It’s been three months since Hapa Tales and Other Lies came out. I’ve done seven events in five cities. Hands down, the best thing about touring has been convening with Mixed folks all over the US; sharing our experiences and art, and building together. At the moment I’m just back from the Bay Area where we held a Hapa Tales event at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center (OACC), co-hosted by Eastwind Books.
In Oakland, I shared the stage with four other Mixed writers. Asha Sudra, educator and revolutionary, opened our program with powerful words. She slammed about being Mixed and eroticized; family and colonization; realization and revolution. Fredrick Cloyd, Black Japanese Amerasian, read from his forthcoming book Dream of the Water Children: Memory and Mourning In the Black Pacific. He spoke on transnational anti-blackness; the violence of war; and the impact of militarism on interracial families, especially mothers of Mixed children and the children themselves. Nia McAllister, Bay-area liaison for Blasian Narratives, also shared poetry. Four of her great aunts happened to be in town for the event, sitting in the front row. Among several beautiful pieces, Nia read a poem about a conversation with her aunts this trip; about intergenerational exchange of stories, knowledge, wisdom.
At the end of the program we sat for a panel and audience questions facilitated by Professor Wei Ming Dariotis. Wei Ming is working on introducing the first minor in Critical MIxed Race Studies at San Francisco State University. She talked about once being a “hapa evangelist” but having her eyes opened when a Native Hawaiian Japanese woman challenged her appropriation. The challenge lead Wei Ming to write the academic essay, “Hapa the Word of Power”. Together, with the audience, we all explored rich, sometimes tough questions. How do we see intersectionality and intergenerational trauma show up in multiracial experiences? How do we heal? How can parents support mixed-race kids, particularly white parents? At the same time, can there be privilege in being Mixed for some people?
Thrilled to say we had another full house at the OACC. There were 80 people in attendance—many of whom were multiracial—and chairs were added again like in Seattle and Minneapolis. A few things struck me about the Oakland audience as compared to others, however. First, it was the most multigenerational audience so far. Second, it was the most diverse comprising not just Asian and Asian Americans but also Black and African Americans, interracial couples, white allies, gender diverse peoples, as well as others. Third, attendees stayed quite a long time afterward chatting with each other, more than at any other event to date. There was a palpable thirst and hunger for mixed-race dialogue.
The following day my dear friend Janine Macbeth, author of Oh, Oh, Baby Boy! and founder of Blood Orange Press, hosted a small gathering of Mixed folks in her Oakland home. We talked for hours, sitting around her dining room table, through the afternoon into sunset. One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the wide range of experiences and identities that multiracial people hold. Like all racial groups, we are nowhere near a monolith and the breadth of what we represent is stunning. It varies tremendously based on our racial heritages, where we grow up, how we were raised, where we live presently, how we appear to others, and so many other things. Some of us have faced incredibly violent discrimination; some of us have faced a litany of microaggressions; many of us have felt othered in one way or another; some of us have felt none of these things.
Still, I don’t know if the multiplicity of our stories get told much. The media likes to make a big fuss about our rapid growth, yet both at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center and at sister Janine’s home, I was told by Mixed folks they don’t feel there is much multiracial community in the Bay Area. This surprised me at first because the Bay Area represents a larger mixed-race population than the national average: San Francisco (4.3%), Oakland (6.6%), Berkeley (6.7%). But then, I had to reflect, those numbers are still quite small. And at the national scale the number is even smaller with two-or-more-races being just 2.7% of the US population compared with the three largest groups: white alone (60.7%), Hispanic/Latino (18.1%), and Black (13.4%).
It’s clear, all in all, that there remains much to do in understanding, representing, and radicalizing multiraciality. I’m convinced more than ever we need to move forward in this work. Thank you Oakland for doing that work with me; for all your hospitality, reflection, story-sharing and deep thinking.
Next stop, MASC Mixed Race Identity workshop in Los Angeles tomorrow!