Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What's A Nice White Guy Doing Breaking Down Color Barriers?

Big ups to all you Hip Hapa Homeez who continue to support our Watermelon Sushi World blog, our Watermelon Sushi film, our Hapa*Teez t-shirts, our Hip Hapa Homeez Facebook group and our Watermelon Sushi Facebook fan page. On the serious tip, we couldn't do any of this without you.

This week's featured Hip Hapa Homee is Jaz Dorsey, in the photo here. FULL DISCLOSURE: Jaz is a Watermelon Sushi Associate Producer. He's also the co-founder of AAPEX, the African American Playwrights Exchange, and has been involved with every aspect of theatrical production since he was a young 'un growing up in the South.

Q: Jaz, what's a nice white guy like you doing involved with so many black arts organizations?

A: Art is the DNA of species' memory and let's face it--the b.s. that African Americans have had to endure makes for some pretty passionate and powerful material. As a dramaturg, my mission is to locate, promote, present and preserve the most important dramatic literature of my day. Given the obstacles faced by black playwrights, you've got to figure things are pretty daunting, which is a shame, because I have a stack of astounding scripts piled next to my desk and I'm doing everything I can to see that those scripts don't just sit in a stack next to my desk.

I also live in Nashville, which has one of the most dynamic African American theater communities in the country. We also have a superior film festival, The International Black Film Festival of Nashville. I respond to what inspires me.

Q: When did you write your first play, and what was it about?

A: I wrote my first play, Cafe Escargot, after I got fired from a restaurant job. It was about a waiter who gets fired and comes back in drag as a food critic. It was also a satire of Atlanta society. It finally got a real production in New York in 1994, and had a cult following which was a blast and great for my sex life.

Q: What was it like having your first play produced?

A: The first of my plays to get produced was Alice In America. There was an Atlanta production in 1987, and I invited the Lewis Carrol Society of North America to it. They couldn't come, but invited me to present the play the following year in New York for their annual convention. I mounted the production by telephone from Atlanta, showed up for opening night and began a New York adventure which continues to this day. So all in all, it was pretty awesome.

Q: You're known for your unconditional support of women in the creative arts. Can you explain why?

A: Women get stuff done.

My strategy for producing is to find a great script with a serious leading lady role. Then I find my leading lady, give her the script and pretty much get out of her way. Fine actresses usually have an entourage of fellow artists who are ready to get behind an artist they admire.

But beyond that, I come from a major Southern aristocratic matriarchy. I barely remember seeing any men during my childhood, and all the good advice I ever got came from women.

Also, when I worked in Student Dining at Vanderbilt, I was pretty much the only white male on a staff of mostly black women, many of them grandmothers who were raising children and grandchildren, doing the job, covering the billls and dealing with the drama. They were meticulous and demanding, and absoutely wonderful to me. They tolerated my lectures on theater over the sandwich line to future lawyers, doctors and engineers.

Q: Do you think black playwrights are getting produced more now as opposed to 10 years ago?

A: More, but not enough and not in the proper way. The writers I'm working with don't care to be on the chittlin' circuit, thank you very much.

Q: Can you envision a time when producers will just produce material without thinking about racial demographics?

A: I could envision such a thing if I thought there were such things as producers. Producers are a myth. You have to get up off your a** and produce yourself and you have to build your own audience one by one.

Now if you mean, do I think regional theaters will ever get there, I doubt it. Boards of Directors are far too nervous. The obligatory Black History Month play, of course. Good for the grant writing.

If I get where I'm trying to go, that may change. The plays I want to produce--Nathan Ross Freeman's Hannah Elias, Mike Oatman's The Chittlin Thief, Merrill Jones' Mrs. Streeter and Ben Marshall's The Balcony Goat--could all set racial demographics on its ear.

Q: Did you grow up to be what you always wanted to be?

A: You'll have to wait until I grow up for me to answer that one. My generation is in no hurry to grow up. It's all those LSD flashbacks.

