(Video) Tribute to Molly Kitajima


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A (video) Tribute to

Mary ‘Molly’ Kitajima

October 25, 1925 – January 25, 2014




Just by looking at her, these may not be the first words you would use to describe Molly Kitajima.
Her small stature contradicts her monumental life.
But then you take a closer look.
Her face tells her story.
Each wrinkle is like a road she’s traveled in her life.
And then you notice the glimmer in her eyes.
It hints to the fiery and passionate personality within.

Molly reminded us to live life with a kind and generous heart, and to always, always stand for what you believe in. Battles large and small, she always fought for what was just, wanting to leave the world better than when she came.

<<audio>> “They’re saying don’t rock the boat. And I’m saying ‘what? why?’ Nobody knows about us being incarnated”
Molly lived through the Japanese incarcerations during World War II in Canada. Her family was relocated and forced to work on a sugar beet farm. She later moved to California and was very vocal in the Redress Movement, fighting to obtain restitution of civil rights for Japanese-Americans who were incarcerated by the U.S. government. Once the U.S. government offered an apology, Molly when back to Canada to start the Movement for Redress there.

Molly was an inspiration to us as A FIERCE WOMAN as well a taiko player. She started playing taiko at the age of 64, and continued well into her late 80s. She not only played taiko, but lead two groups, Onami Taiko and Heiwa Taiko, a grandma-only taiko group. Molly was a role model, reminding us that that life was yours to live and you could do anything at any age.

Members of The Genki Spark shared the stage with her at the Tule Lake Pilgrimage in 2012. She calmed our pre-performance jitters by advising us to “let let it all hang out.” It was an honor to share our spirit with her through taiko — She told us “You guys make me young all of a sudden.”
We were fortunate to have the honor of calling Molly our friend.

Please join us in celebrating Molly as we play “Nakama No Uta” a piece that Molly taught us about friendship.



Narration by LeeAnn Teylan, Performed by members of The Genki Spark. Submitted by: Karen


Being an Ally



Last week The Genki Spark held a Skill Share for members on how to be an ally. With PRIDE just around the corner, this space was a perfect opportunity for a member to facilitate an activity, training, lesson on something they are passionate, knowledgeable, or strong in. I led this Skill Share as being an ally is something that I care a lot about, and work very hard to aspire to be.

Those of us at the Skill Share reflected on how privilege and oppression affect our daily lives. We also discussed traits of a good ally and a not so good ally.  Here’s what we came up with.  What do you think makes a good ally?



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We also completed two phrases to show how we feel about allies to us and how we can be allies to others.  Why do you think allies are important?


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Honoring our Past, Present, and Future


In honor of May being Asian Heritage Month, I thought I would share one way in which The Genki Spark honors our heritages.  For those of you that missed our Making Women’s History Event back in March, or you were so inspired and excited about it and can’t wait until next year’s event…here’s an “encore” of one of our new pieces debuted that weekend, “Honoring Past, Present, and Future.”

Below you will find the speaking parts of the piece and a video of our performance.  We at The Genki Spark honor and celebrate those that came before us as we continue their work for a happier, healthier, genki-er world.  We are excited for our future and the future we are creating for those yet to come.




Today we reflect on the experiences of our ancestors. As immigrants and minorities, the generations before us faced many challenges. Their stories of sacrifice and struggle include:

  1. Having to change their names because they were “too hard to pronounce.”
  2. Being forced to “speak good English,” abandoning the languages their families had spoken for generations.
  3. Being denied jobs or access to education.
  4. Working endlessly under exploitative conditions, building railroads, cleaning houses, picking crops.
  5. Forfeiting their professions or dreams in order to provide a better life for their families.
  6. Facing the burden of proving loyalty to a country that was at war with the homeland of their ancestors.
  7. Being expected to keep quiet and endure indignities because they were women.
  8. Being harassed or beaten for their skin color, race, religion, who they fell in love with.

Despite all this, the generations before us not only endured, they excelled. Their pride, strength, and courage enabled them to continue despite a society that tried to keep them down. They demonstrated resistance through organizing or simply trying their best to persevere day after day. Let’s honor the legacies of the men and especially the women who continue to inspire us.


Today we envision the future.  The future we want to leave for our children, grandchildren and generations to come.  A future that honors those who have come before us.

