I identify in a category not formalized or accepted in colonial census charts or western ways of understanding the other, as a black South Asian. I am an Indian who lays claim to the global community of black consciousness, and I reside between so many worlds of belonging and unbelonging.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2018-05-20 01:33Z by Steven

I identify in a category not formalized or accepted in colonial census charts or western ways of understanding the other, as a black South Asian. I am an Indian who lays claim to the global community of black consciousness, and I reside between so many worlds of belonging and unbelonging. In racializing colorism and politicizing my own experience of antipathy witnessed toward the color of my skin, I crafted my own passport into marooned and shapeshifting black communities that gave credence to ontologies and a posteriori narratives over normative constructions of race, ethnicities, and nationalities.

Shreerekha, “In the Wake of His Damage,” The Rumpus, May 12, 2018. http://therumpus.net/2018/05/in-the-wake-of-his-damage/.

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In the Wake of His Damage

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2018-05-19 23:46Z by Steven

In the Wake of His Damage

The Rumpus
2018-05-12

Shreerekha
New York, New York


Rumpus original art by Aubrey Nolan

All the sleeping women
Are now awake and moving.
– Yosano Akiko (1911)

For all women who already know this narrative;
For all women touched by the Great Writers, named, unnamed, and some listed as letters;
For all who commune in the trauma and healing promised herein;
For all who believe in the power of radical transgressive border-crossing love;
For my Happiness, and my son and my daughter, so that you may walk differently;
For the ex with whom love remains the last transgression —

The Autobiographical

The year after I started teaching in Texas, his novel came out. Ten years after the event of our relationship, ten tortured years where we continued to communicate, a sort of communication that involved him reaching out, letting me know I made all the wrong decisions in my life, and then, asking for forgiveness and another chance, I thought I should teach his novel in my classes. The novel itself was important, won the Pulitzer, and by teaching it enough times, I thought it would do the trick. The classroom is sacral: all that goes through it turns magical and I would emerge whole. I would finally be rid of my ghost-love and I could sanitize our past through the distance offered by teaching and making a monument of his work for my students. Somehow, that plan failed.

What I do is teach, write, and think on, most often, feminist texts and theories. Such a pedagogy has not just carried me through the classrooms over the decades, but become a mooring post in life. It offers me a vision and a strategy, a way to love radically, think fearlessly, and keep renewing, as I can, the bridges between projects of feminism and social justice. Gloria Anzaldua’s vision, a vision that has carried many a woman through a dark day, has been valuable in thinking through the rubble of this event in my life. In Borderlands, Anzaldua offers a prophetic amalgam that helps women identify the productive potential of the mestiza way, the middle spaces she calls the nepantla. For women of the many elsewheres, women who continually travel and cross borders, Anzaldua’s psychic restlessness gives a fist bump of legitimacy, an anchor in the cultural collisions many of us remain mired in. Rather than a counter stance, she speaks of developing a position that is inclusive, inaugurating for us the amasamiento, a creature of both light and darkness.

I identify in a category not formalized or accepted in colonial census charts or western ways of understanding the other, as a black South Asian. I am an Indian who lays claim to the global community of black consciousness, and I reside between so many worlds of belonging and unbelonging. In racializing colorism and politicizing my own experience of antipathy witnessed toward the color of my skin, I crafted my own passport into marooned and shapeshifting black communities that gave credence to ontologies and a posteriori narratives over normative constructions of race, ethnicities, and nationalities…

Read the entire article here.

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The Rumpus Interview with Emily Raboteau

Posted in Articles, Interviews, Media Archive, Social Justice, United States on 2016-12-30 02:16Z by Steven

The Rumpus Interview with Emily Raboteau

The Rumpus
2016-12-28

Gina Prescott

The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race is a collection of essays and poetry that takes its name from James Baldwin’s classic, The Fire Next Time. Jesmyn Ward, the collection’s editor and author of the National Book Award-winning novel, Salvage the Bones, was inspired to create the collection after finding solace in reading Baldwin in the wake of the seemingly never-ending killings of young black men covered by the media over the last few years.

