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.

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.

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:

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…

Preview by Wendy Cheng, of my upcoming book: Dream of the Water Children

0 - BOOK - COVER - final

 

A Black-Japanese Amerasian reflects on life in the present, with the traces of wars and their aftermaths. 2Leaf Press is pleased to announce the publication of Fredrick D. Kakinami Cloyd’s first book, DREAM OF THE WATER CHILDREN, MEMORY AND MOURNING IN THE BLACK PACIFIC, in June 2016.

CLICK THIS LINK:  http://2leafpress.org/online/preview-dream-of-the-water-children-wendy-cheng/

MY BOOK: The Layout and Proofs are Going! Yes.

Mother and child - Canton 1920
Mother and child in Canton, China circa 1920.

My book: Dream of the Water Children: Memory and Mourning in the Black Pacific, is slated to be out in late spring 2016, in June.  All is on schedule so far.

We are working on the layout and design right now, including the placement of the photos. I am also editing the Afterword section after the editor worked with it.

The Layout is beautiful!  I thank Gabrielle David and the folks at 2Leaf Press for their very very hard work, their tenacity and dedication.

They walk their talk.  A press dedicated to multicultural literature and education is rare!  I am so happy with our work together, although as usual, it’s not all easy.

Exciting!!

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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