been in japan for a year & not a lot but a lot has changed. mostly within. & also without. i gained weight outchere & literally coworkers & random people alike out here have told me how i gained weight,which is a subject that is sometimes treated like its the weather. different cultural context, i have assumed. but still the same scrutiny & policing of the femme body as in america. still the same hegemonic notions of what is worthy & what is unworthy. unfortunately, i found myself wandering the dark corridors of insecurity, often feeling my body & physical existence were "less than...", especially in a country of mostly very skinny people. not the first time I have felt such self-loathing; my first two years of college i struggled tough with an eating disorder & a really skewed & fucked perception of my own self. this story is not new for femme peeps or folks in general. we live a culture that makes us hate ourselves. but like honestly fuck off, cause me, you, we are fucking made of gorgeous sparkly star dust that can traverse time & space with fucking resilience & brilliance. each one of us is the incredible, intricate, & magical symphony of ecosystems. like the fuck, you cut my skin that shit grows back?! groh wha!? millions of particles from infinity itself, recycled, to form y o u. a face & vessel & human experience that only y o u have. me, you, we are more than the walls & constructs that have been built over time. we are the fucking universe - within & without - & oh so worthy of unconditional, grade-a l o v e. revolution starts within...love yoself, ourself, inside out, to reach the higher you, the higher me, the higher W E. no need for outside validations or male compliments, you good kween & do bad all by yoself (ourself)! good night from japan. #babygrohgotherbabybootybackdoebluhd #keepyoshit100
morning rituals : spoon of organic apple cider vinegar with a cup of hot water...mix in some honey & boom. since there ain't no kombucha out here...this is my jam.
yoooo. the inaka love is out of this world -- so in this world! so my students & their fam live down the street & own the local auto shop. the grandma has a dope garden. we talked a few times when she was walking her dog. then after a while, i came home to bags & bags of HELLA vegetables & fruits on my door step -- such as these all from her garden - & tonight she came through with a handmade apron jacket thing she crafted (cloth is the same as the shirt she was wearing so we matching) & sekihan & a bento box...gratitude. so much love in so many pockets of the world that is not talked about. the media should cover this. so here it is.
living in the countryside of japan mos def has its pros & cons as does everything in this existence. japan has a direly low birth rate & the population is declining rapidly. in my town alone about five schools have closed due to the lack of children; this was once a classroom of a small elementary school that had less than 10 students (1st-6th grade) before closing. now many abandoned schools are being repurposed and reused. this closed school in my town is now a local community center with space for community events, classes, and youth programs, along with small local businesses -- a local, organic pizza joint, a children's book store, an antique store, a fresh sembei shop, & this cute cafe! this cafe is run by one awesome womxn & mother of one of my students! she moved from the city of kyoto to the country to live a simpler, more mindful life. this photo fails to capture the quaint & charming beauty of this classroom turned dessert / coffee cafe...all the old shelves & desks & scientific instruments & school posters were kept up! #さすが 日本。
I come from the depths of Glen Park canyon where coyotes and pot smoking pre-teens cohabitate and roam; the back of the MUNI bus where suckas would get murked by my fellow public school peers for throwing head-to-toe-toe-to-head snotty stares; my great-great-grandma’s laundromat on the horse-carriage-filled Valencia street of the late 1800s; the 1970 Lowell High School “Welcome Back” dance when a young Nikkei buck from the Richmond caught eyes with young queen from the Sunset amidst a sea of pioneering acid-trippers; within the concrete caverns of theBayshore freeway underpass where a good friend told me he resided; this is my Mama, the topography of my ancestors, my home: San Francisco.
These lived experiences are not just my own, but ours, apart of the collective narrative and culture of San Francisco. As a fifth generation San Franciscan, I was fortunate to be raised by a collaborative, polycultural community that nourished my radical imagination. I grew up valuing the various narratives of struggle that built this golden city. But today, more than ever, this culture of collective struggle is becoming less visible and respected in the face of the almighty dollar.
Seven dollar cups of coffee; the highest displacement rate of black Americans second to post-Katrina New Orleans, chrome Aston Martins going 60 miles per hour in the now “up and coming” neighborhoods, flocks of metal cranes piercing the landscape, casual yet covert transphobic racism, and the uncompassionate cackles of the young, profit-driven, and privileged toward the older man on the corner admirably collecting aluminum cans to recycle. This is the San Francisco we are currently witnessing…again.
From the eviction of the Ohlone peoples in the late-1700s to the horrific “urban renewal” in the Fillmore from the 1950s to 1970s, the colonial mechanism of physical and cultural displacement, or quite frankly, erasure, is nothing new to his provincial city. Just as displacement is as San Franciscan as cioppino and burritos, so is resistance.