In her introduction, Jesmyn writes “I needed words. The ephemera of Twitter, the way the voices of the outraged public rose and sank so quickly, flitting from topic to topic, disappointed me. I wanted to hold these words to my chest, take comfort in the fact that others were angry, others were agitating for justice, others could not get Trayvon’s baby face out of their heads.”

This slim collection achieves its intended purpose of both comforting its readers and expressing the pain and complexity of what it means to be black in the United States. It brings together a talented group of astute black writers, including Edwidge Danticat, Kiese Laymon, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, and Isabel Wilkerson. Their pieces, in turn, are reflective, angry, somber, humorous, informational, and cautiously hopeful. It is a necessary and beautiful collection, the kind of book that when you finish it, you are full of gratitude for its existence, bring it to your chest as Jesmyn hoped, and think, “Thank you, Thank you.”

Over email, I had the opportunity to interview one of the contributors, Emily Raboteau, author of the novel The Professor’s Daughter and the memoir Searching for Zion. Emily’s essay, “Know Your Rights!,” is about her struggle to determine when and how she should discuss police brutality and race with her two young children. She finds her answer in a series of murals and in the rehabilitation of the High Bridge

Rumpus: Jesmyn has stated that she was very broad when she solicited pieces, explaining that she wanted to keep it open. Can you describe your experience receiving Jesmyn’s invitation to write something for this collection. Did you know right away what you wanted to write about or was it overwhelming?

Raboteau: Initially, I planned to write a letter to my kids to prepare them for the tough stuff they’ll encounter as black Americans, just as Baldwin did by writing The Fire Next Time as a love letter to his nephew, James. I felt honored that Jesmyn asked me to participate in this project, but also overwhelmed by the assignment, not least of all because nobody writes as powerfully as Baldwin. More than that, I didn’t know what to say. The massacre in Charleston had just happened and the uprising in Ferguson was going on. My kids were, are, still really little. I felt and feel scared for their well-being—my son in particular had already been pathologized. He’s not yet in kindergarten. I felt helpless, angry, and tongue-tied. Then I ran across this mural in my neighborhood while walking with my family, and it felt like a small gift. Once I discovered that it was part of a larger series of murals in neighborhoods most plagued by police brutality, I decided to photograph them and structure my piece as a photo essay rather than a letter. The murals jogged me out of my stasis. Good art has the power to do that for us…

Read the entire interview here.

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Passing is both a social and political act: a form of revolt against slave owners and slavery, outlawed and feared by segregationists and white supremacists, yielding a breath of freedom and yet systemically injurious to those still oppressed.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2016-09-11 17:00Z by Steven

Passing is both a social and political act: a form of revolt against slave owners and slavery, outlawed and feared by segregationists and white supremacists, yielding a breath of freedom and yet systemically injurious to those still oppressed. Because of this latter fact, it’s hard for me to work through how to perceive it morally, how to weigh all of its effects. As Harvard Law School professor Randall Kennedy writes in his 2001 essay, “Racial Passing,” passing, when a choice, “requires that a person be self-consciously engaged in concealment.” But it is not just a concealment of the self—my grandmother erasing who she may have been at one time, keeping her skin powdered. It’s a concealment of history—a concealment and erasure of others: we have no photographs of my grandmother’s parents, and none of their parents either—not even a photo of her brother.

Ashlie Kauffman, “Our Secret Family Legacy,” The Rumpus, August 31, 2016. http://therumpus.net/2016/08/our-secret-family-legacy/.

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And there, we see that in 1940—the first and most recent census in the list—before my mother was born and when my grandmother was a widow by her first husband, my grandmother and her first five children, ages 13, 10, 8, 6, and 1, are all classified as “C” for “colored.”

