Before “Hidden Figures,” There Was a Rock Opera About NASA’s Human Computers

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, History, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2017-03-13 01:30Z by Steven

Before “Hidden Figures,” There Was a Rock Opera About NASA’s Human Computers

Air & Space Magazine

Linda Billings, Senior Editor

Katherine Johnson’s inspirational story came to the Baltimore stage in 2015, thanks to another space scientist.

Hidden Figures,” the story of three African-American women whose mathematical skill helped NASA launch astronauts into space and back in the early 1960s, has been both a critical and box office success. With more than $100 million in ticket sales and a stack of award nominations, the movie has inspired audiences with a true story made even more powerful by virtue of the fact that it was largely untold for 50 years. And still mostly unknown is the story of another NASA scientist who beat Hollywood to the punch by putting “human computer” Katherine Johnson’s saga on stage almost two years ago.

Heather Graham is an astrobiologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center outside Washington, D.C. She’s also a gamer, a feminist, and a member of the Baltimore Rock Opera Society. In May 2015, the society staged Graham’s one-act rock opera, “Determination of Azimuth,” which portrays how Johnson and her colleagues Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan, were ignored and demeaned on the job at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia, because they were black and female. The story has a happy ending: Their work was validated, their expertise accepted. But they had to endure racism and sexism along the way…

Read the entire article here.

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La Negra Blanca

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2017-01-10 01:45Z by Steven

La Negra Blanca

The Collagist: Online literature from Dzanc Books
Issue Three (October 2009)

Roxane Gay, Associate Professor of English
Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana

At the club, Sarah goes by Sierra. The manager gave her the name the day she was hired four years earlier. He asked if she had a preference but she shrugged, took a sip of warm soda, told him to knock himself out. He looked her up and down and up again. “Sierra,” he said. “So you’ll turn your head when your name is called.”

Sometimes, when she’s opening the refrigerator, or reaching into a drawer for a pair of shorts, Sarah will catch herself swiveling her hips and arching her back. Even when she’s not on the pole, she’s dancing around it. She takes a lot of Advil because even at home she’s always hearing the thump thump thump of the bass line.

Candy, her best friend at work, took one look at Sarah on her first day and told Sarah to dance to black girl booty shaking music because guys love to see white girls with juicy asses shake their stuff. Sarah blushed, and pivoted to get a better look at her ass. She said, “My ass is juicy?”

Candy laughed and grabbed a handful of Sarah’s ass, but Sarah already knew she had a juicy ass and where it came from. Her mother is black and her father is white but for years people have assumed she’s a white girl because she has green eyes and straight blonde hair. She’s not ashamed of who she is but in Baltimore it’s easier to be a white girl with a black girl’s ass than to be a black girl who looks white or any other kind of black girl for that matter…

Read the short story here.

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Half and Half

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2016-11-19 21:44Z by Steven

Half and Half

Sunday Book Review
The New York Times

Bliss Broyard

David Matthews, Ace of Spades, A Memoir (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2007).

Twenty minutes into David Matthews’s first day of fourth grade in a new school in a new city, his classmates surround him and demand to know what he is. When Matthews doesn’t answer, they trail him down the hallway — “as though I were a reprobate head of state ambushed by reporters outside a lurid hotel” — shouting out their guesses: “Black! White! You crazy?! He(’s) too light/dark to be black/white!” One jokester suggests he’s Chinese.

One possible response is that Matthews is mixed: his father is African-American, actually a “prominent black journalist” who counted Malcolm X and James Baldwin among his friends, and his mother is Jewish, although she disappeared to Israel shortly after Matthews was born. But this scene takes place in 1977 in a Baltimore public school that sits between a “Waspy enclave of tony brownstones” and a “world of housing projects, roaming street gangs and bleating squad cars,” and the difference between black and white seems too vast to allow for any unions — or their byproducts — across the conceptual divide. (Although we learn that Matthews needn’t look any further than his own life for exceptions: his best friend, his stepbrother and his half brother are also mixed, though none of them quite so indeterminately as he is.) In the lunchroom, Matthews heads to the table of students he resembles most — in skin color, yes, but also in character. The white kids, with their “nerdy diction” and “Starsky and Hutch” lunchboxes, are similarly introverted and unthreatening, while the black kids, playing the dozens and double Dutch on the playground, are “alive and cool,” and frightening. When a white boy assigned by the homeroom teacher to be Matthews’s buddy for the day makes room for him to sit down, this small, serendipitous gesture sets the dye of his racial identity for the next 20 or so years…

Read the entire review here.

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Ace of Spades, A Memoir

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, United States on 2016-11-19 16:41Z by Steven

Ace of Spades, A Memoir

Henry Holt and Co.
320 pages
Paperback ISBN: 978-0312426316
Ebook ISBN: 978-1429905039

David Matthews

A take-no-prisoners tale of growing up without knowing who you are

When David Matthews’s mother abandoned him as an infant, she left him with white skin and the rumor that he might be half Jewish. For the next twenty years, he would be torn between his actual life as a black boy in the ghetto of 1980s Baltimore and a largely imagined world of white privilege.

