Hip Hapa Hooray
by Toby Barazzuol on Monday Oct 6, 2014

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This past weekend I had the pleasure of visiting the beautiful Nikkei National Museum in Burnaby to attend Hip Hapa Hooray! It was the inaugural awards event of the Hapa-palooza Festival, which is itself a celebration of mixed heritage identity and culture, and Eclipse Awards was the awards sponsor, so I was excited to attend for a number of reasons.

Full disclosure, I’m part Chinese and part Italian and certainly fit the definition of a “hapa”, which is a person of mixed cultures, usually part Asian and part European. Growing up, we simply thought of ourselves as Canadian, so when I found out there was an emerging hapa culture and community in Vancouver, and they were organizing their 4th annual festival, I knew we had to get involved! In my experience, recognition is a great way to build community because it empowers people and also helps to identify the community to itself and outsiders, so we offered our services to the good organizers of Hapa-palooza.

The festival organizers were excited because they were able to celebrate some of the leaders and builders of this community, and they had selected some great folks to recognize: Kip Fulbeck received the Community Builders Award for his artwork that celebrates mixed-ethnicity people; 16-year old Ann Makosinski received the Youth Achievement Award for her creative mind and amazing inventions, which include a flashlight powered by body heat; and Fred Wah, Canada’s fifth Parliamentary Poet Laureate, received the Lifetime Achievement Award for a career of recognizing racial identity through his writing.


It was a pleasure to see these people recognized at Hip Hapa Hooray! Not only to see their joy at being celebrated and appreciated by their community, but also to hear their stories and learn about their struggles and triumphs. It was also inspiring to hear the awards presenters Anna Ling Kaye of Ricepaper Magazine and filmmaker Jeff Chiba Stearns describing how they had been influenced and impacted by the award recipients. Overall, it was a wonderful evening of learning about one another and feeling connected by our celebration and shared experiences. The organizers even took a moment out to appreciate Eclipse Awards for our contributions, which I really appreciated :) (photo by Lorene Oikawa)

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I have no doubt that Hapa-palooza will be back again next year, building community and celebrating the people in it. In fact, Fred Wah summed it up best when we said “Gee, we ARE here! It has been such a gift to have Hapapalooza” because it allowed us to recognize and celebrate ourselves as a community. Going forward, I imagine that each award recipient will be an emissary for hapa culture and the Hapa-palooza Festival because they feel even more so like they are a part of this community.

So hats off to the organizers of the Hapapalooza festival! Building community is never simple, but it can certainly be powerful and recognition can play a role in helping communities come together. If your organization or association is looking for help in building a stronger community, let us know and we can help!





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