Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Aloha Actress/Hawai'ian Healing

Aloha no, Hip Hapa Homeez. Pehea ‘oe? Maika, I hope.

One of the most gracious and graceful hip hapas ever, Traion C. Le is also beautiful—both inside and out. Besides being a model, actress, screenplay writer and graphic designer, she also promotes aloha ‘aina spirituality by offering healing via massage therapy in Hawai’i.

As a Honolulu resident, Traion reps so much of what being multiracial is all about. Claiming all of her heritages, she’s equally proud of them all. For sure, her aumakua are pleased.

Check out our island girl in the photo spread here, and the links to her sites below. Our Q&A follows:

Q: What's a nice multiracial girl like you doing in the movies?

A: Aloha! Well, acting found me. I received my first major film and TV feature by word-of-mouth. My first role ever was as a background actor (flash wedding scene) in the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall. The second largest production was for the primetime TV show Lost where I play a camp soldier from 1952. I have been in a couple of Hawai'ian short films also.

Q: What was it like working on Lost?

A: I was pleasantly impressed by the organization, direction and dedication of the production company and crew. Long hours, yet everyone was friendly and we were treated well.

Q: What are you parents’ ethnic backgrounds?

A: My parents’ ethnicities are varied. There's the mutual base culture, African-American, then Irish and East Indian on my father's side.

Q: How did you end up living in Hawai’i?

A: It was a slow progression to the islands. I lived on the east coast all my life of 36 years and sought an exotic adventure based on faith, spiritual healing and a location to set up my massage therapy practice.

Q: You do a lot of spiritual healing work. How does that fit in with what you do as an actor?

A: I believe you can fuse healing throughout any profession because it's all an innate sense of being. I'd hope to share that healing in the entertainment business through presence, touch, prayer and sharing of the healing arts.

Q: You have a lot of love for Japanese culture. Can you explain where that came from?

A: I'd have to say, it stems from living in a multi-cultural, melting-pot locale of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area of Arlington, Virginia. Earlier on, in my teens, I loved martial arts movies and learned of the Japanese and other Asian cultures through this medium. Lastly, through college, alternative health vocational school, living in Hawai'i and business, I developed a few close Japanese friendships.

Q: You’re also a musician and dancer. Can you tell us about your music?

A: Currently, I enjoy learning to play the Australian aboriginal wind instrument, the didgeridoo. I would like to learn how to play the Japanese koto! It sounds lovely.

Mahalo nui loa, Traion, for giving us Hip Hapa Homeez a little taste of the islands. For those of you who want to support our Watermelon Sushi film, your purchase of a t-shirt will do just that. Go to Join our Watermelon Sushi Fan club on Facebook, too. And, you can join our Hip Hapa Homeez group page on Facebook to stay informed about issues affecting all of us in the blendie and mixie world. Follow us on Twitter, too!

A hui hou, I am,

Your Hip Hapa,


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Family Matters

Wazzup Hip Hapa Homeez?!?!?!?

With the holidays almost here, now is a good time to think about gifts that would appeal to the multi-culti folks in your life (including yourself, ha ha). By purchasing a Hapa*Teez t-shirt, not only are you supporting our agenda by wearing words proclaiming so, but you’ll also get a rear crawl credit on Watermelon Sushi, the film. Go to and check it out.

Now, if you’re less the fashion-y type and more the reading type, this week’s featured Hip Hapa Homee has a book you might enjoy.

Thomas Brooks is the author of A Wealth of Family: An Adopted Son's International Quest for Heritage, Reunion and Enrichment

[ISBN: 978-0977462933]

Besides winning the National Indie Excellence Book Award for Multicultural Non-Fiction and the USA Book News “Best Books” Award Winner for African-American Studies, his book is also the #1 Amazon Bestseller for Adoption.

To learn more about Thomas, visit the links below and read the Q&A following. And, yeah, that’s Thomas in the pix posted here (I know you didn’t think it was me).

Q: What’s a nice adopted biracial guy like you doing exposing his personal life by writing a book about it?

