Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi review – serious issues, fairytale narrative

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-10-06 01:31Z by Steven

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi review – serious issues, fairytale narrative

The Guardian

Anthony Cummins

Oyeyemi, Helen, Boy, Snow, Bird: A Novel (New York: Riverhead Press, 2014)

Oyeyemi’s fifth novel finds her treating the horrors of racism in 1950s America with gentle, magical style

Helen Oyeyemi, a Granta best of young British novelist, was born in Nigeria, grew up in London and has lived around Europe and North America. She specialises in unorthodox, freewheeling plots, rooted in myth and narrated in an innocent-seeming style. Her fifth novel is a historical narrative of American racism set in the 1950s and 60s.

At the start a woman named Boy Novak tells us how she ran away aged 20 from New York to escape her rat-catcher father, Frank, a drunk who beat her (her mother was absent). She pitches up in a small town in Massachusetts to marry a widowed jeweller and former historian, Arturo, who has a seven-year-old daughter, Snow, whose mother died after complications in childbirth.

The central crisis of the novel comes when Arturo has another daughter, with Boy – named Bird – and she is born dark-skinned. Arturo’s family accuse Boy of being unfaithful but the truth, as they all know, is that they have been passing for white. What follows is the painful background to that decision, as Arturo’s family recount the horrors of life in the south and their disappointed hopes for how things might improve when they moved north…

Read the entire book review here.

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How art can disrupt our ideas and identities

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, United States on 2015-10-05 20:16Z by Steven

How art can disrupt our ideas and identities

Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts

Thea Singer

Artist Favianna Rodriguez makes bold, sparkling works that light up a room even as they reveal dark cul­tural inequities.

She is known for her activism and political posters addressing issues such as racism, women’s rights, displacement, and climate change. Now, for the first time, her abstract prints—multilayered col­lages of vibrant colors and rever­ber­ating shapes—are on dis­play: 27 of them line the walls in Northeastern’s Gallery 360 in an exhibit called “The Multiverse of Identity” as she begins her week­long stint at North­eastern as artist in res­i­dence. The exhibit opened ealier this month and runs through mid-​​December.

Rodriguez will be talking about her vision of art as both an agent of social change and individual narrative on Wednesday, Sept. 23, at 6 p.m., in Blackman Auditorium…

…Her process

Rodriguez’s process for making her abstract works—intaglio printing, using an etching plate—is “very, very elaborate.” Each piece takes months. To start, she applies ink to create tex­ture on mul­tiple sheets of Japanese paper, pro­ducing a “library of colors.” “I think of the prac­tice as creating the container in which I’m going to play,” she says. She then cuts the paper into shapes—now spikey, now undulating—and arranges them in a “playful way.” “The arranging—repeating shapes, refining them—is what gives each piece its own char­acter,” she says.

The colors smack you in the face. “For me, color is about possibility,” she says. It characterizes both her art and her com­mit­ment to breaking apart assumptions—for herself, for all of us. “I don’t like when people put me in the woman box or the Latina box or the political artist box,” she says. “That limits who I am as an individual. I want to instead embrace the possibility of who I can be. That’s where ulti­mate freedom is.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Ten black composers whose works deserve to be heard more often

Posted in Articles, Biography, Europe, History, Media Archive, United Kingdom, United States on 2015-10-05 19:30Z by Steven

Ten black composers whose works deserve to be heard more often

The Guardian

John Lewis

English composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912). Photograph: Unknown/Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

The newly formed Chineke orchestra aims to include a work by a composer of ethnicity in each of its concert programmes. John Lewis looks at some of the neglected writers whose music might finally get an airing

In the past 200 years, dozens of prominent black composers from America and other parts of the African diaspora have fought to be recognised by the western classical tradition. The earliest example is Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-99). Born in Guadeloupe, the son of a wealthy plantation owner and a female slave, Saint-George was brought to France at a young age. As well as being a champion fencer, a violin teacher to Marie Antoinette and a colonel in the republican army, his prodigious musical talents led to him being dubbed “le Mozart noir”. He was a prolific composer (with several operas, 15 violin concertos, symphonies and numerous chamber works to his name) and a rare French exponent of early classical violin composition. (Listen to Chi-chi Nwanoku’s radio documentary about him here.)…

Read the entire article here.

