‘One Hapa Life’ by William Bradford (Uyede) Akeroyd

1 May, 2016 0 comment

DSC_0687We are pleased to begin Asian Heritage Month with a poem inspired by the Indigenous writer Richard Wagamese by W.B. Akeroyd, which details his musings on his background as a Hapa man growing up in British Columbia. 

My mother’s people arrived on these shores around 1900

Leaving their lives in Hiroshima, Land of the Rising Sun

for the communities of Strathcona and Steveston, across the Big Water

My father escaped the little town of Mirfield, a Yorkshireman was He

From the Empire on which it was said The Sun Never Set (It did)

by way of South Africa and Rhodesia, courtesy of the British Army

to God’s Country as he used to call Canada, a poor man’s paradise

 *

 And then there’s me, and my brother, and all my cousins and kin

 A regular Hapa nation, a result of 90 percent intermarriage among the Nisei

 whose own families, blown like so many seeds by the winds of racism

 rooted themselves in towns and cities and far off places, across this land

 And me/we grew up not really knowing who the person was that stared

 back at us when we looked in the mirror, a CaucAsian is what we saw

 And I loved hockey, I played ball, I was a Boy Scout, I loved my country, too

 But, we were different, and people weren’t afraid to tell us so

*

As the title of an animated short by Jeff Chiba Stearns documents so well

The question was always: What are You, Anyways?  So often asked

that I had a ready story at hand that went like this: Well, my mother is….

And all my life until I turned fifty or so, who I was I didn’t really know

I remember when I first realized I didn’t know much about my past

In a history class, when the question was asked: Should the Canadians

of Japanese descent be compensated for their imprisonment and loss of

liberty and land, and exiled from the Coast? What? I didn’t really know

*

And so I read and pondered and questioned who and what I was

and what I did discover was that I was, in fact, like all of Us

When I was among my First Nation, East Indian, Italian, or New Canadian

friends or teammates or coworkers, I was just a guy, like a relation

But among strangers, in certain places and situations

I was brown, someone to be feared, until I proved myself

to be acceptable, presentable, relatable, just like one of Them

Insider, Outsider, and Freedom Writer, all of those are Me

*

And what was so long a heavy weight, a puzzle with pieces missing

Slowly, inexorably, came together to form what I have come to be

Gifted with a unique voice, my own, to share the tales of We

From the time I didn’t think I had a choice of what Others thought of me

To now a proud Hapa, a shapeshifter, a cultural communicator

a bridge across the waters of misperception, disconnection, that

often characterizes relations in Canada, our home on Native Land

Mine is not to create dissent, foster discontent, for that there is enough

 *

Mine is a voice to re-evaluate and reveal our not-so-distant past

To retell the stories of all of Us I’ve learned, not just the famous and

infamous for We have heard and learned about those that mask

the facts behind the myth of the National Dream, told to one and all

That here was a vast country, empty, waiting to be filled with farmers

and factories, leaving behind fur traders and fishers who came and went

Inhabited only by Indians, uncivilized, and wasting Mother Nature’s gifts

When, in fact, as time has told, that story was far from the truth

 *

So, this is the beginning of my Freedom now at fifty-five

A little wiser, ready to share what has been shared with me

through books I’ve read, programs of study I have been fortunate

to attend, teachers of all manner to whom I’ve been exposed

From these and the people I’ve met, places I’ve lived, and trips I’ve taken

abroad and across this land, and the stories gathered along the way

I have been given the most precious gift: Understanding

And in the words and reflections that follow, I hope to share them all

All My Relations,

Bradford (Uyede) Akeroyd

William Bradford (Uyede) Akeroyd in his own words: I am a fourth generation descendant of my Japanese great-grandparents, who immigrated to Canada from Hiroshima, Japan, around 1900, and my British father, who immigrated from a small town called Mirfield, near the city of York, in England, in the 1950s. I grew up in what used to be the small municipality of Surrey. After attending Douglas and Langara College, I completed a General Studies degree at S.F.U., before becoming a certified teacher. I have been teaching adults and youth for the past twenty years. My writing inspiration comes from both my life experiences as a teacher, but also from being a student of life. Living as a Hapa man has been a struggle at times, but it has also connected me to communities and worldviews that has enriched and enlightened me. I share my writing in hopes that the blessing I have received will be passed onto others.


Photograph by William Tham

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