Since the images you demand
cling to me
I cannot form my own image.
I am forced to live
by your images,
I am always living like that,
revolution is really body aching.
My new Blog site focused completely on my work in the world:
Some folks have noticed that I am not posting as intensely as I was a year ago. This is because I am focusing increasingly on my presentations and work on my multimedia project and book: Dream of the Water Children.
I will continue to work here, on my ainoko blog but I will be posting on my Water Children blog, which means I will be on this ainoko site a tiny bit less frequently. Please continue to follow me. If you’re interested in following progress on my book and to hear the underpinnings of the project, the historical and cultural legacies and thoughts that will continue to form this multi-layered project, please visit both my website on the book, and the blog.
Please stop by, support, spread the word, come to my presentations, make comments, “like my posts” and whatever else you can! Thanks!
Pat Parker (1944-1989), poet, teacher and activist, wrote this poem: For the White Person Who Wants to Know How to Be My Friend and had this wonderful line:
The first thing you do is to forget that i’m Black.
Second, you must never forget that i’m Black.
For any social difference that exists in any society, we can place it there, in the space of “Black.” In any case, color-blindness, gender-blindness, mixed-space blindness, sexual orientation blindness, socio-economic class blindness, neighborhood blindness, body-size blindness, nationality blindness etc. etc. — we have to pay attention to how quickly we may subsume, make invisible, refuse (ignore), make trivial, something that makes a difference. Sameness is too valorized in the globalizing society. It’s not about any particular choices we have in holding on and letting go—-because even this is an action and a series of action (holding or letting go, that is), that come from political positionings that rely on privilege, luck, ability, amount of trauma, fear, violence, and a host of other things that come from oppression and social constructions of society.
Let us not forget how completely and utterly different we are from each other. This way, we truly understand diversity. If we “understand,” then perhaps we do not understand difference at all. We just consume, co-opt, and bring into our own history and culture and language and values, that OTHER. This is a violence to that Other.
But in saying they are different, do we automatically become AFRAID? Or do we automatically become ANGRY? Do we automatically IGNORE? Do we assume we can translate, communicate? Yes we can communicate, but understanding its partiality is important.
Honor you. Honor me.
In our difference. Utterly different. Utterly ourselves. Yet somehow, we are related as humans, as that who has experienced pain.
Perhaps other things. But do not assume equality.
There . . . . . . Can we allow difficulty, struggle, powerful connection and dissonance?
The Song TEGAMI 手紙 (the Letter) was a huge sensation in Japan in 2007.
It was sung by Hapa White-Japanese singer Angela Aki, who sings in fluent Japanese and English in many of her recordings. The song Tegami, thrust Angela Aki into the limelight for its poignant and almost all-encompassing power to bring school children of junior and senior high schools across Japan in communicating its all-too-familiar message to encourage strength through alienation, loneliness, bullying, and the compulsory examination systems through which tremendous pressures are thrusted into the lives of the Japanese youth for its capitalist machinery. This song touched millions. It was also a social change, social consciousness project connected to money-making as well, let us not be mistakenly naive or purist.
In listening to the lyrics and the melody and emotion, it is clear that this song is moving and touches upon something deeply engrained, resisted, endured, and made to become something the youth of Japan (and other countries) must fight against with body and mind, in order to become something our global system of dominance deems “adult.”
It was written to encourage young teenagers in Japan, suffering from the pressures of society in those school years.
Masami Goto, of Japan National Public Broadcasting System — NHK, has this to say about this song (in 2007):
This year is the 75th anniversary of the NHK Schools Chorus Contest. We asked a popular singer-song-writer, Angela Aki, to write a compulsory song called Tegami (Letter) for the junior high school division. The song is based on a letter Angela Aki wrote as a senior high school student to her future self. A related project called Tegami starts in May, in which we ask junior high school students to send in their thoughts on this song and related personal anecdotes. Angela Aki visits junior high schools and interviews the pupils for a documentary feature that will be shown on General TV at 10:00 p.m. on May 9 and again in September. We have asked Naoki Award winning non-fiction writer Eto Mori to write lyrics for the compulsory song in the elementary school division, and an another author, Hiroyuki Itsuki, to do the same for the senior high school division.
LYRICS (courtesy of:meheartdancing.livejournal.com)
Who’s reading this letter
Where are you and what are you doing now?
For me who’s 15 years old
There are seeds of worries I can’t tell anyone
If it’s a letter addressed to my future self,
Surely I can confide truly to myself
Now, it seems that I’m about to be defeated and cry
For someone who’s seemingly about to disappear
Whose words should I believe in?
