Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Halito, And A History Lesson

Halito, and welcome to the tribal drum circle all you Hip Hapa Homeez! This week’s featured Hip Hapa Homee is Boe Bvshgolawa Many Knives Glasschild--a musician, shaman and yogi with roots in the Blackfeet, Cherokee and Chocktaw Nations. To the left is how he looked when we met about 12 years ago in Los Angeles. Check out that baaaaad Mohawk! Below, is a photo of Boe today in his favorite yoga asana and surrounded by his instruments.

Q: What’s a nice Native slash African American guy like you doing teaching yoga in Flint Michigan?

A: I started taking yoga in 1998. After a lady pulled her SUV across LaBrea Boulevard and stopped in my lane, I slammed on the brakes of my motorcycle. My front tire hit her tire. I braced my arms, so I didn’t get hurt. But I had a very stiff back.

As an actor, I had a commercial to do, but when I got up I couldn’t move from my waist to my shoulders. I put my chest on the gas tank, used my hands to pull my legs over, pushed myself upright and rode to the gig. I took yoga for relief.

Later, I met my wife-to-be who was into yoga. When she got pregnant, we went to prenatal yoga. Then, I started realizing that I was enhancing my spirituality through yoga. Yoga also made me aware of not abusing the body. I used to smoke so much pot that my gums started receding. All of a sudden, it didn’t make sense to do that to my body anymore.

Q: Who are your parents, and how did they meet?

A: My father is black, Cherokee and Blackfeet. My mother was black and Choctaw. They met in 1953 in West Texas. My mother married my father to get out of the house. My father’s father was Blackfeet and Cherokee, and abandoned by his father. He was raised in a black environment in the South with "yes, ma’m; no, ma’m", and stuff like that. His name was Chief.

My father’s father, my father, my oldest son and I all rode motorcycles.

Q: Your maternal grandmother was a big influence on you. Describe her.

A: She was full-blooded Choctaw and died of cancer in 1966 when I was 10. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1944, she went and got a case of beer to celebrate. She was anti-American because when she was a young girl, they put her in school and beat her whenever she spoke Choctaw. So, she made sure we learned Choctaw.

She was born in 1896 and married my grandfather in 1928. My grandfather who was born in 1894 had Chickasaw blood, too, but his parents died and by 1906, he was on his own.

My grandmother had my mother when she was in her 40’s. When I was born, she wanted to name me Hiawatha, but conceded to Boe. In the Choctaw language Chinchinabebo is the translation for Hiawatha, and the Muskogee word is the militant name Bvshgolawa. Many Knives refers to a tool, not a weapon.

My grandmother was very pro-Choctaw. Up until she died, she spoke the language. She used to tell me that her brother would take a knife and kill white people at picnic grounds in Okalahoma. She was very much full of hatred. But she liked black people. Her husband, Nelson, was black.

Our people were originally from Mississippi, but Andrew Jackson gathered Cherokee, Chickasaw and Choctaw and put them on the Trail of Tears. We relocated in one of ten counties of Oklahoma of the Choctaw Nation.

Q: Did you go to powwows?

A: My grandmother didn’t like powwows. She said they were b.s.--that the federal government allowed us to ‘play Indian’. She thought we should get together whenever we want, not when the government said we could.

She was the Amistad of Native American culture--outspoken, radical and very much respected. Grandfather followed behind her. Everyone had this high level of awareness of her, except her daughter.

My grandmother didn’t like pets and said it was like black slavery. She thought that animals should not be sold because you cannot put a value on its spirit.

My father left when I was three because my grandmother stabbed him in the leg with a knife. I saw him again when I was 43 in 1999, and discovered that he was in Michigan.

Q: What was your mother like?

A: She was born in 1933 and never acclimated to the Chocktaw Nation so she did not get along with my grandmother. She was more integrated into the American way. She grew up in the Lucille Ball era and grew away from Indian things. She dressed and wore her hair like Lucille Ball.

Q: You’ve lived in Texas, Los Angeles, Mississippi and Michigan. You get around!

A: I was born in Midland Texas, about 18 miles from the biggest meteor crater to strike North America in 1/4 million years. Around 18, I left. My mother got me addicted to California because she would go out there. I went to Los Angeles in 1975 and stayed until 2002.

Texas was so racial. I got elected safety patrol, but the white kids didn’t like me crossing them. I grew up in the same city as George Bush. It was so biased, and my grandmother was so radical. I don’t how she picked that place.

I used to love to go to Oklahoma. We had relatives that didn’t speak English. They didn’t want to be assimilated by force and wanted to stay where they were. They were empathetic towards Latinos not speaking English.

I’m enrolled in the Choctaw Nation, and a card-carrying Indian. I have my CDIB--Certified Degree of Indian Blood. In 1900, at the turn of the century, the government rounded up Indians like cattle, sold their land and gave them CDIB’s. White Americans don’t have to carry a card saying that they have so much Irish blood, etc. But if you want benefits from the Red Nation, you have to have a CDIB card for free medical and dental.

