A Black-Japanese Amerasian reflects on life in the present, with the traces of wars and their aftermaths. 2Leaf Press is pleased to announce the publication of Fredrick D. Kakinami Cloyd’s first book, DREAM OF THE WATER CHILDREN, MEMORY AND MOURNING IN THE BLACK PACIFIC, in June 2016. In Dream of the Water Children, Fredrick Kakinami Cloyd delineates the ways imperialism and war are experienced across and between generations and leave lasting and often excruciating legacies in the mind, body, and relationships.
My Book will be released this Fall 2014, by 2Leaf Press!!
Introduction by Gerald Horne
Foreword by Velina Hasu Houston
Cover Art by Kenji Chienshu Liu
Here are just a few preview comments about the book:
Fredrick Douglas Kakinami Cloyd has written a profoundly moving and thought-provoking book. He courageously challenges our neat categories of identity, going beyond broadening our understanding of mixed race to touch what is human in all of us. This book will shift readers’ perceptions and assumptions and may change many lives. Above all, Cloyd is a master story-teller who honors and respects memory.
–Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, historian and writer
This is a mature book that moves fluidly, as the mind moves, untroubled by traditional distinctions between writing considered to be academic vs. creative, memoir vs. personal essay, sure-footed in unexpected ways. This genre-bending book is not “experimental writing.” The author knows what he wants to say and he knows how he wants to say it, seeking, in his own words, “restoration and reclamation” for silenced voices and histories never erased because they have not yet been written. Dream of the Water Children demands that its reader rigorously consider the constructed nature of memory, identities, and historical narrative. And it is also an enormously kind and passionate chronicle of a son’’s long journey with his mother. To read it is to marvel, to learn, and to discover anew what surrealist poet Paul Éluard said: “There is another world, but it is in this one.”
–Patricia Mushim Ikeda Buddhist teacher / activist Oakland, California
Can be read as a ghost story, a meditation on how to disassemble the heartbreak machines; a catalog of copious tears and small comforts. This is a challenging example of personal bravery and filial love. It puts the “more” in memory.
–Leonard Rifas, Ph.D Communications, University of Washington
For those who don’t know, I spent time on staff at the Rochester Zen Center in Rochester, New York in the 80s.
I began Buddhist practice in 1983 in Denver, Colorado, then decided on Zen practice and was accepted as a Staff member at Rochester Zen Center in 1986. I left to pursue an individual path in 1988, although I continue to practice Buddhism.
My turn to Buddhism, and particularly Zen, worked for me, and continues to, after an attempt to end my life in 1982. It was no small matter that I decided to go on a spiritual quest and this led to almost ten months of going to different teachers and religious groups, from Christian groups to New Age to Hindu to Sufi and Native American. I found value in all, but at that time, Zen spoke to me the strongest. I attended Buddhist-Christian Conferences in Boulder, Colorado, amongst other events. My essential question was not about comfort or fitting in. I needed to find the meaning of life. I saw no point in life experience as it was, at this point.
My interest in the beginnings of a Buddhist Peace Fellowship organization while in Colorado, dovetailed my interests in social justice, anti-oppression, and my personal spiritual practice.
In retrospect, my Zen monastic period was a way to save my life and life itself. It was a genesis for all of my traumas that I had tried to ‘let go’ of and ‘move on.’ It came crashing. No pretty belief system would get me out. Zen spoke to me.
I also attended retreats with various Buddhist teachers including Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Thich Nhat Hanh, Tai Eido Shimano Roshi. I attended talks and short retreats by a myriad of teachers including Seung Sahn and John Kornfield. I read more philosophy including spiritual works by Meister Eckart, Thomas Merton, Arthur Schopenhauer, Nietzsche. I began reading James Baldwin and Frederick Douglass, something I had never done seriously before.
For the issue of ‘stealing,’ I was asked by their editor Kenji Chienshu Liu, if I wanted to contribute to a series at the Buddhist Peace Fellowship blog.
The below post is a short reflection in the spirit of Master Dogen’s ‘Mountains and Waters Sutra.’
Black-Japanese singer Judith Hill has wowed the judges on the US television show: The Voice on her first night. I am not a particular fan of these kinds of shows, but I always appreciate a Blackanese artist of success in the public limelight! She is truly a great singer!
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.
“For My Sister” – a collaboration between Black-Japanese singer Judith Hill and Japanese/Italian-American Asian sensation AI.
AI is a huge R&B sensation in many Asian countries including Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, etc. Judith Hill, as said in my earlier post of her music videos, is a sensation who was a former back-up singer for Michael Jackson.
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.
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?