While his father, a black activist who counted Malcolm X among his friends, worked long hours as managing editor at the Baltimore Afro-American, David spent his early years escaping wicked-stepmother types and nursing an eleven-hour-a-day TV habit alongside his grandmother in her old-folks-home apartment. In Reagan-era America, there was no box marked “Other,” no multiculturalism or self-serving political correctness, only a young boy’s need to make it in a clearly segregated world where white meant “have” and black meant “have not.” Without particular allegiance to either, David careened in and out of community college, dead-end jobs, his father’s life, and girls’ pants.

A bracing yet hilarious reinvention of the American story of passing, Ace of Spades marks the debut of an irresistible and fiercely original new voice.

Read an excerpt here.

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‘I Have a Black Son in Baltimore’: Anxious New Parents and an Era of Unease

Posted in Articles, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, Social Justice, United States on 2016-08-24 14:13Z by Steven

‘I Have a Black Son in Baltimore’: Anxious New Parents and an Era of Unease

The New York Times

Rachel L. Swarns

Bill Janu, a Baltimore police detective, greeted Shanna Janu, his wife, and their son, Wesley, as he arrived home from work one day this month. Credit Lexey Swall for The New York Times

BALTIMORE — He assembled the crib and mounted the bookshelves. She unpacked the bedding and filled the closet with onesies and rompers. Then husband and wife stood in the nursery and worried. Bill Janu, a police officer, is white. Shanna Janu, a lawyer, is black. As they eagerly awaited their baby’s birth this spring, they felt increasingly anxious.

They had chosen not to find out their baby’s gender ahead of time. But their nearly two years of marriage had been punctuated by the killings of African-American men and boys in Ferguson, Mo.; Brooklyn; Cleveland; North Charleston, S.C.; and Baltimore, all at the hands of the police. Mr. Janu, who longed for a son, tried to reassure his wife. Mrs. Janu emailed him one article after another, warning of the perils that face black boys.

As the due date approached, Mr. Janu found himself praying for a girl.

In the delivery room at St. Agnes Hospital, after more than 20 hours of labor, the infant finally arrived, red-faced and wailing. The newborn had Mr. Janu’s blue eyes and Mrs. Janu’s full lips and nose. The new father exulted. Then he felt the weight of his new reality.

“Now, I have a black son in Baltimore,” the white police detective remembered thinking as he cradled his baby boy…

Read the entire article here.

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Lumbee Indians seek end to a century of questions about identity

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2016-04-13 00:02Z by Steven

Lumbee Indians seek end to a century of questions about identity

The Baltimore Sun
Baltimore, Maryland

Richard O’Mara, Staff Writer

Proud people from North Carolina find a home in Baltimore

Shirley Jeffrey, an East Baltimore resident, remembers the painful moment five years ago when two Sioux Indians told her that “Lumbees aren’t really Indians.”

Jimmy Hunt recalls a similar experience as an Army recruit when a sergeant asked the American Indians in the group to stand up. “There were two others besides myself,” he says. “Later they said I wasn’t an Indian because I was a Lumbee.”

Not really Indians? How could this be said of the largest American Indian group east of the Mississippi? The ninth-largest in the United States, with nearly 50,000 members, according to the Bureau of the Census. About 4,300 of them are in Maryland.

The question of identity has troubled the Lumbees for more than a century, but it may be resolved this year if Congress approves a bill introduced by Rep. Charles Rose III, D-N.C., to extend full recognition to the tribe.

It’s not that Mrs. Jeffrey is uncertain about who she is. Nor is Mr. Hunt…

Read the entire article here.

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Seeing Baltimore’s Native Americans Clearly

Posted in Articles, Arts, Interviews, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2016-04-12 22:46Z by Steven

Seeing Baltimore’s Native Americans Clearly

Baltimore, Maryland

Cara Ober, Founding Editor

An Inverview with Ashley Minner about her Exquisite Lumbee Project, currently on display at Trickster Gallery

Ashley Minner is a community based visual artist from Baltimore, Maryland. She holds a BFA in Fine Art, an MA and an MFA in Community Art, which she earned at MICA. A member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, she has been active in the Baltimore Lumbee community for many years. Her involvement in her community informs and inspires her studio practice. Ashley is currently a PhD in American Studies student at University of Maryland College Park, where she is studying vernacular art as resistance in tri-racial isolate communities of the U.S. South and Global South

Read the entire interview here.

