Historical Little Tokyo Bike Ride

There are a lot of misconceptions regarding bicycles and cycling. It’s often seen as a mode of transportation for the very poor or a leisurely activity for rich white men. The presumption is that you have to wear tight pants or street clothes and have a backpack with unlimited storage. To me I want to use the bicycle as a tool to promote social change, build community, discuss pertinent and often hard to talk about topics, address various forms of oppression and discrimination, and ultimately have fun and be healthy.

The bicycle became a driving force for social change as much as a mode of transportation during the burgeoning early years going from the penny farthing to the diamond safety bicycle. This is seen in the late 19th century feminism, Clarion socialism, environmentalism, and anarchism in Britain (1) as well as the suffragettes in passing the 19th amendment in the United States(2,3). Though cycling’s early days was considered a white gentlemen’s sport, Major Taylor was the first Black American athlete to break that racial barrier (4) and cycling clubs became a major vehicle to assimilate into mainstream American culture (5). My next project uses bicycles as a comprehensive revolution towards social justice.

This involves creating bike tours in Little Tokyo, other Japantowns in southern California, and bringing other communities into Little Tokyo. The goal of these bike tours is to share local Japanese American stories, link communities together through biking, support local businesses and community programs, facilitate and promote intergenerational dialogue and knowledge sharing, and share a vision for equitable and sustainable development and transportation. These bike tours are built through community partnership between API Forward Movement, Japanese American Community and Cultural Center (JACCC), Sustainable Little Tokyo, Little Tokyo Historical Society (LTHS), Metro Bike Share, and LADOT. Also, there was an outpouring of community support with 35 to 40 cyclist coming to our first tour.

At 133 years old, Little Tokyo is one of the oldest ethnic enclaves in Los Angeles and being reduced to 150 acres (only one quarter of it’s original size) there has been a consistent struggle to sustain the culture, history, and legacy of small businesses in Little Tokyo. To address these issues our first ride was around the historical border of Little Tokyo with stops at City hall, Olvera street, Arts district, and the Flower District. The tour discussed pioneering Japanese American businesses pre-1940, changes/ development of Little Tokyo due to gentrification, and the three waves of displacement Little Tokyo has faced. We had community members discuss their family history or ties to certain locations and encouraged sharing from riders. Because of this riders heard a rich history of Japanese and Chicanos supporting and patronizing each other’s businesses, learned about Japanese American artists residing within the arts district and the loss of protection while facing eviction, and discussed the impact that southern California Japanese farmers had on the flower market in the United States and the ebb and flow of the flower market which now has to become a mixed-use development to stay afloat.

An important theme throughout the ride was displacement and one of the major sources of displacement of Japanese Americans in Little Tokyo has been government institutions. Executive order 9066 forced the incarceration of Japanese Americans in Little Tokyo and throughout the western coast of the continental United States. This left many Japanese businesses boarded up or lost because of the war. Many business were unable to keep their lease and Japanese immigrants couldn’t own land because of California’s Alien Land laws at the time. Little Tokyo became Bronzeville to accommodate the influx of African Americans leaving the south to work in the war time factories in Los Angeles. When Japanese Americans were coming back from camps and resettling in Little Tokyo once again they faced the LAPD and LA city council as they sanctioned pieces of Little Tokyo for eminent domain to build the Parker Center for LAPD headquarters and other city buildings. Finally in the 1980’s with the recession in Japan and Japanese business closing shops in Little Tokyo, it became cited as a blight district that was open for redevelopment and changes occurred without the community input and Japanese American’s interest considered. This institutionalized and systemic displacement of Japanese and Japanese Americans is woven in the history of Little Tokyo and this bike tour was shedding a light on it and hopefully brings about the dialogue necessary to lay the foundation for advocacy work to sustain the culture, residents, and businesses in Little Tokyo. The ride ended with cyclist eating at Mitsuru Sushi and Grill, a 40 year old family run business that specializes in Japanese diner food and ambiance.

As a cyclist and community activist I want this bike program to become multifaceted and address all of the community needs regarding biking, social engagement, gentrification/ displacement, and sustainability of programs and businesses. One area of growth could be a youth program that taps into the fixed gear bike culture and blend the Japanese Keirin style, encourage/ mentor/ teach youth about bike safety and cycling career options, and possibly have a team or racing component to it. This could also lead to a opening of a bike kitchen/ community space where people can learn to maintain and fix their bikes. Finally I want to flip the script on bicycles and acculturation. Though bicycle clubs where once a way assimilate into American culture and seen as a status symbol, the bicycle now transcends universally across cultures and I hope these rides/tours bring a way to discuss the effect of acculturation on mental health and other health disparities.

If you are interested our next bike ride will be a unity ride on Oct 22, 2017 that goes from south central LA to Little Tokyo. The bike ride will culminate with FandangObon + Environmental Encuentro Art, Culture, Ecofest 2017 a festival that celebrates art, culture, and mother earth through participatory music and dance traditions of Fandango of Vera Cruz, Mexico rooted in African, Mexican and indigenous music; Japanese Buddhist Obon circle dances in remembrance of ancestors; and West African dance and drums of Nigeria and New Guinea. More details will come out soon on http://www.sustainablelittletokyo.org/events/ or Sustainable Little Tokyo FB events.




