Thursday, December 20, 2012

Indigo: Shelly Jyoti and Laura Kina at the Chicago Cultural Center

Indigo: Shelly Jyoti and Laura Kina
Curated by Greg Lunceford and Lanny Silverman
January 26 - April 2, 2013
Opening Reception: Friday, January 25, 2013 5:30-7:30pm
Chicago Cultural Center

The Chicago Rooms
78 E. Washington St.
Chicago, IL 60638

Artist talk with Shelly Jyoti, Laura Kina, and Pushipika Frietas, President of MarketPlace: Handwork of India
The Chicago Rooms
12:15pm Thursday, January 31, 2013

Employing fair trade artisans from women’s collectives in India and executing their works in indigo blue, Indian artist Shelly Jyoti and US artist Laura Kina’s works draw upon India’s history, narratives of immigration and transnational economic interchanges.
View the online exhibition catalog (you need flash for this):
Download a pdf of the brochure Indigo: Shelly Jyoti and Laura Kina Chicago Cultural Center
Watch the 2010 video on youtube Indigo: New works by Shelly Jyoti and Laura Kina

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Kibbeh Stalker - a short story by Laura Kina

The 2nd package left by the "kibbeh stalker"
December 16, 2012

The Kibbeh Stalker by Laura Kina

A holiday story, of sorts, about neighbors, food profiling and home security.

We got a good deal on our house, a brick vintage 1920s Chicago bungalow with a two-car garage and small, enclosed backyard. It was shortly after 9/11 and located next to a Pakistani mosque. I was drawn to the nearby ethnic South Asian grocery stores of West Roger’s Park Devon Avenue where I could get a steady and affordable fresh supply of fruits, vegetables, rices, and spices for my cooking habit - a creative alternative and outlet to my career as an artist and college professor. My husband, Mitch, was nostalgic for the old Jewish neighborhood this had once been, where his orthodox grandparents used to live.

I stood near on open upstairs bathroom window my first day in the house - the sonorous minor keyed call to prayer from the mosque intertwined with Mexican mariachi music from a Sunday afternoon backyard family barbecue and the low thumping base of a sub-woofer pumping out rap music from my neighbor “Big Eric’s” car that he was working in the street. When we walk our dogs around the block, the smells are similarly polycultural – the sweetness of steamed basmati or jasmine rice, the savoriness of simmering dal, curry, grilled kabobs, or warm corn tortillas and the fresh scent of detergent drift from the exhaust fans and vents. Once, I went to get the mail, and in-between the bills a squirrel had left a gift of chapatti pilfered from a dumpster from an Indian restaurant on Devon Avenue. Exposed telephone and cable wires link the houses in the neighborhood and if you look up, it’s not uncommon to see sneakers thrown across the line as well as bagels left by the squirrels that hang from the wires like odd Christmas ornaments.

We’d lived there ten years when the first package arrived. It was Thursday, October 25, 2012 during the Muslim holy day of Eid-al-Ada. I’d gone out to the grocery store, during my afternoon studio break from painting, to get supplies for the evening dinner. When I returned, under our wooden patio table with the faded red umbrella I’d forgotten to put away, I found a white plastic grocery bag stuffed with warm minced ground lamb kibbeh. The bag said “100% Zabiha Hallal” and was neatly closed with sailors bowline knot. I assumed it must have been a mistaken gift for one of our neighbors. Maybe it was for Mr. Kahn two houses down? After opening the package to look for a note, I tossed it in the trash, only mildly wondering why someone had come into our backyard rather than leaving it by our front door.

On Friday afternoon of the 26th of October, just when I returned from a brief errand, the same exact package arrived – again 20+ warm ground lamb meat kibbehs in the same bag with the same signature knot. I thought to tell Mitch about it this time as it seemed someone was waiting for me to leave the house before delivering the package. I was still convinced it was a mistaken gift for another neighbor.

Almost a month passed until the next mystery package arrived. It was Friday, November 16th at 6:16 am when I heard our little Shiba Inu dog Bongo wildly barking, something he usually doesn’t do. We were busy getting ready to get our daughter Midori out the door to the school bus on time. I walked into the kitchen and felt a draft of cold air. An intruder had just broken into our house through a back door Mitch accidentally left unlocked when he let our dogs into the backyard. There was a gray bag of food on our kitchen counter. I could tell from the knot that it was from the same person who left the packages from before. I nervously opened the bag and this time found clear plastic bags filled not only with the same kibbeh but also a bag of hot boiled chicken and something that looked like empanadas. We called the police to report the kibbeh stalker. It happened to be the Hindu holiday of Diwali.

