Book Reviews: Self-Portrait in Black and White

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Europe, Media Archive, Philosophy, United States on 2019-09-26 01:31Z by Steven

Book Reviews: Self-Portrait in Black and White


Daniel Oppenheimer

Curtain Gradient

The rewards of subordinating racial or ethnic identity, in the new memoiristic essay by the author of ‘Losing My Cool

Thomas Chatterton Williams’ new book, Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race, is a few things. It’a memoiristic follow-up to his first book, Losing My Cool: Love, Literature, and a Black Man’s Escape from the Crowd; a meditation on what it means for a black man to discover that he’s fathered white children; and an impassioned argument for rejecting the whole modern paradigm of black and white.

It’s also, I think, an effort to answer for himself one of the essential questions that many older liberals, who were formed before the rise of identity politics, simply can’t answer or even adequately ask. What does one get in return for subordinating one’s racial or ethnic identity? Folks like Mark Lilla, Francis Fukuyama, Sam Harris, Laura Kipnis, Andrew Sullivan, Jonathan Chait, and Jonathan Haidt are on the front lines of the present culture war making compelling arguments that our society needs shared values and narratives to sustain itself, that collectively it is in our best interests to privilege our commonalities over our differences. They’re not, however, providing interesting or persuasive psychological answers to why any given individual would be moved to let his or her racial or ethnic identity attenuate when it is actively providing strength and solace. Or why young people, not yet fully formed, would abstain from the identities that are not just au courant but manifestly powerful in their capacity to compel deference or compliance from the establishment. They’re not offering a new synthesis that incorporates some of the insights and aesthetics of identity politics. They’re mostly arguing for a return to the previous liberal synthesis…

Read the entire review here.

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A New Movie About Bob Kaufman, a Jewish African-American Street Poet Shrouded in Myth

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Media Archive, United States on 2016-06-26 19:51Z by Steven

A New Movie About Bob Kaufman, a Jewish African-American Street Poet Shrouded in Myth


Jake Marmer

And When I Die, I Won’t Stay Dead does little to dispel the mystery surrounding the artist, which is why it works.

Bob Kaufman Alley, in San Francisco’s neighborhood of North Beach, is tiny—narrow and hardly a block in length. Only a smattering of locals and dedicated poetry aficionados around the world remember whom it is named after—the eccentric street poet-prophet, whose personal history remains a mystery to this day. Kaufman’s improvised street performances, his 30 (or more) arrests, Jewish and Caribbean roots, involuntary shock treatment, and decade-long vow of silence are touched on in Billy Woodberry’s And When I Die, I Won’t Stay Dead, a new documentary that honors the poet’s work and life.

Though cleaned up, these streets still bear witness to the pulse of hipness and desperation that inspired Kaufman’s “Heavy Water Blues:”

Consolidated Edison is threatening to cut off my brain,
The postman keeps putting sex in my mailbox,
My mirror died, and & can’t tell if I still reflect,
I put my eyes on a diet, my tears are gaining too much weight

Here, a classic blues-styled litany of troubles meets urban imagery, surrealism, wit, playfulness, and puns. Though self-“reflection” is one of poetry’s trademark functions, this poet is no longer so sure he’s capable of reflecting, and in any case, his mirror stares back with Picasso-like enmeshment of the body and polis, violence, humor, and sorrow…

Read the entire article here. Watch the trailer here.

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Synagogues Need to Welcome and Celebrate Jewish Diversity

Posted in Articles, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2016-04-01 20:16Z by Steven

Synagogues Need to Welcome and Celebrate Jewish Diversity



MaNishtana is the psuedonym of Shais Rishon, an Orthodox African-American Jewish blogger, editor-at-large at JN Magazine, and author of Thoughts From A Unicorn and Fine, thanks. How are YOU, Jewish? Follow him on Twitter @MaNishtana.

Thoughts on the importance of the updated list of ‘Welcoming & Diverse Synagogues’ curated by Shirley Gindler-Price, the former president of the Jewish Multiracial Network

This week, Shirley Gindler-Price, the former president of the Jewish Multiracial Network, released an updated compilation of temples and synagogues across the denominational spectrum considered to be welcoming of Jews of diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds, and have diverse membership in their pews. Gindler-Price, who is also founder of the Black German Cultural Society, first published the “Welcoming & Diverse Synagogues” list while with JMN, and she has continued to do so because, as the post says, “every Jew needs to feel connected and every Jew needs to feel at home.” And amen to that.

The Welcoming & Diverse Synagogues list continues to be of the utmost importance by virtue of the fact that there is very real need for prayer spaces for Jews of Color who want to be Jewishly and religiously active and present, but don’t want the outright prejudices or inadvertent microaggressions that may come along with it (Judaism, as I write about constantly, is unfortunately no stranger to racial insensitivities.)…

Read the entire article here.

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Color Erases, Color Paints

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion on 2015-03-11 17:11Z by Steven

Color Erases, Color Paints

Tablet: A New Read on Jewish Life

Isaiah Rothstein

Each day this week, the Scroll will be featuring a post from a writer at JN Magazine—short for “Jewnited Nations”—a website “here to change the monochromatic monolithic perception of Judaism.” Each post has been commissioned and edited by MaNishtana, the pseudonym of Shais Rishon, a Tablet contributor and editor-at-large at JN Magazine.

Growing up mixed race in Monsey, N.Y.

I often relate to my peer group that both my maternal and paternal ancestors were slaves: As Hebrews in the desert hills of Egypt, and as Africans on the southern plantations of Alabama.

“And he (Moses) called his (son’s) name Gershom, because he was a stranger in a strange land.” (Exodus 2:22)

I grew up in the Orthodox Jewish community of Monsey, N.Y. With my peyot until I was 10 years old and my father’s unwavering affiliation with the Chabad Lubavitch movement, I think it would be safe to say I was raised in what one would call the Haredi community. But our Thanksgiving family reunions revealed a whole other aspect of my family tree, and from a young age I was forced to consider what my own identity would be and what I would make my legacy.

Once Tanya Maria Robertson, my mother split her own sea and converted to Judaism in 1982, becoming Shulamit Geulah Rothstein. And so, as with her own parents, two worlds came together, creating another dimension of civil rights and Jewish unity: the Rothstein family. But with such realities came great complexity…

Read the entire article here.

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