This one-and-only heart has been broken so many times
In the midst of this pain, I live the present
I have something to tell the 15-year-old you
If you continue asking what and where you should be going
You’ll be able to see the answer
The rough seas of youth may be tough
But row your boat of dreams on
Towards the shores of tomorrow
Now, please don’t be defeated and please don’t shed a tear
During these times when you’re seemingly about to disappear
Just believe in your own voice
For me as an adult, there are sleepless nights when I’m hurt
But I’m living the bittersweet present
There’s meaning to everything in life
So build your dreams without fear
Keep on believing
Seems like I’m about to be defeated and cry
For someone who’s seemingly about to disappear
Whose words should I believe in?
Please don’t be defeated and please don’t shed a tear
During these times when you’re seemingly about to disappear
Just believe in your own voice
No matter era we’re in
There’s no running away from sorrow
So show your smile, and go on living the present
Go on living the present
Who’s reading this letter
I wish you happiness
*********************************************** Romaji Lyrics TEGAMI Haikei kono tegami yondeiru anata wa Doko de nani wo shiteiru no darou Juugo no boku ni wa dare ni mo hanasenai Nayami no kanae ga aru no desu Mirai no jibun ni atete kaku tegami nara Kitto sunao ni uchiake rareru darou Ima makesou de nakisou de Kieteshimaisou na boku wa Dare no kotoba wo Shinji arukeba ii no? Hitotsu shika nai kono mune ga nando mo barabara ni warete Kurushii naka de ima wo ikiteiru Ima wo ikiteiru Haikei arigatou juugo no anata ni Tsutaetai koto ga aru no desu Jibun to wa nani de doko e mukau beki ka Toitsu dzukereeba mietekuru Areta seishun no umi wa kibishii keredo Asu no kishibe e to yume no fune yo susume Ima makenai de nakanai de Kieteshimaisou na toki wa Jibun no koe wo shinjiaru keba ii no? Otona no boku mo kizutsuite Nemurenai yoru wa aru kedo Nigakute amai ima ikiteiru Jinsei no subete ni imi ga aru kara Osorezu ni anata no yume wo sodatete La la la, la la la Keep on believing La la la, la la la, Keep on believing, keep on believing, keep on believing Makesou de nakisou de Kieteshimaisou boku wa Dare no kotoba wo shinji arukeba ii no? Aa Makenaii de nakanai de Kieteshimaisou na toki wa Jibun no koe wo shinjiarukeba ii no Itsu no jidai mo kanashimi mo Sakete wa torenai keredo Egao wo misete ima wo ikite yukou Ima wo ikite yukou Haikei kono tegami yondeiru anata ga Shiawase na koto wo negaimasu ..............
I cried this past weekend, from seeing and hearing the African-American singer JERO in San Francisco on the night of April 8th at the Mini-concert he gave for the Hapa Japan Conference held at UC Berkeley.
I cried because of one song in particular called “Harebutai.” This song, which can be named “Gala” but has the concurrent meaning of a Performance Stage that is a wide-open, sunlit, clear sky. Please refer to my earlier posting which addresses who Jero is, in the history of traditional Enka music in Japan. He is a huge star at present, in a genre that was relegated to the dust-heeps of Japanese music history, as something passe. Much like how we treat elders increasingly everywhere, Japan–even as people like to think of it as a nation that reveres elders, is increasingly forgetting and with this forgetting goes history.
Jero performs this song, dedicated to his grandmother, with a sensitivity that records an inter-generational intimacy, where he wants to acknowledge the painful past in Japan (and also in the present) that Japanese women endured, when marrying western men, and in particular, African-American men. Like my own mother who protected me often from racist brutalization in Japan when I was growing up, the hardships that these women, our mothers and grandmothers endured, are ‘forgotten’ because they are too traumatic and unacknowledged by most of our young. with it goes knowledge and history that could help us, as human beings, get through our struggles with race, sexuality, socio-economic class and gender relations, among other violent hierarchies of identity, that continue to determine much of our social relations, silences, rage, grief, and international politics, not to mention how these are reflected in our family and communal dynamics.
I cried when I experienced this song. At the evening get-together after the day’s conference events, Jero was there, offering his quiet, gentle, yet strong presence. I had the opportunity to tell him that he was living out my own dream as a dark-skinned singer in Japan, considered ‘foreign,’ singing the Enka music which kept me alive and comforted through many dark times in Japan. These songs, often of sadness and longing, are soulful for me, of my generation, growing up as outsider in Japan. In addition, the song “Hare-butai” was written by Nakamura Ataru, for Jero, with Jero’s thoughts and sentiments regarding his singing as a way of an offering to his deceased grandmother, who did not get to see him perform on the ‘Kouhaku Utagassen’ show that runs every New Years’ Day in Japan since the Postwar era, celebrating the best of Japan’s popular singing stars. This show is a testament to artists who have ‘made it’ in Japan and Jero’s grandmother would’ve been proud.
