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
The Ainu people are a people who have inhabited the northern regions of Japan and what might be called Russia by some, as well as the areas now disputed, between Japan and Russia. The Ainu are a caucasian group who were, as per the everyday norm of today’s most well-known nations, displaced and killed (physically, or culturally/spiritually) and assimilated (which to me, are all forms of killing in some way), what nations do to those who are different to create a “majority.”
This new documentary focuses on the Ainu people who are living in Japanese cities. In this documentary, the focus is on those living in Tokyo.
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?
“From the mid-1960s until the early 1990s, Texaco (now Chevron) dumped 18 billion gallons of oil and toxic waste into the Amazon rain-forest of Ecuador, creating a 1,700-square-mile “cancer death zone” the size of Rhode Island.” – from wikipedia
This movie is of the quest of activists to bring accountability and conscience to our world. The plight of ecology and the people of the world who have not severed human relationship to earth and creatures, should not be something sensational but should be seen as something we have chosen or willed to forget, or do not understand as having been ‘forgotten out of us’ –meaning that sometimes our forgetting is not personal, so much as having been a strategy by larger forces, so that we may drive our cars and keep our lights on and party in all-hours of the night without a thought to the violence this attests to.
Our world, a neo-colonialist world, has made natural the exploitation. Of each other, of others, of ourselves. We make the abusive corporatocracy unapproachable in our self-hatred. Our ignorance is a child of self-hatred and ineptness. We shrink and sometimes feel paralyzed and small. That’s what many of the elites who are exploiting our earth and communities want us to do. Are we that obedient? Are the indigenous people just people with colorful clothes that we think are behind us in history? I am certainly not. I have Cherokee heritage. All of us are indigenous. The indigenous communities who still lived as linked with the earth thrived in all of Europe and Asia and the Americas and the Middle East. Those ties have all been systematically severed in one way or another and at different speeds and intensities that usually mirror the amount of modernization that has accumulated. The Irish and Welsh Celts and the Ainu and the indigenous of Okinawa and others continue to battle. Are the indigenous people of the Americas indigenous? All of us come from earth. Why is it that the ‘brown people’ with colorful clothes are left to fend for a life on this planet that doesn’t equal plunder and genocide while the rest of us have ambivalence about all of it? We are humanity, we are earth. Do we ignore our mothers and foremothers and forefathers as a ‘progress,’ as some kind of maturity? Who taught us these things?
Instead of guilt, there needs to be a reckoning. A courageous facing, shifts in behavior, but not a reconstitution of a heavy punishment-as-morality, but a compassionate turn, a vigorous turn to actually care for our ancestors, for our planet. Not just in our own recycling projects and moral superiority in not driving SUVs. I’m talking more about working with those, like the gentlemen, women, children, ladies, lawyers, and all others who are struggling and need our creativity, alliance, knowledge, privileges. Act. And hopefully movies such as this, can inspire, inform, shift you and those you know, with a ruthless love of life and diversity.
Fantastic group that sings primarily Quebecois traditional music (from Quebec). The songs are researched and apparently ‘true to the original.’ Their music is captivating, precise, envigorating, earthy. Music such as this must be kept alive, remembered, performed.
For a wonderful video of their great hunting song rendition: ‘Yes Very Well,’ and short biography, visit LINK TV:
She bridges the traditional and pop/jazz/worldmusic genres. She sings in Uzbek Turkic languages and also in Russian. She is one of my favorites.
Sevara Nazazrkhan, along with Yulduz Uzmanova, are credited to have brought Uzebek music from its relatively isolated Central Asian and Turkic music scenes, onto the world scene. Recent events in Uzbekistan remind us of the severe problems existing in the Caucuses and Central Asia due to the several imperial governments that have ruled through violence and heavy-handed central rule via invasions. Mongols, Turkic tribes, Persians and the Russians are the most standout imperial forces that have invaded and ruled the area, and influence the many kinds of peoples, cultures and tribes existing in the nation-state of Uzbekistan. The recent massacres in 2005, the Andijan massacres ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2005_civil_unrest_in_Uzbekistan), attest to the central government’s use of violence to control the state and having some of the worst human violations in the world that go along with impunity.
