Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Poetic Powwows

Yo! Check out who’s in the Hip Hapa Homeez house this week. None other than Asani Winfrey Charles--who may or may not be related to Your Hip Hapa. I first met Asani when she lived in Long Beach, and I in Santa Monica. Contacting me to inquire whether we might be kin to each other (and Oprah), Asani emailed me a lengthy story about the Winfrey clan. Somewhere in our conversation, we discovered that we both knew the rapper Miwa Lyric. Eventually, the three of us met for dinner and have been in each other’s worlds ever since. That’s Asani in the photos, above and below.

A poet, a high school English teacher, a wife and a mother, Asani defines her writing style as “eclectically narrative”. Her childhood, steeped in multiculturalism, is reflected in her work which has been published in Ahani: Indigenous American Poetry, Yellow Medicine Review, and the forthcoming I Was Indian, edited by Susan DeerCloud.

Asani has also released a spoken word CD called Word Songs for Grandmas. Darrell Blackbear, Sr. of The Bear Claw Singers joins her on several pieces, which they refer to as recording "poetry over powwow".

When she’s not teaching or writing, Asani dances Southern Women's Cloth at powwows. A resident of Texas, her dream is to buy an RV and travel the powwow trail from coast to coast with her family.

View Asani’s links below, then check out what she has to say in the Q&A following:

Q: How did a nice mixed-race girl like you end up being a poetess?

A: I was exposed to poetry at a very young age. I remember my mother reading me classic fairy tales and Nikki Giovanni (as early as 6 or 7 years-old) before I went to bed. The cover of Grimm's Fairy Tales scared me so I would ask her to read Nikki instead. Then, one day in second grade, we were asked to write a poem about spring. I did, and my mother still brags about my first piece, The Trees Are Here.

Q: What are your parents’ ethnicities, and what did each teach you about their cultures?

A: Both of my parents are “redblack” mixedbloods with a little extra for flavor. My mother is Choctaw, black and Louisiana French, and my father is Chickasaw, black and English. I guess I was raised black, but our concept of blackness was quite different than most families, I think. Both parents grew up outside of Oklahoma, so their parents infused a lot of Indian ways in their rearing without saying it was so. My maternal grandmother told me our ancestors were Indian as well as black, but nothing else was said (outside of one of our matriarchal aunts who I took for being senile). I saw my maternal great grandmother, my only full African roots, as the cornerstone of the family and that was that. My father's mother was very quiet about her people and didn't share anything with me until I was an adult.

Q: How much does your poetry reflect your multiracial heritage?

A: I believe poetry is life in print, so my poetry reflects my life and all its facets. I see multiple ideas and themes running through my work. Multiracialism or multiculturalism appears a lot, as well as politics and verses about nature.

Q: How do your three children identify racially?

A: My three children are interesting. They share the same father, my husband, but he too comes from more than one root, so all three kids are unique in coloring and appearance. They each identify as both Indian and black, but are realistic about how society perceives them.

Q: As both a mother and a teacher, how do you present multiracial issues to your classroom and at home?

A: My kids are raised to be culturally aware of their heritages and of others. They appreciate diversity and are taught to never marginalize cultures. My students are not that fortunate, so I am a huge proponent of multicultural education. For many students, I am the first Indian they've ever met, so I use the classroom to dispel myths and lies, and incorporate multicultural literature to broaden students' knowledge about people from different cultural perspectives.

Q: What do you think is the biggest misunderstanding between African Americans and Native Americans?

A: The biggest misunderstanding is also the saddest, and that is that too many African Americans have little or no knowledge of American Indians at all. One would think that with our marginalized history, African Americans would appreciate Indians' shared struggles, but the knowledge just isn't there, so the oppressed oppress others. About African Americans, many American Indians assume blacks simply have their hands out like whites or white "wannabees". Some of that assumption is based on true experiences, but it is not the norm. Indians don't realize that African Americans have had family histories erased due to slavery, so often blacks are not looking for tribal benefits but a real sense of family history.

Q: How long have you been dancing at powwows? Personally, I’ve attended them in California, Hawai’i and Washington State so I’m curious to know if you have a favorite.