These specific pieces showcased are the ARTifacts of my existence, the testament and celebration ofthefive generations of resilience in the face of oppression. As a culture bearer of our past and the author of the future, my thriving existence as an artist is in and of itself resistance. From the racist 1870 street ordinance that banned my great-great-grand-aunties from carrying their belongings on bamboo poles to the Anti-Asian Exclusion act to the more recent corporate takeover of America’s first Japantown, my narrative, our narrative, was never supposed to thrive, let alone survive. But low and behold, we’re still here.
Whether by blasting RBL Posse slaps through our subwoofers during the September sunshine or sharing our stories to the vibrant young authors, the youth, we are more than just witnesses. Like the brilliant artists that sculpted this beautifully intricate culture before us – the immigrants, the bold, the hopeful, the risk-takers, the misfits, the eclectic thinkers, the luminous lot of America’s upstream swimmers – we are the continuing, active architects of this dynamic city. Let us embody the radically collaborative community we were bore from. Let us celebrate our resilience. Let us thrive shamelessly in this existenceand bloom.
the small fishing town of 茂木
you are not one of them.
hey qings & kweens! concurrent with the frisco five & the resistance & resilience in face of displacement, my art will be showcased at the soma art & cultural center starting today until may 26th for the united states of asian american festival exhibit - resistance! peep game! special shout to my sister @sophia mitguard & @donna kimura & @pamela ybanez for making it happen! #keepthesfcsuckafree #erynkimura
y a k u s h i m a doe. such ancient beauty & impeccable chlorophyll souls. this island was the inspiration for miyazaki's epic work of art - princess mononoke.
I do love drowning in my human sea of emotions. Here is a product of one time.
Let’s start with the surroundings, shall we?
I am sitting in a fluorescent lit strip mall with buzzing, nonsensical music that would play out of a plastic you’d receive from the McDonald’s Happy Meal…the generic left over ones, when they ran out of the seasonal toys in the plastic wrapped packages (this analogy is an anthropological illumination to my own self: I grew up in the American 90s). This music is awful and is literally the most abysmal robotic melody I’ve ever witnessed. It is so melancholic to me and is now reminding me of the music you’d hear on the early games of the original Apple computer…you know the tiny box with copious little multicolored squares that bore shapes of characters and palm trees alike.
My senses are inundated, but my spirit very much dead, like a withering brown potted plant that once glowed bright with a cellulose green…in fact I have one of these in my own house…the brown one.
The scrapping noises of plastic bottomed metal chairs at the nearby McDonalds, the blinding brightness of this indoor plaza that holds all of these mega stores…in a town in the countryside of Kyoto…a town that once held small family owned shops, only to be consolidated under this huge roof of, again, blinding fluorescent lights, disgusting linoleum floors, and tragic fucking music that attempts to add a jovial, moving spirit to this lifeless consumer place.
But tonight, it is the closest place to a refuge.
I walked here tonight from my beautiful quaint house of tatami mats, candles, and ginger cinnamon scents. I left because I always seek refuge at this home. I stay inside, sometimes leave via car, but usually stay in the comforts of this system that is life here in Kyotanba.
I don’t wish to explain myself. To myself or anyone. I always create knowing that this will be shared with another person. That I will share this with another person. Such is life of a self-proclaimed artist.
As I was walking here, I noticed the dim lit streets, the shadows of every building, the mysterious magic that dusk held. I felt the rawness of my teeth by sweet rot, I felt the almost uncomfortable warmth that existed from my bloated belly to the crevices or folds between my vaginal cavity skin and thighs, and the crisp air occasionally pass by with this wonderful mild weather that reminded me of summer. I was trying to comprehend my surroundings, my relationship to the surroundings, my surroundings’ false effects upon myself, and my own relationship with myself.
After eating about 4-5 pieces of the fluffiest and softest white bread that was so heavenly in its texture it seemed almost like plastic foam, I sat yet again with that feeling of shame, guilt, hatred, and irritation I often channel to my own self for my own choices and behaviors I unfairly label as erratic and wrong.
“I should exercise”, “I should have exercised”, “If I exercised or worked harder at life, maybe I would feel jovial like I know I would and could”, “I feel the pouty swollen pouches hanging tight over my pants and seams of my underwear”, “I feel disgusting and gross”.
Really all of these thoughts I must remember are the life comments of the ever-familiar dimension of myself…the same part of myself I have been giving into and fighting against for maybe the past 10 or more years…or maybe it has been forever. I can’t tell or care. It is just here, now and that’s enough.
This same alter of myself controls in fact every facet of my daily life. Speaking to me majority of the time, unless I have a cup of coffee, witness wonderful people, travel to a new foreign country, run a couple of miles or maybe just one, or have an out-of-body experience or reach a rare meditative state. All I know is that this is the same voice that cages my imagination - strangles it from inhaling radiant, glittering life and exhaling brilliance, flying through the cosmic forests beyond. This is the same voice that tells me to create art. This is the same voice that tells me to create art to keep up with the demands of society, to establish my “career”, to be extraordinary, to make something of myself and my privileged existence, to make money, to gain financial security for my future. But that dead, tired, strangled part of me doesn’t want to give in, doesn’t want to toil just to toil for the ends that I can’t even say I truly understand or want.
