Dream of the Water Children: Memory and Mourning in the Black Pacific

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Biography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs on 2018-06-10 03:30Z by Steven

Dream of the Water Children: Memory and Mourning in the Black Pacific

2Leaf Press
2018-06-08
470 pages
Paperback ISBN-13: 978-1-940939-28-5
ePub ISBN-13: 978-1-940939-29-2

Fredrick D. Kakinami Cloyd

Introduction by Gerald Horne
Foreword by Velina Hasu Houston
Edited by Karen Chau

Fredrick D. Kakinami Cloyd’s debut, Dream of the Water Children: Memory and Mourning in the Black Pacific, is a lyrical and compelling memoir about a son of an African American father and a Japanese mother who has spent a lifetime being looked upon with curiosity and suspicion by both sides of his ancestry and the rest of society. Cloyd begins his story in present-day San Francisco, reflecting back on a war-torn identity from Japan, U.S. military bases, and migration to the United States, uncovering links to hidden histories.

Dream of the Water Children tells two main stories: Cloyd’s mother and his own. It was not until the author began writing his memoir that his mother finally addressed her experiences with racism and sexism in Occupied Japan. This helped Cloyd make better sense of, and reckon with, his dislocated inheritances. Tautly written in spare, clear poetic prose, Dream of the Water Children delivers a compelling and surprising account of racial and gender interactions. It tackles larger social histories, helping to dispel some of the great narrative myths of race and culture embedded in various identities of the Pacific and its diaspora.

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William Alexander Leidesdorff: Forgotten San Francisco Pioneer

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, United States on 2018-04-24 17:53Z by Steven

William Alexander Leidesdorff: Forgotten San Francisco Pioneer

San Francisco Travel
2014-08-22

Cindy Hu


Photo by vgm8383 / CC BY-NC

Financial district hotshots pass by tiny Leidesdorff Street, hardly more than an alley, and few can pronounce its name. Little do they know that the namesake of this charming hitching post-lined lane blazed the trail for them some 150 years ago. Fewer still realize he was the city’s first prominent businessman of black ancestry.

William Alexander Leidesdorff was born the son of Alexander Leidesdorff, a drifting Danish seaman, and a mulatto woman on St. Croix Island in the West Indies. The child was given Danish citizenship, though his father never shared in the raising of young William. However, an English plantation owner grew fond of the young boy and saw to his care and education.

When Leidesdorff grew into a strapping young man, the Englishman sent him to New Orleans to live with the planter’s brother and to become a cotton merchant. Leidesdorff and the mercantile industry were a perfect fit. He quickly learned the industry and built a reputation as a keen businessman. When the Englishman and his brother suddenly died, just months apart, Leidesdorff fell heir to their New Orleans estate.

When he was not managing the estate, the striking, young and wealthy Leidesdorff courted a southern belle named Hortense, whose prominent family claimed membership in New Orleans’ high society and whose lineage heralded back to Louis XIV of France. Keeping his mixed ancestry secret, Leidesdorff became engaged to the blonde, fair-skinned Hortense…

Read the entire article here.

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A Girl Full of Smartness

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2018-04-24 02:25Z by Steven

A Girl Full of Smartness

The Paris Review
2017-06-02

Edward White


Mary Ellen Pleasant

As an entrepreneur, civil-rights activist, and benefactor, Mary Ellen Pleasant made a name and a fortune for herself in Gold Rush–era San Francisco, shattering racial taboos.

They did things differently in the Old West. On the morning of August 14, 1889, Stephen J. Field, a justice of the Supreme Court, was eating breakfast at a café in Lathrop, California, when David S. Terry, a former bench colleague, stopped by Field’s table and slapped him twice across the face.

