Densho Digital Repository
Seattle JACL Oral History Collection
Title: Sarah Baker Interview
Narrator: Sarah Baker
Interviewers: Brent Seto, Bill Tashima
Date: January 29, 2022
Densho ID: ddr-sjacl-2-31-2

<Begin Segment 2>

BS: And what motivated your interest in becoming involved with Japanese American community? Like, can you tell us what drew you to the Seattle JACL and what drove you to become a board member?

SB: Yeah, so my friend Gabrielle, who I went to high school with, she met Bill and got involved with the JACL. And she had reached out to me in 2014 and was like, "Hey, I'm just getting involved with this organization. I think, you know, knowing what I know about you and your, like, passion for helping other people like this would be of interest." And so in like the summer of 2014, I went to my first board meeting, and immediately they were like, "Hey, we have like applications to send youth to our national convention in like a month, do you want to go?" And I was like, "Yeah, sure." And then it was kind of like a snowball effect from there. But as far as getting involved in the Japanese American community, like, so my grandmother is from Japan, she immigrated to the United States in 1958. Is that right? Yeah, '58. And like, because my family was in the north end, we didn't have a lot of ties to the Japanese American community, because the north end is mostly white folks. Surprise, redlining, it happens. And, you know, we had gone to like Obon when I was a kid, that kind of thing. But I've never really been, like, super immersed in the community. And so the JACL was an opportunity to not only get involved in like civil rights and social justice work, but also like my own identity. And getting to meet folks that look like me and have similar family experiences. And so like those two things just really, really meshed well together.

BS: I've heard a lot of stories about Bill bringing so many people into the JACL. He's clearly a good recruitment person.

SB: He really is. One of my favorite questions to ask people is like, how many of you feel personally victimized by Bill? People are like, oh, it's me. Bill brought me in. [Laughs]

BS: Yeah. And you served as like the vice president for the National JACL twice, I believe, and that means you were in charge of press releases on national JACL policies, if I'm remembering correctly?

SB: That is correct.

BS: What do you think you have been... what have been some of your most important contributions that your generation has made to improving developing the JACL?

SB: Oh, my gosh. Oh, that's such like, I don't even know how to answer that question. I'm trying to think. So as far as like National JACL goes, I was first involved with our national youth student council. So I was the PNW Youth Rep, I think was the title for a while. And then, yeah, I've been VP for public affairs for the last two terms, I'm terming out in July, I think is when our next convention is. But it's just been an interesting progression going from just starting out on the chapter level, getting involved with our district, and then going to the national side, and the different like young folks that I've been able to work with, I think that JACL has like a very long and illustrious history, I mean, Seattle, JACL is a hundred years old, right? And there's, with that a lot of institutional knowledge and background that is just so rich. And simultaneously, we have these young folks that are coming in, that either have grown up with that background, or are kind of unaware of it kind of like me, right? Like coming into the JACL, I didn't have like that familial connection, that community connection. And so for us young folks to be able to want to champion things like LGBTQ rights, or the Black Lives Matter movement, has sometimes been met with resistance from certain members of the organization, definitely not the Seattle chapter, I can say that they have been so, so, so supportive of all that stuff, which is awesome. And why I'm proud to be a Seattle JACL member. But I think that the youth of my generation, specifically, were really pushing the envelope on a lot of these issues, and pushing back against, like, what the norm was for the JACL. Because again, historically, right, it's been about the incarceration experience, which absolutely is incredibly important to keep telling that story. But I think that what we want to figure out is how we can continue telling that story in a way that uplifts other communities. And sometimes that doesn't always align with what other folks have done in the past.

BS: Yeah, thank you.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2022 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.