I don’t want to create for the sake of creating. I don’t want to write just to make my story “known”. I don’t want to be an artist just to be an Asian-American womxn artist that made herself and her narrative and her life visible. I don't want to write poems and prose just to make sure I am apart of a legacy, to be known. I don’t want to. I don’t want to. I have ideas, I have damn good ideas. But I don’t want to create. I don’t want to. Not right now, not for a while.
I don’t love myself unconditionally. I don’t appreciate myself at all. I don’t know myself. I don’t know what makes me tick. I don’t know what I want. I don’t know what I am doing. I don’t know how to navigate this existence in a way that conforms to this matrix, this structure, this society, this global metal framework that lies behind the very large sheet of fabric.
I am wedged in this tiny space, existing amongst fear, anxiety, dread, misunderstanding, disempowerment, anger, self-loathing, hate, apathy, and exhaustion.
I don’t want to pull myself out right now. I really don’t. I don’t want to rally myself to run. I don’t want to cheer myself on and get up and make the art that’ll make my ancestors proud. I don’t want to get up. I don’t want to. I don’t want to. I just want to sit. I just want to roll through this silent melancholy…mouth dry, body swollen, head full. Feet hitting the lifeless cement, the dead Earth, the man-made excavations and hacks and scars upon the sacred female body.
Right now I find myself loathing every fucking male that traverses this shiny linoleum floor that screams the palest creamy white. I despise every man that walks by and immediately looks over his left shoulder to glimpse at my sour ass face. I loathe every ounce of ownership I think and perceive they feel of this damn space, of my damn space. I disdain the fact that they think they can look at me without question or care of my feelings, my story, my experiences, my fucking choice. But we don’t have a choice here do we? None of us do, do we?
We never asked to work in toxic factories with a small wage or perhaps no wage; we never asked to be raped by our uncles at the age of 5; we never asked to be beat by an electric cord and plug of an iron and put in solitary confinement by the ever so white patriarchal American government at the age of 8; we never asked to have no choice and set sail on a sinking boat across the Mediterranean for a new life of perceived human rights and resources; we never asked to be the cashier at the nearest chain restaurant and be treated with haughty language and arrogant disrespect; we never asked to join the military to be sexually abused by our supposed comrades and have these comrades protected by some foul exceptions in our law; we never asked to work 3 janitorial jobs so we could give our beautiful children that we can barely afford to see food from the only accessible grocery store that only contains toxic materials; we never asked for bombs to drop violently from the sky and shell our little sister, our father, our mother, our grandmother to death, leaving us alone, broken, deteriorated, and nearly insane from agony; we never asked. Or did we?
We cannot explain, can we? It just is. This all just is. And those that are “lucky”, what does that even mean? What is lucky? What is not? What does it mean to be alive? To exist? Are we even truly alive?
I wonder day in and day out what I am doing here. I try to give my life meaning, when I know in many ways there is none. But perhaps that’s the point. I am apart of a larger beautiful cycle. And I felt the beauty. And I sense the unexplainable suffering and pain. But what to make of it. What to do with it. But to go through it. But to swallow it. But to live with it. But to go with it. But to just listen. And maybe say. And maybe say. And maybe say.
patriarchy & sexism are global as fawk. i have experienced sexism all over the world thus far, of course. however i am fascinated by the sexism & patriarchy in japan, because well, i live here now & the sexism is so ingrained & normalized from my personal perspective & experience (the sexism directed toward me as well as the sexism i witnessed is lightweight fullweight absurd). the accessibility of feminist thought / theory / literature / media / space is quite slim -- so if you have any japanese resources on feminism please share, specifically in japanese so i can share this with my students for womxn's month.
in the mean time, peep this. blood boiling.
haven't been across the mountains in over a month. haven't touched the cities nearby (kyoto, kobe, osaka), & it has been beautiful. life quite simple. cheap as well. wandering in this present...
appreciating all aspects of existence, especially the abandoned & the decayed. 1 in 8 houses in japan are in fact abandoned. the plummeting birth rate & intense population decline is truly evident...especially in past context of the economic boom / bubble of the 1980s. empty old schools, lonely grown over love hotels, crumbling factories...this existence is quite beautiful in its own infinite way...the eeriness is unexplainable against the backdrop of sweeping dark green mountains, thick shoji screens of mist, pouring rain...
blessed to fully be here. to realize the wondrous beauty of this dimension of existence...the dimension often deemed unwanted, perceived invisible if at all.
if you know me, you know back in frisco / cali the art of blunt safaris is in fact my specialty & main area of research. here in japan i have been a lucky duck to have a car & yes, the safaris continue but without the green goddess making a guest appearance. just the sounds of my cd & the vrooms of my baby ride.
i kick it a lot by myself out here. it is a beautiful thing. i often go on solo dolo drives nowhere but everywhere. some snaps...
so the universe conspired yet again.
