Discover Nikkei is JANM’s community-based web project sharing stories and the experiences of Nikkei around the world. “Nima” are members of the Discover Nikkei online community. Hailing from all around the world, they each bring unique experiences and perspectives to the site’s rich archive of stories.
Nima Voices is an interview series where we uplift our Nima through brief and enlightening interviews. In the fifteenth episode, Okinawan Yonsei and poet/writer/playwright Lee A. Tonouchi will be interviewed by guest host Wesley Ueunten, a Okinawan Sansei and Chair of the Asian American Studies Department at San Francisco State University. Join us as they chat about growing up in Hawai‘i, Lee’s activism for Pidgin to be recognized as a language, Okinawan culture and diaspora, and pursuing the arts and humanities in Okinawan and Japanese American communities.
Read Lee’s articles on Discover Nikkei before tuning in for this live interview and Q&A on the Discover Nikkei YouTube channel or on Facebook. Log into your YouTube or Facebook account to post questions for the Q&A!
Lee A. Tonouchi
Lee A. Tonouchi, Okinawan Yonsei, stay known as “Da Pidgin Guerrilla” for his activism in campaigning for Pidgin a.k.a. Hawai‘i Creole for be accepted as one legitimate language. Tonouchi stay da recipient of da 2023 American Association for Applied Linguistics Distinguished Public Service Award for his work in raising public awareness of important language-related issues and promoting linguistic social justice.
His Pidgin poetry collection Significant Moments in da Life of Oriental Faddah and Son: One Hawai‘i Okinawan Journal won da Association for Asian-American Studies Book Award. His Pidgin children’s picture book Okinawan Princess: Da Legend of Hajichi Tattoos won one Skipping Stones Honor Award. And his latest book stay Chiburu: Anthology of Hawai‘i Okinawan Literature.
Wesley Ueunten (he, him, his) is a Sansei Okinawan born and raised in Hawai‘i. He received his PhD. in Ethnic Studies from UC Berkeley after having lived in Okinawa and Japan for nearly a decade and is the Chair of the Asian American Studies Department at San Francisco State University. For the past 25 years or so, Ueunten had been active in the Okinawan and Japanese American community in the Bay Area as a member and officer of various organizations and as a student, performer, and teacher of Okinawan music.