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

<Begin Segment 1>

BT: Okay. Welcome everybody. This is another interview in our series for our Legacy Fund Grant that we received through the National JACL to record the history of the legacy of the Japanese American Citizens League here in Seattle. And today, we're going to interview Sarah Baker, an amazing person who served as unprecedented president for our chapter for four terms. And leading the interview will be our UW intern, Brent Seto. And with that, I'm going to turn it over to Brent.

BS: All right, yeah. Hi, everyone. Thank you, Bill for the introduction. And just to give a brief introduction about myself as well, I use he/him pronouns, and I am one of the JACL interns for this year, and I'm a junior at the University of Washington double majoring in Political Science and Law, Societies and Justice. Within my majors, my focus is on international relations, courts and legal institutions, and human rights. I'm passionate about activism and advocacy, heavily involved in the student government on campus through the Student Senate. Just a fun fact about me is that in my free time I like to rock climb and play tennis. I'm originally from San Jose, California, and I wanted to intern with the JACL because I am a fourth generation Japanese American, but I actually know very little about JA history and culture. And the JACL provided me with an opportunity to connect with the JA community and learn more about myself and my identity. So Stephanie is a new member of the interview and is joining us to audit, and would you like to just say like a little introduction about yourself for the recording?

ST: Yeah, Hi, I'm Stephanie Terasaki, she/her pronouns. I'm a new member of the Seattle JACL and part of the Civil Rights Committee, as well as the legacy committee here. And I'm excited to audit this. And my background is in arts and culture in the Seattle area, and I'm a Seattle native. So thank you for letting me audit.

BS: All right, thank you. And then, I guess, jumping right into it, Sarah, can you tell us a little about yourself? Like, where were you born and raised and what are your ties to the city of Seattle?

SB: Yeah, so Sarah Baker, she/her pronouns. Yeah. Born and raised here in Seattle, so I was born in Ballard and raised mostly like in the north end. Yeah, I'm also, I have your interview questions up, so I'm using them as a reference point. Let's see, I went to Summit K-12 for high school, which is relevant because it was like a very small, like social justice art school. My graduating class, I think was like less than thirty people. And, you know, as I mentioned, it was a social justice based school, and so that's kind of like where I got my start doing this type of like advocacy work that we'll talk about more later, I'm sure. But yeah, been in Seattle my whole life. I've worked in Pike Place Market for almost twenty years now, which is pretty crazy to think about. In fact, I just had to pull up my W-2, I'm applying for jobs, and I was like, oh my god, I started working there in like, 2005, I think. Wild! [Laughs]

BS: Yeah, that's really cool. I've heard that you work for a vegetable stand over there. Like, that's such a cool job. What do you think of your work, and how has it impacted you so far?

SB: Oh, my gosh, I mean, working in Pike Place, like, if you can work down there for any extended period of time, I'm pretty sure that you can work anywhere. It's rough, because they are not doing this as much these days. But back when the cruise ships were in full swing, you might have like, I don't know, four ships docked, and there'd be like, hundreds of thousands of people coming through every day and it's just total chaos. So I think that, like, having that experience definitely lends itself to being able to work with people from all different walks of life, all different intersectionalities, like, my customer service skills are so on point. [Laughs]

BS: Yeah, that makes sense. I totally get that.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2022 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<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.

<Begin Segment 3>

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.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2022 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

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.

<Begin Segment 5>

BS: Yeah, and then just building off of that, has the Seattle JACL done any work to protest the inhumane border conditions, or like the inhumane conditions migrants face such as at the Northwest Detention Center? Because I feel like the incarceration of Japanese Americans and the incarceration of migrants have a lot of similarities in many regards.

SB: Yeah, there are a lot of parallels there. And yeah, absolutely. There's been work done in that particular respect a little bit while I was president, and I think, I feel a lot while Stan Shikuma, our current president, has been at the helm. And I mean, yeah, there's been demonstrations at the Northwest Detention Center. Seattle JACL has worked really closely with Tsuru for Solidarity, to do different events. When Tsuru first started getting going, they had a call, because they were going to bring paper cranes to... oh, my gosh, why am I forgetting the name for...

BT: Dilley, Texas.

SB: Yeah, in Texas. And Seattle JACL really, really showed up for that. And, Bill, how many cranes did we end up sending? It was like...

BT: They asked for a thousand cranes, and we sent thirteen or fourteen thousand.