today i woke up at 1:30 am to facetime my little light & the birthday boy, my nephew. this 2 year old is growing quick on us all....however, his growth reminded me of the fleeting nature of absolutely everything. the time is now. savor every moment. i will never experience this now, this moment ever again. nothing is permanent...nothing is certain...i understand in so many ways the power of religion. but i swallow this uncertainty, i think. enjoying the ride is all.
went back to bed & woke up at 9 am to make myself a spanking delicious breakfast that left me inspired all day. originally i was going to make kabocha nimono. then i put in a lot of dashi, or broth, & shazzemn. i got myself a rich, creamy-without-the-cream kabocha soup. the flavors were so rich & the recipe oh so simple! just boil some kabocha in dashi. after the kabocha was soft, i added some shoyu, mirin, cooking sake, & a secret bit of miso paste...then some silken tofu! i added all of these ingredients to taste. & it was dank, especially topped with some fresh green onions, grown locally from my area.
i ate my soup with a small salad - local mizuna, not so local tomatos, & sprouts. of course i had a chawan of hot, fresh, sweet japanese rice...this okame fresh from miyama, in my area. being in japan & being spoiled by kyuushoku, or japanese school lunch, i have totally began to appreciate the simple yet soulful hot bowl of freshly cooked rice. the delicate, natural sweetness...the comforting warm fluff...smitten.
i then went to my japanese lesson & talked to my sensei aka a homegrown local about what this kyoto countryside town was like prior to the big mall, markesu. he told me there were oodles of local, family-owned shops. he missed the kutsuya (shoe store) which also doubled as an umbrella store. he also loved the fresh tofuya. profit...money...growth...a funny concept that even touches the countryside of japan...i mean shit they don't got a train station here, but they do sho got a mc-adeez.
the rest of the day i continued to revel in my present. i drove around my countryside town, turning on dirt roads in the middle of tall dry grasslands, driving down empty streets with a landscape of farmland & factory structures, cruising through the mountainside of tall lanky trees that are the real-life miyazaki film trees. i stumbled through this one part of town (by town i mean country) & noticed all of these cute fairy tale sherwood forest type homes...little cute cabins in the straight up cuts.
i drove by this rad building with handmade wood railings & crazy cool ceramic ufo heads...i had to peep game. i put my car in park, & asked the man working on the windows on the top floor of the house if it they were open in my very poor japanese. i told him sorry i only spoke a little japanese, but he replied with "yes, open!" i walked into the coziest home...it was truly a dream. the whole home was made from log joinery & the well-lit home was warmed up by the old school fireplace. this older couple greeted me & i realized, i was in an art gallery & ceramics studio.
this couple used to have jobs in business & so forth, but quit their jobs in their latter 50s & moved to the country to create their arts. bunchan makes incredible ceramics that have this funky, yet wabi sabi aesthetic. some of my favorite pieces of his were the huge plates that were made of separate pieces of ceramic, joined together with this gold glaze. the texture was rough & imperfect with deep earthy tones & the occasional turquoise glazed pieces. yet these plates were so simply pleasing. keichan does patchwork & takes old kimonos, fabrics - including suede & leather - & creates these incredible bags & quilts.
we all sat down together & enjoyed a cup of coffee & chatted about life. we talked about how japan & japanese americans are majority mixed, & kombucha & the 70s. we shared art & i showed them this website & my pieces. it was a beautiful meeting of spirits. we have all met somewhere before, i know it.
i headed back on the road (aka 10 minutes from my house) & rolled up to the dopest space of my literal dreams.
the front was a huge stained glass piece of a spiraling serpent, & the building had a mushroom style front...there was a stained glass tank colorful & psychedelic as hell with "hype war" spelled on it. um...this was narnia & this is my immediate neighborhood.
two younger children exited the main house, shouting innocently about life. & two young parents were scurrying around the kids, corralling them to the stained glass studio. i greeted the family in my, again, english-japanese & they kindly invited me into the mushroom stained glass castle / lord of the rings bunker studio.
i walked in, & shit myself with straight up excitement. what the fuck. the next hour & a half i was just spewing : "oooooh my gawd" "holey moley!" "no way!" "COOL!" "sugei!" "sugoi!" "HONMA?!" "MECHAKUCHA URESHI YO!" "kakkoii!"
the stained glass studio had the inspiring works of pucci & sippo, two yung creators that carved this space out from straight up scratch. both of them from bigger cities / towns of japan, they relocated to the countryside for whatever reason i couldn't understand (they were speaking japanese & my comprehension is still 2nd year middle school level). middle fingers, big macs, the american dolla bill o n e, doraemon, mickey mouse, wall moose, eyeballs, incredible skull stained glass pieces. i bought their stained glass pieces at the nearby abandoned school turned community center. but finally, i was in their studio. there were turn tables with all the records on deck, an old stereo boombox painted with hella graphics & nostalgic scenes of the 80s. there were old arcade machines, & skateboard decks on decks on decks, painted with radical messages & designs.
