Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni on Growing Up with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, Race, and What It Takes to Do a One-Woman Show

Posted in Articles, Arts, Census/Demographics, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Interviews, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2014-10-31 01:49Z by Steven

Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni on Growing Up with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, Race, and What It Takes to Do a One-Woman Show

Phoenix New Times

Zaida Dedolph

Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni stars in a one-woman show written by her and produced by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni wants to talk about race in America — and she’s got an idea of where she wants to start. The writer-actor-director-producer extraordinaire will bring her one-woman show, One Drop of Love, to Mesa Arts Center on Saturday, November 1.

Inspired by her own experiences with race, family, and reconciliation, One Drop of Love endeavors to explore these concepts in a funny, relatable way. In addition to giving two performances, Cox DiGiovanni will be hosting a panel discussion and community dialogue on Thursday, October 31, at the Arizona Opera Center. We spoke with the creative about her performance, her history, and her first-ever visit to Arizona.

Zaida Dedolph: Fanshen, you seem to wear a lot of hats. Where did you learn to do all of these things?

Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni: I mostly see myself as an actor — that’s why I moved to Los Angeles and what I’ve been pursuing for the longest time in a creative capacity. I’ve known I wanted to be an actor since I was very young, but at the mean time I had all these other interests. So I joined the Peace Corps in West Africa and that got me into teaching, so I balanced teaching and acting.

As an actor, especially in LA, I started to notice that I wasn’t booking but I also was auditioning for things that I didn’t feel good about or proud of, so it was hard to bring my all to an audition when I felt like the roles were demeaning or just not me. As much as I think it’s good to stretch as an actor, it’s also good to know that you’ve got at least a base that you can work from. So I started to learn about writing.

It helps that I grew up with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and was incredibly fortunate to watch them take a story that they believed in, then write that story, and write themselves into lead roles in that story, and then turn it into Good Will Hunting. So I had some people close to me to model the fact that I could write characters that I could feel good about and be proud of.

I started learning about writing, did some stand-up, wrote a couple feature-length screenplays, so now I had this writing and some characters I was proud of, but then I asked “what’s next, how do I get these characters out there?” and realized I needed to learn how to produce as well. I joined a program in Los Angeles called Project Involve [a faction of Film Independent that works to support filmmakers from backgrounds that are not frequently represented in the film industry] and learned a little more about producing.

My husband was researching MFA schools and found the most affordable one in the country was at California State University [at] Los Angeles, so I followed him into the program. That’s where I really learned hands on producing. One Drop of Love was my thesis for the MFA program, so I got to put all the things that I learned together. That’s how I ended up producing and performing and writing…

..ZD: When it comes to the American discussion of race, what issues do you think we are focusing too much attention on? Which ones do you think we should be paying more mind to?

FCD: I hope people walk away from the show [understanding] that we tend to focus too much on our differences when it comes to race. In the show I try to make it clear that race doesn’t exist genetically, and yes, we’ve all kind of come to a place where we believe in it culturally and politically, but genetically there is zero difference, as was proven by Human Genome Project.

In the show, I take the racial categories from the first U.S. Census in the 1790s. It had three racial categories and has been changed 24 times since then, now there are so many racial categories on the census. Anything that can change that easily can’t have any real, strong bearing on anything! Unfortunately, we’ve let it become so important.

I hope people will focus less on what our differences in race are and focus on what we all have in common, which is that none of us want racism. We created race to oppress people, so let’s not focus on these differences and instead focus on where we can unify…

Read the entire interview here.

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ArtsBlast: One resonating drop of Fanshen

Posted in Articles, Arts, Census/Demographics, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2014-10-31 00:48Z by Steven

ArtsBlast: One resonating drop of Fanshen

Jennifer Haaland

One conversation with Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni was all it took. After her Examiner interview yesterday, filled with embracing words and vibrant kindness, it was clear that a whole lot more than One Drop of Love is coming to the Phoenix Valley and gracing the Mesa Arts Center stage this weekend.

“The crowd can’t just sit back and watch. Everyone is involved in this story,” said Cox DiGiovanni of the inclusive environment the show exudes. “I’ll be playing lots of characters, sometimes coming out into the house, talking to and asking questions of the audience.”

Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are notable among the show’s past participants. As producers of Cox DiGiovanni’s One Drop of Love, a dynamic multimedia live, solo performance that explores how race has been constructed in the United States, they too were deeply affected by the message conveyed…

Read the entire article here.