SB: That's... yeah, right. And it was just, again, really, really cool to see people doing something to support another community, right, because they understand the implications. And especially because a lot of us were able to make that trip, but we were like, oh, this is something very tangible that we can do and still contribute and still have our voices heard. That was really awesome.

BS: Yeah, and then that was just a little bit before my time. Could you explain the significance of the cranes for that event?

SB: Bill, do you want to explain this? You might have... I'm not, sometimes I'm not very good at explaining things.

BT: Well, I think the significance is mostly that the tsuru in Japanese culture is a symbol of hope, and it goes back to the bombing of Hiroshima. I mean, the crane goes back further than that. But the folding of the cranes goes back to Hiroshima. When one of the young girls, I think Sadako was her name, came down with leukemia. And then her dream was if she could fold a thousand cranes, tsurumai, that her wish would come true. And she was wishing to get better and for world peace, but she died before she completed it. But the thing is, since that time, people have been folding tsuru, a thousand cranes, as a symbol of hope. You go to Hiroshima, at the museum, you'll see literally hundreds of thousands of strung cranes there. And so the idea for the cranes at the incarceration camp was to give, show solidarity by hanging all these cranes on the fence that surrounds the incarceration center, and that the people would see them looking out their window and know that that, that other people cared and knew about them. And they would hear people chanting and taiko drums, and give them hope.

BS: Yeah, that's really powerful.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2022 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

BS: And, Sarah, from my research, it's pretty clear you have a passion for activism and are a social justice advocate, from leading mixed race identity workshops, to lobbying for social change, what has inspired you to continue pushing for social justice? Have you been involved in any social movements, such as BLM or Stop Asian Hate, that have made headlines in recent months? And what advice would you give to any aspiring young advocates?

SB: I think, honestly, the thing that really inspires me the most is the community. It's the people that I get to meet along the way, and the way that we support each other. Yeah, like, I would say that some of the people I've met through JACL, specifically or through the work that we've done in the broader community, I'm incredibly close with in a lot of different respects. Yeah, like, number one, always, always going to be the community. And... sorry, I'm looking at your questions. As far as things that we've done recently, I'm just going to talk about Bill a lot, I think, because Bill and I have worked really closely together over the last few years. But at the beginning of the pandemic, so gosh, when was this, like February of 2020. This was like before the pandemic had hit Washington or the United States even. And, you know, it was still mostly in Asia, and folks were scared, right? People were getting scared because it was spreading and spreading. And there was all this rhetoric going around that like, oh, it's Asians, it's Asian communities, they're dirty, they're unclean, they're spreading this pandemic. And so even before it hit the United States, we noticed that the Chinatown/International District here in Seattle, was taking a really hard hit because people weren't going down there because they were freaked out. Which is, like, so problematic. [Laughs] And already, like, those small businesses are so dependent on foot traffic, and people going and buying from them. And so, when that stopped happening, a lot of them were having a really hard time financially, and some folks were having to close, or were in danger of closing. And, you know, working full time and being in school, I was like, I can't go down there every single day myself to spend money, but what I can do is tell other people about the places that I love going to and why and to support these small businesses. And so I just started posting on my Facebook page being like, "Hey, I really love Honey Court, these are their hours, they're still open, go get these dishes from them." And Bill was like, "Hey, this is a good idea. What if we started a Facebook group and people could post about their favorite places, and why they love the ID? So we can just kind of like, share about that, and hopefully, like, send more people down there to support these small businesses?" And so, Bill and I and another friend of ours started this Facebook group. And it was, we, again, didn't know what we're doing, didn't know what we're getting into. And in the first day, we had 1000 people that wanted to join this group. And we gained 1000 people every day for, like, a couple of weeks. And eventually, like over a month and change, the group grew to like 20,000 people. And it was absolutely wild. And you know, what started out as this really small project to talk about the places we loved and why, it suddenly grew into something much, much larger than that. I think a lot of what I attribute to that is kind of a right place, right time situation. Because it was the beginning of the pandemic, no one, no one knew what the hell was going on, right, we were being told to stay in our homes, don't gather together. And from an activism standpoint, usually what we do is we gather together, we go to demonstrations, or we'd go to a restaurant together. And so not being able to do that, I think people were really at a huge loss, they didn't know what they could do. And so this really gave them a platform and an opportunity to do something that was very impactful for our community that a lot of people were very passionate about.

