Medama Oyaji


This LEGO® model is a testament of my mother’s comedic, yet cogent advice. This gift that I made for her portrays a character from a cartoon from her childhood. Watching the cartoon with her, I realized that she gave me the power to accept my own existence, thus I could return the favor by making the model and this recognition. The cartoon character’s supportive humor is similar to that of my mother, my Champion who encouraged me to be myself.

            Being born from a Japanese mother and African American father, I was initially discouraged, potentially hampering my success in high school. I could have been reticent to adapt to my high school with predominantly African American students. My mother’s sense of humor and insistence ultimately introduced me to the positive aspects of being African American and Japanese. She had to start when I was much younger to prepare me for the future.

            Being African American and Japanese, I noticed subtle differences between the cultures’ mannerisms. My first language was Japanese and I learned Japanese customs from my mother, but American culture persisted through Nickelodeon and my father's English. At school, my typical greeting, bowing, intermingled awkwardly with my friends’ hugs. My white rice diet gave way to red meat and preservatives. Even my straight posture was scrutinized; I longed for Japanese culture.

            Entering middle school, I realized I took my fraternal side for granted. Noticing this, my mother encouraged me to enroll in a summer program for African American boys called REACH. This program exposed me to African American virtues such as perseverance, individuality, and strength. Having visited the REACH sessions, my mother commented, “There is good in this culture, especially the emphasis on strength. You need that.” When I entered high school, at which a majority of my peers are African American, uniqueness was paramount. REACH made me feel comfortable in that atmosphere, and my Japanese heritage distinguished me from my peers. “See,” my mother teased me after my first day of high school, “Not only are your classmates all motivated, but they know that you’re you, even though you’re as stiff as a rock,” noting my focus on academics. Undoubtedly, my mother’s guidance made the cultural transition to high school smoother.

            Having accepted my heritage, I can press forward to college. I intend to study architecture, a field with low representation of ethnic minorities, to earn an architectural license and design residential domiciles including houses and apartments. I have applied to eight postsecondary institutions including Case Western Reserve University and Carnegie Mellon University, but I am unsure where I will attend. 

            I represent two cultures simultaneously, so I learned not to see two different heritages, but instead one entity. Knowing that I am not the only multi-ethnic student, I currently encourage others in my position to appreciate their unique traits. Just as the cartoon character told me, being African American and Japanese is a crucial part of my identity, hence my full name: *****

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