Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Re-Launch, Sort Of

Hey, Hip Hapa Homeez!

It's hard to believe that I started this blog back in 2006. On that March day, I proclaimed I would henceforth write about issues that affect all AfroAsians as well as keep folks updated about our feature film, Watermelon Sushi. But then, I stopped. And, I didn't start again until 2008! When I did, I began writing about all mixed-race topics--period.

In the beginning, I blogged every single day. It seems I had a lot on my mind back then. Of course, I couldn't keep up with myself much less give you, the reader, fresh news on a daily basis. So, I switched to just blogging on Wednesdays and found that to be a much more manageable goal. Of course, I also evolved from writing only about the AfroAsian experience to including mixies of every blend.

Now, I'm ready to move Watermelon Sushi World up a notch, and that means involving you. Starting with this posting, I'm going to feature various multiracial personalities each week. So many of you out there lead such interesting lives, so let me hear from you! To be interviewed, please email me at:

For now, here are two Hip Hapa Homeez who attended the fabulous Mixed Roots Film and Literary Festival (at the Japanese American National Museum on June 12 and 13) and their thoughts and opinions about it.

Kathy Sachiko Jackson, in the photo above, has a Japanese mother and an African American father.

Q: How did you participate in this year's Mixed Roots Film and Literary Festival?
A: I answered questions on the Mixed-Race Relationships panel.

Q: What was the most exciting aspect of the festival?
A: The whole theme of mixed roots was exciting. The film I got to see--I'm not Black Damnit, I'm Biracial by Carolyn Battle-Cochrane--was amazing! It was funny and sad at the same time.

Q: What did you learn from your experiences there?
A: I have a community of people who want me to explore and find my Japanese background; that I have a group that supports and "gets" me.

Q: How do you think this festival helps mixed-race people? Non mixed-race people?
A: It gives us a voice. It puts all of our thoughts and struggles out there. Non mixed-race people can learn that sometimes they say things that can be hurtful to mixed-race people such as, "What are you?" I am a human being, damn it!

Q: Will you return next year? If so, in what capacity?
A: I will definitely return to the festival again next year. I would love to be on a panel again or attend as a spectator.

Amina S. Kangiwa, in the photo above, has a Filipina mother and a Nigerian father:

Q: How did you participate in this year's Mixed Roots Film and Literary Festival?
A: I was an attendee who also covered the event for, an online website for people of mixed heritage.

Q: What was the most exciting aspect of the festival?
A: I really enjoyed the film screenings and the panel discussion "Mixed in Hollywood" although the highlight for me was "Mixed Unplugged: Live Performance of the Mixed Experience"--specifically Maija Digiorgio's comedy skit. She was hilarious!

Q: What did you learn from your experiences there?
A: I learned how crucial it is for people of mixed heritage to be part of a community of people who can somewhat relate to their experiences growing up multiracial. It was so great to talk to people who intuitively understood my stories and experiences as a mixed person as evidenced by the glint in their eyes when I shared my stories--a great contrast to the beam of confusion and a raised eyebrow that I often get from many of my mono-racial friends.

Q: How do you think this festival helps mixed-race people? Non mixed-race people?
A: To see others talking so openly about their mixed experience and be able to channel it into an artistic form can be very healing and encouraging to mixed-race people (which wouldn't have been possible if the festival didn't exist.) The festival encourages mixed people to find their voice--a voice that for centuries has been silenced due to a widespread discomfort when talking about the mixed experience and race in general. Hopefully, there were people in attendance who, as a result of the festival, were encouraged to start talking about their experiences, to mold all their past pain and confusion, joy and lessons learned, into some sort of art form.

For non mixed-race people, the festival can raise awareness and sensitivity to issues and slights commonly experienced by people of mixed heritage, often caused by others unaware of how damaging certain comments can be. Also, on a much lighter note, the festival was filled with so many talented people whose work can be enjoyed by everyone--mixed or non-mixed--and art, no matter who created it, can always benefit us all.

Q: Will you return next year? If so, in what capacity?
A: Definitely! I'd like to contribute and participate in any way I can, though, of course, the decision is ultimately up to Heidi and Fanshen. *Wink* *Wink* -:-)

Thanks to both Sachiko and Amina for their participation. Next week, I'll feature more stories from more participants.

