The Afro-Latin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United States Edited by Miriam Jiménez Román and Juan Flores (review) [Ellison]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Latino Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2014-09-02 00:30Z by Steven

The Afro-Latin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United States Edited by Miriam Jiménez Román and Juan Flores (review) [Ellison]

Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies
Volume 17, 2013
page 278-279
DOI: 10.1353/hcs.2013.0020

Mahan L. Ellison, Assistant Professor of Spanish
Bridgewater College, Bridgewater, Virginia

Román, Miriam Jiménez and Juan Flores, eds., The Afro-Latin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United States (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010)

As noted in the acknowledgements, this compilation of essays, poetry, prose, and personal narratives coalesced over the past two decades from readings for classes taught by the editors. The collection focuses on the intersection of the Black and Latin@ experiences, avoiding the exclusivity of either/or dualities and instead emphasizing the rich history and diversity found within the encompassing term of “Afro-Latin@.” The collection adheres to a geographical focus of the United States, but it is so vast in its coverage of the many facets of the Afro-Latin@ experience and history that this regional concentration is one of practicality rather than oversight.

The book is divided into ten sections, and these sections address the four central concerns (“coordinates”) within Afro-Latinidad of “group history, transnational discourse, relations between African Americans and Latin@s, and the specific lived experience of being Afro-Latin@” (3). Section I opens by providing historical background for Afro-Latin@s in (what would become) the United States, reaching back to Estevanico el Negro in 1528 and introducing census records showing that 56.5% of the Los Angeles population in 1781 was Afro-Latin@ (30). Other sections focus on the construction of racial identity, popular music, gender, public representations, and one entire section dedicated to Arturo Alfonso Schomburg. There are 66 individual chapters that offer a wide variety of genres, and this mixed-genre approach lends itself well to use in the classroom. The disparate themes each section explores contextualize Afro-Latin@ history while displaying the diversity of Afro-Latinidad. This dense reader is a wonderful resource for educators.

The readings are organized chronologically, beginning with historical context from the sixteenth century, but largely focusing on the twentieth and nascent twenty-first centuries. This chronological ordering allows the intersperment of poetry and personal memoirs among academic essays, thereby varying the narrative tone and form from chapter to chapter. For example, the section on Arturo Schomburg begins with an excerpt from an article penned by Schomburg, is followed by an academic essay by Jesse Hoffnung-Garskof, and concludes with a personal narrative by Evelyne Laurent-Perrault that considers the continued resonance of Schomburg’s legacy. This varied-genre approach to the topics creates a narrative flexibility that shows the breadth of the subjects and offers multiple points of view.

The collection includes an excerpt from Piri ThomasDown These Mean Streets, poetry by the Nuyorican poets Sandra María Esteves, Felipe Luciano, and Victor Hernández Cruz, and also more recent works by Tato Laviera, Louis Reyes Rivera, Willie Perdomo, and Mariposa (María Teresa Fernández). Section IX, titled “Living Afro-Latinidades,” is a collection of personal testimonies from Afro-Latin@s that explores the intimate and individual experience of being Afro-Latin@ in the United States. The first person narration that predominates in this section complements the academic essays and personalizes the poetry and fiction found throughout the reader. Section IX is followed by the final section that concludes the book with essays focusing on racial identity and social commentary. As Section I opens with historical context and Section X closes with analysis, these editorial choices emphasize the critical value of Afro-Latin@ identity and literary production.

The Afro-Latin@ Reader is a well conceptualized and executed resource for university instructors. Due to the fact that many of the works included in the reader are excerpts, the value of this book for research purposes is mostly bibliographic. However, as an introduction to the often overlooked areas of Afro-Latin@ identity and history, this collection serves as a valuable resource for students and educators. The variety of tone, content, and genre offers a broad and compelling view of Afro-Latinidad. This reader would serve well as a textbook for a class on Afro-Latin@ culture in the United States, or as an addition to reading lists on African, Latin@, or American culture and literature…

 

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The Michael Brown Tragedy: A Christian of Color Perspective

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Latino Studies, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Religion, United States on 2014-09-01 00:49Z by Steven

The Michael Brown Tragedy: A Christian of Color Perspective

Jesus for Revolutionaries: A Blog About Race, Social Justice, and Christianity
2014-08-25

Robert Chao Romero, Associate Professor of Chicana/o Studies and Asian American Studies
University of California, Los Angeles

Today is the funeral of Michael Brown. Please join me in praying for comfort for his family.

