Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992 by Dagmar Schultz (review)

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Europe, Gay & Lesbian, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Women on 2014-05-05 17:30Z by Steven

Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992 by Dagmar Schultz (review)

African Studies Review
Volume 57, Number 1, April 2014
pages 237-238
DOI: 10.1353/arw.2014.0038

Patricia-Pia Célérier, Associate Professor of French and Francophone Studies
Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York

Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992 is a 79-minute documentary in English and German, directed and produced by Dagmar Schultz. An academic and close friend of Lorde’s, Schultz also co-edited (with May Opitz and Katharina Oguntoye) the book Farbe Bekennen: Frauen auf den Spuren ihrer Geschichte (1986; translated as Showing our Colors: Afro-German Women Speak Out, University of Massachusetts Press, 1991), which marked the beginning of the “Afro-German movement.” Schultz contributed her own archival video and audio recordings and footage to the documentary, adding testimonies from Lorde’s colleagues, students, and friends. Released in 2012, twenty years after Lorde’s death, Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992 is an homage to the African American writer’s tremendous contributions as well as a useful complement to two other documentaries: A Litany for Survival: The Life and Work of Audre Lorde (1995) by Ada Gray Griffin and Michelle Parkerson, and The Edge of Each Other’s Battles: The Vision of Audre Lorde (2002) by Jennifer Abod. Schultz’s film has attracted significant attention and received the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Barcelona Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.

Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992 focuses on an understudied period in the life of the prolific author and activist, the time when she traveled between the U.S. and Germany to lecture and visit friends. It features her relationship to the black diaspora and her mentoring role in the development of the antiracist struggle and the Afro-German movement before and after the German reunification. In true feminist fashion, the documentary links the personal and the political, representing Lorde’s ongoing fight against cancer, her inspiring presence at feminist consciousness-raising meetings, her carefree dancing at multiracial lesbian parties, and her partnership with the poet Gloria I. Joseph.

The film highlights Lorde’s part in building bridges among women of color, feminist, and LGBT social justice movements, in “hyphenating” black Germans. In doing so, it contextualizes the history of major cultural shifts in the late ’80s/early ’90s in Germany. It speaks to audiences both familiar and unfamiliar with Lorde’s work by articulating themes that are at the core of the writer’s production: for instance, the meaning of intimacy and sharing, and the radical role a creative understanding of difference plays in personal and intellectual growth.

Although valuable as a testimonial and politically committed film, Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992 unfortunately lacks a strong coherent form, its point of view neither sufficiently clear nor technically grounded. Because the filmmaker does not provide a theoretical or narrative perspective (apart from documenting Lorde’s life), the archival images and interviews overtake the film, which in turn seems dated, as if it had been produced twenty years ago. The viewer is not pulled into the story early enough, and the editing does not compensate imaginatively for the somewhat haphazard manner with which the documentary proceeds.

Should we consider, nevertheless, that the historical and political value of such a film overrides issues of filmic quality and narrative coherence, especially because it was made on a tight budget and is a labor of love? A documentary cannot be considered as merely reproducing cultural (feminist, Afro-German, LGBT) meaning, but also as creating (new) meaning. Unfortunately, Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992 does not sufficiently demonstrate an awareness of the different ways of understanding and theorizing women’s lives that are available today. As a recording of social life and a travelogue, it does accomplish the two goals of the documentary genre: it informs and educates. Like feminist films of the 1970s, it celebrates the clamor of women’s voices and the rising up of women of color and gay women. It sheds light on the diversity of women’s lifestyles and choices and the issues in gay politics. But how do these images of Lorde inform our current understanding of feminism and feminist practices? What spaces does Lorde’s legacy occupy today? These questions are not answered by the film. In addition, because it does not suggest an awareness of the discursive and technical changes that have advanced the…

Tags: , , , ,

“Split At The Root”: The Reformation of The Mulatto Hero/Heroine

Posted in Articles, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2014-05-01 19:13Z by Steven

“Split At The Root”: The Reformation of The Mulatto Hero/Heroine

AmeriQuests (Online)
Vanderbilt University
Volume 6, Number 1
2008-11-18

Tia L. Gafford, Assistant Professor of English and Africana Studies
Mercer University