The 9-1-1 operator reluctantly sent out a patrol car to respond to our odd intrusion. The officer shook his head when he heard our story. “So let me get this straight, you left your back door unlocked?” he grilled us. He didn’t seem to care that someone had broken into our house since technically it was not “breaking and entering” and because we left the door unlocked and they didn’t take anything. We got a lecture on how unsecure our house was. “Aren’t you going to take the bag for fingerprinting?” we implored. “This ain’t CSI,” the cop sarcastically informed us. “Chicago police can barely find time to process the finger prints when there’s a body involved.”

We’d have to solve this ourselves. “It has to be someone local,” I surmised. The food was warm each time and I knew I had seen the bag before. After Mitch drove Midori to school, we proceeded to drive up and down Devon Avenue comparing the graphic design and wording on the mystery bag to the grocery store awnings. After three passes, we found a match. We cornered the store manager, Zarina, who said her name sounds like Sarina with a Z, who was just getting into the office. “Did you see anyone in here earlier today who purchased these items?” We told her about the bag of kibbeh. Her head was modestly covered in a silky hijab, her hands decorated ornately with mendhi and she was wearing a Nike tracksuit, high tops and a tough Chicago accent and attitude. She conceded that it was her store’s bag but they don’t sell precooked items in their deli. “Let me reassure you,” she teased, “I’m Muslim and I can tell you their ain’t no Muslim holiday that involves breaking and entering and leaving meat products!” “The police aren’t going to do shit,” she went on, “I have my ways of making shop lifters pay.” She encouraged my husband to consider getting a handgun for protection.

“Was this a hate crime?” I wondered. An outsider would know we were Jewish because of the mezuzahs on the doors and the conspicuous sukkah that pops up in the fall. Why were they giving us unkosher meat? “Breaking into my house does not feel like a gesture of neighborly love,” I told my friends, “someone out there has a very sick sense of humor.” “Perhaps it was an odd art school college prank,” they suggested. In my ten years of teaching I have seen very little evidence that most of my students know how to cook beyond instant ramen noodles.

But what about the food clues? They didn’t match up to the South Asian and Jewish restaurant demographics of the hood. We know our neighbors pretty well and this didn’t seem like their food either - Lori is gluten free, Bob and Anna are vegans, the houses next to us are Mexican or African American, or new immigrants from India, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, China, or Vietnam. “This must be an impostor,” I thought.” Besides mixing up holidays from two different religions (Eid-al-Ada and Diwali); plain boiled chicken, not in a sauce nor grilled, is something a non-cook might pass off as food unless you are making chicken stock or sick or something. Most of the time when I order kibbeh it's from a Middle Eastern Lebanese restaurant. And this area of West Roger’s Park and Devon Avenue is not the neighborhood for this. And empanadas...that's more Spanish, Filipino or Latin America isn’t it? “This must be a prank for sure,” I surmised. But who out there hates us?

Mitch runs sober living residences in Chicago and our #1 suspect became a mentally ill “person of interest” who had been cyber bulling us the year before. He is a college-educated, white male in his 20s who I’ll call “Stan” who actually listed “cyber hacking” on his LinkedIn profile. After relapsing, Mitch had to ask him to leave one of the sober houses. These are the rules, after all, of a sober living environment. Out of the blue six months later Stan started demanding his money back in increasingly hostile text message threats. Mitch agreed to meet with him in person to discuss the situation but Stan insisted the money be sent at once through Paypal. The dollar amount kept increasing and Stan started to set ultimatums that if it wasn’t received by a certain hour he would do something “big” to our family. He threatened to expose a fabricated affair, reminded us that he know where we lived, and where I worked. He started e-mailing me too. All along we tried to file a police report and obtain a restraining order but we were told that unless one of us had a romantic affiliation with Stan or lived with him before, we could not legally get a restraining order. The state laws on cyber bullying were confusing, at best.

One night, Mitch had texted Stan back to meet him in a public place at 7 pm and he informed him he was bringing his attorney with him. Stan wrote back that was not acceptable and if the money wasn’t sent by 7 pm that night, he was going to come to our house. Mitch left to the appointed meeting place at 7 pm to wait. I was at home with Ariel, Mitch’s teenage daughter, and our seven year-old daughter Midori. There was a snowstorm rolling in. We were nervously poking at our food and the girls started to talk about what they would do if a person broke into the house. To my horror, they exchanged tips and demonstrations on how they would take the intruder down. “Kick him in the balls!” my seven year-old exclaimed. Ariel asked if I had the guts to use a kitchen knife to poke his eyes out. Disgusted, I suggested that they seriously might be better off finding a good hiding place and calling the police. Just then, at exactly 7 pm, someone loudly knocked at our front door. Bam-bam-bam! I leaped up from the dinner table, started cursing and threatened the person outside the door.

