Living a white lie

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, History, Media Archive, Passing, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2017-08-10 02:30Z by Steven

Living a white lie

Silver Chips Online: Montgomery Blair High School’s Online Student Newspaper
Silver Spring, Maryland
2009-02-23

Lily Alexander, Managing Features Editor, Print-Online Coordinator


Jim Queen, 70, now lives in San Francisco with his wife of 40 years. From 1954 to 1957, he attended Montgomery Blair High School, where he was forced to pass as a white student by hiding his far more complex and multiracial heritage.

In 1954, Jim Queen arrived at Montgomery Blair High School. The school was all white. He was not.

The janitors would come to watch him run. They knew – or at least sensed – he wasn’t who he said he was. As he raced around the quarter-mile track at old Blair High School, they would silently agree about what was never said aloud. And at a time when race relations in the United States were defined by divisions, from water fountains to hospitals, Jim Queen was an anomaly. The janitors suspected it. His parents knew it. And so did he.

The school system did not.

Three years before MCPS [(Montgomery County Public Schools)] officially opened its doors to integration, Jim Queen was a student with a mixed heritage – part white, part black, part Native American – studying at a school comprised entirely of white students. For over two years, Queen maintained this façade, keeping his racial background a secret from friends, teachers and classmates.

Now 70, Queen is far-removed from his time at Blair, but the experiences of his upbringing and childhood clouded by questions of racial identity and self-discovery have played a large role in small farm in shaping the man he has become…

…More recently, Queen launched the “One Race Movement.” This movement promotes the idea that we all belong to one race – the human race – and that the concept of multiple races is “a false social construct used historically to divide and exploit people,” rather than a scientifically-based idea. He developed this idea after rediscovering his own Wesort roots and learning about the Genome Project conducted by Craig Venter, which aimed to prove that all humans originally come from Africa. To convey his movement’s core message, Queen designed a symbol that now adorns clothing and posters, depicting the silhouettes of many different colored faces and the word “ONE” beneath it…

Read the entire article here.

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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
2017-02-03

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
2007-02-11

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.
2007
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
2016-08-23

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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“White Enough to Pass”: Uncovering the story of John Wesley Gibson

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Passing, Slavery, United States on 2016-06-15 14:15Z by Steven

“White Enough to Pass”: Uncovering the story of John Wesley Gibson

underbelly: From the Deepest Corners of the Maryland Historical Society Library
2016-01-21


Excerpt from William Still’s 1872 book, The Underground Railroad: A Record of Facts, Authentic Narratives, Letters, & c., Narrating the Hardships Hair-breadth Escapes and Death Struggles of the Slaves in their Efforts for Freedom, as Related by Themselves and Others, or Witnessed by the Author; Together with Sketches of Some of the Largest Stockholders, and Most Liberal Aiders and Advisors, of the Road, E450 .S85, MdHS. (reference photo)

“John Wesley Gibson represented himself to be not only the slave, but also the son of William Y. Day, of Taylor’s Mount, Maryland…” This is the opening statement of a slave narrative that tells the story of a man who chose freedom in a place and time that allowed slavery — Maryland in the 1850s. The short narrative offers details of his appearance (looks like his father); job description (farm foreman); his age (28); how he escaped (passed as a white man) and how he detested bondage (severe restrictions). Little else is known of John Wesley Gibson other than one paragraph of information in a 780-page history of the Underground Railroad published in 1872. After Gibson escaped, where did he go? What was his life like at Taylor’s Mount? Is there a way to verify the information in the narrative? His mother Harriet and sister Frances were mentioned in the story. What happened to them? How do we find out more info? Or are they lost to history?…

Read the entire article here.

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Will Jawando Doesn’t Have To Be The Next Obama

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Biography, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2016-04-23 15:26Z by Steven

Will Jawando Doesn’t Have To Be The Next Obama

MTV News
2016-04-18

Jamil Smith, Senior National Correspondent

There are rules for knocking on someone’s door while campaigning. And Will Jawando, a few weeks back, broke a big one. “Rule 101 in canvassing,” he told MTV News, “is that you don’t go inside.” This makes sense. There’s only so much daylight to use knocking on doors, and there are significant security concerns for all parties involved. “But as the candidate, I can break the rules,” Jawando said.

It didn’t seem like there would be any harm in this case. The woman who invited him in was a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor from Germany. “She wanted to talk, and I told her about my background: My dad coming to this country on the heels of a civil war in his country, and [me] growing up here,” Jawando said. “You could tell that she related.”

Jawando, 33, is the youngest candidate in a crowded Democratic primary race in Maryland’s upper-crust 8th Congressional District. But as he sat in this stranger’s living room, both of them were just different shades of the American immigrant story. The same thing can be said for Jawando’s former boss: President Obama. And the similarities between the two men are uncanny.

Both Jawando and Obama are the telegenic sons of African immigrant fathers and white mothers from Kansas (that’s where Jawando’s father, Olayinka, met his mother, Kathleen Gross, in the early 1970s, after fleeing Nigeria’s civil war). Both lost their first attempts to win public office: Obama in a congressional primary, Jawando for a Maryland state representative seat. Both are policy wonks with a talent for retail politics. Both are even married to women with the same name who are both accomplished attorneys; Jawando’s Michele is a vice-president at the Center for American Progress policy institute. Jawando served as the White House associate director of public engagement in 2010, and, if he wins in Maryland, will become the first Obama administration alumnus elected to public office.

Should he get there, of course, Jawando wouldn’t be Obama. Diverse black American lives have long been reduced to a monolithic “experience,” and that problem gets exacerbated when you happen to share uncanny biographical similarities with the President. Both men also have considerable political talent and a love for the wonkish details of policymaking, but Jawando makes it clear that he has his own reasons for entering politics…

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
1993-10-12

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

BmoreArt
Baltimore, Maryland
2015-05-26

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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