The Michael Brown Tragedy: A Christian of Color Perspective

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Latino Studies, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Religion, United States on 2014-09-01 00:49Z by Steven

The Michael Brown Tragedy: A Christian of Color Perspective

Jesus for Revolutionaries: A Blog About Race, Social Justice, and Christianity
2014-08-25

Robert Chao Romero, Associate Professor of Chicana/o Studies and Asian American Studies
University of California, Los Angeles

Today is the funeral of Michael Brown. Please join me in praying for comfort for his family.

As for many, the tragedy of Michael Brown’s death has stirred in me much reflection about the deep racial divide in the U.S. Pretty much everyone is in agreement that racial profiling by police, and racial profiling in general, is wrong, especially when it leads to horrific violence. The racial divide seems to surface, however, when we discuss the prevalence of racial profiling in America today.

If someone grew up with fair skin and light hair in a middle class suburban neighborhood, then, in my experience, the tendency is to believe that racial profiling among police, and in other social settings, is not a pervasive problem.

If someone grew up African American or Latina/o in a racially marginalized urban area, then the almost universal agreement is that ethnic profiling is alive and well. It’s also important to note that many African Americans and Latinas/os in middle class suburban communities experience racial profiling (for example see this excellent article by a Black law professor from the Washington University School of Law in Missouri: http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/25/opinion/norwood-ferguson-sons-brown-police/index.html).

When asserting our perspectives on the topic of racial profiling, we all speak from our personal experience. Many whites from suburban environments speak from their experience–where they have not been racially profiled and where law enforcement is viewed as an ally. For those of us who are People of Color, our experience is often quite different—we experience racial profiling by the police, at our work places, and when we go to our local strip malls to shop.

For example, here’s a few of my racial profiling experiences. Those of you who have tracked with Jesus for Revolutionaries for a while will know that I am a 6 foot 1, 220 pound, dark-skinned, bearded, “Chinese-Mexican,” who usually passes as Latino…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , ,

Chronicling Mississippi’s ‘Church Mothers,’ and Getting to Know a Grandmother

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Arts, Media Archive, Mississippi, Religion, United States, Women on 2014-08-31 18:18Z by Steven

Chronicling Mississippi’s ‘Church Mothers,’ and Getting to Know a Grandmother

The New York Times
2014-08-29

Samuel G. Freedman, Professor of Journalism
Columbia University, New York

SUMNER, Miss. — Toward noon on a torrid Monday in the Mississippi Delta, Alysia Burton Steele drove down Highway 49, looking for the crossroads near the Old Antioch Baptist Church. There, at the corner of a road called Friendship, she turned into the African-American section of Sumner, a dwindling hamlet of about 300 that suffices as a county seat.

A photographer by training and a professor by title, Ms. Steele was headed for the homes of two older neighbors, Lela Bearden, 88, and Herma Mims Floyd. She was bringing the women legacies to inspect, legacies in the form of portraits and testimonies she had taken of them over the last few years.

Ms. Bearden and Ms. Floyd were part of a larger assemblage of 50 African-American women whom Ms. Steele had chosen to chronicle in text and image for a book-in-progress she has titled “Jewels in the Delta.”

Whether by formal investiture or informal acclamation, nearly all the women in the book held the title of “church mother,” a term of respect and homage in black Christianity. As lifelong residents of the Delta — the landscape of the blues bards Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson and the terrain of the civil rights crusaders Medgar Evers and Fannie Lou Hamer — the women had lived through segregation and struggle and liberation.

“I knew there were hard times,” said Ms. Steele, 44. “But I did not understand it. Just to hear the things they went through. That blacks couldn’t try on shoes in stores. That you couldn’t go to school if there was cotton to pick. The stories made me cry. They put a face on history for me. I felt like I got my private history lesson.”

In her work, Ms. Steele has attested to the worth of lives that Jim Crow meant to render worthless. At times, she has had to convince the church mothers themselves that their stories were significant enough to be part of a book…

…For Ms. Steele, such biography served a covertly personal purpose. The past for which she was searching in the Delta was that of her own grandmother, Althenia Burton.

