3.11.2015

Lost in Translation?

On Saturday February 28th Daegu hosted a Black History Festival for the second time. This year Sam Okyere was the special guest host. Sam is very famous and appears in commercials and t he very popular show  "Abnormal Summit". There was a lot of anticipation surrounding his appearance from Koreans and foreigners alike. With a big name on the flyer, this year's festival would prove to be bigger and better. Unfortunately, it proved to be quite disappointing for me. I understand the time and energy it takes to put on an event of this size, so I know things will not always be perfect. However, it did seem as though the organizers underestimated Sam's fame and disregarded us, the audience. Sam Okyere, as expected, brought Koreans to the festival in huge numbers. Yet, that's all Koreans seemed to get out of it. The festival was a great opportunity to share Black culture with what many call a "homogeneous and xenophobic" society. However, it turned into a circus. It was no longer about Black History, it was about Sam! At one point he tried to make his way to the back tents where hoodies were being sold and programs were being handed out when he was swarmed by Koreans grabbing and pulling at him. A couple friends and myself had to peel people off of him and escort him back to the stage safely. It was chaotic.

Then, there were too many performances and the show dragged on longer than it needed to. There were random raffles, dance contests, and unfunny banter. By the time the performances started to heat up, the weather had grown cold and people were more concerned about getting pictures of Sam than learning about anything Black. Don't get me wrong I really liked that the programs containing a timeline of Black artistry was great. Also, many of the performances were awesome as well. The worship dance, reggae performance, and incredible operatic rendition of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" comparable to Marian Anderson, were absolutely breathtaking, but they took too long to get to. Koreans were part of the show too. They beatboxed, danced hip hop, popped and locked, and rapped sometimes making it seem like they could do "Black" better than  Black people. The next Monday, I asked my students who attended the festival what they thought and what they had learned and they said "Sam is so tall" "Sam is handsome"...Sam Sam Sam Sam...Le sigh

Last year, I left the festival wanting more, this year I just wanted it to end. Well, here's to next year. Is it enough to have a festival and let our presence be known if its not executed in the best way?
               

9 comments:

  1. Too bad the video is all about the dances and singing. Kinda stereotypical.

    "Is it enough to have a festival and let our presence be known if its not executed in the best way?"
    I think that the "festival" format might make it less history-oriented and more like let's have fun...I don't know, how festivals about Black history are handled in the US?

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  2. Pretty much the same or overly church based.

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    1. OK, I see. So the history part is displayed via exhibitions, poetry clubs, museums, etc in other places, I guess.

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    2. Myra,

      Yes museums and exhibits cover a lot, but mostly its the same thing (MLK, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks). And even the black museums do the same thing though most are now starting to branch out into other historic black figures in history. Honestly black history general starts and stops with the civil rights movement or starts with slavery. A lot of what I learned about other black figures came from reading on my own. I'm speaking from the stand point of what you learn at black history festivals and the like. I try to expose my little cousins to new people (especially women) of color who are making history. That way they can SEE a black female physicist and know its something they can do themselves.

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    3. This is disappointing indeed, thanks for the info. What you're doing with your cousins is great :)

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  3. I just think the world see Black people as a " fun" culture while history takes a backseat. If they only knew..

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  4. It was no longer about Black History, it was about Sam! At one point he tried to make his way to the back tents where hoodies were being sold and programs were being handed out when he was swarmed by Koreans grabbing and pulling at him. A couple friends and myself had to peel people off of him and escort him back to the stage safely. It was chaotic.

    Good Lord, is he really that famous?

    Here's hoping he stays away next year.

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    1. Wow...Sam is something else. I hope that he and the other festival visitors wasn't hurt!The Koreans are right about one thing..he is handsome..yes indeedy!

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