Dream of the Water Children: The Black Pacific

Stephanie Blandon — Pan-Amerasian Connections: Adoptions

 

Stephanie Blandon, a blooming artist who was born in 1957 in Inchon, Korea, was left on the doorstep of an orphanage and adopted into a Black-American family stationed in Korea, then brought to the United States. Her story resonates across a Pan-Amerasian context, where military bases, orphanages, postwar realities of poverty and devastation and the American military presence, and racism in Korea and the United States, play a part in the ways in which Amerasians will craft their lives. Although each of us (I am Black-Japanese Amerasian from a military brat nuclear family), have different lives and respond differently to our circumstances, there are threads of similiarities in the struggle against racism, sexism, homophobia, nationalism and the tensions between community and individualism

Her story is touching and teaches us many things.  Please visit her beautiful short essay at:

Dear Adoption, I’m Nearly 60 Yet Still the 5 year old Version of Myself 

 

Aoyama Michi Music Video: My First Black-Japanese Amerasian Entertainment

Growing up in Japan in the 1950s and 60s, there were a handful of mixed-Japanese (haafu– as we are called nowadays) shown on television. Even more rare were Black-Japanese. I, as you know, use the term “Amerasian” to refer to most of us (not all) mixed-Japanese in the postwar period, as our identities were directly linked with war, the U.S. and Allied Occupation of Japan, and the globalized nation-making period where race played an integral part.  Issues of ‘haafu’ differ today, as Japan has been thoroughly divested of a direct relationship to war and occupation–although it is profoundly linked with the present-day idea and life of Japanese-ness.  For us mixed-Japanese Black Amerasians, the appearance and sounds of Black-Japanese entertainers was both an incredible surprise and joy, but also a reminder of the disdain people had for mixed-Japanese during that time. Of course there were some Japanese who thought it nice and normal, or good. But the majority turned away with a disgusting look upon seeing us.  Sometimes even our own mothers.

One of the strongest memories of mine, was seeing, for the very first time, a Black-Japanese “konkestsuji” (the pseudo-scientific term for haafu love-child) person on television, alone, without a plot. It was 青山ミチ Aoyama Michi and her song: 叱らないで Shikaranaide (don’t be angry with her), which was released in 1968.  Although she became popular with her first big hit in 1963, this, her third release, was the one I remember and was the first time I had seen her on television with an eye toward my identity.  When I was younger and saw her, I didn’t think of her as “different” but recognized her as “someone like me.”  (continued below the video)

 

When this song came out, I felt that she was singing about me.  When I met with a few of my other haafu friends, they felt the same way and we loved this song.

The song and the images of her on television, evoked many things then, and nowadays, many things to reflect on.
Noticing that Black-Japanese as well as many white-Japanese haafu, were more sexualized in Japanese culture in those days (and perhaps even now), is evident.

In many advertisements featuring Aoyama Michi, her cleavage and her legs were often prominent. However, there was a tendency to whiten her, to make her “less dark-skinned.”  As well, her hair was straightened to hide her “kinky” African-American hair. She herself, was admonished by many to look as white as possible to be accepted.  Back then (and even today in East Asia) these are words that ring true.  It should make us think of our society. Also, to think of how her life must have been, trying to make it in the industry. But it was not tragic or dark, just harder. There were many, including her agents, etc, who wanted her to succeed, knowing that life in Japan, in the public limelight, would be excruciating at times, but must be endured if we are to follow our dreams against all odds, within a racist, sexist milieu.

The song definitely had, as most songs do, different interpretations depending upon the listener.  This song was generally heard through two main meanings:  1) was that in the refrain, she says “Maria-sama.” So in relation to Christianity and the Christian minorities in Japan, this was also a song that they especially loved and could connect with the appeal to forgive the girl who does “wrong” in society and to not be mad at her.  Essentially a prayer to Mother Mary.  I knew some Japanese Christians at the time, who kept their beliefs secret for fear of being bullied, who loved this song, along with us haafu.

The other interpretation which my haafu friends and I interpreted this to speak to, is the Amerasian version. Many of the street kids that were Amerasian, whether white or black haafu, could relate to the constant desperations and exclusions and violence we often encountered from the Japanese folks around us, both other kids and adults. After being tormented for weeks, there would be a breaking point and fights would ensue (my friends went through this alot, whereas I would usually retreat into my room and not deal with others). After the fighting, the Amerasian kid, of course, would be  blamed for everything and be punished. The song reminded Amerasians of the nuns at Christian orphanages in Japan, who were most often entrusted with the Amerasians left behind by the American (and to a lesser degree the Australian and British) Occupying male soldiers and the beleaguered and enraged/depressed and/or shamed Japanese mothers. The lyrics pleading for the nuns to not be mad at that child for creating trouble.  It was not only about children. The same hierarchies and abuses continued (and still does today in most of Asia) into adulthood. This was a scene that was not only imaginable by the haafu living in Japan in those years, but us Amerasians lived through these moments over and over again.  Don’t be mad at her.  Don’t be mad at me, we’ve lived through unimaginable heartaches—as the lyrics go.

