A United Kingdom: Love In The Time Of The British Empire

Posted in Africa, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2016-11-30 20:40Z by Steven

A United Kingdom: Love In The Time Of The British Empire

Media Diversified
2016-11-28

Shane Thomas

Once the year in film began with #OscarsSoWhite, was it coincidence that 2016 is closing – and 2017 beginning – with a raft of movies featuring people of colour? We have Hidden Figures, Lion, Fences, and the magnificent Moonlight to come. We recently had the release of Queen of Katwe, and last Friday saw A United Kingdom, Amma Asante’s follow-up to Belle, appear in cinemas.

The story focuses around the true-life romance between Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams (played by David Oyelewo and Rosamund Pike). Seretse, who is studying in London in 1947, meets and falls in love with Ruth while in England. Normally this would set the table for a garden variety rom-com. But there’s no chance of any “com”, due to the complications the relationship brings. Seretse is the dauphin to the throne of Bechuanaland (a place under British control, before it was known as Botswana), and he is black, while Ruth is white…

Read the entire review here.

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Amma Asante’s A United Kingdom

Posted in Africa, Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2016-11-24 02:56Z by Steven

Amma Asante’s A United Kingdom

gal-dem
2016-11-18

Grace Barber-Plentie


Image via Telegraph

The characters and scenarios in Amma Asante’s A United Kingdom are like ghosts – they’re long gone, long dead, and yet there is still a resonance and urgency to them that keeps pushing through to our subconscious, never letting us quite forget. Regardless of the merits of her films themselves, Asante is a clever filmmaker, a filmmaker with a plan. At the BFI’s recent Black Star symposium, she told the audience that she deliberately makes period films about old issues in order to show how they reflect on our own contemporary problems with race, gender, love and money. Gone is the period dress of Belle, but there are still hoards of mixed race girls out there trying to find their place in society. And while in 2016 one would hope that an interracial couple could walk down the street holding hands without a second glance, Asante’s true story of the heir to the throne of Bechuanaland (now Botswana) and his white wife still makes us think about those of us that must fight for what we want and who we love.

The love worth fighting for, in the case of A United Kingdom, is that of white shopkeeper’s daughter Ruth, in a modest turn by Rosamund Pike and African heir Seretze Khama, played by David Oyelowo; another strong performance to add to his list. Their love, as seen in the opening scenes of the film, is not a fierce, passionate one, but one where each are equal and share love deeply in their own restrained way….

Read the entire review here.

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Zadie Smith’s Rhythmic Play in Shadow and Light

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, New Media on 2016-11-23 02:21Z by Steven

Zadie Smith’s Rhythmic Play in Shadow and Light

Los Angeles Review of Books
2016-11-17

Walton Muyumba, Associate Professor Assistant Director of Creative Writing
Indiana University

Zadie Smith, Swing Time (New York: Penguin Press, 2016).

I FINISHED READING SWING TIME, Zadie Smith’s new novel, her fifth, around the time the Swedish Academy announced that Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Among my initial reactions to this confluence was to think of Marcus Carl Franklin, the young African-American actor who portrayed one version of Dylan in Todd Haynes’s 2007 biographical film, I’m Not There. Franklin plays Woody, an imagined Dylan in his Woody Guthrie stage, a role Dylan himself constructed as a cross between the hoboing white troubadour and a wandering black blues man; on-screen, then, Franklin performs a performance of a performance. Haynes’s casting choice is cinematic legerdemain: blackface minstrelsy has had a central role in American entertainment from Thomas D. Rice to Bert Williams to Al Jolson to Fred Astaire to Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder, so at the very least, Franklin’s performance points to the blues-idiom roots of Dylan’s musical archive and to the kinds of masking (even behind Negro performance and Welsh poetic traditions) that he has put on to “get over.” American culture, like America’s gene pool, is definitely mixed, but Franklin’s performance both represents Dylan’s musical core and disappears from our memory in the matrix of the other actors’ performances in Haynes’s film.

