Karen Young, Founding Director
Passion/Work outside Genki: My passion has always been about developing spaces where people grow and find their voice. Creativity and 'out of the box thinking often is where solutions to complex problems lie. I have a fondness of shiny, sparkly things. I want to be the old woman who wears colorful shoes and does outrageous things instead of fading into the sunset.
Key identities: 3rd generation Chinese/Japanese American, West Coast Bostonian, late blooming feminist, raised in a mixed heritage and multi faceted household.
Favorite thing about being a member: Being continuously pushed to be big in the world by women who I feel understand me and challenging others to do the same, daring to show my vulnerabilities to those who I lead and being met with compassion, understanding, and respect.
Inspirational moment: Listening to my sisters talk about their families immigration experience at one of our retreats. We worked in small groups and reported out based on: born/raised outside the US, 1st/2nd/3rd generation raised in the US, and adoptees. It was incredibly powerful to hear sacrafices, challenges, and triumphs of the generations of women before us as well as the generations to come.
Favorite memory: Watching Kumiko perform with an untightened mic stand while playing the Japanese flute. I watched her slowly bending over lower and lower as the mic droped from being in front of her face to her waist. Thank goodness it was a comical piece. I don't think there was anyone in the audience not howling with laughter by the end of the song!
Passion/Work outside Genki: Provide holistic support to new engineering students in higher education. Passions include stretching via yoga, being upside down in a head/handstand, and eating yummy food. I am also a sea otter enthusiast.
Key identities: Third generation Chinese/Fourth generation (Yonsei) Japanese American; born and raised in Bay Area, California in a proud, overeducated family; cancer survivor
Favorite thing about being a member: Playing taiko, especially with an awesome Asian sisterhood. It's really challenged me to be more physical and be proud of being strong. Sharing and preserving taiko as an Asian American art form as well as a vehicle for activism, for social change. Genki is (my) community that I can come home to in Boston. And that first hit of the taiko every Sunday just revitalizes me in mind, body,and soul, every time :)
Inspirational moment: Being part of the team to create "Immigration Stories: How We Arrived Home." I felt so honored to turn their stories into a performance piece, to perform the diverse, unique stories of my fellow sisters, and to personify their emotions and part of their narrative as Asian women.
Favorite memory: Playing taiko for a packed house of Japanese/Japanese American camp survivors (including George Takei and his husband Brad), their families, friends, allies at the Tule Lake Pilgrimage. What a privilege to celebrate and honor their courage, resistance, and resilience.
Passion/Work outside Genki: Racial Justice Program Manager at YW Boston, general overall social justice educator, always through the lens of love, compassion, and fierce conversations. Host/MC of various events - open mics, banquets, weddings, your local artsy potluck - just give me a mic and a direction, and I'm there.
Key identities: I am a 1st generation Punjabi South Asian Indian-American - AKA Asian Brown. I grew up working class, I am bilingual, I am bicultural, I am a rockstar.
Favorite thing about being a member: I dig the way we back each other. It's easy to throw around the word sisterhood, but I feel like in Genki, we speak and act what we're about. Sisterhood means more than just an open-hearted sharing circle [which we have a lot of, and there's nothing negative about it!] - it means pushing your fellow woman to her next level. It means holding each other in our most insecure and secure moments. It means a compassionate call in. It means a high five and everything behind it. :)
Inspirational moment: Calling in my fellow partner-in-crime around a moment that hurt - and holding myself and her in the highest light as we processed.
Favorite memory: When one, or a couple of us, "break" a fellow sister. "Breaking" involves saying or doing something that makes them laugh so hard they can't speak. :)
Passion/Work outside Genki: I love to travel and I'm thankful I have the opportunity to apply my knowledge and experiences as a traveler to my job as a support agent for a major travel company. I love talking to folks and getting them pumped for their trip! Favorite countries I've been to: Mexico and the UK. Other interests include puppies (corgis!), my 2 cats, alpacas, pineapples, good food, YouTube (I really LOVE Youtube), special effects makeup, and dancing! I'm a die-hard commuter, but I'm currently learning how to drive!
Key identities: First generation Chinese American, bilingual, working class, big girl doing big girl things, foodie photographer who uploads on Instagram.
Favorite thing about being a member: Being in a multi-generational space where we comfortable sharing our personal stories and experiences, finding similarities in our narratives. We also get to see each other grow & shine, while celebrating each other's victories both big and small. I love knowing that I have a group of women who will back me up through life's challenges and triumphs.
