Dream of the Water Children: The Black Pacific

VIDEO: Eric Robinson of Black Tokyo – Race & Identity in Japan

I am featured, along with Black-Okinawan thinker Mitzi-Uehara Carter, in the latest edition of Black Tokyo‘s Vlog at Youtube.

This edition features issues whiteness, blackness and Japanese-ness in relation to Race and Identity in Japan.

Reflecting on the election of Ariana Miyamoto as Miss Universe Japan in 2015, Eric points to various critiques, insights, and conditions that construct the definitions of social change, Japan and Japanese-ness, and the roles of mixed-race-ness in Japanese society, whether influencing Japan or not.

Also: Visit Eric Robinson’s BLACK TOKYO blog here: http://www.blacktokyo.com 

 

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.

And. . . . . . .

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My Early Puzzling racial questions……..

diz-carla-mama-me
Mama, myself, and my friend Diz and his sister Carla, in front of my Dad’s new Mercedes just outside of Tachikawa Air Force Base, Japan in 1961.

When I run into and get to know mixed-race American-Japanese people in the U.S., most of the time, they mention histories of being confused about who they were, their identity. Although, let’s say out of fifty persons I knew, seven or eight of them did not tell me that they questioned their identity, about confusion, the others did. I am one who never had any questions of who I was. But I also began noticing that those who questioned their identity, were mostly born in the United States, or left Japan as a child, before they could form too many sentences. Since American-ness is a place of individuals disconnected from communities, where people must craft their intimacies and friendships and relations, it began to dawn on me that this was not a surprise.

Equally so, was that I was quite sure of who I was and never questioned who I was or what I was.

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Beiging & Dream: Two of my WORKS to be PUBLISHED this year!

 

beiging-of-america-promo

Very Very Happy to Report:  two of my works will be published this year!!  Both are *Definitely* on Track, on Time, and will happen (barring destruction of the publishing house).

In June, I will have a chapter in the anthology of mixed-race people in America, entitled: The Beiging of America: Personal Narratives About Being Mixed Race in the Twenty-First Century. It has some very powerful authors in it, of many racial and national backgrounds, sexual and gender identities, of various generations.

Final proof is being edited as we speak.

Mama and I in front of our house in Albuquerque, 1963.
Mama and I in front of our house in Albuquerque, 1963.

In November, after six long years of creative struggle after turning in my book to the publisher, my long-awaited book: Dream of the Water Children: Memory and Mourning in the Black Pacific, will be released. Yes!

The Final proofs and images are being edited and are being put in after being finalized, and waiting for the Introduction and Afterword to be finalized as well.  After this, there will be a final go-over by the chief editor and myself, and then it will be printed!

To be honest, since my publisher, for both of these works, is a small independent publisher, the marketing and promotion will mostly fall on me.

Please contact me if you can write a REVIEW for publishing in another publication or online site (or know of someone who is interested and can get published), or if you can plan a promotional reading by me (alone or on a panel or in a group), or help out in any other way.

Let me know if you need more info.

 

 

Black, Yellow, White in Japan and Asia

JPN - Black Sambo - Ufu and Mufu - Robert Moorehead
Black Sambo characters: Ufu and Mufu, popular in Japan – photo by Robert Moorehead

 

My need to think about Blackness in Asia goes far beyond the fact of my father being an African-American soldier stationed in Japan during the Korean War. It goes beyond anti-Black attitudes among Asians that I have experienced, and the anti-Asian attitude I have experienced among African-Americans today. I knew that a superficial and very American notion of anti-black racism in the United States would not do to understand my own place in history and the languages I would use to uncover and do my part to undo its power in the world.

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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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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

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…

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