In March 2003, I moved to Mississippi. The sign says, “Set your clock back 20 years.” I thought it was a joke. It should have said "25". The first interracial prom took place in 2005. The greatest thing that happened in Mississippi was rap music because it got black and white people united. It means white people finally got some good music to dance to.

I taught yoga classes in a Catholic church. I drove 56 miles one-way because it was the only place I could find liberal enough. By the time I left 2 1/2 years later, I was teaching yoga in a funeral home.

In Flint, it took about a month or two to open some doors. I started teaching freebies. The first time I tried to go into the real world, I didn’t know that black men didn’t teach white ladies. I had to break the door open. Now, I have my choice of where I can teach.

Q: What styles of yoga do you teach?

A: I’ve studied Kundalini, Hatha and Qigong, and have Pilates certification. Some days, I teach up to five classes. The thing is that people will pay to drink beer, but not to learn yoga. If you want to do it free, come by my house.

If you want to be babied, you came to the wrong place. I had a lady of 65 doing handstands. A black coach came to class and backed out because these old ladies were outdoing him. If you use props, you’re not working hard enough. I can tell if you don’t stretch at home. People love their comfort zone. I say, push yourself. Eventually, you’ll get flexible.

I bring my daughter, 11, and son, 8, to class. Since my wife Brenda’s father is black and Cherokee, my kids got that Native black thing goin’ on.

Q: How did you get into music?

A: Music was my total focus. I decided I would make it in rock-n-roll until later in my career I realized I was wasting my time. The truth was rock-n-roll is a very biased genre of music. It wasn’t until the 1990’s that I really saw the racism. Rock-n-roll was borrowed and re-labeled, and blacks had a hard time getting into something they started.

Eventually, I started seeing that it was not about being a good musician, but about being a white musician. Growing up, I was a little bit blinded to what was going on. We would jam our a** off, but we couldn’t get a show. It’s really a racist industry.

I had seen the racism but, once I really acknowledged it, my combative nature wanted to come forth. One thing about yoga, it took a lot of anger out of me. Now, I look for a higher consciousness and vibration.

Thank you Boe for sharing the history lessons.

On another note, here are some links sent by AllPeople Gifts. After viewing them, let me know what you think. I wasn’t entirely sure if they were for real.

Meanwhile, you know the drill. Join our Hip Hapa Homeez group and Watermelon Sushi Fan pages on Facebook, and follow watermelonsushi on Twitter. Remember, we have Hapa*Teez t-shirts for you and a rear crawl credit on our film if you make a purchase.

See you next week when I shall once again proclaim myself to be,

Your Hip Hapa,


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cool, Like Jade

Hey, Hip Hapa Homeez! Welcome back. We are now 1,000 strong and growing daily. Although these numbers speak well for us, they’re especially gratifying as a reflection of the many folks in our group who don’t consider themselves to be mixed-race, but support our agenda anyway. Without them, we biracials, blendies, FGM’s, hapas, MGM’s, mixies, mulattos, multiracials, and transracial adoptees would have a much harder road to navigate—like driving through a strange city without GPS. Can I get a shout-out to all of our Hip Hapa Homeez in da houze?!?

Believe it or not, I met this week’s featured Hip Hapa Homee through Twitter. When I visited Jade Keller’s blog, I was blown away by her stunning photography, her comical discussions about food, and her intense interest in literature. That’s Jade in the photo to the left and below.

Take a peek at her links, and then check out the Q&A that follows:

Tasting Grace:



Q: What’s a nice multiracial girl like you doing with such an eclectic blog?

A: My blog is an extension of my love for writing and for sharing ideas with others. It’s a collection of my thoughts, dreams, desires, worries, and fears…all the things I’m thinking about. I find the written word is my favorite mode of communication. I recently discovered just how much I love writing as I’ve just finished writing my first novel and, through this website, I can keep the words flowing. I love that I can put my thoughts out there, and find others thinking about the same things. Even though we may have vastly different perspectives, it makes me feel we have things to share anyway.

Q: What are your parents’ ethnic backgrounds, how did they meet, and why were you born in Mississippi?

A: My mother was born and raised in Thailand. My father comes from a Norwegian family, but was raised in South Africa. They both emigrated to the U.S. to pursue higher education, and they met at UC Santa Barbara while my dad worked on his PhD and my mom worked on her master’s degree. Unfortunately, times were tough in those days and the only job my father could get after finishing his doctorate was at the University of Mississippi. So they moved there, and that is where I was born. But since my mother was an Asian woman, she could not get a decent job there. They would call her in for interviews and as soon as she walked in the door, they would take one look at her and tell her the position was already filled. If they did interview her, they would express doubt that she could effectively manage an office of men despite her credentials. My parents eventually decided they would be better off on welfare in California than staying any longer in Mississippi. Thankfully, once arriving in California, the job prospects turned around for the better for both my parents.

Q: Does your novel, Fatima in Corinth, involve any multiracial characters?