I heard a little boy’s voice pleading that he had just come to offer to shovel our walk. He ran away and I felt horrible for having exploded in front of the kids. “That’s it,” I resolved, “no more being scared.” After two weeks of cyber bullying we got a detective on the case who suggested we simply stop responding. If Stan had really wanted the money, he would have met with Mitch. What he was getting off on was the attention of making us scared. The detective paid Stan a visit to ask him to stop and we successfully obtained an open warrant for his arrest should he threaten us again.

But would Stan break into our house and leave bag of food? I knew I had seen these particular kind of kibbeh before from Kedzie Avenue in the Albany Park neighborhood of Chicago where many Lebanese Christians had opened Middle Eastern restaurants. Stan used to live in Albany Park. We knew he had gone back to the streets. We checked to see if he was currently in jail. He wasn’t. After more careful thought, this kibbeh stalking didn’t seem like Stan’s M.O. The intruder was not demanding anything. They were spending money to buy or make us food. Was this an act of kindness?

We had a home security system installed just to be safe.

On Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, against my better judgment we went to a suburban gun shop to look, just look, at filling out the license for a gun. We had planned to pick up mace and Maglite flashlight anyway. Some testosterone filled family members had worn me down. Was I getting in the way of my husband’s “manliness” and right to protect his family? Was he just being a sissy? The paperwork said it would take five weeks and that we would need to enroll in gun shooting classes. I guess that could be fun? It is a sport and maybe it could be a new common interest, something new to share after fifteen years of marriage. There are no shooting ranges in the City of Chicago so we’d have to go out to one of the far suburbs, we were told. I grew up in the country in the Pacific Northwest near Banger Military Base so I’m no stranger to being around military personnel or knowing folks who actually have bomb shelters stocked with years of food rations in their backyards. But seeing these guns, NRA posters, and all of the law enforcement gear and civilian dooms day prepping equipment, especially the imposing featured M&P 22 semi-automatic assault rifle display, gave me chills down my spine. Most of the items in the store were dusty. With all the legal restrictions on what they could and couldn’t sell, business was slow for this store that was too close to the city border. Much of the inventory seemed to be antique revolvers, Smith & Wesson and Glock nine-millimeter handguns. I looked at an old Colt 45 in a glass case and thought about my own grandfather who had safely guarded his family motel and trained my mother to be an expert rifle marks woman on recreational hunting trips. My mom knows how to tie sailors knots too from her years of Scouting. None of this was passed on to me.

I certainly couldn’t see myself using a gun. I know I would panic. I imagined Mitch with a gun, my husband who is always on the cell phone for his real estate business and easily distracted and who chronically leaves things on the roof of his car and drives off. Earlier that week he left his new cell phone on the roof when he went to pick up family members from the airport. Once he drove off with a box of our taxes on the roof that were subsequently scattered into a busy intersection. No, he would surely hurt himself and leave it somewhere where the kids could find it. This was a very, very bad idea. I shouldn’t have even walked in the store. They had a Black Friday sale on flashlights but were out of mace. I could use the flashlight while walking the dogs anyway. We would have to go to a sporting goods store to buy “bear mace” for joggers.

On the Sunday after Thanksgiving at 11:45am the kibbeh stalker returned. They broke into our yard
and left, of all things, a bag of turkey soup. Coincidentally this happened right after all our holiday guests left, Mitch had gone to work, and I had just finished donating a large batch of our turkey soup to one of the sober living residences (we had reached the post-Thanksgiving turkey leftover threshold). I made Mitch race home and call the police. Again, skeptical officers arrived and told us we must be on a mistaken food drop off list from our church. We told them we don’t go to church. They advised us to post no trespassing signs. Apparently, if you do not explicitly state “no trespassing” it is not against the law to walk into a private enclosed backyard. They suggested we put locks on our gates; that we were basically asking for it if we don’t bother to protect ourselves. So off to Home Depot I went. After the 4th mystery package I was convinced this was not a friendly gesture.