A: I have been dancing about 13 years now. I now realize I was spoiled in California. Across Indian Country, powwow season runs from March to mid-September, but dances in Southern California are pretty consistent each weekend and close by. North Texas is a different story. We have a few local powwows, but the rest are a bit of a drive. As for favorites, I have to go with Cal State Long Beach and my alma mater, UCLA.

Thank you, Asani for sharing your fascinating family history and love for culture. If you’re a Hip Hapa Homee with an interesting tale, hollah at

Meanwhile, here’s an article and a YouTube clip about a Chinese African American woman living in Shanghai who some Chinese claim shouldn’t be considered Chinese at all even though she was born and raised in China:

I also read a piece in Parade Magazine last weekend about Caucasian actor Pernell Roberts who rose to fame as the eldest son of Ben Cartwright on the TV series Bonanza. He was the fearless son, one of three, who always dressed in black. Well, unbeknownst to Your Hip Hapa, Roberts was also a civil rights activist who marched from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. Reportedly, he left the show because he felt NBC was racist for allowing white actors to play minority characters--like Marlo Thomas acting as a Chinese woman. Actor Victor Sen Yung played Hop Sing, the Cartwright’s loyal Chinese cook, but I didn’t read anything specific about Roberts’ feelings over Yung’s subservient role probably because it was a reality for Chinese during that time in the West. For Roberts, the highly rated Bonanza was, well, a bonanza. So, for him to walk away over the way people of color were portrayed was monumental. Here’s a shout-out to Pernell Roberts!

Finally to Hip Hapa Homeez’ Number One Fan, Ms. Paulette T., thank you for this link: -gcWaAC&pg=PA89&lpg=PA89&dq=magnus+morner+race+chart&source=bl&ots=rLOvL-yqRE&sig=cDfRRjVuZEb3r5MG3Lik3Fan91E&hl=en&ei=8yG0SsDTApG-sgO8u6yeDQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=9#v=onepage&q=&f=false

As always, big ups to all of you Hip Hapa Homeez for your continued support. We especially appreciate your purchases of our Hapa*Teez t-shirts. Don’t forget to contact us when you buy one so we can add your name to our list of credits for the Watermelon Sushi film. And, remember we’re on Facebook where you can join our Watermelon Sushi Fan Page and Hip Hapa Homeez group, and on Twitter where you can follow lines of dialogue from our Watermelon Sushi script. And, that list of Ning sites I promised last week is being compiled even as we read and write.

Until next Wednesday, I am...

Your Hip Hapa,


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Peace Loving Brides Of War

Shortly after World War II, American GI’s married the girlfriends they’d met in the countries where they were sent to fight. A lot of those wives came from the losing side of the war—most notably Germany and Japan--although two of my best friends in high school had mothers from Austria and France.

The term “war bride” was used to describe those ladies who essentially married men who invaded their nations. Personally, I like to say that my Japanese mother never married a war so why is she labeled as the wife of one?

While the difficulties of growing up biracial are significant, having a foreign parent is no piece of cake either. As the white American children at our school carried tin lunch boxes adorned with popular cartoon figures, my sister and I endured the humiliation of oblong leatherette lunch bags embroidered with a Japanese crest. Trust me, it was so not cool to display Japanese symbols back in the day when people still freely spouted the word “Jap”. For my sister and me, our mother’s foreign-ness was cause for shame. Today, of course, we feel lucky to have had such a loving okasan inundating us with her rich culture. But for a child singled out because of a foreign parent, being unique among her peers was not necessarily welcomed.

This week’s Hip Hapa Homee was such a child, too. Meet Michele Thomas, aka Belgian War Baby, whose photo appears above. Michele created and manages a website dedicated to war brides. Check it out; then, read our interview with her, below:

Q: What’s a nice half-Belgian girl like you doing with a website about World War II war brides?

A: I became interested in war brides back in the 1980’s when I asked my mother, a lady I met one day in the supermarket who was also Belgian, and her friend (a war bride from France) to have lunch. At the time I was living in Northern Louisiana and didn’t know of anyone there who talked like my mom. Each war bride brought along her daughter, so there were seven of us. We daughters heard stories about our mothers that we had never heard before. It was very interesting. I knew I had to learn more about these strong women who did not speak English yet married American GI’s and left their families behind to start new lives.

