Amherst Together asking for poems about identity, presenting 1-woman performance on notion of race

Posted in Articles, Arts, History, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2015-03-26 20:53Z by Steven

Amherst Together asking for poems about identity, presenting 1-woman performance on notion of race


Diane Lederman, Reporter
The Springfield Republican

Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni is bringing her one-woman show “One Drop of Love” to Amherst Middle School April 15 as part of the Amherst Together initiative. (Submitted)

AMHERST, [Massachusetts] – Since July, Carol Ross has been doing a lot of listening and a lot of information collecting.

But she said she is happy with the progress that Amherst Together is making.

She was hired by the town and the schools as the media and climate communications specialist to foster collaboration to help create a community in which people feel like they belong.

She met with the Select Board recently for a brief update and then Tuesday answered questions.

She expects that they will have finished collecting data on the community survey in April. The survey was developed with a public participation class in the Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning Department at the University of Massachusetts. She will get help from Amherst College in interpreting the data as well.

They need about 75 more to answer it from targeted neighborhoods. The survey is intended to find out what the community’s values are to get a sense of the kind of community people want to see. That will help lead to a larger conversation later.

And on April 15, they are bringing Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni to the Amherst Regional Middle School at 7 p.m. for a free one-woman performance called “One Drop of Love.”

Produced by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, the show incorporates “filmed images, photographs and animation to tell the story of how the notion of race came to be in the United Sates and how it affected her relationship with her father,” according to a press release

As Ross said in a press release describing the show as well as in her interview, her work is not just about race…

Read the entire article here.

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“I was living in a racial closet”: Black filmmaker Lacey Schwartz on growing up white

Posted in Articles, Autobiography on 2015-03-26 18:47Z by Steven

“I was living in a racial closet”: Black filmmaker Lacey Schwartz on growing up white

Sunday, 2015-03-22

Marissa Charles

A photo of Lacey Schwartz and her mother, in “Little White Lie” (Credit: PBS)

Schwartz talks to Salon about race, privilege, family secrets and her new PBS documentary “Little White Lie”

For the first 18 years of her life Lacey Schwartz knew she was white. With her dark skin, curly hair and full lips, she was a nice Jewish girl from Woodstock, New York. And then — she wasn’t.

Twenty years ago, Schwartz applied to Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and — even though she didn’t tick a box giving her racial identity — she was admitted as a black student. “I know some people looked at that situation and they think, ‘Why weren’t you outraged? Why wouldn’t you protest it?’” Schwartz, 38, said. But for the filmmaker, it was an opportunity to open herself up to something that deep down had been niggling her for most of her life, a question that became the the heart of her documentary “Little White Lie,” which airs Monday on PBS.

Ever since she was 5 years old, when a classmate demanded that she show him her gums, Schwartz knew she looked a bit different from everyone else in her very white town. But her parents, Peggy and Robert Schwartz, had an answer for that — a photo in their family album of her paternal ancestor, a dark-skinned Sicilian Jew. The real answer was far less complicated, buried underneath a lifetime of secrets and lies that helped spell the end of her parents’ marriage. (Spoiler alert: Schwartz is the result of an affair her mom had with an African-American family friend. She demanded answers from her mother when she was 18, but didn’t talk to her father about it until her mid-30s when she made the film.)

In “Little White Lie,” Schwartz confronts her family, exposing the secret and revealing how she has spent her adult years straddling two racial identities. We talked to Schwartz about ditching law for filmmaking and what it’s like to be black and white in America.

What made you want to become a filmmaker?

When I was in law school I started thinking about the issues that I wanted to work on and how film was an effective way to speak about the issues I cared about…

…Your story is like “The Emperor’s New Clothes” because it seems so obvious that you’re black, and yet everyone was saying that you were white. Growing up, when you looked at yourself in the mirror, did you ever have an inkling?