And so, like I said, it grew very, very quickly. And we received international recognition, like Bill and I have done interviews with different newscasters from, I think one was from Germany, and from around the United States, because, again, it just grew so quickly, and people were really looking for a way to contribute. And then in... gosh, we started that in like, late February, early March of 2020. And then by, I think it was July of 2020, the project had just gotten way too out of hand. And it kind of stopped being a platform for activism and a place for people to come together, and was becoming more a place where people wanted to argue about identity politics, essentially, and was not really a healthy place for people to be contributing anymore. And in addition to that, I personally was dealing with a lot of stuff because of it, so I had some people threatening me. And yeah, it was just not... it was becoming unsafe for a lot of reasons, so we ended up shutting it down.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2022 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

BT: But Sarah, I want to add something that you left out that I think is one of the most significant accomplishments, is I think it was around April, where you said, "Hey, we got a lot of members here. Let's try to leverage all these members, let's raise money, and buy food from the International District restaurants, and take it out to first responders." And so you started the GoFundMe campaign for this. And I remember we were talking about how much we should try to set as our goal. And I thought, well, maybe $3000? And you said, "No, let's go for, let's think bigger. Let's go $5000." And within...

SB: It ended up being like $16 or something.

BT: Yeah, it was just a remarkable amount. And we ended up going to, delivering about twenty different places.

SB: Yeah, I think it ended up being, like, I have the numbers somewhere. It was like over 800 meals, to first responders.

BT: It was just amazing and it meant, I know it meant a lot to the first responders. And the people that we went to weren't just the people in the major hospitals, we were going to clinics that were getting really slammed. And they kept thinking, oh, people forget about us. Thank you very much. So that's another one of Sarah's ideas.

BS: Yeah, that's really interesting. I think that's such a such a great community event. And have you done anything like that for the community in recent, you know, recently in recent months?

SB: Well, let's see, my friend Gabrielle and I, who I mentioned her previously, she's the one that really got me into the JACL. She and I had been planning to, again, right before the pandemic happened, have a big mixed race conference. And so it was supposed to be in person. And maybe like, a month before the event was supposed to happen, the pandemic started occurring. And we were like, oh, we have to cancel this, which really sucked, because we had like a whole bunch of really cool workshops and speakers lined up. And this event, again, was not just for like the Japanese or Asian American mixed race community, but it was supposed to be representative of all mixed race people wherever you're coming from. And instead of doing it in person, we segued and did it completely online. And so the speakers that we had originally planned to have, I think we had like, maybe three or four different online webinar workshops, and they ended up being so well received, we just kept planning. We just kept going, and because we didn't have to spend a bunch of funding on a venue and food and that kind of stuff, we were like, okay, cool, like we can just continue paying people because I'm a huge believer in paying people for their work. We can just keep paying people to come and do these workshops with us. And so a lot of that was really based on community feedback. We'd do surveys and be like, "Hey, like, what are folks interested in seeing? Like, what are the types of topics that you want to hear more about or want to engage around?" And so that was a really cool thing to do during the pandemic. Again, when there was like, you're not allowed to go to other people's houses, but we could still be a community together. And I think for the mixed race community, especially, there's not... there's, more and more things are coming up as far as like books and speakers and that kind of thing. But I think historically, there's not been a ton of resources for the mixed race community. And so to be able to provide that, especially in Seattle, right, which is a really diverse place. Yeah, was just a really neat experience.

BS: Yeah, and then, do you have like, any ideas for stuff you would like to do in the future? Like, if you could, if there were no restrictions on COVID? No restrictions on travel, that type of thing, what would you like to see happen in the future forward?

SB: That's a good question. I'm like, full disclosure, I'm in grad school, and I'm like, seven weeks away from graduating. So I'm like, what would you want to do? I'm like, I just want to finish school. [Laughs] Man, I would still love to do another mix, another mixed race conference, I would love to do another LGBTQ conference, and just make it even bigger and better than last time. I would love to do more programming that supports the Black community because obviously, that's something that's really needed right now. The JACL has done a lot of work around that recently. But I think that continuing to have that conversation, especially in the Asian American community, is really important.

BS: Yeah, and then definitely, and from what I've learned, I also know that you were involved in student government in your college as well. And as someone involved now, I can definitely see ways that it could help me later in life, but has, what were your biggest takeaways from being involved in student government?

