Dream of the Water Children: Memory and Mourning in the Black Pacific

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Biography, Books, Forthcoming Media, Monographs on 2018-05-20 01:02Z by Steven

Dream of the Water Children: Memory and Mourning in the Black Pacific

2Leaf Press
2018-06-08
470 pages
Paperback ISBN-13: 978-1-940939-28-5
ePub ISBN-13: 978-1-940939-29-2

Fredrick D. Kakinami Cloyd

Introduction by Gerald Horne
Foreword by Velina Hasu Houston
Edited by Karen Chau

Fredrick D. Kakinami Cloyd’s debut, Dream of the Water Children: Memory and Mourning in the Black Pacific, is a lyrical and compelling memoir about a son of an African American father and a Japanese mother who has spent a lifetime being looked upon with curiosity and suspicion by both sides of his ancestry and the rest of society. Cloyd begins his story in present-day San Francisco, reflecting back on a war-torn identity from Japan, U.S. military bases, and migration to the United States, uncovering links to hidden histories.

Dream of the Water Children tells two main stories: Cloyd’s mother and his own. It was not until the author began writing his memoir that his mother finally addressed her experiences with racism and sexism in Occupied Japan. This helped Cloyd make better sense of, and reckon with, his dislocated inheritances. Tautly written in spare, clear poetic prose, Dream of the Water Children delivers a compelling and surprising account of racial and gender interactions. It tackles larger social histories, helping to dispel some of the great narrative myths of race and culture embedded in various identities of the Pacific and its diaspora.

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Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom

Posted in Biography, Books, Forthcoming Media, History, Monographs, Slavery, United States on 2018-05-20 00:37Z by Steven

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom

Simon & Schuster
2018-10-02
864 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 9781416590316

David W. Blight, Class of 1954 Professor of American History; Professor of African-American and American Studies; Director, Gilder Lehrman Center
Yale University

The definitive, dramatic biography of the most important African-American of the nineteenth century: Frederick Douglass, the escaped slave who became the greatest orator of his day and one of the leading abolitionists and writers of the era.

As a young man Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) escaped from slavery in Baltimore, Maryland. He was fortunate to have been taught to read by his slave owner mistress, and he would go on to become one of the major literary figures of his time. He wrote three versions of his autobiography over the course of his lifetime and published his own newspaper. His very existence gave the lie to slave owners: with dignity and great intelligence he bore witness to the brutality of slavery.

Initially mentored by William Lloyd Garrison, Douglass spoke widely, often to large crowds, using his own story to condemn slavery. He broke with Garrison to become a political abolitionist, a Republican, and eventually a Lincoln supporter. By the Civil War and during Reconstruction, Douglass became the most famed and widely travelled orator in the nation. He denounced the premature end of Reconstruction and the emerging Jim Crow era. In his unique and eloquent voice, written and spoken, Douglass was a fierce critic of the United States as well as a radical patriot. He sometimes argued politically with younger African-Americans, but he never forsook either the Republican party or the cause of black civil and political rights.

In this remarkable biography, David Blight has drawn on new information held in a private collection that few other historian have consulted, as well as recently discovered issues of Douglass’s newspapers. Blight tells the fascinating story of Douglass’s two marriages and his complex extended family. Douglass was not only an astonishing man of words, but a thinker steeped in Biblical story and theology. There has not been a major biography of Douglass in a quarter century. David Blight’s Frederick Douglass affords this important American the distinguished biography he deserves.

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The making of Meghan Markle

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, United States on 2018-05-16 15:26Z by Steven

The making of Meghan Markle

The Washington Post
2018-05-16

Jessica Contrera, Features Writer


Portraits of Meghan Markle from eighth, ninth and 12th grades. From her childhood in Los Angeles to her acting career, Markle has said her “ethnically ambiguous” appearance shaped her identity. (John Dlugolecki/Contact Press Images)

What happens when a ‘confident mixed-race woman’ marries into the royal family

Meghan Markle was glaring at her love interest. She leaned forward, fury clear in her expression as she asked the question: Was it so hard to believe one of her parents was black?

“You think,” she spat, “this is just a year-round tan?”

He stammered. She grimaced. The opening credits began to roll.

It was just the scene of a television show, a few lines from the script of the law drama “Suits.” But Markle would later describe it as something more: the moment she was no longer playing the role of “ethnically ambiguous.” That was the description assigned to so many of the jobs for which she had auditioned. Others asked her to be white, like her father. Or black, like her mother…

Read the entire article here.