Absolutely. I saw my difference. It’s so crazy for me to find a picture of me when I was a kid and remember that I was so insecure about my hair and my skin and all those things. I definitely felt self-conscious of not being like everybody else that was around me…

…For you, what does it mean to be black?

I think it’s twofold. Part of it is about my own consciousness about being a person of color and being of the world and seeing things. I lived so much of my life having the outlook and thinking that I was white and being somewhat oblivious to the rest of the world, and so I think for me, it’s about gaining that consciousness of difference and really actually recognizing how other people see me.

Part of it’s also being part of the community and the connection. It’s shared experiences on a variety of different levels. When I got to college, that connection, realizing that — even though I hadn’t grown up identifying as being black — there were ways in which I really felt connected to being part of a community…

Read the entire interview here.

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When Change Doesn’t Matter: Racial Identity (In)consistency and Adolescent Well-being

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2015-03-26 14:54Z by Steven

When Change Doesn’t Matter: Racial Identity (In)consistency and Adolescent Well-being

Sociology of Race & Ethnicity
Volume 1, Number 2 (April 2015)
pages 270-286
DOI: 10.1177/2332649214552730

Rory Kramer, Assistant Professor
Department of Sociology and Criminology
Villanova University, Villanova, Pennsylvania

Ruth Burke
Department of Sociology
University of Pennsylvania

Camille Z. Charles, Professor of Sociology
University of Pennsylvania

Most theories of racial self-identity argue that a racially inconsistent identity indicates emotional distress and internal turmoil. However, empirical research on racial identity and consistency indicates that racial inconsistency is more common than previously believed, and some argue that it can be a positive adaptation for individuals. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health, we explore the degree to which racial identity inconsistency is associated with emotional, social, and academic outcomes. We find that racial inconsistency is not associated with negative outcomes for individuals and, via access to white privilege, may be associated with benefits for some individuals. We conclude by discussing the implications of our findings for theories of racial identity.

Read the entire article here.

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I’m a White Mom With Biracial Children, and What I Do With Their Hair Is No One’s Business

Posted in Articles, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, United States on 2015-03-25 20:58Z by Steven

I’m a White Mom With Biracial Children, and What I Do With Their Hair Is No One’s Business

The Root

Maria Guido, Associate Editor

Being the mother of two biracial children, I’m noticing that both races feel a sense of community when offering boundary-invading, unsolicited hair-care advice.

Maybe I’m just not the type of parent who likes unsolicited advice or people getting in my personal space, but one of the things that I’ve noticed about parenting a mixed-race child is that the general public seems to have no boundaries.

When you become a mother, you notice that the boundaries people usually have when dealing with others start to chip away. It begins in pregnancy when you may start to hear an onslaught of unsolicited advice from strangers, about everything from your diet to the probable sex of the child you’re carrying. Not to mention the complete strangers who come up and put their hands on, around and under your pregnant belly.

Then you have the child, and you become used to the “how cute” comments. Not a big deal. It’s not uncommon for people to comment when they see what looks to be a “brand-new” baby in front of them.

I understand that all parents experience this kind of attention, and it’s not necessarily negative. But after your child begins to grow, that attention usually wanes. As a mother of mixed-race children, I have yet to experience this “waning.” Maybe people have no boundaries when it comes to kids in general, but in my experience, having mixed-race children turns it up a notch…

Read the entire article here.

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The Disappearing Mestizo: Configuring Difference in the Colonial New Kingdom of Granada by Joanne Rappaport (review) [von Germeten]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive on 2015-03-25 14:59Z by Steven

The Disappearing Mestizo: Configuring Difference in the Colonial New Kingdom of Granada by Joanne Rappaport (review) [von Germeten]

The Americas
Volume 72, Number 1, January 2015
pages 159-160

Nicole von Germeten, Associate Professor of History
Oregon State University

Rappaport, Joanne, The Disappearing Mestizo: Configuring Difference in the Colonial New Kingdom of Granada (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014).