Q: When did you start collecting these women’s stories?

A: I started my website in 1999, and my first answered questionnaire and stories from strangers started at that time.

Q: What is the most unusual story you’ve heard from a WWII war bride?

A: There are so many! It’s amazing to me that some of the brides would leave children behind in orphanages or with family members. Some women were also married when they had affairs with good-looking GI’s and ended up giving their children away. There are also stories about women being abandoned after arriving in the U.S.--the U.S. had given these women a one-way ticket here.

Q: What was it like for your mother to experience war as a civilian in Belgium?

A: It was very hard because the Germans were in her homeland. Her father was taken prisoner for awhile, and she was also questioned by the SS for being a spy. She was a high school girl on a field trip to the Atlantic Ocean and bought a red, white and blue nautical scarf as a souvenir. The SS took her in, and her father had to convince them that she had only purchased a souvenir. She was so scared. It was hard for her seeing so many friends disappear or put in prisons.

And, like most war brides, she met my father at a dance.

Q: I’ve said before that white Americans with foreign mothers share similar experiences with people of color. While it’s true that you could blend easier into the mainstream than me, culturally, you’re still different. In what ways did your mother bring you up differently from the average American kid?

A: One of the biggest things is the fact that we were not prejudiced. My mother and father were divorced in 1949, and my mother’s parents and brother moved to the U.S. out of fear of the Germans. This was the second time the Germans took over Belgium. I grew up in what I call “my own United Nations”. My mother’s friends were all Europeans from France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Germany and Poland. When we had a picnic, people would stare at us. The young men would be playing soccer--considered a strange game back then. We dressed differently, ate different foods, and would speak in another language others didn’t understand. I often heard Americans say, “Go back to where you came from.”

Q: What are the WWII war bride reunions like?

A: They’re wonderful! These ladies, mostly in their late 80’s, are full of life. They love to tell jokes--many dirty ones. They love to sing and dance. We are interviewing these women on DVD. Their stories are so sad, yet so funny. I love listening to them. They are so strong. A common thread among them is, “We made our choices and now we have to live with them.”

Q: You and I are who we are because of war. Are you a dove or hawk?

A: Gee, that’s a hard question. I guess a little of both. I’m very easygoing, but I will fight for myself and others who are treated badly because of what life gave them at the start. Judge me for me. I don’t care for people who can’t get past their own childhoods. After all, you had no control as a child but once you’re an adult it is up to you how you live your life. Hey, and no one calls me a “dumb foreigner” anymore.

Merci beaucoups, Madame Michele, for your dedication to our WWII war bride mothers! Your commitment and devotion are appreciated.

I also asked Michele about white English women who were forced by the British government to put their half black children fathered by African American GI’s in orphanages. Michele sent this interesting article in response:

If any of you Hip Hapa Homeez are in the area, please note that the World War II War Brides Reunion will be held in San Francisco from September 30 through Oct 4 at the Double Tree Airport Hotel. This event is open to all war brides and their families. If you can't stay for its entirety, then just stop by to see what's going on. You’ll find a lively group of people who enjoy having a great time. The “My Story” section of the reunion will be on Tuesday from 2 pm to 6 pm, and ladies are invited to tell their stories. They will be taped and a DVD will be made. Last year’s DVD was a wonderful success, according to Michele.

Here’s a timely article about filmmakers who plan to document Japanese war brides:

Until next week, please remember to join our Facebook group, Hip Hapa Homeez, and our Watermelon Sushi Fan page, too. Follow watermelonsushi on Twitter, check out the film at, and our t-shirts at

Next week, I’ll add a list of all the Ning sites where Watermelon Sushi can also be viewed.

Bonne nuit mes amis et amants!

Your Hip Hapa,


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Marcus Patrick-Patrick Marcus, Mixed Raw Vegan Movie Star

Cheerio to all you Hip Hapa Homeez! This week, British actor Patrick Marcus Osborne joins us to reveal more than just his buffo bod. Check out Marcus Patrick in the photos and at the link below, and then read what he has to say about his life as a multiracial raw vegan. Deep!

Q: What’s a nice mixed-race guy like you doing showing off his abs and pecs?