As the daughter of a black father and white mother, who divorced when she was 3, Ms. Steele was raised by her paternal grandparents. While young Alysia cherished her grandmother, her Gram, she also bitterly resisted her. When her grandmother insisted on bringing Alysia to church, the girl poked holes in her tights in the futile attempt at an excuse to miss it. Even as Ms. Burton cultivated her granddaughter’s ambition for college, she dismissed her passion for photography with the pronouncement “Pick a real major.”…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

A Mother’s Love: Stories of Struggle, Sacrifice, Love and Wisdom

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Arts, Media Archive, Mississippi, Passing, Religion, United States, Women on 2014-08-31 17:55Z by Steven

A Mother’s Love: Stories of Struggle, Sacrifice, Love and Wisdom

The Root
2014-05-11

Breanna Edwards

Journalist Alysia Steele’s explores the “jewels in the Mississippi Delta” who held it down for their families through decades of strife and racial struggle.

It’s Mother’s Day weekend, and many of us may feel the keen absence of the women who meant the most to us.

How many times have you wished you could turn back the hands of time and have one more conversation with one of the most influential women of your life? Maybe have notes of memorable anecdotes they shared?

This was one of Alysia Steele’s biggest regrets concerning her paternal grandmother, Althenia A. Burton, who died 20 years ago. Since then, the memory of her grandmother has stayed with Steele, never fading, and ultimately culminating in the conception of her current project, a book proposal, “Jewels in the Delta,” that has gained interest from publishers.

“I have a huge sense of regret that as a trained journalist I never had the foresight to get her story and I’ll never hear her voice again, and I can’t even tell you how much that hurts me,” Steele tells The Root.

Steele has interviewed about 47 women and is conducting the last of what will be a total of 50 interviews in the coming days. The project has taken her approximately 11 months to complete and countless hours of recording, transcribing, coaxing and traveling. It’s been hard work, to be sure, but to Steele the end goal has been more than worth it.

“How many of us stop and talk to our grandparents to get to their stories? To really ask them the questions that are hard?” she adds…

…In an excerpt from Steele’s book proposal, Virginia Hower, 93, shared how she “felt dirty” because of her ability to pass for white in a segregated society.

It was horror. You felt bad because you couldn’t be with your grandmother or your grandfather. You just accepted it. I couldn’t be with them because they were darker. Sometimes you felt bad because you could ride in a clean coach and just to think that your grandmother couldn’t kiss you as you stepped off the train. But they accepted it, so why not enjoy the clean train? And then when I got down on the streets, we all kiss and carry on. Those was happy moments. And then you got to thinkin’ how foolish this life is, how foolish. Then you got to thinkin’ about it and say take advantage of it and a lot of people down here in Clarksdale, they went to Chicago in ’41 and never revealed they were colored.

So many fascinating stories from unassuming women who had nothing but love for their respective husbands and children and who never really spoke about the troubles and trials they had endured…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , ,

Documentary reveals Jewish mother’s ‘Little White Lie’

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2014-08-26 01:58Z by Steven

Documentary reveals Jewish mother’s ‘Little White Lie’

The Times of Israel
2014-08-17

Rebecca Spence

Lacey Schwartz’s film about reconciling her hidden black paternity to the Ashkenazi Jewish home she was raised in strikes universal themes

SAN FRANCISCO (JTA) — When Lacey Schwartz celebrated her bat mitzvah more than two decades ago in her hometown of Woodstock, New York, a synagogue-goer turned to her and said, “It’s so nice to have an Ethiopian Jew in our midst.”

Never mind that Schwartz, a striking 37-year-old with long black curls and a megawatt smile, is about as American as they come. Raised by two Ashkenazi Jewish parents in a largely white, upstate New York town, Schwartz’s complexion — darker than that of her relatives — had long been attributed to a Sicilian grandfather.

Despite lingering questions, she believed the story. But when Schwartz enrolled at Georgetown University and the Black Student Alliance sent her a welcome letter based on a picture she submitted, Schwartz could no longer deny something was amiss.

She confronted her mother, Peggy Schwartz, only to discover that her biological father was a black man named Rodney with whom she had had an affair.