a class was in session, aka 2 people, aka they're flexible as fawk, so i roamed with pucci & his two kids around their home. the huge stained glass tank amazed me, as with the dope ass truck with a stained glass hatchback thang with skateboard door handles. he & the kids walked me up behind the studio & the house & showed me their private studio. the artistry & colorful creations were out of this fucking country. i felt like i was on acid, even if i never tried it before. he then took me to the way back of the house. he showed me his home-made skateboard half tube & the muthafuckin' treehouse to be. these kids were literally living my damn dream.
for the next hour or so i kicked it with pucci & the kids & pucci showed me his creations from 19 years ago...the freshest muthafuckin' rides in all of japan on some trill shit. these whips were too sick.
i left jahpon land, the name of their studio & business, after giving the kids my hand-drawn stickers & exchanging obnoxious, goofy faces & giggles & high fives. these kids were so damn genki & cute, they truly brought blasts of rainbows & iridescent sparkly confetti into my day.
can't believe this place existed outside of my little dreams.
the rest of the day, i drank loads of water & drove through the backroads of my very large country town. windy roads of fields & tall trees, huge mountains & valleys of old skool japanese homes...the most beautiful part was rolling up one of the hills to peep the bright sun behind the low hanging clouds in the middle of winter...a rare sight indeed.
reasons for blog / internet neglect
- there's a lot of living through screens today. which is fine. i just want to enjoy the wondrous universe of this precious earth before...well, let's just say i wish to bathe in the riches of my physical environment & present.
- after being objectified, sexually harassed, & exoticized by the a few patriarchal white men, my mind is still undergoing true rumination of such traumatizing feelings of disgust, disempowerment, fear. i also have been watching too many episodes of scandal. i just don't want my photos or my stories to become objects that are used, manipulated, or sexualized without my muthafuckin' consent.
actually, this trauma & fear...something i wish to flesh out, uproot, examine, understand, & express.
this is probably the first time i have dedicated x amount of time on the internet to express this fully.
about 2, going on 3, years ago right out of college, i interned at an environmental justice nonprofit in san francisco. this nonprofit, hxstorically, was started & ran by womxn of color from the community. however, the nonprofit underwent rough times & lost funding & so forth. the original directors were out, & a new executive director & operations manager were hired. the executive director was new to the nonprofit & replied to my eager email within a couple of days.
when i arrived to the office building, the front door was locked. it was a 1970s looking building that housed a medical practice opened by an incredible community figure in the hxtorically black community during the 1960s or so. i was let in, by a older white man with white pepper whiskers for a mustache & beard. he wasn't the most formal, but i could care less, for i wanted to delve into the actual praxis of environmental justice & understand nonprofits & just live accordingly.
in our interview session, i was a shoe-in. the older white man reminded me of my good friend's dad, which freaked me out. this white man was the new executive director & was overseeing 5 womxn working under him. it was interesting at first glance. a white man as a director of a hxtorically black womxn environmental justice nonprofit...who wasn't from the neighborhood...but some of the ladies working were from vallejo, slash i did not want to jump to conclusions before actually immersing myself into the situation. this executive director mumbled gruff words that felt sandy. he mentioned how he was divorced and how his son had ocd like me.
hmm. okay, i thought. he then proceeded to tell me that he googled my name & found the student newspaper article about me & my ocd from circa freshmen year of high school. okay.
basically i was going to intern for a bit & he said when they got funding they would offer me a job depending upon how the internship goes. fair. the ladies working there were dope, especially the operations manager & the program director. they were the trillest. the operations manager was also an api womxn who was goofy & full of inspiring wit.
my workspace was in a linoleum mellow yellow white cubicle outside of the executive director's office. it was definitely a small little chicken coop space, but i lived in closet in college, so i could give a fuck. he said he wanted me there "so he could see me". okay.
basically i was there for about a month or two. the community members i met were everything. for example, the beautiful soul george who was always at his friend's house working on cars next to the office parking lot. he was great. an older black man with grey tints and a cheerful demeanor & smile. thinking of him now makes me so...alive, thankful, happy & full of love...of course mixed with that certain sadness associated with folks that you never got a chance to say good bye to or keep in touch with. anyway, i am not sure how our friendship came to fruition, but it started as i would just say hi to him every morning. i would smile and say good morning. he would wave & smile & walk over to my side of the car. i would roll down the window & say "how ya doin' george?!" his responses would vary. i often saw him when i left the office as well, which was in the afternoon, considering this was a part time gig.
george & i would talk about our daily mindsets & wanderings. one day i asked him about his life, & we stood there chatting for about 15 minutes upon mention of the topic. he grew up in frisco. in fact, he grew up in the fillmore - the harlem of the west. he went to rafael b. wells, which is today, rosa parks elementary school. my mind brightened up like straight up golden honey sunshine.
he told me he would hang out at the buchanan ymca. he told me that yori wada was his friend. you see, yori wada, i have heard so much about. his face is in the japanese cultural community center of northern california entrance hall & his name engraved on various stepping stones & plates throughout jtown & the fillmore. i knew he was a director at the buchanan ymca & helped start jcccnc, but that's it. george's mention of him lit a candle in this cavern of my vast, curious mind.
george said that before wwii, yori wada would organize youth events at his own house - for high schoolers. many of them were for community purposes & organizing. george mentioned that yori really cared about creating a welcoming community of / for black / japanese-american youth -- because that was the community at the time, before the internment, before the development of jtown / fillmore. george told me that even after the war, when yori got a job with the city government, yori connected many folks from the fillmore to city government jobs. yori even attended george's wedding.
