Women for Genuine Security
Home About Us Projects Partners Resources Store Donate  



A WGS Quarterly Publication

Insight Interview with Ikehara Eriko
By: Taeva Shelfer

How did you discover Women for Genuine Security? What brought you to the network?
I have worked with some of the founding members of WGS and their allied groups participating in various national and international activities (intermittently) since 1996.  After living in NY for 4 years, I returned to Bay Area in 2006 and reconnected with some individuals from WGS and participated in the planning of the 2007 Int’l Women’s conference in Bay Area.

Do you feel that women play a unique role in the struggle against militarism?
Yes.  I think all marginalized people, women included, play a critical role in the struggle, especially against militarism since it is the agency of oppression, colonialism, and imperialism.  Women are particularly at risk in terms of gender and the objectification and the fetishization of women that is already established in the male-dominant hegemonic system.The military is the epitome of that hegemonic system and it has caused unmentionable and damaging human costs to women all over Asia and other countries where the military presence has been established.

Do you think women have a different responsibility to global politics or relationships?
If one understood the risk and implication of the military over women’s bodies, one has the responsibility to protect and build alliances globally from her own body to the bodies of other women, transnationally. The body that I speak of is the body one claims, proclaims, and reclaims in the name of the empowerment of the self, linking the empowerment of transformation. I am not sure if the responsibility becomes critical because one is a woman or one becomes aware of the responsibility through self-realization. Perhaps both.

What is your perspective on transnational organizing as mixed race person of African American and Okinawan descent?
I think that before I respond to this question, I want to make sure that the question is framed correctly and the inquirer and the reader of my response understand the whole picture.  By naming someone as something, one has already accepted the term and conditions of that name: in this case, a mixed-race person of African American and Okinawan descent.”  Personally, I have accepted the term Black-Okinawan Amerasian of African American and Okinawan descent.  Why is this necessary?  It is necessary because it nuances something other than a mixed race person of African American and Okinawan descent.  It is necessary because the subject here poses many questions and contest to the categorical naming of race, identity, culture, nationality, etc…

Because I want to respond to the question that has been asked, I will stop here and return to the order of things.  My perspective on transnational organizing is one that is exciting and hopeful and one that is also challenging.  It is exciting and hopeful because I do believe that connection/relationship/building of networks from the micro to macro is imperative to the work we are imagining and pursuing.  My body is trans-racial, trans-national, trans-cultural, and moves in trans-space.  I think and feel from the place of transitioning, transporting, transmitting, transforming, trans-…  In a sense, my body dances in the space.

This type of organizing is also challenging, however, because of what I had began with in answering this question. When a body does not fit into a recognizable form, as in my case, I am faced with a decision of utterance or silence.  (Utterance: to take a stand; Silence: this is not the battle.)  When I take up a cause for Okinawa, I am keenly aware that, in general, the Amerasian issue does not come up.  This puts me in that utterance vs. silence dilemma.  This is not to judge but to be mindful of the work I have to do.  This challenge I am speaking of is a challenge which I am willing and eager to take on towards my work in the Black-Amerasian ontological exploration and historiographic mapping.

You use movement in your life work and as part of your activism. When/how/where did that start for you in your life? How do you see movement, art, and bodywork as part of your politics and activism?
For me, movement is a life force, an art form that co-exists with life itself. I “discovered” the power of movement through a break up from my boyfriend, a high school sweetheart.  When nothing else could heal my wounded heart, the day I stepped into a dance class (by pure accident), I felt my body dance – not only the actual body dancing, but also the spirit dancing.  From this moment forward, I began my relationship with my body in a different way.  As a graduate student at SFSU, I studied Interdisciplinary Arts focusing on Performance Art (performing the body).  Theorizing and performing provided me with the in-depth analyses, understanding and application of art to both personal and political work.  As one discovers one’s calling for what and how, I think my calling on what and how is performing the body – at least for now.  Again, the performing the body is not limited to the body actually performing, but a way in which one moves in the world.

How/Do you bring activism and your politics into your daily life?
Activism and politics should come from passion.  To bring them to one’s daily life is to have accepted and be clear on your passion or to engage in the process of achieving clarity and acceptance on one’s thoughts and actions mindfully.  From that standpoint (i.e., art as life), I am trying to incorporate activism and politics as not a separate experience but a way of life.  Here, the effort counts more than the achievement.

How do you practice self-care in the midst of your work and struggles?
To pursue and be surrounded by people, things like good food that takes care of me.  To be engaged in personal, political and intellectual activities that answer some of my questions about the meaning of life. To be connected to people and to continue learning life through experience. I also do yoga and pilates to keep me aligned…and laughter, any means necessary!

Okinawan delegates singing traditional Okinawan song in the opening ceremony and vigil at the Pentagon, Security Without Empire: National Organizing Conference on Foreign Military Bases, February 27, 2009. Photo by Lindsey Kerr


April 2009 Newsletter
Hita I Manao’tao Yini na Tano
Militarism, Environmental Justice, and Sustainable Communities
Bases, Violence Against Women, & Resistance
Insight Interview with Ikehara Eriko
Anti-militarism Fashion Show
Printable Version: April 2009 Printable 11X17 Newsletter







Home About Us Projects Partners Resources Store Donate