Chris Weir is a haifu (half Japanese half white) community organizer that is part of KmB Pro-people youth (a progressive grassroots organization in Historical Filipinotown in Los Angeles) and Nikkei Progressives (a progressive organization based in Little Tokyo). Chris is an avid cyclist and his next project is organizing bike rides in Japantowns in Southern California with the hope to share local Nikkei histories, link communities together through biking, support local businesses and community programs, and share a vision for equitable and sustainable development and transportation. Professionally Chris works at APAIT (a local non-profit HIV/AIDS service organization that works to positively impact medical underserved communities through culturally competent and linguistically relevant programs) as an Outreach and Testing specialist. On his free time Chris likes to run, play with his Australian cattle dog named Kora, and try new things.

私は、青い鳥 / I am a blue bird















日本 それとも アメリカ?




私は今 空を飛ぶ















I am a blue bird

I fly through this blue sky ever so freely

And I look at the countries that lie below


My mother is a white bird of Japan

My father, a navy blue bird of America

And my brother and I, we are the color of the sky


Sometimes, we admire

America’s freedom and striving for equality

But other times, the traditions of Japan

Appeal to us


Do I belong in the sky?

In Japan? Or in America?


In order for me to someday

Realize where I belong

I soar through this sky right now

Because the sky doesn’t have borders


And I will meet so many people

And I will listen to their ideas

And become who I want to be


But I noticed something

Even if I decide where I belong


I’ll keep being the blue bird that I’ve always been


A blue bird, full of pride

I’ll use these wings to continue to fly


アーリーワイン直美 南カリフォルニア在住の日英バイリンガル教師。日本人の母とアメリカ人の父のもとで日英バイリンガルとして育ち、日米両文化に触れて育った。東京での字幕制作、またシカゴ郊外の日系企業での通訳・翻訳の経験を持つ。2015 年5月にコロンビア大学ティーチャーズ・カレッジでバイリンガル・バイカルチュラル児童教育の修士を所得後、アメリカの公立小学校で日英両語を使って教鞭を執っている。教育者としてのキャリアを通し、教育現場での文化や言語的多様性の受け入れを促進し、ハーフやミックスレースの児童のアイデンティティー形成のサポートを目指している。趣味は、フラメンコと三線。

Naomi Erlewine is a Japanese-English bilingual educator currently teaching at an elementary school in Southern California. As the daughter of a Japanese mother and American father, Naomi grew up speaking English and Japanese and was always immersed in a bicultural environment. She has professional experience writing subtitles in Tokyo and translating/interpreting at a Japanese manufacturing company in the Chicago area, but her heart lies in bilingual education. After receiving her Masters in Bilingual/Bicultural Childhood Education from Teachers College, Columbia University in May 2015, she has been teaching public elementary school students in both English and Japanese. Through her work as an educator, Naomi would like to advocate for cultural and linguistic diversity in education and support the identity development of multiracial children. In her spare time, she enjoys dancing flamenco and learning how to play the Okinawan sanshin.

How My Parents Shaped My Mixed Race Identity

Parents are often the stewards of our development and the beacons of morality. So, how does one navigate themselves when their imparter does not share the same experience? My internal self-reflection of my own racial identity as a mixed race individual has been and will always be closely linked to my two monoracial parents, but I have also come to the realization that I did not have the same experiences as my parents growing up and they will not have the same experience as a mixed race individual despite their proximity to it. I believe this is important because this understanding of identity formation is not hard, fixed features like race, gender, class, or the intersection of thereof, but a continuous evolving amorphous object that changes over time. Many articles argue that locale of the minority parent as it relates to gender and to a smaller degree, if at all, social capital factor in the racial identification of mixed race individual (Xie, 1996; Schlabach, 2013), but I do believe that in the socioeconomic context of people’s lives parents play a part to children’s racial identity indirectly and directly (Heard, 2006).

My parents never married and had me at a relative young age (23 for my mom and 25 for my dad.) Both grew up with each other in suburbia Orange County in a city called Huntington Beach and knew each other through school. They suffered through teenage angst, suffocation and entrapment of the suburbs, and uncertainty to endure similar and different tragedies in their lives. My dad, who is white, was a military kid that never stayed in one place too long except for Huntington Beach and dealt with the family curse of alcoholism. My mom is Japanese American and she had to navigate a predominately white space while being a minority, unwind the historical trauma of internment and post-war Japan that my Nisei (2nd generation) grandfather and Issei (1st generation) grandmother carried, and negotiate the pressure of acculturation. In their inner circle of friends and family they had to deal with teenage pregnancy and suicide. This is important because it lays the context of having me at a young age, growing up while negotiating parenthood, and eventually my racial identity. It wasn’t until I understood this context that I began to really accept my mixed roots.