"yori meant a lot to the black folks...to the fillmore"
i will never forget that encounter. i will never forget george. he had some health problems & i think housing problems as well. we would shoot the shit about local politricks, racism, & the greedy direction of san francisco. he reminded me that san francisco was still here. that compassionate community was still here. that love was still here. that home was still here.
where i left off in terms of the chronicles of the anti-oriental fantasy...oh yes.
well it didn't take long for me to figure out that this nonprofit was quite scattered & unorganized. the executive director would time & time again, give me things to do, that totally failed to utilize my knowledge, but i figured that's the life of an intern. of course i proposed numerous topics & so forth. i also helped organize an annual breast cancer luncheon with some kick ass ucsf female surgeons (one womxn i connected with, laura esserman, who i later found out was the homey's mama!). but often i was asked by the executive director to attend community meetings or even the executive board meetings...the executive director would often flaunt to me his wonderful executive board he put together...he would also often have me come into his office & tell me about his vast knowledge & health care career & all of this & that...i just sat & listened & shook my head & smiled.
soon, he began to give me sass. he began to talk to me as if i wasn't doing exactly what he told me to do. he began to probe all of my executed tasks & wonder if i did this or this or that or that -- which i all clearly did & already mentioned to him...knowing me i dished that shit right back in my own way...with my firm tone & radiant vibes of robust, femme power.
ah yes. toward the end of my 3 months there, i told the executive director that i was going to dip & work with kids & families instead up the block, in the neighborhood. when i told him he was rather disappointed, mentioning how if i stayed he would get me a job there & funding & a great position, woop woop woop woop. cool. he fed that shit to me for a while.
then my second to last day interning there, literally right before i was leaving the office to attend my first introductory day at this children center, i was called into his office.
i went into his office, with his plastic fan spinning furiously, a medley of papers fluttering in the artificial, stuffy wind. he began to apologize to me. "look i'm sorry i've been short, rude, to you lately" he said, "i've been stressed" with funding matters & department of public health thangs & licensing.
"i'm sorry...but i just hafta tell you, i've been looking at your cleavage".
his face was straight, dry, & of course crusty with his white pepper walrus whiskers. he had this face of regret.
a surge of cortisol & adrenaline, or so i presumed, electrified my entire body. my mind was blasted, a huge flash of bright light, blinding my internal navigation.
his acting & manipulation was quite good, for my brain went so blank, i just said "uh it's okay" without truly thinking & just walked out his office stunned & shook up.
what the fuck? i thought. am i imagining things? that wasn't that bad right? i mean i wasn't raped...he didn't touch me...he could have said worse things, right?
i left the parking lot on that fine, sunny august day. i drove straight down 3rd street replaying the situation over & over & over while mediating the fact that i was about to embark on my first day at my new job at the children's center.
my eyes were fat as i approached the children's center & began to dam the tenacious flood of thoughts of disgust, distraught, confusion, belittlement, trauma, violence...pull it together for this moment, i thought.
yet, as i was introducing myself to the sweet faces of our future, tucking in these 2 year olds before their afternoon nap, my levy walls were barely holding...streams began to bleed out...memories, i never even knew.
it was as if this simple phrase dug deep into the caverns of my mind & unearthed the lived hxstories & future stories of my ancestors, my grandmothers, my mothers, my sisters, my daughters...this collective past, that i failed to remember in this lifetime, came charging forth...like a tsunami...above the levy walls through the passages, corridors of my mind...i needed to cry.
but i remember i couldn't. i remember i didn't.
my body pulsed with this toxic filth...my heart strangled by a stress i couldn't even understand or articulate. my uncertainty & hesitation & lack of clarity all scared me the most. "i am overreacting", "no one will think this is a big deal", "he probably didn't mean it like that" ; a sample of the massive number of thoughts sprinting through my mind. "this wasn't obvious enough".
my mama of course, set me straight, helped me process & organize my thoughts & my experience. at this point, i was engulfed by a delicious rage...so fierce & so powerful, i knew i was in a fact a fucking crazy force to reckon with. i slept that night with that angry excitement...like that "i'm finna pop awf" / "murk this muthafucka" type feeling. these blistering hot moments of infuriation are honestly some of my favorites. in fact, typing about the experience, makes me feel a fraction of that energy surge meow. that heat in the depths of myself...the type of power that reminds me: oh shit, i have agency. i am in fact the author of this hxstory, of the present - the past & the future all at play. these moments are the best as well for my true self unravels so fucking dramatically & so fucking quickly, like my body is rolling down a fat ass, vertical grass hill in golden gate park...i kind i used to roll down in middle school...(haha).
