Enjoy reading about the wonderful community that has developed around this annual event.

February 22, 2013

Speaker Announcement: Dmae Roberts, Experience to Action, Promoting Multiculturalism in the Arts
Category: 2013 Event, News, Speaker Announcements

Dmae Roberts

When Dmae Roberts was a young woman, velocity meant rising above her lower income roots and creating a life that didn’t involve manual labor or poverty.

Dmae vividly remembers, at the age of 10, the bigotry and isolation her interracial family faced when they moved to rural Junction City, Oregon, from Japan, by way of Reno, Boise and Eugene, Oregon, and these memories have fueled her career as a writer, actor and independent radio producer.

“What has motivated me throughout much of my life is to call attention to injustice and work to dispel the racism that we first experienced,” Dmae says.

For more than 20 years, Dmae has created multicultural radio documentaries, community outreach programs and original stage plays to bring educational awareness through art. She has also brought diverse communities together through MediaRites, a non-profit organization dedicated to multicultural arts production in radio and education outreach.

“My work is often autobiographical or informed by my biracial identity,” Dmae says. “I’ve had so many turning points and so many pathways my life could have gone.”

The turning points began at the University of Oregon when she chose between a parks and recreation major instead of journalism as a way to support her work as an actress. While studying at the UO J-school, a volunteer opportunity at KLCC 89.7 FM (a public radio in Eugene) led to her stories being picked up by NPR. In 1989, a huge turning point came when she spent a month with her mother in Taiwan to explore her biracial identity through a radio documentary.

“Producing Mei Mei (which means ‘little sister’ in Chinese) was the only way I could make sense of my roots and my mom,” Dmae says. “My most recent turning point was deciding to fully embrace my ‘Asian-ness’ by creating the first and only Asian-American history series on public radio.”

Dmae has won two Peabody awards for her documentary, Mei Mei, a Daughter’s Song, the exploration of her relationship with her mother and the harrowing account of her mother’s childhood in Taiwan during World War, and the Crossing East eight-hour public radio documentary series. She also won recognition from Portland’s theatre community for her work as an actress and the Oregon Book Award for her play at Artists Repertory Theatre.

Her latest projects are her on-going memoir about her experience caregiving during her mom’s terminal illness and a theater performance piece with singer Lyndee Mah about their experiences growing up biracial in rural towns. “E-Ban,” which means “one-half” in Chinese, will be performed in Portland in September 2013.

A lover of movies, quality TV and books, Dmae maintains a small library of DVDs and books on overfilled bookshelves in her home she shares with her husband and twin Tabby kitties. She loves Oregon summers and the urban farm her husband grows each year. They both love perusing Portland farmers markets on Saturday mornings and taking trips to tell the stories of faraway peoples and their cultures. Her favorite place lately is Hawaii because it’s where she feels at home among mixed-race people with many cultural stories to tell.

Dmae says she feels like now is a turning point in her life where she could be driven one direction or another, but she’s not sure where. She’s looking for her next big project and she has a sneaking suspicion she’ll find out at TEDxConcordiaUPortland (now known as TEDxMtHood) on March 23.

When asked what she’d do to harness the velocity of 650 TEDxCUP attendees, Dmae says, “Take away the fear and anger in the world today. If only we could channel our minds to do this one thing.”

Lisa Anderson

Lisa Anderson is a Hawthorne-based storyteller, adventure lover and a dress-up queen. She’s one of several storytellers who will be sharing write-ups, interviews, and perspectives on the many extraordinary people from our surrounding community.