Shortly after my birth, my father’s whiteness opened an opportunity of upward social mobility by leaving his dead-end jobs in California and becoming trained as an airplane mechanic in Indiana. I ended up only seeing him during the summer and his presence was only felt through child support checks. I grew up mostly in his absence and because of that I understand the impact of the locality of the minority parent being a mother. During this time my mom eked a living on food stamps and medi-cal, while taking care of her children and my grandfather’s failing health. It was at that time I strongly identified with my Japanese side and became hyper-demonstrative to prove my “Japaneseness”. I understand when Martis wrote in a Salon article that she, “despised [her] father; his absence humiliated [her]. Not only did [she] loathe his withdrawn parenting, but I hated his genes. I inherited his dark skin and large nose” (Martis 2014). The absence of a parent for a mixed race individual can cause that individual to align themselves exclusively with their remaining parent’s racial identity.


he inescapability of your mixed identity despite your relationship with your parents become apparent through phenotypical markers like being branded by a tattoo. Your body becomes a signifier and an invitation for people to ask, “what are you/where are you from?” As Martis eloquently explains that she, “realized that inheritance is attributed with likeness; to belong to your family, you must look alike. Not alike in the eye shape, frown lines or smile, but alike in skin color. In our society, skin pigmentation is the greatest marker that sets us apart from one another. When a child looks different from her family members due to that pigmentation, her inheritance is questioned” (Martis 2014). Hair, body type, eyes, and skin color become a mosaic that links you to your parents and adds another layer to your racial identity. I was born with brownish curly hair that grew out to be black with slight curls only noticeable once it reaches a certain length. But those blonde/brownish hairs didn’t die at a young age, they occasionally pop-up as body hairs and in my mustache and beard as a little reminder to not forget my mixed roots. My hair and body type/ shape are imprints that link me to my father. My complexion, eyes, and other obvious features are things that I have inherited from my mother and embraced when I was younger because it was a tangible connection to being Japanese. Although Blackness and whiteness, therefore power, in American society is closely linked to the amount or lack of melanin in your skin, the one thing I didn’t overtly experience was colorism. I tended to be one of the darkest in my family; my color does change with the season and amount of time I spent outside. This was probably because my families grew up in Southern California with beaches and didn’t receive the same social cues or stigma to stay indoors or conform to white beauty standards. Understanding the relation of my body as it relates to my parents, along with self-love and body positivity, allowed me to accept my mixed race identity and challenge the notion of phenotype as a marker for race or ethnic background.

Although I wouldn’t consider myself as white passing, the socioeconomic differences between my dad’s life in Indiana and my mom’s in California taught me about white privilege and your association to whiteness. Even though race is socially constructed, we live in a system in which race plays a key role in power, accessibility of upward social mobility, and interpersonal interactions/ level of microaggressions. For example, my father had access to product signifiers of middle class America; He didn’t need to worry about food insecurity and could afford to buy brand names and the standard iphone/ipod/other products that help define the middle class. That was not the same lived experience as my mom, who hustled to get things on sale. I would get the occasional stares and comments, “who’s the Chinese kid with that guy?” but my proximity to my dad’s whiteness shielded me from far worse microaggressions. People in Indiana were friendly, kind, and hospitable to me.


It took me till I was 23 years old developing my career, that I developed an appreciation of what my father and mother did for me. Though I would have wish things were different and my father was around more often, I could not imagine having a kid before 25 and making a tough decisions regarding career and providing for a child. This allowed me to let go of my resentment towards him and acceptance of my mixed race identity. In looking back he did ease the racial divide the best he could. He spent time in Japan growing up while my grandfather was stationed there, even going to elementary school which bridged the gap. There was shoyu and furikake always on hand and our go to places to eat out was sushi. We always connected through baseball, despite him being a Yankee fan and me an Angel fan. I’m grateful for what my mother and father did for me, even though they are no longer together. It lead me to a deeper understanding of myself and how parent and child relationships affect the development of racial consciousness and identity formation. If this story connects with you, please comment or share your own experience on how your relationship with your parent(s) or chosen family shaped your identity.



  • Heard, H. and Bratter, J. 2006. “Racial and Ethnic Differences In Parent-Child Relationships: Does Mixed Race Matter?”Annual Meeting of the Population Association of America. <http://paa2006.princeton.edu/papers/61875 >
  • Martis, Eternity E. “Owning my mixed-race identity: Why I don’t have to choose sides.” Salon. N.p., 13 Mar. 2014. Web. 07 Aug. 2017.
  • Schlabach, S. (2013), The Importance of Family, Race, and Gender for Multiracial Adolescent Well-being. Fam Relat, 62: 154–174. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3729.2012.00758.x
  • Xie Y, Goyette K. The racial identification of biracial children with one Asian parent: Evidence from the 1990 Census. Social Forces. 1997; 76:547– 570.


Chris Weir is a haifu (half Japanese half white) community organizer that is part of KmB Pro-people youth (a progressive grassroots organization in Historical Filipinotown in Los Angeles) and Nikkei Progressives (a progressive organization based in Little Tokyo). Chris is an avid cyclist and his next project is organizing bike rides in Japantowns in Southern California with the hope to share local Nikkei histories, link communities together through biking, support local businesses and community programs, and share a vision for equitable and sustainable development and transportation. Professionally Chris works at APAIT (a local non-profit HIV/AIDS service organization that works to positively impact medical underserved communities through culturally competent and linguistically relevant programs) as an Outreach and Testing specialist. On his free time Chris likes to run, play with his Australian cattle dog named Kora, and try new things.