Thank you, Jaz, for all you do. You're an amazing Hip Hapa Homee with a heart of gold. If any of you readers would like to contact Jaz, you can find him here:

Stay tuned to read about more cross-cultural folks in the weeks ahead. Meanwhile, here's an interesting thought. Last week, as I flipped through a Macy's circular, my eyes paused on one of the female models. As I checked out her cafe au lait skin, green eyes, and wavy brown hair, I wondered if she was biracial. While I was thrilled to see a model of unidentifiable ethnicity in a major publication, I also wondered if she was chosen because she was simply more palatable to some than a darker-skinned, more black African-looking sister. I know, I know. I'm being nit-picky, but the thought crossed my mind so I thought I'd put the question to you. Do you think the growth of multiracial communities is going to take away from other racial minority groups? If a major department store or fashion designer had to choose between a brown-skinned, black African identified model or a light-skinned, green-eyed, wavy-haired one in order to meet an unwritten EEO rule, which do you think they would pick and why?

Again, my HHH's, thanks for hollahing. We appreciate your cards, letters and emails. Remember we're still collecting headshots for the Watermelon Sushi fan page on Facebook. And, of course, we still have Hapa*Teez t-shirts for you.

Until next time, I promise I am and will always be...

Your Hip Hapa,


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Angry, Asian, Adoptee, Activist, Artist

Welcome back, Hip Hapa Homeez!

This week’s guest is transracial adoptee Yun-Sook Kim Navarre (pictured here). A Los Angeles resident since 2006, Yun-Sook was raised in Detroit and attended grad school at San Francisco State University in 2002. Although she’s an outspoken spoken-word artist and community activist, her proudest accomplishment is being a loving mother to her six-year old daughter.

Q: How did a nice Korean girl like you end up being adopted?

A: Due to that time period (1970’s), politics, history and economy, I will never know. My adoptive parents were white, but I had a Filipino brother and a Native American sister who were foster kids. I was like 5 or 6 when they turned 18 and left home. Thank god, I had them! We were all people of color and had to look out for each other. There were no Asian people, let alone integrated neighborhoods, then.

Q: How did your adoptive parents choose you?

A: My family wanted a white American kid, but white American kids are hard to come by. White women have abortions or keep their babies, or else their kids are wait-listed. My adoptive dad couldn’t have any more kids. So, they became foster parents so they could be more eligible for international adoption. They had no other choice because they couldn’t reproduce.

Q: You don’t think they chose you because they wanted you?

A: You’re not adopting by choice or to give the kid a home. It’s not like an alternative, but more like a default. And, if you adopt internationally, you’re damn sure never going to get that kid reunited with her birth family again. You’re in the clear.

I was an international adoption worker in Detroit in the late 1990’s. Black males are the cheapest kids. Do you know how many black males are in foster care? They’re never going to get adopted. White Americans will bend over backwards to get a passport, income verification, and immunizations to get a precious white Russian kid.

If you want a kid, you want a kid. Why does race matter? There are still undercover racists and imperialists. If you’re so cool, why not adopt a kid from Brazil or Africa? Why a little China doll? Because they’re what Americans thinks are smart and easy. Cool adoptive parents will adopt black males because they know adoption is about the kid, not about the parent.

Q: How much do you know about Korean culture?

A: I live in Koreatown (Los Angeles) where we have a large Korean population, but I always had a Korean culture. At 16, I started working in a Korean store selling handbags and beauty supplies. I went to Korea in 1998, and lived there in 2000. I was looking for my birth parents, volunteering and helping other Korean adoptees find their parents. I also taught English.

A lot of adoptive parents don’t want their kids to know how fun and developed Korea is, but it’s like Tokyo on crack. The clubs are opened until 5 in the morning. I think the parents want their kids to have this Westernized notion, to keep Korea exoticized. They feel threatened. They don’t want to lose their kids to the Korean community.

Q: What are your duties as a community activist?

A: I talk at camps and schools. I’m considered “the angry one, the crazy one, self-destructive”, but I’m a good advocate and activist.

