On Slave Ownership, Privilege and One Drop

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2015-04-25 23:09Z by Steven

On Slave Ownership, Privilege and One Drop

One Drop of Love: A Daughter’s Search for Her Father’s Racial Approval
2015-04-21

Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni, Writer, Performer and co-Producer

For just a little over two years I have traveled across the United States performing the one-woman show I wrote and produce, One Drop of Love. One Drop is about history and family, race, class, gender, privilege. One of the central themes – which I express decisively in the closing monologue – is the importance of having the courage to confront painful pasts in order to heal, and to help make real change in the present.

One of the reasons I’m invited to perform across the country – besides that One Drop resonates with a large cross-section of people – is that Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are also producers. I met both when we were young (Matt in elementary school and Ben in high school), and we became fast friends because we shared a strong interest in theater. We spent many hours after school and on summer vacations in rehearsals and performing together. They have supported me – and many people from our community and others – in pursuing dreams, and sharing our interests and skills with others.

My heart sank when I learned of the leaked Sony e-mail revealing Ben’s actions upon learning of his family’s history of slave ownership…

Read the entire article here.

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Don’t portray this state I love as a hotbed of racial discontent

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, United States on 2015-04-24 15:01Z by Steven

Don’t portray this state I love as a hotbed of racial discontent

The Bangor Daily News
Bangor, Maine
2015-04-20

Trish Callahan, Special to the BDN

When I played high school basketball, we travelled up to The County to play a couple times. Because of the distance we would stay with host families, and we attended social events. Even though I had to be one of the only dark-skinned people to cross the threshold of some of those doors in the mid-1980s, I was treated like all the other players.

I did foul out of every game I played up there. My father and I would bet on whether I’d foul out in the end of the third or beginning of the fourth quarter. In the referee’s defense, we did play a more physical game than was the norm for girl’s ball, myself especially, so there’s no evidence that fouling out was race-related.

And that about sums up my experience as a mixed-race person in Maine since 1973: At the worst I might sense some slight surprise at the sight of someone different, but most Mainers treat me just fine.

Mainers are so polite; I can tell the ones who show that slight surprise are uncomfortable with their own reaction. I usually throw down a gentle good-natured poke at the whole race thing, and the discomfort becomes laughter. I like that about Mainers, and I don’t want that to change in light of the current and necessary discussion about race in our state and across the nation.

I also don’t want Mainers portrayed as racist because that just hasn’t been the majority of my experience. While I appreciate the sentiments of the protesters in Portland, I kind of resent the fervor reaching such a pitch that people outside our state might perceive Maine as some racial hotbed…

Read the entire article here.

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Fast Talking PI: A Reading by Selina Tusitala Marsh

Posted in Arts, Forthcoming Media, Live Events, Oceania, United States on 2015-04-24 13:18Z by Steven

Fast Talking PI: A Reading by Selina Tusitala Marsh

Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU
8 Washington Mews
New York, New York 10003
Monday, 2015-04-27, 16:00-18:00 EDT (Local Time)

Auckland-based poet and scholar Selina Tusitala Marsh reads from her award-winning collection, Fast Talking PI. NYU Performance Studies Graduate student and Indigeneous artist, facilitator, and organizer si dåko’ta alcantara-camacho introduces Dr. Marsh and guides the post-reading conversation.

Fast Talking PI and Dark Sparring: Poems, both by Selina Tusitala Marsh, will be available for purchase at a special 20% off discount following the program, courtesy of the NYU Bookstore.

For more information and to RSVP, click here.

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Visualizing Racial Mixture and Movement: Music, Notation, Illustration

Posted in Articles, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2015-04-23 00:40Z by Steven

Visualizing Racial Mixture and Movement: Music, Notation, Illustration

J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists
Volume 3, Number 1, Spring 2015
pages 146-155
DOI: 10.1353/jnc.2015.0009

Brigitte Fielder, Assistant Professor of English
University of Wisconsin, Madison

The archive of nineteenth-century visual culture abounds with illustrations of racial difference reflect anxieties about racial mixture and movement. Race extends beyond visual expression and detection, but racialized bodies have been continually represented by images meant to convey racial difference, often via racist caricatures. The piece I discuss here adds, to the depiction of racial difference, mixture and movement conveyed through the representation of sound, in written music (fig. 1). Layering illustrations of figures in dance atop the symbolic notation of the aural, the music conveys its narrative of race via musical rather than literary genres: the waltz and the march. In this brief essay I will begin to unpack this particular representation of racialized bodies as visualized in a remarkable, and remarkably little-known, piece of sheet music distributed by George P. Reed, a Boston music store owner and seller of musical instruments, instruction books, and sheet music during the 1830s and 1840s.

