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Young Nikkei Promotes Minority Collaboration

By Fumika Iwasaki
The North American Post

Sarah Baker is a Seattle-born Japanese American woman, who was elected as the next president of Japanese American Citizens League Seattle Chapter.
Baker calls herself a “Shin-Sansei,” because her ancestors came to the United States after World War II, so they did not experience incarceration.

Sarah Baker, president-elect of the JACL Seattle Chapter. Photo courtesy of Sarah Baker.

Her grandmother came to the United States from Japan after the Korean War. Baker said it is difficult to describe the differences between those who came to America before and after the war.
“A lot of Sansei talked about their parents legacies, but I don’t have that,” she said. “Recently I asked my grandmother, did you experience any hate crime or racism, she said no. When she moved to Seattle, I think people on the west coast were used to idea of Japanese and Japanese Americans, because of the location.”
Baker is not sure her grandmother answered truthfully or not, but if her grandmother really failed to experience racism, it means Japanese Americans face many different situations.
She looked back and spoke about her involvement in JACL in June 2014.
“I met a Japanese American friend in social justice class in high school who was already involved in JACL, so she invited me to a meeting,” Baker said. “I signed up for a membership immediately because they gave me a scholarship to go to the national convention. Two weeks later, after my first meeting, I went to the national convention in San Jose. It was really cool.
“Now the JACL has over one hundred chapters, but a lot of chapters’ demographic is older,” she continued. “I think the Seattle chapter is one of biggest chapters in the states, but it’s membership is growing older as well.”
She also said that it had been difficult to figure out what local projects they wanted to support.
“Right now, we just really want to be a partner of other community organizations,” she said.
In fact, Baker hosted Asian Pacific Islander LGBTQ events this June. On Nov. 21, they hosted the Muckleshoot Tribe Workshop.
“Japanese Americans had similar historical struggles, so we should support each other as community organizations,” Baker said. “If we do that, we can have a voice, have a stand.”

Sarah Baker, center, volunteers for JACL Seattle’s annual clean up at Aki Kurose Middle School. Photo courtesy of Sarah Baker.


Before she joined the JACL, Baker didn’t have many chances to think about her ethnicity. Like other youth, she was interested in Japanese pop culture and the like.
“When I went to my first JACL meeting, it was very interesting because I didn’t have a lot of perspective from Japanese Americans in my life,” she said. “Seeing life of other Japanese Americans really surprised me because I noticed we have a lot of things in common. It’s really nice, people can understand my culture.”
Baker already had interest in social justice, so for her, the JACL is a perfect place, bringing together both Japanese American culture and social justice.
Currently, Baker is also Student Body President of North Seattle College. She works with 35 students to represent students’ voices, saying “Currently, we are discussing tuition because it is so expensive.”
Baker became Student Body President because when she entered the Bachelor program at North Seattle College, she wanted to be more involved on campus.
“I think I’m in a good position to speak up because I already got one degree there, and now I’m trying to get one more degree,” she said. “I want make a difference and help to build the community.”
She also explained about becoming a leader for people of color, especially women–“I know there need to be more women of color in leadership positions. For that reason, that’s one of the things to keep me going and doing the things I do because we need more representation.”
“What being Japanese American means for me is kind of a big theme, because it means my whole life,” she continued. “When I grew up, my grandmother baby-sat me. So I was growing up in Japanese language and Japanese culture. I think being able to use Japanese language and English at the same time feels ‘Japanese American’ to me. For example like, this ticket is takai (expensive). I think this is a very Japanese American culture.
“I think it is also Japanese American culture to eat American and Japanese mixed food. My grandmother made breakfast, with bacon and rice and furikake (rice seasoning) or sometimes mochi.”
Of the future, Baker says, “There is a kind of an age gap, like myself and the younger generation don’t know a lot of older history and culture. I hope we can continue pop events like Obon and to bring youth together.”
She also added her goal as JACL Seattle’s next president, saying “My goal is to get more youth members and engage other communities of color.”

“A lot of Sansei talked about their parents legacies, but I don’t have that,” she said. “Recently I asked my grandmother, did you experience any hate crime or racism, she said no. When she moved to Seattle, I think people on the west coast were used to idea of Japanese and Japanese Americans, because of the location.”
Baker is not sure her grandmother answered truthfully or not, but if her grandmother really failed to experience racism, it means Japanese Americans face many different situations.
She looked back and spoke about her involvement in JACL in June 2014.
“I met a Japanese American friend in social justice class in high school who was already involved in JACL, so she invited me to a meeting,” Baker said. “I signed up for a membership immediately because they gave me a scholarship to go to the national convention. Two weeks later, after my first meeting, I went to the national convention in San Jose. It was really cool.
“Now the JACL has over one hundred chapters, but a lot of chapters’ demographic is older,” she continued. “I think the Seattle chapter is one of biggest chapters in the states, but it’s membership is growing older as well.”
She also said that it had been difficult to figure out what local projects they wanted to support.
“Right now, we just really want to be a partner of other community organizations,” she said. In fact, Baker hosted Asian Pacific Islander LGBTQ events this June. On Nov. 21, they hosted the Muckleshoot Tribe Workshop.
“Japanese Americans had similar historical struggles, so we should support each other as community organizations,” Baker said. “If we do that, we can have a voice, have a stand.” Before she joined the JACL, Baker didn’t have many chances to think about her ethnicity. Like other youth, she was interested in Japanese pop culture and the like.
“When I went to my first JACL meeting, it was very interesting because I didn’t have a lot of perspective from Japanese Americans in my life,” she said. “Seeing life of other Japanese Americans really surprised me because I noticed we have a lot of things in common. It’s really nice, people can understand my culture.” Baker already had interest in social justice, so for her, the JACL is a perfect place, bringing together both Japanese American culture and social justice.
Currently, Baker is also Student Body President of North Seattle College. She works with 35 students to represent students’ voices, saying “Currently, we are discussing tuition because it is so expensive.”
Baker became Student Body President because when she entered the Bachelor program at North Seattle College, she wanted to be more involved on campus. “I think I’m in a good position to speak up because I already got one degree there, and now I’m trying to get one more degree,” she said. “I want make a difference and help to build the community.” She also explained about becoming a leader for people of color, especially women–“I know there need to be more women of color in leadership positions. For that reason, that’s one of the things to keep me going and doing the things I do because we need more representation.”
“What being Japanese American means for me is kind of a big theme, because it means my whole life,” she continued. “When I grew up, my grandmother baby-sat me. So I was growing up in Japanese language and Japanese culture. I think being able to use Japanese language and English at the same time feels ‘Japanese American’ to me. For example like, this ticket is takai (expensive). I think this is a very Japanese American culture. “I think it is also Japanese American culture to eat American and Japanese mixed food. My grandmother made breakfast, with bacon and rice and furikake (rice seasoning) or sometimes mochi.”
Of the future, Baker says, “There is a kind of an age gap, like myself and the younger generation don’t know a lot of older history and culture. I hope we can continue pop events like Obon and to bring youth together.”
She also added her goal as JACL Seattle’s next president, saying “My goal is to get more youth members and engage other communities of color.”