Meet the Viscountess Transforming the Idea of British Aristocracy

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, United Kingdom, Women on 2018-04-26 02:10Z by Steven

Meet the Viscountess Transforming the Idea of British Aristocracy

Vanity Fair
2018-04-25 (May 2018 Issue)

David Kamp, Contributing Editor


Photograph by Simon Upton.
Emma Thynn, the Viscountess Weymouth, on the roof of Longleat House, in Wiltshire, England

Emma Thynn, an extraordinary cook and mother who is positioned to become Britain’s first black marchioness, has recast the mold of aristocracy with her stylish, entrepreneurial spirit—despite a strained relationship with her in-laws.

So there we were, the future ninth Marquess of Bath and me, on a boat patrolling a lake on his family’s estate, each of us holding a plastic cup full of sprats. All at once, some sea lions surfaced starboard, barking expectantly, their whiskery maws wide open. We hustled to the boat’s railing, emptying our cups, tossing the silvery fish to the appreciative beasts. The marquess-to-be took to this task with particular relish, unsqueamish about getting his fingers slimy and barking back at the sea lions, “Urt! Urt! Urt!” As was only appropriate: he is three and a half years old.

The boy’s mother, Emma, Viscountess Weymouth, was leading me on a tour of the estate, Longleat, which includes a drive-through safari park open to the public. John, my fish-tossing comrade and the elder of Emma’s two sons, was tagging along. The park’s animals include tigers, lions, cheetahs, giraffes, red pandas, gorillas, monkeys, rhinos, hippopotamuses, and an Asian elephant, Anne, who was restored to good health after years of abuse in a circus and now lives at Longleat in her own purpose-built facility with a trio of companion goats. There are also walk-through enclosures where visitors can feed smaller animals, such as tamarins and rainbow lorikeets, and there is the boat ride, where a cup of sprats usually goes for £1, a fee that was waived for his lordship and his adult guest…

Emma McQuiston was born in 1986 to a Nigerian father and an English mother. When her husband, Ceawlin, Viscount Weymouth, assumes the title held at the moment by his 86-year-old father, Alexander, the current, and seventh, Marquess of Bath, Emma will become Britain’s first black marchioness. In the ranks of British peerage, a marquess and marchioness are second only to a duke and duchess. And someday, young John, a sweet and precociously eloquent boy with caramel skin and loose black curls, will assume his father’s title and become the United Kingdom’s first marquess of color…

Read the entire article here.

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Writing in Fire: Honoring the Life & Legacy of Michelle Cliff

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Gay & Lesbian, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Women on 2018-04-24 13:49Z by Steven

Writing in Fire: Honoring the Life & Legacy of Michelle Cliff

Yomaira C. Figueroa, Ph.D.
2017-06-28

Yomaira C. Figueroa, Assistant Professor of Global Diaspora Studies
Michigan State University

Michelle Cliff (Nov. 2, 1942-June 12, 2016) was an award-winning Jamaican novelist, essayist, critic, poet, scholar, and teacher. An influential author in Caribbean, feminist, and lesbian writings, some of her notable works include: Abeng, No Telephone to Heaven, Claiming an Identity They Taught Me to Despise, Free Enterprise, If I Could Write This In Fire, and The Land of Look Behind. Cliff’s work reflected many parts of her identity, contemporary sociopolitical concerns stemming from colonialism, and a critical investment in the Caribbean and her diasporas. Her works examine the complexities of identity politics, lesbianism, colorism, colonialism/post-colonialism and revolution – both of the personal variety and the political. On June 22, 2017, we gathered at the Caribbean Philosophical Association Annual Meeting in NYC to honor her life and writing. This post includes the work of the roundtable participants. The roundtable, titled “‘Writing in Fire’: Honoring the Life & Legacy of Michelle Cliff” marked the second year that the Chair of Afro-Diasporic Literatures (me) and the Chair of the Initiative on Gender, Race, and Feminisms (Xhercis Mendez) joined together to propose roundtables to honor Caribbean women writers at the CPA (at the 2016 we celebrated the 10th/11th publication anniversary of M. Jacqui Alexander’s Pedagogies of Crossing). This year two Ph.D. students – Keishla Rivera (Rutgers Newark) and Briona Jones (Michigan State) – joined moderator Xhercis Mendez and I to reflect on the rich inheritance Michelle Cliff has left us. Below are excerpts from the reflections which engendered a powerful and generative dialogue across several topics, fields, and interests…

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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Adrian Piper: The Thinking Canvas

Posted in Articles, Arts, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2018-04-23 00:34Z by Steven

Adrian Piper: The Thinking Canvas

The New York Times
2018-04-19

Holland Cotter, Co-Chief Art Critic


Adrian Piper’s “Self-Portrait Exaggerating My Negroid Features,” 1981. In all of her work, our critic writes, “her aim is not to assert racial identity but to destabilize the very concept of it.”
The Eileen Harris Norton Collection, via Adrian Piper Research Archive Foundation Berlin

She’s an artist and scholar, and at “A Synthesis of Intuitions” you see thinking — about gender, racism, art — happening before your eyes.