A: A Wealth of Family is a book that I knew could help people dealing with being multi-ethnic (I don't say biracial since we are all One Human Race) and/or being adopted. The book details how I grew up as the only child of a struggling single mother in inner city Pittsburgh. I was battling ethnic stereotypes at school and searching for a place among my peers. Then, I was told at age eleven that I had been adopted as an infant. I did not know it at the time, but I had actually been born to a white biological mother who had descended from Lithuanian Jews and--like President Barack Obama--a black Kenyan father. Years after that stunning revelation, I escaped the ghetto and traveled to search for my heritage. I found my biological mother in London with my previously unknown British siblings. I then located my biological father and extended family in Nairobi. My international search and the resulting reunions have profoundly affected three families in the United States, England and Kenya.

Q: Now, that you’ve found your entire family, how much of a difference does it make in your daily life?

A: I grew up as an only child in my adopted family, and now I have seven siblings (four that grew up in Europe, and three that grew up in Kenya). I am in touch with my siblings all of the time. I connect with my European siblings in person about once per year. I have enabled one of my Kenyan siblings to get her bachelor’s and master’s degrees here in America. I am now working on enabling another Kenyan sibling to do the same. I am so happy to be the "big brother" for seven people, now grown up and scattered all over the world.

Q: What was it like meeting your birth mother?

A: The first night we met in person, Dorothy and I stayed up until 4 a.m. in an all-night diner, drinking tea and talking, even though she suffered from jet lag and I had to go to work the next day. As I expected, the reunion meant a great deal to me in terms of my journey to discover more about my identity and heritage. But I am convinced the reunion meant even more to Dorothy. For her, the process was exciting, healing and, at times, painful and disturbing. She had to relive all of the memories of family and societal pressures associated with giving birth to a black baby in the 1960’s. She had to deal with the memories of letting me go. That first week together stirred in her a lot of memories, doubts and feelings, many of which were not altogether comfortable for her. The reunion greatly accelerated her healing process.

Q: What was it like meeting your birth father?

A: It was wonderful to meet my birth father in Nairobi Kenya and to finally have a tangible connection to my African heritage. Eventually, I was able to travel with him to my family's home village in rural western Kenya. Upon my arrival, the entire village seemed to be waiting for me, about five hundred people. There was singing and dancing. Everyone was touching my face, skin, beard, and hair since they viewed me as being an mzungu, the Kiswahili word for a European or white person. Light-skinned, wavy-haired Westerners did not come through this remote village every day. In spite of my difference in skin color, I was accepted fully by everyone in the village. Kenyan Africans seem to have almost no notion of ethnic discrimination, despite a history that includes British colonialism. It felt wonderful, and it was truly a grand scene. It was similar to Alex Haley's experience at his African family’s village in Roots.

Q: Transracial adoptees haven’t always been encouraged to own their racial heritages, e.g., Koreans adopted by Americans. Are you resentful about not having access to your Lithuanian Jewish and Kenyan cultures for so long?

A: No, life is too short for resentment and regrets. I believe in making things happen, which is why I searched for my ethnic heritage starting when I was 25 years old. My quest was rewarded when I found the rich history of my families. Just to give one example, my great-grandfather, a Lithuanian Jew named David Rittenburg, barely survived religious persecution in 1886. While he and two other brothers were gone on a supply run, their parents and the trio’s ten other siblings who stayed behind were murdered by Orthodox Russians. It was a religiously motivated pogrom, an organized and officially encouraged massacre and violent persecution, against Jews. For much of the century, young Orthodox Russians were taught to hate the Jews because they viewed Jews to be Jesus Christ’s killers. The Orthodox Russians were inflamed against the Jews living in the area, feeling that these Jews had no true loving ties with Mother Russia. When the three brothers returned home to the scene of the carnage that engulfed their home, they knew they were alone. The three brothers managed to survive thanks only to some Gentile families who acted as kind of an “Underground Railroad”. For many years, my great-grandfather bounced from family to family all over Europe. By the time he reached America as an immigrant, he knew 13 different languages. He eventually graduated with an engineering degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and later used his language skills on Ellis Island as an employee of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Q: Having gone through such a tumultuous time to bring together all your family members, how do you raise your own children?

A: My children value the heritage from all three of my families. As a result of my adoption and the reunion, they actually have five grandparents, so it is really cool for my kids. My children visit with and regularly interact with members of all three of my extended families.

Q: Do you have any other books in the works?