A: Fatima in Corinth does in fact involve a multiracial character. Fatima is the daughter of a woman from Persia (the ancient Indus region) and a traveling merchant father from ancient Syria. Her mother had died at childbirth, leaving Fatima and her father to travel the world alone together, selling wares and goods. The story opens with Fatima and her father sailing to ancient Greece (or Hellas). When they arrive in Corinth, thieves murder her father and she is taken in as a slave girl. She befriends young, heroic Aeneas, and the two share their ideas on religion, honor, duty and love. But the shrewd, calculating Istran, consumed by jealousy, tries everything to keep Fatima in her rightful place. As she tries to navigate the delicate balance of forging her own identity and freedom in a foreign culture, Fatima is caught in a power struggle, threatening her very survival. In the end, she must choose between surrender and being true to herself, regardless of the cost. It’s a novel about choosing between fitting in and being true to yourself; it’s about choosing between family and friends, between honoring the past and making your own place in the world.

Q: You’re a grad student majoring in Political Science. How do you see race playing a role in politics, particularly now that there is a biracial president?

A: Our country has a very bloody and marred past when it comes to race relations--slavery of African Americans, sending Japanese Americans to internment camps, continued denigration of Hispanic immigrants, anti-Arab sentiments especially post 9-11, the list continues. Even people we now consider white (for example, Irish and Italian people) were once considered non-white and were cast out because of it. We have a very strong history of seeking to exclude others--ironic for a nation of immigrants. While, in a way, we made many important leaps forward through the civil rights movement in trying to promote legal equality, race remains a very strong barrier against equality and unity in this nation. And I think things have gotten…I don’t want to say harder…but perhaps less straightforward, or more complex for race relations since the civil rights movement (the same is true for women’s rights). People have become complacent. They think the race issue has been “dealt with already”. They don’t see that racism now rears its ugly head in much more subtle ways, much more insidious ways that are harder to counter because they are masked. For example, Obama’s opponents hate him for his policies, yes, and they can hide behind that. But the opposition has acquired a manic tinge to it, hovering ever so close to extremism and violence, that times now are downright scary. I think his biracial background fuels this extreme hate – that, and certain members of the news media actively persecuting him and inciting such rage. You can see it on the attacks regarding the legitimacy of his citizenship, the repeated rumors/lies about him being Muslim, and the way the opposition keeps likening his name to Osama bin Laden. They’ve stopped caring whether our country succeeds so long as they can help make sure he fails. This country would be very different indeed if we were not so consumed by issues of race.

Q: You’re also an artist and photographer who is passionate about Burning Man. How do you meld your mixed-race experiences with your love for creativity?

A: I would say my mixed-race experiences actually drive my creative efforts. I think most of what I try to explore, learn, and say come from the fact that I have such a multi-faceted background and from growing up where I could understand the perspective of those around me, but still feel totally separate from it. It gave me a sense of what it means to be different, even to the point of alienation – and yet to find those universal truths that bind us all. I don’t mean to say I have any answers at all; merely that this is what I try to explore and express in my writing. It’s interesting you mention Burning Man as the prelude to this question, because Burning Man celebrates precisely this: our unique and beautiful individuality coalescing towards a higher expression of humanity.

Q: You take some great photos for your blog. Are you a professional photographer?

A: No, I was an art major in college (specializing in painting), but that’s the extent of my artistic endeavors. I use the photos to add interest to my blog and to play around with words juxtaposed against imagery. But I’ve never been formally trained as a photographer or anything. It’s my husband who is the professional. So if I need any tips, I just ask him.

Q: You love to blog about food, and Thai food has become hugely popular in the U.S. Any idea why?

A: I’m probably biased in this, considering that I grew up with Thai food. In my house, spaghetti was pretty exotic, while stir-fries and curries were the usual fare. I think Thai food has such a lure because it combines so many different flavors: salty, sweet, sour, spicy, etc. Many other ethnic foods tend to focus on very similar combinations of flavors, but Thai food has a lot of variety. Plus really good Thai food relies on super fresh ingredients, allowing for healthy choices, and it is totally customizable for different diets, so it makes it easier for vegans or others on special diets to still have yummy options.

Q: You’ve said your mother didn’t make a concerted effort to teach you the Thai language, but did she raise as if you were Thai?

A: I’m not sure my mom consciously raised me as if I were Thai, but there are definite values and perspectives that we both share that I would say are more Thai than American. For example, deference towards elders and towards authority runs quite strong in me. For the longest time, I could never argue with my parents because it was such a sign of disrespect. To this day I find it difficult to argue with others, especially if they are angry and yelling and talking over one another. I much prefer to discuss things calmly and coolly, with each person waiting their turn to speak; and so I tend to also keep my anger and temper buried much deeper under the surface when it does get provoked. Food is also deeply important to me. I place great importance in family (and friends) collecting together around the dinner table and sharing food and conversation together every night. I view the making and preparation of food as an art in itself, and the sharing of food as a deeply soulful experience. I also have a habit of taking off my shoes when I enter the home, and I believe smiles and an accepting attitude towards others will go a long way towards soothing tensions.

