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-2-31-3

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BS: And you've mentioned some of the work that Seattle JACL has done for the LGBTQ+ community. But from what I've learned, you've done a lot of events as well. In 2015, I believe you chaired an API LGBTQ+ event to bring build a foundation for an API PFLAG, Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays group to be based in the Seattle area. And you also hosted another event shortly after that. Do you think your events were successful? And these events happened six years ago. Do you believe that Seattle and the rest of the country has made progress towards creating safe spaces and communities for LGBTQ+ individuals?

SB: Yeah, so I'm gonna again have to give Bill a lot of credit here. Because Bill is really the person that kind of brought me on to that project. And so Marsha Aizumi, who is this just incredible leader within PFLAG, Bill had seen her speak. And Bill, feel free to weigh in if I'm retelling the story wrong, but I think I have the facts right. But Bill had seen her speak and was... Bill came to her and said, "Hey, Seattle JACL would be interested in doing some programming, maybe with PFLAG, in the Seattle area." And so we'd gotten like, maybe one or two grants to do that work, but it just hadn't quite lifted off of the ground yet. And so, in 2014, when I joined the chapter folks asked the question, like, "Would you be interested in kind of chairing this body of work?" And so I was like, "Yeah, sure." Not knowing what I was getting myself into. But it turned into this huge one-day conference that had like, full-day multiple workshops, like a keynote speaker, it was Marsha, she flew in for the event, we had people from across the United States. And for those reasons, I would say that it was really successful, because it wasn't just about the Japanese American community. It was about like the pan-Asian community and supporting LGBTQ folks from different intersections, right, whether you identify that way yourself, or whether you're a family member or a friend. And it's, it was really cool to see because I think that was one of the first events of its kind, where it was about the Asian American community coming together. And it just brought folks from all different types of organizations and backgrounds, like I mentioned from across the U.S., and it went so well that we did it a second year and had even more people come, so that was super, super cool. Yeah, I'm just remembering how stressed out I was when I was doing that. Like, as we got closer to the event, I would, like, have these nightmares where it'd be like, oh, my god, I forgot to get the table tents for this thing. [Laughs] And I'd wake up freaking out. But they went well and, like, yeah, the chapter was super, super supportive. I don't know, Bill, do you think I'm missing anything?

BT: No, I just wanted to point out just two things. The first thing is that actually, Marsha Aizumi was referred to us by the National JACL president of the time, Priscilla Ouchida, because she approached Priscilla about how they, how JACL could be involved. And Priscilla was the one that said, "You need to talk to Seattle, because they're the ones that are out there, and they can be supportive." And that's how we... she came up to us. And then just a side note, what was funny about the whole thing there is, later as we talked, I realized she was the daughter of a really close family friend that I grew up with. But the thing about the conference that was so cool, and Sarah, there's, there's so much breadth and width to that project. And you know, you had all the displays of the community organizations and all these representatives, and the entertainment was fabulous. I still remember opening and having a local, a well-known Asian drag queen, come down the Seattle Central cafeteria staircase, and to a disco song. And yeah, that's not something you usually see at a JACL event. It was groundbreaking. So thank you, Sarah.

SB: That was fun, and I've performed with that drag queen since then. [Laughs] So that was fun, too.

BS: Yeah, definitely.

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