I have included my version of the English translation of the lyrics to 晴れ舞台 “Harebutai”. You can see get a glimpse of honoring and care and inter-generational respect that has gone into this song. It is no wonder that folks like me, and especially the older women of that generation alive today, cry upon hearing this song. It is healing. And even those of the younger generation now, who had forgotten about the Enka and considered it stupid, are now listening.
Jero’s popularity is not only that he is such an anomaly as a race and nation outsider, who has now been considered legitimate as a singer in Japan, especially in a genre not dominantly considered “American,” ‘Modern” or “Black.” His singing is actually outstanding and nuanced emotionally in perfect pitch. His Enka singing is really really good!! It is not just that. He is also known for his good character. But it is also true that many young people in Japan are increasingly identifying and admiring Blackness as a way to resist their homogenization into the general Japanese identity-systems and are creating fewer ways in which the youth of Japan can exist with difference. This dynamic creates problems as well, because the notion of challenging racism is a fairly new aspect of reality that is only in its infancy in regards to dominant Japanese society. Histories of racism are complex because of European race-science and its role in the rise of Japan as a nation that could be seen as legitimate by white societies in history, and also its relation to the tightly woven caste system that has ruled Japan for hundreds of years.
I give to you the song and translation with notes, of Jero’s song “Hare Butai.” The Music video here, of the song “Hare Butai” is *NOT SUNG by JERO* but by a pretty good singer. Because I could not find the music video of the song online, I have included this version (with the original music background) by another singer, to give you the song. The other videos are of Jero’s performances, including the popular ‘hip-hop’ moves that are a part of his Live performances.
“Hare Butai” was written by Ataru Nakamura for Jero, both of them contemporary singers in Japan.
The song’s composer is Ataru Nakamura, who writes beautiful melodies and lyrics from the standpoint of her marginalized and often brutalized experiences as an outsider in Japan as a MtF (male to female) transsexual, especially during her middle and high school years.
Jero (Jerome White, Jr.) is a computer engineer/English teacher, African American and Japanese, who decided to fulfill a promise to his deceased Japanese grandmother that he would perform enka – the traditional popular music of Japan – on the big stage.
When Jero performs this song in Japan, many people of my generation and older, especially mothers of the mixed-race children, or who were from poor families, for instance, who went through the tremendous hardships in war-time and postwar Japan where generational experience was dislocated and displaced by forgetting, cherish this song and often cry openly.
Indeed, during the recent mini-concert Jero gave in San Francisco at the Hapa Japan Conference at UC Berkeley on April 8, 2011, I cried, and almost the entire row in the concert hall who could understand Japanese, cried when we heard this song. As I have been working on publishing a manuscript about my relationship with my mother, as a mixed Black-Japanese boy being raised in 1950s Japan, I had begun to realize how much my mother has gone through in order for me to be able to live and how often women’s and other marginalized peoples’ and communities’ experience is relegated to the backroads of history. In hearing this kind of song, there is a healing and inspiration. I hope that other young people, who understand those whose backs we stand on, can take inspiration from Jero’s example.
Other videos to begin: a Reuters introduction in English, of Jero and a video of his live performance, complete with the hip-hop a la Japan moves, of his Debut Hit “Umi Yuki” which means “Ocean Snow.”
Here is a Link to an Interview with him from the Discover Nikkei website:
Live Performance of is DEBUT song "UMI YUKI" Note on English translation of HAREBUTAI:
I have taken a bit of liberty with the translation to show the emotion that would be lacking in a literal English translation. I have translated ‘Oira’ as ‘young-one’ or “ol’ me.” It could be “Me—the young bumpkin” or something like this. It is a term used by people in the informal form, and is a term used often by people in the rural areas of Japan to refer to “I” and “self” and “we” and “us.” It is a very intimate, tender term, most often used by youth. So in other words, ‘oira’, all simultaneous include all meanings of Me, I, we, your children, your child, us young ones, we the outsiders, the younger generation, the forgotten generation or people (the rural people), little ol’ me, etc. in this context.
The Term “Hare” is also difficult to translate. It is usually translated as ‘clear weather.’ It is used to refer to a sky that is blue and open and sunny (as opposed to a rainy day, cloudy day, etc.). It connotes most adjectives in western languages that may describe the state of a clear blue, expansive, sunlit sky: unfettered. I have translated it as “clear sunlit, but we must include all other qualities simultaneously: Sunlit, clear, expansive, cloudless, blue, bright, etc.