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A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life, by Allyson Hobbs

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2014-10-30 20:23Z by Steven

A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life, by Allyson Hobbs

Times Higher Education
London, United Kingdom

Catherine Clinton, Denman Endowed Professor in American History (University of Texas); International Professor in U.S. History (Queen’s University, Belfast)

Those who masqueraded as white scarred more than just themselves, finds Catherine Clinton

Questions of diversity and colour, race and status are central to studies of modern society, especially in 21st-century America, where the election of Barack Obama – born of a white mother and a black African father – as president has made the consideration of all things African American both urgent and fashionable. These pursuits have spurred an ambitious generation of academics to reconsider scholarly convention and to embrace rather than evade complex issues of racial politics and practice – not least those highlighted in the histories of light-skinned black Americans who abandoned birth families, kin networks and communities to cross the colour line and “pass” into the world of white privilege.

While literary scholars have long mined the “tragic mulatto” theme, until recently US historians have rarely explored and barely acknowledged the clandestine world of the tens of thousands of black people, across many generations, who masqueraded as white. Here, Allyson Hobbs provides fresh analysis of an oft-ignored phenomenon, and the result is as fascinating as it is innovative. She foregrounds the sense of loss that passing inflicted, and argues that many of those who were left behind were just as wounded and traumatised as those who departed. Those who passed may have had much to gain, but what were the hidden costs, the invisible scars of enforced patterns of subversion and suppression? She suggests that the core issue of passing is not what an individual becomes, but rather “losing what you pass away from”…

A Chosen Exile is given depth and resonance by Hobbs’ excavation of a wide range of sources, and she is as adept at tracking nuance in antebellum “runaway slave” advertisements as she is at spotting the modern trend for advertising to address Generation E. A. – ethnically ambiguous – consumers. She is also insightful at capturing the tone and texture of life for those who saw masquerading as white as the road not taken. In the 1930s, the black writer Charles Chesnutt told an interviewer who asked why he had not passed: “I married a woman darker than myself, and I will never go where she is not welcome, too.”…

Read the entire review here.

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A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life – Allyson Hobbs

Posted in Audio, Forthcoming Media, History, Interviews, Live Events, Passing, United States on 2014-10-28 21:10Z by Steven

A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life – Allyson Hobbs

Research at the National Archives and Beyond
BlogTalk Radio
Thursday, 2014-11-06, 21:00 EST (Friday, 2014-11-07, 02:00Z)

Bernice Bennett, Host

Allyson Hobbs is an assistant professor in the history department at Stanford. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and she received a Ph.D. with distinction from the University of Chicago. She has received fellowships from the Ford Foundation, the Clayman Institute for Gender Research, and the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity at Stanford. Allyson teaches courses on American identity, African American history, African American women’s history, and twentieth century American history. She has won numerous teaching awards including the Phi Beta Kappa Teaching Prize. She has appeared on C-SPAN and National Public Radio and her work has been featured on and Allyson’s first book, A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life, published by Harvard University Press, examines the phenomenon of racial passing in the United States from the late eighteenth century to the present.

For more information, click here.

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Shows: One Drop of Love

Posted in Arts, Census/Demographics, Forthcoming Media, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Live Events, Social Science, United States on 2014-10-28 20:57Z by Steven

Shows: One Drop of Love

Mesa Arts Center
Nesbitt/Elliott Playhouse
One East Main Street
Mesa, Arizona 85201
Box Office: (480) 644.6500

Performing Live Series
Saturday, 2014-11-01, 15:00 & 19:30 MT (Local Time)

Produced by Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and the show’s writer/performer Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni, One Drop of Love is a multimedia one woman show. It incorporates film, photographs, and animation to examine how ‘race’ has been constructed in the United States and how it can influence our most intimate relationships.

For more information, click here.

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Historical Origins of the One-Drop Racial Rule in the United States

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, United States on 2014-10-27 20:48Z by Steven

Historical Origins of the One-Drop Racial Rule in the United States

Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies
Volume 1, Issue 1 (2014)
pages 98-132

Winthrop D. Jordan (1931-2007), Emeritus Professor of History and African-American Studies
University of Mississippi

Edited by:

Paul Spickard, Professor of History; Professor of Asian American Studies
University of California, Santa Barbara

Winthrop Jordan, one of the most honored of US historians, wrote about racial mixing a generation before there was a field of mixed race studies. At the time of his death, he left an unfinished manuscript: “Historical Origins of the One-Drop Racial Rule in the United States.” For this inaugural issue of the JCMRS, Jordan’s former student Paul Spickard, himself a foundational scholar of multiracial studies from the first wave of scholarship in the late 1980s and early 1990s, has edited Jordan’s final article.

