Afro-German Women are Still Upholding the Legacy of May Ayim

Posted in Articles, Biography, Europe, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Women on 2020-09-13 01:55Z by Steven

Afro-German Women are Still Upholding the Legacy of May Ayim

Catapult
2020-09-10

Tari Ngangura


May Ayim with Audre Lorde/Photograph via audrelordeberlin.com

There have always been people suffering from anti-Blackness. And May Ayim highlights the continuity of the Black experience—not only her own, but those before her as well.

In 1986, Afro-German author and poet May Opitz—better known as May Ayim—co-edited the anthology, Showing Our Colours: Afro-German Women Speak Out. The book carries the stories of Afro-German women and their volatile, often violent experiences with anti-Blackness, belonging, and sexism in the European nation. Showing Our Colours remains a seminal offering in works that claim the existence and legitimacy of Black history within Europe, and also examines Germany’s specific role in the nineteenth century colonization of Africa—including the genocide in Namibia, which saw over one hundred thousand of the Herero, Nama, and San people killed by the German regime from 1904 until 1908.

Those who survived the genocide were locked in concentration camps, a precursor to those that would be utilized in the Holocaust. Showing Our Colours is as much about claiming space as it is about holding Germany accountable to its imperial history and its effects on the contemporary realities of Black immigrants living in the country. The book also outlines political shifts through the ages that saw terms like Moor, Negro, and African morph into racial epithets that would later be used by pseudoscientists to justify anti-Black racism, fascism, and medical bias.

Ayim died by suicide in 1996, and in her life and death, I see a testament to the resilience of Black women, and an indictment of insidious white supremacy that makes Black life a fragile negotiation between visibility and erasure. Since her death, Ayim’s work has been revisited most often by young Afro-Germans searching for the language and tools to explore their Blackness and womanhood alongside a European history that interrupted their ancestry and systematically destabilizes their present. For Afro-Germans, and especially the youth who have lived through global Black Lives Matter conversations, who witnessed police brutality on both a national and global scale, it is not enough to be simply German. It’s in this space that Ayim’s work is finding new eyes…

I spoke with Marny Garcia Mommertz, a Black-German researcher born in Oldenburg, Lower Saxony, about how the late author’s work has been something of a map, detailing similar experiences of othering, and a reminder that her contemporary reality is not simply of her own making, but part of a larger structural legacy of oppression…

Read the entire interview here.

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Born Enslaved, Patrick Francis Healy ‘Passed’ His Way to Lead Georgetown University

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Passing, Religion, Slavery, United States on 2020-09-11 02:22Z by Steven

Born Enslaved, Patrick Francis Healy ‘Passed’ His Way to Lead Georgetown University

Smithsonian Magazine
2020-09-08

Bryan Greene
Washington, D.C.


Because the 19th-century college president appeared white, he was able to climb the ladder of the Jesuit community

This back-to-school season, as the coronavirus pandemic demands continued social distancing, many college students are logging onto their classes remotely. While the country fights this public health crisis on one front, it fights the ongoing effects of systemic racism on another, and the battle is joined on America’s college campuses, where skyrocketing tuition costs, debates over academic freedom, and reckonings with the legacies of institutional racism come together.

The University of North Carolina, for instance, has had to tackle both crises this summer, as it shuttered dorms and sent students home after Covid-19 cases spiked soon after opening. In July, administrators approved guidelines for renaming buildings that currently honor North Carolinians who promoted the murderous 1898 overthrow of Wilmington’s elected multiracial government. In June, meanwhile, Princeton acceded to longstanding demands to strip Woodrow Wilson’s name from its public policy school, since his most notorious public policy as President of the United States was to segregate the federal workforce. Following the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, an ever-widening circle of students on campuses nationwide are re-examining their institutions’ unquestioned genuflection to their white-supremacist heritage.