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Obama has vastly changed the face of the federal bureaucracy

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Gay & Lesbian, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2015-10-05 18:47Z by Steven

Obama has vastly changed the face of the federal bureaucracy

The Washington Post

Juliet Eilperin, White House Bureau Chief

Friday afternoon announcements in Washington are usually aimed at attracting as little attention as possible, but last Friday was different. President Obama’s decision to nominate Eric Fanning — an openly gay man — to head a branch of the military which only four years ago did not allow gays and lesbians to serve openly, was both historic and attention-grabbing.

And it underscored an often-overlooked feature of the Obama presidency: Obama has presided over the most demographically diverse administration in history, according to a new analysis of his top appointments. The majority of top policy appointments within the executive branch are held by women and minorities for the first time in history.

The transformation partly reflects a broader trend in U.S. society, but it also reflects the results of a calculated strategy by the nation’s first African American president. The shifts are significant enough, experts say, that they may have forever transformed the face of government…

Read the entire article here.

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EXCLUSIVE: Race relations in America are ‘getting worse,’ says James Blake’s mother Betty, a white Briton who raised 2 black sons in New York

Posted in Articles, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2015-10-05 18:36Z by Steven

EXCLUSIVE: Race relations in America are ‘getting worse,’ says James Blake’s mother Betty, a white Briton who raised 2 black sons in New York

The New York Daily News

Betty Blake, Special to the New York Daily News

Betty Blake with her youngest son James Blake at the 2012 Legends Ball in New York City. Michael Hickey/WireImage

Betty Blake, 80, is the mother of retired tennis star James Blake. Betty, who is white and grew up in England, talks about raising two sons who are black.

In an interview about the events last week that happened to my youngest son, I said that it takes an incident like this to make me truly realize that two of my sons are black.

When you love someone you see the inside, not the outside. I know James wants to focus on the unnecessary aggression, and he’s right, but when you hear (all too often lately) of a confrontation between a white police officer and a young black male, the inference is unavoidable…

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Whither ‘non-racialism’: the ‘new’ South Africa turns twenty-one

Posted in Africa, Articles, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, South Africa on 2015-10-05 18:29Z by Steven

Whither ‘non-racialism’: the ‘new’ South Africa turns twenty-one

Ethnic and Racial Studies
Volume 38, Issue 13, 2015
pages 2167-2174
DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2015.1058511

Deborah Posel, Professor of Sociology
Institute for Humanities in Africa (HUMA)
University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa

This brief essay reflects on the meaning and significance of ‘non-racialism’ in South Africa’s recent past and present. I consider the version of non-racialism that shaped the transition from apartheid to a constitutional democracy as having had dual dimensions, ethical and strategic. Ethically, non-racialism has signified a principle of human recognition that exceeds the mere tolerance of difference. Strategically, non-racialism has afforded ways of managing and disciplining the historical realities of racial differences. The politicization of race in recent years has rendered the project of non-racialism more precarious: both its ethical and strategic dimensions merit further scrutiny, if the project is to be revitalized.

Read the entire article here.

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Garifuna: The Young Black Latino Exodus You’ve Never Heard About

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive on 2015-10-05 18:08Z by Steven

Garifuna: The Young Black Latino Exodus You’ve Never Heard About


Jasmine Garsd

Honduran migrants passing through Mexico often carry only the bare essentials: cash, some clothes and a cell phone, if they can afford one.

Gustavo Morales stands out among the migrant population here in Tequixquiac, a hot, dusty little town right outside Mexico City. The 21-year-old is traveling with an African drum that he plays during his downtime along the journey.

The drum isn’t the only reason he stands out. He’s a black migrant in a country where few people are of African descent…

…As Hondurans are being forced to flee their country, Garifuna, who have historically been shunned by society, are increasingly being uprooted from their homes on the Caribbean coast.

Garifuna (“Garinagu” in the Garifuna language) are the descendants of slaves brought from Central Africa and indigenous Caribbean people, including Arawaks and Island Caribs. They speak a distinct language that mixes all three influences…

Read the entire article here.

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To Be Black And Boricua

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Identity Development/Psychology, Latino Studies, Media Archive, United States, Videos on 2015-10-05 17:53Z by Steven

To Be Black And Boricua

La Respuesta

At this year’s Afro-Latino Festival of New York, La Respuesta teamed up with Project Bronx, the community-focused web series, for an exciting video collaboration. We spoke with festival attendees, artists, and vendors about a theme central to the festival’s focus.