The One-Drop Rule: The US Anomaly and Its Fateful Consequences

Historians and scholars in other disciplines have generated a huge corpus of studies about the concept of race while ignoring, for the most part, one of the most important features of race relations in the United States. In this country, the social standard for individuals is superficially simple: if a person of whatever age or gender is believed to have any African ancestry, that person is regarded as black. Basically, by this social rule, a person was, and is, either black or not. Any person of racially or ethnically mixed descent who has some “Negro blood” has been or still is regarded as “colored,” or “African,” or “Negro,” or “black,” or “Afro-American,” or “African American”—whatever designation has prevailed by convention at the time. This social rule has been easy to overlook because it is so close to home, often in a personal way, and because it involves self-identification as well as identification of others. Almost all people in the United States tend to operate perceptually and conceptually according to this simple social rule concerning race without stopping to question its logic. Why question the way the world works when that way is so obvious? And far from questioning the rule, many Americans seem almost resistant to acknowledging its existence, and some of those who have thought about the rule angrily assign blame to some nefarious group for promoting it.

When it comes to race, Americans see themselves, and many overseas people as well, in a bicolored fashion—either/or—black or white. Surely this is an interesting chromometric assessment of skin complexion. We should ask ourselves why nearly all the people playing on basketball courts are said to be one of the same two colors as piano keys. For one thing, no human being has a complexion that is fully black or completely white. And all these players, whether white or black, have a light and dark side of their hands. In addition, bifurcating these or any people subtly negates the underlying unity of humankind and its common genetic and historical roots.

In the United States some medical geneticists have blithely ignored the one-drop rule while urging genetic profiles of different races as they relate to susceptibility to different diseases. These proposals have been strongly denounced by some geneticists and by scholars in other disciplines who point to the obvious fact that a great many socially defined African Americans have a genetic background that is far less than even fifty percent African. Historians have been less prone to disagreement among themselves, but they have simply been neglectful about asking how and why this social rule developed. The focus in this inquiry is on the social aspects of the rule, and thus the definition of the rule used here is somewhat broader than is necessary when discussing the genetics of its operation.

The term “one-drop rule” has its own rather curious history. It was used repeatedly in scholarly works on race relations more than a generation ago. Today, it can be found in a wide variety of publications that deal with race relations in the United States. Yet the lexical community has been either negligent or resistant about the term, for as of a very few years ago, all the purportedly unabridged dictionaries of the English language and their updated collegiate versions did not include it. These dictionaries have begun to catch up as dictionaries and facsimiles like Wikipedia have become ubiquitous online. Even the venerable Oxford English Dictionary, which is supposedly based on historical principles, has an online version that now includes the term. The phrase currently appears in many books, magazines, and on the Internet, firmly supported by its conciseness in referring to a powerful social rule…

Read the entire article here.

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Negro? Prieto? Moreno? A Question of Identity for Black Mexicans

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Census/Demographics, History, Media Archive, Mexico, Social Science on 2014-10-26 17:33Z by Steven

Negro? Prieto? Moreno? A Question of Identity for Black Mexicans

The New York Times

Randal C. Archibold, Bureau Chief for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean

JOSÉ MARÍA MORELOS, Mexico — Hernán Reyes calls himself “negro” — black — plain and simple.

After some thought, Elda Mayren decides she is “Afromexicana,” or African-Mexican.

Candido Escuen, a 58-year-old papaya farmer, is not quite sure what word to use, but he knows he is not mestizo, or mixed white and native Indian, which is how most Mexicans describe themselves.

“Prieto,” or dark, “is what a lot of people call me,” he said.

This isolated village is named for an independence hero, thought to have had black ancestors, who helped abolish slavery in Mexico. It lies in the rugged hills of southwestern Mexico, among a smattering of towns and hamlets that have long embraced a heritage from African slaves who were brought here to work in mines and on sugar plantations in the 16th century.

Just how many people are willing to share that pride may soon be put to the test as Mexico moves to do something it has not attempted in decades and never on its modern census: ask people if they consider themselves black.

Or Afromexican. Or “moreno,” “mascogo,” “jarocho,” or “costeño” — some of the other terms sometimes used to describe black Mexicans.

What term or terms to use is not just a matter of personal and societal debate, but a longstanding dilemma that the government is hoping finally to resolve…

Read the entire article and view the slide show here.

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Revisiting Middlebury’s Racial History

Posted in Articles, Biography, Campus Life, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2014-10-23 19:55Z by Steven

Revisiting Middlebury’s Racial History

The Middlebury Campus
Middlebury College
Middlebury, Vermont

Conor Grant, Managing Editor

Alexander Twilight Hall, a building named in honor of Alexander Twilight of the class of 1823, is just one part of the complicated legacy of America’s first black college graduate. (Courtesy/Middlebury)

Alexander Twilight Hall — the austere brick building separating the town from Middlebury College — is named for Alexander Twilight, the 1823 Middlebury College graduate who is known today as the first American black college graduate.

Today, Twilight is widely touted as an example of Middlebury’s rich legacy of inclusivity and racial diversity.

