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The Power of Music

TenKiko Chin, International School of Sacred Heart Tokyo
February 18, 2012



A 17-year-old Burmese rapper shares her story as a victim of bullying and her struggle to conform. However her inner strength takes her forward.

Su Let Yee feels that the best moments in her life are when she is performing her raps and dances. She first performed in November 20, 2011 at TEDxYouth @ Tokyo. Her corn-rowed and dip-died hair, numerous oversized rings, and bright smile shone on stage that day. Behind the scenes, however, nobody who was in that audience knows how she got to be the confident rapper.

Su grew up in the countryside of Myanmar. Due to Su’s parents’ jobs as restaurant owners in Japan, after birth, she was separated from her parents. In Myanmar, Su’s grandmother raised her until Su immigrated to Japan. Su summarizes her experiences in her childhood hometown with, “I loved Myanmar; my grandmother, my friends and everything there. I will never forget the time that I spent in Myanmar.” At the age of 11, Su emigrated from Myanmar to Tokyo.

The sudden transition of moving to Tokyo was an immense change for Su; her biggest concern was her last year in elementary school. Her desire to make her last year in elementary school enjoyable did not come true, and instead she was faced with discrimination, bullying, and isolation.

“All of my classmates called me gross. They never included me in any activities or talked to me. I was completely alone.” She even attempted to socialize by joining clubs and extracurricular activities. Nonetheless, she was still ostracized and excluded by her classmates.

By the end of elementary school, Su was weary from all the interminable injustice. She decided to change her appearance and become the “center of attention” to fit in with everyone. She dyed her hair honey-brown, shortened her skirt fifteen centimeters above her knees, and painted her nails neon. Hoping her hard work would pay off, Su enrolled in middle school.  

Unfortunately, the only thing waiting for her there was more bullying. “I got bullied from the first day of school until the end of middle school. One of the worst days was when one of my male classmates came to my house and dropped his pants in front of me.” Su struggled to tell her parents about being bullied, as she did not want them to worry. Eventually, Su was faced with no choice but to reach out for help from her homeroom teacher. The response she received was very unsupportive. “I will tell them to stop the bullying, but they are just fooling around with you,” said her teacher.

The only thing that emboldened her during this time was music – especially rap music. “My passion has always been music. I love rap, hip-pop, K-pop, and J-pop. My favorite singers are Lady Gaga, KARA and Girls Generation.”

After three years of agony in middle school, Su made the decision to attend a night high school, a type of high school for students who feel the disadvantages of attending school during the day. On weekdays, Su goes to school from 5pm to 9pm. There, she rediscovered the pleasure of going to school. She says, “I finally feel good at this school. Some of the students here shared almost the same exact middle school life with me. Also, I can open up to teachers and they help me with my problems.”

Su’s musical talents impressed her homeroom teacher, so her teacher suggested that Su should participate in TEDxYouth @ Tokyo and perform her raps and dances. Her experiences with discrimination made her fearful of this idea, but after scrupulous preparation, Su finally gained the confidence that she thought she had lost: “I felt great when I performed. I finally showed people what I’m passionate about. I feel confident again.”



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