On another note, I know I've written about this many times before, but one aspect of our mixed-race world that still irritates me is the improper use of the words "biracial" and "hapa". I've noticed that any time the word biracial is used by mainstream media, they mean it to include only those who are half black and half white. Huh? And, the word hapa seems to have been hijacked by certain interest groups, too. Since hapa is the Hawai'ian mispronunciation of the English word half (as in Native Hawai'ian people lacked the phonetics to say half), hapa does not mean half Asian as some believe. In fact, the first biracial people in Hawai'i were half Native Hawai'ian and half European. East Asians didn't migrate to Hawai'i until after Europeans arrived. The offspring of Hawai'ians and Europeans were actually called hapa haole. Even though the world haole is used derogatorily to describe whites today, translated it simply means "no ha". To Native Hawai'ians, ha is the sacred breath one would expel when bowing to their king. Of course, Europeans wouldn't know that so they didn't practice the custom. Hawai'ians then tagged them "he without ha" or "no sacred breath". Ole is Hawai'ian for nothing.

btw, we still have lots of t-shirts available for you so check them out here:

Also, if you haven't already, please sign up to join our Facebook group Hip Hapa Homeez where members post the most interesting articles, links and videos.

Until next week I remain,

Your Hip Hapa,

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mixed Roots At JANM And Watermelon Sushi Auditions

Aloha Hip Hapa Homeez!

If you weren't there, you missed an incredible event. The second annual Mixed Roots Film and Literary Festival in J-town (Little Tokyo) was all that and more. I promise to post photos on the next few blogs once I get the okay from folks who are in them. I'll also be interviewing some of the attendees, so stay tuned.

Arriving at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) on Friday, June 12 (Loving Day), I was greeted by Fanshen Cox and Heidi Durrow (The Mixed Chicks) who were heading to the Democracy Forum to hear the opening remarks by Curtiss Rooks. Afterwards, I hung out in the lobby and met Facebook friends like journalist Amina Kangiwa of, writer/performer Kaypri Actswrite, Arana Fossett founder of The Topaz Club, Mulatto Diaries filmmaker Tiffany Jones, musician Jason Luckett, Hip Hapa Homeez officer Martine McDonald, Blended Nation authors Pamela Singh and Mike Tauber, and so many more. In spite of having a bad hair day, I agreed to be photographed by way too many of them and now I'm suffering on their Facebook pages.

First up, I went to Kaypri's presentation of the piece her mother planned to do before she fell and hurt herself. What an awesomely revealing hour! The discussion was about Kaypri's white southern mother who met and married her African American father while both were active in the Civil Rights movement.

Next, I got caught in a swirl (props to Jen Chau!) as I gathered panel participants and help in setting up my camera for the discussion I was moderating called Mixed-Race Relationships. Between listening to Kim Noonan's Short Filmmaking Crash Course, greeting friends who came to offer support, and checking mics and water bottles, I totally forgot to introduce myself to the audience when it was my turn to go on. But the important thing is that we had an interesting and lively discussion about who multiracial people have relationships with. Panelists Sam Cacas (author of BlAsian Exchanges, a novel about Asian men and black women), Sachiko Jackson (a Nurse Case Manager), and Ann Carli (an independent film producer and former music executive) all freely shared their personal stories. Since I haven't viewed the taped session yet, I won't trust my memory to write more at this point, but I will soon. Some of what was revealed was so deep that I had to come up for air. Gulp!

Hey, what a coincidence that my good buddy Trace happens to work at JANM! During her break, she and I refreshed ourselves in the museum's elegant tea shop. Here's a pix of me sitting with tomodachi. And, yes, those are the raccoon dog's genitalia. Don't ask me.

That night, we partied in honor of Loving Day. See the cake, below. Anyone reading this blog probably already knows that June 12, 1967 was the day the Supreme Court overturned earlier decisions that made Richard and Mildred Loving's marriage illegal in the state of Virginia (and 15 others). He was white, she was black, and they had been arrested in their bedroom for the act of miscegenation (race-mixing).

Returning to the Mixed Roots Festival on Saturday, I sat in on the Mixed In Hollywood session completely intrigued. Karyn Parsons (Hillary of Fresh Prince of Bel Air) was very vocal about what she, as an actress of mixed ancestry, had to endure in the biz. Karyn's father is Jewish and her mother African American. Also on the panel were writer Angela Nissel (Scrubs), film director/producer Joseph Anaya, actress Jenny Rich, and moderator Elliott Lewis.

In the lobby, I briefly spoke with Kim Wayans and her husband Kevin Knotts who have a children's book called Amy Hodgepodge. Yes, she's a Wayans sister and, yes, her spouse is Caucasian and, yes, they wrote the book for their child.