the morning came, & oh shit was i fucking ready. my mind was literally off the chains...quotes from bell hooks, audre lorde, elaine kim, maxine hong kingston just fucking poppin' off in my brain in the most absurd, obnoxious 4th of july patriotic as fawk firework extravaganza fashion. hyperfocused isn't even a strong enough description. i guess you could say i was "in the zone". it was like tucking in my jersey at the beginning of a sasf tournament game, after a ballin' ass warm-up & bumpin' stilettos by crime mob in my silver sony cd player.
i park in the parking lot, run up the stairs - skipping every other stair step, that's how serious, & roll through the dimly lit 1970s hallway with old doors & that mustiness of old rotting metal pipes. "HELLO!" i say as i roll through the executive director's office. "oh eryn, i thought you weren't feeling well & not coming in today -" "OF COURSE I HAD TO COME IN", i said with my eyelids fucking up, eye wide with that tingly surge of straight up fiiiiiyah. basically i turned on my iphone recorder & did my thang asking him "so you had the audacity to say sorry for looking at my cleavage yesterday?!" "yes i said, that" he said. well that was easy, i remember thinking. boop. recorded. done. i briefly chewed him out with my fat voice, & he said i could talk to the operations manager if i had a problem, woop woop woop. & boom. winner winner chicken dinner.
the days following up i met with the asian-american womxn operations director. it was incredible because when we met, after i gave her my exact play by play of the situation alongside the voice recording, homegroh comes through with a straight up l a u n d r y list of sexual harassment incidents with this executive director. the funny thing is, is that he favored us two asian-american womxn the most in the office, to the point where we were placed on his side of the building. he would say shit like "oh 20-year olds love me" (he's 62, aka like my dad), "oh funders would love to have a beautiful asian girl on my right arm"...it was in that moment that the dots connected. that the shimmering constellations shone bright in my mind.
present. i am here.
long story short, filed formal complaint with executive director, older allegations of racist asian remarks uttered by this man surfaced, & sooner or later he was out.
although it "could've been worse", fuck off, we aren't playing the "who's the most oppressed game". systematic oppression, specifically systematic oppression & objectification of womxn (trans / femme / womxn of color), is expressed in a spectrum of ways...all must be addressed with fucking sharp poignant power in order to destroy the entire patriarchal structure in place.
now. for an api womxn analysis of this white man's acts...okay, this is really redundant for my brain so this is brief & quick:
- the long fetch of history has painted api womxn in america as docile, exotic, weak, quiet, hypersexual beings. american cultural production - newspapers, magazines, movies, commercials, dolls - have framed api womxn as these meek background figures that can be objectified - picked up / manipulated - & perform sexual acts at the whim of the white man such as massages & strip teases.
some modern day examples: fuk yoo & fuk mi from austin powers; the ladies giving jackie chan & chris tucker massages in rush hour; sandra oh in grey's anatomy as this smart model minority womxn (the hypersexualization not necessarily majorly present, but i want to illustrate the stereotyping of api womxn on the lines of the model minority myth which also is in interplay), madam butterfly (which is still performed in muthafuckin' yellowface as of 2014 by san francisco fucking opera), etc.
- do you know that asian female pornography is the number one pornography category searched & watched?
- the 1875 page law which stated that asian womxn could not enter united states soil based upon the assumption that these womxn were "heathens" & mere prostitutes. by law, asian womxn were framed as sex objects. keep in mind the context; this was during the gold rush period in which hella folks from guangzhou were immigrating to san francisco in hopes of finding "gold mountain". this page law act was also a structural prevention against formation of chinese-american families / communities.
this law & this current period strikes me very personally because my chinese family was in san francisco during this time. my maternal grandmother's maternal great grandfather worked on the railroad & her maternal great grandmother had a laundry mat on valencia street during the barrio days of mission dolores area. this law impacted the womxn in my family, along with the stereotypical misrepresentations of api womxn in the womxn.
there's more. of course. but i need to sleep so later.
during times like these i know this all sounds angry. but so much liberation & power comes from anger. especially since womxn aren't supposed to unleash their anger, but men can cause they're men right? fuck off. i remember actually my best friend's dad telling me this: you know eryn, i know womxn like you [empowered, conscious, feminist]. & their not happy." this made me laugh inside. still makes me laugh. still makes me cringe.
still makes me realize how much work there is to be done.
ah, but yes. here are my own representation of myself as an asian-american womxn:
here is a link to my past artivist campaign: we will be respected (2015)
I, one of the overwhelmed, wandering college grads, and one of the extremely underpaid, marginalized educators in this society, am raising money to produce stickers & t-shirts with my signature "artivist" design. My main goal is to change mainstream culture, or at the very least to respond to it with a big, fat "Fuck You".