How Historical Trauma and Acculturation Affect my Haifu Identity Formation

The incarceration of 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans left an indelible mark on America’s history and the narrative of WWII, but the repercussions reverberates within the Japanese American community today. The historical trauma of economic loss of jobs and houses, displacement, subjugation to a loyalty questionnaire, being drafted out of the camps, the no-no boys, draft resisters and “specific cultural values that shaped their internment coping included gaman (persevering through hardships), shikata ga nai (a fatalistic attitude of “it cannot be helped”), enryo (self restraint/reserve that discourages emotional expression)” have been documented in papers and films (Homma-True, 1997 as cited by Nagata 2007). Underlying this tragedy was a pressure cooker of acculturation. When American society viewed Japanese Americans as un-American and purposefully imprisoned them people based on their cultural background, there was an undue amount of pressure to demonstrate their American-’ness’ and melt into America’s melting pot, despite internal and external pressures of racism and concerns of national security raising the heat of the pot. This can be seen when 33,000 Nisei served in the military (442nd regional combat team, 100th Infantry battalion, and Military Intelligence Service) risking their lives and becoming one of the most decorated units of that time, despite having their family incarcerated (Niiya 2014). Even those who resisted the draft or said no-no to the loyalty questionnaire were exercising their constitutional freedoms and patriotism despite having being stripped of their civil liberties (Nagata 2015). The height of assimilation seemed to be achieved as Japanese Americans were crowned as the “model minority,” achieving success despite decades of racial prejudice (rise of Asiatic Exclusion League, segregation in San Francisco public schools, Gentlemen’s agreement, Alien Land Law, 1924 Immigration Act, and Internment during WWII). As Nagata writes, the historical trauma of incarceration should be viewed throughout time based on the “interaction of personal, intergenerational, and social forces” (Nagata 2015). The interconnections of our experiences and politics as it relates to microaggressions and institutionalized racism are stitched into the next generation and progress can only be seen when the next generation exposes it and heals from it.

As a haifu/ hapa/ biracial (half white and half Japanese) individual I not only have trouble balancing my mixed racial identity, but often find myself filling in the gaps of my family’s historical trauma of incarceration and war in Japan (my grandfather was incarcerated and my grandmother was in Japan during WWII) and navigating the pressure of acculturation. I’m starting to realize that my social interactions and identity are often performative and I have to ask myself if it’s because I’m trying to be ‘Japanese’ enough or fit in as an ‘American’. Growing up playing baseball, my favorite player was Ichiro Suzuki and I tried to play with a certain flavor that reflected Japanese side in an American pastime sport; playing smallball, being strong defensively, and fit in as much as I can as a team player. In terms of language I haven’t necessarily felt comfortable speaking English or Japanese. In elementary school I spent years in speech therapy because I couldn’t pronounce certain consonants sounds and I was navigating school as well as intergenerational communication with my grandmother with a thick accent that couldn’t make those same consonant sounds. Also, despite years of Japanese courses in high school and part of college, I am not fluent nor comfortable enough to carry a conversation in Japanese. I find my work in community organizing and attending community events as a way to fill the gaps in my own family history, by listening to stories and experiences that I wished I had the chance to ask my grandfather before he passed. Being self-reflective of your intentions of your actions is a skill set you develop to navigate a complex world, but becomes even more important when your haifu and have to navigate your intersectional identity while balancing historical trauma and acculturation.

Being mixed raced and/or bi-racial, we straddle a thin line between their ethnic/cultural identities and physically as well as emotionally know the tolls of acculturation and historic trauma. My experiences have demonstrated that both the rat race to assimilate and/or melt your unique individual identities into the white hetero cisgender hegemonic melting pot (America’s hegemonic narrative) as well as the hyper demonstrative of your “otherness”, can lead to a hole in your physical and spiritual self that manifests itself as mental and physical health disparities, such as depression, suicide, increase risk for cardiovascular disease, ulcers, and etc (Nagata 2015). Mixed race individuals can facilitate these conversations of how acculturation and historical trauma are linked, the health disparities that arise from dissociation of one’s identity, and process of healing.

If this is something that resonates with you, please comment or share your personal stories of assimilating/fitting in and how it may be connected to your family history as it relates to trauma (war displacement, genocide, transmigration, economic instability, and etc.)



  1. Nagata, D. K., Tsuru, G.K. (2007). Psychosocial Correlates of Self-Reported Coping Among Japanese Americans Interned During World War II. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, Vol. 77 No.2, 221-230.
  2. Niiya, Brian. “Japanese Americans in military during World War II.” Densho Encyclopedia. 5 Mar 2014, 16:43 PST. 30 Jul 2017, 16:32 <http://encyclopedia.densho.org/Japanese%20Americans%20in%20military%20during%20World%20War%20II/>.
  3. Nagata, D. K., Kim, J.H.J., Nguyen, T. U. (2015). Processing Cultural Trauma: Intergenerational Effects of the Japanese American Incarceration. Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 71 No.2, 356-370.


Chris Weir is a haifu (half Japanese half white) community organizer that is part of KmB Pro-people youth (a progressive grassroots organization in Historical Filipinotown in Los Angeles) and Nikkei Progressives (a progressive organization based in Little Tokyo). Chris is an avid cyclist and his next project is organizing bike rides in Japantowns in Southern California with the hope to share local Nikkei histories, link communities together through biking, support local businesses and community programs, and share a vision for equitable and sustainable development and transportation. Professionally Chris works at APAIT (a local non-profit HIV/AIDS service organization that works to positively impact medical underserved communities through culturally competent and linguistically relevant programs) as an Outreach and Testing specialist. On his free time Chris likes to run, play with his Australian cattle dog named Kora, and try new things.

