‘The Inscrutable Alexander Fitten’

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Biography, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-11-08 03:12Z by Steven

‘The Inscrutable Alexander Fitten’

The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Marc Fitten

An excerpt from ‘We Wear the Mask: 15 True Stories of Passing in America.’ By Marc Fitten

My full legal name is Marc Jeffrie Fitten, but I have always disliked it. It’s like the skin tag hanging from my neck that I keep promising myself I will do something about.

Since I was 6, I have never been comfortable with hearing it spoken or saying it out loud. I have never identified with it. Ever since I was a child, everything in my DNA rejected this name. Probably because I instinctively knew it was a fake.

My real name is lost to my family and me. Lost for many reasons, but especially because along the way an ancestor realized his name gave away an ethnicity that was more trouble than it was worth. So he changed it. Twice. A shoemaker and a migrant who traveled around the Caribbean taking odd jobs, my half-Chinese great grandfather managed to hide his identity from the people around him and from his descendants for 100 years…

Marc Fitten looks at a recently discovered photo of his great grandfather, who Marc learned was part Chinese after his 2-year-old nephew was diagnosed with Kawasaki disease, an illness prone to Asians. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

…The twist is intriguing as well. While mixed-race African-Americans were passing as white in the United States, in the Caribbean, a Chinese Jamaican wanted to hide his name and ethnicity and for his children to pass as colored.

My great-grandfather — forever after known as Mr. Fitten — even had the good sense to die early, and so he took his secrets with him…

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The nation’s poet

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, Poetry, United States, Women on 2012-10-08 01:11Z by Steven

The nation’s poet

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Personal Journeys

Rosalind Bentley, Arts and Culture writer

Personal Journeys is a new weekly feature for readers who like good writing and good story-telling

The National Book Festival along the Mall in Washington is thronged with readers and authors who’ve come to revel in the written word on this fall day in 2004.

Just three years old, the festival has been forged by first lady Laura Bush and the Library of Congress in the belief that literature is a living thing, that the right words, composed in just the right way, can push a life forward.

To the podium steps poet Natasha Trethewey.

Her work illuminates people in the shadows: a seamstress stitching her way through segregation; an early 20th-century prostitute so fair skinned she can pass for white; a dock worker’s wife who keeps her husband’s supper warm as she waits for him well into the night.

Into some of her poems she has woven her own complex story: the blending of the black and white blood that made her; her blood tie to her native Mississippi; the blood of her mother, cruelly spilled.

What binds the characters? It is that in the body of American letters, they have routinely been pushed to the edge of the page by other protagonists deemed more “universal.” This day Natasha reads poems that bring their marginalized stories to the center…

…2012: It’s May. Natasha is the incoming chair of the creative writing program at Emory University and the newly minted poet laureate of her home state of Mississippi. She gets an unexpected call from the Library of Congress. Billington and his colleagues have been following her work since her first reading at the book festival. They are impressed with her 2007 collection, “Native Guard.” They are also taken with “Beyond Katrina,” her 2010 meditation on the psychological and structural wreckage dotting Mississippi’s Gulf Coast landscape years after Hurricane Katrina’s landfall.

Billington believes the time for this kind of poet is right now. She is only 46 and in the prime of her artistic life. This will signal that the library is looking forward. He offers her the highest United States honor a poet can achieve, poet laureate of the nation.

Saying yes isn’t hard, though the honor humbles her, even makes her a little nervous…

…Sept. 13, 2012: The audience in the auditorium of the Library of Congress in Washington leaps to its feet. Applause crashes against the stage where a black woman in a dark dress stands, her hands clasped to her heart. Today, she looks as though she might burst with joy. This is U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, about to officially open the library’s literary season with a reading. She has come to tell an American story….

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More metro Atlantans say they’re multiracial: Fast-growing segment represents a cultural shift that’s nationwide

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, United States on 2011-09-09 01:07Z by Steven

More metro Atlantans say they’re multiracial: Fast-growing segment represents a cultural shift that’s nationwide

Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Bo Emerson

When Evelyn Brown-Wilder was growing up in Tuscaloosa, Ala., in the 1950s, life was a matter of warring opposites. Though some of her ancestors were white and her face was pale, the law said she was black. She wrapped both arms around that identity.

Her daughter, Sonya Colvin-Boyd, lives in a different world and chooses a different identity. When it came time for Colvin-Boyd to indicate her race on her 2000 U.S. census form, she picked both white and black. “We’re all mixed,” said the Powder Springs resident.
Claiming both races puts her in one of the fastest-growing segments of America’s population. It’s a trend that reveals seismic shifts in both outward social and cultural relations and inward notions of individual identity.
Across metro Atlanta’s counties, the last decade saw a doubling or tripling of the number of people identifying themselves as being of more than one race, according to the Census Bureau. In Gwinnett County, the number of respondents checking two or more races rose from 12,673 in 2000 to 25,292 in 2010, a 99 percent jump. In Fulton County, the number rose from 11,853 to 20,279, a 71 percent increase. In Henry County, the numbers went up 269 percent…

…Yet mixed ancestry is a matter of fact for most Americans whose ancestors include people from Africa; they operate in a world of gradations where skin color sometimes determines status. “A lot of darker-complected blacks saw it as the ‘house Negro’ syndrome versus the ‘field Negro’ syndrome,” said Troy Gordon, 42, who teaches elementary school in Lithonia. Gordon is a copper-skinned mix of African-American and American Indian, and his light skin drew “flak” when he was younger.
He knew, growing up, that “black” was a whole range of colors, from his white great-grandmother, to his “paper-sack brown” aunt and his green-eyed, red-haired uncle. “I was black,” said Gordon, “but you’d see family pictures and say, ‘Wow, who’s this white lady?’”
Such conversations were limited back then. Today, there are many more talks about their multiracial heritage with his light-skinned 4-year-old son Chase. Chase’s mother is white, and he considers himself white, though he pronounces it “wipe.”…

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