Culture, Interviews
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The Politics Of Being A Chinese Jamaican: An Interview With Howard Sun

Half of MZAB mag, Soraya met Howard whilst in a taxi in London. Read onwards to find out more about his his fascinating, life, heritage and culture

Where are you from and what does your name mean?

I was born in Jamaica in the year of the infamous hurricane Charlie but my ancestors are from the Pearl River Delta area in Guangdong Province of Southern China and they made their journey to the USA for a better life, during the goldrush in California in 1849.  My Surname SUN, in Chinese, means descendant.

When did you move to London and what drew you to live here?

I moved to London in 1978 having lived and studied Electronics in New York. Living in the USA was not for me and I returned to Jamaica after living for 7 years there. While working and doing some businesses, I met a girl from England, got married then decided to emigrate as things were getting quite dangerous. This coincided with a yearning to live in a more developed society which was more open-minded, orderly and offered more opportunities than Jamaica at the time.

You are from a melting pot of different cultures, what culture do you identify with the most and why?

In my day to day activities I am a Londoner, whatever that means.  My personality is a mix of mainly Jamaican, British and American. My soul is Chinese.

Chinese culture, which I stumbled upon while tracing my roots for over 40 years, feels like home. Its richness, depth, longevity and uniqueness takes my breath away.  I don’t have a simple explanation for this, it just feels easy and natural to me.

What was your experience of growing up ethnically Chinese in Jamaica?

A mixed bag really. Being Chinese afforded me some privileges in a class society (a left over from the British) but on the other hand you were a target because the Chinese rose quickly to be quite well off by doing various types of businesses and educating their children. They came originally to work the land like the Indians and Africans as well as to build the railroad in Panama and then the Canal. I developed a backbone pretty quickly to survive in the society.

What is a moment from your childhood that you most fondly recall?

I have this lovely, indelible memory of me running bare foot on the pavement, shirt wide open, brimming with joy, for no reason. My Dad had a business complex called Champion House, with our home, a dancehall, a restaurant, a billiard room, a bar and a grocery shop.  

There was a few acres of open land endowed with all manner of fruit trees etc behind our house. This complex was my playground.   

What is the brief history of modern immigrants in Jamaica?

I don’t know a lot about this because while I was living in Jamaica it never occurred to me to enquire about how people got there. I just accepted everyone even though some looked different to me. It was only when I lived in UK that I learnt a little about the foreign influx into Jamaica. There is a German and Irish Town in Jamaica. They came to work the land and to escape famine in Europe. The Indians went there as coolies. There was also a smattering of people from the Middle East and other countries. Jamaica certainly has a rich tapestry of people from all over the world. Its motto is “Out of many, one people”

You mention many professions, a therapist, teacher, author, poet and speaker. What has been your most inspiring and rewarding moment?

That’s kind of hard to say. Each has its own value and satisfaction. They share a commonality as they all have to do with helping or serving people in a meaningful and transformative way. Maybe its only fair to give an example from each category.

Therapist: I worked with a gentleman who had lost the ability to move a couple of his fingers because his ligaments were ruptured. He wanted to play saxophone on a ship. We worked together for a few months. A year later he came back to me and said he was playing in a band on a ship. We created an energy connection in his hand that gave him the ability to move his fingers.

Teacher: I created and taught a Body Consciousness course “The Way of the Sun” which used colour, sound and movement to help people to reconnect with their body mind and spirit in a holistic way. There was constant feedback about “feeling more alive”, “connected and having a body”, “having much more energy” and “feeling lighter and in tune with life”. These were some of the more common feedback from people who did the course.

Author: Our book “Colour Your Life” written by my wife Dorothy and I (in that order), has been a revelation. Originally printed in 1992, it has become an international best seller in various countries around the world and is still in print. In the UK it has been reprinted over 30 times to date. Its probably sold over half a million copies worldwide to date and has probably reached 2 – 3 million people and counting. Not bad for a modest little book. I have a feeling there is more to come.

To add to all that, it was published in China a year ago which was a long-held dream of mine because of the passion I developed for my ancestry but also because of my ancestor, Dr Sun Yat Sen (1866 – 1925), who is the father of modern China and its first president.

Poet: Performing my poem “Ja likkle superpower” live during the London 2012 Olympics at Festival Jamaica in Stratford. The occasion was celebrating Jamaica’s 50th Independence Anniversary on the day – the 6th August. Its online on YouTube and Soundcloud. Be my guest, google it and leave a comment. Big up Jamaica!

Speaker: My dear friend and solicitor commented after a talk I had given at his office “I have heard many people speak before but you are the best I have ever heard”. However, I pay him money, sometimes.

What is a passion that you are currently pursuing and why?

My passion is to help create a more humane and harmonious world. Only by awakening and becoming a point of light can we raise the collective consciousness to realise a world we all deeply desire. This has been a lifelong passion since I had a vision in Jamaica many years ago “to wake myself up”.  In 1896 my forbearer Dr Sun Yat Sen extolled the Chinese people to “Wake up everybody, wake up” as China struggled to free herself of the slumber she had fallen into and the ensuing yoke of Western imperialism she had fallen under. 

I aim to do this through the book I am writing on China, lecturing and teaching. This project fell into my lap, on my shift.  And isn’t this what we all cherish and hope for, to realise The Dream of Man.

What are the perks of doing Uber part-time

Doing Uber part-time is useful for me to supplement my income as it’s flexible. They are working to make it more financially rewarding for drivers and that would be welcomed.  The tapestry of people I meet has made it worthwhile. It has been a great experience for which I am grateful.

Favourite quote or line of poetry/prose?

As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he

James Allen

The greatest use of life is to use it for something that will outlast it.

William Blake

If happiness is your destiny you need not be in a hurry.

From the Chinese

Woman is the root of heaven and earth

– Lao Tzu

Could you give us your favourite line of one of your own poems?

Love is the only key that fits into eternity.

What is your philosophy in life?

Live simply, honourably and boldly to further the things that truly matter in life. Take total responsibility to create the life you want and abandon the illusion of only living in the matrix. This is the beginning of wisdom and enlightenment.

What countries have you travelled to and/or lived in?

Canada, USA, Haiti, Puerto Rico, UK, France, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, the Vatican, Croatia, Cyprus, Sicily, Tunisia, Hawaii (Big Island), Maui, Japan, China, Majorca, Formentera, Ibiza, Greece and several of the islands e.g. Mykonos, Samothraki, Evia, Rhodes, Naxos, Poros, Kythnos etc. Israel, Egypt, Turkey and Jamaica

What did your day look like when you lived in Tangiers?

Get up early to catch breakfast. It was a delicious soup (Bisara I think) made with green split peas with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of cumin. Hot baked bread came with it as well from the dome-shaped ovens in the restaurant.

We had no real schedule.  We hung out in the courtyard of the old palace by the fire, conversing, smoking, writing and singing and making music. Sometimes we would walk through a bit of the old town.- the Kasbah and meet up with some local people. I vividly recall going to a “party” on the beach in a huge, colourful, magnificent tent partially embedded in the sand to shield us from the wind-blown sand. It was an unforgettable experience.

And finally, our theme for this first issue in ‘Sanctuary’. What does sanctuary mean to you?

Sanctuary means an inner and outer space/place that you can go to and feel nourished and at peace with yourself amid the noise and confusion of life. It is  precious.  Here one is inspired, healed and attuned to the universal mind and Higher Self. In this state one is with all of creation simultaneously.  In the present, connected and in tune with the Source of all that has been, is and will ever be. Timeless. The ground of being as its referred to or the fountainhead. I am.

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