Joanne Rappaport argues that even in the seventeenth-century classic satire known as El Carnero, set in what is now Colombia, the main character avoids identification as a mestiza, demonstrating the disappearing elusiveness of this term. The fact that readers cannot be sure if Inés de Hinojosa’s mother was or was not an indigenous woman brings directly to life the point Rappaport explores throughout her book. Subjects of the Spanish crown living in the sixteenth-, seventeenth-, and even eighteenth-century New Kingdom of Granada avoided categorization as mestizo when it suited them, although they sometimes took on the label if it seemed expedient at a particular moment. Rappaport effectively proves that identification as mestizo, mulatto, or even the more basic categories of Spanish, Indian, and black, does not equate to a stable, genetic, or genealogical “race” in the modern sense of the word. These categories are beyond fluid or malleable, the common explanation for why one individual might receive several different “racial” identifications during their lifespan.

Rappaport suggests instead that, at least in the New Kingdom of Granada, terms such as mestizo and mulatto do not necessarily represent an easily definable or cohesive group of individuals. In other words, regardless of what a person might call him or herself, or “pass” as within the Spanish world, we cannot hope to ascertain their “real race” from such a limited term, within this particular historical context. The designation of mestizo especially represents nothing other than an allusion, because this category did not carry a specific legal status or set of privileges within Spanish law. Therefore, students and scholars who wish to understand personal identity and society in the Spanish American viceroyalties must set aside our modern obsession with race as a simple unchanging way to categorize human beings. In fact, calidad, a broad range of attributes including stage of life, gender, occupation, personal wealth, spousal choice, place of residence, domestic setting, literacy, speech patterns, and style of dress, may have held more weight than what we call “race.”

Rappoport supports these arguments with ethnographic explorations of several suggestive case studies, in a far more effective and readable style than would be provided by the tiresome citation of innumerable confusing examples, or even worse statistical analysis. At the end of the book, the reader actually remembers the individuals under discussion and feels a sense of knowing them as well as possible and understanding how their life experiences elucidate why mestizos represent a “disappearing” category. Rappaport’s analytical narratives include individuals sometimes classed as mestizos, but otherwise known as a duped doncella, a politically engaged cacique, an adulterous widow, a frustrated, blustering upwardly mobile Bogotá alderman, a man who just wants to stay with his family and friends in an indigenous village, and even the stereotypical abusive, rabble-rousing mulatto. Rappaport also takes a look at the physical descriptions contained in casa de la contratación travel documents, the early modern version of passport photos, expressed in standardized verbiage describing hair texture, skin tone, and most importantly, beards. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the most common color used to describe Spanish skin was brown [moreno].

This book corrects simplistic ideas about the timelessness of racial categorization, even including previous efforts to historicize the alleged “hardening” of race designations in the eighteenth century. Rappaport makes an excellent point that historians of other parts of Spanish America should not assume the sistema de castas applied beyond New Spain, although it is even doubtful that it works as an analytical framework there. Even if Bourbon reformers attempted to “harden” racial lines or put a “caste system” into effect, scholars who spend their time in archives already know the need to question the effectiveness of these efforts. This book offers an important contribution to the historiography of Spanish rule in the Americas, and might even challenge and complicate undergraduate thinking on race. Understanding the history of the Spanish viceroyalties demands mental flexibility, and this book does an essential job of exposing where, through lazy thinking, we still hold onto rigid, anachronistic interpretations…

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Accessing the Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations Oral History Collection through the Digital Humanities

Posted in Articles, Audio, Autobiography, History, Media Archive, United States on 2015-03-25 13:55Z by Steven

Accessing the Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations Oral History Collection through the Digital Humanities

Brooklyn Historical Society Blog
Brooklyn Historical Society
Brooklyn, New York

Julia Lipkins

I’m pleased to announce that the Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations (CBBG) oral history collection is now open for research! From 2011 to 2014, a team of oral historians sponsored by BHS conducted interviews with mixed-heritage people and families in Brooklyn. CBBG narrators and interviewers explored the themes of cultural hybridity, race, ethnicity and identity formation in the United States. The complete collection of over 100 oral history interviews is available for use in the Othmer Library and a portion of the contents are accessible online at the CBBG website.

