Creative spotlight: velina hasu houston

At just 5 years old, Velina Hasu Houston walked up to her mother, Setsuko, and with stunning confidence proclaimed “One day, you’ll see my name on the cover of a book.”

Not just books. She grew to write plays

So determined was she to carve a place for herself in the literary world that she grew up and made that little girl honest to her word.

Best known for her play Tea, Houston has become an internationally celebrated playwright, librettist, essayist, poet, and educator. Focused on crafting and sharing stories unique to her heritage as a Black-Asian woman.

She doesn’t look like the airline posters. And she doesn’t wish to.

Houston’s background has given her a unique American experience. One that has sometimes left her straddling both sides of the fence, facing unspoken marginalizations — biased cultural perspectives that deem her “not Asian enough or not Black enough.”

This experience has fueled much of her work — both as a writer and educator. 

Determined to open up space for people of color, especially those who don’t fit the cookie-cutter Hollywood mold, Houston continues to debunk the myth that audiences simply aren’t ready for an aggressive diversity push. 

Her play, Tea, serves as the highest example, having been produced every year since 1982. 

Houston proves “it” works and that people will pay to see it. 

This is especially important now, while America enjoys and benefits from “woke culture”. 

“Woke culture” that marches against police brutality, one that is vocal about supporting African-American, Asian and other marginalized communities all over the country. One that will not stand by and watch as people of color are routinely and systematically terrorized and pushed aside by the powers that be.

But Houston poses the question, “how long will it last?”

Is woke culture here to stay? Or is it just another social trend destined to dissolve into the horizon?

None of us can know for sure.

What we do know, though, is that artists like Houston, through their success, continue to push boundaries and create space for people of color. 

And for that, we at entertwine, are thankful to people like Velina Hasu Houston. 

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