But at Georgetown University, students, faculty, alumni, and administration have been re-appraising the school’s racist past for years. In 1838, when the Jesuit school was deep in debt, its president, Reverend Thomas F. Mulledy, on behalf of the Maryland Jesuits, sold 272 black men, women and children to Louisiana plantations to keep the school afloat. Three years ago, Georgetown pulled Mulledy’s name off a dormitory, replacing it with the name of enslaved laborer Isaac Hawkins. Georgetown will now consider applicants who are descendants of these enslaved persons in the same light as the children of faculty, staff and alumni for purposes of admission.

What makes Georgetown’s reflective moment most remarkable, however, and complicated, is that 35 years after Mulledy salvaged the school’s finances by selling human property, the school would be led by a man who, himself, was born enslaved. The story of Georgetown president Reverend Patrick Francis Healy reveals how a university built by enslaved persons, and rescued from collapse by the sale of enslaved persons, saw its “second founding” in the late 19th century under the guidance of a man whom the Jesuits knew had been born black but helped “pass” as white

Read the entire article here.

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The Black Violinist Who Inspired Beethoven

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Europe, History, Media Archive on 2020-09-11 02:13Z by Steven

The Black Violinist Who Inspired Beethoven

The New York Times
2020-09-04

Patricia Morrisroe


The violinist George Bridgetower has, like so many other Black artists, been largely forgotten by a history that belongs to those who control the narrative. The Trustees of the British Museum, via Art Resource, NY

George Bridgetower, the original dedicatee of the “Kreutzer” Sonata, was a charismatic prodigy but faded into history.

Six months after Beethoven contemplated suicide, confessing his despair over his increasing deafness in the 1802 document known as the Heiligenstadt Testament, he was carousing in taverns with a charismatic new comrade, George Polgreen Bridgetower. This biracial violinist had recently arrived in Vienna, and inspired one of Beethoven’s most famous and passionate pieces, the “Kreutzer” Sonata.

Beethoven even dedicated the sonata to Bridgetower. But the irritable composer — who would later remove the dedication to Napoleon from his Third Symphony — eventually took it back.

While Napoleon didn’t need Beethoven to secure his place in history, this snub reduced Bridgetower to near obscurity. Though his name was included in Anton Schindler’s 1840 biography of Beethoven, he was described inaccurately as “an American sea captain.” Like so many Black artists prominent in their lifetimes, he has been largely forgotten by a history that belongs to those who control the narrative.

Bridgetower was born on Aug. 13, 1778, in eastern Poland, and christened Hieronymus Hyppolitus de Augustus. His father, Joanis Fredericus de Augustus, was of African descent; his mother, Maria Schmid, was German-Polish, making Bridgetower what was then known as a mulatto, a person of mixed race. (The poet Rita Dove’s 2008 book “Sonata Mulattica,” an imagined chronicle of Bridgetower’s life, has helped raise his profile a bit in recent years.)…

Read the entire article here.

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Author Event: Dedria Humphries Barker on AADL.TV

Posted in Biography, History, Live Events, United States, Videos, Women on 2020-08-19 22:34Z by Steven

Author Event: Dedria Humphries Barker on AADL.TV

Ann Arbor District Library
343 South Fifth Avenue
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104
2020-08-20, 00-01:30Z [2020-08-19, 20:00 to 21:30 EDT]

Join Dedria Humphries Barker as she discusses her book, Mother of Orphans: The True and Curious Story of Irish Alice, a Colored Man’s Widow.

Before Her Time: The Heroic Schooling of a Mulatto Girl

White women who for love crossed the 19th century Jim Crow color line for a new life in a Black family were highly unusual and often ostracized. But one such woman was Alice Donlan. Her interracial family braved further complication when her husband died in 1912, and Alice put their three children in an orphanage. Why was the one-hundred year old mystery unraveled by a two decades of research by Alice’s great granddaughter, Dedria Humphries Barker. Mother of Orphans is the resulting family biography. In this presentation, Humphries Barker argues that Alice’s act was heroic and helped propel future generations, including the author, to lives of opportunity.

