I was often called ai-no-ko (Love Child) in Japan from 1955 to 1962. Even though I was technically NOT. Ai no ko is a pejorative term that refers to children born out of wedlock and orphaned, between a Japanese woman and a non-Japanese man, with the man usually being a westerner of any ethnicity. I was not orphaned. My father fathered me and married my mother. However, at that time, one had to be, because the US military made it quite difficult for their servicemen to marry Asian women and even until 1948, it was illegal.
If you were part Black, especially, you were called ‘ai no ko,’ which means ‘love child’ in the transnational sense. I spoke Japanese and was Japanese. But I was ‘kurombo’ (nigger and/or ‘blackie’ in Japanese) and also konketsuji (混血児) meaning ‘mixed blood’) and although meant to be more ‘neutral’, was also used as a put-down. But there a few friends I made, and usually these Japanese kids had to hide our frienships from their parents who may or may not have been less tolerant.
This nasty label was extended to legitimize stigmatizing mothers of ai-no-ko in Japan. As to be expected, many of my mother’s friends were hidden by their families in remote places, or shut-ins in their homes, while many committed suicide as well, after killing their children.
Time has passed. Life has brought joys and other sorrows along with it. I was raised in Japan, Albuquerque (New Mexico, USA), and Hawaii. As an adult I have lived in many places across the United States and also have spent time in Europe, Canada, and Turkey for graduate school research.
Black bodies are still not welcomed in some areas of the good ol’ USA or mostly anywhere else for that matter. There are plenty of great people and friends and thoughts to go around. Ethnicity, the idea of ‘race’ has been a gift for me, as much as it has been a heavy thorn. Since those early years I have been through a myriad experiences. Our lives are not only about ourselves. I pay tribute to my parents and grandparents, and to the ancestors. The world is our ancestor. To think about the world together, requires openness to things we don’t want to hear or think about. Contested truths masquerade as universal single truth. Particular truths collide, sometimes colluded. I want to think with you, to act in disturbance for peace and justice, a re-thinking, to explode a kaleidoscope of colors unrealized by so many. ‘To walk in a good way’ as my Cherokee ancestors would admonish us, what would this take? Can we explore? First, however, we must learn to go toe-to-toe with the forces that kill, divide, conquer.
As you can see, the photo of myself is of me oh so long ago, yet very immediate. I dedicate this site to him, who has experienced a myriad losses and continues to heal. This I do with all the children of the world who learn the adult ways too quickly, and in a world increasingly made to give no room for mourning and reflection, or be brave enough to think critically of things in order to find new direction.
I have come this far due to the care and commitments of many friends, teachers, and detractors. I honor and give deep thanks. I especially wish to owe some of my best thinking to my time with Zen teachers Phillip Kapleau and Bodhin Kjolhede; Zen teacher Robert Aitken and Thich Nhat Hanh; My former post-colonial social cultural anthropology professors Angana Chatterji, Richard Shapiro and Mutombo Mpanya, and my Antioch University Seattle teachers Therese Saliba and the late Dan Soloff and the Wilderness Awareness Training group in Seattle, Washington. Please do not hold any of these named persons responsible for my more ridiculous thoughts as they are my own.
I have a Masters’ Degree in Social and Cultural Anthropology from an accredited graduate school in San Francisco. For years I was in a Ph.D advocacy anthropology program researching Kurdish/Alevi/Turkish issues in history primarily in the Dersim area of Turkey.
This site is also dedicated to my mother, who passed away in 2011. For her spirit and memory, with gratitude and certain regrets, I honor her with my first book, which will debut in the Late Spring 2016, published by 2Leaf Press (New York), entitled ‘Dream of the Water Children: Memory and Mourning in the Black Pacific.’