A Personal Cultural Identity Narrative

Personal Cultural Identity Narrative

Qamar Bradford

ARP 690

Dr. Nan Hampton

Multicultural Dimensions

 

Abstract

This paper presents a narrative about my background in multiple aspects and how it relates to my views on disability and counseling. This breaks down into 1) Patriology, the section about my father’s side; 2) Matriology, the section on my mother’s side; 3) Ecology, the section on my environment; 4) Individuation, the section on my philosophy and how I bring those influences together; and then finally 5) Psychoprojection, my vision for my cultural goals for the future. In this essay I explore the unique medley of influences that have combined to create my history, my present and my inclination for the future.

 

This paper presents a narrative about my background in multiple aspects and how it relates to my views on disability and counseling. This breaks down into 1) Patriology, the section about my father’s side; 2) Matriology, the section on my mother’s side; 3) Ecology, the section on my environment; 4) Individuation, the section on my philosophy and how I bring those influences together; and then finally 5) Psychoprojection, my vision for my cultural goals for the future. In this essay I explore the unique medley of influences that have combined to create my history, my present and my inclination for the future.

Patriology

My own family’s ethnic history within the African American context of course originates from the USA’s history of human trafficking. My father’s side comes out of the South via Oklahoma and then California, where he was born. He’s traced his African roots to Bamileke, Bamana and Hausa ethnic groups of West Africa. But other roots of his family, indicated through relatives and old pictures, include influences of Native American and European. Family stories suggest my grandpa Amos Muhammad’s (his last name before Islam was Bradford) parents may have suffered the tragedy of discrimination against interracial marriage during the Depression. As a result, my grandfather grew up in an orphanage with hearsay that his mother came somewhere from Canada before their parent’s marriage went awry and their family structure deteriorated.

My grandfather eventually grew up to attend college, meet and marry my grandmother, fight in the Pacific Theatre in Korea and raise my father and aunts in San Diego.

My grandmother, Raquel Ann was raised in Oklahoma, coming from the upper middle class African-American wealth that was centered on Greenwood Avenue during the Depression in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her father, Abraham DuBose was the first medical surgeon of Tulsa, whose certificate from Walden University I grew up seeing on our house walls. His business was adversely affected by the Tulsa Race Riots of 1921, in which chaos unfolded in the city when a group of men defended the life of young African-American male—falsely accused of raping a white woman—from being lynched. However the result of the preemptive action led to white riots burning and looting black homes and businesses, culminating to the level of the local National Guard dropping firebombs upon the African-American built and owned business sector, Greenwood. Surviving that, he preceded to successfully raise my grandmother paying for her education at the Historically Black College (HBCU), Langston University. She went on to be active in civil rights movement and raised my father to engage in the same struggle.

My father was their first child and with my aunt and grandparents he experienced their careers. My grandmother was an educator and my grandfather did a variety of jobs after the military including owning a restaurant, driving a taxi and even being a gambler. In fact the first house they owned in San Diego, my father attributed to my grandfather’s successful bet on races at the Del Mar Fair. Finally coming into a realization of reform and seeing a vocational opportunity, my grandfather joined the Nation of Islam (NOI) under the Minister Elijah Muhammed and established the first mosque here in San Diego. With his family’s new theological orientation, my father spent his youth converting from the Christianity of his grandparents to Islam. Our family’s transformation culminated when my father’s parents decided to move to French West Africa to teach English and practice Islam. After returning to the USA, my father was bilingual in French and working in the NOI. During that period, he explored his hobbies in Journalism at Hoover High School and took great interest in martial arts, particularly Tang Soo Do, a Korean form of Karate. In the same era of Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris, my father earned a black belt from a native Korean instructor.

My father then parted ways from the NOI as he graduated and went to college and became active in college level civil rights movements. Due to financial hardship and conflict with my grandparents, he joined the Navy, met my mother and raised me in the Pacific and his hometown, occasionally visiting his side of the family that eventually relocated to Oklahoma, where I was exposed to black rodeos and African-American built towns like Okmulgee and Beggs, OK.