We decided it was time to let our neighbors know. I made up fliers with a picture of one of the packages and asked if anyone had information on the “mystery gifts.” I listed out the facts and dates of the four “break ins” and Mitch, Midori, and I went knocking door to door to inquire if our neighbors knew anything. We started to notice who had security cameras, bars on their doors, and even deadbolts on their screen doors. Many of the owners of these fortified houses reported being broken into in the past, hence the added layer of security. We also noticed most houses had a spiritual protection system too - Allahu Akbar signs, crosses, Feng Shui Ba Gua mirrors, and mezuzahs. No one had any information.

With the idea of gun ownership safely off the table, I began to think about getting a more imposing watch dog. After bedtime stories one night, my daughter Midori and I googled “Family friendly watch dogs.” Shepherds were the top suggestion. Shiba Inus, which we have, were at the bottom of the list.

When Mitch and I were both single we each had Shepherd mixes – Mitch had a brown Doberman Pinscher-Shepherd named Rudy who was his constant companion. Rudy used to run off leash next to Mitch while he rode his bike along the Chicago’s lakefront and was even welcomed to drink with Mitch at his old neighborhood bar. Rudy had a very deep bark that would rise at the end and sounded like the word “Baruch” as in “Baruch Atah Adonai.” I had a Shepherd mutt named Mahitabel, who I’d named after the 1920s comic strip about a cat and a cockroach – Archy and Mahitabel. I was an art student and in to being obscure.

I had recently graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and was living on my own on Chicago’s near west side. It was a spring day and I was walking Mahitabel around a grassy open park when I heard a rat-tat-tat and everything went into slow motion. I saw all the kids in the park who had been playing baseball and basketball up to that point fall to the ground as if they were in a stop, drop and roll fire drill. I looked to see what they were reacting to and saw a white Chrysler Labaron with a maroon hard top slowly driving by a row of red brick apartment buildings. A man was standing up through the sunroof and was spraying the building with bullets. Not being a seasoned city girl, I did not have the stop and drop instinct yet. I naively screamed, ran home, locked the doors, and soon moved to the north side, where I thought I’d be safer.

As the years passed, our family grew and our work schedules got more hectic. Our dogs correspondingly got progressively smaller. We had finally settled on Shiba Inus, mostly out of convenience and partly because they are a cute ancient Japanese breed. My brother and his wife, who is Chinese American, had adopted a Shiba from a rescue association and they were so enthusiastic about the breed. I joked that it seemed like the Asian American thing to do (my father is Okinawan from Hawaiʻi). Although I was leery of the cult like Meetup groups Shibas seem to require (for some reason, they prefer to play with their own kind), I’ve trusted my brother to help me with important life decisions, such as cars, before so we followed his lead.

First came Lola, a sesame with an impossibly fluffy curly tail who we got at six months of age. We let Midori name her and she suggested the name after the Dr. Seuss character Lolla-Lee-Lou who had an obsession with acquiring ever more extravagant tail feathers. Mitch liked the name because it reminded him of his old punk days and the Kink’s song “Lola,” which is about a drag queen.

After a season, I projected that Lola was lonely. She spent her days laying on the arm of our leather couch and staring out the front window and sighing. We got her a male companion, Bongo, a redheaded black and tan who was named in honor of Mitch’s former amateur career as a bongo and conga player. The two Shibas are like cats - quiet, skiddish, aloof, and stealthy with occasional burst of wild energy where they chase each other in circles. They are also like rats who have a taste for devouring home decor. They eschew dog bones and treats in favor of nibbling on drywall, the corners of all furniture, the stairs, the carpet. During his first six months, Bongo ate our leather couch that Lola had previously loved. They were both banned from the living room. But despite their lack of overt affection, and their quiet assassin tendencies, we have grown to love them.

The Shibas love to dig holes too and they had progressively destroyed our tiny backyard. In September we finally got around to putting down new sod and we all took a family oath not to let the dogs pee or dig in the backyard again. But just this once more I let them out to do their business. It was Friday, December 14, 2012 during Hanukkah when the kibbeh stalker paid the next visit.

Bongo, proving he was in fact a certified watch dog, started barking and growling at our now padlocked back gate. I raced outside without putting on my shoes. There stood an elderly Asian women so short that all I could initially see was a band aid on her forehead and her salt-and-pepper bob pulled up into baby doll ponytail with a red ribbon on the top of her head. She was trying to open the gate. She didn't speak any English except to say the word “lock”, pointing at the gate. She reached up over the fence and handed me a plastic bag with the signature knot and a “Have a Nice Day!” message printed on the front. I thanked her as if I had never seen such a gift before. I asked her where she lived and she responded in what I think was Cantonese, pointing to the north. I realized that I didn’t have the key on me to open the back gate. In the moment I was wondering what to do as I stood in my fenced backyard in my now wet socks, she turned around and walked away. She was shuffling in tan orthopedic sneakers and wearing cranberry high water polyester pants and a tan long sleeve shirt. She reminded me of my own late Grandma Kina. She paused for a moment and then stopped to see if our front door was unlocked.

