Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Double Doubles (The Fuqua Sisters)

Greetings Hip Hapa Homeez! Thank you for returning for another bite of watermelon sushi. In our world, we honor those who are multicultural, multiethnic and/or multiracial—whatever your preference for the definition of someone who is mixed or who crosses cultures. We also love blowing up anyone who supports our agenda. So, if either one describes you, drop us a line at watermelonsushi@comcast.net so we can make you the next big star of our blog interview series.


This week, we offer you not one but two Hip Hapa Homeez who happen to be sisters. Thanks to filmmaker Regge Life for the word "Doubles" which he used in his movie's title to describe Japan's mixed race children.


Your Hip Hapa first met Sakura (Sah-koo-rah), the oldest Fuqua sister pictured on the right, years ago when the Watermelon Sushi website was first launched by web whiz Mia Gonzalez. Later, Sakura introduced me to her sister Miyako (Mee-yah-koh), pictured on the left, who has aspirations in the film industry.


While the siblings are adorable, having spent half their lives in Asia also makes them worldly about race and culture. And, although the same questions were asked each separately, their answers are uncannily similar. Check it out.


Q: What are two nice mixed-race girls like you doing being sisters?


Miyako:

Ha ha! Sakura is 24, and I’m 22. I tend to think our sibling dynamic is pretty typical where she acts more as the protective older sister while I look up to her and admire anything she does. Generally, we want the best for each other and are very supportive.


Sakura:

Ha ha! I am the oldest by a year, but I feel like Miyako is older than me sometimes. For the most part we get along great. I feel like we are a support system for each other. As for all siblings, we can get on each other’s nerves. I think it’s only normal.


Q: How did your parents meet?


Miyako:

Our father is African American, born in Florida and raised in New York, and our mother is from Okinawa Japan. While our dad was stationed in Okinawa, they were set up by two of their mutual friends. Ironically, the two friends (an Okinawan woman and a white American) ended up getting married and having two boys (Ken and Yuji)!


Sakura:

Our parents met through friends. My mom’s childhood friend from birth and my dad’s good friend from the military introduced my parents. I think that’s how it worked out. Then my dad taught English to a group of Okinawan people and my mom was in the class. That is how they got to know each other.


Q: What kind of hardships did your parents experience because of their marriage?


Miyako:

I do remember our mother telling us that our obasan (grandmother) was at one point against the marriage because she was worried about her oldest daughter (who took care of the family after her father died) venturing to an unfamiliar country. At that point, it wasn’t necessarily about race, but instead more about our mother identifying with another nationality.


Sakura:

For the most part, I know my parents didn’t talk to us about this much. They didn’t want us to feel discouraged because of being mixed-race children. My father’s family was very supportive. His friends on the other hand thought he should be with his own race. On my mother’s side, my grandmother was worried that people would give them a hard time in life because of their mixed-race marriage. My Okinawan great-grandmother didn’t approve at first, until she met me as a baby.


Q: You lived in Asia forever. What was that like?


Miyako:

I would say about 11 years. We lived in Camp Zama, Yokohama, Yokota Air Base, and we even lived in South Korea for a couple of years in Itaewon. I absolutely loved the experience because there was a considerably large population of biracial kids. That was the only time in my life I felt like I could represent myself accurately as a multiracial being and, most importantly, I didn’t have to explain anything to anybody...everybody just got it.


Sakura:

We lived in Japan and Korea--Japan for 9 years on military bases. We lived in Yokohama, Camp Zama, and Yokota Air Base--Korea for 2 years in Yongsan (in Itaewon). We would visit our grandmother in Okinawa during the summers. When I was with my parents, Japanese people treated us with respect. When I was alone with my friends we were treated like trouble, which we were. We were in middle school at the time.


Q: What are the major differences between Japanese and American cultures?


Miyako:

I think being biracial isn’t only limited to physical features, but extends to both of our personalities and how we act. Depending on certain situations, I can be humble and soft-spoken which I truly believe I inherited from our mother. Other times, I’m very liberal and more open-minded about topics that Japanese people still consider to be taboo.


Sakura:

A lot of differences. When I first came here I thought, “How am I ever going to survive here in America?” Now I think, “How would I ever survive in Japan if I went back?” American culture is very easygoing and casual. Japanese culture is all about doing things the right way--which is how I would like to be, but I have lived in the U.S. a bit too long. I also feel like Japanese people have a passion for their hobbies and do everything in the right way to master a passion.


Q: What do you miss about not living in Japan anymore?


Miyako:

I miss Japanese food! Although we can get things at the oriental market or when we go home to visit our parents, it’s not the same as getting it in Japan, you know? My idea of a perfect meal is their signature melon float with an authentic bowl of ramen. Yum!


Sakura:

I miss walking on the streets in Tokyo and smelling all the different smells. I live in Indianapolis Indiana and the weather is similar. I smell when the seasons change and that is when I miss Japan the most. I don’t know why, or if that even makes sense. I miss my childhood in Asia.


Q: Are you fluent in Japanese language?


Miyako:

I actually just graduated with a major concentrating in Japanese Language and Culture. I have a lot to learn about the language, but I would say my level is intermediate.


Sakura:

I am not fluent. I understand, but I get cold feet when it’s time to speak. I never learned fully, but it is my New Year’s resolution. We will see how that goes. Miyako speaks fluently.