Frances E. W. Harper’s Iola Leroy offers a valuable insight on the development of a holistic and natural model for patriarchy in the 19th century. Harper combines normally diametrically opposed ideologies of masculinity and femininely in the characters of Dr. Frank Latimer and Iola Leroy who become cultural heros/heroines by embracing a Black consciousness. By addressing what she considers to be a more cohesive productive society, Harper contextualizes the mulatto racial and social visions against the backdrop of the post-Reconstruction South. Within this new radical mixed race, Dr. Latimer and Iola Leroy rescues this normative stereotypical version and redefines them as the pre-cursors of Alain Locke’s “New Negro.” By rejecting whiteness as a mean to emancipate themselves out of an otherwise racial bondage, Iola Leroy and Dr. Latimer embrace the “one drop” rule. By “casting themselves” into the racial “pot,” Harper sets the mulatto up to ideally “work for the people.”

Read the entire article in HTML or PDF format.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Josephine Baker’s Rainbow Tribe

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Women on 2014-04-21 01:46Z by Steven

Josephine Baker’s Rainbow Tribe

Slate
2014-04-18

Rebecca Onion

To prove that racial harmony was possible, the dancer adopted 12 children from around the globe—and charged admission to watch them coexist.

Beginning in 1953, almost 30 years after her first successful performances on the Paris stage, the singer and dancer Josephine Baker adopted 12 children from different countries, ranging from Finland to Venezuela. She installed what she called her “Rainbow Tribe” in a 15th-century chateau in the South of France and charged admission to tourists who came to hear them sing, to tour their home, or to watch them play leapfrog in their garden.

This little-known chapter in Baker’s life is an uncomfortable one. “I would begin to tell the story of Josephine Baker, and people would start to laugh,” says Matthew Pratt Guterl, the author of a new book on Baker’s later life, Josephine Baker and the Rainbow Tribe. “And I would start to wonder what that laughter signified.” Guterl, a professor of Africana studies and American studies at Brown University, has in essence written two books in one: the story of Baker’s family, and a meditation on the meaning of that laughter…

Read the entire review here.

Tags: , ,

Child of the Fire: Mary Edmonia Lewis and the Problem of Art History’s Black and Indian Subject

Posted in Biography, Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, Women on 2014-04-04 18:10Z by Steven

Child of the Fire: Mary Edmonia Lewis and the Problem of Art History’s Black and Indian Subject

Duke University Press
2010
344 pages
51 illustrations, incl. 18 in color
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4247-2
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8223-4266-3

Kirsten Pai Buick, Associate Professor of Art History
University of New Mexico

Child of the Fire is the first book-length examination of the career of the nineteenth-century artist Mary Edmonia Lewis, best known for her sculptures inspired by historical and biblical themes. Throughout this richly illustrated study, Kirsten Pai Buick investigates how Lewis and her work were perceived, and their meanings manipulated, by others and the sculptor herself. She argues against the racialist art discourse that has long cast Lewis’s sculptures as reflections of her identity as an African American and Native American woman who lived most of her life abroad. Instead, by seeking to reveal Lewis’s intentions through analyses of her career and artwork, Buick illuminates Lewis’s fraught but active participation in the creation of a distinct “American” national art, one dominated by themes of indigeneity, sentimentality, gender, and race. In so doing, she shows that the sculptor variously complicated and facilitated the dominant ideologies of the vanishing American (the notion that Native Americans were a dying race), sentimentality, and true womanhood.

Buick considers the institutions and people that supported Lewis’s career—including Oberlin College, abolitionists in Boston, and American expatriates in Italy—and she explores how their agendas affected the way they perceived and described the artist. Analyzing four of Lewis’s most popular sculptures, each created between 1866 and 1876, Buick discusses interpretations of Hiawatha in terms of the cultural impact of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem The Song of Hiawatha; Forever Free and Hagar in the Wilderness in light of art historians’ assumptions that artworks created by African American artists necessarily reflect African American themes; and The Death of Cleopatra in relation to broader problems of reading art as a reflection of identity.

