2.25.2014

Crossing Blasian Bridges

"Preservation of one's own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures."
~Cesar Chavez



A wonderful event took plan on February 22, 2014. Korea had a first. Its first Black History Month Festival. It was held in downtown Daegu, where I live. POC came from all over Korea to witness and be part of the festival. To be honest, I did not even know that that many black people lived in Daegu. We came out in droves. The event was sponsored by the US Embassy and the city of Daegu.
The interesting thing is how many Korean people took part in the festival as performers, demonstrating the black influence of their current music and dance culture. There was African drumming, HipHop, Krumping, B-boying, Locking, Gospel singing, Praise Dancing, Cuban Salsa, Stepping, R&B, Rapping, Spoken Word. And at the end, someone decided to play The Wobble and everyone got on stage -  Black, White, Indian, Korean - and started getting down. I joined in too. 

What really moved me to tears was the amount of older Korean people, some who did not sit down for the entire two hours and just watched, clapped, and moved their heads to the performances. Someone decided to post on the Facebook page for the event asking why Korea needed this festival and that it was weird. There were many posts that criticized the organizers and were just plain mean. Below is the response to that ignorant person. It came with the picture. 
"This will be my last update about the Black History Month Festival we hosted in Daegu! While promoting the event on Facebook, a guy commented “Why are they celebrating Black history in Korea...thats weird.” Well this is why: From start to finish, this elderly man (who had no seat and the worst view from the back of the stage) watched the whole 2 and a half hour concert. He clapped and cheered to every song and dance, never turning his eyes away. After it was over, he approached one of the hosts and said that the dancers reminded him of his days as a dancer when he was young. He said he was so happy Korea was embracing and celebrating cultures beyond their borders and that if he is alive next year, he would love to perform somehow. So to the hater who left that comment, that's why we celebrate black history in Korea." 
Koreans dedicate themselves to preserving Korean culture. This has a lot to do with the Japanese occupation, in which they could not use Korean names, etc.  A lot of the times, preserving Korean culture has meant consciously or subconsciously excluding others, which is ignorant. Although, many POC feel slighted or discriminated against because of the color of their skin here in Korea, there are moments when you must admit that "it has to be ignorance and not just pure hate". There was a realization, at least for me, that building Blasian Bridges are easy; we can draw parallels between each other's music, dark pasts, etc. The difficult part is crossing that bridge. Admitting to yourself that you can learn a thing or two from someone completely different from you; that your love for something whether it be God, spicy food, dance, or music can be shared by people that you thought you'd never interact with is hard. I am not naive enough to think that all is well in Korea now between Blacks and Koreans or that Koreans are now all embracing of us, but in Daegu last Saturday many took the first steps across the bridge and it was a beautiful thing. 

These hoodies were worn by the organizers and MCs of the event.
Until Next Time Good People. 



19 comments:

  1. Well isn't that nice?

    I admit, I had the same question as the man did about celebrating Black History Month in Korea but I'm not against it.As a matter of fact, I'm encouraged by the gesture. Even more so,they took it a step further by celebrating ALL aspects of Black culture. I thought that it was a good idea.. to celebrate all Black cultures because we are a diversified race of people but offer the world a lot of understanding.

    The move may be an odd one but also a great one. Hopefully, step by step, the natives will learn more about Black people from all around the world and get to know them instead of seeing us as the boogeymen and women that some of them may see us as.

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  2. Now this...this right here? This is what I'm talking about.

    and that if he is alive next year

    Bless that old man's heart. May he remain alive for many years to come.

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  3. A wise elder, with a good heart ! I to hope he live a long, long life..... From what I read and could see, this was a wonderful event, and I hope it continue for years to come........... V

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  4. I was intending to mention the old Korean man on my previous post but god bless him. I,too,hope that Daegu not only celebrate BHM on that day but every year and I hope that he'all be around to celebrate this wonderful historic occasion. I wish that I could have been there to see it all.

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  5. Before the event, I and others I know here would get a bit upset when old Korean people would stare us down on the bus or the subway. We still get a bit annoyed. But its curiosity! They are genuinely curious. And many of them have traveled and want to reminisce about their travels. They say we remind them of friends they met abroad...interesting learning experience on both ends.

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    1. @Silver Tiger-I think a lot of people natural assume the worst if they are being stared at. I know I do even if its someone who is the same race as me! A lot of times its just curiosity as you said nothing more. Or its because you forgot to take out a roller in a rush to get out of the house. (Me two days ago) and they wonder what the heck is wrong with you! People get bent out of shape when its all innocent.

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    2. @Lor Haha lol at the roller. Teehee

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  6. Wow, I think this wonderful. I will admit if I did not read the post or see the pics, I would have been side-eyeing Korea expecting stereotypes. However, I am glad I read this and I am so glad at the vast performances of Black History Month. Glad you went and hats off the poster that responded to the ones ready to pour negativity over this event.

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  7. This is so great to see how Korean enjoying the event, and to the older Man really clapping as if He wanted to be included. Kudos to the writer, very informative!!

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  8. I love this!!!,for real...It seems to me like a dream,but no,it happened,Wow...A big applause to the people that organized this event,Im truly proud of all of 'em...

    *excuse my english

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  9. Wow, I really want a video of the people doing the Wobble! This makes me even more motivated to go to South Korea! :D

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  10. Just now getting around to commenting on this. I think this is wonderful! I don't believe the question of whether this has anything to do with Korea is even valid. In many Asian countries with a noticible number of expats, there are events held that have "nothing to do" with the country (Oktoberfest, Thanksgiving, etc). So, why not Black History Month? Plus, I think it's a great forum to open up a dialogue. Maybe there are some people in Korea that are really interested in black culture but don't have a place to express that interest, would be the perfect place too. And the elderly man...what's there not to love about that?

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  11. Would POC be the appropriate word to use here? Wouldn't Korean people count as POC too? Or maybe I'm wrong lol. It's funny that someone would ask why there was a Black History Month celebration...like, why do we even celebrate St. Patrick's day in the US when most people don't even know what it's about? And that old man, if I could I would post that infamous gif of that black girl crying and raising her fist lol.

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    1. Would POC be the appropriate word to use here? Wouldn't Korean people count as POC too?

      Yes, and I wonder why some folks keep forgetting that.

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    2. It's funny because a bit after I posted that comment I saw a post on tumblr that basically said "Don't use the term POC when you mean black people." lol

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    3. I'll let you tell a Korean person in Korea that they are a person of color, lol. WE know they are because in the states, non-white is POC...but here, they are not and shall never be. The darker skinned people are POC in Korea. That's why being politically correct confuses things, lol.

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    4. I think it would be fair to say that POC is an american politcal term/context to explain non whites situation under american white supremacy. So I see how POC would not really work in other countries largely non white ones, who don't suffer the same type of situation that we suffer here. As far at that tumblr post, I think they were saying that if you are specifically talking about black issues, then it would be appropriate to say black instead of poc because there are things that not all POC go through together.
      AC

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    5. if you are specifically talking about black issues, then it would be appropriate to say black instead of poc because there are things that not all POC go through together.

      This too.

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