Dancing with My Roots

The music is loud, the music is good, the groove of the song is working its way to my soul, it’s only twenty minutes into this party and here I am, forcing myself to sit still and not sweat it out before the party even begins or before everyone has arrived. I can’t help it. My household growing up always had music playing, my mother encouraged my siblings and I to dance before we could even walk. Through movement and dancing, I was always comfortable. On the dance floor I felt like I could be all of me while celebrating where I inherited the gift of rhythm and using my body as an instrument to bring the music to life. Before I knew about the rich history of my family and who I descend from, before reading the mind expanding work of Frederick Douglass, James Baldwin, W.E.B DuBois, Angela Davis and others, I was learning to connect to my roots through rhythm and movement.

The earliest memories I have of engaging with the complexity of race and my identity just so happened to occur at times where people witnessed my dancing style. These early memories in dance battles, performances, and cyphers, were never void of questions and astonishment related to my racial identity. With comments like “That white boy got soul!” to “He moves like a Black man”, and to questions such as “Do you have any Black in you?”, I can count on getting such reactions and questions following each time I dance in front of a new group of people. There are times where I relish in that moment of shock on peoples faces when they see me dance. It is almost as though they cannot understand how a man like myself, with how light I am, can catch the rhythm and beat to a song so well and mold it into his very own movement. My dancing was and is a way to show who I am. Although I do not mind the questions of my racial identity from someone simply trying to understand my movements further and why I move like I do, there is a fine line I draw with how much I let people in to see my talent nowadays.

As I danced my way through life, and into my identity, I began to be known as “The Dancer” around the parts I grew up in. I would dance in any and all events that were happening around my school and around my town. For a time it felt good to be recognized for the passion I had for dancing, but as I grew into my twenties I started to feel a sense of unease. I felt uncomfortable with groups of people telling me to dance for them. Uncomfortable being the only one dancing at a party, while others look to me to entertain them as they are plastered against a wall. When I’m called to dance in a party-particularly parties that resemble the racial makeup of Trump supporters- I start to feel like the dancing monkey. The feeling hits too close to what my ancestors went through when they were forced to be the entertainment for a slave masters party. I am not here to accuse Caucasian individuals for being racist for enjoying my dancing ability, but I am here to explain that the act of forcibly asking me to dance at your party for a group of white faces does not sit well with me and who I am, racially. Just as it’s not socially acceptable to walk up to someone and expect them to share their deepest passions and beliefs upon first meeting them, asking me to get up and dance for your enjoyment and curiosity is every bit as unacceptable. When and where I choose to share my art should solely be up to me. The way I dance, is the way I let people know who I am and where my family comes from, and that’s sacred. It is the connection I form with my ancestors and how I choose to celebrate the linage of my family. As Martha Graham once said, “Nothing is more revealing than movement.”


Kenneth Miks was born in Tracy, California, a small town right outside of the Bay Area. He is in his final year of his undergraduate studies at the University of California Los Angeles. Kenneth will be graduating with a major in sociology paired with a minor in African-American studies and will be continuing his intellectual journey into graduate school, with a focus on the social and cultural impact of the African diaspora that is felt globally.

Mouthing Along to the Words

…He turns the pages like this on purpose and it sounds like the loud screech of a crow’s claws sliding down a wall of freshly rained-on metal—that kind of sound that makes you want to cover your ears and slap someone all at the same time. He sits there reading “All the Light We Cannot See” while mouthing along to the words. His upper lip moving much slower than the bottom, he smiles at certain parts, clears his throat at others. Occasionally, he will stop to bite a piece of hanging skin by his nail, say “hmmm” then glance out the window and take a monstrous sip out of his giant mug of over-creamed coffee. He returns to his book, furrows his brows as if he doesn’t know what the words on the page are trying to tell him, but really, he’s probably just trying to look intense. Or maybe, it’s just a really good book. But what can be said about reading a book? There’s so much more to be seen that no one notices, but I notice. I notice the steady but slow rocking back and forth and the way he holds the spine of the book in his hands like one would cradle the neck of a new born baby and I wonder just then, what he’s thinking. I realize how beautiful he is and how the whiteness of his skin looks so soft from here and how I wish I was the spine of that book, that holds together all the pages that make him mouth along to the words.

The above is something I wrote while staring at my boyfriend while he read his book in bed with a morning coffee. I sat across this room from him, on the floor on a Saturday morning and simply watched him turn the pages. A simple act. A blink of the eye type moment. Something that would normally go unnoticed to most.

I have always struggled in relationships. There was always a fear planted, watered, and wedged deep in the back of my mind. This fear was like a hand-written sign, painted in blood-red ink that said: You’ll never be good enough, you’ll never fit the mold, you’ll never be what they’re looking for. Now whether or not race places a role here, I do not know for sure. What caused me to label myself as “not good enough”? Did this have anything to do with the confusion I felt growing up mixed-race? Again, I do not know for sure, but I did this in every relationship I have been in because I was never allowed to be myself… until now.

Something is different this time around. The things that I cannot answer, are wrapped in the comfort of my own understanding that for the very first time I am not worried about mixed-race relationships, or being in one because no matter who I decide to be with, it will always be a mixed-race relationship. I am not worried about how people see me, or what they may say about me, or us because something feels like it goes a bit deeper. For me to sit and write a description like the one above, to free myself from the clutter and blur, and see the details, from just glancing across the room, must mean something has changed in my life. Something must have clicked, or fell quietly in to place like a lost puzzle piece that was hidden under the bed for the longest time leaving that 10,000-piece puzzle incomplete for years. I feel like I found that piece, without ever realizing it was missing, or that I was looking for it.