Richly illustrated with historical and contemporary photographs, Mother of Orphans tells the story of Humphries Barker’s great grandmother, Alice Donlan, an Irish American woman from Indiana, who found love in Cincinnati, Ohio, at the end of the Gilded Age when the Ohio River city was known as the London and Paris of America. It was also the age of Jim Crow and lynching. This family biography explains how navigating interracial family life and different cultural values led to Alice’s unspeakable act. An intricate social history, Mother of Orphans links the stories of four generations of related White and Black women directly affected by Alice’s unspeakable act. And, in the final analysis, the author was amazed at how the social condition of 21st century women remains very similar to the daunting challenges Alice faced, especially when it comes to child care.

Dedria Humphries Barker is a African American woman writer who lives in Lansing, Michigan where she is a working mother of three adult children. Her work has included being a journalist at The Michigan Chronicle, Detroit’s African American newspaper, a staff writer for two Gannett, Co., Inc. daily newspapers, The Commercial News in Danville, Illinois, and The Lansing State Journal in Michigan’s capitol city; an editor at Michigan State University, and a freelance writer whose work on parenting has appeared on Salon.com, Your Teen, and Literary Mama, and in the Redbook and Good Housekeeping magazines, and The Detroit News, among other periodicals. Her work has been published by the historical societies of Ohio and Michigan. She is a former professor of English at Lansing Community College in Michigan.

To watch the event, click here.

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Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir

Posted in Autobiography, Biography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, United States, Women on 2020-08-12 01:11Z by Steven

Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir

Ecco (an imprint of HarperCollins)
2020-07-28
224 pages
6x8in
Hardcover ISBN: 9780062248572
Large Print ISBN: 9780063076709
E-book ISBN: 9780062248596
Digital Audio, MP3 ISBN: 9780063005860

Natasha Trethewey, Board of Trustees Professor of English
Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois

An Instant New York Times Bestseller

A chillingly personal and exquisitely wrought memoir of a daughter reckoning with the brutal murder of her mother at the hands of her former stepfather, and the moving, intimate story of a poet coming into her own in the wake of a tragedy

At age nineteen, Natasha Trethewey had her world turned upside down when her former stepfather shot and killed her mother. Grieving and still new to adulthood, she confronted the twin pulls of life and death in the aftermath of unimaginable trauma and now explores the way this experience lastingly shaped the artist she became.

With penetrating insight and a searing voice that moves from the wrenching to the elegiac, Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Natasha Trethewey explores this profound experience of pain, loss, and grief as an entry point into understanding the tragic course of her mother’s life and the way her own life has been shaped by a legacy of fierce love and resilience. Moving through her mother’s history in the deeply segregated South and through her own girlhood as a “child of miscegenation” in Mississippi, Trethewey plumbs her sense of dislocation and displacement in the lead-up to the harrowing crime that took place on Memorial Drive in Atlanta in 1985.

Memorial Drive is a compelling and searching look at a shared human experience of sudden loss and absence but also a piercing glimpse at the enduring ripple effects of white racism and domestic abuse. Animated by unforgettable prose and inflected by a poet’s attention to language, this is a luminous, urgent, and visceral memoir from one of our most important contemporary writers and thinkers.

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No Future in This Country: The Prophetic Pessimism of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner

Posted in Biography, Books, Forthcoming Media, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Monographs, Religion, United States on 2020-08-12 00:40Z by Steven

No Future in This Country: The Prophetic Pessimism of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner

University Press of Mississippi
November 2020
208 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 9781496830708
Paperback ISBN: 9781496830692

Andre E. Johnson, Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Media Studies
University of Memphis, Memphis, Tennessee

A critical study of the career of the nineteenth-century bishop

No Future in This Country: The Prophetic Pessimism of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner is a history of the career of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner (1834–1915), specifically focusing on his work from 1896 to 1915. Drawing on the copious amount of material from Turner’s speeches, editorial, and open and private letters, Andre E. Johnson tells a story of how Turner provided rhetorical leadership during a period in which America defaulted on many of the rights and privileges gained for African Americans during Reconstruction. Unlike many of his contemporaries during this period, Turner did not opt to proclaim an optimistic view of race relations. Instead, Johnson argues that Turner adopted a prophetic persona of a pessimistic prophet who not only spoke truth to power but, in so doing, also challenged and pushed African Americans to believe in themselves.