Racial representation has often been confined by the media used to depict its complexity—from language that describes race via metaphors of color to the technology of racial representation in black-and-white that obscures nondualistic racial gradation. Written music, like the written word, is a technology of representation. The visual representation of music and the visual representation of race are similar in that they are not mimetic but symbolic. Just as quarter and half notes stand in for certain pitches and durations that might be interpreted through variations such as instrumentation and style, the presence and absence of black ink represents racial difference that in reality is nuanced by gradations in complexion, historical contexts, and cultural resonances of racialization.

Music here implies the aural, but also the movement of dance; the waltz and the march produce bodies in motion. The movement of racialized bodies through geopolitical spaces and with relation to one another hints at race’s fluidity. In the two genres on this single sheet, we see what might be understood as different methodological frames for understanding their respective narratives of race. The waltz’s male and female pairing of partners suggests heterosexuality. The march denotes a different kind of movement, not simply interpersonal but movement through geopolitical spaces and in militaristic endeavors.

The limitations of the musical form for representing race correspond to other limitations of racial representation in metaphors of color, racialized value, and racial distinctions that forgo complexity in favor of legibility. The extent to which race becomes legible through musical notation is admittedly limited. This sheet music is, in many ways, difficult to read. The stick-figure drawings crowd the notes, making one wonder at the practicality of playing the musical annotation. In this respect, the sheet is poised to function less as legible musical notation and more as a visual showpiece. Notwithstanding its visuality, the flatness of stick-figure characters obscures the political import that is clearer in other racial/racist caricatures. Nevertheless, these juxtapositions of the movement of racialized bodies and the movement of music thematize relations of race within musical form, marking race as always in motion, unfixed, and progressing through a specific, readable generic narrative.

Amalgamation Waltz

In nineteenth-century America, the image of a racially integrated dance was a popular site for American anxieties about race relations. Illustrations of integrated dances appeared throughout the antebellum period, in Amalgamation Waltz from Edward Williams Clay’s 1839 “Practical Amalgamation” series of lithographs, his 1845 Amalgamation Polka, and the 1864 political caricature The Miscegenation Ball. The underlying movement of music composes a compelling backdrop for understanding popular depictions of and reactions to racial mixture in nineteenth-century America. Illustrations of dance, movement, and music signal the similarly fluid notions of race that permeated antebellum discourse. While Clay’s Amalgamation Waltz is emphatic in its illustrated pairings of black men and white women, the musical notation of Reed’s music literalizes these juxtapositions of racial integration within the music itself. The three-beat measure of the waltz is composed of stick-figure illustrations, mostly of pairings of black men and white…

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Racial Reflections

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-04-23 00:28Z by Steven

Racial Reflections

American Book Review
Volume 36, Number 2, January/February 2015
page 13
DOI: 10.1353/abr.2015.0007

Ben Railton, Associate Professor of English
Fitchburg State University, Fitchburg, Massachusetts

Hobbs, Allyson, A Chosen Exile: History of Racial Passing in American Life (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014)

Even without a back-cover blurb from Isabel Wilkerson, it seems inevitable that Allyson Hobbs’s A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in America would be compared to Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration (2010). Both books focus on an American history with which we’re all vaguely familiar but know far too little of its specifics and complexities. Both works use the individual, intimate stories of American lives, families, and communities to consider these sweeping cultural and historical issues. And both are entirely successful in bringing their readers into those stories and histories, helping them understand American identities and communities in a way that perhaps no prior work has accomplished.

However, Hobbs’s most fundamental choice to structure each of her chapters around a different time period differentiates her book from Wilkerson’s in an important way. That is, most of the collective narratives of passing have focused on the same late nineteenth–through mid–twentieth–century time period that comprised the Great Migration—the period between, let’s say, Charles Chesnutt’s The House Behind the Cedars (1900) and the 1950s version of the film Imitation of Life (1959; a remake of the 1934 original), with James Weldon Johnson’s Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912) and Nella Larsen’s Passing (1929) marking significant stages along the way. Hobbs’s third and fourth chapters also focus on this period, but through her extended attention to all the aforementioned works and figures and many others (such as the pioneering turn of the century sociologist E. Franklin Frazier, who both analyzed and experienced these issues of identity; or the Harlem Renaissance poet and novelist Jean Toomer, whose writings and life complement each other to provide a rounded picture of passing in 1920s and 1930s), she urges the reader to better understand breadth and depth of the era.