SB: Probably that relationships are everything and that you can really leverage those when you're in student government. So as an example, like the API LGBTQ+ conference that we held, we held it at my school, because I was in student government. And I was like, "Hey, what if the student government partnered with the JACL, and we threw this event on campus, obviously, like, we can invite students and bring in the broader community." And it was just a really great synergistic partnership. In fact, the school brought in some funding for it, which was awesome. And so being able to create those partnerships, I think, was really, really important. And, you know, I still carry a lot of those today. In fact, one of our board members, her name is Renee, and she's great, was one of my bosses in student government. She was awesome, and was like, "Hey, I'm interested in getting involved with the JACL." And I pulled a Bill and I was like, "Well, why don't we come to a board meeting?" [Laughs] And she's just been involved since. So, yeah, building relationships. And just knowing that you have the ability to tap into those sometimes and being like, hey, I have this idea. And usually people are really receptive to it.

BS: And yeah, that's great.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2022 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

BS: And then you kind of talked a little bit about how you'd like to see the Japanese American community and the JACL go more into work for African Americans as well. But what direction would you like to see the Seattle JACL go and directions for activism in the future?

SB: I think that I would really love to see -- I mean, the Seattle JACL was already great at this, and I think is really like a leader in this respect -- but I would love to see the Seattle JACL just continue working with communities outside of the Japanese American community, and there's just so many opportunities to do that. And I think there are so many, like, young leaders that are up and coming that have really great ideas. And so the Seattle JACL, like, historically, we have youth scholarships, we've sent youth to convention, so maybe continuing to figure out ways to engage young people and uplift them so that they have an opportunity to have their voices heard, I think it's just so, so critical. And yeah, I would love to revamp some of the programming that we've done in the past, like sending youth to convention is one thing that I've mentioned, but as someone that started at the JACL, when I was like, in my earlier twenties, and I'm in my earlier thirties now, that has just been such an incredible experience, and I'm a huge advocate for helping other people, and I think that young folks just can make a huge difference.

BS: Yeah, and that was interesting what you said about young voices. And I know in the past, the JACL maybe hasn't always embraced young voices, but would you say currently the Seattle JACL is doing a good job of being receptive to young community leaders and young voices out there?

SB: Yeah, yeah. Oh, Seattle JACL has a history of being receptive to young voices. Yeah, I mean, myself, and I think some of my predecessors, as far as like chapter presidents go, Toshiko and Paul, Heidi, are all really great examples of young people who have made a huge dent in the local community, in the broader community. And national JACL, I think is starting to incrementally right, get into that space. I think right now, the national board is the youngest it's maybe ever been, as far as like total board members, which is really cool. But it's one of those things that you think about the people, but you also have to think about the organization as an entity and it's like steering a ship. And it's gonna take time to kind of change course, a little bit, and it's not going to be an immediate thing. But I think that's how I think of a lot of projects, is like, it's not a sprint, it's a marathon. And it's just going to take time, it's going to take energy, it's going to take a lot of passion and a lot of love. But I think there are a lot of really great folks out there that have that drive. And I think that there are a lot of really great folks like Bill, like other Seattle JACL board members, that want to support them. That, yeah, the JACL is going to keep doing some really cool work in the future.

BS: Yeah, definitely. And then I guess a follow up to that is like, are there any ways that you have tangibly seen young leaders steering the ship, as you said, towards certain issues, maybe towards certain events where it's tangibly shifting, what the national JACL is focusing on?

SB: So specifically, the first thing that came to mind is when I was on the national youth, National Youth Student Council, excuse me, or the NYSC, for short, because that's a mouthful. The NYSC, I think it's every other year, has like a luncheon at national convention, and they present an award to another organization who they think are doing outstanding work. And so there was a year that we presented the award to a BLM chapter. And it was awesome. And the speakers that came as representatives were really, really cool, and so inspirational. And that being said, there was definitely some pushback from some folks, that did not appreciate us inviting them into that space. And that was just, again, right, kind of an interesting dynamic, and looking at the history of the JACL and where it could potentially be going, and there's going to be a little bit of a clash sometimes. But that was just a really cool moment and a reminder that we're all coming from different perspectives, and we're going to have to work together in order to create change, even if we don't always agree.

BS. Yeah, definitely. I definitely agree with that.

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<Begin Segment 9>

BS: And something else that I know you're involved in is you're a dancer with dance collective, and have you been able to incorporate your identity with your art?

