Monday, March 16, 2009

A Song for Ourselves

Sing a song for ourselves what have we got to lose?

Chris Iijima asked the question way before people started questioning society. With people, I meant Asian Americans. Chirs was a pioneer in ways of thinking and our hero for the community. The life and work by Chris Iijima was beautifully put in a documentary by Tadashi Nakamura in "A Song for Oursevles."

I first came across Chris Iijima this past Fall semester when I was doing my final paper for my Music as Popular Media Form class. The topic of the paper was on Asian American music. As you can guess, music is go hand in hand with stories of life and society. I see music as history documented with music notes and words rather than long winded paragraphs. There are definition of Black and White music even Latino music but there are no clear definition of Asian music here in America. Something to ponder about, like why Asians are always left out in conversations with politicans. "Black, White, Whatever" reference to poet Kelly Tsai. As I was doing my research, I stumble across something called "A Grain of Sand" by Chris Iijima, Nobu Miyamoto, and Charlie Chin.

I did not find any music on their work but their lyrics
"We are the children of the migrant workers We are the offspring of the concentration camps. Sons and daughters of the railroad builders, who leave their stamp on Amerika. We are the sons and daughters of the Chinese waiter, born and raised in the laundry room. We are the offspring of the Japanese gardener who leave their stamp on Amerika"

really struck me at the core. Similar to any other college student, I put this on my Facebook favorite quote section because I really liked the quote. Anyhow, this was said in the late 1960's way before Vincent Chin and during the back end of the Civil Rights Movement.

When I first saw the trailer of "A Song for Ourselves" about the life of Chris Iijima with clips of the Geologic, Kiwi and Bambu really had me going and excited to watch this documentary.
I really thought about going to Los Angeles to watch the premiere for it. After a talk by Delia (Director of the Asian American Center) someone who is a little more reasonable than me and she promised me that she would buy the DVD, and she kept her promised.

As I was watching the documentary, the only word that I can describe my feelings was insipration. Chris Iijima was the father of Asian America. He saw Asians in America as one, not Japanese, Chinese, Flipino, Indians, Vietnamese but rather as just one. That alone was pioneering at that era. Chris mentioned in the documentary that being Asian American does not mean being proud of being Japanese or Chinese food. We don't have to prove that we are proud of our heritage. This is still a problem to this day because of racism and it also shows in us Asian Americans discriminating one another whether we are "Asian" enough. Chris had it right then, he had it right when he passed, he still has it right now that he's gone...Asian Americans need a voice and it doesn't matter what car we drove to show how "Asian" we are or can be or what do we need to speak or to cook but we needed that one voice because of the situations we are put in.

His music was revolutionary due to the fact that he was one of the first Asian Americans to be polticial in his music. What stood out to me about Chris was that he was humble. He never claimed the limelight, when he had the chance to sign with a record company he refused because he would not allow himself to compromise his music, his beliefs with business. Chris "rather taught in schools" which he did. And when he felt like he was not reaching to the elderly or enough people, he got his law degree and helped others out as well. He was one of the quiet heros, Chris did not want to be a leader but he saw something wrong in the world and all he wanted to do was to correct it. That is the true defintion of a leader in my book, he never bloated about his achievements. He spoke up because it has to, he started our revolution. A revolution in which Geologic, Kiwi, Bambu, BPAC, and others Brothers and Sisters around the country are still trying to fight.

Chris brought up a good point in his interivew which I completely agree. He questioned the current state of Asian America. It is not about getting Asians in politics or media, and its just not about numbers but rather keep the progressive mind set, he wanted all of it be completely re-examined. Recently I had these questions in mind in school, beginning thinking what our values are here for our organizations. Chris said "it's not all about being groovy and I'm Asian." I feel my community here at school is missing a lot of substance, and we are not a progressive school. At times, I feel our community prevents us from being progressive, because Northeastern has numbers, we have the potential to be a great voice in the community yet we have not done so and I begin to think about Chris' philosophy about young Asian American involvement in the community here at Northeastern. I don't want to be a sour apple but why do we have all these events involving culture culture culture. Don't get me wrong, but I feel it is a way to isolate ourselves because we are still separate. We should be ONE in this country because thats the nature of the beast. Like Chris thought that we should be one in a voice, in this country. All the dancing and food are great but just that we are not seen as ONE in this country should be something that we take notice of, and something that I am weary of.

The fact that we don't know who he is should be a warning sign. Here at Northeastern, we don't know our heros and I believe that should be our calling not dancing and food. We need to implement an Asian American studies so we know our heros. Chris was the defintion of a warrior. A warrior of love, his people, and his family. He is someone who I will forever model my life after.

To a great man, warrior, activist, musician, teacher and father..Thank you.

Rest in Power.


Golden Nigz Rong said...

man i didn't know much about the great man, but thank you for enlightening me. I really want to see this documentary now!

Alli said...

^ ditto to comment above.