The rich cultural heritage of Uzbekistan’s cultural arts are reflected in Sevara Nazarkhan’s wonderful music. Islamic/Sufi spiritual tradition, Turkic communal music, popular music, Russian balladry, and various western and local dance styles dot the many music-scapes of Sevara’s albums. Please enjoy.
Political bodies arguing. States and nations being more important than people currently, increasingly.
Political bodies arguing that institutions and processes are in place in many European nations regarding ‘how to deal with’ the Roma.
The Roma, having to assimilate into the ‘civilized’ European, North American and Japanese colonial systems…..is already a violence, an exclusion, a globally-mandated assumption of obedient minorities having to create themselves into something they are not. It is already a set-up. The fascisms are not acceptable now. But there are residues of fascism in every state, in certain attitudes of many individuals, ourselves possibly. When things go underground, they adapt to the current milieu and operate with new tactics. It is easier to follow an ideology or a fundamental structure in our minds, families and neighborhoods. Many of the scientists and thinkers of fascist governments were paid by the so-called democratic states, to survive and thrive and continue to create in the name of the elites. They are everywhere. The residues show up in people’s attitudes. As I write this, some people have wanted me dead. It is not a surprise. Ethics, love, negotiation, difference, intensity, and struggle, are seen as unwanted. It’s so much easier if everyone just obeyed. It takes lots of obedience to be civilized. It takes lots of obedience to be many things. It is a struggle to think creatively about our issues and what it is we want.
There is little talk of getting programs and institutions together, providing counseling and educational change and other activities, to address the prejudice, racism, violence, brutality, impunity, and aggression of the dominant attitudes and behaviors against the Roma and other minorities. It is a set-up. But there are many who are privately setting up creative ways of resisting the dominant flow of treating minorities like something to do surgery on, to assimilate. The issue is dominance and resistance.
Apparently, much like some of the US Americans I know who are anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim (and whose families were probably anti-Japanese-American during WWII etc.), states have a right to keep the ‘other’ out. Who is ‘us’ and who is ‘them’?? The lines are often justifications for our psychological/social violences to be played out. It is that division, that demarcation, where we give permissions of violence. Nations and national systems are that place, an extension or perhaps where it begins through histories of developing from tribalism to ethnic/sexual/gender/racial/religious identity and national identity currently.
Now it all plays out in its failures. Violent nationalism internalized into safe havens and names such as ‘our state’ and ‘our city’ and ‘our people’. Tribalism continues as democracy fades. But democracy isn’t fading for many. It is enacted and seen everyday. There are thousands around the world, millions around the world, right next to us, who understand the difficult struggle for democratic ethics in our lives. We cannot confuse permissions without ethics with democracy. We cannot confuse the boundaries of identities as demarcations of democracy.
The Roma, the Kurds, the Jews, the Armenians, the Dahlit, the Ainu, the Mayans, and millions of other bodies are forced into the isolation called ‘minority’ and are treated like chess pieces and diseases in the national systems now global. We must make our way in the violent world structured by the dominant system and we are supposed to listen to these people and bodies that have somehow assumed precedence. Even as those in governments are for justice, the system requires you to be a strong state, complete with strong militaries and economies and secret hiding places and hidden tactics and lots of money to pay the secret operators to make the state into a certain self-image, leaving certain ideas, cultures, ways-of-thinking and acting, out of the equation of this imagined state. It’s an imaginary of violence, playing out with hollow words such as ‘rights’ and ‘diversity’ and ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ in many cases.
There are many people in world government, such as can be seen in this video snapshot of politicians arguing about what to do with the Roma people, who actually care and want peace. However, justice cannot come in states where peace is about obedience to laws, no matter how lofty. Laws, in most powerful states, ignore the brutality of how that state came into being in the first place. Law is not justice. Neither is law about anarchic violence and tearing down of all. Justice is more of an attention to history and creative processes of negotiation through differences. But in positions of privilege, where a person or a body of people ‘decide what to do with others’ is precarious when the rules of law are interpreted in different ways. What is worse, as Raphael Lemkin (1900-1959) himself, wrote the first writings on the term ‘genocide’ and watched about a third of the laws he proposed be left out when the genocide laws were implemented by the international body–because those laws that were too threatening to the so-called integrity of the state would make all states culpable and make the global national system criminal itself). The human rights system is a necessary group of policies, laws, and research and documentation bodies, do not get me wrong. But no one can enforce them. There cannot be a human rights police. So human rights are continually broken in the United States, the European Union, Japan and other nations. All one can do is watch arguments or invasions.