Table of Contents

  • Illustrations
  • Preface. Framing the Problem: American Africanisms, American Indianisms, and the Processes of Art History
  • Acknowledgments
  • 1. Inventing the Artist: Locating the Black and Catholic Subject
  • 2. The “Problem” of Art History’s Black Subject
  • 3. Longfellow, Lewis, and the Cultural Work of Hiawatha
  • 4. Identity, Tautology, and The Death of Cleopatra
  • Conclusion. Separate and Unequal: Toward a More Responsive and Responsible Art History
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
Tags: , , , , ,

Daughter of the Empire State: The Life of Judge Jane Bolin

Posted in Biography, Books, Law, Media Archive, Monographs, United States, Women on 2014-03-30 14:58Z by Steven

Daughter of the Empire State: The Life of Judge Jane Bolin

University of Illinois Press
December 2011
168 pages
6 x 9 in.
4 black & white photographs
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-252-03657-6
Ebook ISBN: 978-0-252-09361-6

Jacqueline A. McLeod, Associate Professor of History and African & African American Studies
Metropolitan State College of Denver

The trailblazing work of the first African American woman judge

This long overdue biography of the nation’s first African American woman judge elevates Jane Matilda Bolin to her rightful place in American history as an activist, integrationist, jurist, and outspoken public figure in the political and professional milieu of New York City before the onset of the modern Civil Rights movement.

Bolin was appointed to New York City’s domestic relations court in 1939 for the first of four ten-year terms. When she retired in 1978, her career had extended well beyond the courtroom. Drawing on archival materials as well as a meeting with Bolin in 2002, historian Jacqueline A. McLeod reveals how Bolin parlayed her judicial position to impact significant reforms of the legal and social service system in New York.

Beginning with Bolin’s childhood and educational experiences at Wellesley and Yale, Daughter of the Empire State chronicles Bolin’s relatively quick rise through the ranks of a profession that routinely excluded both women and African Americans. Deftly situating Bolin’s experiences within the history of black women lawyers and the historical context of high-achieving black New Englanders, McLeod offers a multi-layered analysis of black women’s professionalization in a segregated America.

Linking Bolin’s activist leanings and integrationist zeal to her involvement in the NAACP, McLeod analyzes Bolin’s involvement at the local level as well as her tenure on the organization’s national board of directors. An outspoken critic of the discriminatory practices of New York City’s probation department and juvenile placement facilities, Bolin also co-founded, with Eleanor Roosevelt, the Wiltwyck School for boys in upstate New York and campaigned to transform the Domestic Relations Court with her judicial colleagues. McLeod’s careful and highly readable account of these accomplishments inscribes Bolin onto the roster of important social reformers and early civil rights trailblazers.

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • 1. Her Standing in Poughkeepsie: Family Lineage and Legacy
  • 2. On Her Own: The Years at Wellesley and Yale
  • 3. Politics of Preparation: The Making of the Nation’s First African American Woman Judge
  • 4. Politics of Practice: An African American Woman Judge on the Domestic Relations Court
  • 5. Speaking Truth to Power: A View from the Benchof Judge Jane Bolin
  • 6. Persona Non Grata: Jane Bolin and the NAACP, 1931–50
  • Epilogue
  • Notes
  • Index
Tags: , , , , ,

Jane Bolin, the Country’s First Black Woman to Become a Judge, Is Dead at 98

Posted in Articles, Biography, Law, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2014-03-26 20:10Z by Steven

Jane Bolin, the Country’s First Black Woman to Become a Judge, Is Dead at 98

The New York Times
2007-01-10

Douglas Martin

Jane Bolin, whose appointment as a family court judge by Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia in 1939 made her the first black woman in the United States to become a judge, died on Monday in Queens. She was 98 and lived in Long Island City, Queens.

Her death was announced by her son, Yorke B. Mizelle.

Judge Bolin was the first black woman to graduate from Yale Law School, the first to join the New York City Bar Association, and the first to work in the office of the New York City corporation counsel, the city’s legal department.