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2016-09-07 01:28Z by Steven

And yet, it is shockingly easy for me to locate the information. Instead of showing us the microfiche records that I thought we’d have to comb through, the librarian says it’s easier if we just access their subscription to Ancestry.com, and so leads us past the exhibits to the room with the large wooden desks and logs us in on one of the computer stations. And there, we see that in 1940—the first and most recent census in the list—before my mother was born and when my grandmother was a widow by her first husband, my grandmother and her first five children, ages 13, 10, 8, 6, and 1, are all classified as “C” for “colored.” When we click on the 1930 census, she and her first two children are designated as “Neg”: “negro.”

Ashlie Kauffman, “Our Secret Family Legacy,” The Rumpus, August 31, 2016. http://therumpus.net/2016/08/our-secret-family-legacy/.

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Our Secret Family Legacy

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2016-09-07 00:34Z by Steven

Our Secret Family Legacy

The Rumpus: Not the end of the Internet, but you can see it from here.
2016-08-31

Ashlie Kauffman, Senior Poetry Editor
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Half my life ago, when I was twenty-one and in my first year out of college, my father brought his new girlfriend back home to Baltimore to visit. It had been over four years since I had last seen him, yet after a lifetime as an alcoholic, he was far from pleasant. We met for dinner at the house of a couple in whose basement he’d lived in before leaving town (I more accurately should say before he had to leave town, because of his then illegal activities). His friends and girlfriend doted on me almost parentally even though we’d just met: the wife, in fact, insisted on giving me four rolls of quarters for my laundry—all three of them engaging in the kind of codependency in which they tried to make up for the frequent offensive statements that my father was dishing out.

The drunker he became, the more personal these statements got, and the more vitriol he loaded into them. He was bragging about things about which anyone else would feel guilty or ashamed, in order to fluff himself up—some things that even now I would never repeat to my mother, for how deeply they pushed the knife. He was enacting the typical bully, typical alcoholic blaming-and-judging behavior: making himself feel better by putting others down. In front of his friends and girlfriend, he criticized my mother for divorcing him and called her, multiple times, “a whore”; then he called her mother—my grandmother—”a nigger.” To prove his point, he slurred, with a knowing tone, as if he were somehow enlightening me, “Your grandmother had nigger lips.”…

Read the entire article here.

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The Rumpus Interview with Joe Mozingo

Posted in Africa, Articles, Biography, History, Interviews, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2013-04-07 04:31Z by Steven

The Rumpus Interview with Joe Mozingo

The Rumpus
2013-03-04

Peter Orner

I recently finished a powerful book about a journey to find the origin of a name. It’s called the The Fiddler on Pantico Run: An African Warrior, His White Descendants, A Search for Family by Joe Mozingo. The book details Mozingo’s search for the origin of the name “Mozingo,” which, he comes to understand, is one of the few African names to survive not only the Middle Passage, but the history of American slavery itself.

The book takes Mozingo, a Los Angeles Times reporter, on a great chase—from Los Angeles, to the American South, to Angola—as he traces the history of the first American Mozingo, Edward Mozingo, a former slave from West-Central Africa who eventually won his freedom by suing for it in a Virginia court. Some Mozingos fought for the Union; others for the Confederacy. Some were abolitionists; others were in the Ku Klux Klan. One thing they all have in common is Edward Mozingo, a man who—in spite of everything—held onto his royal name…

…The Rumpus: Your story is especially remarkable in that Mozingo is only one of two African names to survive slavery. Since you had no idea how significant your name actually was when you went into this, could you trace how the revelation came about?

Joe Mozingo: The understanding that I descended from this African man who kept his African name came in different waves. First there was puzzlement—how could this be?—then deep curiosity, then frustration, and eventually this exhilaration. The frustration was this: I needed to envision my ancestor, Edward, but subconsciously I harbored this white-black binary view that has been bestowed to us by American history. I was white. So it was hard to envision him as my ancestor at first. But that blockage gave way as I researched more, visited the places Edward lived, met more Mozingos—black, white, and in-between—and went to Africa. The exhilaration came then, when I felt that link to him, to this lineage spinning back to the beginning. In Angola, where he sailed off into the Atlantic for Jamestown, that connection to this eternal system just welled up inside. It was this great feeling of opening up…

Read the entire interview here.

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