Halvsie is a nonce word—a lexeme created to express a specific meaning—and we use it to represent a person who is of half of Japanese heritage and half of another culture. There is a great diversity in the mixes that make up the hāfu diaspora, but what binds us together, and what we all have in common, is the half of our lineage that is Japanese.
In Japan it is common to use the katakana loan word hāfu, or ハーフ, in the same way. On this website the two words are interchangeable, we chose halvsie back in the day because it was unique, different, and we could register the domain name to start an online community.
There are other terms that have come and gone, some left behind because their origin was hurtful or slanderous, and others because they were simply just culturally insensitive. We have stuck with halvsie, again because it was a unique brand, but also because it was original, it doesn’t come with the baggage of being borrowed from somewhere else.
We recognize that halvsie, and hāfu, can rub people the wrong way—expressing someone as less that 100% of something. We can appreciate that reaction, so we retain the word for its connective powers, even though that might date its origin back to the aughts, before the culture evolved.
In the 90s, particularly on the west coast, the term hapa was used to describe most broadly the state of being half Asian. At the time it was an excellent way to bind much smaller mini communities together into a half Asian coalition. In time hapa, a term borrowed from native Hawaiian usage, brought with it unfavorable implications of cultural appropriation. It held great power in the aughts to bring people together, but as the movement advanced, it was rendered less powerful in and of itself, and we have moved to other phrases to describe ourselves. Half Japanese generally use hāfu, as it has Japanese origin, and as a loan word, implies non-native Japanese meaning as well. That seems to suit our bicultural community just fine.
The original halvsie.com started in 2002, and grew to a community of about 2,000 registered users over the course of its 7 years. It was born before the era of the Social Network, and well before the rise of Facebook. However, when Facebook took the web by storm in the mid-aughts, the halvsie community slowly migrated to a stronger, more feature rich platform, and halvsie.com receded into the background.
In 2020 the forces in the world are very different. We are living within two cultural uprisings for which the original halvsie community values seem appropriate to reapply today: the first, the #blacklivesmatter movement has grown to become the largest political uprising in the history of the United States—out pacing, or perhaps reviving, the Civil Rights Era—and its showing promising signs of continuing on well into the future. Halvsie always stood for connection, expression and racial empowerment. And we stand with #blacklivesmatter 100%. But we also want to recognize that we hāfu should have a space where we can discuss our own unique culture amongst ourselves. We want to bring that back.
Secondly, the extended separation of all communities through the battle with COVID-19 has seen many social groups, and open communities, shrink or disappear. Politically we are more divided than ever, and the longer we stay in quarantine, the more lonely and thirsty for community we become. So as human beings we need to find community, and hopefully halvsie can bring some of our brothers and sisters far and wide into a central community, so we can love and support them as the members of the original halvsie found each other and did the same.
Our relaunch here one halvsie.com is in the hope that we can bridge those two global forces—racial empowerment and community building—by building an alternative to locating those conversations somewhere other than Facebook. To be honest, Facebook has shown itself to not be on the side of privacy, cultural empowerment, or truth-telling in regard to politics or societal reaction to COVID-19. Therefore, we’re going to try go our own way separate from them..
For comments and thoughts, please engage with us on Twitter @halvsie or via Instagram @halvsie, or check this space for further announcements in the coming weeks. If you are half Japanese, send us a DM. Halvsie is invitation-only, and we can invite you in once you tell us an email.
Talk to you soon,
Saren Sakurai Halvsie OG. @halvsie or @saren