Adrian Piper: A Synthesis of Intuitions, 1965-2016” at the Museum of Modern Art is a clarifying and complicating 50-year view of a major American artist’s career. It is also an image-altering event for MoMA itself. It makes the museum feel like a more life-engaged institution than the formally polished one we’re accustomed to.

Despite the show’s retrospective cast, we find fiery issues of the present — racism, misogyny, xenophobia — burning in MoMA’s pristine galleries. The reality that art and its institutions are political to the core — both for what they do and do not say — comes through. And the museum, for once, seems intent on asserting this. For the first time it has given over all of its sixth floor special exhibition space to a single living artist. The artist so honored is a woman, who has focused on, among many other things, the hard fact of racism and the fiction of race.

Ms. Piper was born in New York City in 1948 to parents of mixed racial background. (Her father held two official birth certificates. In one he was designated white, in the other octoroon, one-eighth black.) Raised in a cosmopolitan environment, she studied at the Art Students League in her teens, and in 1966 enrolled at the School of Visual Arts. The MoMA show opens with a salon-style hanging of figurative paintings, including self-portraits, from that time, influenced by 1960 psychedelic graphics and by her youthful experiences with LSD

Read the entire review here.

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Transnational Perspectives on Black Germany

Posted in Canada, Europe, History, Live Events, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, Women on 2018-04-20 02:55Z by Steven

Transnational Perspectives on Black Germany

University of Toronto
Innis Town Hall
2 Sussex Avenue
Toronto, Ontario, M5S 1J5 Canada
2018-05-23 through 2018-05-25

Sponsors: Germanic Languages & Literatures, Cinema Studies Institute, Gender & Women’s Studies Institute, Centre for Transnational & Diaspora Studies, Comparative Literature, SSHRC, Centre for the United States, TIFF, DAAD, and Heinrich Böll Stiftung

The Black German Heritage and Research Association (BGHRA) is collaborating with the Department of Germanic Languages & Literatures and the Cinema Studies Institute at the University of Toronto in hosting the 3-day SSHRC-funded conference, “Transnational Perspectives on Black Germany” in Toronto, Ontario, on May 23-25, 2018. The event will feature keynote addresses by Fatima El-Tayeb and Noah Sow, a screening of “On Second Glance” (dir. Sheri Hagen, 2012) at TIFF’s Bell Lightbox with filmmaker in attendance, and a dance-music-word tribute to Afro-German poet and activist May Ayim by guest artists Layla Zami and Oxana Chi.

REGISTRATION OPEN UNTIL 4/21/2018

For more information, click here.

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Reigning from the Ground: The Gravity of Soledad O’Brien

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2018-04-04 22:43Z by Steven

Reigning from the Ground: The Gravity of Soledad O’Brien

Bitch
Issue #78 | Spring 2018, 2018-03-13

Lisa Factora-Borchers

photography by Margarita Corporan

The rumors circulated and reached me months before I met her. People who knew her in various capacities—from her personal representatives to those who briefly met her at a speaking event—repeated the same sentiment: Even with all her successes and all the reasons not to be, Soledad O’Brien is incredibly sweet and down-to-earth.

Like millions of other CNN viewers, I became familiar with O’Brien’s broadcast journalism in the early 2000s, when she secured her status as one of the few women journalists of color in mainstream media. In 2006, during the zenith of blogging, Heather B. Armstrong, a popular writer in the mom-blogosphere, gushed about meeting O’Brien in person and described her “glowing aura”:

“She was exquisite in every conceivable way, perfect hair and makeup and wardrobe, and when she greeted everyone and made small talk, I got the sense that her brain was wired to a digital encyclopedia of everything that has ever happened on Earth, because she spoke with authority on every topic.”

Some descriptions stay with you, even after 11 years, until you have to shed them as prep—because you can’t interview a master interviewer when you’re preoccupied with talk of glowing auras and infallibility.

