Dream of the Water Children: The Black Pacific

水子の夢: Pacific Rim Histories, Militarism, Indigeneity, Asian-ness, Blackness & Black Pacific Empowerment

As-I-Am: PODCAST October 2015 is up!

As-I-Am - logo - 2Most recent podcast featuring myself and Arita Balaram at  As-I-Am: Asian American Social Justice Project, from October 2015.

This Podcast’s theme is Race, Nation and Generation. Content Editor for As-I-Am–Arita Balaram, who identifies as Indo-Caribbean, and myself – who identifies as Black-Japanese Amerasian, find links and differences that work together to point at intergenerational trauma and the maintenance of certain forms of oppressions and unexamined age-ism, adultism, and nationalism, which often links with racism.


Podcast: “Violence and Memory” — My Discussion at As(I)Am project


This is a Podcast from a February 2015 edition of “Drop That Hyphen” at the Project As(I)Am Online Magazine which is a Hub that brings together Asian-American activist-artist-thinkers together to challenge racism, sexism, heterosexism and homophobia, nationalism, class/caste-ism, and other oppressions toward social change.

The theme of this particular Podcast edition, is on violence and memory.

It is hosted and edited by Staff member Veda Kumarjiguda with staff writers Alex Ngo and myself as guest discussants.



Well, as previously hinted, my book — Dream of the Water Children: Memory and Mourning in the Black Pacific 水子の夢 — will, once again, be a little late getting out.  New target date for publication: Spring 2016.

Regarding delays, this is normal for most books, as they are delayed several times. My publisher–2Leaf Press, is a new, independent publisher, and focuses on writers and poets of color and multicultural worldviews including queer, women and mixed-race folks.

My book is finished.  It is that the Press is going through changes and for myself, they are welcome changes.  They have struggled to improve distribution and marketing processes and relations.  This way, my book will be published with more support and wider audience.

I will keep you informed as we progress!

FAMILY_PHOTO_MAIN_Best (1)_original

2014 – Korean Hapa Tour – Homelands, New Lands, Healing


In the Fall of 2014, a group of Mixed-Korean Amerasians, mostly adoptees from Mixed-race orphanages in Korea, organized a small tour, back to Korea, to the orphanages, and to meet Insooni 김인순 — Black-Korean pop-star/diva, who was partially responsible for this event.

Korea has the dubious distinction of being the nation with the most adoptions out of their own country, with most of the babies and children being of mixed-race background. In postwar Korea until the 1980s, mixed-Americans were the majority of the make-up of these orphanages in Korea. But this began to slowly change to include more inter-Asian mixed children today.

There are many good books on Korean trans-racial adoption that one can read about. The curious thing is that the Philippines, Okinawa, China, Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand, have also had very very similar histories with mixed-race (primarily American) babies, and the industry of transnational and transracial adoption. The adoption industry would also include illegal human trafficking–of both children and women–for labor, as factory workers and/or sex-workers. These are primarily done in secret.

The majority of the adoptions, however, have been through legitimate means, with some of the children raised in American homes with the specter of racial difference and the Occupation of Korea by the United States, looming through their lives, effecting them in different ways. Other children lived through abuse and ostracization in varying intensities, especially the Black-mixed children.  Some, of course, hardly remember their Korean background and have been raised to pass as another dominant racial group.

In the video, one is introduced to some of those who experienced the 2014 Korean Hapa Tour, including different experiences and thoughts of happiness and forgiveness. One can also hear Insooni and how, with her tireless efforts, heals the wounds of the loss of culture, homeland, and the terror of abuse, ostracization, and knowledge of abandonment and separation.

There are two videos—one to introduce this topic and event. The second is a quick overview of the time with Insooni and her discussion with the group.

My personal wish is that this can happen with the entire Pacific Rim Amerasians who have experienced both adoption, as well as those who have moved with families out of their Asian and/or Pacific homeland, and those who escaped or are in search of their families, and others who are isolated without knowing how to feel about these contradictory and often lonely feelings of being different and displaced. There are tremendous parallels between all of the Amerasians brought from Asia, no matter how.

Eventually, this would include all of the children and their mothers, primarily, who have been abandoned by American soldiers (and perhaps others) in the world, wherever military bases lie and the soldiers play, rape, fall in love, have one-night fun, who are lonely, dominant, entitled, protected. In social justice today, I think the Black German groups have done the best in organizing and making this issue known.