An exciting feature of the CBBG website is a new digital humanities application known as OHMS, or the Oral History Metadata Synchronizer. OHMS, developed by oral history wunderkind Doug Boyd and his team at the University of Kentucky Libraries, tackles an inherent challenge in oral history archives, i.e. accessing the oral history via the recording manifestation vs. transcript manifestation. While the audio recording provides the richness and context of the narrator’s voice, the transcript offers researchers the capacity to conduct keyword searches throughout the interview. OHMS solves this dilemma by marrying the audio recording to the transcript, thereby making both manifestations of the interview searchable…

For more information, click here.

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Growing Up White Until a Family Secret Revealed She Was Not

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2015-03-24 17:35Z by Steven

Growing Up White Until a Family Secret Revealed She Was Not

The Root

Genetta M. Adams, Senior Editor

In the documentary Little White Lie, filmmaker Lacey Schwartz spins a compelling story about embracing her racial identity.

Lacey Schwartz grew up as a white, Jewish girl in the predominantly white community of Woodstock, N.Y., raised by Peggy and Robert Schwartz. But what she didn’t know at the time was that her biological father was black.

The idea of “passing” for white has long been a part of African-American culture. But Schwartz’s story isn’t one about passing. She truly believed that she was white.

How she came to embrace her biracial identity and confront her parents about the family secret is the subject of her documentary, Little White Lie, which airs Monday on PBS as part of its Independent Lens series.

Judging someone’s racial identity by appearance alone can be tricky—the recent story about Nancy Giles’ reaction to Jay Smooth makes that point fairly obvious. But when Schwartz was a child, her light-brown skin and curly hair elicited comments from people outside her immediate family circle: At her bat mitzvah, a woman from the synagogue mistook Lacey for an Ethiopian Jew.

When Schwartz questioned her parents, her father showed her a portrait of her Sicilian great-grandfather, whose darker skin seemingly provided an explanation for her own. Schwartz, like everyone around her, bought this story…

Read the entire article here.

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Meet Elizabeth Liang from Alien Citizen: An Earth Odyssey

Posted in Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Interviews, Media Archive on 2015-03-24 00:47Z by Steven

Meet Elizabeth Liang from Alien Citizen: An Earth Odyssey

Culture Shock Toolbox

H. E. Rybol

Elizabeth acts on stage, film, and television. A graduate of Wesleyan (after transferring from Wellesley), she is a published essayist (“Checked Baggage: Writing Unpacked,” “Transforming Three Sisters”) and has a column about creative adult TCKs at She is also the co-host of the intercultural podcast Hapa Happy Hour.

Her solo show, ALIEN CITIZEN: An Earth Odyssey, had its world premiere at the Asylum Lab in Hollywood in May 2013. It had its Off Off Broadway debut at Stage Left Studio in September 2013. Since then it has been performed at Princeton, M.I.T., Wesleyan, Williams, Augustana (SD), Carleton, and Santa Clara University in the USA. It was the closing keynote at the Families in Global Transition (FIGT) 2014 conference. It also began its tour of international schools and US Embassies in Panama; was sponsored by the API Cultural Center at the United States of Asian America Festival in San Francisco; and had its international theatrical debut at Tjarnarbíó in Reykjavík, Iceland.

How did you get into traveling?

My dad worked for Xerox (they made photocopiers) back when they were as big as Apple and Google are now, and they moved us from Guatemala to Costa Rica to the USA to Panama to the USA again to Morocco to Egypt. Some of my happiest memories from my youth are of the family vacations we were so fortunate to take in different countries.

