For over 400 years it’s been claimed that the first Medici Duke of Florence was mixed race, his mother a slave of African descent. Catherine Fletcher of Swansea University asks if this extraordinary story about the 16th-century Italian political dynasty could be true. Or do the tales of Alessandro de’ Medici tell us more about the history of racism and anti-racism than about the man himself?
The New Generation Thinkers are the winners of an annual scheme run by the BBC and the Arts and Humanities Research Council to find academics at the start of their careers who can turn their research into fascinating broadcasts.
The Essay was recorded in front of an audience at the Free Thinking Festival at Sage Gateshead. If you want to hear Catherine Fletcher discussing her research you can download the Essay and conversation as an Arts and Ideas podcast.
Growing up in San Antonio, Brown said she struggled to find other representations of herself — an Afro-Latina woman from a working class family — both in her community and literature.
“I remember reading books and being so invested in the characters and the story, and then I would get to a certain line in the story where it would describe what the character looked like. And then I would realize, this book is not talking about me,” she said. “Part of my work is to always go back for little girl Ariana and figure out what it is she needed that she didn’t get.”
In high school, Brown picked up the autobiography of Malcolm X. He was “someone who was also working class, from a poor family, a family of color, who didn’t have access to opportunities, who came from a neighborhood where you weren’t expected to excel,” she said.
Reading about the way Malcolm X used language to command attention gave her a road map for her own future, she said…
…Brown’s poem “Inhale: The Ceremony” speaks to her relationship to her ancestors, a history that she said is often unacknowledged or disrespected. “I’m never racialized as Latina. I’m always racialized as black. My whole identity isn’t acknowledged [and] I’m assumed to be an outsider in almost every space I enter. That is a very isolating feeling,” she said…
Why does lighter skin improve women’s chances of getting through school, getting a job and getting married? Cristen and Caroline explore the historical roots, repercussions and cross-cultural shades of colorism around the world.
Listen to the episode (00:48:48) here. Download the episode here.
“What are you?” The question can often comes out of nowhere One can be going about her quotidian activities, or she might have just finished a meeting at work. “What are you?” The question is disorienting for most, but for others who are racially ambiguous it is commonplace. The ostensibly benign question suggests that it is about the person being asked. However, one might argue that it is more about the one who does the asking. In The Souls of Mixed Folk: Race, Politics, and Aesthetics in the New Millenium (Stanford University Press, 2011), Michele Elam critically discusses the rise of the Mixed Race Studies. To demonstrate the new sub-genre of cultural studies in both art and academia Elam shows elements of what mixed-racedness looks like in the classroom, as well as in the public sphere here at the turn of the 21st century.
One of the contributions of Elam’s Souls makes to Mixed Race Studies is her careful outline of the ways people of mixed biological ancestry have historically worked for the goal of social justice for all oppressed groups; moreover, she shows how those who look at mixed-racedness critically continue to do so. This, despite the trajectory in which some of mixed-race advocates are moving: people of mixed-race backgrounds are a separate group with separate issues, and most importantly, being both black and white–and that is most often the only definition many use of being “mixed”–their experience falls outside the purview of race studies. This notion of being separate and outside is often used to justify a view of race that essentially reifies notions of identity as being defined by blood percentage–a point of view that takes us back, not forward. While those who critically study mixed- raceness see that one’s movement through a society that continues to ask What are you? can result in alternate experiences, many show that the difference can work in a way to help all understand racial oppression. Dr. Michele Elam, Martin Luther King, Jr. Centennial Professor in the English Department at Stanford University, falls within the latter group.
And, so do Lezley Saar, Danzy Senna, Philip Roth, Aaron McGruder, and Dave Chappelle, to name but a few. A mixed bag, for sure, Elam examines relevant works of the aforementioned artists as she considers the way in which they challenge what is quickly becoming conventional thought on mixed-racedness from the academic classroom to the public sphere.
Whether one is fascinated with her critical reading of K-12 textbooks focused on mixed race curriculum or with her reading of artist Lezley Saar’s “Baby Halfie Brown Head”; with her insightful readings of Aaron McGruder’s Boondocks comic strips and/or the unforgettable episode “The Racial Draft” from The Dave Chappelle Show; whether one is interested in the ways that author Colson Whitehead and playwright Carl Hancock Rux ask their audiences to think critically about mixed-racedness in the 21st century one thing is clear: Elam first highlights and subsequently knocks down the notion that “fetishizing the box” of the racial categories on census forms or outlining one’s mixed family tree represents progression towards a most just society in the US.
Today a new exhibition examining how food, fashion and lifestyle have shaped women’s bodies and lives opens at York Castle Museum. The curator Ali Bodley and fashion historian Lucy Adlington join Jenni to talk about 400 years of squeezing and binding. And, how the current vogue for big bottoms and padded underwear echoes the false rumps of the past.
Mary Magdalene – what do we know about the woman who was described as the constant companion of Jesus, who wept at the foot of the Cross, and who gave the first account of the empty tomb? What is it about her story that continues to fascinate and what evidence is there that she was a prostitute or even the wife of Jesus? Michael Haag author of The Quest for Mary Magdalene speaks to Jenni.
Penrose Halson author of “Marriages are Made In Bond Street” traces the history of one of Britain’s most successful marriage bureaux founded by two twenty-four year olds in the Spring of 1939. Penrose eventually became the proprietor and she tells Jenni about the remarkable cross-section of British society in the 1940’s who found partners through this tiny London office.
Listen to the episode here. Download the episode here.
Growing up in New Orleans, Yaba Blay saw firsthand the different roles one navigates as an African-American. At home, she had to adjust to the Ghanaian culture of her parents, but outside the house, her dark skin set her apart from New Orleans’ light-skinned Creole community.
As Blay grew older, she began to explore how the ways in which she presented herself as a black woman defined her sense of self. Her work as a scholar, producer and publisher includes projects analyzing skin color in the U.S. and Ghana and hair care in black communities.
What does it mean to mixed race? It’s a term recognized but rarely considered in conversations about race and racial identity. However, it should be since according to reports, multiracial individuals are the fastest growing youth group. Seattle-based author activist, Sharon H. Chang debuts her first book Raising Mixed Race: Multiracial Asian Children In a Post-Racial World. Sonya Green interviewed Sharon. She started by defining what race means.
Nicola Codner, Founder and Creator Mixed Race Feminist Blog Leeds, Yorkshire, United Kingdom
Ep. 52: Nicola Codner is a multiracial woman (Black Jamaican, Nigerian and White British), born and living in Leeds, Yorkshire within the UK. She is a counselor, and she feels that her background has given her a love for diversity and the ability to appreciate multiple perspectives. Prior to training as a counselor she worked in academic publishing.