Deems the Author

North American Post Listing of Deems' articles written
for the North American Post
2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
The NBA February 14, 2020
The Koto January 10, 2020


By Deems Tsutakawa / For The North American Post Thur, February 16, 2019

There is a really good book and movie written and produced by Kareem Abdul Jabbar called On The Shoulders of Giants. It is a historical journey that documents the period from 1920 through 1940 about the African American cultural renaissance and professional basketball in Harlem. All these events and people influenced his life and inspired Jabbar to become the all-time leading scorer in NBA history. He is also a philanthropist and outspoken promoter of Black American Culture.

It is well documented that during most of US history people of color were not allowed to stay in many hotels, eat at certain restaurants, or even use the same bathrooms as white people. During the era of pro basketball before WW2 there was a 'world championship' for the white pro league but they knew that in order to have a true world champion they needed to invite the best Black teams to participate. The good part about these early games was that the Black & White players became friends and learned to respect each other. This of course actually infuriated many whites at the time.

Unbeknownst to most people the first professional basketball player of color in the USA was a Japanese American named Wataru Misaka a 5' 7" point guard from Utah. Misaka played college basketball for the University of Utah and helped his school win the 1944 NCAA and 1947 NIT championships. He took a two-year hiatus between these titles to serve in the United States Army in the American occupation of Japan. Misaka subsequently played three games for the New York Knicks during the 1947-48 season.

Misaka, a Nisei, was born in Ogden, Utah on December 21, 1923. Growing up during World War II, Misaka was a regular target of racial discrimination because of his Japanese ethnicity. Raised in the basement of his father's barber shop-between a bar and a pawn shop on 25th Street, where brothels abounded-Misaka was denied service at restaurants and avoided on the street. Despite this, Misaka still participated and excelled in sports.

In the year 2019 Jeremy Lin became the first Asian American to win an NBA Championship ring playing guard for the world champs the Toronto Raptors. He is currently the only Asian American in the NBA which has almost five hundred players. Although most of the NBA players these days are African American I am personally happy to see that most teams have a few Caucasian players and that there are players from all parts of the globe playing professional hoops.

The Koto

By Deems Tsutakawa / For The North American Post Thur, January 10, 2020

For the better part of the last six plus decades I have always thought of my father George as the primary influence on my career as a jazz pianist and a performing artist. It only made sense as dad was a lifetime creator of paintings, sculptures, and educating people on the visual arts. He taught fine art at The University of Washington for well over thirty years as well as having countless visitors to his home studio which was filled with art works both his and others. Dad also collected many artifacts, utilitarian art works, books on art and museums, and other collectibles. The vast collection is still in the family and hopefully will remain there for many generations to come.

It is only recently that I have come to realize and appreciate the big influence that my mother Ayame had on my upbringing and values. Mom was an outstanding musician, dancer, entrepreneur, and Ikebana artist herself. She was the head of the Asian Art Council at The Seattle Art Museum as well as president of The Seattle Chapter of Ikebana International. Mom and dad made a great team together not only as parents but as creative business partners as well. They also did a lot of entertaining of family, friends, and various art buyers and museum curators.

From the earliest age I have the most vivid memories of my mother playing the Koto for us as we were growing up. Oftentimes on a Sunday morning we would wake up to the most incredible Koto music one ever heard. When mom would pluck the strings the sounds of the notes cut right through me like a hot knife through butter. Her intensity was unabashed and she never pulled any punches so to speak. When I think about it I can hear the memories and sounds like it was just the other day. To have these experiences so strong in my mind and heart tells me that she was perhaps the biggest influence on my modest endeavors.