SB: Yeah, so again, my friend, Gabrielle, who brought me into the JACL, she is also a mixed race, Asian American identified person. And, you know, she and I over the years have had a lot of conversations about what it means to be mixed race and what it means to be Japanese American, what it means to be a queer person, right? Like, there's a lot of intersectionality going on there. And I feel really, really lucky that she's not only an incredible friend, but an incredible, like, leader and a credible activist, and an amazing choreographer. And so she has choreographed a number of pieces over the years that are about identity, about intersectionality, about intergenerational trauma, about the Japanese American experience, about being mixed race. It's a lot of things coming together. And so it's been really cool to explore my own identity, through movement and being able to share that with folks who either do identify similarly or have never had those experiences before. And just being able to live that truth, I think, is very different than what a lot of other folks have been able to do in the past, and being able to celebrate that has been a really, really neat experience that I think is pretty unique.

BS: Yeah, definitely. And would you... like do you put on shows? Is that what, from what I understand?

SB: Yeah we've performed at a number of different places. Most recently, we did a piece at the... what do they call it? The Seattle Moon Viewing festival that happens at the Seattle Japanese Garden. And so they asked Gabrielle like, "Hey, do you want to come and do this piece at the garden?" So we got to go perform there. Oh, yeah, we did a dance piece on intergenerational trauma for Densho recently for their annual fundraiser, which was all online. But we did it live, which was really neat. And we got grant funding through a number of different sources to perform a piece that Gabrielle had written and choreographed several years ago, it's called Farewell Shikata Ga Nai, which is kind of... it's about the incarceration experience through a couple of different lenses. But we got grant funding to take this piece and go and perform it at different schools around the greater Seattle area. And so we performed it for, like we went to -- speaking of relationships -- we took it to North Seattle College, because I still have a relationship with folks there. We took it to a number of like middle schools, grade schools, and then we did talk backs afterwards. So we do the dance and then we would talk to the students about what it was about and what the experience was, what it meant to us, you know, as dancers, and they got to ask questions, it was a really fun experience.

BS: That sounds like a really cool experience to have.

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<Begin Segment 10>

BS: And something that you mentioned was intergenerational trauma. Do you think you could explain that term a little bit more? It's just, I'm not really sure.

SB: Yeah, totally. So thinking about, like, what's the best way to explain this? So you know, my family didn't experience the incarceration, to be totally clear. So as I mentioned, my grandmother moved here after that, but thinking about folks, as an example, who did go through the incarceration, like their grandparents, and how the trauma of that experience carries forward into future generations and what that might look like. And I think a great example is that historically, a lot of Nisei and Sansei, and even Yonsei, don't talk about the camps that much, because it's a really hard thing to talk about, because it was an awful experience, and people don't want to, but that's still, the emotion and the impact of that carries forward. And people experience in different ways, what that looks like, whether it be emotional distress, right amongst your family, or that kind of thing. Does that make sense? Again, I'm not always great at explaining things. [Laughs]

BS: No, thank you. Yeah, that definitely, that definitely helped a little bit. And I could see, as someone who has grandparents that did go through it, they definitely did not like to talk about it as much so I could see, apply what you're saying to my situation as well.

SB: Yeah, right. For sure, right. And like even though my grandmother moved here after the war, I think that at that point in time, especially where they were living in the north end, like she was a Japanese woman, and I think it was really important to assimilate. And so as an example, like my mom, and my uncles, they don't speak Japanese at all, because it was, I think, more important to be American than it was to honor your culture and your heritage. And so that's, like, another good example of intergenerational trauma, where it's like, you're missing these really critical and important pieces of your history and your culture because of something that happened in the past.

BS: Yeah, I never thought about it like that. And I know this interview isn't about me, but it's definitely impacted me.

SB: No, go for it.

BS: Because my grandparents made that decision as well not to teach their kids Japanese and as a result, I don't know Japanese. But it definitely, it's kind of painful, in a way, because I'll go to like the JSA, the Japanese Student Association on campus, and that's been my only real way to connect with my identity, because, and it's even hard to do that, because I can't speak Japanese, sometimes in there to have conversations. So it is tough...

SB: Yeah, totally.

BS: connect. And that's, again, a thing that I love about the JACL is that it's really given me that space and the platform to explore my identity, because my experience is very unique, as everyone's is. But to have other folks who have at least some commonalities within that framework has just been really awesome to be able to, like, have these conversations and be like, oh, my god, this is so eye opening. Like, this is why I feel certain ways about a certain thing, or, you know, why my grandparents didn't talk about this thing, or why my parents have an American name and don't speak Japanese. Yeah, really, really interesting conversations have come about because of it.