 

Matriology

My mother’s family originates from the American South, particularly in Georgia, via Ohio. In Ohio is where I spent many summers as a youth. My grandfather, Robert Allen had a dynamic childhood, raised under the impression that his family name was Mapp, but then learning his last name was actually Allen. Due to this discrepancy growing up, he experienced a shift in social status from high to low and he experienced a great deal of familial turmoil. But despite his hardships, he did attend college where he majored in computer science. With his degree he later went on to work with businesses helping to establish unions.

My grandmother, Sudie Watson, was disabled and injured her leg in a car accident. Accordingly my mother grew up with a mom who was physically disabled. But despite her disability she still worked steadily and reliably for her family. My grandmother performed domestic duties, eventually getting into the laundry business. We have historic pictures of her co-workers and the owners meeting and having discussion. Although I don’t know very much in detail about her parents, my mother has told me how she remembers visiting the farm my grandmother’s parents sharecropped. She also tells me of a family story about how my great great-grandmother ran away from slavery and lived in the forest for decades until she finally learned that plantation slavery had ended.

They raised my mother with her three sisters and extended family members in Ohio. My mother grew up learning to work hard as well as smart, learning accounting and eventually joining the US Navy. She worked as a data processor on the Telenet, which was the military system that preceded the internet. She met my dad in California and they had me at Tripler, Naval Hospital in Hawaii where the two of them, my older sister and I stayed until I was 2 ½  when we relocated back to San Diego.

Ecology

The environment in which I was raised and my family’s structure was quite dynamic. Our experience is very intersectional of race—my parents having mixed African heritage and various influences and even my older sister’s Venezuelan immigrant father. Our family experience intersects with disability—my grandmother’s injured leg, my grandfather’s tracheal surgery, my parent’s military experiences, and my aunts’ experience with schizophrenia. Our family’s experiences intersect religion—my parents experience of converting from Christianity to Islam and later from Islam to New Age and non-Western spiritualities. I strongly feel that just the environment of Southern California with its various Buddhist Temples, Rosicrucian Rite landmarks, and enchanting lands with exotic mixes of people create a culture unique to itself when we really see the details.

But because of this convergence of influences—so very intense and overwhelming at the same time—I grew up meeting many people at various stages of coping with our diverse Southern Californian reality. I knew many white-American kids to identify Southeast San Diego as “ghetto”, Linda Vista as “Vietnamese” and Hillcrest as “gay”. San Diegans have created disparaging terms like “Manila Mesa”, “Chula Juana”, “Clantee” or “Nasty City”. I find that although our county is rich in ethnic enclaves, many people of here wish to see a revisionist reality, and many people who relocate here so often expect a California that we see on television when actual California is exotic and dynamic because of the cultural milieu within it giving birth to new cultural creations like California rolls, California Burritos, Chimichangas, Kwanzaa and more.

My experience of being a black male has introduced me to the experiences of all discrimination types. References that as a black person you’re less intelligent and more athletic; or the assumption of heteronormativity rather than nonconforming sexual identities, etc. are throughout my life. My own family roots can contribute to some of these social problematic discrepancies too. My parents were both baptized as children and in some ways they are both Christian “by birth”. So our family fits into the Black Anglo Saxon Protestant (BASP) pattern. This pattern is a slightly more diverse than WASP, but the other two factors outside of race are minimally divergent from the stereotypical American pattern. My families—especially visible through distant family members—have habits that are rooted in anglicized culture and Abrahamic religion. In fact, some of the movement my grandfather made towards the NOI solidified some bias in views towards non-Muslims and non-Blacks.

But accordingly, as the son of parents in the helping professions, I challenged this. I pursued Eurasian culture not just out of economic gain, but for philosophical understanding. I internalized African-centered thought for my personal development rather than racial insulation. I changed my diet to understand human nutrition and culture. I liberated my views on my body via calculated risk, cross-cultural experience and artistic exhibition. I learned sexual fluidity by taking to heart the wisdom of my gender non-conformist role elders and teachers and made intimate friends of different backgrounds but all from the same priceless place of everlasting compassion.

