These were the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his famous speech in August of 1963 from the steps of the Lincoln memorial during the Civil Rights March on Washington D.C. They resonate, and have guided my thoughts, and motivated my actions since the time I heard them as a young child, watching him on television that day.
Growing up as a mixed race person, those early years of my life were marked with my own personal civil rights movement, in which all the races divided inside me, wanted to be unified and at peace, after all I am Japanese and American, and born out of my parents crossing a taboo racial line!
My parents met in Japan during the Korean War. My father was determined to marry my mother, even though there were deliberate attempts from his higher-ups in the military to keep them apart.
Japan was still under American occupation and there was a lot of resistance in my mother’s family to this marriage taking place. The fact that they would be married in a Catholic Church in Kobe with a western-style wedding did not help.
Recently there has been increased awareness of an ever-growing multiracial population. The New York Times recently published a series of nine articles about the ‘Multiracial boom and the impacts it is having globally.’
Now that there is a more ‘visible’ population of multiracial folks, I feel called to be more at home in my own multiracial skin, and lead others to do the same.
Recently I have lead several workshops for people of mixed race and identity. My intention was to begin a process of healing and transformation, but in the spirit of celebration and inspiration.
The workshops were so moving and empowering that I felt moved to write something here. They are the expression a a life-long dream, and from them I can now embody a clear sense, more than ever before, that now:
I am not just the sum of the parts of a mixture of races divided inside me,
I am not without a homeland , because I claim a deeper residency, as a citizen of many places
I am the wholeness of my self-acclaimed integration, in an expression of life that celebrates diversity as part of its core essence .. and my home is planet earth.
However, this was not always so.. I was born into and inherited a pseudo revolution. If you are a person of mixed-race your parents, or parents before them, crossed a clearly defined, or implied, racial line. This quiet revolution plays out throughout your family life, and is mirrored by the outside world in ways that may have confused, frustrated, enraged, perhaps revolutionized you, or perhaps sent you into a turmoil of denial and negation.
I became a chameleon, a shape shifter. I learned to assimilate the environment, other people’s behavior, and their communication styles, as a way to survive, as a way to fit in.
Then I began to identify myself as exotic, special, the odd one out; but never knowing where or how to I fit in. At school I was sometimes adored, sometimes hated, or sometimes just plain invisible. Sometimes I was forced to choose loyalties or be disowned by all. Many of my personal dreams were lost or forgotten in this maze of complexity, this dizzying dance on the hot coals of identity-politics.
The good thing about this journey is that I became resilient, sensitive in ways that many people weren’t, to what was going on. I developed a wisdom and understanding beyond my years. I learned to see complex things clearly. I was a bridge, a natural mediator. I learned to see from a multitude of perspectives and cut through polarized ways of thinking and being. I learned that there were definite advantages to having a multi-colorful heart.
Of course, the journey towards being an integrated, congruent person, is not unique to multiracial folks; there is a universal call, an ache in all of us to find our place, to be at home in our skin, to live an embodied life – full, and with purpose.
I remember a time early in my career as a spiritual teacher, both meditation and martial arts. I was invited by some of my students to a performance of a well-known spiritual-psychic dancer.
The audience was asked to put their names into a large bowl as they entered the auditorium.
The performer would pick some names from the bowl to announce the winners. She would then perform an intuitive dance-portrait of the people she picked.
The auditorium was packed with hundreds of people, and my name was the first to be drawn that evening.
What a magical moment! She began dancing. Her dance was strange, exotic. Her movements were deliberate, trance like, and mysterious. It felt like an ancient dance, a ritual from long ago..
There was also live music accompaniment which illuminated her movements. Her dance sent chills up my spine.
And then all of a sudden she stopped, abruptly. Then the music stopped, and she hid behind one of the curtains!
She then came from behind the curtain, called me out by name again, and said that the reason the dance was stopped, the reason she hid behind the curtain, was that there was something I was doing that was in discord with my soul…
Well, I wasn’t going to have it! I thought … such presumption on her part!
I stayed for the rest of her performance-portraits, feeling uneasy, feeling that she had let me down. But what was I expecting? That she would finish ‘my dance’?
That night, I decided to take things in my own hands, and finish my own dance.
We picked up some food and went to one of my students house. She had an antique sword that had been in her family for generations, with a wooden scabbard and live blade inside. It was perfect; I took the sword and I finished ‘the dance of me,’ as only I could do it!
I learned that all of our experiences and the world itself and everything in it calls us forth into action, to find our place under the sun, to be at home, to be magnificently human from our own unique perspective, and to share that with others. Why not, what else will you do with your dreams, but live them?
Why not transform your history into the fuel for your life. Why not be at home in yourself, in this world, and in your skin, and let your experiences good bad or indifferent, illuminate your path, wherever you are, and open you up to your vision, your purpose, your dreams lived.
Here are the words of Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
published by Atlantic Monthly Press © Mary Oliver
My work is helping others to live their dreams, to dream bigger ones, and to step into them.
Your own work can be of huge benefit to others when you start living into your true power, whatever it is you do. You benefit others just by being fully yourself, being integrated and congruent within, living joyfully in the world, connected, loved and loving, whole, and living on purpose, with purpose. If you are so inspired to have a conversation about this please call me.
To schedule a complimentary strategy-focus diagnosis contact Michele directly at firstname.lastname@example.org