Even though that description was written about him, I was only able to write it because I am seeing myself for the very first time, in all my entirety. I have all the pieces and I know exactly where they go.

I’ve judged myself and allowed others to judge me based purely on my exterior appearance for so long, that I began to paint—and even write—a distorted image of what I see every time I look in the mirror. I realize that what I see will always be different from what he sees, and different from what everyone sees, but he has helped me to de-blur and to look deeper. He has helped me to hug the details, cradle the spine, and shown me that I can turn the pages as loudly as I want and mouth along to the words—just as long as they are my words.


continuing studies shots of chelylene for brochure

Chelene Knight lives in Vancouver, BC and is a graduate of The Writer’s Studio 2013 in the poetry cohort. Chelene is a Library Assistant at the Vancouver Public Library, and Managing Editor at Room. Previously, she worked as a Manuscript Consultant through SFU, and as a proofreader at Montecristo magazine along with other editor gigs with a poetry focus. She has been published in Amazing Canadian Fashion MagazineSassafras Literary MagazineemergeThe Raven Chronicles Literary Magazine, and in Room 37.4. She just finished her second manuscript, Dear Current Occupant, a collection of sonnets, prose poems, and letters which is forthcoming with BookThug in 2018. Chelene is now dabbling in short short SHORT fiction. Her first book, Braided Skin, was published by Mother Tongue Publishing in Spring 2015. Find out more about Chelene at cheleneknight.com and @poetchelene.

I Wanted to Tell Him

Never sure how the word “dad” would sound coming out of my mouth or even the way it might feel as it slides off my tongue. What would it feel like for him to place a triple-scoop vanilla ice cream cone in my tiny five-year-old hand, and wipe the drips off my chin with a crumpled up napkin from his pocket, while we hear the people passing by whisper,


she looks just like him.


I wanted to tell him that when I think about how I grew up “mixed” the only word I taste is confusion and how it seemed to tower over my teenage mind like a translucent fog full of “what ifs” “how-comes” and “are you sure’s”. My Black mother raised me the best she could by herself, but I was angry, I’m still angry. My East Indian-Ugandan father, not visible, never visible, I can’t hug him like I want to. I can’t hear his voice like I want to … even when nothing else is audible.


I wanted to tell him that whatever memories I have of him always show up blurry and unrecognizable, fragmented and sparse except for the fact that we both like massive amounts of black pepper on our over-easy eggs (I learned this when I visited him at eleven years old and we both covered our eggs in the black sprinklings)—the very first similarity.


I wanted to tell him that it’s ok to call me his daughter, but whether or not he sees me as such I do not know.


I don’t want to know.


I wanted to tell him that I do not look like anyone else in my family. Some of the younger cousins are mixed in some way—but not my way. I don’t possess the soft beauty of my half Black, half White cousins. I do not possess the deep dark beauty of my mother and aunts because they hold the very things I always wished I had—there’s a beauty in knowing who you are.


I wanted to hide so that I wouldn’t have to answer questions about my father:


Is she Black? What is she? I think she’s East Indian. No, look at her hair, she’s definitely not Black. Where’s she from?


I wanted to tell him that when people ask who my father is I tell them about the eggs.


I wanted to tell him that I live in a city where everywhere you go, there’s mixed people. People dipped in all 364 shades of brown. People in coffee shops, bank lines, grocery stores, hair salons, libraries, crowded buses and over-booked restaurants. And when I walk down the street with my mother, my daughter, or my cousin, I don’t want to have to prove we are related by answering a series of questions, followed by a series of follow up questions, and then long stares, and “are you sure’s?” ending with my own deep sighs.


I wanted to tell him—to confess—that I wasn’t sure who I was back then or now, and that I told terrible lies to avoid the questions that always came:


You’ve got good hair. Why do your hair up. Let your hair down. Look how long your hair is when you straighten it. Smile, your hair is beautiful. Your hair looks good against your light skin, don’t you think?


I tell terrible lies.


I wanted to tell him that my then eight-year-old tri-racial daughter who’s now fourteen, used to ask me why she doesn’t have a grandpa, and that I had no answer for her because no one had an answer for me.


I wanted to tell him that when I look into the mirror now as a thirty-five-year-old mixed-race woman I still have no idea what I am supposed to see, and that I still wonder if living in between is ever a safe place to reside.


I wanted to tell him that when people tell me I’m beautiful it hurts for days and days.


When my daughter says she does not want to go to her dad’s for the weekend I tell her to hug her dad while she can. When she says her dad doesn’t understand, I tell her to explain things to her dad while she can. When I sort through old photos of my baby daughter smiling and posing with her dad, I say to myself, she will need these someday.


I tell her to write down all the things she wanted to tell him.