O’Brien’s home is a sprawling apartment in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood (where, it should be noted, she has lived since well before its ascent to ultra-gentrified chic). Its white built-in shelves are stacked with impeccably aligned books interrupted by candles, framed photos, and artisan bowls and vases. The place is immaculate, but not intimidating. This feels intentional. As far as the famed O’Brien aura itself, it is a bit different than I imagined. She carries herself with a sense of ease and casual authority; although she comes through the door with her hands and arms full, that doesn’t stop her from calling out friendly greetings to me and the photography team. O’Brien has spent the past three decades telling stories. Google her—every kind of story that a journalist dreams about covering, she’s covered: natural disasters, structural inequality, national identity, politics, sports, and narrative stories from marginalized communities. There isn’t one way to describe her successes; they’re like vines—woven and connected, multitudinous and plentiful. After she dropped out of Harvard, she began working as a reporter, in 1989, for the medical radio show Second Opinion. She spent the ’90s reporting and anchoring weekend and morning shows for NBC before eventually transitioning to CNN in 2003. While anchoring CNN’s American Morning, O’Brien was moved to the documentary division and from 2007 until 2013 hosted the series In America, which eventually led to two spin-offs, Black in America and Latino in America

Read the entire article here.

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How to Survive in a World that Doesn’t Want You: Catherine Johnson’s Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, United Kingdom, Women on 2018-04-01 02:33Z by Steven

How to Survive in a World that Doesn’t Want You: Catherine Johnson’s Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo

theracetoread: Children’s Literature and Issues of Race
2015-10-30

Karen Sands-O’Connor, Professor
English Department
Buffalo State, The State University of New York, Buffalo, New York


“Princess Caraboo” From an engraving by Henry Meyer, after a picture by Edward Bird[1]

If you Google “Caraboo” sometime, one of the sites that comes up is a hypertext edition of an 1817 account of the life of Mary Wilcocks Baker, also known as the Princess Caraboo (http://www.resologist.net/carabooa.htm#N_13_). The mysterious editor of the site (he goes by Mr. X) begins the hypertext with a stern condemnation of the “romantic fictions” that modern versions of Caraboo’s story have presented; and the 1817 account itself acts as a general warning to kind-hearted ladies who take in foreign-looking women. The 1817 version, by John Matthew Gutch, cannot help but admire Mary Wilcocks Baker’s skill at survival and ability to escape detection for so long. At one point he writes, “Cervantes himself could not have expected the realization of so fine a scene” (18). Mr. X, whose other interests include lake monsters in Canada, cannot share in Mr. Gutch’s admiration; he wants to unmask Caraboo as an “imposter”.

This is a copy of Mr. E. Bird’s portrait of “Caraboo” in the clothing that she made as part of her “native” costume. An engraving of this portrait was inserted into John Matthew Gutch’s version of Caraboo’s story, and it is also mentioned in Johnson’s version.

For Mr. X, the reasons why this young woman would have taken on a new identity are irrelevant. To imagine that criminals have honorable motives is nothing more than romantic fiction. But Mr. X—who, interestingly, has himself taken on an alternate identity— has never, if we can take him at “face” value, been a woman. Catherine Johnson, in her recent novel for the young adult audience, The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo, clearly does know what it is like to be a woman, and she shows in her eponymous character a vulnerable, poor, mixed race girl in Britain’s early 19th century who rises above the situation in which she finds herself to not only survive, but thrive…

Read the entire review here.

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What It Really Feels Like To Be Asked “What Are You?”

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2018-03-27 01:50Z by Steven

What It Really Feels Like To Be Asked “What Are You?”

Refinery29
2018-02-28

Khalea Underwood


Nali Henry, 19, Artist Photographed by Myles Loftin.

Where are you from?”

Florida.”

“Where are your parents from?”

“My mom’s from Ohio and my dad’s from Florida.”

“But, you know what I mean: What are you?

This is the way most conversations with Tasha Gear, a 25-year-old photographer based in New York City, start. Tasha, who’s half Black and half white, has been fielding questions about her background since she could talk. “People barely say two words to me and then ask what I am,” she says. And hers is not an isolated experience.

Since interracial marriage was legalized in 1967, the percentage of interracial couples in the U.S. has grown from three percent to 17 percent. As a result, a new generation of ethnically ambiguous young people has formed; nearly one in seven infants born is considered “multi-racial,” according to a recent Pew Research Center study

These young men and women — and the love they were born out of — should be cause for celebration. But in more cases, their experience is fetishism (every rapper on the top 40 list talks about bagging a “foreign” chick), speculation (“but what are you, really?”), or even a dismissal of identity within their own cultures.

In their own words, five multi-ethnic young people — who all identify as Black in some way — explain why they’re rejecting the “what are you?” question to explain who they really are…

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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