A: I used to run around my house naked as a kid. My parents were very liberal so it was always considered a fun thing that my sister and I would run around the house naked for fun!

Q: What led you to become a raw vegan, and why are you such a strong advocate of that lifestyle?

A: I actually said a prayer to God/The Universe that I was no good to Earth if I had to sing or rap negative songs, become an egomaniacal actor, sell products I don't believe in, or fight men in competitions. I asked God/The Universe to use me as a vessel for helping humanity and do with me what was needed. It was this prayer that turned me vegan and, later, raw. Once I studied the medical data on it, I saw that it was really the healthiest way one can live. I also gained many other spiritual benefits of heightened sensitivity, awareness and even the intuition that many would think--along with this whole paragraph--sounds crazy, unless they themselves cross the spiritual path.

Q: What are your parents’ ethnicities, and how did they meet?

A: Mother is Jamaican, Cuban and Cherokee. My father is English, Irish, and French. My dad was always obsessed with black women. He would draw them as a kid with an Afro hairstyle. He is a great artist. He always wanted the strongest woman for the strongest kids he said, and he had decided the black race was the strongest. I came out pretty strong so maybe he had a good plan. He was a deejay at the university. My mom came to England from Jamaica to study nursing. They met at a university dance and the rest is a long book filled with lots of drama. Ha!

Q: How did growing up mixed affect your life?

A: It wasn't easy at first. I was rejected by both blacks and whites. I was teased, called jungle boy, light-skinned pretty boy, red boy, gollywog, and monkey boy. I actually began to pray that God might make a hole to swallow me up and take me away when I was eight. Then I began to appreciate what I had going for me--strength and speed. I ran chasing butterflies in the grass fields and gained a love of life. Once I hit mid-teens, my strength had become such an asset that I was the British Tae Kwon Do champion. This title helped gain me lots of popularity at school. Now I was the "it kid". It felt very bizarre. I began to study humans from this point on. Why would we be so fickle? I asked myself. I am the same child that they didn't like a few years ago, but now that I was a champion and could physically beat them in a fight, they respect me? It made for a sad reality observation.

Q: As an actor and model, has being multiracial ever helped or hindered your career?

A: I'm sure we all know being “mixed” means being black, and black roles are far fewer than white roles in Hollywood. I just take what God gives me and if he just gave me the role of Jesus (in a new film), he blessed me real well, didn't he?

Q: You have such a powerful aura along with incredibly good looks that jumps out from the screen, yet you remain humble and approachable. How do you manage to do that and be in show business at the same time?

A: I have studied a lot. The more one studies, the more one finds that humility is required to learn. One must read up on the masters with books everyday. There is still so much to learn. Wisdom and humility go in tandem. I am wise and I am humble in order to stay wise. If I were to become arrogant, my wisdom would soon leave me. Show business has shifted from the days when art ruled. Now it's ego ruling art. Celebrity comes from the two words “celebration” and “humanity” merged into one. A celebrity is a celebration of humanity. Not many of today’s celebrities know this and take the role seriously. They are often too focused on some lie their publicist cooked up.

Q: You call yourself a “Noble Warrior of God”. What do you mean by that?

A: My birth name means "Noble Warrior of God". Patrick Marcus Osborne. Look it up. I began looking up names after I found out that our names have meanings and shape who we are. So, I looked mine up and there it was, staring me in the face as to why I may have been such a truth seeker my whole life. God and truth are one. God means truth. Truth means God. I have always had a dislike of bullturd. If I see politicians lie, it is always irritating and there are so many pockets of society built on lies, delusions and people coddling each other that it's okay to be dysfunctional because we are all a mess together. Well, I feel that we as a race can be in truth/God. On my travels around the world, I have seen so many culture trends, good and bad, all different. The one thing I know about us as humans is that we all want love, truth, wisdom and function. We once had it on the planet. There is evidence to show this in some of the fantastic landmarks. It's up to us to search deep inside and ask, "How brave am I to be truthful, sensitive, loving, caring, of myself and fellow man/womankind?" Well, I can say I am brave ‘til my end. So I am "Noble Warrior of God".

Thank you, Sir Patrick Marcus Osborne for baring your body, heart, mind and soul.