I tell the kids about how much they’re programmed to love their master. ‘See that cute dog in the window?' their adoptive parents might’ve said. It’s a little bit ingrained in our Asian blood to be grateful. You’re supposed to think if you hadn’t been adopted, ‘Oh, I would’ve been an orphan. I would‘ve been a prostitute.’

Q: How long have you been a spoken word artist?

A: Since 1998, my work has been performed and published in Korea, and in black and Korean adoptee communities. I haven’t really broken out in the mainstream. I do a lot of hiphop festivals, and “angry women of color” and Korean adoptee events. I continue to be loud, proud and radical because I’m tired of us Asians being relegated to food and martial arts.

Q: How has your childhood impacted the way you raise your daughter?

A: 1. Exposure to art and culture. 2. Know yourself and love yourself. 3. The world is yours, really.

I hope that I can be in the position that allows her to be whatever she wants to be, and not have the pressure to choose a major or study something specific. If she wants to be an art brat, she can be an art brat. If she wants to join the circus, she can join the circus. I hope to be middle-class or upper middle-class so she can do her thing and not be like me--practical and holding it down.

Thank you for sharing, Yun!

Watch for Yun’s most recent project, Black Pearl Greetings, coming soon. Featuring her writing, it’s a personalized video greeting service offering irreverent videotaped cards you’ll never find at Hallmark.

You can also connect with Yun on Facebook, MySpace or Twitter through her user name: seoulflower

In case you missed these on the Hip Hapa Homeez Facebook page, here are some links to a couple of interesting articles:

After reading this one, I wondered how conflicted Lena Horne must’ve been over her MGM (multi-generational multi-racial) heritage:

And, here’s a story about a beauty pageant in Cote d’Ivoire that encourages African women not to bleach their skin—a major problem in the area:

Finally, an article I wrote about mixies for OneBrownGirl a few weeks ago:

Hey Hip Hapa Homeez, keep coming back for more interviews with intriguing multi-culti personalities. And, don’t forget the film at and the Hapa*Teez t-shirts at

Join our Facebook group, Hip Hapa Homeez, and our Fan Page for Watermelon Sushi. We’re on Twitter now, too, so follow us for updates! User name: WatermelonSushi

Until soon, I am…

Your Hip Hapa,


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Watermelon Sushi Celebrity Chef And Watermelon Sushi On Facebook

Wazzup Hip Hapa Homeez!

Welcome back to Watermelon Sushi World where we provide you with all things watermelon and sushi. That is to say, we are all about mixing it up.

In keeping with the new direction of this blog, we are so HAPA to introduce you to Marisa Baggett, a real-life, celebrity sushi chef pictured on the left. Marisa currently resides in Memphis where you can take classes from her. Contact her at

Q: Marisa, how did a nice African American girl like you become a sushi chef?

A: As a fearless twenty-something year-old with a growing catering business, a great client asked if I could prepare sushi for his office dinner party. I accepted even though I knew nothing about sushi. The small Mississippi town I was in didn't even have a sushi bar for me to reference so I had to rely on books. I stuck with mostly vegetable and cooked seafood sushi for the party and it was a big hit! Word spread quickly that I was making sushi at my restaurant and I was sort of thrown into being a sushi chef. I wanted to learn more and eventually closed my business and ventured to the California Sushi Academy for better training.

Q: Have you ever been to Japan?

A: Not yet. But when I do, I want to make sure that I have plenty of time to eat and sight-see.

Q: What kind of reaction do you get from other sushi chefs--particularly, Japanese men?

A: I think because the idea of an African American woman being a sushi chef is so unfathomable to most, the first reaction I get is usually a nod and, "Oh, you're a sous chef." When I correct them, there is usually confusion, disbelief or occasionally laughter. Non-Japanese male sushi chefs usually have the biggest issue with me. For some reason, they tend to disregard my authenticity as a sushi chef without fully comprehending the irony. With Japanese sushi chefs, I am regarded quite differently. Though they may not embrace me as authentic, they appreciate my understanding of sushi bar culture and the philosophy behind how I create sushi.