This was not unprecedented behavior. Despite having risen to the rank of chief justice of the Supreme Court of California, Terry was described by one contemporary as an “evil genius” with an “irrepressible temper,” who once stabbed a man for being an abolitionist and killed a Congressman wedded to the Free Soil movement. His gripe with Stephen Field, however, had nothing to do with slavery. In 1883, Terry’s wife had filed a lawsuit (Sharon vs. Sharon) against the multimillionaire U.S. Senator William Sharon, claiming she had been married to him in secret some years ago and that, having been callously discarded by the womanizing senator, she was owed a divorce settlement. After five years the case ended up at a federal circuit court, where Field found in favor of William Sharon; there would be no divorce settlement. Terry was livid and promised to exact revenge.

It was only the latest twist in what had been a bizarre case. On the first day of the trial, William Sharon’s attorney asserted that his client was the victim of a plot involving an elderly black woman who had used voodoo to steal Sharon’s hard-earned fortune. That woman was known to the San Francisco public as “Mammy Pleasant,” around whom sinister rumors had swirled for years. Some accused her of being a murderess, a madam, and a practitioner of black magic who befriended white families only to curse them and bleed them dry; a nightmarish image of “the mammy gone wrong,” to quote one historian. But just as many—especially among the black community—knew her as Mary Ellen Pleasant: an ingenious entrepreneur, pioneering civil-rights activist, and beloved benefactor who broke racial taboos and played a singular role in the early years of San Francisco…

Even within her lifetime, there were several competing stories about Pleasant’s origins. One version has her born into slavery in Georgia; another says she was the daughter of a wealthy Virginian planter who had a fling with a voodoo priestess from the Caribbean. In her published reminiscences she claimed to have been born in Philadelphia in 1812, to a Hawaiian father and “a full-blooded Louisiana negress.” Racial mixing and ethnic ambiguity, themes that would repeat over and again throughout Pleasant’s life, appear to have been part of her identity from the start…

Read the entire article here.

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The real history behind Mary Ellen Pleasant, San Francisco’s “voodoo queen”

Posted in Articles, Audio, Biography, History, Media Archive, Passing, Slavery, United States, Women on 2018-04-24 02:04Z by Steven

The real history behind Mary Ellen Pleasant, San Francisco’s “voodoo queen”

KALW Local Public Radio, 91.7 FM
San Francisco, California
2015-09-09

Olivia Cueva & Liza Veale


Performer Susheel Bibbs poses in front of an image of Mary Ellen Pleasant.
Photograph by Olivia Cueva

In the mid-1800s, boomtown San Francisco was a city of men — only about 15 percent women. While slavery was illegal in California, white men were the ones cashing out on the boom. Mostly.

Then there was Mary Ellen Pleasant. She was one of the richest and most powerful people in the state — and she was a black woman. In fact she was a freedom fighter; her nickname was “Black City Hall.”

Yet today, Pleasant is barely remembered. The story that does get told is a mythologized tale about San Francisco’s so-called “voodoo queen.”

Why did this extraordinary woman fall from the city’s graces, left to haunt its history as the voodoo queen? We start at the last stop on a city tour called the San Francisco Ghost Hunt.

The tour brings you to the corner of Octavia and Bush streets, where Mary Ellen Pleasant’s mansion once stood. Six huge eucalyptus trees tower above the spot. Pleasant planted them herself over a hundred years ago.

Jim Fassbinder guides the tour. He tells a tale that he admits is not quite fact, not quite fiction.

He says Pleasant had power over San Franciscans because she practiced “voodoo.” He says some claim she was responsible for the death of four people, including her longtime business partner. Rumor has it her servant “found Mary Ellen pulling apart the bones of his head and picking out bits of his brain,” says Fassbinder.

As the story goes, she’s haunted this corner ever since the day she died. But the story’s been mangled by history. What really happened?

“It still is a mystery,” says Susheel Bibbs, “Her life is still a mystery.”

Bibbs has been studying Pleasant for over 20 years. She says part of the reason it’s so hard to distinguish fact from fiction is because Pleasant herself never kept her story straight.

“It was ingrained from the very beginning that survival meant that you don’t tell. You just keep secrets,” Bibbs says.

