#BlackLivesMatter

A quick anecdote…

In the 1940s my grandfather and his younger brother traveled from Montana to China to bury their father. During their return journey they stopped in Hong Kong, then occupied by the Imperial Japanese military.

One day in the streets, Japanese soldiers began to beat my grandfather, mistaking him for a Chinese citizen. My great-uncle said that the soldiers probably would have killed my grandfather, but between shouting, “I’m American!” and pulling out a passport, the soldiers finally stopped beating him. 

War is horrific. Beating people is horrific. Killing people is horrific. All of this is horrific regardless of nationality or any other classifier. My grandfather shouldn’t have needed to prove anything for soldiers to stop beating him. But this detail is significant. Because of it, somehow, something got through to the soldiers to see his humanity and exercise mercy. 

Japanese soldiers stopped beating my Chinese-American grandfather and didn’t kill him. If these soldiers could do that then in a time of world war, why can’t our people do the same now? Why can’t Americans stop beating and killing other Americans? 

Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and now George Floyd have all been killed at the hands of fellow Americans in a matter of weeks. Where was our recognition of our shared humanity? Where was our mercy?

One more anecdote: My great-uncle shared this story of his time in Hong Kong when I was visiting him in a nursing home in Oregon. By this point, he was in his 90s. The events of that day he described occurred when he and my grandfather were teenagers. My great-uncle lamented that he’d been frozen by fear to inaction that day. “I always regretted that I didn’t help your grandfather,” he said. It breaks my heart that my great-uncle carried this regret for a lifetime.

So enough inaction. Enough not speaking out. We must stop racist policies that cause our community to be killed by the people we’ve entrusted with protecting us. We must each elevate each other’s humanity, recognize that we all have the right to live and love and have the courage to uphold that for each other.

If that is too lofty, we must at least look within ourselves to find our own humanity and compassion.

The tragedies of Breonna, Ahmaud and George are the ones that we have most recently heard about, but there are countless more similar atrocities that have occurred in the same period that we haven’t heard about, and too many more that preceded them. It’s up to us to stop this from happening again, before more Americans kill other Americans.

“Living Room” is live at Wyoming Public Media

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Photo by the wonderful Ash Ngu

Woohoo!

Way back when I recorded an essay for the radio. Remember that? It’s since been produced and published. Grab it on iTunes, Wyoming Public Media, or your local NPR member station.

Oh my! I’ve been waiting for this since February of 2016. When I received the email this morning that it had been completed I almost didn’t open it for fear of hearing my own voice. Of course, that’s silly. I’m so glad I did. So much has changed since I sent a query from chilly London to windswept Wyoming to see if they’d have me on the Wyoming Public Media Spoken Words program. When I went in to record an essay about her, my grandma was still living in her own house at the age of 90. Since then we’ve helped her move into assisted living. When I first went in to record, I was just launching a journey to independently discover who I was as a creative media maker. Since then, I’ve learned much more about that part of myself and feel confident in it. Of course, both of these situations will continue to evolve, not unlike what I describe in this piece, and this podcast captures a perfect snapshot of where my family and I were at that very moment, one tile in a mosaic I’m piecing together.

Many thanks to the team at Wyoming Public Radio & Media​, especially production director Micah Schweizer for thoughtful conversation on third culture and mixed race experiences, and producer Annie Osburne for making sense of it and putting it all together. Thanks to GrubWriters​ and Jennifer Mattson​ for initially giving me an outlet to play with essay, including this one. Thanks to Gakko​ for the media-making and identity formation love. Thanks to CSU APACC​ for the community and Silk Knots support. Thanks to the East Bay Donut Club for the community and nudge to keep writing — this story and others.

P.S. Still building out the Silk Knots archive. Record or write something here.

Homecoming

She said our meeting was 命運, fate. And I believed her. Words from the young woman I met at the airport, in transit from one country to another. I had been on the road now for more than six months. I had started to yearn for home. Where was home, any way? She reminded me it was with good people. Continue reading “Homecoming”

How do I do an oral history?

Recently I’ve had the enormous joy of spending time with people I love, connecting and/or reconnecting.

I’ve logged hours of oral histories in the process. In some ways it comes naturally to me as a journalist, but in others it feels very foreign to do so with people so intimate to me, so I’m always looking for ways to improve or adapt my process. It’s never perfect. No two interviews go exactly the same way. I suppose the only common way to go is forward.

As I tell people what I’m up to a common response is, “I’ve always wanted to do that but wouldn’t know where to begin!”

If you find yourself saying this, here are some useful guidelines… Continue reading “How do I do an oral history?”

Reading on the Radio

I find several things especially life affirming. These include the butterfly rush from a somersault, when a curtain rises on a stage production, and when a story goes to press. Also when I get to the grocery store and find avocados or good chocolate on sale. Now I can add one more. Recording for radio! Continue reading “Reading on the Radio”

I Have Dual Ethnicity and Double Vision, Superman is Chinese, and Other Revelations

Dropping a note to say I’m alive. And, “Hi!”

The last few weeks I’ve been absent from the internet but present in the world, trekking from Colorado to Wyoming, Washington to Oregon. Except for when I was reading exceptional things. Here are a few… Continue reading “I Have Dual Ethnicity and Double Vision, Superman is Chinese, and Other Revelations”

Maui Friends of the Library Book Store

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Most of the books I intend to use for research are borrowed from libraries in either print or digital form, but bibliophile that I am I’ve acquired a few. I walked away with five new (old) books for a whopping $1.25. I love bookstores that aren’t overly fussy where you can rummage thrift-store style until you find exactly what you need (but didn’t know it).

Our dear friend Martha told us about the one pictured above. It’s one of three supported by volunteers for Maui Friends of the Library. It’s a place for both private individuals and public libraries to donate used books that are then sold to support local library programs.

“Not only does this keep books out of the landfill, but it provides a place where everyone on Maui can buy books for pocket change,” their website says. With prices generally ranging from free to $2, it’s true!

There might be such a program in your home community, too. Shout out to Poudre River Friends of the Library. I have been enjoying its library’s lovely sunlit desks as I chip away on my reading.

Sara Hayden

 

Encouraging words

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Busaba Yip Douglas poses for a portrait on Friday Jan. 15, 2016 after making an offering of orchids at the Wo Hing Museum, where she serves as the Cultural Director in Maui, Hawaii. While the upstairs temple is part of the museum and not generally in use, it remains a place to honor ancestors and Taoist deities. Photo | Sara Hayden

Last week I met a woman who traveled from Thailand to Canada and the U.S. where she pursued her education 25 years ago. She had no intention to stay, but did. It was overseas that she ended up connecting with her Chinese roots.

Now a cultural director at the Wo Hing Museum in Maui’s historic town of Lahaina, Busaba Yip Douglas offered this: “I don’t need Ancestry.com. If we have a good relationship with your ancestors, we don’t have to search for them. They will come to us at the right time, and with the right people.”

Sara Hayden

 

FOIA Reforms Approved!

Hey, this is groovy! The Freedom of Information Act has been reformed to make it easier for the public to access the government and its records.

FOIA states that generally “any person has a right…to access federal agency records.” Reform improvements include offering a one-stop shop-type portal where users can issue FOIA requests to all agencies, as well as encouraging agencies to be more open to disclosure, according to a press release.

Find out more about what the reform entails this  summary on the blog from the Society of Professional Journalists (of which I’m a member).

From SPJ: “The Society of Professional Journalists is the nation’s most broad-based journalism organization, dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior.”

Sara Hayden