For the past 3 years, the Afro-Latino Festival “celebrates the contributions that people of African descent from Latin America and the Caribbean have made to our city and the global culture as a whole.” The festival this year featured more than a dozen artists and groups, among them the New York-based Bombazo Dance Company, and the Puerto Rico-based Cultura Profética.

As official media partners of the Afro-Latino Festival, we at La Respuesta joined with Project Bronx to document views on Afro Boricua identity. As a Boricua publication, one of our key commitments is to highlight and honor the depth and legacy of our connection to African culture. We asked Puerto Ricans attending the event how our African/Black roots are celebrated. We also asked why many downplay or even deny their own African/Black ancestry. Here’s what they had to say…

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Rachel/Racial Theory: Reverse Passing in the Curious Case of Rachel Dolezal

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-10-05 17:46Z by Steven

Rachel/Racial Theory: Reverse Passing in the Curious Case of Rachel Dolezal

Transition Magazine

Damon Sajnani (AKA, Professor of African Cultural Studies
University of Wisconsin, Madison

Rachel Dolezal has done more than break the internet and fuel Black twitter and emcee cyphers with innumerable punchlines. She has provided the first high-profile contemporary case of racial passing from white to Black.

The vast majority of responses on mainstream and social media, even those claiming attention to nuance, pretty much accept—without justification or interrogation—that her parents’ version of the story is right and that she is wrong. Specifically, both her critics and most of her sympathizers accept the following as a “fact”: Rachel was pretending to be Black when she was really white all along. My aim here is not to defend or to condemn her, but to show that this one simple “fact” is neither simple nor self-evident.

Race is a social construct. It is a social reality, not a biological one. This fact is widely acknowledged by academics but many of them misunderstand it. Often, people who claim to know that race is a social construct make statements exposing that they really do not recognize it as such.

In “The Passing of Anatole Broyard,” Henry Louis Gates Jr. recounts the details of how “Broyard was born black and became white” (181-2). Throughout American history untold numbers of light skinned Blacks assumed white identities. This phenomenon became known as “passing” in the 1920s. Some did so temporarily, as for a job open only to whites. Sometimes they were white during the work day and Black when they returned to their families in the evening. But in many other cases, such as Broyard’s, people cut themselves off from their families completely, marrying white and raising white children oblivious to their Black ancestry. If we think of race as biological, as we have been taught, then these people were living a deception their whole lives and their children were not really white. But when we understand race as a social construct, we understand that they actually became white. There is nothing more to being, or not being, a given race than the social acceptance and societal ascription of a race to a person…

Read the entire article here.

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White or black? Sometimes it’s not so clear-cut

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Passing, United States on 2015-10-05 15:41Z by Steven

White or black? Sometimes it’s not so clear-cut

StarNews Online
Wilmington, North Carolina

Beverly Smalls

In June, as Rachel Dolezal of Spokane, Wash., confused members of the NAACP as well as her family, friends and the public about her choice to identify as an African-American, new conversations began.

Dolezal was accused of being a white person trying to pass as a black person. She stepped down as head of the NAACP’s chapter in Spokane.

Ironically, Americans of mixed heritage who appeared to be white in past centuries could gain better socio-economic opportunities by relocating to regions far from relatives known to be part African or Native American.

Unlike Dolezal, they preferred the advantages of being classified as white.

A different term, “mulatto,” defined those of mixed race, often with one white and one black parent.

If it were known, one drop of Indian or African blood in a family line could propel an individual or group of people into a lifetime of forced segregation and disadvantages in a minority community.

Having pale African-American skin could have provided advantages or separations from other black people, according to a 1930s Federal Writers’ Project.

A Wilmington man known as “Uncle Jackson,” born in 1851 and interviewed for the New Deal writers’ project, reported that there were lots of “mulatto Negros” in this region. Having a father who was part Indian and a mother who was considered mulatto, Jackson said he was not allowed to even play with “common chil’en,” white or colored.

Bygone cultural identity practices in 20th century Wilmington resulted in notable memories from descendants of mixed-race families…

Read the entire article here.

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