The UBC Laurier Institution Multiculturalism lecture featured Dr. Roy Miki last night at the Chan Centre at UBC.
The event opened with a welcome from Dr. Sid Katz before introducing host Paul Kennedy, from CBC Radio's Ideas program. Preceding the lecture were selections from Vancouver Opera's upcoming production “Naomi's Road” based on the children's novel by Joy Kogawa. Grace Chan and Jessica Cheung did a wonderful presentation of the songs.
I always enjoy the way Roy plays with language.
In his “lecture” he opened and closed with a poems. The songs
from Naomi's road had set the evening's tone with issues from the
internment of Japanese Canadians during WW2. Roy himself was
practically born in an internment camp, as his mother was 5 months
pregnant when they were uprooted from their Vancouver home. He also recently finished his book Redress: Inside the Japanese Canadian Call for Justice.
Roy painted a broad pallet of events, such as 9-11, Global free trade,
terrorism and brought them into the context of how the racist interment
of Canadian born Japanese happened. He drew on similar Canadian
issues such as First Nations redress for Residential schools, and the
racist Chinese Head Tax, mentioning how 83-year old Gim Wong is riding
his motorcycle across Canada to Ottawa as an awareness campaign.
I was able to ask a question to Dr. Miki. Pointing out that
Naomi's Road was being turned into a Vancouver Opera Production, and
that Obasan was the selection for One Book One Vancouver – what does
this kind of mainstream acceptance mean for the Asian community, and
does it help with Redress issues. Does the Chinese Community have
to write books and find iconic heroes to help advance the cause for
Head Tax redress?
Because I have known Roy for many years, he said “The redress movement
probably helped Obasan more than Obasan helped the Redress movement –
but they do go hand in hand. It does make a difference. And
, you already the answer to that one… But having things like that
does help the causes. Having the stories told would certainly
help the Chinese redress issues.” Roy did answer in more detail,
and he has called Obasan, “probably the most important important novel
of the last 30 years for understanding Canadian society.”
“That was a good important question,” Joan Anderson, CBC Radio Regional
Director, told me afterwards. “It's important for the audience to
hear these things.” Joan is also presently chair of the Vancouver
Public Library, so she really has her fingers on the pulse on being
able to influence Canadian culture. We agreed that it would be
great to have a One Book One Vancouver program at the Central Library
featuring Roy Miki and the Vancouver Opera Naomi's Road
Roy's lecture and the Naomi's Road musical performances will be broadcast on CBC Radio's Ideas program on June 27th, 9:05pm.
Great meeting and talking with friends and the performers at the
reception following, such as Dr. Sid Katz (who had his brand new Order
of Canada pin on his lapel), Bev Nann, Pam Chappell, Brian Sullivan –
all from my explorAsian / Asian Heritage Month network. Veera Devi Khare
was able to make it as well, and had a wonderful chat with Andrew
Winstanly of the Canadian Club. Sid Tan videoed the event for a
future Saltwater City TV segment.
Lovely chat with Grace Chan – turns out she
already knew my girlfriend when they used to work at Vancouver Opera
together. Grace introduce Jessica Cheung to me, who had just
discovered www.gunghaggisfatchoy.com the previous night, when she was
googling “Naomi's Road.” Hmm… maybe we can have Grace singing
at the next Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner…. hmmm… maybe…