As for many, the tragedy of Michael Brown’s death has stirred in me much reflection about the deep racial divide in the U.S. Pretty much everyone is in agreement that racial profiling by police, and racial profiling in general, is wrong, especially when it leads to horrific violence. The racial divide seems to surface, however, when we discuss the prevalence of racial profiling in America today.

If someone grew up with fair skin and light hair in a middle class suburban neighborhood, then, in my experience, the tendency is to believe that racial profiling among police, and in other social settings, is not a pervasive problem.

If someone grew up African American or Latina/o in a racially marginalized urban area, then the almost universal agreement is that ethnic profiling is alive and well. It’s also important to note that many African Americans and Latinas/os in middle class suburban communities experience racial profiling (for example see this excellent article by a Black law professor from the Washington University School of Law in Missouri: http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/25/opinion/norwood-ferguson-sons-brown-police/index.html).

When asserting our perspectives on the topic of racial profiling, we all speak from our personal experience. Many whites from suburban environments speak from their experience–where they have not been racially profiled and where law enforcement is viewed as an ally. For those of us who are People of Color, our experience is often quite different—we experience racial profiling by the police, at our work places, and when we go to our local strip malls to shop.

For example, here’s a few of my racial profiling experiences. Those of you who have tracked with Jesus for Revolutionaries for a while will know that I am a 6 foot 1, 220 pound, dark-skinned, bearded, “Chinese-Mexican,” who usually passes as Latino…

Read the entire article here.

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Belle: A Film That Defied Expectations

Posted in Articles, Arts, History, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2014-09-01 00:33Z by Steven

Belle: A Film That Defied Expectations

The Root
2014-08-24

Julie Walker

The film’s star and director talked to The Root about how an inspirational character helped shaped the movie, which is now out on DVD.

Actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who stars in the movie Belle—now out on DVD—grew up in England watching Jane Austen films but never imagined that she would play the lead in a period drama.

Those films, like the books they were based on, never had black or biracial heroines, but Belle does. The film was inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the daughter of an enslaved African woman and an officer in the British Royal Navy. Belle was raised a free woman in 17th-century England.

The film opened in May to rave reviews and so far has grossed $10,722,990 (as of Aug. 24, 2014), according to Box Office Mojo. Not bad for a movie that only opened on four screens and had trouble getting made because of the subject matter.

The film’s star and director talked to The Root about how an inspirational character helped shaped the movie, which is now out on DVD.

Mbatha-Raw told The Root in May, before the film’s U.S. release, that she wanted young girls to be able to see themselves in Belle. “This is the first time I have seen a period drama with a biracial woman as the lead and it is told from a female British perspective,” said Mbatha-Raw, who has a white English mother and black South African father. “The film explores issues of identity, race, class and gender, which are very universal themes, but also the film is this sweeping love story. It is such a different perspective, and I think it is important to know as a biracial person myself.”…

…That director is Amma Asante, who is also British. She echoed the same sentiment when The Root spoke with her before the film’s U.S. premiere.

“There was a little girl who looked like me and you, who helped to change the course of our history. That’s a good thing; we can celebrate that,” Asante said.

It was the idea that a black woman would be the focus that drew Asante to the story. “I feel like it is essential to explore these stories because they are part of what makes us who we are today, and we are all responsible to own our history. We need to tell these stories,” said Asante, who signed on to the project in 2009…

Read the entire article here.

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Chronicling Mississippi’s ‘Church Mothers,’ and Getting to Know a Grandmother

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Arts, Media Archive, Mississippi, Religion, United States, Women on 2014-08-31 18:18Z by Steven

Chronicling Mississippi’s ‘Church Mothers,’ and Getting to Know a Grandmother

The New York Times
2014-08-29

Samuel G. Freedman, Professor of Journalism
Columbia University, New York

SUMNER, Miss. — Toward noon on a torrid Monday in the Mississippi Delta, Alysia Burton Steele drove down Highway 49, looking for the crossroads near the Old Antioch Baptist Church. There, at the corner of a road called Friendship, she turned into the African-American section of Sumner, a dwindling hamlet of about 300 that suffices as a county seat.

