Wednesday, March 02, 2011

One Brown Girl: One Diverse World

Hey, Hip Hapa Homeez! If you’ve been reading Watermelon Sushi World for any length of time, then you must know that enka singer Jero is a hero of mine. If you’re not familiar, Jero’s mother is Japanese and African American, and her mother (Jero’s grandmother) taught her grandson to speak Japanese and sing enka--a traditional Japanese style of blues that originated as agitprop during the Meiji period in Japan. As time would have it, enka lyrics later transitioned into love songs. What Jero has done as a young, mostly black man from Philly is to turn attention back onto a form of music most Japanese youth, unfortunately, have no interest in. Very few new Japanese artists these days sing enka and it is seriously in danger of dying. Koukai!

Jero on Kohaku Uta Gassen, NHK
Anyway, Jero will be performing at UC Berkeley next month at the Hapa Japan Conference, which will focus on mixed Japanese. Open to the public, the event will be held April 8 and 9 and is organized by Professor Duncan Ryuken Williams. For more information, email and be sure to stay tuned for my report following the conference.

Tracey Friley
With people like Jero on the planet, our world is becoming more diverse all the time. It’s always exciting to connect with those who advocate cross-cultural exchanges and Tracey Friley is one such person. 

Check out her One Brown Girl website here: then, read about her below.

Q: Tracey, you connect with people all over the planet. Where do you get your incredible sense of worldliness? Did you grow up with parents who encouraged travel or crossing cultures?

A: Wow. I like being called worldly! I don’t remember a time when I didn’t travel, really. As a child, it was with my family, but I don’t remember specifically being encouraged to cross cultures. It has always been a way of life to get to know people from anywhere and everywhere no matter what their cultural background is. In fact, the less like me people are, the more I want to know about them. It’s just a way of life.

One Brown Girl travels the globe...
Q: What's the most interesting cultural tidbit you've discovered in your travels?

A: I don’t know how interesting it is, but I’ve come to realize that people are the same wherever you go. Some are good, some are bad. It doesn’t matter what culture they’re from. The only difference is the location.

Q: One of your website’s surveys shows that 54% of your readers would marry someone from a different religion. Do you think we're becoming more tolerant, overall? 

A: I would like to think so. Of course, you can hear the intolerant a lot louder than you hear the tolerant, so it’s hard to tell sometimes. I do think that most young people are more culturally tolerant and accepting than the previous generation.

Q: However, by the same token, another poll indicates that 32% versus 29% of your readers feel that racism will never end. Comments? 

A: That’s a hard question to answer and very thought-provoking. Racism is so prevalent on a global scale that it’s hard to imagine that it’ll ever end sometimes. 

Q: Your One Brown Girl products are incredibly relevant and popular. Do you design them yourself?

A: Thanks! Yes, the designs are all original. I'm a creative with no graphic artist abilities, so I take what’s in my brain and work with a brilliant (and patient) graphic artist who makes One Brown Girl come to life.  She is a caricature modeled after me…and you…and all of the other Brown Girls out there in the world.  

beautiful Brown Girls make a pyramid
Q: Tell us about some of your activities for Brown Girls. 

A: Right now, I own and operate a two-year old travel and learning adventure camp program for girls 11-16 nationwide, that is very important to me: 

In fact, the idea for my program can be found on Oprah’s Angel Network. I also operate a niche concierge service for adults that travel to Paris every November. I just love Paris! I have tons of ideas for the OBG brand, but I have more ideas than I have the (wo)manpower or time to implement right now, so I’m staying committed to activities that directly give women and girls a world view…for now.

Brown Girls chillin'...playin' it by ear...
Q: What’s next? 

A: I just want the cross-cultural dialogue to continue. I want to keep blogging and celebrating culture and inspire others to learn about others. I want to empower and inspire Brown Girls to feel good about the skin they’re in by reiterating interesting cultural facts and sharing travel and culture stories. I’ve got a unique thing going on in that I’m not just celebrating one cultural or ethnic group. It takes a lot of time to get people to buy into something they don’t typically do; so, most of the time, I’m just playing it by ear anyway.

Thank you, Tracey!

Well, Hip Hapa Homeez there’s a lot of excitement on the horizon. Our internet show, Sexy Voices of Hollywood, was created to financially support the production of our Watermelon Sushi film, and S.V.O.H. just launched its 10th show with distribution by Sony! You can support the film by supporting the show at or by joining the S.V.O.H. event and/or fan pages. Meanwhile, there are some funky things going on at Facebook. The Hip Hapa Homeez group can’t seem to invite new members, so if you’re on Facebook, please go to the page and sign up. This is where we post news about multiracial communities, transracial adoptees and those who cross cultures. Of course, if you join the Watermelon Sushi Fan page (can that still even be done, Mr. Z.?), we will love you to death. And, by making a Hapa*Teez t-shirt purchase you'll get your name in the rear crawl credits of the film. Btw, if you’ve bought a t-shirt in the past, please get in touch with us so we can have the correct spelling of your name. Just drop us an email: Apologies for our scarce and anemic tweets, but we do promise to follow you if you follow us: or

cutie Cassie in her Hapa*Teez t-shirt
Until we meet again, I am now and forever…

Your Hip Hapa,