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Walter F. White: The NAACP’s Ambassador for Racial Justice

Posted in Biography, Books, Forthcoming Media, History, Monographs, Social Justice, United States on 2018-05-14 20:50Z by Steven

Walter F. White: The NAACP’s Ambassador for Racial Justice

West Virginia University Press
January 2019
468 pages
Cloth ISBN: 978-1-946684-62-2
eBook ISBN: 978-1-946684-63-9

Robert L. Zangrando, Professor Emeritus of History
University of Akron

Ronald L. Lewis, Stuart and Joyce Robbins Chair and Professor Emeritus of History
West Virginia University

Walter F. White of Atlanta, Georgia, joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1918 as an assistant to Executive Secretary James Weldon Johnson. When Johnson retired in 1929, White replaced him as head of the NAACP, a position he maintained until his death in 1955. During his long tenure, White was in the vanguard of the struggle for interracial justice. His reputation went into decline, however, in the era of grassroots activism that followed his death. White’s disagreements with the US Left, and his ambiguous racial background—he was of mixed heritage, could “pass” as white, and divorced a black woman to marry a white woman—fueled ambivalence about his legacy.

In this comprehensive biography, Zangrando and Lewis seek to provide a reassessment of White within the context of his own time, revising critical interpretations of his career. White was a promoter of and a participant in the Harlem Renaissance, a daily fixture in the halls of Congress lobbying for civil rights legislation, and a powerful figure with access to the administrations of Roosevelt (via Eleanor) and Truman. As executive secretary of the NAACP, White fought incessantly to desegregate the American military and pushed to ensure equal employment opportunities. On the international stage, White advocated for people of color in a decolonized world and for economic development aid to nations like India and Haiti, bridging the civil rights struggles at home and abroad.

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William Alexander Leidesdorff: Forgotten San Francisco Pioneer

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, United States on 2018-04-24 17:53Z by Steven

William Alexander Leidesdorff: Forgotten San Francisco Pioneer

San Francisco Travel
2014-08-22

Cindy Hu


Photo by vgm8383 / CC BY-NC

Financial district hotshots pass by tiny Leidesdorff Street, hardly more than an alley, and few can pronounce its name. Little do they know that the namesake of this charming hitching post-lined lane blazed the trail for them some 150 years ago. Fewer still realize he was the city’s first prominent businessman of black ancestry.

William Alexander Leidesdorff was born the son of Alexander Leidesdorff, a drifting Danish seaman, and a mulatto woman on St. Croix Island in the West Indies. The child was given Danish citizenship, though his father never shared in the raising of young William. However, an English plantation owner grew fond of the young boy and saw to his care and education.

When Leidesdorff grew into a strapping young man, the Englishman sent him to New Orleans to live with the planter’s brother and to become a cotton merchant. Leidesdorff and the mercantile industry were a perfect fit. He quickly learned the industry and built a reputation as a keen businessman. When the Englishman and his brother suddenly died, just months apart, Leidesdorff fell heir to their New Orleans estate.

When he was not managing the estate, the striking, young and wealthy Leidesdorff courted a southern belle named Hortense, whose prominent family claimed membership in New Orleans’ high society and whose lineage heralded back to Louis XIV of France. Keeping his mixed ancestry secret, Leidesdorff became engaged to the blonde, fair-skinned Hortense…

Read the entire article here.

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A Girl Full of Smartness

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2018-04-24 02:25Z by Steven

A Girl Full of Smartness

The Paris Review
2017-06-02

Edward White


Mary Ellen Pleasant

As an entrepreneur, civil-rights activist, and benefactor, Mary Ellen Pleasant made a name and a fortune for herself in Gold Rush–era San Francisco, shattering racial taboos.

They did things differently in the Old West. On the morning of August 14, 1889, Stephen J. Field, a justice of the Supreme Court, was eating breakfast at a café in Lathrop, California, when David S. Terry, a former bench colleague, stopped by Field’s table and slapped him twice across the face.

This was not unprecedented behavior. Despite having risen to the rank of chief justice of the Supreme Court of California, Terry was described by one contemporary as an “evil genius” with an “irrepressible temper,” who once stabbed a man for being an abolitionist and killed a Congressman wedded to the Free Soil movement. His gripe with Stephen Field, however, had nothing to do with slavery. In 1883, Terry’s wife had filed a lawsuit (Sharon vs. Sharon) against the multimillionaire U.S. Senator William Sharon, claiming she had been married to him in secret some years ago and that, having been callously discarded by the womanizing senator, she was owed a divorce settlement. After five years the case ended up at a federal circuit court, where Field found in favor of William Sharon; there would be no divorce settlement. Terry was livid and promised to exact revenge.