A photographer by training and a professor by title, Ms. Steele was headed for the homes of two older neighbors, Lela Bearden, 88, and Herma Mims Floyd. She was bringing the women legacies to inspect, legacies in the form of portraits and testimonies she had taken of them over the last few years.

Ms. Bearden and Ms. Floyd were part of a larger assemblage of 50 African-American women whom Ms. Steele had chosen to chronicle in text and image for a book-in-progress she has titled “Jewels in the Delta.”

Whether by formal investiture or informal acclamation, nearly all the women in the book held the title of “church mother,” a term of respect and homage in black Christianity. As lifelong residents of the Delta — the landscape of the blues bards Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson and the terrain of the civil rights crusaders Medgar Evers and Fannie Lou Hamer — the women had lived through segregation and struggle and liberation.

“I knew there were hard times,” said Ms. Steele, 44. “But I did not understand it. Just to hear the things they went through. That blacks couldn’t try on shoes in stores. That you couldn’t go to school if there was cotton to pick. The stories made me cry. They put a face on history for me. I felt like I got my private history lesson.”

In her work, Ms. Steele has attested to the worth of lives that Jim Crow meant to render worthless. At times, she has had to convince the church mothers themselves that their stories were significant enough to be part of a book…

…For Ms. Steele, such biography served a covertly personal purpose. The past for which she was searching in the Delta was that of her own grandmother, Althenia Burton.

As the daughter of a black father and white mother, who divorced when she was 3, Ms. Steele was raised by her paternal grandparents. While young Alysia cherished her grandmother, her Gram, she also bitterly resisted her. When her grandmother insisted on bringing Alysia to church, the girl poked holes in her tights in the futile attempt at an excuse to miss it. Even as Ms. Burton cultivated her granddaughter’s ambition for college, she dismissed her passion for photography with the pronouncement “Pick a real major.”…

Read the entire article here.

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A Mother’s Love: Stories of Struggle, Sacrifice, Love and Wisdom

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Arts, Media Archive, Mississippi, Passing, Religion, United States, Women on 2014-08-31 17:55Z by Steven

A Mother’s Love: Stories of Struggle, Sacrifice, Love and Wisdom

The Root
2014-05-11

Breanna Edwards

Journalist Alysia Steele’s explores the “jewels in the Mississippi Delta” who held it down for their families through decades of strife and racial struggle.

It’s Mother’s Day weekend, and many of us may feel the keen absence of the women who meant the most to us.

How many times have you wished you could turn back the hands of time and have one more conversation with one of the most influential women of your life? Maybe have notes of memorable anecdotes they shared?

This was one of Alysia Steele’s biggest regrets concerning her paternal grandmother, Althenia A. Burton, who died 20 years ago. Since then, the memory of her grandmother has stayed with Steele, never fading, and ultimately culminating in the conception of her current project, a book proposal, “Jewels in the Delta,” that has gained interest from publishers.

“I have a huge sense of regret that as a trained journalist I never had the foresight to get her story and I’ll never hear her voice again, and I can’t even tell you how much that hurts me,” Steele tells The Root.

Steele has interviewed about 47 women and is conducting the last of what will be a total of 50 interviews in the coming days. The project has taken her approximately 11 months to complete and countless hours of recording, transcribing, coaxing and traveling. It’s been hard work, to be sure, but to Steele the end goal has been more than worth it.

“How many of us stop and talk to our grandparents to get to their stories? To really ask them the questions that are hard?” she adds…

…In an excerpt from Steele’s book proposal, Virginia Hower, 93, shared how she “felt dirty” because of her ability to pass for white in a segregated society.

It was horror. You felt bad because you couldn’t be with your grandmother or your grandfather. You just accepted it. I couldn’t be with them because they were darker. Sometimes you felt bad because you could ride in a clean coach and just to think that your grandmother couldn’t kiss you as you stepped off the train. But they accepted it, so why not enjoy the clean train? And then when I got down on the streets, we all kiss and carry on. Those was happy moments. And then you got to thinkin’ how foolish this life is, how foolish. Then you got to thinkin’ about it and say take advantage of it and a lot of people down here in Clarksdale, they went to Chicago in ’41 and never revealed they were colored.