Here is my story.
My name is Eryn Kimura and I am a 5th generation San Franciscan and 5th generation Chinese-/Japanese-American, respectively. I am a narrator, creator, and educator/facilitator, and a proud polycultural product of the San Francisco public school system.
Growing up with white best friends that knew more Cantonese and Mandarin than me, I had no idea I was Asian until I left the Baytastic bubble to UC Santa Barbara, circa 2009. It was here in college that I experienced my first microagression - a social exchange in which a member of the dominant culture belittles or alienates one of a marginalized group. "You're really good at math, huh?"
The trend continued thereafter.
At UCSB, I found myself living on the lively 6600 block of Del Playa - the party street of the college town, alongside the breathtaking Pacific Ocean. The echoing sound of rolling red cups in the wind, the invasive presence of dirty dub step prying into your eardrums at 4 AM...this was where I lived. This is also where I came across a pretty white boy, who later texted me with "What are you up to, my oriental fantasy?" Mortified, I wanted to throw up in my mouth and peel off my skin, as if it was a spandex ninja suit, except a ninja suit that spelled: "Hi! I'm a demure, powerless, sexual object that will give you a massage for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! PLEASE call me a goofy, politically incorrect name that usually is paired with rugs or Panda Express dishes!" Oh hell no.
From then on, it was like my ancestors and the collective universe wanted me to feel such discomfort, extreme anger, and disgust at least once a week with such infuriating interactions.
"Do you give massages?"
"You blind, stupid, Asian slut...love, skinhead."
"...there's that Asian persuasion..."
"...you fuckin' chink."
"...I'm sorry, but I have been looking at your cleavage."
Obviously, I had to deal with the subsequent anger constructively. I ended up double majoring in Asian-American Studies and Psychology, with a minor in Black Studies. It was in my ethnic studies courses that I finally felt empowered to be a womxn of color, more specifically an Asian-American womxn. Through such academic rigor, I found myself armed with literary weapons forged by fellow brilliant and resilient creators and paradigm-shifters, such as bell hooks, Grace Lee Boggs, and Angela Davis. My personal wealth of witty sass hit an all time high.
Graduating from UCSB in 2013, I returned to the motherland: San Francisco. However, yet again my ancestors in the clouds decided to challenge me. One month into post-college life, I ended up filing a sexual harassment claim against a patriarchal 63-year old executive director of an environmental justice nonprofit I began interning for.
Salting the wound that had been open for more than a century, I was yet again, "orientalized". Based on my phenotypic similarity to the exotic, demure Japanese Madam Butterfly - an opera character still portrayed in yellow-face today (San Francisco Opera: Madame Butterfly) - I was objectified. Because I resembled the ladies in silk robes giving massages to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour series, I was hypersexualized. Like the courageous Asian womxn that sought a better life across the Pacific, only to be outlawed and assumed prostitutes by the unjust Page Law of 1875, I was stereotyped. All assumed, without consent.
Well, my great great grandparents did not toil through the extreme anti-Asian violence and the dehumanizing rhetoric of the mid-19th century or build the damn railroad for nothing. They did not struggle, sacrifice, or withstand hatred for their 5th generation offspring to continue to feel such feelings of anguish, shame, and powerlessness.
So I am pushing back.
By illustrating my truths, I am breaking the silence and making my struggle as an Asian-American womxn and the greater struggle of womxn of color VISIBLE & LOUD. Silence is invisibility, squandering true democracy; silence allows conformity to reign supreme - like the saying goes: "Only dead fish swim with the stream." By making the invisible, visible; bringing the marginalized to the center; we are actively resisting the status quo, we are actively swimming against the currents of complacency and conformity. We must go upstream.
I, an Asian-American womxn, wish to visually say "Fuck you!" to the exoticizing, stereotyping, confining, and objectifying - the mechanisms by which the systematic oppression of womxn of color operate.
Moreso than just a "Fuck You", I would also like to shed light on the multifaceted emotional experience of this specific form of systemic oppression . The fist as an homage to the legacy and impact of social justice movements, community organizing, and empowerment; the peace sign indicating the importance of expressing resistance against structural inequities and how this is in fact a form of holistic peace-making.
Contributing funds to this Indiegogo Campaign will mean actively engaging with and redefining the national culture we are all perpetuating on a daily basis. Donating to this cause will mean making the struggles of Asian-American womxn and the greater community of womxn of color VISIBLE and LOUD. Donating will indeed be an act of resistance to the oppressive system at hand. Contributing funds would actualize this American ideal of democracy; using cultural production as a means of establishing aesthetic and political representation (big ups to homegroh Lisa Lowe). Donating would mean rewriting mainstream culture, and reimagining the historical landscape of Asian-America. Donating would also give you a lovely new thread with my icon on the front (4" x 7"), vinyl stickers and oodles of love and gratitude!