What’s even more daunting is that the term ‘genocide’ has been coined as an event, a moment in time with a certain look, an obvious massacre and displacement and hatred. The issue is that genocides rarely happen as an event. Culminations in massacres happen, but the processes of cleansing in states and regions happen over long periods of time, due to intensifications of exclusion-wishing and creating our living spaces in certain ways that do not allow certain differences. Displacements may happen continually for centuries, making a certain group poor. Policies to exclude and keep them poor keep being passed, while institutions are set-up to ‘help’ these minorities. The help keeps that group in their particular circumstances and are designed to construct assimilation. Help is usually a form of surveillance and identity-making. It is created through the dominant’s will, not those who are marginalized. Propaganda can be created over decades, where racism and prejudice can strangle the look of a city or a state or a people into a reality where certain people and communities and areas can only be seen through that lens of the constructed dominant instead of through a different lens. Criminalizating minorities and their actions is a tactic of killing the spirits and locking the men away, leaving vulnerable populations to fend for themselves. Since laws concern the privileged, what does survival look like for the already-vulnerable? Genocide is not an event. The killing of spirits and ideas and lives happen over prolonged periods in all of the ways Raphael Lemkin has stated (in the complete version, not only in the edited version the international body has made public). So genocide may not look like genocide. For change in our world, we must intervene into these smaller structures of cultural killings before an event. In fact, some philosophers have actually spoken to the everydayness of genocide. Our ignoring and going about our lives is an aspect of the killing of another community. Buying or not buying certain things can also play into killing ‘the other.’ We cannot wait for the ‘event’ that we recognize. By then it is usually too late.
These politicians can argue, but whoever has the biggest weapons currently controls whatever happens, regardless of human rights. States have more power than groups of persecuted peoples. States have become more important to maintain, rather than communities. Self-hatred begins to creep in as we think of ways to empower and resist. Making ourselves into ethnic groups, then wanting a state, seems to be a logical conclusion of ways to live, as the stronger states treat those within its boundaries that are not the dominant group, as well as weaker states and non-dominant peoples globally, as things to extract work from (exploit) and displace and make into problems at will. It is ugly. There is no secret. We all know individual people like this in our lives. But when it is larger, we may think they are nice people, but the structures will a certain pattern, a certain way for things to turn out. More and more people are no longer willing to take it, however.
Issues of dominance and dominant attitudes control the so-called ‘Roma issue’ and other minority peoples’ and stateless peoples’ living circumstances, continuing to be ‘cases,’ as can be seen in this video, in the early 21st century. It brings up memories of World War II, fascism, and the current crisis of human, social, ecological systems at crossroads. They don’t fit it. ‘They’ are nomadic, ‘they’ are communal and not individualistic, ‘they’ have ties to life-ways that are contradictory to the dominant globalizing state system. Where does difference come into play? What can be done? Must we/they obey to survive? Where is our creativity?
In 2008, kind friends and the anthropology program at CIIS, sponsored my research trip to Dersim (Tunceli on today’s maps) of Eastern Turkey. I was lucky enough to visit diaspora in Europe, as well as in Istanbul and Ankara, and to visit Dersim/Tunceli proper, as well as to a village in the Ovacik district of Tunceli. Each district of Tunceli is distinct in geography. There is a ‘Dersim-ness’ in the predominantly Alevi worldviews and Kirmanc (Zaza) and Kurmanji (Kurdish) language and cultural histories, but many of the inhabitants are now Turkish and Kurdish urban people who have been sent there to live, in order to Sunni-fy (Islam) and Turkify the area, even though it is still dominated by Marxist brands of activism, primarily the Maoist type, with Turkish and Kurdish activists. Many of the families that are originally from the area had been displaced since the late 19th century and continues today, with many of the locals visiting their elder family members or have summer village homes. Their families live mostly in Europe and the Americas and visit their former homes in the summers.
I had part-time translators and I was able to get snapshots of stories and thoughts from the locals and the young diaspora.