So many fascinating stories from unassuming women who had nothing but love for their respective husbands and children and who never really spoke about the troubles and trials they had endured…

Read the entire article here.

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The complicity cost of racial inclusion

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2014-08-30 20:50Z by Steven

The complicity cost of racial inclusion

Al Jazeera America
2014-08-24

Julia Carrie Wong
Oakland, California

When Brook Soso, a new Asian-American character in the second season of “Orange Is the New Black,” arrives at the federal prison in Litchfield, New York, a fellow inmate named Lorna Morello provides her with a toothbrush and bar of soap. Morello, who is white, is an enforcer of the strict racial divisions (black, Latina, white and other) that define the show’s social landscape — “it’s tribal, not racist,” she explained in the first season — but here she makes an exception. “I don’t normally bend the rules like this,” she says, “but you don’t look full … Asian.”

Morello turns out to be right — Soso is half Scottish — but Soso’s arms-length adoption by white prisoners such as Morello is in many ways still evocative of the shifting position Asian-Americans hold in the United States today. Being Asian and being white are becoming less and less mutually exclusive and the boundary between them (particularly in arenas such as work and education) increasingly porous. But the induction of Asian-Americans into whiteness doesn’t alter the meaning of whiteness; rather, it’s a reminder that whiteness has never been defined by a person’s country of origin or genetic makeup. It’s simply a tool, one that can continue to operate even with the inclusion of certain minority groups…

…It may be disconcerting for some people to recognize that the boundaries of whiteness can shift. The ubiquitous boxes we check on applications and census materials might lead us to believe that race is determinate. But race is a social construct, not a scientific fact: American whiteness was an ideological creation to rationalize the enslavement of Africans and the extermination of native peoples. As David Roediger argued in “The Wages of Whiteness,” racial antagonisms helped solidify 19th century American class structure. In subsequent generations, whiteness was expanded to meet the needs of our changing population and the U.S.’s imperial interests abroad. Throughout our country’s history, special privileges (such as voting and land ownership) have been reserved for those who were considered white…

Read the entire article here.

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M.I.X.E.D: Multidisciplinary.Intersectional.Xchanging.Empowering.Dialogues Art Show Call for Entries

Posted in Arts, Forthcoming Media, Wanted/Research Requests/Call for Papers on 2014-08-30 01:22Z by Steven

M.I.X.E.D: Multidisciplinary.Intersectional.Xchanging.Empowering.Dialogues Art Show Call for Entries

2014-08-29

M.I.X.E.D is a 100% volunteer run event & art show created in order to make space for progressive discussion around mixed-race identity and our many other intersecting identities. To learn more about “intersectionality”, please visit: http://mixed-me.ca/intersectionality

This year’s event will take place on Saturday May 2nd, 2015. The accompanying art show will take place May 1, 2015 -May 8th, 2015. The opening reception will take place May 1st, 2015.

  • Visual art due date: November 3rd, 2014
  • Facilitator due date: November 3rd, 2014
  • Performance art due date: January 16th, 2015

Submission guidelines can be found here.

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On My Mixed Experience with “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, United States on 2014-08-30 00:05Z by Steven

On My Mixed Experience with “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”

Gino Michael Pellegrini: Education, Race, Multiraciality, Class & Solidarity
2014-08-28

Gino M. Pellegrini, Adjunct Assistant Professor of English
Pierce College, Woodland Hills, California

I have this peculiar, twofold, scrambled-egg relationship with “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” the oft-quoted, seminal article written by Peggy McIntosh in the late 1980s.

That is to say, I have been a student in college classes where McIntosh’s article was cited and discussed, classes in which I was perceived and treated as a white male oppressor. Conversely, I have assigned or cited McIntosh’s article in classes where most of my students perceived and treated me as nonwhite, classes in which I identified myself as mixed race and a person of color—Mexican, Italian, White, Native American…

Read the entire article here.

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How Racism Creeps Into Medicine

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2014-08-29 20:28Z by Steven

How Racism Creeps Into Medicine

The Atlantic
2014-08-29

Hamza Shaban
Washington, D.C.

