No-No Boy is a multimedia concert performed by Julian Saporiti and Erin Aoyama. Taking inspiration from interviews with World War II Japanese Incarceration camp survivors, his own family’s history living through the Vietnam War, and many other stories of Asian American experience, Saporiti has transformed his doctoral research at Brown University into folk songs in an effort to bring these stories to a broader audience. Alongside Aoyama, a fellow Ph.D. student whose family was incarcerated at one of the ten Japanese American concentration camps, No-No Boy aims to shine a light on experiences that have remained largely hidden in the American consciousness.
Performing everywhere from universities and cultural centers to rural churches and bars, No-No Boy works to illuminate an understudied past and, in doing so, generate conversations about the present with diverse audiences. Using music to process their research and family legacies, Saporiti and Aoyama return often to a refrain they’ve heard spoken by those who have lived through the trauma of war and incarceration, “Do not let this happen again.”
The performance is part of “Japanese/America: Transpacific and Hemispheric,” a Program in American Studies and Asian American Studies symposium beginning at 1:30 pm with presentations, panel discussion and Q & A, and a 4:30 p.m. keynote by novelist and National Book Award finalist Karen Tei Yamashita. All events take place in Chancellor Green Rotunda and are free and open to the public. A complete schedule is available here.
About the Artist:
Julian Saporiti fronted the Berklee-trained indie-rock group, The Young Republic, from 2004-2010. After releasing several well received albums and touring extensively around North America and Europe, Saporiti relocated to Laramie, Wyoming to pursue an MA in American Studies. Upon completion of his degree, he took a job lecturing at the University. While living out west, Julian made several trips to the remains of the Heart Mountain concentration camp in northwest Wyoming where, during World War II, the U.S. government unconstitutionally incarcerated over 10,000 people of Japanese descent, most of whom were US citizens. These trips made a profound impact and inspired Saporiti to begin interviewing camp survivors and researching the music performed in the camps. From these interviews, and from thinking about his own displaced family of Vietnamese refugees, he began work on No-No Boy. Saporiti is currently based in Providence, Rhode Island, continuing this research, composing and recording music, and pursuing a PhD at Brown University. He also directs the Brown Arts Initiative Songwriters Workshop and teaches an undergraduate course expanding the work of No-No Boy.
Erin Aoyama is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in the American Studies department at Brown University. Her involvement with No-No Boy began when she and Saporiti met in August of 2017 as participants on the Brown University Japanese American Incarceration Mobile Workshop. Her research examines the interplay between Japanese American incarceration and the experiences of African Americans in the Jim Crow South - focusing on the two concentration camps in Arkansas and the segregated American military. Musically, Aoyama has been singing for as long as she can remember, with her earliest performances involving serenading her preschool class with the classic "My Heart Will Go On." Her repertoire has since expanded, though she hasn't forgotten her roots. Aoyama’s work with No-No Boy is also deeply personal. She is a legacy of Heart Mountain camp in Wyoming, where her grandmother was incarcerated during World War II, and her involvement with No-No Boy has been a powerful way to connect with her family’s history, using art and storytelling.