Inspirational moment: 2016 Making Women's History show spoken word piece "How We Arrived Home" where I spoke in English and Cantonese. I was nervous to speak in Chinese, but I knew that was what I needed to do in order for my story, growing up as a daughter of immigrants in America, to be told in the most accurate way. I felt proud to speak and to be heard in my native language.
Favorite memory: Genki road trips or long car rides with an excellent selection of snacks, cause we do snacks right! Getting delicious Thai food from the local place across the street after practice. We share some great laughs and know how to have a groovin' time while sharing our unconditional passion for food.
Passion/Work outside Genki: I am passionate about working with children and introducing and teaching about other cultures. Especially Japanese culture. I want them to understand and give respect to the uniqueness of each one of us. I believe that if people can understand and respect each other, we can have a "Peaceful" world.
Key identities: I was born and grew up in Japan with Japanese parents. I came to US in 1995.
Favorite thing about being a member: I grew up in a country where I thought it is better to "not be different." I always try to be a good member of the group. Before I thought to be a good member it is better to not be different and just agree. I thought that was the most important thing - not to have an opinion. But now I learn I can be a member of a group and still have my own voice. Since I joined The Genki Spark, I have a chance to get myself and find my own words. It is a big change for me to feel comfortable to "show who I am" and "share life story" with others. I had never been able to share my past life, but I feel so safe when I am with Genki sisters, so I can share everything and get support from them.
Inspirational moment: When I see my Genki sisters and give them a hug, I feel so warm and safe. I am always getting support from them, so now I would love to share my story with others and I would love to be a good supporter to whoever needs it.
Favorite memory: Hard to pick one because I have so many. I used to be the "oldest" in the group, so when I said "I am the oldest member of The Genki Spark" people would give me big cheer!!! I think I look "old enough" to play taiko! HA HA HA!
Passion/Work outside Genki: My spiritual path guides my life’s unfolding and informs my work as a coach and consultant to bring forth the best of a person. As a life and personal leadership coach since 2000 I love guiding women through life's transitions. As a consultant I facilitate nonprofit teams to enhance their team-ness, productivity and effectiveness. I also facilitate drum circles for seniors, people with dementia, Parkinson's disease and for community and family events.
Key identities: Japanese American, French Canadian American, mixed heritage and now in my sixties, breaking aging stereotypes.
Favorite thing about being a member: Genki is the place in my life where I get to share what it means to be an Asian American with women who get it. This has helped me discover and heal parts of myself that I’ve not had access to in other environments. I Iove playing taiko, the power of the drums and the sisterhood.
Inspirational moment: Performing at Stonehill College, where I graduated from in 1978 was a highlight. Seeing the support the school offers the students of color signals huge growth from when I was the only Asian American on campus. Being introduced as someone who paved the way for the current students touched my heart.
Favorite memory: I have more than one! The bonding and learning that we experience on our retreats: co-leading the meditative morning moments, playing fun silly games, laughing together. Seeing girls and young women in our audiences feeling empowered and inspired by our message.
Passion/Work outside Genki: I am a quasi- retired physical therapist specializing in geriatric rehab. I love spending time with family and thoroughly enjoy every moment with my grandson, Max. On a good day, I may find myself working out in the gym, practicing Yoga, hiking or playing tennis.
Key identities: I was born in the Philippines and landed in Massachusetts via Ohio and Illinois. I am a mother to 3 sons and Lola (grandmother) to Max.
Favorite thing about being a member: Outside of my family, The Genki Spark is the only group of Asian women I see on a regular basis. It's a wonderful feeling to come to a space where I don't need to give any explanations to exist. I am accepted for who I am. As is.
Inspirational moment: Everytime I stepped outside my comfort zone, whether it's performing a Matsuri solo, telling my story during a gig, or attending a Taiko Baka workshop with Tiffany Tamaribuchi, I feel empowered.
Favorite memory: Our Annual Retreat. We laughed, we cried. Sometimes even at the same time. Most of all we were unafraid to be ourselves, to be vulnerable..... because it was safe to do so.
Passion/Work outside Genki: Academic, Marketing Professor
Key identities: Born in the UK to parents of Indian heritage, bred in Mumbai, and matured in the US. I am an Indian, who never had an Indian passport. An American, who did not rock and roll in her teens.
Favorite thing about being a member: The Genki women, just by being themselves, open up universes beyond the narrow confines of my conventional life.
Inspirational moment: The powerful, moving personal stories of the Genki women and the weaving of these stories into the drumming. It is as if we are playing our powerful, complicated, multi-layered life stories.
