Lacey Schwartz didn’t know she was black, but her black friends did

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, Passing, Religion, United States on 2015-08-20 20:55Z by Steven

Lacey Schwartz didn’t know she was black, but her black friends did

Fusion
2015-08-19

Collier Meyerson

With two white parents and no black family members (save for a dark Sicilian uncle a couple generations removed), Lacey Schwartz was raised thinking she was white. Growing up, Schwartz’s community was predominantly white: her friends, her classes, her summer camp.

But the few black people in Schwartz’s life struck a nerve—and poked holes in the story she told herself and in the story her family told her.

I worked on Schwartz’s documentary Little White Lie, which details her journey from white to black, of being the product of a family secret overloaded with an extramarital affair, love, and betrayal.

During that time, it wasn’t the salacious stuff I was interested in. I wanted to know about how Schwartz came into blackness and who ushered her in. When you don’t grow up with a black parent or in a black community, or even consciously knowing you are black, how do you become black?

I came to learn that the black people in her life made lasting impressions on her—from near and far—even before she had the language or knowledge of her blackness. They pushed her, listened to her, taught and accepted her.

It was black people who always knew Lacey Schwartz was black. No one had the wool over their eyes. So I asked her about it…

Read the entire interview here.

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Holocaust Art By A Jew Who Was Black Josef Nassy’s Vision Of Nazi Camps Has Its First U.s. Show Here.

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, History, Media Archive, Religion on 2015-08-18 01:11Z by Steven

Holocaust Art By A Jew Who Was Black Josef Nassy’s Vision Of Nazi Camps Has Its First U.s. Show Here.

The Philadelphia Inquirer
1989-04-04

Leonard W. Boasberg, Inquirer Staff Writer

There are strength and pathos in the drawings. There are loneliness and community, a sense of the desperation of the individual – the prisoner, the victim – who, in the grasp of malevolent brutality, nevertheless maintains his will to survive.

There are watchtowers and barbed wire and closed gates and prison bars and armed guards, and there are portraits of pensive men who might be anywhere but are, in fact, confined for no crime but their existence.

The works are by Josef Nassy, a black artist of Jewish ancestry, who survived three years of Nazi prison camps during World War II and, in his art, left a lasting record of what he saw and felt.

A collection of Nassy’s works – about 115 paintings, drawings and ink washes – is now on exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Judaica, located in the synagogue of Congregation Rodeph Shalom, 615 N. Broad St. The exhibit, titled In the Shadow of the Tower, is the first U.S. public showing of Nassy’s works, which are on a three-year international tour that will take them to Jerusalem; Hamburg, West Germany; Brussels, Belgium; Chicago, and New York…

Read the entire article here.

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I’m a Mizrahi Jew. Do I Count as a Person of Color?

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2015-08-17 01:36Z by Steven

I’m a Mizrahi Jew. Do I Count as a Person of Color?

Forward
2015-08-10

Sigal Samuel, Deputy Digital Media Editor


Eye of the Beholder: Sigal Samuel has been considered white and non-white, depending on who’s looking. (Image: Martyna Starosta)

Am I a person of color?

You’d think there would be a straightforward answer to a question like that. And for a while, I thought there was. I thought the answer was yes.

When I look at my grandparents — four Mizrahim, or Jews from Arab lands — I see people who were born in India and Iraq and Morocco, who grew up speaking Hindi and Arabic. When I stand in Sephora buying makeup, the shade I choose is closer to “ebony” than to “petal.” When I walk down the street, perfect strangers routinely stop me to ask: “Where are you from? Are you Persian? Indian? Arab? Latina?” When I go through airport security, I always — always — get “randomly selected” for additional screening.

I was pretty sure all this made me a person of color.

And then an acquaintance, who is Jewish and African-American, told me in the course of a casual conversation that no, actually, I don’t count…

Read the entire article here.

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One Tough Cookie: Fran Ross’s “Oreo” Written Decades Before Its Time

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2015-08-08 18:44Z by Steven

One Tough Cookie: Fran Ross’s “Oreo” Written Decades Before Its Time

Lawrence Public Library
707 Vermont Street
Lawrence, Kansas
2015-07-31

Kate Gramlich

There are a handful of books I have re-read several times because I found some deep, emotional connection with the characters, and each read is like a conversation with a dear old friend. (I have a dear new friend who revisits To Kill a Mockingbird every year for similar reasons and to see how his opinions on the text change over time.)

Then there are books I have re-read because I just know that I didn’t catch everything the author was throwing down the first time. And I’m here to tell you, folks, that Fran Ross’s Oreo is the queen of those books. Oreo’s heroine’s journey to find the “secret of her birth” had me laughing aloud and wrapping my brain around awesome word puzzles the entire time.

Though originally published in 1974 (more on that later), Oreo was re-printed by New Directions in July of this year, and I was lucky enough to grab it right off our New Fiction shelves at LPL last week…

Read the entire review here.