In January 1979, when Judge Bolin had reluctantly retired after 40 years as a judge, Constance Baker Motley, a black woman and a federal judge, called her a role model.

In her speech, Judge Motley said, “When I thereafter met you, I then knew how a lady judge should comport herself.”.

The “lady judge” was frequently in the news at the time of her appointment with accounts of her regal bearing, fashionable hats and pearls. But her achievements transcended being a shining example. As a family court judge, she ended the assignment of probation officers on the basis of race and the placement of children in child-care agencies on the basis of ethnic background.

Jane Matilda Bolin was born on April 11, 1908, in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Her father, Gaius C. Bolin, was the son of an American Indian woman and an African-American man. Her mother, the former Matilda Emery, was a white Englishwoman…

Read the entire obituary here.

Tags: , , , , ,

A Breezy Chameleon, Blurring Social Borders

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2014-02-17 17:21Z by Steven

A Breezy Chameleon, Blurring Social Borders

The New York Times
2014-02-16

Jennifer Schuessler, Staff Editor

When the literary scholar George Hutchinson was in the archives at Howard University one afternoon a decade ago, he thought he knew which story of a neglected African-American woman writer he was chasing.

He was at work on a biography of Nella Larsen, whose classic Harlem Renaissance novel “Passing” was rediscovered in the 1970s. But while poking around, Mr. Hutchinson noticed a listing for the papers of Anita Thompson Dickinson Reynolds, an obscure contemporary of Larsen’s, and decided to take a look.

There, amid a jumble of letters and cassette tapes, lay an unpublished memoir breezily recounting the Zelig-like adventures of a woman who had starred in some of the first black films made in Hollywood, mingled with the Harlem Renaissance elite, been drawn by Man Ray and Matisse in Paris and touched down in Spain during its Civil War, before packing up her Chanel dresses and heading home to a more conventional life as a psychologist.

It was a story of passing stranger than anything Larsen had imagined, recounted with uncommon sexual frankness and blithe disregard for racial barriers. “I was fascinated by the way she threaded together all these different worlds, with this total nonchalance,” Mr. Hutchinson said in a recent interview. “I had never read anything like it.”

Previously, Reynolds’s name had survived mainly in a few scattered footnotes. But now, Harvard University Press is publishing her memoir, as “American Cocktail: A ‘Colored Girl’ in the World.”…

Read the entire book review here.

Tags: , , ,

Josephine Baker and the Rainbow Tribe

Posted in Biography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Women on 2014-02-15 03:52Z by Steven

Josephine Baker and the Rainbow Tribe

Harvard University Press
April 2014
288 pages
5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
30 halftones
Hardcover ISBN: 9780674047556

Matthew Pratt Guterl, Professor of Africana studies and American studies
Brown University

Creating a sensation with her risqué nightclub act and strolls down the Champs Elysées, pet cheetah in tow, Josephine Baker lives on in popular memory as the banana-skirted siren of Jazz Age Paris. In Josephine Baker and the Rainbow Tribe, Matthew Pratt Guterl brings out a little known side of the celebrated personality, showing how her ambitions of later years were even more daring and subversive than the youthful exploits that made her the first African American superstar.

Her performing days numbered, Baker settled down in a sixteenth-century chateau she named Les Milandes, in the south of France. Then, in 1953, she did something completely unexpected and, in the context of racially sensitive times, outrageous. Adopting twelve children from around the globe, she transformed her estate into a theme park, complete with rides, hotels, a collective farm, and singing and dancing. The main attraction was her Rainbow Tribe, the family of the future, which showcased children of all skin colors, nations, and religions living together in harmony. Les Milandes attracted an adoring public eager to spend money on a utopian vision, and to worship at the feet of Josephine, mother of the world.

Alerting readers to some of the contradictions at the heart of the Rainbow Tribe project—its undertow of child exploitation and megalomania in particular—Guterl concludes that Baker was a serious and determined activist who believed she could make a positive difference by creating a family out of the troublesome material of race.

