Lowell Rojon, Musician

Lowell Rojon
Interviewed by Miae Kim

Lowell Rojon: [00:00:00 My name is Lowell Rojon. Lowell Stephen Rojon, uh, formally my name was Shin Sung Ho. When I was in Korea I was born in Korea Seoul Korea in 1955 and I was adopted at the age of two by an African-American family. The Hudsons out of north Chicago Illinois. And so they were my new parents. And then I was renamed Lowell Stephen Hudson and since let’s see I turned 21 I changed my last name. I can give you reasons for that. But anyway my last name changed at 21 to Rojon, I changed my last name to that. My reason for that was because OK I am Lowell Stephen Rojon formerly known in Korean by my Korean name Shin Sung Ho. I can appreciate. I can appreciate that.

Miae Kim: [00:01:20] Do you remember anything about your life in Korea?

Lowell Rojon: [00:01:20] OK. Actually I’ma tell you what I remember and it goes like this. I don’t really remember being in Korea I mean I have to admit I was you know one to two years old. When I– my first memories are meeting my adopted parents when I was about two and a half and we a group of kids were flown over by the Flying Tiger Airlines from the Holt Adoption Services Foundation out of Korea and so was all these old Korean kids mixed Korean a lot of them and Korean attendants on the plane. And I remember vaguely probably seeing Hawaii. Either we were flying to land on it or flying to leave it and then my next memory is us landing on the tarmac and the ramp being wheeled up to the plane. This was back in 1957.

Lowell Rojon: [00:02:24] Out on the tarmac and kids were being taken one by one down the stairs to meet the new adoptive parents at the bottom of the stairs. And I remember it was my turn and I was very cognisant of this was what this experience was I was going down to meet my new parents and got to the bottom. My new parents and we walked off and my dad stopped for a second and my dad by the way had served in the Marines during the Korean War so an African-American. And so he had, you know, experience with the kids that were orphans and things like that so we stopped for a second and he kind of pulls off and he thinks I didn’t really see him but he takes out a pack of gum pulls out a stick of gum unwraps the stick puts the wrapper back together puts the wrapper back in the pack and puts it in his pocket. But you know let him know that I knew what was going on and that was my first memory. Pretty much in life. That’s my first memory and I remember driving off with my parents and kind of reflecting to myself how you know this was kind of an unusual circumstance and you know that this isn’t how most people get their parents and and that you know that because it was unusual there is something different about who I was and what my life was about.

Miae Kim: [00:03:59] What age when you were adopted?

Lowell Rojon: [00:03:59] OK. Well let’s see. As far as I know I was adopt… I was born March 5th 1955. Now the only reason I say that’s my birthday is because that’s what was on my adoption records. And I don’t know how they came up with that because I don’t know you know where they’re getting their information because there was no end to source that information from. But I accept that as my birthday in fact actually it vibrates really well with me. And I was adopted in 1957 and I’m not sure what month that was. But I later came to realize that the place that we that I embarked in America was in San Francisco and my parents had driven from North Chicago Illinois all the way to California to San Francisco to pick me up and took pictures, you know, cable cars in San Francisco and we drove back to Illinois and took pictures at the crater in Arizona and stuff like that.

Lowell Rojon: [00:05:20] Well you know that’s a that’s a very poignant question because ultimately what it winds of being is this and I’m going to kind of take it to a summary first and then go back. But it winds up being that there’s not many people in the world in America at least that look like you you know really when it comes down to it there are types that approximate to you. And I’ve always been mistaken for many other ethnic types. But the physical characteristics of being mixed both Korean and black is a physical type that’s not generally seen often. So therefore you don’t look like most people and that’s the bottom line. Now you know I think I’m a you know I’m not hard to look at less polite that are ugly or anything like that but I’m different looking.

Lowell Rojon: [00:06:26] So growing up when I was when we were in Illinois I really don’t remember too much of having any racial issues or anything like that. You know I was in preschool 3 years old and 4 years old. And so you know I don’t think that that kids were being cognizant of or discriminating of you know differences or anything like that. I remember having a pretty rambunctious time with all the other kids, an example of that was I wound up breaking my collarbone. (cut off)

Lowell Rojon: [00:07:03] He’s going to be younger than most of the kids you know he’s going to be able to do well. So she brought me in there and had me recite the alphabet and recite the pledge and he said I’m fine. I was in first grade so I started school when I was five years old. And my first two weeks. So my first two weeks of school we were in Compton California and everybody in our neighborhood was either African-American or Hispanic and we might have had a couple of white kids you know but basically nobody had seen any Asians. I mean that was like you know we came from another planet.

Lowell Rojon: [00:07:39] And it’s kind of funny physiologically my characteristics when I was young I was pretty light skinned and I had straight hair. If you were to look at me now you would say I’m you know medium complected Brown and I have kind of a curly you know medium curl kind of hair. But when I was a kid literally I was looked like I might have been just a slightly tanned Korean. You know I mean I wasn’t very dark at all and I think part of that might have been living in North Illinois where it was cold. You know we didn’t get a whole lot of sunshine and didn’t get a whole lot of brown you know but moving to California you know we got sun, got Brown. But but when I first started school I was pretty light and I had hair that I parted and you know over to one side and it was straight and so I went to school.

Lowell Rojon: [00:08:32] And the you know in the communities you know I remember when I was in high school, the black consciousness movement was strong. And I remember the Black Panther Party being emerging. And you know I can say that what the Black Panther Party stood for you know helped develop some of the ideals that I believe in. And you know I remember being in Southern California watching the news and seeing stuff in Oakland and Berkeley in terms of Free Speech Movement. And the Black Panther Party and black consciousness. And actually having some aspirations to move were you know to be in some solidarity with that. And I can say that that’s probably what’s actually happened in my life. It’s actually came to be true.

Lowell Rojon: [00:09:32] So I identify as being a member of the African-American community in America. And part of that also is like I say I you know gotten darker skinned since I’ve lived in California. Know medium brown tonality or whatever. And it’s also in terms of how the world recognizes or or views you and identifies you. I think that most of the world even if they’re unsure what I might be they’re more prone to identify me or you know put me in the category of being lumped with the African-Americans or the darker people.

Lowell Rojon: [00:10:19And you know my thing having grown up – the badge that you wear everywhere people see that everywhere so you know the identification in America really is. I am a minority. I’m you know I’m not the majority culture I’m a minority culture and in the minority culture. I have another segmented fragmented minority culture within that. So you know. But you know again that’s that’s kind of using the general framework that is culturally put out there. Me Really I’m a human I’m a humanist I’m a human being and I identify with being a human being and with human beings. OK. So again biologically I identify myself as being African Asian and Native American but experientially it’s interesting what it’s allowed for me perspective wise to kind of develop is I’m really a child of the planet.

Lowell Rojon: [00:11:40] Ultimately that’s what I am a child of this planet. I’m not a nationality I’m not a group I’m not you know I’m not some disparate you know fraction. I am a child of the planet and being of mixed ethnicities has allowed me at least in my own self to be to unify my perspective and understand that I’m not going to limit my identification with a geographical boundary. That’s not who I am. I’m not just somebody who is limited to a… I came to terms with it. Let’s put it like that that there is no birth records. There is no family name on my Korean side of obviously there’s no birth records or family name or my father’s side. You know there’s no paper trail. There’s no paper trail.

Lowell Rojon: [00:12:48] Where would I start and what would I do you know? And I’ll put it to you like this. Two things. If my biological Korean mother is still alive this would be how I would know her. You don’t understand. Can you do this with your thumb. I wouldn’t know her. OK. Father OK. It’s interesting. I have I’ve actually been in situations where I’ve walked past African-American men of a particular generation and it’s just struck me you know that man could be my father you know? If he served in the Korean War that man could be my father. And again kind of what that’s done for me is kind of expanded my realization…

Lowell Rojon: [00:13:53] Variety of of stories out there related to what’s happened here 50 years later, who these people have become. But I also want explore the other side in terms of those mixed Korean adoptees who are still in Korea who are living basically kind of a hidden, you know, maybe third class and experience in the Korean the fabric of Korean society. And I want to be able to engage them about what their lives have been like in Korea over the last 50 years. Who do they identify themselves to be who they know what are some of the things that they know about African-Americans or you know African Korean Americans living in America, what are their goals and aspirations in terms of that. What were their experiences in terms of you know maybe staying somewhat connected to their biological brothers and sisters who were not mixed in things like that.

Lowell Rojon: [00:14:57] You know for me those are real interesting concerns and, you know I want to do a documentary that explores those two sides of that equation of that history – mixed, primarily black Koreans. Fifty years later what have been our experiences. So anyway I’m just sharing that and saying that any help or support that I can get in this would be more most appreciative of and that the working title for this project at this time is Black Dragons. Previously I’d had it as Soul to Soul which was S E O U L of course to S O U L. And I’ve applied at NATA and BABJA and other places for funding for the Grant didn’t get any money and they funded other people and this to me is a very powerful story and more powerful than anything that I’ve seen so far coming out in terms of documentaries related about being adopted out of Korea. But anyway. And so this is a particular passion that I have in terms of telling this particular story and I feel unique uniquely gifted to be able to tell this story you know from my own personal history and from the perspective that I have the skills and the background and the history to do the production of this particular documentary. So thank you so much.