Yasuke, Anime, and the Power of Self Definition
My oldest son turned 13 last week, and I was hunting for something to get him (besides the smartphone my wife and I will be bankrolling). And then, earlier this month, there it was: a new online store selling clothing connected to a new anime series on Netflix, Yasuke.
The series is about a Black samurai in Japan, and it’s loosely based on a real person in the late 1500s. My son is Korean and Black, and he likes anime, so I figured this character might serve as an interesting touchstone as he crosses cultures and forms his identity. But what I really loved about the Netflix shop for the show is that the clothing is designed by Hypland, a streetwear brand created by an anime-loving Black entrepreneur named Jordan Bentley.
When I designed the curriculum for The Black Experience in America: The Course (overview available for download free here), my big-picture goal was self determination; I wanted to equip my sons, and anyone else who engaged with the material, with resources to push past the trite definitions society often hands us — of what it means to be Black, American, patriotic. One of the early lessons in The Course is called Secret Identities, and it explores how we might find wholeness in a culture that can feel like it’s trying to slice us up into demographics.
On Saturday afternoon, the day after his birthday, my son and I watched the first episode of Yasuke. He’s into it so far, and he loves the Hypland shirt. Most important, I think he gets the message: it’s possible to contain multitudes. The original Yasuke did. So does Jordan Bentley. And as the Black experience in America shows us all, so can we.
You can also take The Course online. Buy a lesson bundle, and send others the link: