Britain’s black history has been shamefully whitewashed

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2017-01-16 02:11Z by Steven

Britain’s black history has been shamefully whitewashed

The Spectator

Hakim Adi, Professor of the History of Africa and the African Diaspora
University of Chichester, Chichester, West Sussex, United Kingdom

Author David Olusoga (Photo: Getty)

I have been researching and writing about black British history for over 30 years but never before have I been fortunate enough to review a 600-page book on the subject, published to accompany a recent major BBC documentary. The book and the four-part series give some indication of the extent of a history which David Olusoga presents as ‘forgotten’: the subject, he argues, has been largely excluded from the mainstream narrative of British history. Why it should be forgotten, and who might have forgotten it should give us all pause for reflection, since the denial of black British history by those who should know better could be considered tantamount to racism.

Olusoga reminds us that Britain’s ‘island story’ cannot be understood in isolation from the rest of the world and certainly not from Africa and other parts of what was once the British empire. He also demonstrates that Africans were often a central part of Britain’s history centuries before the empire, going back to the Roman period and beyond. Indeed, he argues that black British history is not just about black people but about encounters between blacks and whites, including intermarriage or the ‘mixed relationships’ that have been commented on since Elizabethan times.

The latest archaeological techniques and historical research show that in Roman Britain there were many individuals of African heritage of all classes. We are now becoming more familiar with the fourth-century ‘Ivory Bangle Lady’ of York and ‘The Beachy Head Lady’ from sub-Saharan Africa, thought to have lived in East Sussex c. 200 AD. It seems likely that soon we will have more conclusive evidence that Africans were travelling to Britain long before the arrival of the Romans

Read the entire review here.

Tags: , ,

The World of Zadie Smith: Mixed-Race People and Polychromatic Dreams

Posted in Africa, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2017-01-12 03:42Z by Steven

The World of Zadie Smith: Mixed-Race People and Polychromatic Dreams

The Wire

Radhika Oberoi

Swing Time like its predecessors is intensely curious about race, but it is also curious about so much more than race, such as Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Ali Baba Goes to Town and Michael Jackson.

Cool Britannia, slickly marketed by Tony Blair’s Labour government, was hardly a monochromatic one. The London of Alexander McQueen, Oasis, Blur, Damien Hurst and the Spice Girls was a pastiche of the preceding Conservative regimes and a variegated motif of multiculturalism. White Teeth, that rollicking sketch of the post-colonial migrant experience, that comical world of inter-locking narratives – a genre that James Wood compellingly defined as ‘hysterical realism’ – landed amidst the boisterous icons of Cool Britannia in 2000, announcing the arrival of Zadie Smith – young, black, British, freckled, high cheek-boned.

White Teeth, an ostensibly hilarious examination of the vagaries of racially mixed friendships, is perhaps the loudest testimony to what Smith does best – bring the Joneses, the Iqbals and the Chalfens together in the hybrid topography of Willesden in north-west London. The book is, as described by Smith herself, in an interview, “…a kind of mishmash, as first novels tend to be”. Swing Time, Smith’s newest fiction, published in November 2016, is an evocation of that very universe – a hotchpotch of people and places, a medley of sights and sounds and smells. It is also a deeper and somewhat quieter rumination on race…

Read the entire review here.

Tags: , ,

In Roxane Gay’s Difficult Women, you’re either difficult or you’re dead

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2017-01-10 01:36Z by Steven

In Roxane Gay’s Difficult Women, you’re either difficult or you’re dead


Constance Grady, Culture Writer

When Roxane Gay picks up a label, she’ll play with it, rip it apart a little, break it down, and finally embrace it. She did it in 2014 with her essay collection, Bad Feminist, which explored what it means to be a committed feminist who also likes to dance to “Blurred Lines,” who is not beholden to an ideological purity. And now she’s doing it again in her new short story collection, Difficult Women.

A difficult woman, in these stories, is usually a woman who has been hurt, typically by living under the patriarchy and under white supremacy. The injuries vary, ranging in scope from the blunt force of unimaginable trauma to the death-by-a-thousand-papercuts of daily microaggressions.

In “I Will Follow You,” the difficult woman was kidnapped by a child molester when she was 10 years old. In “La Negra Blanca,” she’s a mixed-race med student who moonlights as a stripper and is constantly fetishized by men who think of her as a white girl with a black girl’s ass. In “Best Features,” she’s a fat woman who is quietly furious at how worthless the world considers her to be…

Read the entire review here.

Tags: , ,

The Latinos of Asia: How Filipino Americans Break the Rules of Race [Review]

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2017-01-06 01:49Z by Steven

The Latinos of Asia: How Filipino Americans Break the Rules of Race [Review]

Sociology of Race and Ethnicity
Volume 3, Issue 1, (January 2017)
pages 145-146
DOI: 10.1177/2332649216676788

Emily Walton, Assistant Professor of Sociology
Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire

Anthony Christian Ocampo, The Latinos of Asia: How Filipino Americans Break the Rules of Race. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2016. 272 pp. $22.95. ISBN 978-0-8047-9754-2

“For the first time ever, I felt like I was reading about my life,” my Filipina student told me when returning my copy of The Latinos of Asia. Her reaction highlights a major strength of Anthony Ocampo’s new book: It weaves an untold story. Though Filipinos are one of America’s longest-residing ethnic groups, academic and popular discourse provide little understanding of factors shaping their identity. Ocampo highlights the lived experiences of Filipino Americans as they navigate the multiple structures influencing their identities—legacies of colonization by both Spain and the United States, neighborhood environments, and educational institutions—structures that operate differently depending on one’s stage in the life course. On this front, The Latinos of Asia is a considerable achievement. Because of its broad accessibility, Ocampo’s book fills an important gap in our knowledge about an often-overlooked group while also providing a foundation for understanding the “unwritten rules of race.”

Ocampo’s book begins with a historical analysis of four centuries of colonial and dictatorial regimes in the Philippines. Having spent more than 300 years as a colony of Spain, today the Philippines is the only majority Roman Catholic society in Asia, Spanish words are embedded in Filipino languages, and there is a deep cultural focus on family as the center of social life. The subsequent 50 years of U.S. colonial rule resulted in continued subjection to extensive “civilization” projects for “America’s little brown brothers.” Most consequential was the complete overhaul of the educational system, which established English as the primary language of instruction. Independence from colonialism in 1946 was ultimately bittersweet, however, as it ushered in a period of poverty in the Philippines. Centuries of colonial rule had depleted the country’s rich natural resources, facilitated the underdevelopment of the national economy, and created a large pool of educated workers facing limited labor market opportunities. Dictator Ferdinand Marcos stepped in with promises of economic reform and established a labor migration program that funneled skilled Filipino workers throughout the world…

Read the entire review here.

Tags: , , ,

National Colors: Racial Classification and the State in Latin America [Review]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2017-01-06 01:16Z by Steven

National Colors: Racial Classification and the State in Latin America [Review]

Sociology of Race and Ethnicity
Volume 3, Issue 1, (January 2017)
pages 141-145
DOI: 10.1177/2332649216676789

Mark Q. Sawyer, Associate Professor of Political Science
University of California, Los Angeles

Mara Loveman, National Colors: Racial Classification and the State in Latin America. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2014. 376 pp. $26.95. ISBN 978-0-19-933736-1

States, and in particular Latin American states, have been classified by race. National Colors: Racial Classification and the State in Latin America by Mara Loveman seeks to answer how and why states do so. The book is remarkable for its depth and scope, analyzing several countries essentially from some of the earliest colonial attempts at measurement driven by central authorities to contemporary census policies that may follow the dictates of social movements and international organizations.

Loveman rightly argues that states do not make race out of nothing but rather pick recognizable signs of human variation and endow them with characteristics and also use these axes as a means of allocating social value, either formally or informally. Loveman notes there can be slippage between state, personal, and socially recognized categorization, given all parties have different ideologies and incentives with regard to categorization. However, out of the cacophony emerge dominant discourses and ideas that define race for groups of people that come to be defined as discrete populations. But the Latin American story is not without complications at various historical points. Different logics have driven state categorization, and the state may not formally categorize at all.

Mara Loveman argues that the census first reflected colonial issues and concerns. It buttressed national projects developed by state elites. Colonial administrators saw populations as “key resources” to be enumerated. Racial categories imposed by colonial authorities identified the civilized and the uncivilized and in many cases outlined castes and detailed racial-ethnic mixtures and hierarchies that in different forms have remained part of the racial lexicon in Latin America. Loveman follows what has become the growing orthodoxy applied to historical and contemporary race in Latin America. She correctly finds that colonial authorities constructed and maintained elaborate racial hierarchies, which related to forced labor, land dispossession, and social and economic discrimination. Categories thus had material and symbolic consequences.

Loveman joins scholars like Michael Hanchard, Edward Telles, Peter Wade, Melissa Nobles, Tianna Paschel, Christina Sue, and Tanya Golash-Boza, who document both the ways in which white elites maintained racial hierarchies using the state, and how blacks, Indians, and mixed-raced individuals resisted categorization and racial discrimination in big and small ways…

Read the entire review here.

Tags: , , ,

Chan by Hannah Lowe

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2016-12-30 23:59Z by Steven

Chan by Hannah Lowe

The London Magazine

Amanda Merritt

Hannah Lowe’s latest collection of poetry Chan (Bloodaxe, 2016) revisits the characters and stories from her first collection, Chick (Bloodaxe, 2013), which won the Michaels Murphy memorial Award for Best First Collection, and was short-listed for the Forward, Aldeburgh and Seamus Heaney Best First Collection Prizes. Named one of the 20 Next Generation poets, the bar variably has been set for her second collection. With remarkable ease Chan surpasses all expectations. Dealing directly with the issues of poverty, (im)migration and marginalisation, Lowe braids the experiences of famous jazz musicians, her own family and newly arrived British immigrants of the 1950s throughout this musically accomplished narrative that spans continents and generations.

The collection is divided into three parts. The first, What I Play is Out the Window, pays homage to the lives of  jazz musicians Joe Harriott, Charles Mingus, Shake Keane and Phil Seamen. Lowe opens the book with the personification of her mother, who had once been Joe Harriott’s girlfriend. By introducing the connection between her family and the world of jazz in this way, Lowe achieves a subtle tone of nostalgia while also painting the backdrop against which the life of Joe Harriott, and his cousin, nick-named ‘Chan’, plays:

Those days decades in history
when men like Joe and my father were shadows
on English streets…

Yet, instead of simply imagining the part of her mother or father in events that predate her, Lowe also introduces her own, lived experience in ‘Partita, 1968’, not only exploring the relationship between music and memory, but also excavating the layers of family narrative left behind by each generation—material that features predominantly in her work…

Read the entire review here.

Tags: , ,

Elizabeth Anionwu’s Memoir: Mixed Blessings From A Cambridge Union Exceeds All Superlatives

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2016-12-29 01:57Z by Steven

Elizabeth Anionwu’s Memoir: Mixed Blessings From A Cambridge Union Exceeds All Superlatives

The Huffington Post

Claudia Tomlinson, Author, campaigner, entrepreneur
London, England

Emeritus Professor Elizabeth Anionwu: Photograph by Barney Newman

Elizabeth Anionwu is a diminutive woman of colossal talent in everything she has turned her hand to, and to top off a high achieving career, her memoir has now outed her as a wonderful author.

She was born in 1947, from the relationship between her father, a Nigerian student, and her mother Mary, a Classics student whose family came from County Wexford and County Down, in Ireland, to settle in Liverpool.

Their romance blossomed at Cambridge University, at a time of discrimination against both black and Irish people in England.

Born into a strong Catholic family on her mother’s side, Elizabeth’s arrival, to unmarried parents, was a shock to her mother’s family threatening to bring great shame to the family…

Read the entire review here.

Tags: , , , , ,

When the Serendipitously Named Lovings Fell in Love, Their World Fell Apart

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Law, Media Archive, United States, Virginia on 2016-12-28 01:13Z by Steven

When the Serendipitously Named Lovings Fell in Love, Their World Fell Apart

Christopher Wilson, Director of the African American History Program and Experience and Program Design
Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.

The new film captures the quiet essence of the couples’ powerful story, says Smithsonian scholar Christopher Wilson

“My theory is, strong people don’t need strong leaders,” said human rights leader Ella Baker, who worked behind the scenes of the Black Freedom Movement for more than five decades. Her vision of participatory democracy was eloquently summed up in the composition “Ella’s Song,” written by Bernice Johnson Reagon, founding member of the music ensemble “Sweet Honey in the Rock.”

Not needing to clutch for power, not needing the light just to shine on me

I need to be just one in the number as we stand against tyranny.

The song honors Baker’s organic and populist activist philosophy of ordinary people working at the grassroots to create a more humane nation.

The story of Mildred and Richard Loving whose decade-long fight to live their lives, follow their hearts, and stay in their home culminated in the 1967 landmark case Loving v. Virginia that struck down laws against interracial marriage in the United States follows this sentiment.

Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter grew up in a rural community in Caroline County, Virginia. Despite statewide laws, rules and customs designed to keep the races separate, the Lovings’ community, isolated and agricultural, was quite integrated.