It was only the latest twist in what had been a bizarre case. On the first day of the trial, William Sharon’s attorney asserted that his client was the victim of a plot involving an elderly black woman who had used voodoo to steal Sharon’s hard-earned fortune. That woman was known to the San Francisco public as “Mammy Pleasant,” around whom sinister rumors had swirled for years. Some accused her of being a murderess, a madam, and a practitioner of black magic who befriended white families only to curse them and bleed them dry; a nightmarish image of “the mammy gone wrong,” to quote one historian. But just as many—especially among the black community—knew her as Mary Ellen Pleasant: an ingenious entrepreneur, pioneering civil-rights activist, and beloved benefactor who broke racial taboos and played a singular role in the early years of San Francisco…

Even within her lifetime, there were several competing stories about Pleasant’s origins. One version has her born into slavery in Georgia; another says she was the daughter of a wealthy Virginian planter who had a fling with a voodoo priestess from the Caribbean. In her published reminiscences she claimed to have been born in Philadelphia in 1812, to a Hawaiian father and “a full-blooded Louisiana negress.” Racial mixing and ethnic ambiguity, themes that would repeat over and again throughout Pleasant’s life, appear to have been part of her identity from the start…

Read the entire article here.

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The real history behind Mary Ellen Pleasant, San Francisco’s “voodoo queen”

Posted in Articles, Audio, Biography, History, Media Archive, Passing, Slavery, United States, Women on 2018-04-24 02:04Z by Steven

The real history behind Mary Ellen Pleasant, San Francisco’s “voodoo queen”

KALW Local Public Radio, 91.7 FM
San Francisco, California
2015-09-09

Olivia Cueva & Liza Veale


Performer Susheel Bibbs poses in front of an image of Mary Ellen Pleasant.
Photograph by Olivia Cueva

In the mid-1800s, boomtown San Francisco was a city of men — only about 15 percent women. While slavery was illegal in California, white men were the ones cashing out on the boom. Mostly.

Then there was Mary Ellen Pleasant. She was one of the richest and most powerful people in the state — and she was a black woman. In fact she was a freedom fighter; her nickname was “Black City Hall.”

Yet today, Pleasant is barely remembered. The story that does get told is a mythologized tale about San Francisco’s so-called “voodoo queen.”

Why did this extraordinary woman fall from the city’s graces, left to haunt its history as the voodoo queen? We start at the last stop on a city tour called the San Francisco Ghost Hunt.

The tour brings you to the corner of Octavia and Bush streets, where Mary Ellen Pleasant’s mansion once stood. Six huge eucalyptus trees tower above the spot. Pleasant planted them herself over a hundred years ago.

Jim Fassbinder guides the tour. He tells a tale that he admits is not quite fact, not quite fiction.

He says Pleasant had power over San Franciscans because she practiced “voodoo.” He says some claim she was responsible for the death of four people, including her longtime business partner. Rumor has it her servant “found Mary Ellen pulling apart the bones of his head and picking out bits of his brain,” says Fassbinder.

As the story goes, she’s haunted this corner ever since the day she died. But the story’s been mangled by history. What really happened?

“It still is a mystery,” says Susheel Bibbs, “Her life is still a mystery.”

Bibbs has been studying Pleasant for over 20 years. She says part of the reason it’s so hard to distinguish fact from fiction is because Pleasant herself never kept her story straight.

“It was ingrained from the very beginning that survival meant that you don’t tell. You just keep secrets,” Bibbs says.

By best accounts, Pleasant was born on a plantation in Georgia. Once she was freed as a young girl, she began falsifying her identity. Slavery was still alive and well, so she needed to protect herself from law enforcement.

“If they decided she was an escaped slave and she had no freedom papers, they could just wrest her off the streets and back into slavery,” Bibbs says.

Her skin was fair enough to pass, so when she docked in San Francisco in 1852, she arrived as a white woman

Read entire story here. Listen to the story (00:08:37) here.

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Richard Potter: America’s First Black Celebrity

Posted in Arts, Biography, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, United States on 2018-04-23 22:42Z by Steven

Richard Potter: America’s First Black Celebrity

University of Virginia Press
February 2018
352 pages
6.13 × 9.25 in
Cloth ISBN: 9780813941042
Ebook ISBN: 9780813941059

John A. Hodgson, Former Dean
Forbes College, Princeton University

Apart from a handful of exotic–and almost completely unreliable–tales surrounding his life, Richard Potter is almost unknown today. Two hundred years ago, however, he was the most popular entertainer in America–the first showman, in fact, to win truly nationwide fame. Working as a magician and ventriloquist, he personified for an entire generation what a popular performer was and made an invaluable contribution to establishing popular entertainment as a major part of American life. His story is all the more remarkable in that Richard Potter was also a black man.