I’ve come to see myself as a San Diego and Pacific native, ethnic African-American, California American nationalist, pan-human culturalist, Japanophile, androphile and internet scholar. More simply put: inevitably distracted. I feel my technical personality is particularly influenced by my father who spent much of his youth on paper and in the dojang. I followed his framework of development prescriptively and intuitively pursuing up to a second degree black belt in the Korean martial art of Tang Soo Do. Additionally I followed his example by exploring his interests in anthropology, black studies, politics, science-fiction writing, non-Western philosophy, fantasy illustration, and abstract illustration. My interest in the arts is very much inherited as it is cultivated. But my emotional bearings for flexibility, playfulness and improvisation are especially attributed to my mother. This is particularly in that place of being an effective and business-sharp professional.

As far as my personal cultivation, the visibility comes particularly through how I’ve pursued my hobbies and formal education. In my primary school years, thanks to video games, hobbies with friends and a highly film literate older sister, I took to comic books/ sequential art. What engaged me was the scientific basis for many of the stories, the attention to anatomical detail, the use of international themes, the frequent addressing of social issues and the incorporation of classical art themes and mythology. Upon reaching the last two years of high school, I wrote a junior paper that explored American comic book censorship and then for my senior paper I examined the legitimacy of comic books as a formal art in addition to illustrating my own. I graduated from Helix High School of La Mesa, California with the high hopes of completing a degree in sequential art at the Kubert School of Art or Savannah College of Art and Design. However, my financial and social realities set in before I could make the deadlines and I ultimately pursued my studies via Grossmont College and SDSU.

Once arriving at Grossmont College, I pursued graphic design while heavily focusing on Japanese language studies. However, after not being able to sustain my motivation for sequential arts, my creativity became honed into Japanese language arts to a large degree. I became fluent and befriended many Japanese exchange students, studying and internalizing their mannerisms and speaking styles. I advanced so much in my Japanese studies that once I transferred to SDSU, I was able to work closely with the department head, Dr. Yoshiko Higurashi in addition to becoming a shoe-in for study abroad at Osaka University of Arts.

There at OUA, I was able to explore first hand, a private art institution and the variety of classes that they offered. I saw my first Kabuki performance at the school’s newly revamped theatre. I received the opportunity to illustrate frames for the traditional animation, Apu no Jitensha, directed by a graduate student from Bangladesh. I took classes in woodblock cutting, screen printing, oil painting, computer arts and traditional watercolor painting. I also attended a few practices for the Judo club.

Outside of campus, I participated in the Tondabayashi City fall Danjiri festival—which I did return several times once I returned to Japan for English teaching. I also was able to visit several temple and shrine complexes including Shi Ten No Ji and others in the Osaka proper. My first vacations with classmates allowed me the chance to see the Nikou Shrine complex—the gravesite of Tokugawa Ieyasu in the Kantou region. But this trip to Osaka gave me much more room to roam. When I returned for work, I was able to experience and see much more including a traditional Ragaku presentation, Eiheiji temple of Fukui prefecture and the great Buddhist Temple complex of Mt. Kouya—the site where the famous monk Kukai first brought a particular variety of Buddhism from China. I even found the opportunity to dabble in some Kyokushin Karate, Aikido and bodybuilding.

In all, I was able to mature my interests in both American and Japanese traditional and popular arts, linguistic arts, Japanese religious art, Japanese performing arts and martial arts.