A: Since launching A Wealth of Family, I have started doing a number of paid speaking engagements with large companies and also with high schools and universities. The Q&A sessions that follow these engagements give me a great opportunity to interact with people on issues related to families and to cultural diversity. The topic of diversity is extremely timely. So, I am already gathering data and working on my next two books. I have plans for a book tentatively titled The Joy of Search. It will be about the happy adoption and reunion stories of others. I also am working on a book on successful parenting that I should have out in a little over a year. My books will continue to be non-fiction, and deal with strengthening families and multiculturalism.

Thank you, Thomas, for sharing with us how much your family matters. If any of you Hip Hapa Homeez out there have a tale to tell, hollah at

Remember to join our Hip Hapa Homeez group, Watermelon Sushi fan page and Watermelon Sushi World Networked Blogs on Facebook. And, watermelonsushi is on Twitter, too.

Until next time, like Maurice Bishop said: “Forward ever, backward never.”

Your Hip Hapa,


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Free And Open Sky

Have you ever felt like the people who cycle into your life come predestined? I feel that way often, and I love it. I'm always amazed when someone casually checks out my blog, drops a comment, and then ends up becoming my friend.

This week’s Hip Hapa Homee is such a person. Sky Obercam is a prolific Bay Area writer who’s written for The Source, Bossip, Format Mag and Clutch. She first sent me a link to a blog she wrote about “bumblebees”—a term she uses to describe black women and Asian men relationships. Curious, I contacted her and discovered that she had a wealth of information to share about her own interracial marriage. Besides, we’re both working on erotic fiction featuring multiracial characters. And, Sky happens to be the name of one of my characters. Predestined, I say.

That’s Sky in the pix above, right, and below, left.

Q: What’s a nice African American girl like you doing in an interracial marriage with a Caucasian guy?

A: Well, simply put, I met my Mr. Right at the tender age of 22. We actually met at this excellent bar/lounge in Philly (which is no longer in existence) called Wilhelmina’s via two mutual friends. I was immediately smitten. There was just something about his energy. The fact that he was a bona fide hottie didn’t hurt either! Long story shortened (which is no easy feat for me--ha!), I downed my drink, and probably everyone else’s sitting at the table (memory is naturally a little fuzzy), and cornered him as he ordered another drink at the bar. I was always such an aggressive chica--but when it was time to ask him to pony up the digits, I realized I had nothing to write with, so I had to remember his number. The fact that I was able to do so despite having damaged so many brain cells was a pretty good sign that it was meant to be.

David and I were an item for seven years before we actually married. We faced many obstacles along the way, too. Some were characteristic of young adulthood. Some were typical of the usual challenges interracial couples face. We grew up, basically, and learned how to cope with the racial limitations of those around us. The best part is that our families have finally grown close, moving beyond the tension of the past and forward with love and respect. I feel blessed that our son is surrounded by such a loving family.

Q: What do you hope for your biracial son as he grows up?

A: I’ve spent a brief amount of time living abroad, and one of the things I noticed was that biracialism (of the black and white kind) is not viewed as a guaranteed life of torment or some sh*t. Nothing good comes from estranged cultural identities. I get why it’s so prevalent here, and other places that have apartheid-like roots, but we’ve got to evolve. That does not mean putting one on a pedestal above the other, but openly accepting one’s entire self, free of guilt. You can’t embrace one hand and deny the existence of other, you know? David is German and Italian, and I’m what some refer to as an MGM (multi-generation multi-racial) African American, so our son is truly a citizen of the Earth. What I hope for Raffi is that he grows up feeling secure, resisting imposed fragmentation and embracing his total self.

Q: You have an interesting family. Please discuss.

A: My parents had me later in life, which wasn’t common back in the 70’s, particularly since I was their only child. My mom was born in 1940, my dad in ’36, and I often felt they instilled a lot of values reflective of an earlier time. My aunt and grandfather were an integral part of my early childhood as well.

In terms of my background, I think of it as a patchwork of oppositional forces in some ways. I was raised in West Philly, not far from 52nd Street; so, in other words, the ‘hood. I never knew if it was my family’s influence over me, or my stubborn free spirit, that always put me at odds with my surroundings.