Hey, Hip Hapa Homeez, don’t forget we feature a new profile every week so keep coming back to check us out. And, if you’d like to be interviewed, drop us an email at

Remember our film website at And, we’re still accepting headshots to post on our Watermelon Sushi Fan page on Facebook. Sign up to join it and our Hip Hapa Homeez group page there, too. You don’t have to be multiracial to be a part of us. We need our supporters, too! Hip Hapa Homeez is where we post links to stories about multi-culti folks and other race issues.

You can also follow Watermelon Sushi on Twitter where we’ve been tweeting bits of dialogue from our film script. Finally, all sales of our t-shirts help finance our film, so stop by and get one. Be sure to contact us if you make a purchase to ensure you get your rear crawl credit.

That’s all she wrote for now. Until next week, I am...

Your Hip Hapa,


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Marvelous Miwa Lyric, Again!

This week’s Hip Hapa Homee is a long-time acquaintance of Your Hip Hapa. I like to refer to her as The Marvelous Miwa Lyric because she really is something to marvel at. A clothing designer, music producer, performer, rapper, songwriter and more, Miwa is also immensely popular—especially in Los Angeles where she currently resides. We first met because of the proliferation of emails she sent me marketing herself. Surely, I thought, anyone believing so strongly in her own skills was well worth knowing. And, I was right. Friend the friendly Miwa Lyric on Facebook or MySpace. That’s her in the photo here taken by Suzisusana.

Q: What's a nice Nissei (second-generation Japanese American) girl like you doing rapping?

A: I don't really like to be categorized as nice, or categorized at all, cause I am not really "nice". I just love music and through my childhood struggles, music is the one thing that kept me alive, literally.

Q: When did you know for sure that you wanted a career in music?

A: At the age of five.

Q: How have black audiences responded to you compared to Asian or more racially mixed ones?

A: It's rather recent that I perform in front of Asian audiences. When I first started about 12 years ago, there were not many Asians in the audience or in hiphop in general. A lot of Asian women come up to me and tell me that I inspire them to chase after their dreams--knowing the odds of me being Asian and female in hiphop. A lot of black audiences usually give me a blank look when I approach the stage. Then, when I start, they just roar up with smiles and claps. It's always a good feeling! Overall, I get a lot of surprised reactions from everyone because most people think I'm gonna go up on stage to sing, then when I start rapping they just flip out.

Q: Lately, hiphop is everywhere. It may have started out with black gangs in New York, but now even Japanese Ainu (Indigenous) are rapping. Do you think the art form is played out because it’s no longer quote, unquote, pure?

A: I feel like hiphop that calls itself hiphop nowadays has lost its message of the struggle, the movement. It seems like the newer generations have forgotten the past and where hiphop and just history in general comes from. But then again, those who are passing it down need to educate the young ones as well. Me, being in between the new school and old school, I hope to connect that. I think the new music now is a new type of hiphop but it is definitely not the "real" or "original" hiphop that it used to be.

Q: You have such a huge following in L.A. Can you explain why your fans are so devoted to you?

A: Well first off, I am different--something new and, like I mentioned earlier, I was against all odds, which gives people hope that maybe they can go after what they always wanted to try (not just music, but everything in general) but were afraid to. But I think, overall, it’s because I speak from my heart. Everything I write about are things that I want to address because of my experiences and my own personal struggles. Many can relate and those who can't, see a new perspective. I feel that whether people love me or hate me, I bring words that people can ponder about.

Q: Recently, you've been appearing in Japan. How did it feel to perform for people who look like you, but who are so different at the same time?

A: It was an amazing and scary experience. Scary because I have always heard that they don't react like us Americans do, but I proved that wrong. They were bobbing their heads and had their hands up! They showed me that music definitely connects people worldwide!

Q: Your parents don't seem like typical Japanese parents because they allow you and your sister (a fashion designer) to fully express your art. Do you have any thoughts on that?

A: I guess since they are not typical I really wouldn't know what typical defines! But my folks are both artists, and they lived the times through the war. They’ve both seen different parts of the world (dad lived in New York, mom in England), and my dad struggled through poverty and losing his parents at a young age so he never got to go to high school. My mom was definitely a "new age woman", the type of lady that escapes the "norm" and how women shouldn’t be able to do what they want. My dad was always very supportive of my music, but my mom was not. She told me that I had to prove to her that I wanted it, and I proved it to her.