By best accounts, Pleasant was born on a plantation in Georgia. Once she was freed as a young girl, she began falsifying her identity. Slavery was still alive and well, so she needed to protect herself from law enforcement.

“If they decided she was an escaped slave and she had no freedom papers, they could just wrest her off the streets and back into slavery,” Bibbs says.

Her skin was fair enough to pass, so when she docked in San Francisco in 1852, she arrived as a white woman

Read entire story here. Listen to the story (00:08:37) here.

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As intermarriage spreads, fault lines are exposed

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2017-11-15 17:11Z by Steven

As intermarriage spreads, fault lines are exposed

The San Francisco Chronicle
2017-05-19

Jill Tucker, K-12 Education Reporter


Jered Snyder and Jen Zhao of Oakland got married in 2015. Asian American women are among the groups that are more likely to marry outside their race.
Photo: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle

The growth of interracial marriage in the 50 years since the Supreme Court legalized it across the nation has been steady, but stark disparities remain that influence who is getting hitched and who supports the nuptials, according to a major study released Thursday.

People who are younger, urban and college-educated are more likely to cross racial or ethnic lines on their trip to the altar, and those with liberal leanings are more apt to approve of the unions — trends that are playing out in the Bay Area, where about 1 in 4 newlyweds entered into such marriages in the first half of this decade.

Among the most striking findings was that black men are twice as likely to intermarry as black women — a gender split that reversed for Asian and Pacific Islander Americans and, to researchers, underscores the grip of deeply rooted societal stereotypes…

Read the entire article here.

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The Missing British Columbia Paintings of Grafton Tyler Brown

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Canada, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-03-10 19:44Z by Steven

The Missing British Columbia Paintings of Grafton Tyler Brown

2015-02-27

John Lutz, Professor of History
University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia


Grafton Tyler Brown in his Victoria studio, 1883, Image A-08775  courtesy of the Royal BC Museum, BC Archives.

Grafton Tyler Brown became the first professional artist in the province when he reinvented himself in his move to British Columbia in 1882. Two years later he headed south to Tacoma and has since become famous in the United States as the first and one of the best Black professional artists in California and the Pacific Northwest. Practically unknown now, his paintings of the Fraser, Thompson, Okanagan, and Similkameen Valleys as well as southern Vancouver Island, were celebrated in Victoria in 1883 when he opened his inaugural exhibition. But Brown, the famous American Black artist, was, surprisingly, a White artist in British Columbia!

Brown was African American by birth. His parents, Thomas and Wilhelmina, were two free Blacks who had left the slave state of Maryland for the free state of Pennsylvania in 1837. Grafton Tyler Brown born February 22, 1841, was the first of three sons and a daughter, all of whom appear as Black in the censuses of the period…

…Whether by chance or more likely by craft, when Grafton Tyler Brown, who had inherited his father’s lighter colouring, was enumerated by the San Francisco directory makers for the 1861, he was listed without the designation “coloured” applied to Blacks. The 1870 census taker called him a “Mulatto” suggesting he was thought to have only one African American parent while that same year the Dun and Bradstreet credit agency called him a “quadroon” meaning that he was thought to have a single African American grandparent. In the census of 1880 he was listed as “White”. Race, the idea that people can be rigidly separated by their looks, proved itself to be quite arbitrary and open to interpretation…

Read the entire article here.

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What Colin Kaepernick’s Protest Looks Like to a Black 49ers Fan

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, United States on 2016-09-01 19:14Z by Steven

What Colin Kaepernick’s Protest Looks Like to a Black 49ers Fan

The New York Times
2016-08-31

Gerald Harris, President and Managing Director
The Quantum Planning Group, San Francisco, California


Colin Kaepernick Credit Ben Margot/Associated Press

San Francisco — Why are we, as sports fans, continually surprised when one of our heroes turns out to be a real person, with real feelings who is living in the same world we also live in? And when that athlete is black, why does white America respond with anger, as if the hero has broken some kind of sacred rule or understood deal? That deal seems to be, “You just go out and win games, collect your check, and if we really like you, you can retire and sell us stuff in TV commercials.”