I came back to the USA for college on the east coast, graduated and moved to the west coast for a career in the entertainment industry, and have been here ever since. I love to travel for pleasure, and I love to travel with my solo show, ALIEN CITIZEN: An Earth Odyssey, because I get to combine my three favorite activities: acting, traveling to new places, and indirectly: writing (I wrote the script)…

Read the entire interview here.

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Navigating Through my Tamil-Filipino World: An Account of a Mixed First Generation Kid

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Canada, Media Archive on 2015-03-24 00:25Z by Steven

Navigating Through my Tamil-Filipino World: An Account of a Mixed First Generation Kid

Tamil Culture

Shanelle Kandiah

Throughout my life, every time I have come to meet someone for the first time, I seem to always be asked about my ethnicity. Over the course of a conversation with someone, I can even anticipate the exact point that this question will be asked. The curious yet reluctant segway of “so…what’s your background?” or “where are your parents from?” gives it all away.

While these questions may be perceived as bothersome to other mixed kids, I cannot say that it ever really bothered me. I have always taken a strange sort of pride in describing my family. Having been raised by a Sri Lankan Tamil father and a Filipino mother, I have never seen my life as anything short of amazing. Growing up exposed to two rich cultures from two loving parents is something that is pretty difficult to fault.

Reflecting back on my childhood, there are certain memories that stand out as reflective of how unique my family may be perceived to the outside world. For instance, there were times growing up where my parents would host birthday parties for my brother and me, and would invite what seemed like everyone they had ever met in their lives. People of all shapes and sizes – not only Tamils and Filipinos, but Anglos, East Asians, and other mixed families – would always manage to seep into my house where they would be welcomed with open arms.

Our food at these events was often a mix of Sri Lankan catering with overwhelming amounts of pittu, hoppers and varying curries, alongside Filipino takeout trays of lumpia, chicken adobo and pansit. When coupled with the Tamil movie scores and Western music playing in the background, I would agree with outsiders who have deemed my family as not quite run of the mill. Even now, it seems overwhelming that so much cultural transactions occurred at these gatherings. Looking back, these times actually gave me some of my best childhood memories…

Read the entire article here.

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As a Mixed-Race Woman, in the Game of Racial Top Trumps My Blackness Always Wins

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Social Science, United Kingdom on 2015-03-23 20:20Z by Steven

As a Mixed-Race Woman, in the Game of Racial Top Trumps My Blackness Always Wins

Media Diversified

Leo Jay Shire

The idea of ‘race’ has no fixed definition considering the term has no biological basis. Yet all of us from minority backgrounds know what it is to be racialised, to be lumped together into a group with others who share our physical attributes, for this to be conflated with our ethnicity – our shared culture, history and experience. What does this mean for those of us who are mixed-race? Could it be argued that the shared experience of being racialised as ‘mixed’ creates a ‘mixed-race’ ethnicity of sorts? Can this ‘mixed’ tag be sufficient when we have experiences specific to one part of our heritage?

Right now, mixed-race people are considered to be of the largest growing groups in the UK with over one million of us in England alone. From Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton to One Direction’s Zayn Malik, mixed-race people are some of the most visible minorities in the media. We are everywhere. Which is impressive considering that as a definable ethnic or racial group, mixed-race people don’t really exist. Of course, on the tick boxes of the census we do, but in the real world these categories fail to tally with our highly diverse experiences of racialisation…

…But the ‘mixed’ category doesn’t, of course, encapsulate many of our experiences that see us racialised as the same as one of our parents. In my case, my mother is a white Englishwoman, my father a black Zimbabwean. Yet my ‘whiteness’ and my ‘blackness’ are not traits I possess equally. Whenever I enter the world and go about my daily business I am nearly always read as a black woman first, a mixed-race woman occasionally, and a white woman never. The racism and micro-aggressions I face daily are all due to me being recognisably black. In the game of racial Top Trumps, my blackness always wins…

Read the entire article here.

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