Dream of the Water Children: The Black Pacific

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.

For this Mother’s Day この母の日に

 

 

ママ、1929年  (?)  に生まれ、2011年 9月17日にあの世へ去って行きました。この母の日、日々と変わらず、ママの優しさと怒鳴り声が心を休ましてくれる。どうもありがとう。

On this Mother’s Day, Like any day, My mother’s kindness as well as her commanding words, renders my heart calm. Born in 1929(?), and passing to the other world on September 17, 2011.  Thank you Mama.

In honor this year, I repeat my poem for her, that was featured in the Generation Nexus: Peace in the Postwar Era exhibit at the Presidio in San Francisco from November 2013 to April 2014: http://njahs.org/640/portfolio/generation-nexus-peace-in-the-post-war-era/, and published first, in Kartika Review, Spring Issue 2012: https://issuu.com/kartikareview/docs/kartika_issue12, and in Inquiring Mind – Issue on War & Peace Poetry: http://www.inquiringmind.com/Articles/WarPeacePoems.html.

 

                   For Kiyoko, Epitaph/Chikai *

Mama’s silent hand in mine         we remember traverse

history’s ten million wars.

Her Last breath            passes through me

survival’s constant fire.

I, her             Occupier’s baby

tremble in        black    yellow       through tombs

        ancient colors

falling

bombs          Mama          persimmon blossoms.

Time after time            Kiyoko becomes

sword

           desire

         wounds

   rain.

 

* Chikai: Vow, promise (in Japanese language). Without Kanji characters and written in hiragana or katakana, this can have the meanings near, close as well as basement or cellar. So ‘Chikai’ means: a promise, a vow, near, closeness, the cellar (which connotes things put below and kept as momentos, memories, the forgotten, the forsaken). Historical and personal continuities, relics, secrets, baggage, intimacy, preciousness.

 

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.

Read more…

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.

 

 

MY BOOK: Update! – ENTIRE PROOF going through!

Mama, Dad, myself, above and below bombs.

My BOOK is, for the FIRST TIME in six years of being in the works with the publisher, is ON TRACK!  

For the first time, the ENTIRE manuscript has been proofed and is being reviewed for final edits and placement of photos.  This has never happened!  So it is going to be ready by next fall!

The many photos need to be placed throughout the book in the right places, the captions need to be cleaned up, and then the Index needs to be done.

While this is going on, those doing extra chapters such as the Introduction, will be able to read the manuscript and write their pieces for the Front Matter.

So it feels GOOD to finally be in the “BOOK IS HAPPENING” stage, and no longer in the start-and-stop phase.

 

Re-Post: Black and White GIs in Military prisons in Postwar Japan: Black Glasses Like Clark Kent

blackglasses-clarkkent

The book by Terese Svoboda, Black Glasses Like Clark Kent (Graywolf Press 2008), tells the personal true story of Svoboda’s journey, beginning with her Uncle who becomes depressed, then takes his own life.

Her uncle served in the US Occupation of Japan, working as a Military Stockade guard.

Read more…

“Babysan” by Bill Hume; and Japan Society Review by Kim Brandt

babysan-cover

 

One of the most interesting and revealing pieces of art and history, as well as what I think to be among the most “valuable” from the U.S.-Allied Occupation of Japan, is Bill Hume’s cartoon book: Babysan: A Private Look at the Japanese Occupation.

A great review of this book can be found at the Japan Society, written by Kim Brandt:

http://aboutjapan.japansociety.org/learning-from-babysan

This book gives a great glimpse into how American soldiers viewed their stay in Japan, as Occupiers, as boys who have left home, as military personnel, who were largely becoming intimate with a “Japan” through their relationships with their own ideas about “Oriental” women and Japanese women themselves. In my own work, I focus much on the more intense violent interactions in order to make points related to uneven relations, nation-building, and the tactics and thinking that create the will, desire, and the unspoken aspects of military occupation and empire-building in our world, whether past or present, and most likely the same building blocks that will be re-created in structural procedures and people’s minds in the future. Babysan looks at these these things in the intimate everyday, through their loneliness, need for affection and sex, and their position as conquerors, as male.

Read more…

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…

New Video posted on YouTube: “BLACK PACIFIC ELEGY”

Here is the second installment of my video series.

It is a visual poem.  Read, listen, feel, think.

Hopefully you will be curious, look up information and terms you don’t quite know or understand.

Be outraged?  Become more understanding? Curious?

Watch this in HD for the best view!

If you prefer VIMEO – the same video is here: https://vimeo.com/153967699

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…

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