I carefully undid the knot of the bag she had given me. Inside were two clear plastic bags containing warm kibbeh and empanadas.

Fifth package left by the "kibbeh stalker"

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Dec 4, 2012 Artist Talk at the Okinawan Prefectural Museum

I will be giving an artist talk at 2pm on December 4, 2012 as part of the Okinawan art exhibition Art is My Life that is being held in conjunction with the traveling show Women In-Between: Asian Women Artists 1984-2012
Art is My Life
Okinawan Prefectural Museum and Art Museum
December 4, 2012 - January 6, 2013
3-1-1 Omoromachi, Naha City
Okinawa, Japan 900-0006
At the Okinawan Prefectural Museum and Art Museum, December 2012, with my dad.

Dec 5, 2012 Ryukyu University lecture - Mixed-Race Asian American Art: Chanpuru Spririt and hapa Identity

I will be delivering a lecture on December 5, 2012 3-5pm at Ryukyu University, IIOS (International Institute for Okinawan Studies), Okinawa, Japan. For more information contact: or call 098-8475

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Non-profit Tuesday: Why Give? What you might not expect in return

Mixed-race leaders retreat outside of San Francisco in 2008 where I met representatives from MAVIN as well as folks I have since gone on to collaborate with for events, programs, and projects.

Giving is hard. I’m not talking about birthday or Christmas gifts here. There is a social contract that you must give back to those who you love and who have loved and cared for you. That type of giving is easy. I’m talking about giving your time and money to non-profits. This is optional giving. After Black Friday and Cyber Monday, November 27, 2012 has been designated “Non-Profit Tuesday.” What do you believe in today? What do you want to take the time to stand behind and support?

I’ve spent most of my life being selfish, trying to build a career and family and take care of my own, but after the U.S. economy tanked in 2008 and my thin economic security was knocked out from under my feet, it coincided with a time when I have increasingly been asked to step up and give back. While this hasn't always been easy, I want to share just a few things I got back in return that I really wasn’t expecting.

Make a list and check it (send $) twice today. Consider giving over the long haul. The best investments take time to mature.

Here are my top three non-religious non-profit suggestions for today:

The JASC is based in Chicago and provides local services and programs/national and international research resources.

Mission (new mission as of Fall 2012!):
·      JASC engages people of all ages to experience Japanese American history and culture and to improve their wellbeing through innovative, high quality programs and services tailored to the multicultural community.
We accomplish our mission through the work of highly trained and enthusiastic staff and  volunteers and proactive collaboration with other  agencies and organizations.

What I gave:
·      Time, expertise, and board dues, donations – current board member (since 2011).

What I given in return that I didn’t expect:
·      A community in the Midwest to call home. Although I’ve known of the JASC through their annual Holiday Delight celebration for many years, I never thought this was a place for me since I’m not from Chicago and my family was not interned. As I might have expected, I found an established (founded in 1946!) post-WWII resettlement Japanese American community legacy with rich archives and values but I also found a community in the process of changing and expanding to serve a multicultural population which includes anyone interested in learning about or participating in JA history and culture. While this may sounds odd to my West Coast friends, being openly inclusive of mixed-race families, post-1965 Japanese immigrants, Japanese nationals, and Japanese Americans from other migration streams (e.g., Hawaii) is new here and I want to be part of this change while at the same time learning from the archives and community memory about parts of the JA experience that you don’t hear about on the coasts. I’ve been continually surprised to see how welcoming the JASC has been to innovative ideas and building community partnerships.

MAVIN is based in Seattle and provides local programs/national and international research resources.

·      MAVIN builds healthier communities by providing educational resources about Mixed Heritage experiences.

What I gave:
·      Time, expertise, and board dues - former working board member (2010-12) and current advisory board member.

What I was given in return that I didn’t expect:
·      What started from a little magazine feature back in 2004 in MAVIN magazine on my art and sharing suggestions for the and then meeting and working with folks like Eric Hamako and Louie Gong (see picture above) that has since led to a network of over 500+ activists, academics, artists, and friends interested in mixed-race issues. Today, I teach a class on “Mixed Race Art and Identity” at DePaul University in our Honors program and have been working with other colleagues, scholars and creatives on the Critical Mixed Race Studies conference, the Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies and Wei Ming Dariotis and I have a forthcoming book and exhibition WarBaby/Love Child: Mixed Race Asian American Art.