Following lunch at a Japanese restaurant where I had the "House Special" aka the only veggie dish on the menu, I returned to JANM. btw, when are Japanese eateries in America going to become as accommodating as their Thai and Vietnamese brothers and sisters? Look, if you want my money and you've got tofu in the kitchen, whip up something that doesn't contain fish broth for vegans like me! Back at JANM, I sat in on the film screenings and, at Fanshen's request, moderated the Q&A on behalf of filmmaker Tiffany Jones.

Finally, on Sunday, we held auditions for Watermelon Sushi and were totally unprepared for this surprise talent. Check out Killa Chan's YouTube vid here:

Too soon, the wonderful weekend was over. Mad love to the Mixed Chicks for organizing such an amazing event and to all you players who contributed to it. Mahalo nui loa also to all who helped with Watermelon Sushi auditions, and for joining me for dinner in Santa Monica.

My personal rear crawl includes (in alpha order):

Glenn Boggs
Rene Brown, her son Alex and her friend J.C.
Sam Cacas and his wife Dora
Ann Carli
Aklia Chinn*
Robert Clements
Daphne Delores
Gina Hiraizumi
Val hm
Sachiko Jackson
Rae Jones
Pearl, Jr.
Jeff Lee
Miwa Lyric
Yoon-Suk Kim Navarre
Kiyoshi Parker
Gigi Pique
Dmitri, Atsuko and Elena Ragano, and their friends
Ed Rampell
Marlon Ransome
Luis Reyes
Chez Shoji

*Special thanks to Aklia for so generously providing us audition space. Check out her store, Aklia's, at 1515 N Cahuenga in Hollywood (323-461-1810).

Until next week, I'm still...

Your Hip Hapa,

P.S. Don't forget we've still got t-shirts!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mixed Roots Film And Literary Festival This Weekend!

Aloha Hip Hapa Homeez!

If you're in L.A. this Friday and/or Saturday, stop by the Mixed Roots Film And Literary Festival at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo. Your Hip Hapa will be moderating a panel discussion about Mixed-Race Relationships. Who are we mixies attracted to? Who do we date? Who do we fall in love with? Who do we live with? Marry? Have babies with? Do we prefer other mixies or monoracial partners? And, if we have a preference for monoracial partners, do we choose our mother's or father's ethnic group? Come and find out from my distinguished panel featuring author Sam Cacas, music and film dynamo Ann Carli, and the lovely Sachiko Jackson. If you need more info, google the Mixed Chicks or the Mixed Roots website to get a schedule. The event is free, but registration is required.

Just a quick shout-out to Brian Parker for sending me the link 'Dating 101' about interracial romance. Now, let's take it a step farther and ask, 'What about dating when you're the product of an interracial pairing?'

And if you're New York, check out the Big Girls Club (Happy Dance Dance Princess Show) in celebration of Loving Day on June 12 at 8 pm.

Above is a photo of me with my sister's kid, Shinzo, at about 10 months. His Japanese and black mother's choice of a partner? African American.

Happy Loving Day and until next week, I will always be...

Your Hip Hapa,

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Michiko's Dilemma, Diana And Upcoming Events

Since there's no Hip Hapa Homee to feature this week, I'm posting a lengthy comment from a reader. Let's just call her Michiko.

My original question: Okay. So, what do you readers think? Do mixed-race people with black ethnicities tend to shun that part of themselves? Drop us a line at and tell all!

Hello Yayoi!

I just read your 20 May blog on Watermelon Sushi World, and would like to reply to your question.

The following has been my experience:

Before I entered public school, my only experience with people outside of my immediate family were my white neighbors and my mother's Japanese friends (who were also married to black service members) and their children. At that time, I had no idea that I looked any different from anyone else. I never gave any thought to it.

On the first day of school in the first grade, I was surrounded by a group of black kids. They encircled me, and one of them asked, "What are you, anyway?" I really didn't know what he was asking, so I didn't answer. Then, several of them chimed in with, "Yeah, what are you?"

Still, I had no clue what they were saying so I just stood there and said nothing.

One of them asked, "Do you speak English?"

I answered, "Yes".

He said, "Because you look Chinese. Are you Chinese?"

I said, "No."

So again he asked, "What are you?"

At this point, I became frustrated and started to cry because I still didn't understand what I was being asked.

A little white girl named Carol walked into the middle of circle and took me by the arm. She looked at the kids and said, "Leave her alone. She's colored, okay? Now, leave her alone."

The other kids were shocked. "What do you mean she's colored?" they asked.