Thank you for those cool words, cool lady Jade.

The big news this week was the story of a Justice of Peace in Louisiana who refused to marry an interracial couple based on, get this, his certainty that their mixed-race offspring wouldn’t be accepted by either side. Now, how this justice is so sure about that is really moot since what he did was illegal. Still, it’s interesting to note that there are still folks out there who believe they can make decisions for others based merely on their own opinions.

If you want to read the article, go to the Hip Hapa Homeez group page on Facebook. While you’re there, join the Watermelon Sushi Fan page where we post updates about our film. Remember, we still have Hapa*Teez t-shirts for you and if you make a purchase, let us know so we spell your name right in the rear crawl credits. And, don’t forget to tweet us on Twitter. You may just end up being our next featured Hip Hapa Homee.

Until we meet again, I cooly remain…

Your Hip Hapa,


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Aaron Woolfolk And Danny Glover's Big Adventure In Japan

Konichi-wa and Habari Gani, Hip Hapa Homeez!

Welcome back to Watermelon Sushi World where we share our multicultural stories. If you’ve got a tale you’d like to communicate, please contact us at

This week’s Hip Hapa Homee is filmmaker Aaron Woolfolk, in the photo here directing actors Bennet Guillory and Danny Glover in his latest film The Harimaya Bridge. The photo at the end of the blog is a scene from the film. Check out the trailer below for a glimpse of this drama about an African American man who travels to Japan where his son has died.

Q: What’s a nice African American California guy like you doing making a film about cross-cultural issues in Japan?

A: Over the course of the production there were days when I would ask myself that very question. I guess it goes back to me going to Japan on the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) Program after I got out of college. Then, I returned to the U.S. and went to graduate film school. At that time, I started to think about how I could establish a career as a filmmaker and what could make me stand out. I had loved my experience in Japan. And, it was still very much a part of my life. I was often going back to visit. So, I thought that, film-wise, maybe I could do something concerning Japan.

I started thinking about and writing The Harimaya Bridge in film school. But I knew I had to show that me, one day, making a feature film in rural Japan wasn’t a crazy idea. So for my thesis project I wrote and directed two short films in Japan: the comedy Eki (The Station) and the drama Kuroi Hitsuji (Black Sheep). Those shorts were very successful in terms of exposure and awards, and that started me on my way.

Also, I was born and raised in Oakland, California. Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco were my stomping grounds growing up. That’s a very multicultural environment. In college at the University of California at Berkeley, one of my majors was Ethnic Studies. So this kind of stuff has always been a part of my life.

Q: You taught English in rural Japan—not a big city like Tokyo. Were people there accepting of you as a black American?

A: On the JET Program I was placed in Kochi Prefecture, which is a very rural place. I lived in a town of 30,000 people. I taught in schools in really remote towns and villages. This was back in the early 90’s, and for 99% of the people there I was the first black person they had ever seen in the flesh. It was quite an experience--being the focus of everyone all the time. The reaction you’d get simply by walking down the street; literally causing traffic accidents because a driver can’t believe what it is he’s seeing—you--so much so that, while he’s staring, he forgets his car is still in motion. Stuff like that.

Peoples’ reaction to me being black was interesting. I’d often get comments like, “You must be a fantastic dancer”, “You must be really good in basketball”, or “Show me your best slam dunk”. I’d walk into a club with friends and the place would literally stop--just completely stop--because everyone expected me to get on the dance floor and perform a miracle. Or, I’d have junior high school basketball coaches that had been coaching for years who assumed that I could teach their students more about the game than they could. A lot of things I just had to laugh at.

But here’s the thing: Most of the people saying and doing such things didn’t mean to insult me. They had no context for their words and actions doing so. They were simply going by images of blacks that had been imported to Japan by western media for decades. I always kept this in mind. And, I figured that my presence there was an opportunity to break down those kinds of stereotypes. And indeed, most people were very kind, helpful, and really happy to have me around. Sure, there were some knuckleheads, but there are people like that everywhere. Overall, it was a wonderful experience. I loved it. And I made so many friends. A lot of them remain among my closest friends to this day.

Q: How much did being fluent in Japanese help in making The Harimaya Bridge?

A: Thankfully hardly any because my Japanese is horrible! I can definitely get around, and I can have easy conversations with people in social settings. But when it comes to doing business, forget it. Too risky. And on the set, things were moving so fast, and the Japanese was being spoken so fast, it was difficult for me to keep up. I used some Japanese. But there were also translators to help bridge the communication gap, and it went fine.