Favorite memory: Being trained by Mayuko. She is the kindest, gentlest, most empathetic teacher.
Passion/Work outside Genki: Youth work, radical social justice education and grassroots community organizing with The City School and the Youth Justice and Power Union. My family! Building radical and intentional community and space, especially with women of color. Learning and performing classical Indian dance. Reading and writing poetry. Watching Marvel movies and keeping current on the my fall TV lineup.
Key identities: Asian, South Asian, Indian. Brown. Desi. Woman of Color. Owning my class, caste and educational privilege. First-generation / child of immigrants. Sister and daughter.
Favorite thing about being a member: Being surrounded by powerful Asian women who are fierce both when they are loud and when they are quiet, and who are unafraid to claim and take up their space!
Inspirational moment: After seeing the Women’s History Month show, one of my friends said, “Genki Spark is joy in a bucket.” Who could resist being a part of that?
Favorite memory: I love playing with my mom and being part of the second mother-daughter team!
Passion/Work outside Genki: I am a pastry chef focused mostly on artisan breads . I'm also a jack of all trades and I like to try things at least once, maybe twice, and possibly a third time. Other things I like to do consists of aerial silks, obstacle course workouts, and I'm aiming for a skydiving license.
Key identities: Chinese Adoptee
Favorite thing about being a member: I love learning about the other members and hearing their stories. It's both a liberating and awe-inspiring moment for everyone when a person can open up.
Inspirational moment: Seeing the 50+ members hitting a drum as if they're in their 30's is always inspirational. I want to be that 80 year old grandma that's still hitting a drum.
Favorite memory: So far my favorite memory consists of the road trips. Filled with the most random and silliest conversations known to mankind.
Passion/Work outside Genki: I am a 5th grade teacher. What I love about my job is that every day is different, and I have to use all I know to fit academic, social, and emotional puzzle pieces together to make things work for my students. An added benefit is that I get to learn new things all the time too. It’s creative, fulfilling work! In my free time, I like to bike with my family, run around the block with my two dogs, and practice yoga.
Key identities: Third generation Chinese-American, born and raised in Hawaii. Wife and Mom. New Genki Spark member.
Favorite thing about being a member: I love being a part of something that brings people together in positive ways. By speaking out through the art of drumming, we recapture our pride in our cultures, dispel stereotypes, and connect to others, black, brown, white, or yellow, as human beings.
Inspirational moment: I love watching the other members perform. In each performance, they share so much of who they are. I am touched both by their confidence when drumming and by the stories they tell. No matter how many times I hear their stories, I get teary-eyed because I can feel their struggles and because I am so proud of them for being brave enough to share. They inspire me to speak up.
Favorite memory: Our graduation performance was going well until I had a moment of doubt when I had to solo-start the song after the bridge. I thought to myself, “Wait, is this right?” As if they could read my mind, the members yelled out, “Yeah!” After that, I could continue confidently.
Passion/Work outside Genki: I have been teaching Asian American Women’s Studies at Wellesley College for the past 23 years. My classes and research straddle everything from the history of Asian women in American film, to looking at Techno-Orientalism in popular culture (films, television, and comics). I’ve worked on the history of the WWII internment camps, Japanese war brides, Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi, and currently have turned my attention to Elvis impersonators. Outside of work, I have a soft spot for horses, creative writing, green tea lattes, cats, Corgis, organic gardening, classic New England barns, taking the perfect iPhone photo.
Key identities: I grew up the Army brat daughter of a white American father and Japanese mother. I consider myself a multiracial/hapa, Japanese American/Asian woman in America.
Favorite thing about being a member: I love being part of an intergenerational all-Asian women’s collective ensemble. Even though I am a long time teacher, I find myself learning something new every practice session from the amazing women in The Genki Spark.
Inspirational moment: Performing with The Genki Spark for the first time at “Women Making History” was such a moving experience. The camaraderie, the humor, and the support of all these women lifted me in so many profound ways behind the scenes. The confidence I felt in their company accompanied me onstage and made performing onstage an act of joy.
Favorite memory: Rhodinne’s bachi sailing across the stage at the Boston Asian American Festival is my favorite--and the fact that she chased after it, picked it up, and kept on drumming without losing her beat!