What is this future we see?

A future that is just, equitable; where there is equal pay for equal work regardless of gender, race or religion.

A future that provides places where each of us can flourish, celebrating our unique strengths and talents; including opportunity for any girl who dreams of being president to do so!

A future where the media portrays women & girls for their strengths, skill and ability, not their hairstyles, bodies or sexuality.

A future where we fight through numbness and dumbing down to act with courage and conviction.

A future where women and girls leave competition and judgment aside to fully support each other.

A future where in the presence of strong women and girls men and boys find their strength and compassion

A future where we ALL listen to the needs and experiences of one another to empower healing, liberation, and positive change.

A future where each of us contributes to a healthy, sustainable planet,

A future where we live lives of hope, love and peace.

How can we create this future and carry on the legacy that has been given to us?  What can we do to create this future?


Today, we are in the present. The history of our past and the progression of our future, meets today, right now. Because we are interconnected.

This is our time. What are we going to do now?

The efforts of our past have contributed to progress. Today we still take on challenges including inequity, discrimination, and other forms of injustice. Every moment is an opportunity for positive change. Everything we do, what we say, every interaction, is important because what we put into the world, is a ripple effect that leads to what will come.

Because we are interconnected.

What are the choices you’re making now? When you do something or say something, are you thinking about the impact? How it might make the other person feel? How it might impact our communities? How it impacts the world? What we put out, even the little moments, matter.

What we do now is going to not only impact us, but will be what we pass on to our children, and our children’s children, which will continue to be passed on to future generations.

We invite you to join us, in spreading respect and peace in the world, with fierceness, so that our positive vibrations will spread and heal our communities and world.

We are interconnected.

Join us in making positive change, NOW.

Run! Can Not Stop….


It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since the Boston Marathon bombings. I’ve been doing a lot for reflecting the past couple weeks, sometimes it feels like it just happened yesterday, and other days it seems like it was years ago. Then I remembered I wrote a blog shortly after the event about my views of being a new runner and living in Boston which you can view here: http://wp.me/p2x8O2-ab

Salem Black Cat 10 Miler

I shake my head every time in disbelief when I read the first sentence. “I may not be fast a fast runner, and I am may not be able to run a marathon, but I’m definitely a runner.” I wrote this blog just under a year ago and it’s hard to believe I’m about to run The Big Sur International Marathon this Sunday.

I had barely finished my first 10K when registration opened for the marathon last July. I was already planning a trip back home since I haven’t seen my family in years, and thought I would try to get in even though I knew it would sell out being the #1 most scenic marathon in the US. My heart wasn’t set on it, so I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed if I couldn’t get in because I knew I wasn’t ready for a full marathon yet. So you can imagine what my stomach felt and what my face looked like when I got the “Congratulations” email confirming my registration. The marathon sold out a few minutes later at a record time of 59 minutes.

My trail runs through the winter.

So I started immediately training for a half marathon while still performing with The Genki Spark. I also discovered www.whoirun4.com , a wonderful organization that matches runners with buddies who can’t run, bringing awareness to diseases and disabilities of all types. The wait list is very long as you can imagine, taking up to 2-3 months to get matched. I was matched with Ian and his mom the night before The Susan G. Komen 5K in September. Perfect timing since I knew this race would make or break me knowing I lost my mom to this terrible disease. And I was even debating being a no show. But after getting the wonderful news, I ran my very first race for Ian and also ran my fastest 5K yet.


My run buddy Ian and his mom.

Autumn is my favorite time of year, and training during this season felt more like a vacation getaway than actual work. I love seeing the autumn leaves turn, making my surroundings a canvas of color. However this didn’t last very long. I ran my first half marathon in early October and winter set in quickly after. As you know, this was one of the most brutal winters New England has had, but I did still manage to run five half marathons by mid December with temps averaging in the 20s to single digits, and I hadn’t even started training for the marathon.