But who exactly was Alexander Twilight? Was he really the first black man at Middlebury?

The answer to that question is more complicated than it might first appear…

Read the entire article here.

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Whiteness as Property

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2014-10-23 15:36Z by Steven

Whiteness as Property

Harvard Law Review
Volume 106, Number 8 (June 1993)
pages 1707-1791

Cheryl I. Harris, Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Professor in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
School of Law
University of California, Los Angeles

Issues regarding race and racial identity as well as questions pertaining to property rights and ownership have been prominent in much public discourse in the United States. In this article, Professor Harris contributes to this discussion by positing that racial identity and property are deeply interrelated concepts. Professor Harris examines how whiteness, initially constructed as a form of racial identity, evolved into a form of property, historically and presently acknowledged and protected in American law. Professor Harris traces the origins of whiteness as property in the parallel systems of domination of Black and Native American peoples out of which were created racially contingent forms of property and property rights. Following the period of slavery and conquest, whiteness became the basis of racialized privilege—a type of status in which white racial identity provided the basis for allocating societal benefits both private and public in character. These arrangements were ratified and legitimated in law as a type of status property. Even as legal segregation was overturned, whiteness as property continued to serve as a barrier to effective change as the system of racial classification operated to protect entrenched power.

Next, Professor Harris examines how the concept of whiteness as property persists in current perceptions of racial identity, in the law’s misperception of group identity and in the Court’s reasoning and decisions in the arena of affirmative action. Professor Harris concludes by arguing that distortions in affirmative action doctrine can only be addressed by confronting and exposing the property interest in whiteness and by acknowledging the distributive justification and function of affirmative action as central to that task.


    • A. Forms of Racialized Property: Relationships Between Slavery, Race, and Property
      • 1. The Convergence of Racial and Legal Status
      • 2. Implications for Property
    • B. Forms of Racialized Property: Relationships Between Native American Land Seizure, Race, and Property
    • C. Critical Characteristics of Property and Whiteness
      • 1. Whiteness as a Traditional Form of Property
      • 2. Modern Views of Property as Defining Social Relations
      • 3. Property and Expectations
      • 4. The Property Functions of Whiteness
        • (a) Rights of Disposition
        • (b) Right to Use and Enjoyment
        • (c) Reputation and Status Property
        • (d) The Absolute Right to Exclude
    • D. White Legal Identity: The Law’s Acceptance and Legitimation of Whiteness as Property
      • 1. Whiteness as Racialized Privilege
      • 2. Whiteness, Rights, and National Identity
    • A. Plessy
    • B. Brown I
    • C. Brown II
    • D. Brown’s Mixed Legacy
    • A. The Persistence of Whiteness as Valued Social Identity
    • B. Subordination Through Denial of Group Identity
    • C. Subjugation Through Affirmative Action Doctrine
      • 1. Bakke
      • 2. Croson
      • 3. Wygant
    • A. Corrective Justice, Sin, and Whiteness as Property
    • B. Affirmative Action: A New Form of Status Property?
    • C. What Affirmative Action Has Been; What Affirmative Action Might Become

…Because the “presumption of freedom [arose] from color [white]” and the “black color of the race [raised] the presumption of slavery,” whiteness became a shield from slavery, a highly volatile and unstable form of property. In the form adopted in the United States, slavery made human beings market-alienable and in so doing, subjected human life and personhood—that which is most valuable—to the ultimate devaluation. Because whites could not be enslaved or held as slaves, the racial line between white and Black was extremely critical; it became a line of protection and demarcation from the potential threat of commodification, and it determined the allocation of the benefits and burdens of this form of property. White identity and whiteness were sources of privilege and protection; their absence meant being the object of property.

Slavery as a system of property facilitated the merger of white identity and property. Because the system of slavery was contingent on and conflated with racial identity, it became crucial to be “white,” to be identified as white, to have the property of being white. Whiteness was the characteristic, the attribute, the property of free human beings…

Read the entire article here.

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Season 2, Episode 6: Stanford Prof. Allyson Hobbs Talks about A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life

Posted in Audio, History, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2014-10-22 18:23Z by Steven

Season 2, Episode 6: Stanford Prof. Allyson Hobbs Talks about A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life

The Mixed Experience

Heidi Durrow, Host

Allyson Hobbs, Assistant Professor of History
Stanford University

I was lucky enough to get an advance reading copy of A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life, a most excellent book by Stanford Professor Allyson Hobbs. She recently did a TED Talk about the role of grief in these narratives of racial crossing. The book very aptly and eloquently “examines how passing became both a strategy for survival and an avenue to loss.” You will love this interview with Allyson Hobbs as she explains the inspiration for this book, a brief discussion on the idea of “passing as black” and much much more.

Listen to the episode here. Download the episode here.

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