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“There is nothing ‘black’ about rioting”: Actor Jesse Williams unloads on Baltimore critics in passionate Twitter essay

Posted in Articles, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2015-04-30 19:55Z by Steven

“There is nothing ‘black’ about rioting”: Actor Jesse Williams unloads on Baltimore critics in passionate Twitter essay


Joanna Rothkopf, Assistant Editor

(Credit: DFree via Shutterstock)

The “Grey’s Anatomy” actor wrote about the prevelance of rioting throughout history

On Monday evening, as Baltimore was rocked by violent and nonviolent protests alike, actor Jesse Williams, known for his role on “Grey’s Anatomy” and for occasionally weighing in on issues of race and police brutality, wrote what amounted to an essay on the history of rioting.

Read the whole thing below:..

Read the entire article here.

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President Obama Condemns Both the Baltimore Riots and the Nation’s ‘Slow-Rolling Crisis’

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2015-04-29 16:56Z by Steven

President Obama Condemns Both the Baltimore Riots and the Nation’s ‘Slow-Rolling Crisis’

The New York Times

Julie Hirschfeld Davis, White House Correspondent

Matt Apuzzo

WASHINGTON — President Obama responded with passion and frustration on Tuesday to the violence that has rocked Baltimore and other cities after the deaths of young black men in confrontations with the police, calling for a period of soul-searching about what he said had become a near-weekly cycle of tragedy.

Speaking from the White House Rose Garden, Mr. Obama condemned the chaos unfolding just 40 miles north of the White House and called for “full transparency and accountability” in a Department of Justice investigation into the death of Freddie Gray, the young black man who died of a spinal cord injury suffered while in police custody.

He said that his thoughts were also with the police officers injured in Monday night’s unrest in Baltimore, which he said “underscores that that’s a tough job, and we have to keep that in mind.”…

…He spoke as Loretta E. Lynch, the new attorney general, dispatched two of her top deputies to Baltimore to handle the fallout: Vanita Gupta, her civil rights chief, and Ronald L. Davis, her community-policing director. The unrest there and the epidemic Mr. Obama described of troubled relations between white police officers and black citizens have consumed Ms. Lynch’s first two days on the job and could define her time in office.

They have also raised difficult and familiar questions for Mr. Obama about whether he and his administration are doing enough to confront the problem, questions made all the more poignant because he is the first African-American to occupy the White House…

Read the entire article here.

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Interracial births in Baltimore, 1950-1964

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2013-10-12 23:02Z by Steven

Interracial births in Baltimore, 1950-1964

Public Health Reports
Volume 81, Number 11 (November 1966)
pages 967-971

Sidney M. Norton, Director of the Bureau of Vital Records
Baltimore City Health Department, Baltimore, Maryland

Also Assistant, Department of Chronic Diseases
School of Hygiene and Public Health
Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland

During the course of routine, periodic examinations of birth certificates for accuracy and completeness, the Bureau of Vital Records in the Baltimore City Health Department has observed an increasing number of interracial births in Baltimore from year to year over the past decade. Although such births do not occur in large numbers, they are indicative of a contemporary social phenomenon which is taking place in numerous U.S. urban areas.

In Baltimore this social phenomenon is manifested by children born to white and Negro parents, white and Filipino parents, and white and oriental parents. These children represent the legitimate issue of interracial marriages and, to a lesser extent, the natural offspring of unwed parents.

The bona fide interracial unions are of special interest because Maryland law prohibits the intermarriage of a white person and a Negro to the third generation, a white person and a member of the Malay race, and a Negro to the third generation and a member of the Malay race. (On March 28, 1966, the Maryland House of Delegates defeated a bill previously passed by the State Senate to repeal the 305-year-old law prohibiting white-Negro marriages and the 1935 amendment which broadened the original statute by further prohibiting marriages between whites or Negroes with members of the Malay race.)

There is no provision in the statute which prohibits Japanese-white, Chinese-white, or Chinese-Negro marriages. Obviously, the marriages prohibited in Maryland were contracted in jurisdictions which have no racial restrictions.

Maryland is 1 of 19 States which have an anti-miscegenation statute, a law prohibiting white-Negro marriages. With the exception of the Union of South Africa, no other country has such a law. The legislation prohibiting the marriage of Malays with white persons or Negroes in Maryland is aimed specifically at Filipinos, who are said to represent many different racial and cultural backgrounds.

Despite this interdiction, resident Filipinos and white women have been intermarrying outside of Maryland with increasing frequency over the past several years. Many of the Filipinos in Baltimore are physicians who have come for postgraduate training in medicine. As for other mixed marriages, white persons and American Indians marry frequently and without any legal restrictions. Also noteworthy are the great numbers of U.S. military personnel who married Chinese, Japanese, and Korean women as well as the numbers of Negro servicemen, particularly those who were stationed in England and Germany, who married white women and subsequently brought their wives to the United States.

This study was undertaken to determine the complete incidence of interracial births in Baltimore from 1950 to 1964 by racial origin, country of birth, ages of parents, occupation of father, and legitimacy status of the child. When an interracial birth occurs in a Baltimore hospital, as did all those reported here, the medical records staff doublechecks to assure the accuracy of the registration…

Read the entire article here.

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