Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Hip, Hapa, Palooza!!!

What’s HAPA-nin’, Hip Hapa Homeez?

If you’re a supporter of great causes, here’s one for you. We’ve just created a HUB page for our Watermelon Sushi film with links to a “twitition” via Twitter to get Your Hip Hapa’s cousin Oprah to executive produce our movie. Although we’d still like to make Watermelon Sushi an indie flick, we need production dollars. And, Oprah--with her big heart and sharp eye for charitable missions--can make that happen. So, please, take a moment to check out these links:

Hey, can you believe that Hapa-palooza is finally here? 

While it’s the first one, we do hope to see many more in the future. Vancouver British Columbia is hosting, and there couldn’t be a better place for spotlighting diversity. We’ve always loved that city for its international flavor and focus on the arts. If you’re attending the festival, drop us a line at We plan to stop by this weekend, so maybe we can connect with you there!

Meanwhile, enjoy these interviews with two of Canada’s hippest hapas. Anna Ling Kaye is the co-founder of Hapa-palooza while Rema Tavares blogs about being mixed in Canada. 

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

A: My mother is Taiwanese, and my father Jewish-American. They met in Taipei, at a time when most Taiwanese associated Americans with U.S. Marines and G.I.’s. Her family was not amused by their union. Nor were they any happier to find out he was not a G.I., rather an anti-establishment quasi-hippy. Many of Mom's immediate family wouldn't speak to her for years afterwards: one of her sisters didn't talk to her for 8 years. My father's side, however, was thrilled. To this day, they can't get enough of Mom's Chinese cooking!

Q: Where did you grow up, and what was your upbringing like?

A: I was brought up bi-lingual, mostly as an American in Asia. Most of my childhood was spent in Asia (China, India, Indonesia, Hong Kong and more), where I was considered a foreigner anyway. In 1997, I had a high school "year abroad" in New Jersey. This was the year that Time Magazine came out with the cover of the "Future Face of America", an amalgamation of the average demographic of the U.S. I was so excited. I did a directed reading that resulted in a paper about mixed culture. That was pretty much the biggest project I did about being mixed until the idea for Hapa-palooza came around.

Q: How did it come around?

A: Todd Wong organized a "Gung Hapa Fat Choy" banquet as part of his Gung Haggis Fat Choy series. I met Jeff Chiba Stearns and a number of other mixed movers and shakers, and we decided to get a festival going for Vancouver's 125th anniversary. The Asian Canadian Writer's Workshop, which Todd and I sit on the board of, voted to submit a formal grant application for the festival. We feel very honoured and stoked that the City of Vancouver thought this was a good way to demonstrate it's 125th anniversary!  

Q: What do you hope to accomplish with this event?

A: My biggest hope is to build community and provide role models for the next generation of mixed kids. No matter what one's roots are, I hope Hapa-palooza will provide some tools or ideas for how to honor and express one's identity. I also hope everyone who comes to the event has a great time!

Q: What will be some of the highlights of the festival?

A: Every event at Hapa-palooza is pretty exciting to me! The Sir James Douglas Mix-a-lot Cabaret is a gathering of incredibly talented and interesting artists in an intimate space, including butoh dance from Kokoro Dance and First Nations hiphop from the gals at First Ladies Crew. The reading panel featuring award-winning writer Fred Wah is looking to be very popular. Jeff Chiba Stearns is putting together an incredible film night and actors' panel. And the piece de resistance is, of course, September 10th, when we have two music stages (one of which is an 18-and-under performer stage), an interactive art exhibition, and a community fair. Full details are up at

Q: Do you feel that mixed-race issues in Canada are similar to, or different from, those elsewhere in the world?

A: It is certainly significant to us that Hapa-palooza is a festival funded by a City of Vancouver 125th anniversary grant. This speaks to an atmosphere of respect and honour towards people who identify as mixed-race, which is really significant to many of us. Many of the artists we've contacted have responded with relief ("finally, a festival of one's own!") or disbelief ("about time!") or amusement ("it's the first time I've been asked to play in a festival because I'm mixed!").

Q: What will future Hapa-paloozas be like?

A: The seeds of what will happen are already sown. We are more tapped into the international network of mixed communities now, and this is something that is only going to grow. Our current goal is to have Hapa-palooza be an annual event in Vancouver, but we are also open to what the community demands of us. It might be that the festival needs to occur nationally or internationally. It's going to be exciting to see who comes to the festival this week, and it will be beautiful to see all these amazing artists and community organizers connected.

Thank you, Anna. And, now, let’s hear from Rema.

Rema Tavares 
Q: What was it like being mixed in Ottawa?

A: My father is of African and Sephardi Jewish descent from Jamaica. Just for some background, the Sephardi Jews come from Spain/Portugal (hence my Portuguese last name) and have been in Jamaica since the early 1500’s. My mother, on the other hand, is mostly Irish Canadian, but also has some Italian and English roots.

Growing up mixed in Ottawa was a strange experience for me. I started out in a very small, homogenous town of roughly 1,000 people just outside of the city, and often felt disconnected from the community. While I wasn't mature enough to fully understand the various factors that played into that disconnect, I recall being very aware that I was the only one of "my kind", whatever that was. When I was older and moved into the city, I was disappointed to find that I didn't really find the haven of belonging that I thought I would. It was a painful realization for me that none of my various "parts" really saw me as a member of their community.

I now live in Toronto, one of the most multiracial cities in the world, and still find myself having trouble with what it means to be mixed at times. This is what motivated me to create Mixed in Canada, so that other mixed people across Canada could have a place to call "home". This has been a very rewarding experience for me, and I have never been more proud to be mixed.

Q: Are you attending Hapa-palooza?

A: Sure am!

Q: What do you feel you’ll gain from it?

A: As far as I am aware, this is the first mixed-race-themed event in Canada, so it is important for me that I attend and support it in any way I can. Race is an extremely delicate subject in Canada, as many Canadians are very wary of offending others and, therefore, generally avoid the subject. While I have always appreciated how sensitive Canadians can be, it also means that a lot of important conversations aren't had, and we all lose from the lack of communication. Along those lines, the Canadian mixed-race community is growing exponentially and needs to have a voice. Fortunately, Hapa-palooza is bringing the mixed-race experience front and center in a very positive way, providing an outlet for that voice. It is my hope that along with Mixed in Canada and other such platforms, this event will create a safe space for constructive dialogue about what it means to be multi-racial in Canada, as it has never been more relevant.

Here are Rema’s links:
Twitter: @Mixed_Me_CA

Oh, you clever Canadians, you!

Remember, Hip Hapa Homeez, read our HUB post and sign our “twitition” to get Oprah onboard with Watermelon Sushi. You can also "like" our Watermelon Sushi and Hapa*Teez fan pages on Facebook and join our Hip Hapa Homeez group page where we enjoy the deepest discussions about multi-ethnic, transracially adopted, interracially coupled and cross-cultural communities. Don’t miss out; join us today.

Until we meet at Hip Hapa-palooza, I am

Your Hip Hapa,