I am a Black-Amerasian from Japan, born in postwar Japan, almost all but forgotten in the history books, as something from the past. The word ‘Amerasian’ has been revived by the Filipino Amerasians, and made popular by the Amerasians of Vietnam–after the Vietnam War. People must not forget those of us from Japan, like myself, and others, who continue to be invisible in dominant discourse on the Pacific and social justice.

There will be a conference at UC Berkeley on September 26th, on Korean Camptowns (towns that develop around US military bases), and the effects (women and biracial children, the adoption industry, racism, sex-work, the reliance of Korean economies on the above, etc.).


It is now a question of care, of organization, of resources, of determination.

Time for some J-Reggae/R&B!! – by Pushim – with Rappers 韻シスト(Insist): Don’t Stop

Japan’s Favorite female J-Reggae/R&B/HipHop artist: PUSHIM プシン, presents “Don’t Stop” with J-rapper 韻シスト(Insist)

Hiroshima Freedom


She perished.

死んだ女 の子

Dead Girl.

August 1945.

So in 2005, Ryuichi Sakamoto, famous composer-musician from Japan, translated the song, remembered widely by many Japanese as the powerful song sung by Roots singer Chitose Hajime, accompanied by Ryuichi Sakamoto, on Japanese national television in August 2005 on the grounds of the Peace Dome in Hiroshima, observing the 60th anniversary of the dropping of the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima by the US. The translation is of a song by Bruce Springstein entitled: I Come and Stand at Every Door, which is a short version of a poem–Kız Çocuğu, written by the famous Turkish poet–Nazim Hikmet.

For most people reading this now, it is a story, a moment of horrific history, or perhaps a “deserved” punishment for the “evil Oriental” Japanese, the evil imperialist Japanese who had to be stopped and to prove America’s goodness and victory. All lies, of course, concocted, as are most stories of moral right and goodness in our world today. We find, when we do research and reflect on the repetitious patterns of time and humanity, that the discourse of war has precedents and causes and conditions that are complex, and almost always pointing toward the fiction of the writers from the victorious side, no matter where. Nation-building itself–has been always about that. Unification requires the lie of a unification, a united. That ‘unifying’ emotion and binding, had to be constructed. For humanity, it has been largely done through violence.

For me, I am intimately connected in many different ways, trajectories, and moral structures, to the atomic bombing. In addition, I do not view the atomic bombing as something that should be more prioritized than what surrounded the atomic bombings of Japan—the firebombings of about 70 cities in Japan for a period of one year, by the US.  Some of the bombings went on after the Atomic bomb was dropped. The ‘mission’ had to be completed. Just what was this ‘mission’ that is not written down on paper, or uttered out loud by Americans?

A few of those bombed places no longer exist–wiped off our present-day maps. Most exist today in new forms, apparently silent in regards to the ashes they were born from. To speak of ‘independence’ and ‘sovereignty’ begs for a lot  of questions about what and who are linked intimately together. In this case– the United States and Japan.

That atomic bomb moment is, thematically at least, connected to the sixteenth century, and Commodore Perry of the US forces, who commanded the bombing of Tokyo Bay to force Japan to trade with the United States and Europe, even as the Japanese government did not want to. We all know who’s boss now.

Of course the ‘boss’ is violent, male, free to travel, to dominate, to manipulate, to concoct, invent.

My mother was born in China, then migrated to Japan as a little girl. She experienced the firebombings of Tokyo and Osaka. One of Mother’s older sisters, died in Hiroshima on that August Day. Although we commemorate Hiroshima and Nagasaki to be remembered, we must remember that more people died in the firebombings of Tokyo, than in the bombing of Hiroshima. Japan, as a nation, was leveled, annihilated. All of the major cities were obliterated in some form.

But then my Uncle on my mother’s side, was a commander in one of the most brutal battles in World War II–in Burma (what is now Myanmar). Atrocities were committed there. My Uncle and I had a few privileged moments of speaking about them before he passed away.  I asked about how he felt about it all. But I was a teenager myself, at the time I asked. But I remember it all.

My father was an Occupation soldier in Japan, while he fought in the Korean War (and later in Vietnam). His views have changed radically over the years, as he began to understand what he represented and how he thought within the system, in that position.

My father was African-American, who had already forgotten his Cherokee ancestors, and now economically desperate, joining the US Air Force to help his mother and himself and brother survive, in the US–the country that largely–till this day, hates the Black presence (except when they can give you artistic forms and colorful language and entertainment—like blackface and the shuck-and-jive in new forms for the mainstream white and Asian audiences who see them as already-that and not much more.

Assimilation is a sort of death. But people forget so much and carry on.

But for some reason, when we think of the atomic bomb or wars, we only see photos of women and children crying and of burnt buildings. The ruins. Ruins that prove our humanity when we feel something. What is that something? Usually that feeling is blunted feeling defined merely as ‘sad’ or ‘regret’ or ‘pride.’ And most times, we’ve forgotten.

It is not just about buildings burning and falling, or the stench of dead bodies, or the ruining of a nation already made poor and starving by their own government. What happens to survival and empowerment–what they look like?  When time has passed, from then till now, what is it that is lost or gained, made real or unreal, made history or not history–for both the perpetrators and the victims of such destruction? For the perpetrators, the entitlement to build more machines and weapons of destruction, from military hardware to guns to video games and visual programs and languages that permeate culture through their distorted moralities, ideas of freedom, and alienation and cruelty–all called ‘nothing to do with goodness.’

For the victims, perhaps an arrogance born of both vengeance-in-the-future, and internalized oppression. Deep and unrecognized as oppression.  What does this look like?

Remembering Hiroshima, Nagasaki, the bombings of 70 cities for ten months, every night, the screaming, the agony, the burning, the stench, the fire, the torture, the knowledge of a nation that one cannot see–that hates them and wants them dead, the acquiescing to those bosses, the construction of maintaining and forgetting, the creation of memory–all lined up in a certain array of configurations that are not so free, yet called ‘freedom.’  This is a problem.

If we can think and reflect on the perversity and deception—the self-violence that we do, as a consequence of drowning in our lack of creativity and our quick access to violence (to self and others and ideas), the the commemoration of such days is successful.

If one only feels sad, paralyzed, deluded, happy (because we dropped those damn bombs and made them suffer because they deserve it), lucky, or wishing that we–entire humanity–would just die, then we are way way off.

I hope in naming these possibilities of thinking that arise from ‘remembering’ or ‘acknowledging’ Hiroshima, that we also think of shifting, changing, growing, not so comfortably perhaps, but to change the way we perceive time and humans and the ways in which we engage with difference and knowledge, then perhaps a first step has been taken towards more ethical world of accountability and honesty, and to not think of some state-of-the-world that is entirely beautiful and peaceful–which is not the goal (and impossible if we are to be true to the reality of diversity).

The Atomic bombings were done because people understood themselves to be moral, or to not understand morality. It is easy to blame. But the World Wars brought more death and destruction to our world than ever before. Whether bombs are atomic, nuclear, or something else, the needing them is perhaps what we must come to grips with right now.

How, then, must we live? (die?)

The Poem:

I Come and Stand at Every Door

I come and stand at every door
But no one hears my silent tread
I knock and yet remain unseen
For I am dead, for I am dead

I’m only seven although I died
In Hiroshima long ago
I’m seven now as I was then
When children die they do not grow

My hair was scorched by swirling flame
My eyes grew dim, my eyes grew blind
Death came and turned my bones to dust
And that was scattered by the wind

I need no fruit, I need no rice
I need no sweet, nor even bread
I ask for nothing for myself
For I am dead, for I am dead

All that I ask is that for peace
You fight today, you fight today
So that the children of this world
May live and grow and laugh and play

Photo of a boy, from the stock footage released by the US government, of Atomic Bomb survivors in Japan 1945.

Ariana Miyamoto 宮本エリアナ 磨美子: Black Japanese Miss Universe 2015

Ariana Miyamoto 1

In March of 2015, Ariana Miyamoto (宮本 エリアナ 磨美子  Ariana Miyamoto Mamiko) won the crown for Miss Universe Japan. For the Japanese nation and culture, this was a huge and monumental event. What makes it so, is that she is the first ‘Black-Japanese’ mixed race woman to win the crown. What this did was bring into the cultural spotlight, the issues of identity, race, color, nation, and gender–into an intense configuration that, I think, is necessary for Japan today.  It remains to be seen whether this has far-reaching effects.

Miss Miyamoto decided to run for Miss Universe Japan, after her Black-Japanese friend committed suicide.  Miyamoto-san, then decided that she must run, if not for her deceased friend’s sake, linked with her own misgivings, memories, sorrows, and the will to empower, in relation to her Japanese identity as ‘impure, not-Japanese, mixed-race, half (ha-afu).’

When Miyamoto describes some of what she went through in her younger years, attending Japanese schools or in her neighborhood, they, of course, remind me of my own experiences in Japan in the 1950s and 60s. Japan has changed, yes, since the postwar era, into which I can place my own early childhood memories. But it has only changed through the continual association with a globalizing, rejuvenating, re-building American-ized Japan, grappling with its own place in a world which it did not want to enter in the first place. It is never complete and has contradictions, like most things.

As one remembers, Tokyo Bay was bombed by the American Commodore Perry, so that the Japanese were forced to trade with the United States in the days of colonization, It was a rape, a forced opening. Now, of course, Japan may not resent something from hundreds of years ago. But then there were the bombings in the World War. Then the Occupation of Japan by the US, which continues in many ways, via the US-Japan Securities Pacts and the presence of the US military in Japan (and Okinawa–which is another topic in relation to Okinawa as a colony of Japan, not Japanese).

The invisibility of mixed-Japanese issues related to the US military, is connected to the same issue in the entire Pacific rim, where United Statian soldiers have tread, and left their babies and girlfriends, one-night stands and lovers, abandoning them. The US military wants the issue to be silent and works with the Japanese to fulfill that silence, by force and propaganda and whatever other means. The United States, then, is more than a bystander in the ongoing racism against persons such as myself, or Miss Miyamoto. It is also just as real that times have changed and it is more accepted in many ways, than in the postwar period. But this does not mean that it is okay.

Making Black-Japanese-ness invisible, is a way in which Japan would not have to deal with its multicultural heritage, and to prioritize and move forward into the world, a homogenized  and made-up fiction of a single ethnic, racial heritage. It is also a way in which many Japanese have no trouble with and may even want Japan to change, although those Japanese are bullied into being silent oftentimes.

Miss Miyamoto’s struggles are also now a way for her to empower multicultural Japan, and to again, struggle with Japanese bullying and cultural violences, which have always been intense and prolific.

Many many many Black-Japanese, and White-Japanese, have killed themselves on Japanese soil and in the streets. Many many many Black-Japanese and White-Japanese have been killed by doctors, mothers, grandmothers, caretakers, sisters and brothers, in the name of not “tainting” the family heritage, to not make it impure.  Funny how killing and raping and oppressing is not considered dishonoring.  I wish it were.

I wish it were. Then Miss Universe Japan, in her glorious beauty and strength, could be seen as something Japan were proud of. Instead, it is fodder for blogposts like mine and hundreds of others, or television programs that endlessly ask her how she “feels” and what she “hopes for.” Tired questions really. The questions should be pointed toward and into Japanese society.  Many Japanese have wanted Japan to again, acknowledge Japan’s multicultural heritage. In my mother’s time, in the 1930s, she saw Japanese nationalism put a stranglehold on the diverse ways in which Japanese thought of themselves. In rising nationalism, in Japan’s rise to where it is now, one way was to create a Japanese-ness that had to be nothing else, singular and mythical and un-obstructable. It killed its diversity in mainstream culture.

But make no mistake, the judges voted for Miss Miyamoto. There are many Japanese who herald and want Japanese to be who they really are, instead of the tired one-race, mythical and nationalistic blunt identity that is now, giving Japan its excuses for its racism and its lack of being proud of their histories in reality, not in a nation-making nationalism of the colonial period.

Miss Miyamoto will live and give of herself and is and will be an important force for change in Japan. And at the same time, there are those who will cling to their willingness to marginalize her and to call her ‘not really Japanese.’  There are those who say that ‘this year’s Miss Universe Japan is foreign, not Japanese’ –dismissing the whole pageant, never really having to struggle with their own views.

Herein lies the same problem everywhere, not just in Japan.

There are those that use their own racism against Japan, to blame the Japanese for their racism, not looking at their own, thus confirming their own individual superiority. I think offering different ways of changing, instead of only indicting and screaming and playing victim and superior, would be best.

But at the same time, this moment of Miss Universe Japan as Black-Japanese, is also the beautiful place where change has happened–continuing to disturb the current status quo, opening all of us, hopefully, to our own distinct pasts and possibilities toward the future.  It is a struggle to be sure.

Thank you Miyamoto-san. I stand in solidarity.

The Woman, The Orphan, and the Tiger — An Important Documentary Film


The following is the introduction on Vimeo for the documentary film The Woman, The Orphan, and the Tiger.  I present the link to the movie following this.

It is an excellent and much needed film speaking to issues surrounding trauma and women of the South Korean diaspora.

Although this film is of the South Korean women’s diaspora, sexualization and militarization, I feel that there are many parallels with women who are Filipino, Japanese, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian, and other dominant nationalities and the indigenous and ‘minority’ women who live within them, whose lives are connected to the presence of the US military in their societies following wars and conquests, and their connection to elite Asian governments today in relation to global imperialism.

The Woman, The Orphan, and The Tiger 
by Jane Jin Kaisen & Guston Sondin-Kung, 2010
Single channel video, 72 min. Color & BW, 16:9 DVCPRO 720p

The Woman, The Orphan, and The Tiger follows a group of international adoptees and other women of the Korean Diaspora in their twenties & thirties. It explores the ways in which trauma is passed on from previous generations to the present through a sense of being haunted. The physical return of the Diaspora confronts and de-stabilizes narratives that have been constructed to systematically silence histories of injustice committed onto certain parts of the population in South Korea. 
A genealogy is created by relating the stories of three generations of women: the former comfort women who were subjected to military sexual slavery by the Japanese military between World War I and II – the approximately one million women who have worked as sex-workers around US military bases in South Korea from the nineteen fifties to the present – and the around two hundred thousand children who were adopted from South Korea to the West since the nineteen fifties. 
The film exposes how military and patriarchal violence against women and children became central in geopolitical negotiations between South Korea, the United States, and Japan, and how this part of world history has been systematically silenced, but reverberates in the present moment.

Josephine Baker: Entertainer and Mixed Race Children as “Rainbow Tribe”

Josephine Baker Tribe

Josephine Baker, in the post-World War II atmosphere in the United States, was one of the many African-American entertainers that was part of the exodus to France.  France was sought to be kinder and filled with more opportunities for Black people, and entertainers in particular, than the 1920s were in the US.

The world over, knows of her entertaining days and thinks of her as trailblazer and entertainer extraordinaire. However, how she entertained, was becoming out-of-favor, and a beginning to wane as something she could rely on.  At the same time, she became more focused on her mixed-race heritage and world political racial culture, and began adopting mixed-race children from around the world, in her quest for the ‘Rainbow tribe.’

She was quite close with Miki Sawada 澤田 美喜, who opened and became famous for her work in the Elizabeth Saunders Home for Mixed-Race Children in postwar Japan.  Josephine Baker adopted from Sawada, and others from around the world.

Nowadays, especially in France, when her name is mentioned, some people chuckle, or look embarrassed, or frown. The reason for this is that she and her husband opened a chateau in France, to raise her “rainbow tribe.”  She had definite ideas on what her dream of the multicultural world would be, and that she could be that example–of bringing a ‘world’ of children together and raising them with love and strictness that would be emblematic of a global village. What made this disturbing, is that she charged admission for tourists and others, to come and see the villa, to see how she raised the children, and to watch them sing and dance for them as entertainment.

In retrospect, because of her waning career and retiring into the village with her children, she viewed this as both a teaching opportunity and a way to fulfill some sort of dream that she had, some sort of thinking process in relation to mixed-ness and the global village.  As those “rainbow” children grew older, this became impossible, untenable. It almost became a “joke” for the French public, and many others.

What sort of thoughts, or fantasies, really, did she have of mixed-race children? She did feel entitled to represent her fantasies through these children and the chateau and the money she made from their presence and her own work.

Nevertheless, this did present some interesting questions on power, the global village, resistance and assimilation, in a world that continues to make bodies and races and ethnicities, representations of something, always linked to larger socio-political cultural concerns and tactics  of positionality and difference, healing and empowerment, adjustment and ideas of love and society.

Here is a trailer and a short critical interview/review:

Michael Brown speaks to American fathers who have abandoned their own Amerasian/mixed children in the Philippines

The Amerasian, as a social phenomenon, began at the turn of the century, as extension of the ‘mixed-race’ issue in Asia with the arrival of Europeans and Americans.

There are an estimated 2,000,000 (million) amerasian children who have been abandoned by their American fathers, in the Pacific.

Michael Brown, in this video, wants American men, and the American military and government, to take responsibility. The lives of Amerasian children in Asia, in almost every case, is a life of being called outcaste.  This includes their mothers, who struggle in nations that consider these children ‘devils’ or ‘illegitimate’ or ‘non-citizens’ and other names that brings scorn and abuse. Mothers are often called ‘whores.’  In legal and institutional channels, many are stateless.  Which means they cannot get services from the state.  Prostitution and begging, and a life of stealing, as well as being targets of human trafficking and stealing global labor trade, are all the greatest possibilities for their futures. How are all citizens of the world to be accountable to this legacy?

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