Dream of the Water Children: The Black Pacific

Mama – Remembering

ママ、本当に感謝していますよ。あの世はこの世より優しいでしょ? さよなら。

I am always remembering. I am always with her.  I have also let her go. She raised and protected me, even midst all that she had been through: bombings by the United States, death and destruction; the depression and devastation of the postwar while the U.S. and allies bulldozed and built the military bases and then ruled the Japanese.  Censorship, fights and relationships with African-American and white men and women of the military; hunting for her sister’s body in Hiroshima that never came to fruition; falling for Americans, meeting my father;  giving birth to me and raising me amidst the mean stares and verbal and physical abuse by Japanese for being the mother of a “love child” and a “mixed-blood” and “black” child.  Experiencing her friends go to jail or commit suicide, go hungry; coming to America, learning to live in American culture, enduring Americans’ prejudice against “Japs,” learning to be herself in America and taking care of herself; being kind, gentle, tough, raging, funny as hell, being wise.

Mizuko and Yokohama Mary

In 2005, a documentary /movie was released named “Yokohama Mary.” It centers on a figure of an elder woman, dressed in a white Western aristocratic-era dress, with a parasol, and high heels, painting her face in white with bright red lips, almost like a Butoh form character, who wandered around the train stations and city streets in Yokohama. She was seen by the Japanese public over and over for about a decade. Then in 1995, she suddenly disappeared from sight.  In Japan, rumors began……….

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Mizuko – and Negishi Cemetery

a headstone at Negishi Cemetery. Photo from Debito.org credited to “CF.”

 

In 1853, Commodore Perry intruded the Japanese and Okinawan islands with demands, and finally landing and then the following year again, after repeated threats and failed negotiations with the Japanese Bakufu, demanded a gravesite for one of their sailors who died on board one of the American ships. This was the birth of the Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery in Kanagawa Prefecture,  just down the road from the future famous Elizabeth Saunders Home for Mixed Race Children, which was a well-known place where mixed-race babies were given up to during the World War II era. During subsequent years, through many battles with Russian and Chinese military, as well as trade relations, the number of foreigners dying in Japan, alongside Japanese soldiers, became too large and the cemetery grew to house the graves of many kinds of foreigners in Japan.

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Mizuko 水子 – “Water Children”

Jizo statues stand in many places and in many forms around Japan. Photo by Angie Star.

 

The title of my book: Dream of the Water Children: Memory and Mourning in the Black Pacific, contains terms that are in the in-between space between language, history, and worldviews.  In this post, and the next post, I will focus on the term: water children.  What is this?  In my own use of the term for my book, what does this mean?

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Maintaining, Exporting, Protecting Racism

From Jet Magazine, February 28, 1952

When the Amerasian School of Okinawa opened its doors in 2003, it already opened amidst controversy. I will not go into any details about most of it here. But my point in bringing this up is the particular criticism that this would further the divide between “ordinary” Okinawans, and mixed-race Okinawans fathered by American military personnel, American civilians, and other non-Okinawans.

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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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Join ‘Japan’s War Brides and Their Legacies – 2018 Symposium’

Japan’s War Brides and Their Legacies: 2018 Symposium — a symposium on the legacies and effects of the lives of women who married non-Japanese between 1945 to 1965, will be coming at USC (University of Southern California) in 2018.

I will be one of the organizers and looking forward to building this into a solid first-time program.

My hope is that healing, learning, connection, and impacts are made, linking the individual and diverse post-war Japanese women’s experiences with the lives of their children and what and how this links with other stories that create spaces for thinking for social change and social justice, and to honor the lives of the Japanese war-brides, which are often mired in controversy and various forms of invisiblizing.

Our intention is to bring Japanese war brides, their children, and the scholars, artists, filmmakers, and the general community together for a series of events for sharing, thinking, healing, and inspiration.

If you are a child of a Japanese post-WWII marriage, or are yourself, and would like to join in bringing this symposium together, please join our facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1849706125309535/

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.

 

Scars: Inter-generational Perpetration

 

Ginza 1951 - Men's Shoes - Werner Bischof
Black-American soldier waiting for a shoe shine by Japanese in the Ginza district of Japan during the Occupation of Japan, 1951. One should think of what this means for people and cultures. Photo: Men’s Shoes – Werner Bischof

 

Currently, there are many articles regarding the passing down of trauma in DNA. I am particularly focusing on trauma as a result of war, genocide, mass violence, and social oppression leading to refugee-making and exile, as well as such things as domestic violence. Inter-generational trauma is real. I did not need a scientific research paper to tell me this. However, as usual, I find that this kind of research, and these kinds of articles, have contradictory effects, like mostly everything in public life. Especially, if it has to do with oppression. Thinking about my own life, and the trajectories from what I know of my father’s life and mother’s life, and their parents’ and the conditions through which they survived and thrive, I see many issues. For now, I want to discuss five (5) distinct ones first, in relation to this “thing” we are beginning to mainstream: intergenerational trauma, the internal scars passed through time. The five I want to mention here are:

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