WMG is based in Chicago and provides local programs/national and international opportunities.

·      Woman Made Gallery (WMG) supports, cultivates and promotes the diverse contributions of women in the arts through exhibitions and other programs that serve, educate and enrich the community.

What I gave:
·      A little time/expertise to jury a show in 2009 and just a few days or hours of time here and there to suggest ideas in 2011-12. I became a member in 2011.

What I was given in return that I didn’t expect:
·      Became a feminist and realized this doesn't have to be an “F-word.” The return on this investment is too immense to list at the moment. Like the F-word, I’ll keep this short and to the point.
·      Found role models for a sustained and serious artistic career focused on community engagement.
·      Met an artist from India, Shelly Jyoti, through Woman Made Gallery. We created a two-woman show, Indigo, that has traveled to venues in Vadodara, New Delhi, Mumbai, Seattle, Miami and will open in Chicago at the Chicago Cultural Center on January 25, 2013 5:30-7:30pm. The show runs January 26-April 2, 2013.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I'm going back to Okinawa! 5 of my paintings will be in a museum in Japan

Laura Kina, "Gosei," Oil on canvas, 30 x 45, 2012

Five of my paintings from my Sugar series and one brand new 2012 painting of my daughter Midori will be on view as part of:

"Women in Between – Asian Women Artists 1984-2012—Okinawan Women Artists"
Okinawan Prefectural Museum and Art Museum
December 4, 2012 - January 6, 2013

3-1-1 Omoromachi, Naha City
Okinawa, Japan 900-0006

I have also been invited to give a lecture at University of the Ryukyus
Laura Kina - "Mixed Race Asian American Art: Chanpuru Spirit and "hapa" Identity"
December 5, 2012, 3:00-5:00 PM (details TBA)
Ryukyu University, Okinawa, Japan
International Institute for Okinawan Studies at the University of the Ryukyus
Laura Kina, "Issei," Oil on canvas, 30 x 45, 2011
Laura Kina, "Palaka," Oil on canvas, 30 x 45, 2010
Laura Kina, "Hajichi #1" (Okinawan Tattoo), Oil on wood panel, 12 x 12, 2010
Laura Kina, "Hajichi #2" (Okinawan Tattoo), Oil on wood panel, 12 x 12, 2010

2012 Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference and Mixed Roots Midwest Recap

We are in the process of building a dedicated website for Critical Mixed Race Studies, which we will debut in 2013, but in the meantime I want to share a recap of the 2012 conference and Mixed Roots Midwest and some of the feedback we've received thus far. 

As one professor wrote us, "It was one of the best conferences I've ever attended. The audiences for the talks were so engaged, and I couldn't believe how packed the rooms were. I came home itching to write and to work through so many of the great ideas from the conference."

Honeysmoke blogger Monique Fields shared the "10 Things I learned at CMRS." 

Some of our group facebook page members responded:
"...was my first CMRS and I had a great time--many thanks to the organizers and great folks in attendance. welcoming and generative. wonderful space for dialogue between folks of different disciplines, regions, generations. yes to an association. 

"I'm having a hard time deciding what I enjoyed more, the session discussions or the discussions between the sessions. Well done CMRS 2012 crew!"

A graduate student expressed that CMRS has become a "pipeline up and down" connecting faculty, students, the community, and artists and activists. 

Below is the message we sent out to our CMRS list serv. Join our mailing list for the latest updates.


Critical Mixed Race Studies Recap

CMRS 2012

Despite being sandwiched between Halloween, Superstorm Sandy, and the presidential elections, over 400 people attended the 2nd biennial Critical Mixed Race Studies conference, “What is Critical Mixed Race Studies?,” and Mixed Roots Midwest at DePaul University in Chicago Nov 1-4, 2012. Attendees came from across the U.S. from Hawaii to NY as well as internationally from Canada, the UK, Brazil, Australia, and Ukraine and included senior and junior scholars and cultural producers, graduate students, undergraduates, community members, and representatives from community organizations.

We would like to thank all of the attendees, participants, organizers, and volunteers for making CMRS 2012 an engaging and memorable conference. A special thanks to the invaluable conference support from DePaul's Latin American and Latino Studies and our 2012 programming committee: Greg Carter, Michele Elam, Camilla Fojas, Rudy P. Guevarra Jr., and Rainier Spencer. Thank you to our DePaul University co-sponsors: Center for Latino Research (CLR), Center for Intercultural Programs, Global Asian Studies, Latin American and Latino Studies Program (LALSP), Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Dean's Office, Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity (OIDE), Women and Gender Studies Program, and African American and Black Diaspora Studies.