Colin Kaepernick, a quarterback for San Francisco, the city I love and pay a lot to live in, is the latest in a long line of black athletes who have decided to be real people with real concerns about the black community. This tends to happen when issues become so pressing that they break the heart of the athlete and pierce a wall they might choose to stay behind.

It was the Vietnam War for Muhammad Ali, the civil rights movement for countless others. For Kaepernick, it is the way black and brown people, just like him, are treated in the United States. He felt he could no longer stand for the national anthem at the beginning of 49ers games. In an interview published Saturday, he said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”…

Read the entire article here.

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National Women’s History Museum presents Chinese American Women: A History of Resilience and Resistance

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Biography, History, Law, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2016-06-10 15:14Z by Steven

National Women’s History Museum presents Chinese American Women: A History of Resilience and Resistance

National Women’s History Museum
2016-06-08


Joseph, Emily, Mamie, Frank, and Mary Tape.

Tape v. Hurley

Mary Tape was a biracial Chinese American woman who believed that her daughter, Mamie, should have the same access to education as white children in San Francisco. In particular, Mary Tape wanted her daughter to be able to attend public school. When the local school principal, Jennie Hurley, stood in the schoolhouse door to bar Mamie’s entrance on the sole grounds that she was Chinese, Mary Tape took Jennie Hurley to court.

In 1885, almost seventy years before the famous Supreme Court Decision Brown v. Board of Education desegregated American public schools, Mary Tape sued the San Francisco School District to offer public education to all Chinese children. Tape v. Hurley was one of the most important civil rights decisions in American history. In this ground breaking case, Superior Court Judge James Maguire ruled that Chinese children must have access to public education: “To deny a child, born of Chinese parents in this state, entrance to the public schools would be a violation of the law of the state and the Constitution of the United States.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Indian Blood: HIV and Colonial Trauma in San Francisco’s Two-Spirit Community

Posted in Books, Gay & Lesbian, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2016-06-03 02:16Z by Steven

Indian Blood: HIV and Colonial Trauma in San Francisco’s Two-Spirit Community

University of Washington Press
June 2016
176 pages
1 bandw illus, 2 tables
6 x 9 in
Paperback ISBN: 9780295998503
Hardcover ISBN: 9780295998077

Andrew J. Jolivette, Professor and chair of American Indian studies
San Francisco State University, San Francisco, California

The first book to examine the correlation between mixed-race identity and HIV/AIDS among Native American gay men and transgendered people, Indian Blood provides an analysis of the emerging and often contested LGBTQtwo-spirit” identification as it relates to public health and mixed-race identity.

Prior to contact with European settlers, most Native American tribes held their two-spirit members in high esteem, even considering them spiritually advanced. However, after contact – and religious conversion – attitudes changed and social and cultural support networks were ruptured. This discrimination led to a breakdown in traditional values, beliefs, and practices, which in turn pushed many two-spirit members to participate in high-risk behaviors. The result is a disproportionate number of two-spirit members who currently test positive for HIV.

Using surveys, focus groups, and community discussions to examine the experiences of HIV-positive members of San Francisco’s two-spirit community, Indian Blood provides an innovative approach to understanding how colonization continues to affect American Indian communities and opens a series of crucial dialogues in the fields of Native American studies, public health, queer studies, and critical mixed-race studies.