In the face of the long-held sexual taboos at the heart of white supremacist violence, the serendipitously named Lovings fell in love, but unlike others who kept such relationships hidden, in 1958 they drove to Washington, D.C., where they could legally get married.

The Lovings kept to themselves, but eventually word got out about their marriage. “Somebody talked,” Richard Loving said. Weeks later, they were arrested for violating Virginia’s 1924 Racial Integrity Act after a late night bedroom raid by the local sheriff, who was hoping to catch them having sex, which was also illegal. The Lovings pled guilty in January 1959 and were sentenced to one year in prison, but their sentence was suspended on the condition that they leave Virginia and not return together for 25 years. They couple moved to the District of Colombia, but longed to go home to the community they knew and loved. Five years later, in 1964, Mildred Loving sought relief by writing Attorney General Robert Kennedy and asking for help. Kennedy referred them to the American Civil Liberties Union, and three years later the Supreme Court unanimously ruled race-based legal restrictions on marriage unconstitutional.

The recently released film Loving, written and directed by Jeff Nichols and based on the wonderful 2011 documentary The Loving Story by Nancy Buirski, powerfully and artfully tells this story and testifies to the ability of feature films to take on historical subjects and add to public understanding of the past without fabricating events and misleading viewers…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , ,

‘Barry’ or How Barack Obama Learned to Stop Worrying and Love His Blackness

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2016-12-27 01:11Z by Steven

‘Barry’ or How Barack Obama Learned to Stop Worrying and Love His Blackness

The Daily Beast

Marlow Stern, Senior Entertainment Editor


The new Netflix film ‘Barry’ explores young Obama’s days at Columbia University, torn between the world of his rich white girlfriend and the African-American community.

There’s a scene in Dreams From My Father, the memoir of Barack Obama, that illuminates how the future president struggled to feel at home in white America. Obama, 22, has paid a visit to the family estate of his white girlfriend, Genevieve Cook, 25. It’s a beautiful autumn day in Norfolk, Connecticut, and, after traipsing about the foliage-strewn woods, he finds himself in the family library. There, he observes an assemblage of photographs depicting his lover’s grandfather, a wealthy man of great import, posing with presidents, foreign dignitaries, and titans of industry.

“Standing in that room, I realized that our two worlds, my friend’s and mine, were as distant from each other as Kenya is from Germany,” wrote Obama. “And I knew that if we stayed together I’d eventually live in hers. After all, I’d been doing it most of my life. Between the two of us, I was the one who knew how to live as an outsider.”

That push-pull between these two sides of Obama, white and black, is explored in the new film Barry, now streaming on Netflix. Directed by Vikram Gandhi, it dramatizes the years Obama (played by Devon Terrell) spent at Columbia University in 1981 New York City

Read the entire review here.

Tags: , , , , ,

Patricia Park talks about her Korean American spin on Jane Eyre

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2016-12-26 17:58Z by Steven

Patricia Park talks about her Korean American spin on Jane Eyre

The Los Angeles Times

Steph Cha

Patricia Park, author of “Re Jane” (Allana Taranto/Viking)

What if Jane Eyre was a Korean American girl and Rochester was a English professor? Patricia Park on ‘Re Jane

Patricia Park’s debut novel, “Re Jane” (Pamela Dorman/Viking: 340 pp., $27.95), is a retelling of everyone’s favorite Gothic Victorian Brontë romance, “Jane Eyre,” transferred to New York and South Korea in the early 2000s. Her heroine, Jane Re, is a half-Korean orphan raised by her uncle’s family in Flushing, Queens, a neighborhood that feels “all Korean, all the time.” When a prestigious post-college job offer falls through thanks to the dot-com crash, Jane takes a job as an au pair in Brooklyn in order to escape Queens and her uncle’s grocery store.

Her employers are Ed Farley and Beth Mazer, two Brooklyn English professors with an adopted Chinese daughter. Ed, as you may have guessed, is brooding and manly, with a strong jawline and a Brooklyn accent—pure Kryptonite for our wide-eyed, 22-year-old Jane. He lives in the shadow of his older, more accomplished wife, an eccentric feminist scholar with an attic office, who takes it upon herself to educate their sheltered au pair.

With her mixed blood and her torn loyalties, Jane embodies the confusion of both young adulthood and the hyphenated American experience. Impressionable and accommodating at the start of the novel, she struggles to find her own identity as the places and people in her life try to claim her. Her journey is a pleasure to follow, immensely rewarding and speckled with humor and romance…

Read the entire interview here.

Tags: , , , , , , ,