But by the time Hobbs brings her readers to those chapters and that new look at a somewhat familiar time period, she has already provided an even more striking shift in our perspectives on passing through her first and second chapters. In those chapters, she narrates and analyzes the far different yet still interconnected histories and stories of passing in the pre-Civil War and Reconstruction periods, convincingly portraying the issue as one that has persisted and evolved alongside American society and culture throughout the centuries. Indeed, these earlier chapters expanded and challenged some of my most basic understandings of passing: it’s impossible to think of it as simply a choice between different possible identities and communities, for example, when considering the case of William and Ellen Craft, the fugitive slaves who used both racial and gender passing as a conjoined strategy to gain their freedom. Is passing a choice if it is necessary for freedom and even survival? If not, might that also help us see the necessities and even at times inevitabilities of twentieth-century acts of passing as well? Such are the kinds of questions prompted by Hobbs’s Chapter 1 investigation of antebellum passing.

These striking earlier chapters have another, corollary effect: they also force us to reexamine the time periods under consideration through the new lens provided by the issue of passing. Ever since Frederick Douglass highlighted in the first chapter of his Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845) the prevalence of master-slave rape and thus miscegenation on plantations, we’ve had at least some collective sense of how arbitrary the racial categories and definitions by which the slave system was divided were—of why Douglass was defined as an African American slave while his father’s other children were free white men and women. But what Hobbs’s stories and analyses remind us is that, thanks to such racial mixing as well as many other factors, race was also a slippery, liminal category in the era—one that could be manipulated and altered in the right moments and circumstances. Successful manipulations were, no doubt, as rare as escapes such as Douglass’s, but, still, the existence of slave passing at all underscores the instability of race and other identity markers in…

Read the entire review here.

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“Almost Eliza”: Genre, Racialization, and Reading Mary King as the Mixed-Race Heroine of William G. Allen’s The American Prejudice Against Color

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2015-04-23 00:06Z by Steven

“Almost Eliza”: Genre, Racialization, and Reading Mary King as the Mixed-Race Heroine of William G. Allen’s The American Prejudice Against Color

Studies in American Fiction
Volume 40, Issue 1, Spring 2013
pages 1-25

Brigitte Nicole Fielder, Assistant Professor of English
University of Wisconsin, Madison

In 1853, Mary King, the white daughter of abolitionists, was engaged to marry William G. Allen, the “Coloured Professor” of New York Central College at McGrawville. The engagement stirred their upstate New York community into a popular controversy, inciting letters of family disapproval, newspaper commentary, and mob violence leading to their forced, though temporary, separation. Alongside his personal account of their engagement and marriage, in The American Prejudice Against Color: An Authentic Narrative, Showing How Easily the Nation Got into an Uproar (1853), Allen also reprinted various letters and newspaper articles both in support of and in opposition to his and King’s marriage. This array of accounts show how Mary King’s white womanhood becomes a function of genre: in the various stories of her relation to Allen, King’s race and sexuality are constructed according to the practices of reading her as either the white damsel of the captivity narrative or the mixed-race heroine of abolitionist fiction.

In a letter to Mary King written during the week before she and William Allen were secretly married, the couple’s friend John Porter wrote, “Your flight is a flight for freedom, and I can almost call you Eliza,” referencing the well-known mixed-race heroine of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Unlike Stowe’s Eliza, Allen and King were not fleeing literal enslavement, but the racial prejudice of people who had attempted to prevent their marriage. Thus, Porter’s evocation of abolitionist literature to explain King’s situation is intriguing not only because it refuses to perform the more obvious slippage of simply relegating prejudice against the African American William Allen (who was born to a free mixed-race woman and was never enslaved) to the discourse of slavery, but because it chooses the white woman as its subject and re-figures her in one of abolitionism’s most popular tropes of enslavement, the mixed-race heroine. Not merely an equation of all race-related persecution with slavery, Porter’s comparison of Mary King to Stowe’s Eliza Harris displaces the racist rhetoric of the couple’s forced separation, by which some newspaper commentators rendered King a “damsel” in need of white male protection from Allen, which the mob purported to give her. Instead, Porter’s reading of King places her in the abolitionist literary tradition, where her and Allen’s story reads as a narrative of African American fugitivity rather than white captivity. Moreover, Porter’s characterization of King as “almost . . . Eliza” emphasizes a close generic proximity to the figure of the mixed-race heroine, recognizing the interracial allegiance of King and Allen’s proposed kinship, and a re-racialization of the figure of the white woman along lines of her participation in interracial sexual relations and reproduction.

My analysis takes up Porter’s comparison of Mary King to Eliza Harris and reads King as the mixed-race heroine of The American Prejudice Against Color. In the private and public discourse surrounding Allen and King’s engagement and marriage, I examine themes of “amalgamation” and fugitivity in order to discuss how Mary King is figured according to different generic constructions of racialized womanhood in the two primary versions of the story Allen reproduces—that told by Allen, King, and their allies, and the version supporting the racist mob that separated the couple. First, I discuss the racist rhetorics by which Mary King is read in the tradition of what I call “anti-amalgamation” literature—a sub-genre of the body of writing that emerges in response to abolitionist literature, which has its roots in the American captivity narrative.