Then tell him.


continuing studies shots of chelylene for brochureChelene Knight lives in Vancouver, BC and is a graduate of The Writer’s Studio 2013 in the poetry cohort. Chelene is a Library Assistant at the Vancouver Public Library, and Managing Editor at Room. Previously, she worked as a Manuscript Consultant through SFU, and as a proofreader at Montecristo magazine along with other editor gigs with a poetry focus. She has been published in Amazing Canadian Fashion MagazineSassafras Literary MagazineemergeThe Raven Chronicles Literary Magazine, and in Room 37.4. She just finished her second manuscript, Dear Current Occupant, a collection of sonnets, prose poems, and letters which is forthcoming with BookThug in 2018. Chelene is now dabbling in short short SHORT fiction. Her first book, Braided Skin, was published by Mother Tongue Publishing in Spring 2015. Find out more about Chelene at cheleneknight.com and @poetchelene.


Are We Black Enough Yet?: A Look at the Mixed Person’s Role in the Black Lives Matter Movement

I’m mixed – African American and Irish. My mother is Black – I was raised solidly within the African American culture alongside a firm understanding and embracement of my Irish roots. Both sides of my heritage are steeped in oppression and slavery – histories that people want to forget and ignore. I have been told by my Black friends I have “that good mixed hair,” “that good light skin,” and “dem good pretty eyes.” I know I’m different – I’ve been told that my entire life from family, friends, and teachers – sometimes even strangers when they do the inevitable “guess Deanna’s race game” without my permission. People pass by me on the street or in the mall and they see one of two things: I’m Black with something or I’m Dominican with something; it’s never that I’m White and something.

With the entire world knocking at my door with my “otherness,” feeling the necessity to exclaim that I am not White alone, why do I feel unwelcomed in the conversation surrounding #BlackLivesMatter? Why have I gotten into multiple arguments with – mostly – Black women on Facebook telling me I’m not allowed to be a part of the movement because of my light skin and nice hair? Because of an assumed privilege both of those phenotypic qualities, among others, may or may not have given me in life? Because they assume my mother is White and did not raise me within the lens of a Black person in the United States (not that I’m saying whatsoever that mixed race peoples with White mothers deserve less access to this movement – this is just an argument I’ve gotten into with another Black woman)? Why am I devalued in the eyes of African Americans (most of whom, sorry to say, have White in them thanks to the prevalence of rape during slavery) when I have just as much soul, anger, and desire for equality as they do?

An article written by Shannon Luder-Manuel, a mixed race writer in Los Angeles, really hit me hard with her opening line: “When I talk about my family culture, I’m mixed. When I talk about racism, I’m black”.[1] Praise God, Hallelujah, Shannon you just said what we’re all thinking – we as mixed raced individuals live on this tight rope where if we lean to one side we identify ourselves mixed and embrace both sides of our heritage, but on the other side we have the option to choose which portion of our heritage we want to fall upon. When Trayvon Martin was murdered back in 2012, I was in my first year of undergrad. I cried for days. I saw in him my cousins – Black men I had been raised with and loved by and guided by my entire life. I saw in him my future children – kids who, regardless of the race I marry, will be “others” just like me, just like Trayvon. When Sandra Bland was murdered for a failure to signal, I saw myself – a woman of color who forgets to do the boring tasks while driving. I have never been pulled over (knock on wood) but I have never been as terrified or aware as I am today.

I’m not trying to say that my ambiguous looks do not give me some headway in regards to potentially being harmed by police brutality – I know I confuse people and that’s in my best interests. I know that because White people can’t pinpoint my exact ancestral heritage (I’ve gotten as far out as Indian mixed with Dominican), I have a better chance at not being targeted for the historical no-nos for Blacks, such as DWB (Driving While Black). I know my designer clothes (because my mother buys them for me, I’m poor guys) and my fancy car aid in my assimilation into the “White” culture. I know that the preference for my lighter skin and fluffy curls, both within and without the Black community, puts me at the head of most ethnic status quos. However, even with these “privileges” (I don’t necessarily see them as such because the fou
ndation for my body is still “other” and I will never, ever be able to fully be accepted by the White community) I am still at risk, my family is still at risk, my future family will still be at risk – as long as my body and the bodies directly connected to me, now and in the future, are deemed as “not White,” I will forever fight for the Black Lives Matter Movement.

When the whole of the Black community accepts me – and others with the same intentions and racial ambiguity as myself – the Black Lives Matter Movement will only grow stronger – it will prove to White people that nothing, not even the fact that someone has White directly in their ancestry, will break us. We will always stand together and we will fight until our bodies and the bodies of our loved ones are protected against outside harms. Are we Black enough ye

[1] See: Luders-Manuel, Shannon. (2015). “What it Means to be Mixed Race during the Fight for Black Lives.” For Harriet. Accessed August 9, 2016: http://www.forharriet.com/2015/08/what-it-means-to-be-mixed-race-during.html#axzz4Gt2dOOi3.


DeannGraduation1a Keenan lives in Upstate New York and recently graduated from Binghamton University with B.A.s in Psychology and Africana Studies, with honor’s in Africana Studies. She is currently a Copy Editor for Africa Knowledge Project – a publishing house that has a wide range of journals that discuss various aspects of the African Diaspora. She is also currently the Guest Blog Coordinator for Mixed Roots Stories. She also holds a position as an Adjunct Lecturer at Binghamton University for the 2016-2017 school year, teaching Africana Studies 101. She has been published in the journal ProudFlesh twice, with two pieces in production, and has presented at the American Public Health Association (November 2015). She hopes to continue her education in Developmental Psychology, researching Mixed Race identity formation, among other topics regarding the population.