At this time in his life, Turner had no confidence in American institutions or that the American people would live up to the promises outlined in their sacred documents. While he argued that emigration was the only way for African Americans to retain their “personhood” status, he also would come to believe that African Americans would never emigrate to Africa. He argued that many African Americans were so oppressed and so stripped of agency because they were surrounded by continued negative assessments of their personhood that belief in emigration was not possible. Turner’s position limited his rhetorical options, but by adopting a pessimistic prophetic voice that bore witness to the atrocities African Americans faced, Turner found space for his oratory, which reflected itself within the lament tradition of prophecy.

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The Truths We Hold: An American Journey

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Biography, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States, Women on 2020-08-12 00:29Z by Steven

The Truths We Hold: An American Journey

Penguin Press
2019-01-08
336 Pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4
Hardcover ISBN: 9780525560715
Paperback ISBN: 9780525560739
eBook ISBN: 9780525560722

Kamala D. Harris

A New York Times bestseller

From one of America’s most inspiring political leaders, a book about the core truths that unite us, and the long struggle to discern what those truths are and how best to act upon them, in her own life and across the life of our country.

Senator Kamala Harris’s commitment to speaking truth is informed by her upbringing. The daughter of immigrants, she was raised in an Oakland, California community that cared deeply about social justice; her parents–an esteemed economist from Jamaica and an admired cancer researcher from India–met as activists in the civil rights movement when they were graduate students at Berkeley. Growing up, Harris herself never hid her passion for justice, and when she became a prosecutor out of law school, a deputy district attorney, she quickly established herself as one of the most innovative change agents in American law enforcement. She progressed rapidly to become the elected District Attorney for San Francisco, and then the chief law enforcement officer of the state of California as a whole. Known for bringing a voice to the voiceless, she took on the big banks during the foreclosure crisis, winning a historic settlement for California’s working families. Her hallmarks were applying a holistic, data-driven approach to many of California’s thorniest issues, always eschewing stale “tough on crime” rhetoric as presenting a series of false choices. Neither “tough” nor “soft” but smart on crime became her mantra. Being smart means learning the truths that can make us better as a community, and supporting those truths with all our might. That has been the pole star that guided Harris to a transformational career as the top law enforcement official in California, and it is guiding her now as a transformational United States Senator, grappling with an array of complex issues that affect her state, our country, and the world, from health care and the new economy to immigration, national security, the opioid crisis, and accelerating inequality.

By reckoning with the big challenges we face together, drawing on the hard-won wisdom and insight from her own career and the work of those who have most inspired her, Kamala Harris offers in The Truths We Hold a master class in problem solving, in crisis management, and leadership in challenging times. Through the arc of her own life, on into the great work of our day, she communicates a vision of shared struggle, shared purpose, and shared values. In a book rich in many home truths, not least is that a relatively small number of people work very hard to convince a great many of us that we have less in common than we actually do, but it falls to us to look past them and get on with the good work of living our common truth. When we do, our shared effort will continue to sustain us and this great nation, now and in the years to come.

PRH Audio · The Truths We Hold by Kamala Harris, read by Kamala Harris
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Biden’s VP pick: Why Kamala Harris embraces her biracial roots

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States, Women on 2020-08-11 21:33Z by Steven

Biden’s VP pick: Why Kamala Harris embraces her biracial roots

BBC News
2020-08-11

Soutik Biswas, India correspondent


Getty Images

US Senator Kamala Harris – chosen by Joe Biden as his Democratic vice-presidential candidate – is known as a prominent black politician. But she has also embraced her Indian roots.

“My name is pronounced “Comma-la”, like the punctuation mark,” Kamala Harris writes in her 2018 autobiography, The Truths We Hold.

The California senator, daughter of an Indian-born mother and Jamaican-born father, then explains the meaning of her Indian name.

“It means ‘lotus flower’, which is a symbol of significance in Indian culture. A lotus grows underwater, its flowers rising above the surface while the roots are planted firmly in the river bottom.”