Smith knows about these kinds of erasures and disappearances. In the middle of Swing Time, the narrator/protagonist recalls watching, as a child, Ali Baba Goes to Town (1937) with her best friend, Tracey. Growing up in 1980s London, the girls share a love of dance, Michael Jackson, and Hollywood musicals. They are both biracial and live across the street from each other in mirroring council estates in northwest London. As they enter puberty, their early closeness begins to tear as Tracey’s dance talent opens opportunities for a future on stage, and the narrator begins a kind of extended period of wandering. The narrator’s mother, with her urgent need to shove her daughter toward the middle class, also works to disrupt their connection and let Tracey fade back to her lower class beginnings…

Roth is an interesting forerunner here: The Human Stain is about blackness, racial passing, and the private self, while Swing Time is about blackness, class passing, biracial identity, and the unknown self. Swing Time could be the narrator’s straightforward realist memoir about growing up biracial in a council flat with a compliant, Anglo father and an ambitious, Jamaican mother; about a long, strange friendship and rivalry with Tracey; about a middle class striving and the vagaries of ethnically mixed life in NW London; about the enabling fictions and intellectual freedoms of British university life in the late 1990s; or about experiences with pop celebrity as a member of an entourage, including building a school for girls in Gambia. Instead, Smith offers a narrator who goes sideways…

Read the entire review here.

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Half and Half

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2016-11-19 21:44Z by Steven

Half and Half

Sunday Book Review
The New York Times
2007-02-11

Bliss Broyard

David Matthews, Ace of Spades, A Memoir (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2007).

Twenty minutes into David Matthews’s first day of fourth grade in a new school in a new city, his classmates surround him and demand to know what he is. When Matthews doesn’t answer, they trail him down the hallway — “as though I were a reprobate head of state ambushed by reporters outside a lurid hotel” — shouting out their guesses: “Black! White! You crazy?! He(’s) too light/dark to be black/white!” One jokester suggests he’s Chinese.

One possible response is that Matthews is mixed: his father is African-American, actually a “prominent black journalist” who counted Malcolm X and James Baldwin among his friends, and his mother is Jewish, although she disappeared to Israel shortly after Matthews was born. But this scene takes place in 1977 in a Baltimore public school that sits between a “Waspy enclave of tony brownstones” and a “world of housing projects, roaming street gangs and bleating squad cars,” and the difference between black and white seems too vast to allow for any unions — or their byproducts — across the conceptual divide. (Although we learn that Matthews needn’t look any further than his own life for exceptions: his best friend, his stepbrother and his half brother are also mixed, though none of them quite so indeterminately as he is.) In the lunchroom, Matthews heads to the table of students he resembles most — in skin color, yes, but also in character. The white kids, with their “nerdy diction” and “Starsky and Hutch” lunchboxes, are similarly introverted and unthreatening, while the black kids, playing the dozens and double Dutch on the playground, are “alive and cool,” and frightening. When a white boy assigned by the homeroom teacher to be Matthews’s buddy for the day makes room for him to sit down, this small, serendipitous gesture sets the dye of his racial identity for the next 20 or so years…

Read the entire review here.

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Black and British by David Olusoga review – reclaiming a lost past

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2016-11-19 02:58Z by Steven

Black and British by David Olusoga review – reclaiming a lost past

The Guardian
2016-11-17

Colin Grant


David Olusoga at St Michael’s Church, Burgh-by-Sands. Photograph: Des Willie/BBC/Des Willie

Olusoga’s insightful ‘forgotten history’ amounts to much more than a text to accompany a TV series. Yet despite its many attributes, is it too temperate?

How do you make black British history palatable to white Britons? Actually, hold on a second. How do you make it palatable to black Britons? Let’s start again. How do you compose a history of Britain’s involvement with black people? The answer during my childhood was to accentuate the positive; to tweak the past, for instance, so that schoolchildren were left with the impression that slavery was somehow an abhorrent North American practice and that the British, through the good works of William Wilberforce, should be commended for their part in bringing about the end of the Atlantic slave trade.

Three decades ago Peter Fryer offered a corrective, stripping off the historical bandage. Fryer’s Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain was an excoriating book by a tireless Marxist historian skewering British imperial mendacity, which, when young black readers stumble across it, delivers a punch to the sternum, a remembrance real or imagined of tragedy and sorrow. But it also elicits a flush of excitement and pride. At last! A history that is not sanitised or sugar-coated; and one written by a proxy black man, namely a white man who in his own apologia aimed to “think black”. The British-Nigerian David Olusoga has a head start on Fryer. But whereas Fryer had an independent radical publisher (Pluto) at his elbow, Olusoga had to satisfy BBC managers – the book accompanies a TV series – who are largely petrified about “race”.