I think what ultimately made The Harimaya Bridge happen was a combination of several things, among them: 1) my passion for the project and never giving up on it over the years, 2) people loving the script, 3) my short films, 4) Danny Glover being attached as an actor and executive producer, 5) a lot of the people on board, including producer Ko Mori and executive producer Naoshi Yoda, 6) my long relationship with Japan, and 7) my attitude towards Japan. That last point, I can’t stress enough how important that is. The head of the studio that provided most of the film’s financing told me he really liked the respect I had towards Japan, its people, history, culture, etc. And he liked how it showed in the script. Actually, I’d gone into writing the script wanting to avoid stuff you commonly find in western movies about non-western places--subtle, and many times not-so-subtle, messages about supremacy of western values, culture, religion, methods, etc. I’ve always hated that kind of imperial arrogance in movies, in foreign policy, and in the practices of some foreigners I’ve encountered in Japan and other places. So I wanted The Harimaya Bridge to avoid that. People in the movie industry there recognized that, and it definitely made a difference in them getting behind the film and me as the director. It’s not that I was pandering or anything. People who know me will tell you that is how I’ve always looked at the world. So, the folks in Japan appreciated my attitude and how it showed up in my work.

Q: Just from viewing the trailer, it appears your film has a strong Japanese sensibility.

A: From the very beginnings of this project I was inspired by the pastoral Japanese films I saw when I first got into international cinema as a youth. Movies like Kurosawa’s Ikiru (To Live) and Ozu’s Tokyo Monogatari (Tokyo Story). I love those films. They changed me as a person. So, for me, The Harimaya Bridge has always been a kind of homage to them.

I also had in mind that I was making a film for a Japanese audience as well as an American one. I’d actually experimented with this--playing to dual audiences--when I made my short films Eki and Kuroi Hitsuji. I wanted to make a film in which American audiences would recognize elements of what they’re used to in American movies, and in which Japanese audiences would recognize elements that they’re used to in Japanese movies.

And, it’s funny. The Harimaya Bridge had a nationwide theatrical release in Japan during the summer and, prior to its opening, I spent five weeks traveling the country doing press, attending preview screenings, doing promotional events, etc. There was a lot of love for the film. Several people said they couldn’t believe it was written and directed by someone who isn’t Japanese. A lot of critics said, “Wow, you made a Japanese film!” Many people--both moviegoers and journalists--said to me some variation of, “You’re an American, but you must have a Japanese soul.” And, a lot of people thanked me for making a film that shows Japanese as real, normal, everyday people and not the usual stereotypes they see from Hollywood movies. I also got quite a few people saying how refreshing it was to see such a drama with African American characters. Such comments always brought a smile to my face. So I’m really glad I took the approach towards making the film that I did.

Q: You include scenes with statues of Sakamoto Ryoma, an important Japanese historical figure. How much do you know about Japanese culture and history?

A: Sakamoto Ryoma was a samurai who sought to overthrow Japan’s feudal system and was assassinated in Kyoto in 1867. I think Ryoma was really cool. All the things he did, and the lasting impact he had on a nation by his death at age 32! Hell, when I was 32...

But my knowledge of him is due to my connection to Kochi Prefecture. Ryoma was born and raised in Kochi, so he is a huge point of pride for the people there. Being in Kochi, you can’t help but learn about him and his historical role in Japan. His image is everywhere. Everyone wants to tell you his story. Everyone refers to him by his given name—Ryoma--as if they personally knew him. He’s just so ingrained in the soul and spirit of Kochi. And, there is the famous statue of him at Katsurahama Beach, which appears in the film. Actually, several images of him appear throughout The Harimaya Bridge beginning with the opening credits. It’s said that the men in Kochi aspire to be like Ryoma and the women in Kochi seek a man like Ryoma. Actually, he’s popular all over of the country’s more beloved historical figures.

As for me being knowledgeable about Japan, I always tell people that I most certainly am not an expert on Japan or anything like that. For me to think I am would be delusional on my part and an insult to folks in Japan. Rather, I think I’ve spent enough time there that I have a perspective on Japan, one that I hoped folks there would be interested in seeing. Kind of like how many of my favorite movies about America and American life are by non-American filmmakers who have spent enough time here to have a legitimate perspective on the U.S.

Q: What was it like having both Japanese and African American cast members on the set? Were there any obvious clashes in acting methods due to cultural differences?

A: It was wonderful! There was so much sharing and give-and-take over the course of the production. Here you had two groups of actors who came from two different acting traditions, and two different approaches to the craft. There was a lot of curiosity and discussion. “How do actors do such-and-such in Japan?” “Why don’t actors do such-and-such in America?” It was really fascinating to see. There were some clashes in acting methods, but it wasn’t really disruptive. We just worked it out. And in the end, things came together beautifully.

There are some deep issues that are addressed in The Harimaya Bridge. It was interesting talking to the actors about them. I’d usually start the discussions, and then I’d go silent and let the actors talk to each other. There was a lot of honesty and sharing and frank talk. And then they’d use that and put it into their performances. There was also a lot of fun, a lot of laughter.

Lead actor Ben Guillory told me it was the best professional experience of his career. And he’s been doing this for nearly 40 years. So when he told me that, I was like, “Wow!”

Q: Does Danny Glover speak Japanese in the film?

