Hapa-palooza 2015: Celebrate mixed heritage and own your identity

Mixed-race, outsider, or 'half-breed': you're not alone at Hapa-palooza. Get in on Canada's largest celebration of mixed heritage.

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 Ready for your close-up

“What’s been great about Hapa-palooza over the last five years is how it’s brought mixed-race culture into the mainstream consciousness,” says Kaye. “It’s been really exciting to have a community to tap into. We’re also really excited that new media has been created.”

Anna Ling KayeAnna Ling Kaye

There are lots of Hapa celebrities out there. You probably already know about Keanu Reeves and Kristin Kreuk, but did you know that Fred Armisen, co-creator of Portlandia, is Venezuelan/Japanese/German? Maggie Q, of Nikita series fame, is Irish/Polish/Vietnamese. What about Metallica’s Kirk Hammett? Filipino/Irish.

“Mixed actors never play mixed people,” says Kaye, “because there are no roles created of mixed people.” One exception to that was Cameron Crowe’s Aloha, whose mixed-race female lead character was played by the extremely-white Emma Stone. Crow publicly apologized for being somehow unable to find a mixed-race actress in Hawaii, the very birthplace of the word “Hapa”.

There's a dark side

“We still have people every year coming up to us, sometimes with tears in their eyes, saying, ‘We wish we knew about this earlier, we’re so glad you’re here!’" says Kaye. “You don’t have have to navigate it on your own, which many people of mixed heritage feel they have to do. Actually we have some commonalities. Questions like, where does one begin? Where does one belong? How do you navigate a family? How do you raise kids?”

Worrall gets serious for a moment: “I grew up in rural Pennsylvania, and I was a pariah. I was often told to go back where I came from, when I was born and grew up in the same town as everybody else. In many parts of the world, being mixed-race is still a huge stigma. People get physically abused or even killed for being mixed-race.”

“That’s the gravity of the situation that we don’t necessarily see or feel in Vancouver," adds Kaye. "Hapa-palooza gives us a space to talk about these issues. We are celebrating the diversity, the mixed-ness of everybody, but we also have to recognize that there’s this other dark side to being mixed that many of us have to face as we grow up.”

Adding to the mix are the year's big headlines. The still-growing refugee crisis in Europe and Australia. #BlackLivesMatter. The strange story of Rachel Dolezal.

“Every year these kinds of things come up: questions of identity and dominant culture. How can we expand this discussion?” The discussion resonates beyond the Hapa communities, says Kaye, and into the LGBTQ2+ community: “There’s this concept of fitting into a confined box that doesn’t make sense to a lot of people in Vancouver, and in the rest of the world.”

Kaye and her collaborators strive to create programming that addresses this, which means choosing art forms ranging from dance to film to spoken word: “The basis of Hapa-palooza is sharing stories.” 

Hapa-Palooza 2015 Schedule

Sept 16: Mixed Voices Raised (Free; 7pm, Vancouver Public Library, 350 W.Georgia St.)

Sept 17: The Book of Negroes: An Evening with Lawrence Hill (Tickets $13-25; 7pm, Goldcorp Centre for the Arts, 149 W. Hastings St.)

Sept 18: Hip Hapa Hooray! Awards Night and 5th Anniversary Celebration Featuring music from David Morin and DJ Yurie. (By donation; 8pm, Fortune Sound Club, 147 E. Pender St.)

Sept 19: Raising Mixed Kids: Parenting Workshop with Sharon Chang (By donation; 6pm, Heartwood Community Cafe, 317 E. Broadway)

Sept 20: Hapa Family Day in the Park (Free; 1pm, Granville Island Picnic Pavilion-next to the Water Park, Granville Island Community Centre and playground, 1318 Cartwright St. Rain or shine.)

Also, says Kaye with a smile, “This year we have more after-parties than ever!” Come to this year’s events to get in on the action.

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