Q: George Takei, better known as Mr. Sulu of Star Trek, once told me that I mispronounced my own name. Actually, I was enunciating each syllable because I was tired of people asking, ‘what?’ the night we met at a loud party. What similar experiences have you had with your Japanese names?


Miyako:

This actually drives me NUTS, but whenever I say “Miyako”, people automatically repeat back, “Bianca?” So we have to stand there for like 5 minutes going back and forth until they get it right, and it doesn’t matter anyway because they end up forgetting. It’s interesting because Americans recognize it as a Japanese name more than Japanese people do!


Sakura:

I am Shakira the Columbian pop singer to a lot of people. I have heard: SUK-ura, SAK-ura, Securea. Latino people call me Sakurrrra. I go with the flow, it doesn’t bother me. Even my parents both say my name differently. To make things simple, I tell people to call me Saki.


Q: Most mixed Japanese and second, third, or fourth generation Japanese Americans have Anglicized first names and Japanese middle names. What are your “name” stories?


Miyako:

I think our mom was indifferent to whether or not we had American versus Japanese names. It always seemed like dad was more into Japanese culture than our mom. Our parents chose Miyako because I was born in March, and my middle name is Akina. I think it technically means spring flower, but it is also the name of dad’s favorite pop star in the 80’s (Nakamori Akina).


Sakura:

My dad wanted us to have Japanese names. So the trade off was that my mom got to choose the names. Unlike my sister, I don’t have a middle name, which is typical for Japanese people not to have.


Q: Sakura means cherry blossom, but what does Miyako mean?


Miyako:

Miyako means “Beautiful Child of March”.


Q: Since neither of you look typically Japanese, but are knowledgeable about Japanese culture, customs, history, language and so forth, what are your biggest frustrations in the way people treat you—both Japanese and non-Japanese?


Miyako:

Living in America I’ve always felt like I wasn’t enough of something for someone whereas on the bases I was very comfortable with my identity. I’ve noticed that society has a tendency to make individuals feel like there’s something wrong with you unless you are a white, straight, male. At one point you just have to stop caring about whatever people think about you because you’ll just drive yourself crazy!


Sakura:

I struggle with this a lot. I am trying to get over it as I answer these questions. I identify with being both Japanese and African American. Asian people as they get to know me appreciate that I am half Asian, understand the culture, and respect the cultures (this is my perception, this may not be how they feel). They also realize that I am American. I am satisfied. My frustrations come from Americans. I feel like I have a lot of pressure to be “one” race or ethnicity. I can’t accept that and I won’t accept that. I know from some African Americans, they feel like I can’t accept being black, because I always say that I am both Japanese and African American. I have lost friends this way or have not been accepted by a group of people. Why shouldn’t I be able to say I am both?



Q: What do you think of Japanese African American enka singer Jero-san (pictured here) and the Japanese icon, Hello Kitty?


Miyako:

I admire Jero-san! I think he obviously had a lot drive for accomplishing what he has, and the way that he has earned the Japanese people’s respect is really inspiring.


Sakura:

I love Hello Kitty, but doesn’t everybody?


Yayoi-san, I think you introduced me to Jero-san. I watched an interview with him on Talk Asia and he discussed his grandmother a lot. He held a very strong love for her. I didn’t get to spend as much time as I wanted with my grandmother, but I always felt a strong connection with her, even though I didn’t speak much Japanese and she didn’t speak much English. It’s funny how language goes beyond words.


Career wise; Gambatte, Jero-san!!!!!!!!!!


Q: Do you watch NHK or the taiga dramas (weekly series based on Japanese feudal history)?


Miyako:

No, I haven’t seen any taiga dramas, but I occasionally watch it with our mom when I visit her and our dad.


Sakura:

No, I do not watch taiga dramas, but my grandmother loved them. I would dread when that came on. NHK, I like and wish I had the opportunity to watch more.


Q: What are you two doing these days?


Miyako:

Currently, I’m working at an agency called Stonebelt that supports people with developmental disabilities. I applied for a program called JET, so hopefully I will be able to teach English in Japan this coming summer. I’m also an aspiring screenwriter and plan on entering several contests in the coming months.


Sakura:

I am currently in school studying Tourism Convention Event Management. I love to travel and learn about culture, so this is this is the goal of my life. I work for Wyndham Hotels, full time. This will, hopefully, assist in future travels. I am a part of an Okinawan club, to try to get a better understanding of the culture where my mom comes from.


Domo arigato gozaimasu to the Fuqua sisters!


And, a shout-out to Julia Baker and Carol Sugihara Harris for their support of Watermelon Sushi through their Hapa*Teez t-shirt purchases. Remember to join our Hip Hapa Homeez group page on Facebook where we post links to stories of interest to mixed communities. While you’re on Facebook, go to the Watermelon Sushi Fan page and sign up to stay updated. And, follow us on Twitter where we’ve been posting lines from the Watermelon Sushi script.


As always, my friends, keep sharing the flava.


Your Hip Hapa,

Yayoi

3 comments:

chasingbawa said...

Hello! My name is Sakura and I'm mixed too (Japanese x Sri Lankan). And my school friends call me Saki! It doesn't bother me how people pronounce my name either - I'm so used to it.

Yayoi Lena Winfrey said...

Sakura-san,

Drop me a line at watermelonsushi@me.com if you'd like to be interviewed sometime.

I like that you read the book To Live and To Write, one of my faves.

octav8 said...

Awesome in-two-view!