Early in life, young Kamala and her sister Maya grew up in a house filled with music by black American artists. Her mother would sing along to Aretha Franklin’s early gospel, and her jazz-loving father, who taught economics at Stanford University, would play Thelonius Monk and John Coltrane on the turntable.

Shyamala Gopalan and Donald Harris separated when Ms Harris was five. Raised primarily by her Hindu single mother, a cancer researcher and a civil rights activist, Kamala, Maya and Shyamala were known as “Shyamala and the girls”.

Her mother made sure her two daughters were aware of their background.

“My mother understood very well she was raising two black daughters. She knew that her adopted homeland would see Maya and me as black girls, and she was determined to make sure we would grow into confident black women,” she wrote…

Read the entire article here.

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Born into Slavery, Joshua Johnson Became the First Black Professional Artist in the United States

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Virginia on 2020-07-17 21:06Z by Steven

Born into Slavery, Joshua Johnson Became the First Black Professional Artist in the United States

Artsy
2020-07-16

Jaelynn Walls, Curator and Writer
Houston, Texas


Joshua Johnson
Family Group, ca. 1800
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

Historians know woefully little about Joshua Johnson, the first professional African American artist to work in the United States. An active painter in Maryland and Virginia from roughly the 1790s to 1825, Johnson was all but forgotten until the middle of the 20th century. In 1939, Baltimore genealogist and art historian J. Hall Pleasants attributed 13 paintings to Johnson and began the long journey of reconstructing his career through scraps of often contradictory information. Even the artist’s last name is uncertain, and many art historians are still debating whether it was spelled “Johnson” or “Johnston.”

Johnson was born into slavery in mid-18th-century Maryland to a white man and a Black slave woman owned by William Wheeler Sr. Chattel records note his race as mulatto, though Maryland had no legal definition for what constituted “Black” versus “mixed race” at the time. Pleasants located documents variously describing Johnson as a slave, a slave trained as a blacksmith, a Black servant afflicted with consumption, and an immigrant from the West Indies.

While much of Johnson’s history remains mysterious, his special place in art history is assured. The next renowned African American artists to emerge in the United States, Robert S. Duncanson and Henry Ossawa Tanner, followed Johnson by decades…

Read the entire article here.

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Between Two Worlds

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Biography, Canada, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2020-07-06 21:01Z by Steven

Between Two Worlds

Toronto Life
2018-05-22

Anais Granofsky

I grew up in ​subsidized housing​ with my mom, ​and spent weekends with my wealthy grandparents at their Bridle Path mansion. If I wanted to be loved, I’d have to learn to live two lives

My mother, Jean Walker, was the 13th of 15 children, born in 1949 to a church-going black family on a farm in Ohio. The house had only two bedrooms, so her parents slept on a pull-out bed on the porch in the summer and in the living room in winter. Her seven brothers slept in one bedroom, while the eight sisters shared the other. They attended a small school where the white kids sat up front and the black students at the back, separated by a row of empty desks. When she wasn’t studying, she did chores around the farm. The girls planted the vegetable gardens with corn and green beans, churned butter, did laundry, and took care of the younger children. The boys helped with the heavy work and looked after the animals. “With 14 siblings,” my mother used to say, “you’d better get to the table quick, or you weren’t going to eat that day.” There was never enough food or money to go around, but the family didn’t feel poor. Everyone around them was in the same situation.

Jean was a sensitive girl who used to lie in the fields and watch the clouds scuttle by. Her parents were always quick with a whipping, and the casual violence wore on her soul. She found a cubbyhole in the back of a closet, where she’d hide out and devour books by the light of a bare bulb. Desperate to get away from her chaotic, rural home life, she worked tirelessly in high school to earn a scholarship to Antioch in Yellow Springs, Ohio, a liberal arts college and one of the first post-secondary schools to integrate. As a nascent feminist, she was drawn to Antioch’s progressive vibe. In 1971, she enrolled in women’s studies and journalism…

Read the entire article here.

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