This is a memory, strongly imprinted in many of us Amerasian body-minds since the postwar.  It is a memory-emotion we wish we didn’t have, and as well, something we hold dear, as a reminder of what we have survived and unrecognized by others.  Translation of LYRICS – below:

叱らないで
青山ミチ
作詞:星野哲郎
作曲:小杉仁三あの娘がこんなに なったのは
あの娘ばかりの 罪じゃない
どうぞ あの娘を 叱らないで
女ひとりで 生きてきた
ひとにゃ話せぬ 傷もある
叱らないで 叱らないで
マリヤさま
あの娘が戻って きた夜の
外はつめたい みぞれ雨
どうぞ あの娘を 叱らないで
夢をなくした 小鳩には
ここが最後の 止り木よ
叱らないで 叱らないで
マリヤさま
あの娘の涙は うそじゃない
うそで泣くほど すれちゃない
どうぞ あの娘を 叱らないで
なにも言わずに 十字架の
そばへあの娘の 手をひいて
叱らないで 叱らないで
マリヤさま
That girl did not become this way
all by herself alone.
Please do not be angry with her.
She has lived all this time as a girl alone
and has scars that she can’t tell people about
Don’t be angry with her,  Don’t be angry with her Miss Maria.
From the the night out there where cruel rains fall
she has come back
So please don’t be angry with her.
This place is a final stopping tree
for a baby pigeon that has lost its dreams
Don’t be angry with her, Don’t be angry with her Miss Maria.
Her tears are not lies
She has no need for fake crying
Please don’t be angry with her
Without saying a word, please take her hand near the crucifixion cross where we are
Don’t be angry with her, Don’t be angry with her Miss Maria.

Legacies – WASHINGTON POST 2015 – by Annie Gowen and Linda Davidson

This is an excellent, full article by Annie Gowen, with photos by Linda Davidson, in the Washington Post, dated April 17, 2015, entitled: Legacies of War: Forty Years After The Fall of Saigon, Soldiers’ Children are Still Left Behind. Click on the title to go to the article.

The Amerasians usually written about, are still being written about, from the dawn of men who travel and spend time in Asia, away from their domestic lives in the United States and elsewhere, to create babies and as often is the case, abandon them, with their mothers, in that homeland.  The Vietnam-Southeast Asia War is the latest, and perhaps most remembered of the Asian Wars in which Amerasians are mentioned, and usually languaged as a “social issue” or a “social problem.” Through this language, in the United States and in Southeast Asia, the “Amerasian” is rendered tragic and objects of literary skills that lock Amerasians into their caste positions to be scorned and left “tragic” and “obscure;” for stories like this to be repeated, and for nation-states and American militaries to continue with the conditions that give birth to, in purposeful ways, the maintaining of sufferings that most people seem to care less about.

This article is excellent, tracing new developments such as DNA testing, which allows Amerasian orphans such as those told in these pages, some hope to find their long-lost families, hoping to rise out of the conditions of poverty and longing in which they are forced because of Vietnam (and other Asian nations) entitling themselves to abuse, exclude, and demote the Amerasians and their mothers, to lowly status and to place them into lives of abject struggle. Their lives are not sad, but full of empowerment, strength, perseverance and skills so that they may survive and find. Some are successful in finding their lost fathers in the U.S., but may come to fierce rebuttals and the closing of doors on their hopes because their fathers, or their father’s spouses, won’t allow it. Others never find their fathers, while others find them and build new lives after their search is over, winding into new paths with or without their fathers bringing their relationship into a light that may grow. Military bases, sex, and the intercultural transactions made through bodies and minds, creating societies in far away places, that are directly related to the amount of suffering incurred on children and women, who then grow into teenagers and adults with certain experiences many cannot imagine and wish not to.  But perhaps some will read these stories, to understand the far-reaching consequences of war, occupation, and the concept of global military bases and the realities that American pleasures rest upon–the continuities and heartbreaks that must be, in these men and women’s lives, that seem so far away and yet our privileges are linked to.

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.”

 

 

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.

Militarized Mama Amerasia – an International Women’s Day Reflection

Mama in our front yard in Albuquerque, New Mexico, circa 1972

Today, according to a few sources, there are an estimated two million Amerasians–children and adults of local women across Asia who have been sired by United Statian military and civilian men and abandoned by the men. If we are to include Ameri-Pacifics–those born in the Pacific and South Seas Islands, the numbers would, of course, be higher. Often, in these stories, the harrowing and rough stories of Amerasians are told, and must be continued to be told. But the stories of the mothers, are backgrounded.

Read more…

Controlling Amerasian Body-Minds: The American and French-Fathered Mixed-Race Children in Japan, Korea and Vietnam

amerasian-vietnam-2015-WshgtnPOST
Photo of Vietnamese Amerasians by Linda Davidson/Washington Post

 

 

For infants and children born to local mothers in Japan and Korea, fathered by U.S. military and civilian personnel during the U.S. occupation of these countries, their lives were not in their own or their mothers’ control. During U.S. occupations in Asia and the Pacific which began earlier—Hawaii, the Philippines, Guam, the Mariana Islands, and the Solomon Islands—the same issues became prevalent, real, a struggle, continuing today.  It continues today because these places are still “occupied.” And then in the latest full-out colonial Cold War played out in Southeast Asia, the same for the children and their mothers. But let us not forget that before the U.S. arrived in Southeast Asia, the French colonized Indochina. They had state policies on how to control the issue of the Metís, as they were called by the French, which differed from the United Statians.

Read more…

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

hapakorea

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

 

Read more…

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