The history of a medical instrument reveals the dubious science of racial difference.

In 1864, the year before the Civil War ended, a massive study was launched to quantify the bodies of Union soldiers. One key finding in what would become a 613-page report was that soldiers classified as “White” had a higher lung capacity than those labeled “Full Blacks” or “Mulattoes.” The study relied on the spirometer—a medical instrument that measures lung capacity. This device was previously used by plantation physicians to show that black slaves had weaker lungs than white citizens. The Civil War study seemed to validate this view. As early as Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia, in which he remarked on the dysfunction of the “pulmonary apparatus” of blacks, lungs were used as a marker of difference, a sign that black bodies were fit for the field and little else. (Forced labor was seen as a way to “vitalize the blood” of flawed black physiology. By this logic, slavery is what kept black bodies alive.)

The notion that people of color have a racially defined deficiency isn’t new. The 19th century practice of measuring skulls, and equating them with morality and intelligence, is perhaps the most infamous example. But race-based measurements still persist. Today, doctors examine our lungs using spirometers that are “race corrected.” Normal values for lung health are reduced for patients that doctors identify as black. Not only might this practice mask economic or environmental explanations for lower lung capacity, but the logic of innate, racial difference is built into things like disability estimates, pre-employment physicals, and clinical diagnoses that rely on the spirometer. Race has become a biologically distinct, scientifically valid category despite the unnatural and social process of its creation.

In her recent book Breathing Race into the Machine, Lundy Braun, a professor of Africana studies and medical science at Brown University, reveals the political and social influences that constantly shape science and technology. She traces the history of the spirometer and explains its role in establishing a hierarchy of human health, and the belief that race is a kind of genetic essence. I spoke with her about the science of racial difference, its history, and its resurgence.

Hamza Shaban: How did the idea of race corrections and differing lung capacity come about?

Lundy Braun: My research suggests that Samuel Cartwright, a Southern physician and plantation owner, was the first person to use the spirometer to compare lung capacity in blacks and whites. The first major study making racial comparisons of lung capacity with a large sample size was the anthropometric study of Union soldiers directed by Benjamin Apthorp Gould, published in 1869.

The idea about the pathology of black lungs circulated in medical groups in the late 19th century but the next scientifically modern racial comparison was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1922. This paper was followed by a flurry of studies in the 1920s, some of which continue to be cited in the 2000s. Gould’s book also continues to be cited…

Read the entire interview here.

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I’m black, my brother’s white … and he’s a cop who shot a black man on duty

Posted in Articles, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2014-08-29 19:58Z by Steven

I’m black, my brother’s white … and he’s a cop who shot a black man on duty

The Guardian
204-08-25

Zach Stafford, Writer
Chicago, Illinois

I never thought that my brother would be one of those police officers. He was supposed to be different because of me

My white brother loved black people more than I did when we were growing up. As a black interracial child of the south – one who lived in a homogenous white town – I struggled with my own blackness. I struggled even more with loving that blackness. But my brother, Mitch, didn’t. He loved me unapologetically. He loved me loudly.

He also loved screwing with other people’s expectations. Whenever we met new people or I joined a social situation he was in, Mitch would make sure I was standing right next to him for introductions and say, “This is Zach, my brother” – and then go silent with a smirk.

These new acquaintances would then scan back and forth with such intensity – black, white, white, black – that our faces became a kind of tennis court, with strangers waiting for someone to fault. Eventually someone would awkwardly laugh and say something like: “Oh, adopted brother,” immediately looking relieved to have figured it out. My brother would deny that and push the line further, “No, like, my brother. We have the same mom. We are blood.”

That would lead to someone questioning me intensely, and, each time, my white brother would stand next to me, proud: prouder than me of my own skin. And over the years, as he continued playing this game, I became prouder … with his help.

And then, years later and far away in Chicago, I got the phone call: my brother, now a cop, had shot an unarmed black man back in Tennessee.

Hearing about black men dying is never exactly a surprise. Every day, you see the news stories: On the news, black men die while getting Skittles. On the news, black men die in choke-holds. On the news, black men die for playing their music too loud. It seems black men die on the news more than they do almost anything else on the news, even with a black president in office. Every 28 hours, a black man is killed by a police officer in America…

Read the entire article here.

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