Knowing what was up ahead, I was faced with a really hard decision knowing I couldn’t train for this race and be a taiko performer. A marathon is actually hundreds of miles, the race itself happens to be the last 26.2 of it.  I had to step back from The Genki Spark which meant stepping away from one of my biggest support circles. I knew I needed them to help me get through training, and they needed me to help them get through one of their biggest performances in March. It was a hard sacrifice for both parties, but one we all understood had to happen. All of my training was done on my own, with this brutal winter and being in isolation for hours, made my mind play tricks on me. There were several periods of self doubt and wanting to give up on this crazy idea, and I didn’t have my Genki sisters to pick me right back up and tell me otherwise. Luckily as the weekly mileage increased I was able to find a few races that worked perfectly with my my training schedule. Even though I never really interacted with other runners, just having them around me was enough to pick me up.  Even though the weather was awful every time, these runners were doing exactly what I was doing and wanted to do.


The Eastern States 20 Miler

However, this energy is nothing like I get from my Genki sisters. The night before my longest training run, a 20 miler up in NH which I had been absolutely terrified about, was first performance The Making Women’s History show this year. I hadn’t seen them all together in months, and I wanted to go not only to show them my support, but to see my family again. I sat in the front row so they could see me and something amazing happened .  We started kiaiing back and forth feeding off each other’s energy, communicating and bonding without words. By the time I headed home I was 100% confident I would be able to finish the race the next day even though the forecast was 100% chance of rain. I did finish strong, and added another medal to my wall.

So now that my longest training run was over with, the only thing left to do was to start cutting back and avoid illness and injury before the big day. Unfortunately I jinxed myself because I ended up getting a cold, and took a nasty fall at a half marathon I ran last week. I ended up spraining my left ankle and bruised up my entire right shin when I went down. However, I did ended up running my fasted half marathon yet, and I’m confident my ankle will be healed up in time for the marathon.


One of the views I’ll be seeing at Big Sur.

Watching the Boston Marathon this past Monday has rekindled my spirits at least tenfold. It’s clear the Boston has healed and became stronger.  I can’t help but to think that the bombings last year had something to do with my running choices. I’m very excited and proud of myself for getting this far. After seeing the picture of me holding a sign for the runners back in 2011 and wondering what was going through their head during that crazy race, I get to put the shoe on the other foot and experience that myself. What’s even better is that I get to experience this while hearing and feeling the spirit of taiko while running! I am so honored that Watsonville Taiko will be drumming for The Big Sur Marathon runners at the bottom of the biggest hill, just like we did for Boston!

Months of speed intervals, hill training, long runs, polar vortexes, windy and rainy races, dizziness and nausea, my training is finally over. It looks like I paid my dues because the forecast on race day is going to be near perfect. I have to hurdle Hurricane Point, but I will make it thanks to Watsonville Taiko and knowing my Genki sisters will be checking for updates on Facebook every second when I’m running. And I can get some decent pictures and miles in for my run buddy finally! I’m ready.


Oct 2012- Present. Two more have been added since, and a spot waiting for my first marathon medal.

Peace, Love, Drum, and Run.

-Deena (Genki Alumni)


Racism in our Backyard


photo(24)Last week, a Newton North High School put on a musical called Thoroughly Modern Millie.   The script to this musical portrays some extremely racist characters who perpetuate Asian stereotypes.  Consequently, many community members, many of them Asian parents, teachers, and students, expressed disappointment, anger, and frustration.  There was a Talk Back a day or two after the musical was put on.  I did not attend the event, nor did I even hear about the musical being put on until it was already done.  However, as a member of an arts and advocacy organization, and specifically one that promotes Asian American culture and works to bring awareness and break down oppression, this was something I wanted to learn more about.

From the little research I’ve done on the musical and the process in which Newton North took to put on the musical, I have many questions.  Who should we hold accountable for the fallout?  Who is being targeted by the musical’s content?  Who is speaking up?  Who is being silenced?  I found out the school tried to address the racism before and after the performance.  They even wrote a letter in response to the community’s outcry.  In it, the principal talked about the discussions, consulting one of their Asian teachers (ok, this felt a little like tokenizing), having the students of the Asian club talk to the director, inviting people to the Talk Back, and even asking the company who owns the rights to Thoroughly Modern Millie to see if they had another script without the racism (surprise! they didn’t).  You can read the whole response here: Millieresponse While reading this, I just kept thinking, “This obviously isn’t enough!”  I kept wondering why a school would choose to put on a musical knowing it would cause such negative reactions.  Was this a way to open a dialogue about racism?  This wouldn’t be the route I would take, but I’m not a theater director at a majority White suburban high school.