Click here to view the 2012 CMRS Conference Schedule.

Enjoy photos from CMRS 2012

Like our new organizational page on Facebook

Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies Call For Papers
“What is Critical Mixed Race Studies?”
Papers that were presented at the 2012 Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference “What is Critical Mixed Race Studies?” are invited for revision and submission for the second issue of JCMRS. We also welcome papers that speak to specialized research, pedagogical, or community-based interests. JCMRS encourages both established and emerging scholars, including graduate students and faculty, to submit articles throughout the year. Articles will be considered for publication on the basis of their contributions to important and current discussions in mixed race studies, and their scholarly competence and originality.
Visit JCMRS to download the CFP

What's Next?
The inaugural issue of the Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies will be published in Jan-Feb 2013. We are in the process of building a dedicated CMRS website, gearing up for the next conference in 2014 (or sooner), and continuing a creative partnership with Mixed Roots Stories (launching in December 2012), and planning to form a CMRS association. Please keep the conversations going through the CMRS Facebook group page and through the CMRS caucus grouops: Latina/os of Mixed Ancestry, the National Association of Mixed Student Organizations, and the newly proposed Queer Caucus. For more information or to get involved contact us at

Camilla Fojas (CMRS 2012 organizer)
Laura Kina (Mixed Roots Midwest 2012 co-organizer)

Photo of Eric Hamako at CMRS 2012 by Ken Tanabe.

News from the 2012 CMRS business meeting:
US Census Report from Eric Hamako

  • Nominated by a coalition of Mixed-Race community organizations, Eric Hamako has been selected to serve a two-year term on the US Census Bureau’s National Advisory Committee (NAC) on Racial, Ethnic, and Other Populations.  (See press release.)
  • Two matters of particular concern for Multiracial people & Two Or More Races (TOMR) populations.
  1. ADMINISTRATIVE RECORDS: For cost efficiency, the Census Bureau is considering using “Administrative Records” in some cases when a person doesn’t submit information to the Census (e.g., if Jane X doesn’t submit a Census 2020 form and doesn’t respond to follow-up requests, the Census might access other public and private databases that contain info about Jane X, to fill in info about her).  However, currently Census studies indicate that Administrative Records are worse at filling in info about non-Whites than Whites -- and are particularly bad at filling in info about people who indicate Two Or More Races (TOMR), ranging from 4%-36% accuracy.  This is largely because many public and private databases do not allow respondents to Mark One or More races.  We need to find ways to improve the accuracy of Administrative Record use.
  2. ALTERNATIVE QUESTIONNAIRE EXPERIMENTS (AQEs): Long before each Census, the Bureau tests out various possible changes, using AQEs.  One of the many changes currently being considered is an option that combines the Race question and the Hispanic ethnicity question into a single question.  This would likely a) increase the accuracy of the count of Latinos, b) increase the number of Latinos who are indicating Two Or More Races, c) reduce the White population count by 6-8%.
Photo of Mixed Roots Midwest: Filmmakers Panel by Laura Kina.

CMRS 2012 and Mixed Roots Midwest

Presented by DePaul's Center for Intercultural Programs and co-organized by Fanshen Cox, Chandra Crudup, Khanisha Foster, and Laura Kina, Mixed Roots Midwest featured three evenings of programming that explored what it means to have a mixed identity:
  • Nov 1, 2012 Selected Shorts: Silences by Octavio Warnock-Graham, Crayola Monologues by Nathan Gibbs, Mixed Mexican by Thomas P. Lopez, and Nigel's Fingerprints by Kim Kuhteubl.
  • Nov 2, 2012 Filmmakers Panel: Fanshen Cox in conversation with Kim Kuhteubl, Jeff Chiba Stearns, Kip Fulbeck.
  • Nov 3, 2012 Live Event - featuring spoken word artists CP Chang, Chris L. Terry and Sage Xaxua Morgan-Hubbard from Chicago's own 2nd Story along with a preview of Fanshen Cox's solo-show-in-progress, One Drop of Love and invited Chicago writer Fred Sasaki reading from a manuscript of e-mails called "Letter of Interest."

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Morning After: mixed thoughts on the next four years

My family celebrating the Obama victory in Chicago in 2008

Family voting block for Obama in Chicago, Nov 6, 2012 - white, Latina, Asians in the house!
November 7, 2012 9am Laura Kina

I remember the sheer jubilation of the 2008 election and I’m comparing it to the measured feelings I have this morning.

