When Life Gives You Lemons,
Make Yellow Power Lemonade
by Tony Osumi

Are you feeling a little low?
A little disrespected?

Are you tired of being complimented on how well you speak English without an accent? Fed up about hearing some guy reminisce about his layover in "the exotic Orient?" Does that racial epithet screamed from a passing car put a damper in your day?

Or has struggling to pay rent, the bills, and feed the kids all while Gold Mountain’s richest, rich-rich White boys live high on the hog - the same one you’ve been tending - got you thinking that there has to be a better way? I mean where’s a good tanomishi when you need one?

Well let’s face it, the American Empire is a tough place. It can wear you down. Anyplace where the top 1% of the population controls more wealth than the bottom 40% combined, has got to have a catch. And guess who’s been caught? Nooses may be passé, but poverty wages and a life-time of Establishment hypocrisy can put a long slow squeeze on you just the same.

But maybe I’m being too hard. America is the only country to drop a nuclear bomb and the only "industrialized" country without a national health care system. Technically advanced, yet morally and ethically backward. Yep, we’re number one all right.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, young and old, gather ‘round. You’re in luck. I’ve got just the thing to put a little spice on your rice, some flurry in your curry.

Yes folks, the newest - or should I say - oldest and boldest elixir to hit the streets since we hit these shores--

YELLOW POWER LEMONADE’s sweet taste kills the bitterness of second-class citizenship, racist stereotypes, and social and economic alienation in the land of milk and money.

Guaranteed to help find the real you, the better you--the better us.
YELLOW POWER LEMONADE, beats the heat of self-hatred and satisfies the thirst to be more human. Go ahead people, chug-a-lug a hug, of cultural reaffirmation and self-determination.

YELLOW POWER LEMONADE, the liberatory libation.

But you say you’re content with your drink of choice. Still enjoy the numb buzz you get off your corporate cola? Makes you feel like a true-blue American; one of the guys. Well, consider this: Ever found yourself trying to out-white Buffy and Jodie? Think the Model Minority Myth is a compliment? And don’t have a problem with turning out Mother Earth to support ruling-class joneses?

Yes, no, maybe... afraid so?

Then welcome home brothers and sisters. Slip off your shoes, lick your lips and do yourself a favor. Give
YELLOW POWER LEMONADE a try. Ignorance may be bliss--until you’ve been kissed by knowledge of self and peoplehood. We all have so much to re-learn.

But best of all,
YELLOW POWER LEMONADE is free, free, free. Available in moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas, uncles, aunties, bachelor Nisei, younger folks, and strangers too. In fine minded bookstores, community centers, taiko beats, camp pilgrimages, J-Town anti-eviction battles, and reading to your children. In Mochitsukis, Ethnic Studies Classes, prefecture picnics, Vegas turnarounds, New Year’s ozoni, Ten Point programs, study groups, bonsai, and high-schoolers saying no to 187. In Bruce Lee, JA basketball, old issues of Gidra, dancing the Tanko Bushi, teriyaki hot dogs, J-School, Third world unity, fishing Opening Day, dinner table conversations and serving the people. In our magnificent brown eyes, beautiful daikon ashi, wonderful skintones, and most importantly--deep in ourselves and in the honest and genuine relationships we build with one another through the endless cycle of listening, discussing , reflecting and cooperating together.

Sisters and brothers across the globe have long enjoyed the healing powers of
YELLOW POWER LEMONADE. Made with no artificial flavors, behaviors or colors. With only the finest ingredients originating from 40% of the world’s population.

YELLOW POWER LEMONADE is carefully aged with Issei who militantly organized labor unions up and down the West Coast to assert their dignity and aspirations for a new, more equitable society. Cured to perfection by Issei women who founded the Japanese Proletarian Artists’ League and created arts and culture with a working-class consciousness.

Fermented by our grandfather’s peers, who called themselves the Worker’s Defensive Corps and with jujitsu, protected rally speakers from swinging billy clubs, blackjacks and brass knuckles, courtesy of L.A.P.D.’s "Red Squad." Slow simmered by Nikkei who during the Depression, matter-of-factly and without fanfare provided food and produce to others living under the First Street bridge.

Brewed lovingly by Sansei women of the Asian American movement who sent a message of respect and re-education throughout the community by physically confronting an Asian brother who beat on one of their sisters. And continually seasoned by immigrant Japanese, Pilipino and Latino workers at the New Otani/Kajima Hotel in J-Town, who are taking control of their lives. By demanding union representation, livable wages, and affordable healthcare, they’re helping to build a better and safer Los Angeles.

And yes, for extra flavor, a pinch of Angel Island poetry, a dash of Teatro Campesino, and a sprinkle of Gil Scott-Heron.

YELLOW POWER LEMONADE is bottled across the globe, and distributed throughout Chinatowns, Koreatowns, Manilatowns, J-Towns, Little Saigons, Little Indias, and ‘hoods the world over.

Oh, and in case you think
YELLOW POWER LEMONADE is some kind of narrow nationalistic nectar, you’ll be glad to know that it is the perfect complement and taste enhancer. Goes great with menudo, pupusas, greens, mac and cheese, fried bread, jerk chicken, samosas, curry, falafels, kim chee, pad thai, pork adobo, jung, okayu, meatloaf, matzo balls and much, much more (everything except non-union grapes, Coors beer and the Melting Pot myth).

So fill your daily requirement of dignity, respect, and justice with
America may be a tough place, but the "power of the hour" is blooming a new flower. In fact, thousands of them. But lush gardens don’t appear magically. They’re nurtured, through plenty of collective love, self-critique, true hashed-out democracy and lots, and lots of sweat.

Yes people, we need to build new images of ourselves. Guided by the best of our past, in the reality of today. So keep your mind and body strong. Drink
YELLOW POWER LEMONADE everyday for a lifetime. Take a swig and take a stand.

Kampai! L'chaim!

Originally published in The Rafu Shimpo, December 1, 1995

Updated: 8/17/02

Jenni/Tony Homepage

Back to Tony's Writings