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The Forum with Brenda Wong Aoki: Uncle Gunjiro’s Girlfriend

March 29, 2020

9:30 am

The storyteller, playwright and performer on a scandal that rocked her family, Grace Cathedral and the city of San Francisco at the time of the Great Earthquake.


About the conversation

In 1909, Brenda Wong Aoki’s great uncle Gunjiro, son of a legendary samurai, fell in love with Helen Gladys Emery, the daughter of the Archdeacon of Grace Cathedral. Their announced engagement triggered a media blitz of yellow peril headlines, provoked public outrage, death threats and culminated in the loss of Ms. Emery’s citizenship. Wong Aoki tells the tale of secret family shame, forbidden love and its impact on descendants three generations later. This conversation also features a sneak preview of an installation in the cathedral in May for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month on the many people who make up San Francisco, part one of her three-part San Francisco Project with the Hewlett Foundation and The Center for Asian American Media.

Watch the trailer


About the guest

Brenda Wong Aoki is a storyteller, anthologized playwright, producer, artistic director, and performer. Her song/dance/dramas are drawn from her family’s 121-year history in San Francisco and the Bay Area, Kabuki legends, ghost stories, and her personal experience. Known for her agility across disciplines, she creates monodramas rooted in traditional storytelling, dance movement, and music. Aoki’s work combines Eastern and Western narratives and theatrical traditions such as noh, kyogen, commedia dell’arte, modern dance, Japanese drumming, and American jazz. The first nationally recognized Asian Pacific storyteller in the U.S., Aoki’s work is part of the American Folk Life Collection at the Library of Congress. She has recorded with Anthony Brown, Christopher Yohmei Blaisdel, and Basque composer Kepa Junkera, and she was the featured performer in Jefferson Starship’s music video No Way Out (1984 Best Music Video of the Year).

Excerpts from Uncle Gunjiro


About the host

The Very Rev. Dr. Malcolm Clemens Young is the dean of Grace Cathedral. He is the author of The Spiritual Journal of Henry David Thoreau and The Invisible Hand in Wilderness: Economics, Ecology, and God, and is a regular contributor on religion to the Huffington Post and San Francisco Examiner.


About The Forum

The Forum is a series of stimulating conversations about faith and ethics in relation to the important issues of our day. We invite inspiring and illustrious people to sit down for a real conversation with the Forum’s host, Malcolm Clemens Young, the dean of Grace Cathedral, and with you. Our guests range from artists, inventors and philosophers to pop culturists and elected officials, but the point of The Forum is singular: civil, sophisticated discourse that engages minds and hearts to think in new ways about the world.


Gresham Hall


Free and open to all


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