Exciting news!! On February 28, LA-native Tad Nakamura will premiere the first documentary film - A Song for Ourselves - on Chris Iijim, musician/activist/educator/lawyer who spearheaded the Asian American social movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Iijima passed away in 2006 and left a legacy of "Asian-American" identity-based cultural and social impact. Iijima was a member of the folk music trio Yellow Pearl, along with Joanne Nobuko Miyamoto and Charlie Chin. The trio released a collection of now historically significant protest songs on the A Grain of Sand LP (Paredon Records) in 1973.
In my class on pop music, I always use thee song "We Are the Children" from the album to demonstrate the "Asian American" pan-ethnic identification and alliance with The Third World. Students are always struck by the line "Leaving the stamp on America." The reason for this, I think, is that many college-aged students are unaware of the historical presence of Asians in the United States. Some simply think that there were no Asians in this country until their parents generation (1980s and later). Not only that, the students are always surprised to learn that Americans of Asian descent identified strongly with the US, contrary to the stereotypical conflation of Asians as transient migrants or immigrants.
This 30-year-old history deserves to be explored, archived, and heard. Nakamura has joined other Asian American scholars and activists behind the cause of raising Asian American cultural awareness by producing this 33-minute documentary on Chris Iijima's musical and social journey. This film is the third installment of Nakamura's trilogy on Asian American movement. I look forward to viewing and screening it to my students and colleagues, particularly to my class on Music in Asian America this spring.
The film contains interviews, photographs, and music related to Iijima and his time. In this interview below, Joanne Nobuko Miyamoto explains Iijima's motivation of writing the song "Jonathan Jackson."
The world premiere of the film will also feature the performance of hip hop artists Blue Scholars, Kiwi, and Bambu with original Yellow Pearl members Joanne Miyamoto and Charlie Chin.