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Naomi Goedert

Naomi Goedert

Keeper of Okinawan Traditions & Bridge Builder of Peace

Born: Okinawa, Japan
Heritage: Okinawan American

Like I say to my kids too, even families fight. The parents and kids fight. Parents sometimes fight. It’s just a little things. So it’s hard to e one family, but hopefully as a family [we] can get a little more closer.

Naomi Goedert

Keeper of Okinawan Traditions & Bridge Builder of Peace

My name is Naomi Goedert. I was born in April 1966, in Okinawa, Japan. I am half American and half Okinawan. My mother was a World War II survivor. She lost her parents, her grandmother, and four siblings in the war. On the island of Japan you see a lot of memorials. But in Japanese education curriculum they don’t teach the students about the war. The government doesn’t want to talk about it. But in Okinawan schools they teach what really happened. The Okinawans who live on the island and who survived the war don’t want the children to forget.

The popular form of karate now is from Okinawa. It came to Okinawa from China in the 1600s or 1700s. From Okinawa it went all over the world. In Okinawan culture we also have Taiko drums. We use them in the Obon ceremony. On Obon the Okinawans believe that our ancestors will visit the family for three days. On the first day the spirits will come into the house, and we have a big party with a lot of food and dancing. By the third day we have to send the spirits back. So we dance from house to house in the town all night long. Some will play the sanshin, which is a three-stringed guitar, like a banjo with a really high pitch. And some play the Taiko drums while girls dance behind them.

When I started school, kids recognized I was different from them. They teased me because of what I looked like and the language I spoke. I talked to my mother and she said, “They tease you because you have something they don’t have. No matter how they are mean to you or tease you, just be kind to them.” When I was growing up I was really confused. I didn’t know if I was Japanese, Okinawan or American because I looked in the mirror and looked different than everyone else. But once you understand yourself more, you love yourself more and you know who you are.

In Okinawa I thought America was one big family. But it’s like I tell my daughters, “Even families fight.” One time at the store my girls and I heard an American cashier say really bad things about a Korean customer. This Korean lady was so old, and she didn’t speak any English so they couldn’t communicate. The cashier’s line was long and she was frustrated because the Korean lady was slow. So the cashier said negative comments and cursed in front of me and my kids. My girls and I were shocked. That’s the first time that they actually heard people saying those kinds of things.

When I was young, I liked to wear black or darker clothes. But since I moved here, I started wearing more color. I missed the color in my country. Back home we see so many colors in art and nature. I love to be surrounded by it and I think other people do as well. It’s okay to be different colors on the outside because as long as we are all red on the inside then we are the same. The U.S. has so many different cultures here. Everybody is different and that gives us something to talk about. But I do miss Okinawa. Okinawa made me who I am now. No matter where I live I will be Okinawan.

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Honoring Naomi Goedert


Peace on this Earth
The place I was born

My name is Naomi
I was born In Okinawa, Japan
My mother survived World War II
My father was American
Where everybody knew, everybody else
There was some teasing going on
Because my skin was a different shade
I had to be strong
Some kids would ask, “Why is your nose
so tall and your eyes so brown?”
Most everybody there looked the same
How could I stand my ground
My mother said,
“They tease you because
You have something they don’t have
No matter how mean they are to you
Be kind and don’t treat them bad.”
It was safe. I could go anywhere
I wasn’t afraid of the dark
Down by the river. Down in the woods
All day playing in the park
When my brother married
and he the first son
They moved into my parent’s house
It was tiny. Where could I go?
So I had to move out
That’s when I met, my husband to be
He, was a Marine
We would walk, down to the beach
Later, he proposed to me
We moved to the United States
Where, he had family
Now we have beautiful daughters
Skye and Miyabi

Words by LARRY LONG with Mrs. Hudson’s 4th grade class at FAIR School
(Crystal, Minnesota)

© Larry Long 2007 / BMI

Listen: Okinawa