In Japanese language, much like many languages, the meanings are embedded in the words themselves, unlike dominant forms of English, for instance, where it must be ‘inferred’ or ‘alluded to’ as a ‘metaphor’ or ‘simile’ etc. In Japanese, many of the words carry multiple meanings simultaneously. Therefore, in my translation, I played with the many meanings to give more of the texture of the song in my own interpretation, rather than giving a literal translation, which is always contested when crossing languages, cultures, histories, etc.)
The below is a Link to the video of his performance of ‘Hare Butai’ at the Japan Society in New York City.
Remember: This is *not* Jero singing the song, but is a well-done cover because I’ve not found this done by him in video online.
Gala (The Clear Sunlit Stage)
(Expansive, unfettered, clear-blue/open sky Space-of-performance)
Lyrics and music by: Nakamura Ataru
Dark curtains open to a tonight that seems similar to the colors of the news of the world, opens once again
Every time when in the blinding light I cover my eyes, I remember that smile.
Even as I intend to converse with you about the past, “I’ve forgotten” is all you’ve been left to say.
But Mama, we do know.
Bring it all here to ol’ me, Mama—all those forgotten pasts that
cry at night (like a burden) without even a light being lit.
Because for the kind gaze that you left behind in your homeland,
I want to show them my(our) form/ my (our) actions.
To see and then laugh listening to “The Echigo Jishi Song” so many times until
it’s worn out and torn.
Mama, because you laugh and say that only our songs are precious jewels
We young-ones can’t dilly-dally around.
Come on over here Mama, the dawn is close
It’d be great if you could see my debut, leaving it (for eternal posterity) on the clear sunlit stage.
The name that they announce while I bask under rays of the spotlights is
the name you’ve raised me with.
In place of the past you’ve long forgotten, Mama I’ll give room for your dreams.
Pretty soon the dark curtains will open. Just you watch!, my form/my actions.
CRG Thursday Forum Series presents…
DEPLOYMENT, BASES, AND
THE U.S. MILITARY IN MOVEMENT:
Imaginging Japan and the Self through Race & Sex
Thursday, March 10, 2011
4:00 pm – 5:30 pm
691 Barrows Hall
We Call It ‘The Rock’:
Circulating the Imaginary of Okinawa in the Military Diaspora
Mitzi Uehara Carter, Anthropology
My paper will explore how U.S. military personnel and their families, currently or formerly based in Okinawa (re)create and circulate narratives of Okinawa within military communities both in and outside Okinawa. I will focus on how those narratives are shaped against their own identities as US soldiers, veterans, racialized/gendered citizens, spouses, and tourists within Okinawa. Michael Taussig described the cultural productions of fear and the processes of sustaining Otherness in his work on colonial Colombia as a mix of “Indian understandings of white understandings of Indians to white understandings of Indian understandings of whites.” Likewise, I argue that Okinawan militarized and transnational space is a mix of military understandings of Okinawan understandings of US/mainland Japanese understandings to Okinawan understandings of military understandings of Okinawans.
This presentation will point to some of my general findings thus far, focusing on the framing of Okinawan difference. For instance, I argue that local Okinawan difference from mainland Japan is emphasized and celebrated within military literature and welcome videos/blogs about Okinawa for military newcomers to Okinawa, a long used political and cultural tactic that was so effectively encouraged and orchestrated by US military administrators directly following WWII to try to quiet Okinawan dissent and slow the popular momentum to revert to mainland Japan. However, when military and Okinawan relations are enflamed, the framing of difference is erased and the discourse shifts to a more global scale and fits in more with the US-Japan power bloc configuration of power.
Being a Black MP in Postwar Japan:
Memory and Identity through Resistance and Accommodation
as a Subaltern Occupier
Fredrick Cloyd, California Institute of Integral Studies, Anthropology
The positioning of the US as a victorious occupier over the subordinate and pliant people of Japan as the defeated was a carefully choreographed affair after WWII with its precursors in imperialism, colonialism, and neo-liberal capitalist expansionisms. In Japan and Okinawa, during and following the official occupation, steady anti-US violence by the Japanese was barred from being reported in the strictly controlled military and civilian media while the different racial groups in the Allied and US military were also living in violent relations with one another on and off bases in Japan, Okinawa and Korea. In this atmosphere of the occupation, my father re-imagined himself from poor African-American man to occupying military police. My mother wanted desperately to escape the ruins of Japan, both imaginatively and literally. In researching for a book on my family’s life and legacies, in thinking/writing nation, culture and race–colliding together through war and re(de)-construction, how has my father viewed himself through the lens of race and nation/husband and father? What becomes prioritized? What becomes linked with frames and thoughts previously unrelated? What becomes new forms of dominance and resistance that continue or resist certain forms of justice and survival?
Delicious refreshments served!