Q: Why do you think sushi is so popular in America?

A: I like to think of sushi as a delicious, celebrity-driven misunderstanding. People eat it because celebrities have made it the trendy thing to do and then they stick with it because it is delicious. And then, there are people that eat it because they think it's healthy. Not that sushi can't be healthy, but most American-style sushi is not.

Q: What is the most important part of making good sushi?

A: I hold that sushi is a dish made with prepared sushi rice. So for me, the rice is the most important part next to technique. That's not to say that ingredients aren't important, because they are. But excellently prepared rice accounts for more of sushi's greatness than people tend to realize.

Q: My mother told me that sushi is not norimaki (rice rolled in nori) and norimaki is not sushi (rice molded atop two fingers). Do you think Americans care?

A: There is so much confusion about sushi. On one hand, nigirizushi is the recognized worldwide standard of sushi. But in America, sushi means maki. Americans have a tendency to take from other cultures and make it their own which is exactly what happened with makizushi. For me, this creates an interesting dialog in my head whenever I create sushi. Part of me says, "You're an African American (focus on American) female sushi chef so who cares if you go there", while the other part of me that understands why things are done certain ways kind of keeps me in check if I am going too far over the sushi edge.

Q: Speaking of sushi edges, can you make watermelon sushi?

A: Watermelons are lovely this time of year. Several weeks ago, I passed by a man roadside selling watermelons and pickled vegetables from the back of his pickup truck. In the South, we tend to pickle everything including watermelon rind. And seasoned pickled vegetables are not that farfetched for sushi use, so I've got some pickled watermelon rind in the works. We'll see how that translates into sushi!

Domo arrigato gozaimasu, Marisa-san. I can't wait to try some.

Here are photos of inarizushi (on the top) and norimaki (on the bottom) that my mother prepared. In order to identify which inarizushi contained white rice or brown rice, she also designed two color-coded paper flags. Oooh, she's just too clever! The norimaki contained ume, or pickled plum, and changed the rice to a pinkish color so I called it sakura, or cherry blossom, sushi. Now, who's clever?

On to some other Hip Hapa Homee news: A couple of days ago, I created a Watermelon Sushi Fan Page on Facebook. Please go there, and sign up. That page will be where I will post photos of talent submissions as well as other news about the film as we progress. If you have any topics about the Watermelon Sushi film you'd like to discuss, please let us know.

And, of course, we still have Hapa*Teez t-shirts for all our fans here: http//

Please keep your emails and links coming in, you Hip Hapa Homeez, you. I hope to have an interview with another cross-cultural celebrity for you next week, so check us out then.

As always, I am...

Your Hip Hapa,

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Passing As Mixed?

Wazzup Hip Hapa Homeez!

Wow. It's been some week with the Michael Jackson memorial taking center stage for most folks. I have to admit, though, that I've never been a fan of pop music. In fact, I'm fond of saying that I went straight from P-funk to Public Enemy. For me, it all began with da beat, but when revolutionary rap emerged with its powerful lyrics I found myself jammin' to the likes of X-Clan and KRS-1.

But back to Michael Jackson. Believe it or not, there are lots of multiracial themes woven into the fabric of this man's life story. Besides the obvious, how MJ's music reached across color lines, there's the enigma of a soulful black boy turning into a white-looking man who often appealed to Caucasians more than his own.

Then, there are the children. Several days ago, TMZ reported that Jackson's two oldest were not his biologically, but rather had been created in-vitro with Jackson's dermatologist Arnie Klein's sperm and an undisclosed egg donor before being carried by surrogate Debbie Rowe who worked for Klein. TMZ also stated that Jackson's youngest, and third, child had unknown biological parents and an anonymous surrogate mother. Eventually, I suppose the truth will be revealed, but for now what shocks me most is how hotly debated the issue is by readers of various articles and blogs. People seem to be either absolutely positive those are MJ's kids while others are adamant that they're absolutely positively not.

