Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Hapa Japan Jams With Jero-san And Ms. Anime Eyes!

Hey, Hip Hapa Homeez!

Mad props to Duncan Ryuken Williams and his helpers for organizing the Hapa Japan Conference in Berkeley last month. No doubt, it was one of the best events Your Hip Hapa has ever attended. Shout-outs to all involved.

At the Berkeley campus on Friday and Saturday, the audience listened to various panels presenting on everything from Okinawan-Black mixies and the U.S. military to Japanese-Indigenous of Australia.

Jero-san gets an award while Duncan speaks and Your Hip Hapa looks on.
Photo courtesy of Edward Y. Sumoto.
Then, on Friday night, Duncan presented the New Vision Award to Japan enka singer and superstar Jero-san! Afterwards, we all had the chance to speak to, and take pix with, Jero-san. If you’re a long-time WSW blog reader, then you know how much Your Hip Hapa has admired this young man from Pennsylvania whose mother is Japanese and Black.

Later that evening, Jero-san performed a mini concert of five songs ending with a sing-along of Kyu Sakamoto’s Ue O Muite Arukou. What a bittersweet moment for those of us who remember “Kyu-chan” and his tragic death in 1985—20 some years after his Japanese language song made it to #1 in the U.S.!

At Saturday night's party; shortly after Jero-san handed the klutz some napkins.
Thanks for the snap, Fredrick Cloyd!
Following Saturday’s panel discussion, we headed to San Francisco’s Nihonmachi (J-town) for a party where Jero-san appeared with his manager. What a perfect gentleman! When Your Hip Hapa related how she had clumsily spilled sake on her hand, Jero-san immediately grabbed napkins from the table behind him and handed them to her.

Later that night, someone yelled, “All the Blackanese in the room stand with Jero-san for a picture!” What an incredible moment for all of us AfroAsians to gather around the man who crosses cultures with his incredible music. 

Blackanese in da houze with Jero-san (in red shoes) and Your Hip Hapa (on his left).
Photo courtesy of Jayson Carpenter  on behalf of Marcia Lise and The Hafu Project. 
And, of course, Your Hip Hapa talked to Jero-san about appearing in Watermelon Sushi. Wouldn’t you love to see him playing a role in the film? So would we!

So many special friendships were forged at the Hapa Japan Conference. In some cases, Your Hip Hapa finally met people for the first time that she’d been in touch with through cyberspace for decades—including painter and activist Lenore Chinn, after 12 years.

You’ll be reading about some of these fabulous folks here, over the next few months. This month, our guest is Athena Asklipiadis of Mixed Marrow. As she posed for a photo, I exclaimed, “You have anime eyes!” to which Athena replied, “Someone else told me that, too.” What do you think? Doesn’t she look as sweet and innocent as an anime character? Here's her link:

Athena, sitting on right, with Mixed Marrow volunteers.
Q: Athena, how did your parents meet?

A: My father is Greek, Italian, Armenian and Egyptian born in Cairo. My mom is Japanese-American born in California. They met in Athens at a Japanese restaurant. At the time, my mom was a tourist and was curious about Japanese cuisine in Greece, and my father worked there.

Q: How did you grow up?

A: I grew up in a primarily African American and Latino community in South LA in the Crenshaw area. There, I was a very, very rare breed--the only person of my kind that I knew of in my whole neighborhood. I was called everything you could think of: "Chinese girl", "China" in Spanish, "white girl", and "flat faced" just to name a few. Being so different from people who lived near me and because the schools in my area were famous for shootings and gang activity, my parents sent me to school in a more diverse and safer neighborhood. But the "feeling different" thing didn't really end. I was still the minority because there weren't many mixed kids in the primarily white schools I attended. I suppose if I had siblings, it would have been a little easier having others like me around. But with time, race became less of an issue as my classmates grew up and got more mature; so, by high school it was not as much of a problem.

Q: What inspired you to create Mixed Marrow?