Pocho–Going Rogue

For as long as I can remember, identity by choice or force has wrought conflict and contradictions. Who am I? What am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going?

My surname implies I’m white, but my brown skin begs to differ. Am I Mexican? My Mother’s family tree most certainly is, but my Father’s Celtic, Euro-Iberian branch bears my Anglo surname.

Am I more culturally European than ethnically Latino? Am I a Native American, rooted to my beloved Yaqui Abuela? To which tribe do I belong? The truth of the matter is that I’ve teetered on the edge of dueling race and ethnicities all of my life. My admission accepted or denied for equally irrational cultural and color coded reasons. My detractors accused me of acting too white; being too dark-skinned; not being Yaqui enough. They ridiculed me for, not speaking Spanish fluently; for, not being from the “barrio”; for speaking “fancy” like a gabacho.

By many, I’m considered a “Pocho” – a half-breed; an Americanized Mexican, who has “lost” his culture. I’m an exile in the land of my birth.

So after a period of dealing with these socially engineered absurdities I decided to go rogue. My previous applications for club admission were less about acceptance than it was about attaining membership.

Membership, after all, has its privileges. Just ask any country club crony, politician, and corporate executive – any member of any union or fraternal organization, or a religious shill.

Race, religion, and ethnicity are no different. Why not join the club and reap the rewards? Ironically, rejection by each group did me a huge favor. Being summarily rebuffed inspired me to find out who I was at my core.

Although I primarily identify myself as Latino, I discovered I wasn’t solely Mexican-American, ‘White,’ or Native-American or any other “pure” or artificially coalesced American classification. To support what I “felt” instinctively, I sought “scientific” corroboration through racial and genealogical DNA testing. My DNA results revealed a wealth of ethnic diversity. I am:

41% Native American;

40% White European;

7% Middle Eastern;

4% African;

4% Caucasus &

4% East, Central, South Asian.

I discovered that the whole of me was greater than the sum of my parts.

I’m an everyman. I’m good with that. I like being whole.

I embrace my ethnicities entirely, not as separate distinctions capable of wielding favor or force. Mine is an inclusive, universal existence rooted in the interconnected conservation and fate of mankind and the planet.

An early proponent of this perspective was Alexander von Humboldt, the preeminent 19th-century Prussian naturalist and explorer of Latin and South America. When asked about the connection between places, people, and culture, he opined:

“The only way to understand the world is to look at it as a whole instead of breaking everything down into isolated parts. The most dangerous worldview is the worldview of those who have not viewed the world.”

Amen, brother. Expand your horizon. All human beings, regardless of race, place, and society are interrelated.

Yes, of course, I realize that racial and ethnic lines deeply divide this country. And no, I don’t believe in the cockeyed notion and optimism that we live in a post-racial America and that we’re all simply Americans, kumbaya. Government doctrine clearly lays out what American distinction is: we’re either “white,” Americans by amalgamation or nonsensically, all “others.” All, I am saying, is that I chose not to be racially or ethnically manipulated by anybody or anything.

Identifying me by color or socially engineered dissimilarities is to marginalize my consciousness, humanity, self-worth, and empowerment. Artificial classifications have expiration dates, and I’ve reached mine, thank you very much.

I understand I can’t change how the world defines me, but I can change how I view my world.

To me, self-awareness began with the past. I believe in the adage that, “To know where you’re going, you must first know where you’ve been.” I accept as true that the discovery of our origins and our impetus for ancestral emigration links history with today and today with the future.

It’s the conduit from which independent cultural identity and sensibilities are born, cradled, nurtured and grown.

When it’s all said and done, my life is a multicolored collage of imperfection, as it should be. It’s not a work of art; it’s more a work in progress. Even so, it’s mine to paint. To quote Jackson Pollock, the influential American drip painter and a major figure in the abstract expressionist movement:

“My painting does not come from the easel. I prefer to tack the outstretched canvas to the hard wall or the floor. I need the resistance of a hard surface. On the floor, I am more at ease. I feel nearer, more part of the painting, since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting.”

In my “Pocho” eyes, the human race is a kaleidoscope of colors cascading down on the canvas we call a planet. That’s a painting, worldview, identity and life worth exploring, and where it takes me is entirely up to me.


Frederico WilsonFrederico Wilson is currently the owner and President of an International Fluid Power Procurement and Sourcing Company; founder of a non-profit organization (under development); blogger at mestizoblog.com, focusing on multicultural perspectives and issues. He is a USAF veteran (environmental/missile inspection specialist); and former domestic and international professional in the Airline, Telecommunications, Sales, and Financial Securities industries. Originally from Arizona, he is a lifetime student of cultural anthropology and applied behavioral science. He attended Arizona Western and the University of Arizona and holds numerous military technical, and corporate management certifications and licenses.

He is of mixed Mexican, Indian (Yaqui Tribe), Euro-Iberian, and Cornish Celtic ancestry. He lives, works, and writes in metropolitan Seattle, Washington.

He is best described by a quote attributed to Anthony Bourdain when recounting the preparation of a Burgundy wine-base rooster entrée.

“So, they take this big, tough, nasty-ass rooster, too old to grill, too tough to roast. Marinate and simmer the shit out of it, before it’s tasty.”

Frederico is the author of a new book, Escaping Culture: Finding your place in the world. Find out more on his website: mestizoblog.com