Indeed you have, Marvelous Miwa Lyric. For more info on Miwa, check out the sites below:


If you Hip Hapa Homeez haven’t already, you should check out the video below. Can you believe it? After all the information educating folks about the nonsense of being color struck, here comes this travesty. I feel like I was just transported back to the plantation or something.

Anyway, please keep your comments and emails coming. A special shout-out to my girl, Mary no-last-name-please, for continuing to stay so involved with this blog.

Remember to join our Hip Hapa Homeez group on Facebook and our Watermelon Sushi fan page, too. We’re also trying to tweet on Twitter as much as we can (honestly, we forget with all the things we have to do). And, we still have those t-shirts.

Until next week, I am…

Your Hip Hapa,


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Un Certain Regard

Can I just tell you how warm and fuzzy I'm feeling these days as our Hip Hapa Homeez Facebook group page swells to nearly 800 members, and our Watermelon Sushi Fan page pushes towards 500? You guys rock!

Your support grows us, so mad love to you all. Remember, our Hapa*Teez t-shirts are still available for you. Also, visit our Watermelon Sushi website for more info about our film. And, Watermelon Sushi is now on Twitter, so tweet us!

Tonight's featured Hip Hapa Homee is Juliette Fairley--pictured above--, an actor, writer and performance artist. Read about her at the links below, and then enjoy the interview. And, if you're an HHH with something to say, hollah at and we'll showcase you on this blog, too.

Q: What's a nice multiracial girl like you doing onstage revealing your life for the whole world to see?

A: This revenge is fitting for all of the wrongs I suffered at the hands of my interracial parents. My blond haired, blue-eyed mother is terrified at what people will think of her and her French family back in Paris. My father, on the other hand, a descendant of slaves in North Carolina, says, "I ain't got nothin' to hide. I know where I came from and, hell, it's the truth." So, it's therapeutic for me to process my background and my parents' experiences in front of a theatre full of strangers. I like to pull people into the fray of my life!

Q: I always understood the word mulatto to be a derogatory term referred to mixed-race slaves. How did it become resurrected as a positive expression?

A: I don't know if it's positive yet, but it sure does sell theatre tickets. The producers deliberately chose to use the word mulatto because it's controversial and will sell tickets. Besides, I like to do things differently and nobody has had the nerve yet to come out with a show called Mulatto.

Q: Who is Afro, European, or French in your family and how did they meet?

A: That's what the show is about. You'll have to see the play. Short answers is that my mom is French white and my father is Afro from North Carolina.

Q: What was it like working with Spike Lee?

A: He's a maverick. I admire his courage and tenacity. It was a good experience. He is a professional. The media has portrayed him as an angry black man, but when I worked with him he was polite and pleasant.

Q: How hard was it to make Mulatto's Dilemma set in the 1920's?

A: I had to order posters from the 1920's and I hired a painter to paint the portrait that is revealed in the second half of the show. I also had my flapper girl costume hand made by a seamstress in Harlem. She was 75 years old. I spent a lot of time tracking down the long cigarette holder that one of my characters, Loretta Jones, smokes. I found it in a thrift shop in the east village of Manhattan.

Q: In The Making of a Mulatto, you once again turn to history (Nazism in France) to get your point across. Is there a reason why?

A: Growing up, I heard a lot about the Nazis from my French grandmother. She was born in 1909 and lived through the Nazi occupation of France. I also heard a lot about slavery and Jim Crow from my father. So, I have a unique view on history and life. The point is that fascists spend a lot of time scheming on how to keep the races apart, but the insanity of fascism causes the races to run toward each other out of terror.

Q: You've racked up a lot of awards including Best Actress for the Exchange Award. How do you think you'll top yourself?

A: I'm a candidate for a Los Angeles Stage Alliance Ovation Award this fall 2009, and for a Beverly Hills Hollywood NAACP Award in 2010.

Merci beaucoups, Mademoiselle Juliette! Your dazzling energy is so intense that all I can say is bon nuit and bonne chance.

Your Hip Hapa,


P.S. Here are more links where you can view Juliette. Also, additional performances have been scheduled for September 13 and 27.