My mother’s family is pretty homogenous, but my father’s is reflective of that portion of West Virginia African Americans who have significant Native American and Scots Irish lineage. My husband thinks my dad looks like Lou Diamond Phillips--hee hee. Anyway, despite his appearance, he’s the most conscious black person I know. He was affiliated with the Black Panthers at some point in his life. He spoke jive and lived the life--so to speak. Conversely, his parents came from an era where brown skin was looked down on.

I’ve always been a bit eccentric--never really feeling at home in any of my surroundings. I got a lot of heat for “talking white”, “listening to white music", not concerning myself too much with urban fashion trends of the day, and being light-skinned. You know, kids find every excuse in the book to vilify each other. Anyway, after getting raked over the coals in public schools, my folks decided to put me into a private Quaker school. So, I went from being the white girl, to THE black girl--the brunt of thinly veiled hostility from the teachers and getting ignored by all the boys.

So, I guess you could say I was this sushi eating, Tears for Fears loving girl from the ‘hood who viewed the world from a quasi Black Nationalist perspective. There was a loneliness to the disparities, but there was beauty, too. I sometimes see my childhood as fertilizer for the garden that is now my life (cheesey but true!).

Q: You’re such an accomplished writer. Tell us about your work.

A: I’ve been writing creatively since I was a kid really. I never thought I could make a living out of it—o.k., I was really always just afraid to try. That all changed when I got pregnant with my son Raffi. My husband and I agreed that I’d stay home with the baby until he was old enough for preschool. It was then that I decided that I would dedicate myself to the craft, and make a living out of it no matter what. So, I just started writing, and sending out pitches to various mags and stuff. When Raffi was about five months old, I got a gig writing with a high profile gossip blog. It was then that I realized I loved comedy writing.

Eventually, I moved on to focus on freelance writing. I really wanted to challenge myself. I was able to write some travel pieces for The Source, as well as features and news for Format Magazine. Most notably, I joined the team at Clutch Magazine, which has been a dream come true for me. There’s really nothing out there quite like Clutch, and I love the opportunity to help create a space where folks who are totally underrepresented have a chance to connect, share, and grow.

I also co-founded Visual Culture with my husband David, but he is the true inspiration behind it. He’s a graphic designer, but more than that. He’s a true artist with a passionately progressive outlook. It started out just being an artful design blog that explored various aspects of graphic design. Since its launch though, it’s become a resource that encompasses not only design, but strives to raise awareness of social and environmental issues and, as we say, cultivate discussion, inspire, and inform.

In terms of fiction, I’m in the process of completing a short story. I’m resistant to labels, but I guess it could fall under “Multicultural Erotica”. I think of it, however, as “Life with Details”--hee hee hee.

Q: You recently interviewed actress Sophie Okonedo who has Nigerian and white English heritage. What did you learn about her mixed-race life?

A: It was great speaking with her, but I was at a disadvantage because our conference call connection sucked and she could barely hear me. I was actually told ahead of time that she was not open to speaking of her private life, so my attempts to really explore that subject was a bit thwarted. She was really sweet and fascinating to speak with though.

Q: You used to write for The Source. Are you a hip-hop aficionado?

A: I probably have one of the most eclectic music tastes of anyone I know. I have to admit that I’m not a fan of modern mainstream hip-hop. The industry has robbed it of its soul--for real. I don’t listen to any hip-hop prior to 1997, or so.

Thank you, Sky! Your name suits someone as free and open as you.

Here are links to some of Sky’s work:

Hey, Hip Hapa Homeez, we now number over 1,100 on our Facebook Group page! The support you’ve shown is phenomenal, but don’t forget to join our Watermelon Sushi Fan page so you can stay up-to-date on our film. Every t-shirt purchase helps move the film forward and gets you a rear crawl credit, too. What better gift to give for the holidays? Check it out here:

Until next week when the next Hip Hapa Homee cycles through my life, I bid you a fond farewell.

Your Hip Hapa,


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Are Hip Hapa Homeez Obsolete?

Yo, Hip Hapa Homeez!

Welcome back to Watermelon Sushi World, your planet for discussion of all things pertaining to biracials, blendies, FGM’s, hapas, MGM’s, mixies, mulattos, multiracials and transracial adoptees. Did we leave anyone out? Or, are we all obsolete anyway?