Passion/Work outside Genki: Right now, I’m busy growing new passions and work after retiring from 30 years of teaching. I still love being a mom the most, and my kids are my biggest cheerleaders as I trying new things like knitting, gardening and taiko. I’m excited to be facilitating an AAPI teachers’ group, and to be a mentor to new teachers. I’ve just started writing blog articles for Teaching Tolerance, volunteering at a Boston Charter school and giving workshops on race and diversity for young families and children. I’m passionate about finding ways to connect people through the sharing of art and stories. I believe that somewhere in this labyrinth we will discover the antidote to hate, and the seeds of peace.
Key identities: I am a second generation Chinese American born in New York City. Although I am an only child, I have many, many cousins who fill my family with lots of love.
Favorite thing about being a member: I love laughing together and growing friendships with Genki women of all ages and talents. We take pride in our ages however big or small, and work together to become stronger people and better drummers. And we always enjoy delicious bakery snacks from Kumiko and Ann after class!
Inspirational moment: After a school performance, I was standing at the door giving high fives to second graders as they left the gym. A small, great girl at the end of the line placed a tiny, folded origami crane in my hand and said proudly, “I’m Japanese!”
Favorite memory: I loved putting up cherry blossom trees in Hibernian Hall, and watching an empty room transform into a stunning, festive space for Making Women’s History! Jen Moy’s solo story performance that night - an immigration story about a Chinese American girl asking her mother to go to a sleepover - moved me to tears. It was funny, poignant, brilliant!
Passion/Work outside Genki: Promoting equity and joy through science education. A science geek who wants everyone to experience beautiful a-ha moments, an educator who designs these experiences, an advocate who pushes people and institutions to examine biases and engage in more inclusive practices for a more loving, sustainable world. Current vehicles for this work: The Exploratory, an NGO in Ghana and a consultancy; UMass Boston. Motto: STEM+Love = A better world. Been a choral singer for years, loves to travel.
Key identities: Chinese born and raised in Hong Kong, calls Boston local. World citizen.
Favorite thing about being a member: I’ve never been in an all-Asian women’s space in the US, since that was my experience growing up. Genki gives me the space to consider issues specific to Asian immigrants and Asian American women – a demographic often overlooked because there are “too few” of us to be represented in quantitative data reports. And of course I love the physicality and the resonance of the drums.
Inspirational moment: You can’t be what you can’t see. I have learnt so much from the amazing women in the group, young and old, their willingness to be vulnerable, to be supportive, to be visible to other Asian women in the community. There’s power in seeing and being seen.
Favorite memory: Bopping myself on the head with my bachi during rehearsal. Was hardly able to get through the song. Great to have Kumiko laughing along with (I think) me! Getting a thunderous cheer at a Smith gig when I shared I was a scientist.
Passion/Work outside Genki: I conduct research to understand how we perceive the world through our sensory systems. It’s often taking for granted, but sensory integration is an important part for our daily life functioning (including playing taiko!). Apart from research, teaching and mentoring undergraduates, I love to cook and eat.
Key identities: Chinese born and raised in Hong Kong. A global citizen.
Favorite thing about being a member: I like being in this space where I feel supported by Genki sisters to step out of my comfort zone and be better (like learning new songs and techniques, speaking, etc.). I love learning from them - inside and outside Genki, these women are making an impact about what they believe in. I hope to become someone like them!
Inspirational moment: Hearing the responses of college freshmen after a school gig – they made me realize that we are making a difference by showing who we are and encouraging others, especially young people, be who they are! Also witnessing how much my cohort grew during the Members-In-Training period: after six months of training when we finally gave our graduation performance of Renshu, it was a blast!
Favorite memory: I love all our gigs that involved the little ones. Dancing in a circle with them, having them try out playing taiko, and chopsticks challenge! These are all so fun! Also love that time when we shared our appreciation of each member at the retreat. It shows our positive and beautiful energy.
Passion/Work outside Genki: I’m a graduate student in Developmental Psychology. My interests are how babies learn about the world. Specifically, how they understand an object and the relationship between the object and agent.
Key identities: Born and raised in China, I went to Boston for study two years ago.
Favorite thing about being a member: My favorite thing about being a member is to hear people’s stories behind the scene. I like the supportive environment being surrounded by Genki sisters that I can open my heart and share my own stories with. I remembered the first time when I was asked to share something with others, I was struggling to say a word and then I saw Karen’s big smile on her face, I feel so secured and just went for it. Everyone is so encouraging and understandable and always there cheer for me!
Inspirational moment: My inspirational moment is being on stage at the very first time, I was so nervous, even we were playing a simple song, our sisters were cheering and supporting us off the stage like we were the super star :)
Favorite memory: My favorite memory is seeing a young kid hitting the drum strongly, which is even taller than her!