A: He doesn’t because his character does not need to speak it, although we did bring him over to Japan to shoot scenes there. He really loved it, and the people loved him. The cast and crew taught him a few words and phrases in Japanese. People in Kochi were thrilled by that. Danny’s a really kind person who enjoys giving people a good memory. Now there are several folks in rural Japan with photos who say to anyone who will listen, “That’s me with Danny Glover. He said hello to me in Japanese.”

Q: Will you be making more films in Japan?

A: I definitely want to make American movies. In fact, the project I’m working on now is set in the U.S. in the deep south. At the same time, I’ve always had a deep love and reverence for international cinema. It was always a dream of mine to be a filmmaker who could make movies in America and overseas. As it turned out, I ended up living and working in Japan, and that led to me having an ongoing relationship with that country. And that led to me being able to make my first feature film. I’d love to make more films in Japan in the future. But I always remind myself that it’s one thing to make a single feature film, as difficult as that is. But it’s something else altogether to make a career out of this. So, at this point I’m not really thinking so much about, “How many films can I make in Japan as opposed to America?” Right now I’m just focused on trying to get a second film off the ground.

Arigato gozaimashita, Aaron. Okay, Hip Hapa Homeez, while The Harimaya Bridge recently ended its theatrical run in Japan, it will be released on DVD there on December 11. And, for those of you stateside, the film is currently on the film festival circuit and will be released theatrically in the United States next spring. If you’re on Oahu, check out the screening October 16 and19 at HIFF. And, if you’re in SoCal, go to the San Diego Asian Film Festival for screenings on October 24 and 26.

Speaking of Afros and Asians together, here’s a shout-out to Sky Obercam, co-founder of Visual Culture blog, and editor of Clutch Magazine, for sending this timely link about a blasian couple—Gabrielle Union and John Cho on a TV series. She calls it bumblebee lovin’:

Until next week, here are the usual messages from our sponsors:

Buy a Hapa* Teez t-shirt and support our film. Be sure we get your name if you make purchase so we can give you a rear crawl credit.

Join the Hip Hapa Homeez group page on Facebook where we post relevant info about biracials, blasians, blendies, FGM’s, hapas, MGM’s, mixies, mulattos, multiracials and transracial adoptees. Did we leave anyone out?

And, while you’re on Facebook, join our Watermelon Sushi Fan page where we keep you updated with news of our film—like our latest line-up of Associate Producers Roni Wheeler, Pearl, Jr. and Derrick Holmes.

Finally, follow watermelonsushi on Twitter where we have been posting dialogue from the Watermelon Sushi script.

In multi-culti solidarity, I am,

Your Hip Hapa,


Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Taking A Chance

Big-ups to you Hip Hapa Homeez and Watermelon Sushi Fans for your continued love. This week’s Hip Hapa Homee is Chance, in the photo, who solemnly hosts an interactive website about being mixed. Check it out here:; then, read the Q&A below. This is some serious stuff, and sure to invite controversy!

Q: What’s a nice multiracial guy like you doing moderating

A: MGmix is a multiracial website for biracials and multi-generation mixed people. It caters to biracials, and the issues and views that affect them in society. At the same time, there are many people who are not biracial but are multi-generation mixed. But, due to the "One Drop Rule", the majority of them have been labeled "black" and raised black/African American. Those of the multi-generation mixed, who could pass for white or another race, could escape this fate if they wanted.

The website also deals with topics about other mixed-race groups like Creoles, and mixed-race ethnic history from other countries. MGmix deals with biracialism, and the study of mixed-race people who are not biracial, but are also mixed. It's good that biracials get to know a little history about other biracials of the past who contributed to America politically, economically, religiously, and fought for the rights of blacks and mixed-race people.

I wanted to make MGmix a site that does not limit itself to one type of topic. That is why you find articles and commentaries on many subjects from biracialism, multi-generation mixed, Creoles, international mixed, politics, economics, religion, celebrities, music, etc. The more diverse topics you have, the more interesting the site. And, seldom will you have people getting bored because the same old subject is always posted. Variety is unity.

Q: What was your motivation for creating this site?

A: I visited many other multiracial websites, and I noticed that there were some things lacking in some of them--not all, just some. I noticed that some did not have a section for readers to leave comments, so there could be no feedback. When there is no opportunity for feedback, it discourages readers and they don’t return frequently. Then, there are some biracial and multiracial sites that have a forum which allows feedback. Now, having a forum is very good, but many readers don’t want to participate in a forum all the time. I also noticed that some biracial and multiracial sites were not updated frequently. I have seen posted articles sitting on the front page of some sites for over a year.

At some sites, there were many biracials who felt dissatisfied for various reasons--one of them was that some biracials felt they were being unfairly labeled "anti-black" because they disagreed with blacks pushing the “One Drop Rule”. Any type of criticism of blacks about certain issues would sometimes be met with an accusation of being "anti-black". Other biracials and some blacks would make these allegations against other biracials. Some were anti-black and many others were not--they were just stating observations they had made; like blacks frequently pushing the "One Drop Rule".