I haven’t seen the musical and don’t know anyone who participated in the production.  This incident is just another reminder that racism still is a problem and should be addressed.  From what I’ve learned about the fallout in Newton, I’m hoping more work can be done to raise more awareness on why people reacted so passionately.  Check out some reactions from the Talk Back.  What it showed me wasn’t so much people wanting to fight one another or even looking for apologies, but people from the Newton community wanting visibility around the issue–to not brush it under the rug as racism often is, especially when it comes to anti-Asian racism.  I look forward to learning more about how this community will continue to figure out how to address a complex issue such as this.

—- Trisha




Lee Ann

Born in Philippines
Age 2 immigrated to Queens, NY
Age 27 move to Boston, MA
Filipino, female, queer, activist, artist
*Taiko drummer & photographer*

Photo by: Michael Simonitsch.

A memory… is when I brought my girlfriend (now wife) to Easter dinner with my family. At that point, I hadn’t even come out to most of them so I introduced her as my friend. When you are intimate with someone, it is difficult to hide that connection and I could tell that my family quickly realized that she was not just my friend. I felt it in the room that they understood and were not happy. After dinner, one of my aunts, who I thought would be the most understand, sent me an email flatly asking me if I was gay. I thought to myself, ‘This is easy. She asked me. So I’ll answer.’ I was still afraid, but she was the ‘cool’ aunt so I wrote to her and said ‘Yes, I am dating Jenn. I hope you can be happy for me because I am finally in a place where I am learning to be happy with who I am.’ I was surprised that the response was not as understanding as I thought it would be. It stuck with me until today. My family has slowly come around to accepting our relationship and who I am. They have always said they had an issue with the relationship and not me, but if you can’t accept the relationship and who I love- you aren’t accepting me as a whole. That memory sticks with me so much because I was really hurt by that response. Being visible for me is also being visible in my family. At one point, I had asked myself, ‘If they don’t accept me… how involved with my family do I really need to be? Do I stick around? Do I fight for this or do I walk away?’ I made the decision to fight to keep my family, and to work through this with them. As much as this was a process for me, it is also a process for them. It took me all this time to be honest with myself and to learn to love myself, I should only expect that it will also take time for them. Visibility isn’t always being on a stage claiming who I am (though I often am doing that with The Genki Spark), but is also being visible with my family.

This campaign as part of MAP Health’s visibility social media campaign. After a community wide nomination process Genki Spark member, Lee Ann Teylan was selected to be honored. Please check out the profiles of the other amazing Boston based honorees which include Sarath Suong, Narong Sokham, Hema Sarang-Simenski, Cassie Luna, and Maxwell Ng.

Congratulations Lee Ann!

Taiko Baka 2014


2014-01-21 12.55.19Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, flap, flap, flap
Wiggle, wiggle wiggle, flap flap flap
This is the constant refrain I heard as Tiffany sensei began to deftly take apart my drumming technique so that I can play more efficiently and with less strain. During the weekend long workshop, we wiggled and we flapped with visions of spaghetti arms floating in and out of my consciousness. The technique worked because how else could I have lasted 4 days of daily drumming, sometimes up to 45 minutes at a stretch without acquiring a single blister on my hands. Lots of sore muscles. No blisters.
Four days of taiko intensive workshop with Tiffany Tamaribuchi, an internationally known taiko master is first and foremost a lot of FUN! Yes, we did learn to play the Odaiko but a funny thing happened before we played our solos. I learned to overcome my self-doubts, my fears. (Play a solo? Oh no. Not me.) I learned to relax and enjoy the moment. I felt connected and balanced. So what if I made a mistake. So what if I couldn’t play a pattern after the first or fifth repetition. So what if after learning a drill one day, I couldn’t remember how to play it the next. All I know is no one is keeping score (maybe me, still). No one will remember how badly or how well I played my solo except me. And in my mind at that moment, I was flawless. The corrections, the do overs….those can wait until the following day.
I still have plenty of challenges to work on and who doesn’t? But after Taiko Baka, I am less intimidated. It isn’t as daunting a task anymore. True, I still get nervous. But it’s all relative. At the very least, I don’t feel like Sissyphus pushing a big boulder up a steep hill all the time.
Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, Flap, flap flap.

— Mary Ann