This was an era when few African Americans became highly successful, much less famous. As the son of a slave, Potter was fortunate to have opportunities at all. At home in Boston, he was widely recognized as black, but elsewhere in America audiences entertained themselves with romantic speculations about his “Hindu” ancestry (a perception encouraged by his act and costumes).

Richard Potter’s performances were enjoyed by an enormous public, but his life off stage has always remained hidden and unknown. Now, for the first time, John A. Hodgson tells the remarkable, compelling–and ultimately heartbreaking–story of Potter’s life, a tale of professional success and celebrity counterbalanced by racial vulnerability in an increasingly hostile world. It is a story of race relations, too, and of remarkable, highly influential black gentlemanliness and respectability: as the unsung precursor of Frederick Douglass, Richard Potter demonstrated to an entire generation of Americans that a black man, no less than a white man, could exemplify the best qualities of humanity. The apparently trivial “popular entertainment” status of his work has long blinded historians to his significance and even to his presence. Now at last we can recognize him as a seminal figure in American history.

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Mizuko

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Biography, Media Archive on 2018-04-20 02:24Z by Steven

Mizuko

Hapa Japan
2018-04-13

Fredrick Cloyd


Featured Image by Edward M. Haugh

During the years of gathering research and thoughts, memory and conversations into some sort of cohesive unit for a book–which would eventually become the forthcoming (Spring 2018 by 2Leaf Press) entitled: Dream of the Water Children: Memory and Mourning in the Black Pacific, I had not thought of a title, or a way to fit all the pieces together for the vast amount of links and connections I wanted to make in relation to world historical archive and a definite anti-colonial stance. Yet another story of a unique person in the world was not my goal, although it would also be taken that way. I wanted to reach those who were concerned with looking at the historical present.

In focusing on my mother and myself, it came one day in a dream. Just as the opening scene in my book presents, I am suddenly woken up in the middle of the night to write: みずこ 水子 ミズコ (mizuko) on a notepad I pull out from the bedside drawer. It puzzled me because, at least consciously, I did not know what this word meant or what it was. Then, the next day, I looked it up on the internet. The term mizuko, was the postwar euphemism for aborted fetus, or dead fetus. An entire religious ceremonial ritual grew out of this when the U.S. Occupation lifted its ban on religious ceremonies in Japan. Many women flooded to the countless shrines and statues to pray for those babies gone. Some were so ashamed, they did it in secret. But most women, even after given “permission,” could now do prayers in the forest and write their babies names or burn their incense in the name of that baby they let go from their bodies…

Read the entire article here.

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Kamala Harris Is Dreaming Big

Posted in Arts, Biography, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States, Women on 2018-03-25 02:31Z by Steven

Kamala Harris Is Dreaming Big

Vogue
April 2018

Abby Aguirre


Harris in Los Angeles with beneficiaries of the DREAM Act—which the senator has made a priority to protect.
Photographed by Zoe Ghertner, Vogue, April 2018

IT’S A COLD JANUARY NIGHT in D.C., and I’m at the Hart Senate Office Building, trailing U.S. Senator Kamala Harris into a conference room. Inside, a group of young Latino congressional staffers has gathered to meet the Democratic star from California. When she enters, flanked by aides, and dressed in a navy suit, matching ruffled blouse, black pearls, and stilettos that give her petite five-feet-four frame a few extra inches of height, the staffers immediately rise from their chairs.

Harris has an air of celebrity that, under normal circumstances, a freshman senator wouldn’t have had time to acquire. But this year has been anything but normal. She greets the 20-somethings as though they’re relatives at a family reunion: “Hi, everybody! Hi, guys!” Then she notices that one of the staffers is still seated, and her voice drops a full octave: “Stand up, man!”

The startled staffer springs to his feet. “Kevin,” he says, extending a hand.

“What’s your last name?” demands Harris.

“Figueroa.”

Thank you!” She shakes his hand. “Kamala Harris.” (That’s pronounced “comma-la,” by the way, and you’d better get it right.)…


Harris with her late mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, who emigrated from India to study at Berkeley in the ’60s.
Photo: Courtesy of Kamala Harris

…HARRIS’S POLITICAL CAREER—seven years as district attorney in San Francisco and then another six as attorney general of California—amounts to an extraordinary run of firsts. She was the first woman and the first person of color to be elected to both positions, and she is now America’s first Indian-American senator and California’s first black senator. In 2012, Harris spoke in prime time at the Democratic National Convention. More Americans learned her name the following year, when President Obama apologized for saying Harris was not only “brilliant,” “dedicated,” and “tough,” but that she “also happens to be, by far, the best-looking attorney general in the country.”…

Read the entire article here.

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