I felt that there were not enough websites out there for biracials and other multi-generation mixed people, and this lack of other sites forced people to have to settle for sites that were already well-known. So I decided to create a site for biracials that would welcome multi-generation mixed people, Creoles, monoracials, and supporters who were interested. I remember feeling a deep sorrow at times for many mixed-race people at other sites because of their being criticized just because they spoke the truth about certain things.

Q: But there's no personal information about you on your site. Who are you?

A: I’m not biracial; I’m a multi-generation mixed person. My ancestry on both my father and mother’s side of the family are mixed. On my father’s side there is black and white, on my mother’s side there is black, white, and Native American. I was raised by my mother, and she always said we were mixed and that is what stuck with me. She didn't talk constantly about race and ethnicity, but when the subject came up she would say we were mixed.

Now, some African Americans, biracials, and other people say it does not count if you have white and other ancestry from the past. I say this, I have never seen a black ancestor yet you call me black (African American). So if I have never seen a white, black, or Native American ancestor, then I guess that leaves the slate open for me to label myself. Notice people don’t challenge Latinos (who are multi-generation mixed) about their mixed ancestry. Many Latinos have never seen a white ancestor from Spain nor a Native Aztec, Mayan, or Inca ancestor. Many Latinos claim to be white even though they are visibly mixed, and they have that right even though they have never met a white ancestor. You are what you are, especially if it is visible and people take notice of it. Therefore, it counts.

For me, a mulatto is a person with one black parent and one white parent or a person who is mixed with black and white ancestry--especially if it is visible. Also phenotype (physical appearance), if a debate breaks out about whether some light-skinned African American is to be considered mulatto or not. The deciding factor that doesn't lie is physical appearance. Therefore, mulatto is also a physical appearance. Many biracials who are not born light-skinned have verified that often they are seen as "just black". Many light-skinned African Americans can verify that they are often asked by other African Americans and people from other ethnic groups what they are mixed with. This proves that phenotype carries more weight than just being biracial. So, when a person says they are mulatto, you should ask what type--biracial mulatto or multi-generation mulatto. I’m sure some biracials find it shocking to see many mixed-race, light-skinned African Americans walking around without them being directly biracial. Especially, those biracials who are darker than the multi-generation mixed-race person.

If the mixed-race ancestry of multi-generation mixed Africa Americans didn’t count, then why is it that they, in some situations, are chosen over darker African Americans simply because they look "less black" and more mixed? Obviously, the choosers are seeing something other than black. If mixed-race ancestry didn’t count, then why do people take notice of hair texture; blue, green, hazel eyes; light skin; soft European features, and features of other ethnic groups one is mixed with? If mixed-race ancestry didn’t count, then why do many light-skinned African Americans and Creoles have to defend themselves from accusations by darker skinned blacks and other people who claim that light-skinned African Americans and Creoles think they are better because they are mixed? This proves that people recognize differences.

Q : How has your racial make-up affected your life?

A: From my life experiences, people go by how you look more than anything. I did not know that I was considered black until the third grade. I was sitting in class one day at school, and another third grade teacher came into the classroom and spoke with my teacher, then left. My teacher stood up and said there was a black kid running around on the playground with his head down chasing other kids. He had something crawling in his hair and they found out it was lice. So the teacher wanted all of her black students to stand up and form a line.

There were white students in the class, but since the boy with lice was black I guess she felt it was better to check the black kids’ hair instead. I did not get up. I felt fearful because I knew that I was mixed with black, but I didn’t look like a black kid with dark black skin or caramel brown skin. For me, black was a color. I have yellowish brown skin. I knew I was not white either because I didn’t look like them in color. I was the only yellow kid in the room; none of the others looked like me. I felt afraid and very scared because I wasn’t sure what I was because I didn’t fit in either the black or white group in appearance.

I stood up and continued to stand just looking at all the black kids lined up until my teacher looked at me, called my name, and said 'come on'. I felt a relief not because I saw myself as black, but because the pressure of not knowing was gone. At least I was put somewhere and this took the fear away, and the fear of worrying that the other kids were going to start staring at me. I have experienced racism from other black kids growing up because I was lighter and some kids liked me a lot because I was lighter. I could pick up on these things as a kid. Some adults and kids would make compliments about my skin color. Being a light-skinned boy at times was tough, and at times very rewarding because I could tell people felt a little comfortable with me because of it.

As an adult, the same factors played themselves out with certain darker and sometimes caramel brown skin blacks creating problems for me for being lighter. Being lighter, I noticed that black females seen to find me a little more attractive--not all, but many. This is because of the white ancestry showing up or some other non-black ancestry that is visible. But when I am among other females from other ethnic backgrounds, some of them find the black ancestry more attractive. Some employers feel a little more comfortable with you if you are light-skinned, too. Being mixed-race and having all of these wonderful and interesting experiences constantly reminds me that I’m seen as mixed and not "black only" all the time. If you have to defend it, then it is a part of you.

Q: Briefly explain the FGM v. MGM battle.

