a big step. If you knew my dad, I mean, he's so ethnocentric Japanese. And welcoming hapa and welcoming all the diversity that exists in, in America. I think our organization is sort of an example of the struggle that it takes to be inclusive. So it takes debates and disagreement and expansion and contraction and whatever. But I think JACL really does that.

AF: Got it. Thank you for that.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2020 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.