The discovery of her family secret and Schwartz’s coming to terms with her newly complex racial identity serves as the basis for “Little White Lie,” a moving documentary that had its official world premiere at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival last Sunday following screenings in Cape Cod, Mass., and Philadelphia

…While Schwartz the filmmaker has embraced her black identity, it has not been at the expense of the strong Jewish cultural identity she developed during her formative years. Some of the earliest stirrings of the film came through her work with Reboot, a hand-picked collective of Jewish creative professionals who come together to explore meaning, community and identity…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , ,

On the Trail of Brooklyn’s Underground Railroad

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Religion, Slavery, United States on 2014-08-22 20:05Z by Steven

On the Trail of Brooklyn’s Underground Railroad

The New York Times
2007-10-12

John Strausbaugh

LAST month the City of New York gave Duffield Street in downtown Brooklyn an alternate name: Abolitionist Place. It’s an acknowledgment that long before Brooklyn was veined with subway lines, it was a hub of the Underground Railroad: the network of sympathizers and safe houses throughout the North that helped as many as 100,000 slaves flee the South before the Civil War.

With its extensive waterfront, its relatively large population of African-American freemen — slavery ended in New York in 1827 — and its many antislavery churches and activists, Brooklyn was an important nexus on the “freedom trail.” Some runaways stayed and risked being captured and returned to their owners, but most traveled on to the greater safety of Canada.

Because aiding fugitives from the South remained illegal even after New York abolished slavery — and because there was plenty of pro-slavery sentiment among Brooklyn merchants who did business with the South — Underground Railroad activities were clandestine and frequently recorded only in stories passed down within families. Corroborating documentation is scarce.

Still, it’s possible to follow some likely freedom routes through Brooklyn. You begin in Brooklyn Heights, where the Promenade offers sweeping views of the East River waterfront. In the decades before the Civil War, this waterfront bristled with the masts of sailing ships. Many were cargo vessels bringing cotton and other goods from the South. Sometimes they brought secret passengers: slaves fleeing to freedom. The fugitives slipped ashore and filtered into Brooklyn, where they were hidden and helped along on their journeys. Acquiring its railroad imagery by the 1830s, this antislavery network had its own “stationmasters” and “conductors,” who helped organize runaways’ passages north, and its own “stations” and “depots,” where they hid. Several Brooklyn churches participated. Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims, a few blocks from the Promenade on Orange Street, between Hicks and Henry Streets, was called its “Grand Central Depot.”…

[Henry Ward] Beecher’s most successful tactic for arousing what he called “a panic of sympathy” for slaves was to stage mock slave auctions in the church, with the congregation bidding furiously to buy the captives’ freedom. The 1914 bronze statues of Beecher and two girls in the church’s courtyard by Gutzon Borglum, who later sculptured Mount Rushmore, depicts the first such auction, in 1848.

The most famous auction occurred in 1860, when Beecher urged his congregation to buy the freedom of a pretty 9-year-old from Washington, Sally Maria Diggs, called Pinky for her light complexion.

“After the service he called her to the platform and told the congregation her story,” Ms. Rosebrooks said. “He said, ‘No child should be in slavery, let alone a child like this.’ I’m sure he played on this. She could be your niece. She could be your sister. Your next door neighbor. So they passed the collection plate and raised $900, which is about $10,000 in today’s dollars.”

Congregants gave jewelry as well as cash. In a theatrical flourish Beecher fetched a ring from the collection plate, slipped it onto Pinky’s finger and declared, “With this ring, I thee wed to freedom.”

In 1927 when Plymouth Church celebrated the 80th anniversary of Beecher’s first sermon there, one who attended was Mrs. James Hunt, a stately woman of 76. She was Pinky and had grown up to marry a lawyer in Washington. According to Plymouth Church lore, she brought the ring with her; Ms. Rosebrooks showed me a simple gold band set with a small amethyst. (A Brooklyn Eagle article from 1927, however, quotes Mrs. Hunt as saying the ring had been lost.)…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

BROOKLYN INTELLIGENCE.; The Sanford-street Catastrophe. CONDITION OF THE WOUNDED-BURIAL OF THE DEAD.

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Religion, Slavery, United States on 2014-08-22 17:26Z by Steven

BROOKLYN INTELLIGENCE.; The Sanford-street Catastrophe. CONDITION OF THE WOUNDED-BURIAL OF THE DEAD.