Personally, I have a hard time believing that the photos of the children I've seen depict biracial kids with an African American father and Caucasian mother. Of course, it's not impossible for a mixed-race child to look more like one parent than the other. But most of us mixies have an intuitive sense about others like us. We just know. And, in this case, I just ain't feelin' it. Until we find out for sure (if we ever do, and if it's even our business to) that those are MJ's biological kids, I'd like to know what you Hip Hapa Homeez think. Is it possible for an African American man (the old Michael Jackson before cosmetic surgery and contracting vitiligo) to produce three children who all look Caucasian? Leave a comment or hollah at:

Earlier today, I heard from another Winfrey--no not that one, silly--who sent me the link to a Japanese and African American singer who was set to tour with Michael Jackson in England. What rotten luck! The friend, Asani Winfrey, and I interestingly share many acquaintances yet I'd never heard of this artist Judith Hill that she turned me on to. Check her out:

Although Judith Hill and Killah Chan are poles apart musically, it's interesting to note how both cross cultures--Japanese and African American. If you missed her the first time I posted it, here's rapper Christal Webb courtesy of YouTube:

Several weeks ago, I reviewed a couple of movies at the Seattle International Film Festival. One film, Apron Strings, directed by Samoan filmmaker Sima Urale is about a biracial South Asian and Caucasian man searching for the Indian side of his family. Somewhat similar in tone to Gurrinder Chadha's What's Cookin'?, Apron Strings is told around the theme of food. Here's the link to my review:

The website is up and Your Hip Hapa is featured in an interview with Amina S:

Finally, if you haven't already seen this article I penned about the New Race Politics for OneBrownGirl, here it is:

Remember to join our Hip Hapa Homeez group on Facebook. And, don't forget about our film, Watermelon Sushi, and Hapa-Teez t-shirts. Oh, and that picture above? That's "The Thai Elvis Presley" (in red behind the statue) who recently entertained our dining party at a Hollywood Thai Restaurant. Talk about cross cultural! My fellow diners are in the two photos below: rapper Miwa Lyric with Kiyoshi Parker, and spoken-word artist Yun-Sook Kim Navarre.

Until next time, I am...

Your Hip Hapa,

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Shout-outs, Offenses And More MRFLF Interviews

My dear Hip Hapa Homeez,

In my excitement to write last week's post, I neglected to send this shout-out to Cassie: HAPA birthday, girl! Cassie's special day was June 24, and she is one Hip Hapa Homee, let me tell ya.

I was also in such a hurry to relaunch this blog that I totally forgot about two recent incidents that still cause me to shake my head.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in line at the supermarket when the mono-racial Caucasian woman in front of me turned around, gestured at her four six-packs of beer on the conveyer belt and said, "You know it's bad when beer costs less than water."

She then looked intently at my chest and asked, "Are you fluent?"

I had forgotten that I was wearing my Cherry Blossom Festival t-shirt decorated with kanji so I mumbled incoherently before following the woman's gaze and finally getting that she was asking if I spoke Japanese fluently.

"Oh, no," I interjected, about to explain that I spoke some Japanese, but didn't read it, when she interrupted me in a voice of absolute authority.

"Well," she instructed me, "all their words end with a vowel or the letter 'n'."

I was like, okay, and you're telling me this because a. I don't look Japanese to you so what would I know or, b. I do look somewhat Asian, but you still don't think that I would know anything about a language that (half) my own people speak because obviously you, the mono-racial European, is the expert on the subject. By the time I had decided that I was sufficiently insulted, the woman had collected her 24 cans of beer and gone.

Lest you think that it's only "white folks" who don't get it when they're offending us blendies, let me tell you about what I heard on a bus ride a few weeks prior. The bus driver, either a light-skinned African American woman or MGM (multi-generational multi-racial) and I were chatting about several topics. Towards the end of the route, an African American man moved forward from the rear to inquire about the stop where he should get off. Suddenly, he looked at the driver closely.

