Playwright Velina Hasu Houston with her mother, Setsuko Perry.
The Shinso Ito Center for Japanese Religions and Culture at USC presents “Rising Sun, Rising Soul: Mixed-Race Japanese of African Descent” on Friday, Feb. 26, from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Montgomery Ross Fisher Auditorium on the University Park Campus.
The documentary “Rising Sun, Rising Soul” explores the question, “What is the impact of Afro-Japanese offspring and their origins as children of Japanese war brides?” A panel will feature “Rising Soul” producer Monique Yamaguchi, screenwriter Velina Hasu Houston, and subjects from the film, including Linda Gant, Sumire Gant, Kiyoshi Houston, Curtiss Takada Rooks, and Rika Houston. Excerpts from the film will be screened.
At the end of World War II, many Japanese women married American men of African descent and immigrated to the United States. While several stories examine the lives of Japanese war brides who married white Americans, none delve deeply into the history of Japanese war brides who married African Americans, and the journeys of their mixed-race children.
“Rising Soul” explores the transnational juncture of Japanese and African American cultures embodied in the African-descent offspring of Japanese war brides, women that not only faced the challenges of life in the U.S., but who also confronted the adversities of interracial marriages to African Americans – hardships that emanated not only from white society, but also from Japanese, including other Japanese war brides married to whites, from African Americans, and from Asian Americans.
The documentary seeks to demystify Asian and black identity from a perspective that does not see it as an anomaly or a subset of Hapa or Haafu identity but as something very real, primary, and organic to mixed race. Through interviews, glimpses into cultural phenomena, and historical artifacts, the film illuminates the complexity of that identity, and the betwixt and between and fusion that multiple heritages of color can foster.