Mikail Aslan (on the left of the photo) and Ahmet Aslan (on the right of the photo), although unrelated to each other by family heritage, are among the elites and considered amongst the most precious modern artists who work to tell, preserve and empower the people of the Dersim region of what is considered ‘Tunceli’ in eastern Turkey today. Through their songs, both modern and ancient, traditional and roots-fusion, the historical/cultural memory of spiritual traditions, loss, genocide, mourning, isolation, stigmatization, marginalization and state destruction, are woven into the hearts and minds of whoever will listen.
Their music is usually accompanied with the stories of the elders who’ve experienced the 1937-38 events that should be considered an aspect of the continual genocidal actions against the culture and people of the region. Or they would be songs of the displaced who fled the government forest and village burnings and purges during the 1990s, and the continual repression of its people and the collectively grieving population of Dersim, the music also tells their stories. Many of their songs are traditional songs, slightly modernized to adapt to the modern times, while other songs are left as they were sung centuries ago. Many of their songs are songs of mourning that would be sung by everyday people on the streets and roads of the villages while their relations were disappeared, imprisoned, and/or killed by government forces.
The Dersim region in Eastern Turkey, was told to the public to be the land of terrorism and propaganda had been created to present the region as dangerous and of outlaws. Certainly those who practiced non-Muslim worldviews such as Alevism and Christianity, often fled to the Dersim region, where the rugged mountainous territory was easy to protect from encroaching forces. The Ottoman governments, before the formation of the Turkish Republic in 1923, tried for centuries to subjugate the Dersim region. The people of the region refused to live via modernizing state laws and the Islamicization of their worldviews, They refused to pay taxes and send their sons into the Ottoman military forces because they felt the the government wanted to control them through these means. The Dersim region was very poor and because they were isolated, their subsistence also included banditry, while others we wealthier–benefiting from working the the Turkish state.
During the height of the Armenian pogroms and genocide, many Dersim Kurds helped thousands of Armenians by taking them into their homes, as they lived amongst them for centuries, in harmony. During the 1915 intensification of Armenian genocide, many Kurds assisted the American Protestant missionaries form an underground railroad to help Armenians escape out of Turkey into Russia. Other more fundamentalist groups in Dersim took advantage of the pogroms and participated in assisting the Turkish state in the Armenian cleansings. Today, some Turkish officials used Dersim’s Armenian connection as some sort of ‘negative’ trait, which shows the long history of animosity against the Armenian Christians who were a threat to mainstream Islamic officials. For the most part, in Dersim, the Armenians and the Dersim Kurds lived side-by-side without issue.
The Dersimian languages were mainly Zazaki and Kurmanji (Northern Kurdish dialect) and they practiced a form of Alevi worldview and ritual that was distinct from the Bektashi Alevism that is being mainstreamed in Turkey today. Many Dersim Alevi religious terms have Armenian words and forms of worship, as well as pre-Christian, pre-Islamic forms, including Zorastrianism and Shi’a Islamic forms as well. The Dersim region was distinct in its cultural forms, held together by strong bands of men who knew the mountains well and were ruthless in defense of the region. However, they believed in diplomacy and negotiation and proper mediation in conflict. These were all betrayed by the early Turkish state. As early as 1925, plans to transform eastern Turkey and to split families and destroy the region, was planned. In the rest of Turkey, people learned of a ‘rebellion’ in Dersim and the need for the subjugation of the region. There was really never a ‘rebellion’ in the traditional sense of a wholescale anti-government movement. The early Turkish government used such terms to give it the go-ahead in a genocidal campaign that would destroy its leadership and split the villages and families apart and to assimilate the young into a particular brand of state Turkishness that even for many Turkish-identified people, has outgrown in its ‘cover’ and its place in modern Turkey.
Through their fine music and personalities, Mikail Aslan and Ahmet Aslan bring us the realities of grief, joy, mourning, memory, the strength, and the courage of the Dersim people and their efforts toward cultural survival.
For more information in English on Dersim, I have included a website that is Armenian. I include this because most of the information written about Dersim in the English language, begin with official state claims and versions, such as a ‘suppression of a rebellion’ which was a state propaganda version and pretext for ethnic/cultural cleansing for state-building. Please be careful when reading any historical texts, of cultures that we are not familiar with, as even well-meaning people may tow the state version of events and lives.