Please join me for the second installment of Nappy Routes and Tangled Tales in Ginowan at Cafe Cotonoha. It’ll take place at 6:30pm.
Please visit the special event page for more information: gritsandsushi.tumblr.com
One of the problems of communication for people across the fences and especially for mixed people in Okinawa is that there is very little opportunity us to come together in person to share their disparate stories with each other. After having conducted many interviews over this past year, I have noticed some repeating stories and patterns as well as some really striking surprises. I have yearned to introduce interviewees across the fenceline, especially mixed folks I’ve met from all walks of life, to each other. Not necessarily to become friends, but to hear some of the stories they told me in the interview.
Because I have been interviewing all types of people in Okinawa (military, residents, expats, business owners, etc) I have been privy to some incredible stories (and gossip and secrets). What was a surprise for me in this process is that these interviewees (I hate that word but will use it this once here) were aware that I was interviewing all kinds of different people and would sometimes ask me what others I had met with thought about issues we were raising. I became a bridge in a sense. I’m not the only person who has been put in this role. I think many mixed Okinawans who can move back and forth (through the fences) have this role. Bilingual/bicultural people in Okinawa have this role as well. And I think women in particular take on this role more so than men.
I saw a very interesting documentary called Question Bridge. I contacted someone involved with that project, watched their blog closely and watched all their various off shoots of that project. I think it’s brilliant. I wanted to adapt that idea for an in-person, cross-cultural, bilingual and transnational setting with intensive input from both Americans and Okinawans. Although this is nothing remotely close to that scale, I wanted to do a pilot of what I will carry out on a larger scale next time, with a professional video crew later.
For this session of Nappy Routes and Tangled Tales, the emphasis of our conversation will be placed on mixed roots in Okinawa. As Okinawans of mixed heritage, we are the ones who embody these issues of fence-line cultural practices/mentalities the most intimately. The bulk of the front of our conversation will set the stage for the rest of the conversation in the evening. The second half of the event will be opened to other types of hybrid cultural practices that occur around the fencelines (both literal and emotional) and how those also inevitably impact the livelihood of mixed people living in Okinawa.
There is no singular mixed race voice in Okinawa. Our circumstances vary depending on language, class, racial mixture, family life, emotional/educational support, etc. This is a unique conversation as it will bring mixed people in Okinawa from various positions to dialog about what matters to us. Some participants are not mixed but are deeply invested in this issue as well–parents, teachers, friends, colleagues. They will take a secondary position in this conversation as active listeners first and then will contribute their piece in the second half of the discussion.
Participants are asked to submit at least one question* to be directed at others who live in Okinawa (Americans, Okinawans, mixed people, military, civilians, etc). These can be asked anonymously as well as answered anonymously under the comments section (use a fake email address if you’d like). I will compile these questions and answers and present them at the event. This will start our dialog and focus group session. A handful of individuals have been asked to speak for 10 minutes, answering a question that Mitzi has given to them ahead of time.
*Questions should center around these topics:
- Racial identity and racial representations of US Americans and Okinawa and around the bases
- “On base” and “Off-base” spaces– identities in flux
- Interracial Dating/ Blended Families/ Mixed Families and Belonging in Okinawa
- Strategies for making home along the fenceline
- Anecdotes that are circulated and repeated about fenceline cultures.
Please remember, this gathering seeks to encourage dialogue by asking the questions that we rarely ask of each other. We live in the is same space but there are so many divisions in Okinawa. Feel free to elaborate on your question.
What are the questions you have always wanted to ask each other but were afraid to ask. Questions are monitored so only those that will be constructive and are respectful of the nature of this project will be selected to be posted. You can also send your questions or answers anonymously (using a fake email address if you’d prefer) through the contact page here. If you know of someone who would like to participate, please forward this information to them as well.
Here are a few questions that have already been submitted. Be sure to visit the event page to see more questions:
- Question for Okinawans (from a black/Okinawan woman, late 20’s, base employee)
When you meet a mixed Okinawan person, what is your usually first thought about them and/or their mother? Because sometimes I feel like people immediately think my mother was a prostitute, or that I am abandoned, or without family, or not loved. I sometimes see the stares and wonder what thoughts are really going on.
- Question for Okinawan men (from an Okinawan woman, mid 20’s)
What do you think when you see an Okinawan woman with a black man? Do you think we are easy? I sometimes wonder if you think we are all the same, all “Amejo” without any power. Does it make you upset?
- Question for black people in the military (from an Okinawan man, late 40’s)
Why have you lost your soulfulness? Many of you are nice but I realize that many of you have lost your unique identity of your circumstances. I used to admire black people from your music to your style and still do but now you seem to just be a government toy. Do you feel like something happened to your soul when you joined the military?
Please be sure to visit the separate event page: gritsandsushi.tumblr.com