The New York Times
1860-02-06

…AN INTERESTING SCENE IN PLYMOUTH CHURCH — PURCHASE OF A SLAVE BY THE CONGREGATION. — Another case of the ransom of a slave occurred yesterday in Plymouth Church. The circumstances were of touching interest. A good-looking and intelligent little girl named PINK, about nine years of age, having in her veins only one-sixteenth part African blood, (although that was more than enough to make her a slave,) was brought from Washington City to Brooklyn on Saturday last, with a view to the purchase of her freedom. Her father is at present one of the leading physicians in Washington. The mother was sold a few years ago to a Southern trader. At different times, five of her six children were sold to various parts of the South, until only little PINK remained. The child was taken care of by her grandmother, who had received oft-repeated assurances from the owner that PINK, should never be parted from her. But during the last holidays, arrangements were made to sell the child for $800. It was thought that when she grew up to womanhood she would be worth $3,000. Mr. BLAKE, a young clergyman recently from Alexandria Episcopal Seminary, hearing of the circumstances, interested himself to save the child. For this purpose, he procured permission to bring her to the North, leaving behind him satisfactory security for the return, either of the child or of the price of her ransom. The girl was, yesterday morning, introduced to the Sunday School by the Superintendent, Mr. THEODORE TILTON. Some interesting incidents of the child’s history were related by Mr. BLAKE, and the children determined to undertake, with the assistance of the Church, the purchase of the child — the classes contributing $5 each. At the close of the morning sermon, the pastor, Rev. HENRY WARD BEECHER, took the child into the pulpit, stated the case to the congregation, and made an eloquent plea for her liberty, which drew tears from many eyes. The collection plates were then passed, and returned well laden with bank notes. The money was not counted before the close of the service, but a lady in the audience sent word to the pastor that she would make up the deficiency, if any should be found. This announcement was received with an irrepressible demonstration of applause. Many persons crowded around the platform to congratulate the little girl on her new-found freedom, which she is now too young fully to appreciate…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Negotiating the Racial Boundaries of Khōjā Caste Membership in Late Nineteenth-Century Colonial Zanzibar (1878–1899)

Posted in Africa, Articles, History, Media Archive, Religion on 2014-08-22 15:18Z by Steven

Negotiating the Racial Boundaries of Khōjā Caste Membership in Late Nineteenth-Century Colonial Zanzibar (1878–1899)

Journal of Africana Religions
Volume 2, Number 3, 2014
pages 297-316
DOI: 10.1353/oar.2014.0020

Iqbal Akhtar, Professor of Religious Studies and Islamic Studies
Florida International University

This article explores late nineteenth-century identity formation and caste boundaries among the Khōjā of colonial Zanzibar. The central concern regarding children born to a non-Khōjā parent was what status, particularly regarding rights of inheritance, the multiracial children born of these relationships had within the caste structure. The case of Nasur Jesa v. Hurbayee suggests that the attitude toward these children was inconsistent; sometimes they were embraced, and at other times they were shunned by the Khōjā community. The Khōjā caste schism in the late nineteenth century and the arrival of Aga Khan III in 1899 further complicated the practice of exogamy. The Sunni and Ithnā ʿAsharī Khōjā further opened their communities through exogamy and continued the practice of plural marriage. At the same time, a command from Aga Khan III to the Āgākhānī Khōjā led to the reinstatement of traditional caste endogamy and a prohibition of interracial marriage. Therefore, both the demographic realities of Zanzibar and the politics of caste affected how the Khōjā interacted with multiracial members of their community and whether they included or excluded them within the caste structure.

Tags: , , ,

A summer camp where Jews of color go to ‘feel normal’

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2014-08-21 14:29Z by Steven

A summer camp where Jews of color go to ‘feel normal’

The Times of Israel
2014-08-20

Rebecca Spence

With an emphasis on diverse Diaspora Judaism, Camp Be’chol Lashon has a markedly different mandate than most Jewish camps

PETALUMA, Calif. (JTA) — On a cool Sunday evening, Jewish campers with nervous smiles took to the stage one by one to perform poems they had composed on the theme of identity.

One girl riffed on being taunted for having “fuzzy eyebrows” and “bushy hair.” Another rhymed about being told “You don’t look Jewish” too many times to count.

If this doesn’t sound like your typical summer camp fare, it’s because Camp Be’chol Lashon has a markedly different mandate than most Jewish camps.

Nestled in the misty hills of Marin County, the northern California camp is the country’s only Jewish sleepaway camp geared to Jews of color.