Table of Contents

  • Prologue
  • 1. Too Busy to Die
  • 2. No More Bananas
  • 3. Citizen of the World
  • 4. Southern Muse
  • 5. Ambitious Assemblages
  • 6. French Disney
  • 7. Mother of a Wounded World
  • 8. Unraveling Plots
  • 9. Rainbow’s End
  • Epilogue
  • Abbreviations
  • Notes
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index

Tags: , , ,

American Cocktail: A “Colored Girl” in the World

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Monographs, Women on 2014-02-12 07:59Z by Steven

American Cocktail: A “Colored Girl” in the World

Harvard University Press
2014-02-17
352 pages
5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
20 halftones
Hardcover ISBN 9780674073050

Anita Reynolds (1901-1980), actress, dancer, model, and psychologist

with

Howard Miller, Professor of Education and Chair in the Department of Secondary Education
Mercy College, Dobbs Ferry, New York

Edited by:

George Hutchinson, Professor of English and Newton C. Farr Professor of American Culture
Cornell University

Foreword by:

Patricia J. Williams, James L. Dohr Professor of Law
Columbia Law School

This is the rollicking, never-before-published memoir of a fascinating woman with an uncanny knack for being in the right place in the most interesting times. Of racially mixed heritage, Anita Reynolds was proudly African American but often passed for Indian, Mexican, or Creole. Actress, dancer, model, literary critic, psychologist, but above all free-spirited provocateur, she was, as her Parisian friends nicknamed her, an “American cocktail.”

One of the first black stars of the silent era, she appeared in Hollywood movies with Rudolph Valentino, attended Charlie Chaplin’s anarchist meetings, and studied dance with Ruth St. Denis. She moved to New York in the 1920s and made a splash with both Harlem Renaissance elites and Greenwich Village bohemians. An émigré in Paris, she fell in with the Left Bank avant garde, befriending Antonin Artaud, Man Ray, and Pablo Picasso. Next, she took up residence as a journalist in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War and witnessed firsthand the growing menace of fascism. In 1940, as the Nazi panzers closed in on Paris, Reynolds spent the final days before the French capitulation as a Red Cross nurse, afterward making a mad dash for Lisbon to escape on the last ship departing Europe.

In prose that perfectly captures the globetrotting nonchalance of its author, American Cocktail presents a stimulating, unforgettable self-portrait of a truly extraordinary woman.

Tags: , , , , , ,

New Rabbi at Manhattan’s Central Synagogue ‘a Pioneer’

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, Religion, United States, Women on 2014-01-28 18:44Z by Steven

New Rabbi at Manhattan’s Central Synagogue ‘a Pioneer’

The Wall Street Journal
2014-01-17

Sophia Hollander

Rabbi Angela Warnick Buchdahl Is Daughter of a Korean Buddhist Immigrant and an American Jew

Growing up as the daughter of a Korean Buddhist immigrant and an American Jew in Tacoma, Wash., Rabbi Angela Warnick Buchdahl said some family members always wondered: Could she ever be fully accepted as a Jew?

Any lingering doubts were eliminated last week when the congregation of Midtown’s historic Central Synagogue voted her to succeed Rabbi Peter Rubinstein, 71, when he retires later this year. Her appointment will take effect July 1.

Rabbi Buchdahl, who is 41, will become one of only a few women—and likely the only Asian-American—leading a major U.S. synagogue. Central Synagogue boasts 100 full-time employees and an endowment that exceeds $30 million.

“She really is a pioneer,” said Rabbi B. Elka Abrahamson, president of the Wexner Foundation, which develops Jewish leaders in North America and Israel. “She represents a new generation of women.” According to the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the largest rabbinical organization in North America, about 30% of Reform-movement rabbis are women.

Her appointment comes at a critical moment for American Judaism. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that the number of U.S. adults identifying as Jewish has dropped by half since the late 1950s. Fewer than a third of Jewish adults said they belonged to a synagogue, temple or other congregation…

…In addition to her unusual cultural heritage, Rabbi Buchdahl has been quick to blur other lines. According to the Central Conference of American Rabbis, she is one of only about a dozen people in the U.S. and Canada ordained as both a rabbi and a cantor

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,