Artist and poet G Yamazawa grew up Asian-American and Buddhist in the southern Bible Belt, where he often felt as though he didn't belong. But insecurity transformed into a love for the stage and performance. G Yamazawa gives his Brief but Spectacular take on art and creating a safe space for young people to cultivate their own voices.
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Now to another in our Brief But Spectacular series, where we ask people to describe their passions.
Tonight, we hear from poet and rapper G Yamazawa. His latest album is called “Shouts to Durham.”
G YAMAZAWA, Poet and Artist:
I had a pretty tumultuous childhood. My dad had very heavy hands.
One day, I ended up having to go to a foster home. Got kicked out of high school when I was 17. When I was 17, 18, I think, is when I really sort of stood up and decided that I wasn’t going to, you know, be a victim to my circumstances. I knew I would never get anywhere unless I sort of broke through my own, you know, karma.
I grew up in a restaurant where my parents in Durham, North Carolina, were serving traditional Japanese food to this North Carolinian community, Asian in the south and Buddhist in the Bible Belt. You know, these are things I talk about a lot in my art.
You just don’t feel like you belong here. Anywhere I am, they’re like, oh, we’re diverse now, because the Asian guy’s with us.
My drive came from just a very deep place of insecurity and needing validation from strangers. And I think that’s where my love for the stage really began.
Working with youth and doing workshops and facilitating performance workshops and sort of safe spaces for young people to cultivate their voice is the greatest gift in the world. There’s always a student that reads. And the teacher is like, you know, I have never heard him say anything. I have never gotten that student to speak about anything.
It changes the dynamic of the classroom. It changes the culture of vulnerability in young spaces.
I wanted to acknowledge this place in my life that I felt like I was proud of myself and all of the things that I have done up to this point.
I think I’m starting to rhyme more because I want my life to start connecting, because, see, I have learned how to learn. So now I’m learning how to teach, because I done learned how to practice whatever I preach, but I grew from a grain into a beach. And I knew for the game, I’m playing for keeps. So, whatever I say, I say what I mean. So, whenever I speak, I’m able to reach a place that bleeds and a place that burns and a place that knows I got a lot more to learn.
My name is G Yamazawa. And this is my Brief But Spectacular take on art and transforming your karma.
And you can watch additional Brief But Spectacular episodes on our Web site. That’s at pbs.org/newshour/brief.