A: In 2007, my aunt Esther Matsuguma passed away with lymphoma and it really hit me hard. I was close to her and it was so difficult to see her suffering first-hand. After a year of coping with her loss, I was randomly approached at a Japanese festival in Los Angeles by a bone marrow donor recruiter. They asked if I was half Japanese and I said I was. Then, they told me about Krissy Kobata, a local girl my age who was in need of a bone marrow match. Her family was there signing up donors and it touched me that they were so diligent and hopeful that they would be able to save her. It made me think back to my aunt and her struggle. I had to sign up for her and for Krissy, so I did. After some thought, I decided I wanted to get more involved and volunteer with the recruitment organization that signed me up, Asians for Miracle Marrow Matches (A3M). I thought that if I could have done anything to save my aunt, I would have, but a transplant was not an option she was given. So for about one year, I volunteered with A3M. I did drives to recruit new donors, but in the process I realized our community--the mixed community--did not have this cause on its radar. I had been actively working with sites like Eurasian Nation, Addicted to Race and We Are Hapa, and I had never seen it mentioned on a large scale. I wanted to change that. So, with the help of A3M and the National Marrow Donor Program, Be The Match, I launched Mixed Marrow in 2009.

Q: What are some reasons that someone would need a bone marrow transplant?

A: Patients facing blood diseases like leukemia may be candidates for a transplant for either/or marrow or cord blood. Recent medical news has even shown positive results from stem cells helping with diseases like MS, heart disease, diabetes and even AIDS. These findings are happening every day and stem cell donation is still relatively new. That said, it’s not determined what the long-term effects are and if a complete cure can be achieved with the help of new stem cells.

Q: What are some misconceptions about donating marrow?

A: For one, there are two ways to donate; one similar to blood donation is done through the arm called PBSC donation and, the other is still done through the hipbone by needle. For the marrow donation through the hipbone--not spine like people think--a needle is used and you are not cut open surgically. You are also under anesthesia and do not feel the procedure. Also, marrow regenerates and you do not lose anything permanently.  

When it comes to cord blood donation, people hear "stem cells" and automatically think of embryonic stem cells and abortion. Cord blood stem cells come from the umbilical cord, which is usually disposed of 95% of the time. The cord blood donation process has no effect on mother or baby.

Q: One stat on your website indicates that a mixed-race person might have only 1 in 4 chances of being a match for a sibling. Does that mean mixed-race people are so different from each other even when they're related?

A: Any patient has a 1 in 4 chance of matching a sibling regardless of race. When it comes to mixed-race patients, the odds are lower because there are simply not enough donor matches in the registry. Part of the reason is because the majority of multiethnic people are under the age of 18 and, therefore, too young to donate marrow. The other reason is that there is lack of knowledge within our community and minority communities about the dire need for donors and what role ethnicity plays in matching.

Q: What are some activities your organization is involved with to bring attention to your cause?

A: Mixed Marrow hosts drives at ethnic festivals, book and art exhibits, museums, college campuses, and at various churches and businesses. Some past events include Kip Fulbeck's Exhibit openings, Loving Day's flagship event in New York, the Mixed Roots Film and Literary Festival, the Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference at DePaul, Harvard's So What Are You Anyways? Conference and Berkeley's Hapa Japan Conference. Besides onsite drives, Mixed Marrow also works to educate the public through awareness campaigns via film, radio, internet, and print media. Most recently, Mixed Marrow has teamed up with filmmaker Jeff Chiba Stearns to produce a feature-length documentary exploring the need for more diverse donors. The film is set to release in 2013.

Thank you, Ms. Anime Eyes!

Hey, Hip Hapa Homeez, for whatever reason, Facebook can’t seem to leave well enough alone. So, our Hip Hapa Homeez Group is either going to get updated or archived. Remember, this is where you can post and read info about multiethnic news. As a new Group, we’ll have to re-add everyone to its membership. If we’re archived, I believe that won’t be possible. So, please become a member when the updated version becomes available. Also, we’ve created a Facebook Fan page for Hapa*Teez t-shirts since the Watermelon Sushi film website is being redesigned. If you’ve made a Hapa*Teez purchase, please drop us a line so we can list your name correctly for rear crawl credits and mention you on the new website! Check out Hapa*Teez on CafĂ© Press so you can look as lovely as Curly Like Me author Teri LaFlesh does in her t-shirt below. You can also “like” our Watermelon Sushi Fan page, and follow us on Twitter.

Until next time, I will always be…

Your Hip Hapa,