This week’s featured Hip Hapa Homee, Michael James Brown, thinks so. He's about to dissect everything we’ve been about since our inception. Or, so it seems. Let’s give the brother some page time so he can explain. Here’s the intro to his show:

“More involved than just your personal association with whatever arbitrary and undefined ‘racial’ name you call yourself, the Other Awareness Project is a thought-provoking, humorous mixture of film documentary, stand-up comedy, and audience discussion that looks into what I think is the continued incorrect categorization of people into ‘racial’ groups by skin color and other arbitrary things, in light of everything we know scientifically, legally, religiously, just about any way you want to look at it.”

Fair enough. Or, is it? btw, that’s Your Hip Hapa in the poster that Michael created for his upcoming Seattle show on December 11, and that’s him in the photo below. Michael also has shows planned for Long Beach on November 7 and for San Diego on November 14. Check out these links for more info:

Q: What is a nice allegedly African American guy like you doing telling folks there is no such thing as race?

A: Separate and apart from whatever arbitrary and undefined name I might call myself, the Other Awareness starts with this sentence: Homo sapiens is the only non-extinct species of its genus, Homo. There were other Homo species, all of which are now extinct. From a scientific viewpoint, there is no such thing as separate races for people. I think you have to throw out a lot of information from people much smarter than I am to even continue to have a racial discussion. I’m just a small cog in the wheel.

Q: How old were you when you thought about race for the first time?

A: I would say, like most people, I have always thought about race and my relative skin color since birth. The reason is simple. I was born in America. America is the country that puts the most emphasis on it. Everything in America was distributed based on color, and it still is today.

Q: Reportedly, the Census collects information to help government distribute money where it’s most needed based on race groups. In 2000, for the first time, mixed-race people were allowed to choose more than one group identity, which upset some black organizations that interrupted it as money walking out the door. Any comments?

A: Well, I can see their point in that it is kind of like changing the rules in the middle of the game. But I think that focuses on the smaller objective of who controls the money. I think the greater focus should be on the money getting to the right areas. What does it really matter what arbitrary name the people who are being helped call themselves? The important thing is to address the need, and stay focused on the goal.

Q: How does having a comedy background help you get such a serious message across?

A: I’m not certain that it does. For the most part, the people being interviewed didn’t know I was a stand-up comic. Volume I of the project has a lot of funny moments, but is meant to focus on the current information available and logical parts of the discussion. Volume 2, when it is completed, will be the funnier, more closer related to the regular stand-up part of the project. I had to create the foundation first!

Q: Why is your Other Awareness Project guaranteed to be only 95% guilt and anger free? What about the other 5%?

A: The project isn’t guaranteed to be 95% guilt and anger free. What I mean with the 95% guilt and anger free statement is when viewed the correct way using information, some sort of logic, and maybe throwing in some history, most people who attend the project will see that they don’t have a lot to be guilty or angry about. The project is about going forward, not back at the things you can’t change.

Q: What type of audiences do you attract?

A: I get all types of responses from all types of people. I made the film portion of the project to show everyone that they are essentially saying the same thing. I have received only one email that I would consider to be hateful, and I think it was sent in jest. I have never had an “upset” person. Since the project is about self-identification, I don’t really argue with anyone. This project attracts the people I want to attract; intelligent, funny, community-minded solutions-oriented people. Many people tell me that I have put into words what they were thinking or feeling.

Q: Where do you see “race issues” going another decade from now?

A: Since I think the whole discussion is media and agenda driven, and some people will continue to belabor dead points, I think the people who want to keep talking about race will. The people who don’t, won’t. It’s up to you. With the Other Awareness Project, I’m looking for the people who are done with the whole conversation concerning race and what it means, etc.

So, Hip Hapa Homeez, does that mean we are done with our job educating the general public about our particular racial and/or cultural identities? You tell me. Hollah at

Here’s the usual message from our sponsors: Join our Hip Hapa Homeez Group page on Facebook. Join our Watermelon Sushi Fan page on Facebook. Purchase a Hapa*Teez t-shirt to support our Watermelon Sushi film.

And, keep on keepin’ on because, Hip Hapa Homeez, I HAPA'n to think we’re still relevant.

Your Hip Hapa,