"So, what are you?" he asked. "A mixed breed?"

To her credit, the bus driver simply chuckled.

"No," she responded. "I'm the same as you."

But the idiot passenger wouldn't let it go. He kept harping about how light she was, how she didn't look purebred, how she must be something else, etc., but I had already checked out without hearing the rest of their conversation. I was still stuck back at the 'mixed-breed' part, and I was seething.

I wanted to ask the moron, "Do you think our driver is a puppy or something?"

You know, I keep thinking that we've progressed as a people. A few months ago, I clipped an ad from Essence magazine for Moen, a faucet manufacturer. The photo showed a white man and presumably his wife or girlfriend--an Asian woman--preparing a meal. I was like, wow, even if it's somewhat of a stereotype to some (white male/cherry blossom female), it's still progress over showing only mono-racial couples. That same week, the local health food market featured an obviously biracial (black and white) girl as part of their sales ads. More progress, I thought at the time. But evidently, it was just a little too much progression as the following month backslid into the "I'm going to tell you what I know that you don't know about your own people's language" and/or putting us mixies in the same category as animals.

On to better things. This week's featured Hip Hapa Homee is Dora Love, the wife of author Sam Cacas who was a participant on the Mixed-Race Relationships panel at the Mixed Roots Film and Literary Festival. A photo of the couple taken at the MRFLF is below.

Q: How did you participate in this year's Mixed Roots Film and Literary Festival?
A: Of course, I sat in on the Mixed-Race Relationships panel on Friday. I also went to several other sessions on Friday and Saturday.

Q: What was the most exciting aspect of the festival?
A: The most exciting aspect of the festival was seeing how the issues that mixed-race people have also occur with me. I've always been told since childhood that I sound different than other black people, and I should be an English teacher because "you're not like the others". These types of comments are not used exclusively with mixed-race people or black people that grew up in rural areas. We share some of the same experiences. The festival only made me realize that people of color need to gather more often to express their shared experiences in this strange and sometimes cruel world.

Q: What did you learn from your experience there?
A: I learned that this is one of probably several organizations or groups that deal with the issues of people of color. Mixed Roots and other organizations should collaborate more on ideas. These collaborations could end in some educational materials to disperse throughout different communities via film, more festivals, etc.

Q: How do you think this festival helps mixed-race people? Non mixed-race people?
A: The participants of this festival were able to express their feelings through spoken word, panels and films about the issue of being mixed-race in America. I can't say that I'm not mixed-race because American Indian, Caucasian and Dutch blood runs in my veins. However, being as dark as I am, I felt a kinship with the mixed-race people at the festival. I think it brought all human beings closer together. We are all mixed in some way. Unfortunately, not all Americans feel this way. People need to be educated through film and well-publicized films. There will always be ignorant people who just won't believe they need to know anything other than their own views. But now is the time for festivals like this to be more visible to everyone. Let's bombard the airwaves with the message of unity.

Q: Will you return next year and, if so, in what capacity?
A: I would love to return to the festival next year. I hope I have something to contribute. I've written a book with a brief mention about interracial dating. I'm presently working on my second book that talks exclusively about interracial dating. I'm presently editing the first book, "A Change is Gonna Come". The second book is still in the writing stage. So, I hope that I could be on a panel next year talking about interracial dating.

Thank you, Dora.

Finally, guess who was on Nodojiman this past Sunday? Evidently, Jero has a new record although it didn't rock quite like his other enka tunes. Here's a peek at him as he appeared on the show. Apologies for the image taken with my cell phone camera.

And, here's another shout-out; this one to One Brown Girl for posting an article I wrote about race. You can read it here:

Hey, I love hearing from you HHH's so please keep your emails coming to me at

You can also join our Hip Hapa Homeez group on Facebook.

And, don't forget our Hapa*Teez t-shirts! Very soon, I'll have some updates about the film, Watermelon Sushi.

Until we meet again, I will always be

Your Hip Hapa,