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-2-31-4

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BS: And so in 2016, you took on the role of Seattle JACL president and held that position for a couple years. And so what types of goals did you have going in and what types of challenges did you face? Can you describe any significant accomplishments or takeaways from your time as president within the Seattle JACL?

SB: I think my goals and challenges were almost one and the same, that being, like, don't freak out, don't die. Because I think this is kind of an ongoing theme is that I really did not know what I was getting myself into, and I was like, sure, I'll do this thing. But, again, giving Bill credit, I have a lot of support from folks in the chapter. I remember meeting with Bill multiple times, just to kind of like, get the big picture scope of like, what was going on with Seattle JACL as well as some of the historic stuff. And I think that was one of my biggest challenges was coming into the organization as a fresh set of eyes. There was a lot that I was like, I don't I don't know about our history. I don't know about a lot of that kind of stuff as well as nonprofit governance, that sort of thing. So there was a big learning curve as far as that goes. But again, I had so much support from different folks in the chapter, I mean, as well as just like the JACL, as an organization that I've met at national convention and stuff like that. And pretty much folks are like, if you have the passion, and you have the drive, and you're interested in doing this kind of work, like, we'll support you, and we'll help you figure out how to do it. And then, yeah, I ended up being chapter president for four years kind of accidentally. [Laughs]

BS: And so something that we've talked about a little bit already is how progressive the Seattle JACL is compared to other JACL organizations and other locations. And so would you say, like, one of your goals maybe was bringing in people that don't necessarily have just a JA history and trying to outreach more within the community to other people?

SB: Yeah, yeah, definitely. Again, the work that we've been doing in the LGBTQ community, as well as the work that we've been doing for a while, really, but with like the Muslim community, I would say, like, one of the bigger things that I recall, is right when President Trump got elected, that was a really, really tough time for a lot of communities for a lot of reasons that I don't need to get into, we all understand. But when he enacted the Muslim ban, a bunch of us just organized right away. And so that night, like a big group of folks from Seattle JACL jumped on the light rail, went to the airport, and were part of that protest. In fact, that just came up in my Facebook memories like yesterday. I was like, oh, yeah, remember that time that you almost got maced at the airport? That was cool. [Laughs] But yeah, and the following day, there was a big demonstration at the Westlake Center. And I spoke in front of, like, I don't even know, it was like, ten thousand people or something like that. And I think that was like one of a really, like a very big eye opening moment for me where I was like, wow, I'm part of an organization that, you know, historically, Japanese Americans have had the incarceration experience, and so we can really speak to this and say "never again is now," right. And to be able to have that, like, weight and leverage to help other communities is just so, so powerful. And so that was one moment in particular where I was like, damn, we can really make a difference, right? Like we can really help teach people that this is, what's happening right now is very significant, and that we shouldn't just be like sitting back and doing nothing. We have to say something about it. Because people didn't do that for Japanese Americans back during World War II, so it's up to us to make that change.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2022 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.