However now as I pursue my studies further, and after experiencing nationalism of a different variety, I’d like to meld these influences into a new, revolutionary and ultimately evolutionary direction: purposeful, practical, proportionate and sustainable homogenization via the arts for the sake of the public good

 

Individuation: Qamarism

Cold winter nights and hot summers between ESL classes, I would spend my time reading articles on Wikipedia about virtually everything. Japan left me isolated and seeking. I got to the point where I felt like I understood when Buddhist theologists preached about emptiness; when Trungpa or Soho preached about the idea of void. Although I had friends, I felt alone and the only thing that seemed to comfort me after a while was knowledge. My time was spent in a sort of chrysalis of introspection. And totally unaware I would return to the USA and pursue my parent’s field of counseling, I found myself pulled towards Carl Jung. One of his most useful concepts I stumbled upon during those lonely times with my little Acer netbook and Wikipedia articles was his term “individuation”. I think I was pretty sure I was led to it while cross referencing Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy. Individuation is essentially the process in which we realize our individuality. It’s on the road to Maslow’s uppermost pyramidal levels, self-actualization and self-realization. Constantly being asked who I was and constantly having to consider my origins, I realized my opportunity to be where I was allowed me to delve deep into my individuation.

Thanks to this experience and in combination with the program my personal outlook concerning my perceptions of disability, gender role, race/ethnicity, and sexual orientation has ha become one of universalism. My personal philosophy, I found in my isolation abroad and visiting spiritual places of Japan at Kouya Mountain temple complex, Nikou burial complex, Shiten no Ji, etc. My experience led me to a gestation and rebirth once I came back to the USA. Being so close to a foreign culture that by law kept me distant I was able to observe the multicultural interaction of human beings. Despite the propaganda of a “homogenous” nationalistic Japan, I observed the intentional interactions of Hindu, Chinese, Korean, Ainu, Ryukyuan and proto-Korean peoples. Even evidence of Ethiopian and Spanish influences shined through the cracks of Japan’s historical foundation. As much as Japan is well branded, it is also a nation easily recognizable as man-made.

With this realization, my view on everything has changed. From the cross-cultural exposure of my upbringing, my worldview has become very universally focused. I realize that not only are cultures created, but they also create themselves. And that every innovative method that people develop to survive is unique and distinct, and never been done before, especially within that unique context of geography and time. And I think that has given me personal identity that almost exists interstitially and absolutely.

This course has given me the ability to brand my own view of universalism. I feel I’ve gained the maturity and wisdom to see my own ethnic distinctness and value in African-Americana. When previously I felt intimidated about embracing Pan-Africanism and Afrocentricty, I now understand that as a unique ethnicity–like Japanese, South Korean or Taiwanese–I have the right to maintain our new cultural traditions like Kwanzaa. I better see the beauty in the kinara (candleholder) and I don’t mind sharing that anymore. I appreciate that my eclectic and mixed Pan-African origins give me the cultural freedom to create my own African-American aesthetic and share this with the world. But I also realize my Californian American identity also makes me an inheritor or the culture of the Pacific environment in which I was raised.

Psychoprojection: Californiacation

This self-realization I had ethnically also applied to my life nationalistically. And I started to think of Confucian social hierarchy and realized that despite our Federal emphasis on love of country, it was virtually impossible if people couldn’t do so in the right order. How can one love their entire country if they don’t love their entire region, state, county or city? Deepening my love for myself ethnically, I’ve invested some time formulating–especially via my arts background–on how to appreciate my life from the context of the polity closest to me: California. And I ultimately live to do so epistemologically in how I study counseling and then eventually back to my first passion: art.

Developing a Californian health and rehabilitation philosophy

China remains world famous for its indigenous medicinal practices of circulatory, nutritional and thermological therapies. However pre-Columbian methods must have existed and may have a way of being popularized, advantageously using local agriculture, too. What are local Amerind medicines and health practices? How can they be expanded? How can they be hybridized? What are the applications of our local natural products like manzanita or white sage?

Considering my exposure to Asian martial arts, I feel quite knowledgeable about their development and origins. In addition I have looked into the beginnings of fighting styles in other regions as well outside of Asia including Europe, Africa and the Americas. Becoming familiar with such an array of fighting styles has led me to the question: What would constitute a Californian Martial Art? How would it incorporate observation of Californian nature? How would it incorporate Californian aesthetics? What would be the weapons used in such martial arts? What would be the costuming? How would the forms and basic techniques take shape? Martial arts give us an opportunity to master self-defense as well as understand the physicality of our bodies. Like in discovering your gait after an injury or living with cerebral palsy, a dojo or dojang provides facility for rehabilitation and rediscovery. Raised in Tang Soo Do, I feel my cultural mark as a Californian exists in this context.