Black and British, the new work by Olusoga, comes with the subtitle: A Forgotten History. But forgotten by whom? The early black presence in Britain was not so much forgotten as suppressed – well, if not suppressed then at least untold. Even 10 years ago, if such a mainstream work as Olusoga’s had been proposed it might well have been rejected at publishers’ acquisition meetings with the note: “no commercial prospects”. But as Olusoga demonstrates so forcefully in his admirable book, this is a shared history and a reclaiming of a lost past. It builds on the need he felt back in the 1980s for an urgent “uncovering of black British history … because the present was so contested”…

Read the entire review here.

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‘Loving’ revisits a landmark Supreme Court case with radical restraint

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, United States, Virginia on 2016-11-13 20:49Z by Steven

‘Loving’ revisits a landmark Supreme Court case with radical restraint

The Washington Post
2016-11-10

Ann Hornaday, Film Critic

Loving’ is a quietly radical movie. A portrait of Richard and Mildred Loving, who became unwitting activists for interracial marriage when they wed in 1958, this gentle, deeply affecting story dispenses with the usual conventions of stirring appeals to the audience’s social conscience.

Viewers expecting a climactic showdown at the United States Supreme Court — which in 1967 handed down the landmark decision bearing the Lovings’ name, declaring anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional — or highly pitched speeches about civil rights, privacy and marriage equality will be surprised by a film that steadfastly avoids the most obvious and tempting theatrical manipulations. Instead, viewers are confronted by something far more revolutionary and transformative, in the form of two people’s devotion to each other, and the deep-seated psychological and state forces driven to derangement by that purest emotional truth.

Based on Nancy Buirski’s wonderful 2012 HBO documentary “The Loving Story” and judiciously dramatized by writer-director Jeff Nichols, “Loving” gets underway just as Richard (Joel Edgerton) and Mildred (Ruth Negga) decide to get married, after Mildred discovers she’s pregnant. A longtime couple in the rural town of Central Point, Va., Richard and Mildred reflect the organic ethnic integration of a community in which white, black and Native American citizens routinely befriended and relied on each other…

Read the entire review here.

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‘Barry’ Is An Introspection On President Obama’s Collegiate Years

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2016-11-06 19:45Z by Steven

‘Barry’ Is An Introspection On President Obama’s Collegiate Years

Black Girl Nerds
2016-11-06

Jamie Broadnax

An Uneventful Origin Story Of Our First Black President

The most profound experiences of our lives happen during those tumultuous years before we have achieved our own level of success.  The moment before we meet the love of our life, start a family, or become an entrepreneur.  In the film Barry, directed by Vikram Ghandhi, we dive into the origin story of our first Black President Barack Obama.  The story examines the college years of Barry and his experiences during his years as an academic at Columbia University.

Earlier this year, the film Southside With You gave us some background about the budding romance between Barack and Michelle Obama.  It was a dramatic depiction about one of our favorite relationships in pop culture.  The film Barry, which is more serious in tone; and focused more on Barack Obama’s self-analyzing and contemplation of his experiences, doesn’t quite have the impact that one would expect from a strong biopic…

Read the entire review here.

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Review: In ‘Loving,’ They Loved. A Segregated Virginia Did Not Love Them Back.

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Law, Media Archive, United States, Virginia on 2016-11-04 15:36Z by Steven

Review: In ‘Loving,’ They Loved. A Segregated Virginia Did Not Love Them Back.

The New York Times
2016-11-03

Manohla Dargis, Movie Critic


Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton as Mildred and Richard Loving in the Jeff Nichols film “Loving.” Credit Ben Rothstein/Focus Features

There are few movies that speak to the American moment as movingly — and with as much idealism — as Jeff Nichols’sLoving,” which revisits the era when blacks and whites were so profoundly segregated in this country that they couldn’t always wed. It’s a fictionalization of the story of Mildred and Richard Loving, a married couple who were arrested in 1958 because he was white, she was not, and they lived in Virginia, a state that banned interracial unions. Virginia passed its first anti-miscegenation law in 1691, partly to prevent what it called “spurious issue,” or what most people just call children.