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“Funny—You Don’t Look Jewish!”: Racial, Ethnic, and Religious Identities of Children of Asian American and Jewish American Spouses

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Identity Development/Psychology, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion, Social Science, United States on 2015-01-19 02:09Z by Steven

“Funny—You Don’t Look Jewish!”: Racial, Ethnic, and Religious Identities of Children of Asian American and Jewish American Spouses

Journal of Jewish Identities
Issue 8, Number 1, January 2015
pages 129-148

Helen Kim, Associate Professor of Sociology
Whitman College, Walla Walla, Washington

Noah Leavitt, Research Associate
Department of Sociology
Whitman College, Walla Walla, Washington

Rachel Williams
Whitman College, Walla Walla, Washington

Who is a Jew? What does it mean to be Jewish? Often connected to these questions is the subject of intermarriage among Jewish Americans, a demographic reality that has long been understood as problematic and threatening to the Jewish people because of the supposed dilution, and possible extinction, of Jewish identity and community that will necessarily follow when a Jew marries a non-Jew. Often, the most pressing concern regarding intermarriage is its impact on the Jewish identity of the children and grandchildren of these relationships. Will the offspring of intermarriage identify as Jewish? If so, what does Jewish identity mean for these individuals? Furthermore, what impact does Jewish identification or non-identification mean for the continuity of the Jewish people?

Currently, the debate regarding the continuity of Jewish identity and peoplehood as it pertains to intermarried couples and their children is unresolved, especially within the realm of academic scholarship pertaining to this subject. Most notably, the Pew Research Center’s 2013 Portrait of Jewish Americans acknowledges that, according to its findings, support exists for both sides of the debate. In their discussion of the Pew survey, Gregory A. Smith and Alan Cooperman note that adult children of intermarriage are more likely to identify as religiously agnostic, atheist, or nothing in particular than those born to two Jewish parents. This difference may suggest the eventual erosion of Jewish religious identification as a result of intermarriage. Smith and Cooperman also note, however, an increase in Jewish identification in adulthood among offspring of intermarriage. Thus while intermarriage may be leading to a significant decrease in religious identification, it may be contributing to an increase in a different type of Jewish identification that is no less important.

Some scholars have argued that the debate and scholarship regarding intermarriage as assimilation and an erosion of Jewish authenticity stifles innovative ways to think about and encourage more nuanced conceptions of Jewish identity and, subsequently, Jewish belonging and community. These critiques often point to the importance of broadening our understanding of Jewish identity through frameworks and methods that complicate common notions of Jewish authenticity based in religiosity and descent.

Our exploratory qualitative study of adult children born to Asian American and Jewish American spouses adds to the debate regarding intermarriage and Jewish authenticity by investigating how Jewish identity is negotiated through the lenses of religion and race. We argue that multiraciality and Jewish identity are intrinsically connected for respondents in our sample. Our work derives from a larger project on intermarriage between Jewish Americans of any racial or ethnic background and Asian Americans of any ethnic or religious background.

More specifically, we seek to understand how children of mixed backgrounds experience and think about their Jewish identity in light of their position as children of intermarried spouses who are ethnically, religiously, and racially different. While our findings are not generalizable to a larger population, they do call into serious question the conceptualization and, for some, the strongly held belief that intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews necessarily results in an erosion of Jewish identity and community through children and subsequent generations. Rather, our interviews with children of multiracial intermarriages point to the maintenance of many traditional markers of Judaism and Jewish identity commonly associated with certain institutional affiliations at the same time that they challenge and offer newer understandings of Jewish authenticity through the lens of external and internal racial identification. Thus, our findings emphasize the importance of understanding these kinds of identity negotiations within a larger national landscape that is increasingly multiracial and multicultural. Put differently, the U.S. population, including its Jewish and Asian American populations, is becoming increasingly multiracial and multiethnic and is doing so, in large part, through intermarriage broadly construed. In this sense, our work highlights the importance of understanding how our respondents think about their identity, whether racial, ethnic, or religious, within a demographic landscape that is changing at a pace much faster than the debate regarding intermarriage fully acknowledges.

The data for this paper comes from qualitative in-depth interviews conducted in 2011 with twenty-two adult children, ages eighteen to twenty-five, of Jewish and Asian intermarriages, residing in the San Francisco Bay Area and in parts…

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