The synthesis of California culinary

Discovering and quit often teaching about Japanese cooking was very enlightening for me. Aside from their government having strict dietary regulations especially out of healthcare reasons, the Buddhist institutions also took care in advising people to eat healthfully as well as peacefully. Nonetheless the culinary palette and range is expansive. In California, although we have developed culinary specialties of our own like the California roll, California burrito, Julian pie, wine, etc. I am also interested in exploring other avenues of California based recipes that incorporate strictly what is available and can be processed in here, starting especially in San Diego. A few ideas include sea-salt, Kumeyaay buckwheat, lemon marmalade, plum wine, etc.

The exploration of a Californian visual arts system

One of the unique things I observed in general in Asia was that many arts would be “nationalized” and stamped with the country’s name on it. For instance, pigment based water color is called日本画 “Nihonga” which just means “Japan pictures” when translated directly. The same convention is used when addressing that of China and South Korea, from what I picked up in conversation. Such a subtle process brought me to ask the question: If we in California took the same procedure in branding our art as a polity, what would be created? What would a California pictures genre be? What would be the subject matter? Further thought brought me to consider what the exploration my entail by incorporating calligraphy, Native American pottery, woodworking, paper crafts, etc. under a “California” branding. This includes the exploration of Californian textile and fashion such as Mountain-Desert-Beach style, harajuku, facing California-inward and away from New York and Paris, Pacific Style.

The realization of a California state spiritual system

Homogenizing California Indian spiritualities with environmentalism and creating sacred California spaces and hot spring pilgrimage system so people can find quiet connections to the Earth and their ancestry through nature. This could also proper respects given to Native American holy sites via state recognition and hopefully eventually National recognition.

The development of a Californian orthography

Considering the development of the Hangul orthography that functions both as alphabet and syllabary, what system could serve the same for California English while incorporating Spanish and Native American languages? I feel one reason why the US economy is so limited for people is because our domestic language’s accessibility. While in disability, access is integral, having an economy that is internatioanlly infiltratabl emakes things impossibly competitive for someone who is disabled and only understands English.

Developing an Idealized California infrastructure

How does political branding affect those who are residents of areas? How would we be affected if everywhere we went we could find the county and city insignia? What revenue could potentially come from the sales of such memorabilia and merchandising of county and city insignia? How might we be relying upon corporate sports too heavily? Just in working for the State, I can see how there is a void in our local national identities. There are so many cities and counties without flags, complete school systems or government service structures. THese things are all components of autonomy, tourism and merchandising. If our institutions have glaring non-accommodated disabilities, there’s little hope of accommodations of our citizens with disabilities.

California has one of the largest economies in the USA. How would we be if we were a nation to ourselves? What would our policies be? What would dour own immigration policies be? How could we make sure we retain generational Californians? How could we solidify or markets as gateways to the Pacific, Mexico, the American Northwest and Southwest? No matter what vagrant seizes the White House, we still have to sustain ourselves in our region and State Government. And in doing so, we have to maintain positive and functional relationships with our regional partners, including passing on favorable word about them to the rst of the USA.

Modern politics introduced the discourse of a California bullet train. What other expansions and developments are ideal? How can other infrastructures be bundled in creation with transportation? How can California aqueductre be expanded for agricultural development—esp. in San Diego and at the county level—to be as, and if not more advanced than Rome? How can we tap and develop our estuaries into something more advanced than Egyptian deltas? How can sustainable systems like solar be used in a long-term, large-scale desalinization plant? How can we rapidly replenish and expand our groundwater reserves? My cultural exposure to Asia and the understanding of how I fit into things as ethnically African and nationally American deepened my cultural sensitivity, competence and humility. And as a result, I feel that included in our cultural experience is also our vision of potential long term cultural development: the ability to envision civilization.

 

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