Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Loving The Loving's

Perhaps no other couple in U.S. history loved each other more publicly than Richard and Mildred Loving. Because of the Loving’s, the banning of interracial marriage in 16 states was finally overturned by the Supreme Court in 1967.

photo of Loving Day celebration by Michael Kirby
It’s unthinkable now, but up until then only whites were allowed to marry other whites in states like Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and Texas. And, there was actually a law on the books called the Racial Integrity Act of 1924.

Yet in Virginia, Richard and Mildred Loving—a white man and mixed black and Native American woman—were asleep in their bedroom when local police arrested them for being interracially married. The Loving’s had actually tied the knot in Washington, D.C. where their coupling was legally recognized, but upon returning to Virginia they were criminally charged.

photo of Loving Day celebration by Michael Kirby
Although my parents were also married at the same time as the Loving’s, anti-miscegenation laws hadn’t been enacted for them. No one in America really cared that a Japanese woman (former WWII enemy) cohabited with a Negro man (African slave lineage) since both were considered undesirable minorities anyway. Instead, anti-miscegenation laws were passed to perpetuate the myth of white supremacy by keeping white bloodlines pure through forbidding the mixing of it by marriage to non-whites. Despite the Supreme Court ruling in the case of the Loving’s, South Carolina still banned mixed marriages until 1998, and Alabama…2000!

photo of Ken Tanabe on the mic at Loving Day celebration
by Mauro Clerici
This week’s featured Hip Hapa Homee, Ken Tanabe, pictured above, is the founder of Loving Day in New York City. These photos are of the Loving Day celebration he organizes. 

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

A: My father is from Japan and my mother is from Belgium. They met while they were in college in Washington, D.C., through mutual friends and--bada boom, bada bing--here I am! I consider myself very lucky to be alive.

photo of Loving Day celebration by Mauro Clerici
Q: What inspired you to create Loving Day?

A: When I discovered the Supreme Court case, Loving v. Virginia, I felt like I had discovered a missing part of our Civil Rights education. Why wasn't this case taught in schools alongside Brown v. Board of Education, Dr. King and Rosa Parks? And with a name like "Loving", why wasn't this case as well known? Years later, the Loving case became the inspiration for my graduate thesis at Parsons the New School for Design in New York, and Loving Day was born. Today, Loving Day's mission is to fight racial prejudice through education and to build multicultural community.

Q: What are some of the events that your organization plans for that day—June 12?

A: We organize the Loving Day Flagship Celebration in New York City, which brings out 1,000 guests a year. We have free barbecue, free beer, amazing DJ's, and an incredibly diverse crowd--all under a big festival tent on the East River waterfront. Our goal is to show the world what Loving Day is about, and to inspire others to host a Loving Day Celebration of any size. Other organizations and individuals organize all of the other national/global Loving Day Celebrations. These include the Mixed Roots Film and Literary Celebration in Los Angeles, the annual MAVIN Foundation Loving Day Celebration in Seattle, and many more. Folks can find a complete list of celebrations and inspiration for their own celebrations at

Q: Are there other things that your organization does besides the June 12 Loving Day celebration?

A: Yes! Loving Day is active all year. We are especially passionate about education, and we have been more active than ever with our collaborations with university groups. In the past six months or so, we have participated in the Harvard SWAYA Conference, a screening and discussion of the documentary One Big Hapa Family at Columbia, the Hapa Japan Conference at UC Berkeley, the Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference at DePaul in Chicago, a Biracial and Multiracial Student Association meeting at NYU, Clarvit Design Week at University of Maryland (College Park), and a Loving Day Celebration at Wesleyan. We also provide educational and community resources every day through

Q: What are some of your future plans for this group?

A: We would like to see Loving Day become a new tradition that is shared among friends and passed down from generation to generation. We'd like to see a strong, sustainable multiethnic community that stays connected through Loving Day Celebrations. We encourage everyone to participate in Loving Day by celebrating and spreading the word!

Q: I met you at the recent Hapa Japan Conference in Berkeley. Do you have any thoughts you'd like to share?

A: The first Hapa Japan Conference felt like an historic moment. I had been in touch with many multiethnic community leaders with Japanese roots, but it couldn't compare to having everyone in the same space. To me, an entire conference that focuses on such a specific part of the multiethnic experience is an encouraging sign. I see it as evidence that the multiethnic community as a whole is growing and developing. My congratulations to the organizers for such an excellent conference. Also, thanks to enka superstar Jero for his performance!

Q: Do you foresee a time that there will not be a need for organizations that promote the multiethnic agenda?

A: Many people hope for (and work towards) a time when race will no longer be an issue. Even when that day comes, I believe there will still be a need for education--and people will feel the need for a sense of community with people who share a common experience. That's what Loving Day is about, and I hope that Loving Day will continue to grow and be shared for years to come.

Thank you, Ken; and, of course, thank you to the late Mr. and Mrs. Loving.

Hey, Hip Hapa Homeez--don’t forget to “like” our Watermelon Sushi and Hapa*Teez t-shirt Fan pages on Facebook. You can also request to join our Hip Hapa Homeez Group page where we’ve been discussing everything from Bruce Lee’s multi-ethnicity (did you know his mother was half white?) to mixed-race New Zealander’s Taika Waititi’s latest flick—Boy--about a Maori family. And, if you purchase one of our Hapa*Teez t-shirts at Cafe Press, you'll get a rear crawl credit on our Watermelon Sushi film. You might even look as good as Cassie, above. Oh, and you can tweet us, too: watermelonsushi

Until next time, Happy Loving Day! from...

Your Hip Hapa,