The America that the Lovings lived in was as distant as another galaxy, even as it was familiar. The movie opens in the late 1950s, when Mildred (Ruth Negga, a revelation) and Richard (Joel Edgerton, very fine) are young, in love and unmarried. They already have the natural intimacy of long-term couples, the kind that’s expressed less in words and more in how two bodies fit, as if joined by an invisible thread. It’s a closeness that seems to hold their bodies still during a hushed nighttime talk on a porch and that pulls them together at a drag race, under the gaze of silent white men…

Read the entire review here.

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I’m Not the Nanny: Multiracial Families and Colorism

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, United States on 2016-11-04 00:56Z by Steven

I’m Not the Nanny: Multiracial Families and Colorism

Book Review
The New York Times
2016-11-03

Allyson Hobbs, Associate Professor of History
Stanford University

SAME FAMILY, DIFFERENT COLORS: Confronting Colorism in America’s Diverse Families
By Lori L. Tharps
203 pp. Beacon Press. $25.95.

In Danzy Senna’s 1998 novel “Caucasia,” two sisters — Cole and Birdie — share a bond so intimate that they create a language only they can understand. Engulfed in the racial chaos of Boston in the mid-70s, the sisters nestle themselves away in the cozy world they have created in their attic bedroom. Their lives are forever changed when their mother, a liberal white New Englander, and their father, a black man with radical political leanings, decide to divorce. The sisters are divided: Birdie lives with her mother and essentially passes for white, while Cole, who looks black, moves in with her father and his black girlfriend. In a city as racially divided and explosive as Boston in the 1970s, this separation by skin color strikes the reader as a chillingly rational decision.

Forty years later, America is no longer the bipolar racial regime of black and white that set Birdie and Cole on such different paths. Not only have personal attitudes changed, but the Hart-Celler Act of 1965 — which upended American immigration policy by abolishing the quota system based on national origins — has also transformed the country’s demographic character. The landmark Loving v. Virginia case of 1967 prohibited legal restrictions on interracial marriages. Federal racial classifications now recognize mixed-race identities. But neither Cole nor Birdie would have been widely understood as mixed-race in the 1970s. As Danzy Senna, who is mixed-race, has written of her own experiences during that tumultuous decade: “Mixed wasn’t an option. . . . No halvsies. No in between.”

Lori L. Tharps’s new book, “Same Family, Different Colors: Confronting Colorism in America’s Diverse Families,” is an urgent and honest unveiling of how generations of American families have lived with these changes. Tharps focuses on “colorism,” which she notes is not an official word, but has been defined by Alice Walker as “prejudicial or preferential treatment of same-race people based solely on their color.”…

Read the entire review here.

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‘The Sympathizer,’ by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2016-11-03 01:33Z by Steven

‘The Sympathizer,’ by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Book Review
The New York Times
2015-04-02

Philip Caputo

The more powerful a country is, the more disposed its people will be to see it as the lead actor in the sometimes farcical, often tragic pageant of history. So it is that we, citizens of a superpower, have viewed the Vietnam War as a solely American drama in which the febrile land of tigers and elephants was mere backdrop and the Vietnamese mere extras.

That outlook is reflected in the literature — and Vietnam was a very literary war, producing an immense library of fiction and nonfiction. Among all those volumes, you’ll find only a handful (Robert Olen Butler’sA Good Scent From a Strange Mountain” comes to mind) with Vietnamese characters speaking in their own voices.

Hollywood has been still more Americentric. In films like “Apocalypse Now” and “Platoon,” the Vietnamese (often other Asians portraying Vietnamese) are never more than walk-ons whose principal roles seem to be to die or wail in the ashes of incinerated villages.

Which brings me to Viet Thanh Nguyen’s remarkable debut novel, “The Sympathizer.” ­Nguyen, born in Vietnam but raised in the United States, brings a distinct perspective to the war and its aftermath. His book fills a void in the literature, giving voice to the previously voiceless while it compels the rest of us to look at the events of 40 years ago in a new light…

…Duality is literally in the protagonist’s blood, for he is a half-caste, the illegitimate son of a teenage Vietnamese mother (whom he loves) and a French Catholic priest (whom he hates). Widening the split in his nature, he was educated in the United States, where he learned to speak English without an accent and developed another love-hate relationship, this one with the country that he feels has coined too many “super” terms (supermarkets, ­superhighways, the Super Bowl, and so on) “from the federal bank of its ­narcissism.”…

Read the entire review here.

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