Four years ago we dragged our then 14 year-old teenager, Ariel, out of the house and down to Grant Park in Chicago to celebrate the victory of president-elect Barack Obama. We wanted her to witness history. We went with a pack of new parents and strollers (all of us interracial families and mixed-race folks, by the way). The crowd went wild when the election was called. “OBAMA, OBAMA, OBAMA” we shouted along with thousands, jumping up and down. Midori, then 3-years old, couldn’t handle the noise and broke down in tears. Ariel wasn’t sure what the big deal was just yet but my husband, Mitch, and I were beyond ecstatic. It seemed that this was more than a presidential election…this was the fulfillment of Martin Luther King’s dream! Pure hope.

With the inauguration of the first black (or biracial) president, claims were made that we had entered a “post-racial” era. And then the economy tanked and racial issues were reduced to the triviality of “Beergate.” “Race” was a tricky subject the President wished to avoid so he could pragmatically deal with bigger issues. I understand and it may be true that “race” is not the issue of the day anymore (or at least how we used to conceptualize it), but, amongst other things, access to power and privilege and social inequality remain a concern.

Ariel is now 18 and part of that 10% Latino/a vote that made such a difference last night. I was very proud that we could join her for her first time voting. Through Twitter, she quickly noticed that her peers were posting pictures of their ballots on Facebook and Instagram and she helped get out the word via social media not to do this since this invalidates ballots in many states. During the debates we had watched TV together and had two cell phones going with multiple Twitter and Facebook conversations and feeds. The way we watched and participated in the elections had changed and it was fun to hear the 18-year old perspective and my 30-40+ demographic friends' perspectives. With the “1980s calling for their foreign policy back” and “binders full of women,” the debates seemed to be a comedic farce though.

I was so nervous about the election yesterday that we opted for a quiet election watching party (with drinks and lefty friends) rather than the downtown Chicago crowds. I had resigned myself to a long night of watching the results come in. We went home and I tucked Midori into bed and no sooner did I kiss her goodnight than the phone rang and my brother Sam called from Washington DC with the news. We heard the cheers from the TV and we were soon all jumping up and down on the bed. OBAMA, OBAMA, OBAMA!

I dozed off while waiting for Romney to concede but woke up again to hear Obama’s victory address. "Hope is a stubborn thing. Not blind optimism…We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions."  

Yes, so true. I was beaming with relief and pride but then he said something else that made me pause:

"This country has more wealth than any nation, but that's not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military in history, but that's not what makes us strong. Our university, our culture are all the envy of the world, but that's not what keeps the world coming to our shores. What makes America exceptional are the bonds that hold together the most diverse nation on Earth, the belief that our destiny is shared — (cheers, applause) — that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations, so that the freedom which so many Americans have fought for and died for come with responsibilities as well as rights, and among those are love and charity and duty and patriotism. That's what makes America great. (Cheers, applause.)" (

I haven’t had time to fully process this yet but the proximity of “exceptional” and “destiny” makes me think of “manifest destiny” and “American exceptionalism.” Is it possible to be patriotic and not, as one of my Facebook friends noted, to display “national chauvinism”?

I drove my 7-year daughter to the bus stop for school today. We live in a very diverse Jewish/South Asian neighborhood. A little boy named Mohammed ran up to us and said, “Guess who is president today? OBAMA!” The group of kids at the bus stop cheered. Many of the kids held mock-elections at their schools and all reported landslide victories for Obama. The parents (who are black, South Asian, East Asian, and white) all expressed a collective sigh of relief and went on to discuss drones, deportation and the rising cost of higher education.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Thank you for making CMRS 2012 and Mixed Roots Midwest a success

We've just finished four days of the Critical Mixed Race Studies conference and Mixed Roots Midwest festival hosted by DePaul University in Chicago, IL. Thank you to all of the volunteers and sponsors who made this possible. I look forward to seeing you again in 2014.

Laura Kina and Camilla Fojas at the CMRS registration table. Photo by Ken Tanabe
Mixed Roots Midwest Filmmakers Panel: Fanshen Cox, Kim Kuhteubl, Jeff Chiba Stearns, Kip Fulbeck
Critical Mixed Race Studies 2012 conference
Mixed Roots Midwest co-orgnaizers Chandra Crudup, Laura Kina, and Fanshen Cox (not pictured - Khanisha Foster)
Mixed Roots Midwest - Chicago's Fred Sasaki performing "Best Head Waiter: Katsu"

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