A True Story of Love, Race and Royalty Gets Crammed Into A United Kingdom

Posted in Africa, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, South Africa, United Kingdom on 2017-02-11 19:57Z by Steven

A True Story of Love, Race and Royalty Gets Crammed Into A United Kingdom

LA Weekly

April Wolfe, Lead Film Critic

Courtesy of Fox Searchlight

In director Amma Asante’s epic political romance A United Kingdom, David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike star as Seretse and Ruth Khama, the interracial royal couple who stunned the world when they fought to rule the country that would become the Republic of Botswana. The story’s a wildly interesting history lesson on African poverty, the rise of apartheid in the late 1940s and Britain’s passive role in separating Botswana’s blacks from whites. But here all that complexity plays more Disney than drama, with a script from Guy Hibbert (Eye in the Sky) that turns love into a montage and politics into a trite cartoon of good vs. evil.

The couple lindy-hops through courtship and right into an engagement in the early scenes, which are set to an American jazz soundtrack. They first lock eyes at a dance in London, where he’s a law student and she’s an office worker. In real life, the two met secretly for a year before Seretse even got the nerve to ask, “Do you think you could love me?” But the script ramming right through the early romance and into the marriage leaves so many open questions about the characters’ love; as portrayed in the film, they barely know one another when Ruth decides she’s going to move to Africa to be Seretse’s queen.

Against the wishes of their families — and the British and South African governments — Seretse and Ruth marry and travel to Bechuanaland so that he can ascend the throne and use his education to help his people. Soon after their arrival comes one of the film’s most poignant moments: Seretse’s aunt Ella (Abena Ayivor), who’s the current queen, drills right into the thin white woman before her to ask if Ruth knows what it would mean to be a mother to the nation and its predominantly black citizens. Ella has a good point: At a time when white people are swarming into Bechuanaland to turn black citizens into servants, how good an idea is a white queen? Later, Ruth sits in her room, practicing British queen skills such as waving and smiling, while the tribe’s women break their backs outside to get food to their families. But A United Kingdom doesn’t fully explore this cultural distance; the film’s structure requires that Ruth be quickly accepted into the tribe, so the story can move on to Britain’s treachery…

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Moogega Cooper: The JPL’s Space Engineer

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Biography, Media Archive, United States on 2015-08-02 15:24Z by Steven

Moogega Cooper: The JPL’s Space Engineer

LA Weekly
Los Angeles, California

Sophia Kercher

Somewhere on Mars, the initials of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, J-P-L, are written in Morse code spanning hundreds of meters across the red planet. It’s this kind of detail that thrills JPL scientist Moogega Cooper – especially since JPL, considered NASA’s little brother, accomplished this on the sly.

“Initially, for the robotics missions, we had JPL [stamped] on the wheels so that as it rolls along Mars it would tag Mars: JPL, JPL, JPL. And NASA stepped in and said, ‘No, you can’t do that,’?” Cooper explains. “So JPL said, ‘OK, sure, we’ll take that off.’ And instead they put it in Morse code.”

Cooper, named rainbow or “moo-jee-gae” by her Korean mother and raised by her African-American World War II veteran father, is a human comet of beauty, intelligence and creativity. The scientist graduated from high school at 16, and at 24 earned her Ph.D., then launched her NASA career.

Now 28, she is a planetary protection engineer at JPL. A big part of her job is making sure that NASA doesn’t contaminate other planets with terrestrial microorganisms or any other Earth life, and vice versa – bacteria from, say, Mars, that could potentially harm humans…

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Off-White Like Me

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2013-12-28 05:03Z by Steven

Off-White Like Me

LA Weekly
Culver City, California

David Ehrenstein

Biracial? Tell it to the hosts of
Fox and Friends. Obama is black.

On a cross-country trip in the summer of 1957, my family stopped in Oklahoma City. There, my father asked a policeman for directions to the state capitol. The officer began to offer them, when I leaned forward from the back seat. Suddenly the policeman’s demeanor changed. A scowl crossed his face as he asked my parents what they were doing in town and how long they planned to stay. Not immediately sensing his hostility, they volunteered that they were tourists and were stopping overnight. He then brusquely ordered them to “move on!” without directing them to the capitol. My parents were flabbergasted. They had no idea what had inspired his shift in attitude. But I did. All 10 years of me had just discovered what it was like to have pure racism staring you in the face.

My father was white. My mother, half-black. She wore makeup to cover her light, rather blotchy complexion, so her race wasn’t always apparent. I was darker-hued, and, therefore, as I leaned up into the light of the car that day, unmistakable.

Race was rarely discussed in my family. Growing up in the New York suburb of Flushing, Queens, I had the luck to live in an integrated neighborhood. People of different religions and ethnicities co-existed all around me. My favorite movie was The Thief of Bagdad,whose star, Sabu, looked, I thought, quite a bit like me. And wasn’t that terrific? He rode a magic carpet. All the neighborhood kids liked him, and practically all of them liked me too. Should the N word be uttered by some pintsize lout, it was treated as evidence of “bad parents.” The cop in Oklahoma was a different story. His face, a threat and a promise of “more where that came from,” were attitudes held outside my becalmed suburban bubble. America does judge a book by its cover. “Biracial”? Tell it to that cop. I’m black

Anatole Broyard, book critic for The New York Times and one of the most-talked-about intellectuals of the post–World War II period, was born in 1920 and died in 1990. Upon his death, the long-whispered rumor that he was a black man passing for white burst forth as fact. The light-skinned issue of light-skinned parents, Broyard hid his lineage and became what black scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. called“a virtuoso of ambiguity and equivocation.”

In a piece he wrote for Commentary in 1950 titled “Portrait of the Inauthentic Negro,” Broyard said his subject “is not only estranged from whites, he is also estranged from his own group and from himself. Since his companions are a mirror in which he sees himself as ugly, he must reject them; and since his own self is mainly a tension between an accusation and a denial, he can hardly find it, much less live in it. . . He is adrift without a role in a world predicated on roles.”…

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