Carol put her arm next to mine, compared them and said, "See! She's colored."

That put an end to that and from that day on, I was known as the "colored girl with the Chinese eyes and the good hair."

As I entered adolesence and young adulthood, I was confronted with several odd questions and heard the opinions of many blacks on my mixed ethnicity. (Here's where I get the meat of your question!)

I have been told by some black girls that I'm not "really" one of them because I have "good hair" and, thus, I became the target of several bully girls who would sneer that I was "trying" to be one of them, and that I thought I was better than them because I was "light-skinned with good hair". These traits most certainly meant (to them) that I had a hidden agenda, and was out to get whatever it was that they were entitled to which was only given to me because of those traits. Those traits also meant (according to them) that I was conceited, stuck-up and "fast".

Because of those experiences, I have never really felt accepted by black women. My closest friends were mainly gay men and open-minded white women.

When I married my husband (who is an extremely dark-skinned man from Central America, exceptionally intelligent, kind and a practicing M.D.), my mother told me that one of her black female co-workers made this statement: "Your daughter is so beautiful. She could have had a white man. Why did she marry someone so dark?"

When I returned from my honeymoon and showed one of my black female coworkers my wedding pictures, she commented, "I'm really surprised that you married someone so dark."

After not seeing my high school best friend's brother for several years after graduation, I met up with him when we were living in Las Vegas. As my two children and I walked through a lobby, my friend's brother said, "Oh my god, Michiko! You have black children! I never expected you to marry a black man!"

So is it that we shun that part of ourselves? Or, do they shun us?

Our family lived in Italy for three years. We lived in a farming community where most of the residents were older Italians. To them, I was just "American". I no longer had to feel concious of explaining my ethnicity to strangers.

Then, we moved from Italy to Okinawa where there are many Americans.

One day, I was in the officer's club with my young son who was about 16 months old. He walked up to a black American man and gestered that he wanted to be picked up. The man asked me, "Where are you from?" I said, "New Jersey". He said, "No you're not. Where are you really from?" I replied, "I was born in Virginia, but I moved to New Jersey when I was three months old." At this point he was getting annoyed with me because he thought I was trying to be fresh, but I was simply answering his question, 'Where are you from?'. He said, "No. You know what I mean." So, I reverted back to my first-grade answer, "I'm colored." Well, I didn't say "colored". I said, "I'm black". He said ,"No you're not."

I had to walk away because I was getting frustrated.

So to answer your question, I think there may be some who shun that part of themselves. I, for one, love my black side! I love black culture, and I feel so proud of that part of myself. I also love the culture of my Japanese side.

If you ask me today, I will tell you that I am half black and half Japanese. In the past, I heard that 'you are what your father is'. But I always felt that I couldn't look at my Japanese mother and not give her credit for contributing to who I am.

Whenever we move, I always encounter people who "wonder" what I am. When they finally ask and I tell them, they say, "I knew there was something black about you, but I knew there was something else, and I wasn't sure what it was." Sometimes people will use the word "exotic".

I feel that the people I encounter these days seem to be more enlightened on issues of mixed-race people, and that makes me happy. And today, I can say that I feel accepted by my black peers.

I think that we are all entitled to declare "what we are" based on our experiences and our own self-concept. I can understand why Halle Berry and Barak Obama say they are black. And I can also understand why Tiger Woods says he is Cablasian.

Thanks for listening!


Unfortunately, Michiko wishes to remain anonymous so I don't have a photo to post. Instead, here's one of my family that probably looks similar to hers. In my own life, after our family left the security of military bases where mixies abounded, I found that my best friends were often Latina women. Perhaps because of their own mestizo backgrounds, they understood better the dilemma of being multiracial. So, I've also posted a pix of me with my old buddy Diana (left, above) whom I haven't seen in years. Like a lot of Latina women I've known, Diana dated men of every racial make-up.

The countdown is on! Next week, I'll be moderating the panel "Mixed-Race Relationships" at the Mixed Roots Film and Literary Festival in L.A. If you'd like a copy of the program, hollah at

Thank you to everyone who has been so supportive of Hip Hapa Homeez on Facebook. We now have close to 600 members, and we promise to get more active with this group soon!

And, don't forget, we're still offering Hapa*Teez t-shirts to support our Watermelon Sushi film project--which we're auditioning talent for while we're in L.A.

Mad luv to all of you who continue to be cheerleaders for Watermelon Sushi World. I can't thank you enough and I promise to always be...

Your Hip Hapa,