“Part of the goal is to make these kids feel normal in a Jewish context,” said Diane Tobin, the founder and executive director of the camp’s parent organization, the San Francisco-based nonprofit Be’chol Lashon, which promotes racial, ethnic and cultural diversity in Jewish life…

…The camp is not just for Jews of color, as evinced by one white camper’s poem about her identity as a “nerdy Jewish girl.” It’s also very much a family affair. Tobin’s son, Jonah, is a junior counselor and her daughter, Sarah Spencer, serves as the camp’s co-director.

“The kids all come with very different stories about who they are and where they’ve come to be,” said Spencer, 38, a marriage and family therapist who is also the mother of two biracial children. “Here they get to practice explaining who they are to one another and we help them to feel good about whatever that is.”

Savannah Henry, a 21-year-old counselor whose father is African-American, said that before her rabbi at Congregation Shir Hadash in Los Gatos, Calif., told her about Be’chol Lashon, she had spent a miserable summer at a more mainstream Jewish camp…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , ,

Marrying Out: Jewish Men, Intermarriage, and Fatherhood

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Religion, United States on 2014-08-18 02:27Z by Steven

Marrying Out: Jewish Men, Intermarriage, and Fatherhood

Indiana University Press
2014-08-01
286 pages
31 b&w illus.
6 x 9
Paper ISBN: 978-0-253-01319-4

Keren R. McGinity, Author-Educator
Love & Tradition: intermarriage insights for a Jewish future

When American Jewish men intermarry, goes the common assumption, they and their families are “lost” to the Jewish religion. In this provocative book, Keren R. McGinity shows that it is not necessarily so. She looks at intermarriage and parenthood through the eyes of a post-World War II cohort of Jewish men and discovers what intermarriage has meant to them and their families. She finds that these husbands strive to bring up their children as Jewish without losing their heritage. Marrying Out argues that the “gendered ethnicity” of intermarried Jewish men, growing out of their religious and cultural background, enables them to raise Jewish children. McGinity’s book is a major breakthrough in understanding Jewish men’s experiences as husbands and fathers, how Christian women navigate their roles and identities while married to them, and what needs to change for American Jewry to flourish. Marrying Out is a must read for Jewish men and all the women who love them.

Tags: , , ,

Northern Ireland’s most (un)wanted

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Religion, United Kingdom on 2014-08-11 21:18Z by Steven

Northern Ireland’s most (un)wanted

Media Diversified
2014-07-28

Jayne Olorunda

Northern Ireland’s capital, Belfast has had many songs written about it. The lyrics of one Belfast song resonates in my ear as I think of the reputation the city now has. The lyrics of the song always stood out to me, but now they are more ironic than ever. The song goes, ‘Belfast, Belfast a wonderful town it doesn’t matter if your skin is brown’ I wonder if this was ever true? It certainly wasn’t in my time or even in my parent’s time. The outside world knows Northern Ireland as a country dominated by sectarian strife where Catholic and Protestant people have for decades been at war. This is of course true, but within Northern Ireland other hate based dynamics exist, recently they have come to the fore. Today’s Northern Ireland has a serious problem with racism and it is fast becoming a problem that can no longer be brushed aside…

…I am Northern Irish, but I am also black and this is not a comfortable position to be in, at times it has felt like a disastrous combination. My story came to public attention when I wrote ‘Legacy’ a book about my families experiences in Northern Ireland. It documents the difficulties we faced with identity and of course the sometimes impossible realities of assimilation. I was born and bred in Northern Ireland and I imagine that I am among a small handful of people of colour who can say that. It is sad that even now in my thirties black faces in Northern Ireland still stand out in the crowd. As such we have become targets to those elements in our society determined to keep their society white, those intent on living in bitterness.

Growing Up

Growing up my sisters and I have became used to being the only blacks and being identified not on our merits but as ‘the black girls’. Northern Irish racism for us began in the womb, with comments such as ‘how dare you bring another black bastard into the world’ being levelled at our mother. Our story began when my father, originally from Nigeria, was offered a job in Belfast on his graduation. Like any student fresh from university he was delighted at the opportunity in his chosen field and seized it. Whilst here he met my Mum who is from Northern Ireland. As all romances go the pair fell in love and got married, they had a family consisting of three children, I was the youngest. Not everything was perfection and it goes without saying that my parents encountered racism, they met in the 1970’s after all. Yet they were a strong couple and as long as they were together they coped…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , ,