Dream of the Water Children: The Black Pacific

Young Black-Japanese Volleyball

Evadedon Jeffrey - Miyabe Airi
Evadedon Jeffrey – Miyabe Airi

The Rio Olympics have come and gone! Although I know that like many other global events such as the Olympics, is made possible through the displacement of underclass communities and in many cases, a stress on ecologies and linked to economic-social-ecological ruin for the local, and at the same time linked with benefits for a certain few, there is the ideal, the spectacle, the beauty and tragedy of sport, of different world cultures, of the striving toward excellence.

The next summer Olympics is slated for Tokyo in 2020. As one born in Japan, and raised there twice in my younger life, and with Japanese being my first language until I was fully bilingual as a teenager, I have a special place for Japan and Japanese sport. My chosen sport was volleyball.  I learned basic skills from young teenager players at a Japanese Junior national team public practice in Japan, after I had first been attracted to volleyball in Hawaii in the mid-1960s. I continued in Albuquerque, New Mexico as a player and later as a player at Long Beach City College in the Los Angeles, California area in the late 1970s. Volleyball in Japan, in the 1960s, was the most popular women’s sport, and there was a ブーム (boom, or explosion in popularity) in those days, and due to the popularity of the National Women’s Team that had gone undefeated in years and in 1962, had won the world championships and ending with the Gold Medal at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, against bigger, taller opponents. “Witches of the Orient” (東洋の魔女) as they were called, became an attraction to me and later became a reality for me in Hawaii in 1966, upon seeing volleyball there.

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Home Food I: Onigiri

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When one is displaced from a deep and regular way of living, with its everydayness, their scents and sounds. And food:

Those things become important, usually, for the rest of your life.

In displacement, one sometimes needs that particular food to nourish the soul, so to speak, to revisit the sound of Mama’s voice, or the sound of birds chirping outside, or the rush of palm trees or bamboo, or the quiet.

Often, in the turbulent after-war years, these things that nourish us are the only things that help us survive and stay the only thing stable in an otherwise changing life.

So I will begin posting some things that I and some of my colleagues and friends, have noted to be important foods in the Amerasian and Black Pacific experience.

This first one is from my own experience living in postwar Japan. Onigiri おにぎり, or Omusubi おむすび. Rice Balls.

In Japan, this is a centuries-old tradition.  For trips, snacks, lunches and sometimes dinner, the diverse ways in which Onigiri is lovingly made, by Mama, or by a master chef, is timeless.

Of course I still make some for myself.  But my late Mama always made the best, in different shapes, with different things hidden inside, or beside them in a bento box.

Fried (yaki), on skewers (kushi), plain, or with nori wrap, or Hawaiian spam or other sweet meat, sometimes made with fried rice, any vegetable or fish or meat inside, or not, with sesame seeds or not……. love them all.

Now Showing in Theaters: うまれつき (Born With It)

A Black-Japanese student enters a Japanese school.  The Japanese students are amazed, curious, condescending, afraid, finding ways to make him outcast.

This Short Film, written and directed by Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour, Jr., shines a lens onto a small town, and gives a picture of how Japanese-mix children and people, and black-mixed people and Blacks are treated in Japan.

I was born in Japan and raised there until 1962-3.  Then again, from 1968 to 1970–when I was 13 to 15 years old.  There was a difference in the two periods.

In the 50s and 60s, racism was more overt, physically violent, and widespread– for me and my kind in Japan. In the late 60s, it was more private and more prone to ostracizing and teasing, although physical violence was still a relative normal response. And as we know from news reports and stories of public figures in Japan who are Black-Japanese, it has not changed much in Japan.

The director hoped to shine a light on this persistent problem of Japanese identity and its treatment of “the other.”

 

 

Hiroshima, State-making and the ABCC

Little Boy: Object of US Experiments by ABCC
Little Boy: Object of US Experiments by ABCC

 

Aspects of U.S. nation-building and preparing for the Cold-War, were a vital aspect to preparing for the dropping of the Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. It was U.S. propaganda to popularize the notion of “needing” to drop the two atomic bombs to stop the Japanese Imperial forces from continual brutalization and colonization of the Asia-Pacific. Already, as we know, 70 (all) of the major Japanese cities were leveled by daily and nightly bombings by the United States. Not only were they bombed, but “Fire” bombed. Paper and wood structures burned for days and days after the bombs fell, while people were charred inside and out through the chemicals used. Japan was devastated.

Then the Atomic bombs fell from the bellies of the Enola Gay.  “Little Boy” was dropped. Thousands of real human boys and girls, women and children, gone.

But this was not all.

Preparation. The Cold War.  The U.S. position in relation to an inferior “Asia” and the rising Soviet threat. The future of scientism (the prioritizing and domination of western science over other knowledges), and the role of the United States as a world power, hinged on the act of dropping the bombs and its effects. The racist-infused Anti-Pacific war, and the Pacific’s racist war to fight white supremacy and protect its own brutal patriarchal “yellow supremacy” was now floating in an orange stench of post-atomic explosions and the strategies were steadfastly continued.

The ABCC The Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission— was billed to the Japanese and the American public back at home, as a “compassionate” relief effort meant to help the Japanese civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki post-Atomic blast.  But history has proven, through the records, biographies, and written documents and interviews by survivors and medical personnel in the U.S. Allied Occupation forces, that this was not why they were there.  The primary reason for the ABCC was to collect data for further research into the effects of the Atomic bomb on humans.

All of the schools in Hiroshima were visited. All of the children and teachers and staff went through the investigations and data collection exams. The people thought they were there to be helped by the Americans. Instead, they were treated coldly and the relief from unbearable pain was not to be given by the Americans. In most of the stories collected, the Americans seemed barely interested in the Japanese children or adults suffering. Of course not. They were fooled. But yes, of course. It is not what they say it is. The state and its functionaries will do what they want.  It is do-able because of the deeper racism and resulting glee and happiness through which much of this is done, to dehumanize. What were the Japanese to these personnel of the U.S. except objects of research and losers in war.  The Japanese were thought to have deserved it right?

There are also stories of American medical personnel who really did feel compassion and were there to help the Japanese.  They couldn’t bear the suffering they encountered. So some of them got into open fights with their brothers and sisters in medical uniform or their commanders in military uniform, to protest. Some were summarily sent back to the United States. But most kept quiet and decided to help on their own, secretly finding spaces to treat some of the suffering as much as they could, ignoring their commanding officers and doctors of higher rank.

Of course news got out, and many of the American public protested and sent letters.  The “research” continued.

It would be wrong to think of these events as merely events. These ways of relating to each other—between Japanese and Americans, between civilians and military, between western medicine and Japanese medical forms existing before the United States began enforcing western medicine on the Japanese society in the Occupation—all of these and more, will stay in memory and do. Japanese nationalists today, have not forgotten these relations of power and the humiliation they felt. Perhaps resentments are created at these moments. Those people’s sons and daughters have heard these stories and also create the legacies of resentment and the struggle for a freedom that is impossible in times of war and its aftermath.

Research was created. The United States continued to build its military apparatus across the Pacific. The Cold War came and gone…………or not. Japan is still occupied under the false impression of sovereignty.

The Hibakusha 被爆者 (atomic bomb survivors) continue to speak and show us, perhaps for no reason except into an empty night, to look at ourselves and re-think our values.

But experiments of even more horrific effects are happening. The nations have continued to promise human rights and speak of the horror of war, but perhaps we romanticize it too much.  Too many heroes that can only be heroes through some kind of violence, some kind of masculinity, some kind of nation-state patriotism, some kind of displacement of values, lives, and moralities. The ABCC, it turns out, was just a beginning.

Japan Entertainment Magazine Interview

Eye-Ai あいあい 2016年7月号

In the July 2016 issue of Japanese Entertainment Magazine Eye-Ai(あいあい), Eric Robinson, Creative Director of Online Magazine Black Tokyo is interviewed for a second time.

In this issue, I am mentioned and quoted, as well as my book, along with interesting quotes from Ariana Miyamoto, recently crowned Miss Universe Japan, who is Black-Japanese.

Mitzi Uehara Carter, who is a scholar and teacher whose heritage is Black-Okinawan, and who runs the blog: Grits and Sushi, is also mentioned, as well as Enka Singer from Chicago, Jero ジェロ , whose mother is Black-Japanese Amerasian.

Eric Robinson, Mitzi Uehara-Carter and myself presented together at the forum at UC Berkeley in 2011, entitled:  Deployment, Bases, and the US Military in Movement: Imagining Japan and the Self Through Race and Sex.

In this issue, Eric Robinson speaks to how Black Tokyo came to be, and offers thoughts on the importance of Black-Japaneseness being in the Japanese (and global) public eye in the present, where issues of race, gender, and nationalism are important to think into for nations to create a more positive co-existence for diverse citizens in a transnational world.

Eye-Ai(あいあい) 2016年7月号 – Below is the link  (try different browsers if you have trouble viewing it).

The Interview begins on Page 28:

http://digi2.fujisan.co.jp/digital/docnext-viewer/Launcher.html?bid=1376765_sample&dhost=2&mhost=3&view_from=catalog%2Fsample&vt=3&z_cry=0&z_dgmg=978a55962b2fb0721346e018bf034759

T-Tasha / Yoon-Mi-Rae : Korean Rap/Hip-Hop/R&B QUEEN

Tasha – or Yoon Mi Rae in Korea, alternatively known as “T-Tasha”— is definitely South Korea’s greatest Hip-Hop/Rap/R&B or more accurately: K-R&B artist. Her heritage is African-American/Korean, and is in my other posts and the purpose of this whole blog site, her experiences growing up in Korea were full of the prejudiced, racist violence against her.

Often, these lives produce tremendous artistic expression.

This is a 9-year-old video. She was a teenager and still, you can sense how good she is.

This song seeks to empower Black-Korean girls, recorded live off of Korean television, entitled: Wonder Woman.

I will post more of her videos later.

Enjoy.

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