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Wrightsville Beach alderman pressured to resign after insult against bartender

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2015-04-22 19:51Z by Steven

Wrightsville Beach alderman pressured to resign after insult against bartender

StarNews
Wilmington, North Carolina
2015-04-17

Julian March

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH | Alderman Darryl Mills is facing pressure to resign after he used derogatory language to a bartender last month.

Mills made the comment to Mia Banks while she was working at King Neptune Restaurant on North Lumina Avenue.

In an interview, Mills confirmed he called Banks a “mixed breed” and used an expletive. He said he and Banks have had a bantering and teasing relationship for years.

“That night, as soon as it happened, I saw that it bothered her, hurt her, and I apologized immediately and left,” Mills said. He later apologized a second time in an email.

He has no plans to resign. “I think this is a personal matter,” he said. “It has nothing to do with Wrightsville Beach.”

Banks agreed she had a bantering relationship with Mills, but said that would be true with all of her customers, especially regulars.

She said she had not discussed her race with Mills before his comment. Her mother is Polish and Italian and her father is African-American.

“I was humiliated,” Banks said. “I was degraded.”…

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Having Mixed-Race Kids Doesn’t Make You Non-White

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Asian Diaspora, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, United States on 2015-04-22 19:40Z by Steven

Having Mixed-Race Kids Doesn’t Make You Non-White

Mom.Me
2015-04-20

Grace Hwang Lynch, Blogger
Hapa Mama


Adel Vardell photography

Do white parents become “less white” when they have non-white kids? That question is burning up my Facebook feed right now, thanks to an essay in the New York Times last week.

In the piece published in Motherlode, Jack Cheng (a Chinese American man married to a white woman) writes of his wife:

“She became less white when our son, and then our daughter, were born. I think the first bit of doubt surfaced the day we were on the subway with our newborn and a woman came up to my wife and said: ‘Oh, he’s so cute! When did you adopt him?’ I was livid: Did it not occur to this woman that the father was sitting right next to his wife and child?”

But that is not becoming less white…

…While I might be able to code switch and move in different circles and enjoy a variety of cultures, that doesn’t change the fact that my skin is golden, my nose is wide and sometimes people assume I’m a Tiger Mother. Or the manicurist. Or that I should be taking their General’s Chicken order…

Read the entire article here.

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In Puerto Rico, a push to revive indigenous culture

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Census/Demographics, History, Media Archive, United States on 2015-04-22 19:18Z by Steven

In Puerto Rico, a push to revive indigenous culture

The Associated Press
2015-04-20

Anica Coto

SAN LORENZO, Puerto Rico (AP) — In Puerto Rico’s misty, bamboo-studded mountains, elementary school students are studying a nearly extinct language, beating on drums and growing native crops like cassava and sweet potato as they learn about the indigenous people who lived on the island before Christopher Columbus.

The children in four towns in the island’s southeast corner play a ceremonial ball game that was called batey by the native Tainos, who were all but wiped out during colonial times. The boys and girls also learn words from the local Arawak language, which was in part rebuilt with help from linguists, and still exists in varying forms among other native groups in the hemisphere.

Now, a group of academics and educators hope to expand the Taino education program to other public schools around the U.S. territory in an effort to teach children this little known part of the territory’s history.

“If you don’t know your roots, you don’t know yourself,” said anthropologist Carlalynne Yarey Melendez, director of the Taino cultural organization that runs the educational program. “There are so many communities and schools that want the classes, but I can’t keep up with the demand.”

Puerto Ricans’ interest in the territory’s indigenous past has grown in recent years, with 42,000 of the 3.7 million people then living on the island identifying themselves as at least partially Taino in the 2010 Census.

But even though that’s just a little more than 1 percent, Puerto Rico’s legislature is considering a proposal to declare Melendez’s Naguake organization to be the island’s first indigenous-based community. The designation would allow it to receive federal funds under a program that aids native groups, and expand the program to other towns…

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See First Photos of Matthew McConaughey in The Free State of Jones

Posted in Articles, Arts, History, Media Archive, Mississippi, United States on 2015-04-21 20:40Z by Steven

See First Photos of Matthew McConaughey in The Free State of Jones

Time
2015-04-21

Sarah Begley, Culture Reporter


Matthew McConaughey stars in The Free State of Jones (Murray Close)

He’s basically your Civil War boyfriend

For an actor, there’s no better awards bait than an appearance-transforming role in a biographical war movie. World, meet The Free State of Jones.

Matthew McConaughey will star in the action-drama as Newt Knight, a Mississippi farmer who led a southern rebellion against the Confederates during the Civil War. He and his followers “seceded” from the Confederacy, calling Jones County “The Free State of Jones.” After the war, he distinguished himself from fellow southerners once again by marrying a former slave named Rachel…

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