BS: No, definitely. And are there any other events or associations -- sorry, with the Seattle JACL that you think are worth mentioning? Any mentors that helped you guide, guide you into a leadership role, or if so, who should we contact for more information?

SB: Bill. [Laughs] But I think you guys, you guys are gonna interview Bill, yeah? Yeah, okay, good. I would say definitely Bill, I hope that you'll be interviewing Stan Shikuma, our current president. Because he's been on the board as long as I have or longer than I have even. I think by like a year maybe, something like that. I would definitely recommend interviewing my friend Gabrielle. She hates being put in the spotlight, but I really can't say enough for like, what she's done for me, even unintentionally. So she would be a great resource as well. Also, Sheldon Arakaki who was on the board. Yeah, Bill, I just saw Bill go, oh. [Laughs] Sheldon's one of our board members who has been with Seattle JACL and the JACL organization for a long time, and he's done a lot on the national side. But Sheldon has just been so great. And, like, helping me learn about the organization and, I don't know, I've learned a lot from him over the years.

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<Begin Segment 11>

BS: Yeah, and then is there anything else that you wanted to mention or describe today that we weren't able to cover or did not get to?

SB: Oh, god. [Laughs] Not that I can think of off the top of my head. I can always shoot you an email if I do think of anything. Bill, can you think of anything?

BT: No, the only thing that I was thinking about if you just want to spend a minute talking about, because you were talking about your connection with Japan, talk about Kakehashi, both your experiences as a participant and as a supervisor?

SB: Yeah, sure. Actually, I never went as a participant.

BT: Oh.

SB: I just went as a supervisor twice. But do you all know what the Kakehashi Project is? Okay. So for some background, it's a program that the National JACL runs. And so national JACL is partnered with the government of Japan to bring Japanese American and in some cases, like, broader Asian American youth, from the United States, from the JACL, specifically, over to Japan for two weeks. And so it's like this big cultural experience. And so you go and you do, like, different cultural workshops where you get to do kind of like an arts and crafts type of thing. Like I think one group maybe did ikebana at one point, we got to do silk screening, which was really cool. A lot of the groups go and they do a homestay, which the chaperones don't get to do. But anyways, I was a chaperone or supervisor on two different trips. And that, again, experience was just super, super cool. Because I got to go with all of these young folks who, a lot of them had not been involved with the JACL before or hadn't done a lot of identity work. And being able to go to the place that like your family hails from is just so powerful, like that statement alone. But being able to go with a group of people who, again, have a similar experience or background in that they're Japanese American, and being able to talk about your identities and what it means to be in your motherland, and having that experience and what it looked like to grow up. And also, yeah, just being able to immerse yourself in a culture that you may or may not have had a lot of different ties to throughout your life experience was really just eye-opening in a way that... I've been to Japan with my grandma before, but being able to, yeah, have those conversations with folks simultaneously, was a really big growing experience. And also the food is really good. [Laughs]

BS: I would imagine the food's pretty good as well.

SB: Yeah, yeah.

BS: Not to put you on the spot, Stephanie, but did you have any other questions that you wanted to mention or describe that we did not cover today?

ST: No, I don't think so. I really appreciate being able to hear you speak, Sarah, and share your stories and your history and your leadership throughout your time with JACL. So thank you.

SB: Yeah, thank you all. Well, I'm trying to think if there's anything else, but yeah, I don't know. I'm just like, again, I'm just focusing on graduating and then my term on the national board. [Dog barking]

SB: Is that Claire?

BT: That's Claire. Sorry.

SB: Hi, Claire. [Laughs] My time on the national board is coming up, and so there's been some questions for me personally around, like, what does my involvement look like for the future? And I think that obviously, I'll stay involved on the national side to some extent, but I would really love to focus more of my attention back on the Seattle chapter. I've definitely had to take a little bit of a step back since being in grad school, like my plate has just been too full. So yeah, just like being able to go back and immerse myself more fully into the community is definitely a goal of mine.

BT: Okay, I think that's about it, Sarah, thank you very much. Brent, thank you. And yeah, it was very inspiring, enlightening. And, Sarah, you're just amazing. Your story is... I'm glad that we had a chance to record this. So that will conclude our recording for today, and thank you very much, everyone.

SB: Yeah, thank you all.

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