A: An FGM is a first-generation mixed-race person, meaning a biracial. MGM is a multi-generation mixed-race person, meaning the person is mixed in their ancestry but are not biracial. Some biracials, but not all, get angry when they see someone who is not biracial being labeled as mixed. They feel that it should only be them being labeled as mixed. One of reasons for this is that they feel that people who are not biracial, and are being labeled as mixed, actually helps keep biracials seen as black. But they fail to understand that if you don’t look black by America’s standards, then you don’t have to worry about it. They seem to hold a special anger towards light-skinned African Americans because they look mixed; and, some even more mixed than some biracials. I noticed that it is mainly biracials who can’t pass for white or another race that are the most hostile.

Light-skinned African Americans are the result of biracials and multi-generation mulattos who married into the black race. Matter of fact, this is the origin of the white ancestry among African Americans in general regardless of their phenotype and skin color. Biracials look like African Americans because African Americans are already mixed. Biracials who can pass for white or another ethnicity look like those multi-generation mixed African Americans who could pass for white or another race.

An example is former Senator Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. who looked like a white man with some Native American ancestry. Powell was not biracial. Walter White had an octoroon phenotype, and even walked among whites down South to investigate lynchings that had happened to blacks. He looked totally white, and this is why he could walk among whites to investigate the lynchings. Walter White was not biracial. He was the president of the NAACP for 20 years. W.E.B. Dubois was not biracial, but notice in many books and articles written about him, or mentioning him, that he was called black and mulatto.

Powell and White were MGM’s. Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington were biracial, but Powell and White both could pass for white. Powell once joined a white fraternity while in college, and they later did a background check and discovered that he was labeled "Negro". He was then told that his membersmembership had been revoked by the white fraternity at his college. All of these men, whether they were FGM or MGM, helped African Americans progress.

Q: What's the difference between being African American and black?

A: African American is an ethnic group. Ethnic groups are made up of culture not phenotype, while black is more of a description of a phenotype (physical appearance). Many people around the world are black, but not everybody is an African American. African Americans descend from the survivors of American slavery. Those black and mixed-race slaves who came out of slavery are the survivors, even though some blacks and mixed-race were already free before slavery.

Q: What do you think of Obama and his racial identification?

A: Barack Obama is not by birth an African American according to what America considers to be African American. Neither one of his parents descend from black American slaves. This not being an African American by birth actually benefits him and played a role in why he was elected president. I feel he likes being a part of the African American ethnicity, and at the same time he understands his uniqueness of not being born as one. This forms his personality, and helps him view things more with an open mind because he did not have a black parent to pass along to him black anger at whites. He was raised by his white mother and her family in Hawai'i, so he understands that ethnic group. At the same time, he realizes he is seen as black and, before he became a famous politician, he was treated accordingly. Obama has related some of his experiences with racism. He's mentioned that, because of being black, how hard it was for him to get a cab.

Obama is biracial/mixed-race, and I feel he is very proud of that. He sees himself as mixed-race, white and black, and, therefore, an internationalist who can touch all people around the world. His father Barack Obama, Sr. was Muslim, and he himself has studied Islam, the Jewish Talmud, and the Bible.

Believe it or not, Obama is a part of the new mulatto elite, and it’s not by choice either. African Americans helped get him elected as president. They saw hope in him. The mulatto elite will continue as long as African Americans continue to not be able to get past certain problems that they have created for themselves; obstacles like lingering racism, the lingering effects of white social discrimination in all spheres of society, police brutality, etc.

W.E.B. Dubois spoke of a talented tenth, and Obama is one. African Americans, especially the darker ones, have often looked at the talented tenth as elitist. If they were like every other African American, they would not be able to help very much. The talented tenth is the result of a person making efforts to educate themselves and help African Americans and humanity in general regardless of ethnic background. The problem that has been noted by some African Americans is that many of these talented men have always been mixed-race, light-skinned or biracial, and this is why the tenth was seen as elitist.

Many multi-generation mixed men and biracials who helped African Americans progress education-wise, politically, and economically saw themselves as mixed-race. This, no doubt, played a role in influencing their personalities and behaviors. Like Obama, they were seen as black yet not "officially black" but more from a mixed-race group. Any group should be grateful that there are men who think outside the box and have a more open mind which leads to new ideas about how to go about accomplishing something. Barack Obama enjoys being biracial and enjoys being an adopted member of the African American ethnic group. By becoming president, he has helped bring attention to multiracial awareness. This interest and awareness will continue to grow nationally and internationally.

Q: Have race relations improved with his election?

A: Race relations improve with time. Just look at how bad race relations were just 45 years ago in the 1960s, and worse the farther you go back in time. The success of the Civil Rights movement helped destroy legalized segregation and race relations improved a lot. The country and the world are becoming more mixed racially and culturally, and this is a very good thing. There is a lot we can learn from each other, contributing our genetics and culture into one mixed world. I want to leave some footprints in the sand by contributing what I can and by doing my part.

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