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Black, Jewish and challenging ideas about the face of federation

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2015-07-28 17:33Z by Steven

Black, Jewish and challenging ideas about the face of federation

Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA)
New York, New York
2014-12-01

Rebecca Spence

(JTA) — When Ilana Kaufman, a program officer at the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation, arrived at San Quentin State Prison for a meeting with the Jewish chaplain at California’s oldest correctional facility, the chaplain couldn’t seem to find her — even though Kaufman was standing in plain sight.

As Kaufman waited in the receiving area, a security officer by her side, the spiritual leader of the prison community — largely composed of men of color — turned her head left and right trying to locate the federation representative whose name she knew but whose face she had never seen.

“Finally the officer says, ‘Chaplain, this person standing right next to me,’” Kaufman recalled. “And the chaplain says, ‘You know, you are not who I expected.’”

It wasn’t the first time that Kaufman, 42, had heard such a comment…

Read the entire article here.

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Op-Ed: For black Orthodox Jews, constant racism is exhausting

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Religion on 2015-07-28 17:20Z by Steven

Op-Ed: For black Orthodox Jews, constant racism is exhausting

Jewish Telegraphic Agency
New York, New York
2015-07-16

Chava Shervington, President
Jewish Multiracial Network

NEW YORK (JTA) – When I was 24, an Orthodox matchmaker tried to set me up on a date with a man older than my parents. When I objected, she told me, “Stop being so picky. Not many guys are willing to consider a black girl.”

As an African-American Orthodox Jew, this was hardly my first encounter with the questionable treatment I and my fellow Jews of color endure.

“Why is the goy here?” one black Jewish parent overheard when taking her child to a Jewish children’s event.

At one yeshiva in Brooklyn, the mother of a biracial student was asked to stay away from the school because it made the other parents uncomfortable.

An African-American acquaintance told me he overheard a worshiper at morning minyan talk about how he didn’t want to daven with a “shvartze” – while my acquaintance was putting on his tefillin.

Orthodox society is a beautiful community dedicated to charity, Torah learning and growth through observance of mitzvahs – and I believe we’re better than this racism suggests…

Read the entire article here.

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“The Book of Colors”

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2015-07-28 02:49Z by Steven

“The Book of Colors”

Duke Divinity School News
Durham, North Carolina
Wednesday, 2015-05-13

Ray Barfield, associate professor of pediatrics and Christian philosophy at Duke Divinity School, has written his first novel, “The Book of Colors,” about a 19-year-old mixed race pregnant girl who faces poverty and finds redemption in an unlikely community of skid row houses near Memphis, Tenn.

Published by Unbridled Books in May, the book grew from Dr. Barfield’s experience of the importance of story-telling as a physician and teacher. He holds a joint appointment with the Divinity School and Duke University Medical School. At the Divinity School, he is one of the leaders of interdisciplinary initiatives that bring together students and faculty across the humanities, medicine, and theology. Barfield also practices pediatric oncology and leads the pediatric palliative care program at the medical school.

The novel’s central character Yslea was raised in a crack-house and struggles to express her thoughts, but learns to overcome the pain and suffering she sees around her in her own quiet way. While reeling from the death of her mother, she wanders into a local clapboard community, presided over by an aging, generous woman named Rose and charming young Jimmy, for whom ethics are often an impediment to worldly advancement…

Read the entire article here.

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Meet the black woman raised to believe she was white

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, Passing, Religion, United States on 2015-07-27 00:28Z by Steven

Meet the black woman raised to believe she was white

The Telegraph
2015-07-12

Jane Mulkerrins


Schwartz believes that racial identity is “fluid and contextual” Photo: Nicholas Calcott

Growing up, Lacey Schwartz always felt different. It wasn’t until her late teens that she discovered the truth about her parentage – and her race

“Throughout my life, people have asked me why I look the way I do,” says Lacey Schwartz. “I would tell them that my parents were white, which was true. I wasn’t pretending to be something I wasn’t. I grew up being told, and believing, that I was the nice, white, Jewish daughter of two nice, white, Jewish parents.”

But Schwartz, a 38-year-old film-maker, has brown skin, curly hair and full lips. It was only when she was 18 that her mother admitted the truth: that she had had an affair with a friend and former colleague who was black. And that, in all likelihood, he was Lacey’s biological father.

The revelation not only shook her relationship with her mother to the core, but also led Schwartz to question everything she had believed about who she was, and eventually inspired her to make a documentary about the experience, called Little White Lie.

“I started out wanting to make a film about being black and Jewish, because I was really struggling with my dual identity,” she says. “But I was living in a racial closet at the time that was all about my family secret. So I decided to use the film as a way to fully uncover the secret.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Oreo: A Comeback Story

Posted in Audio, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2015-07-25 01:55Z by Steven

Oreo: A Comeback Story

On The Media
WNYC FM
New York, New York
Friday, 2015-07-17

Mythili Rao, Host and Producer

Guests: Mat Johnson, Harryette Mullen, Mark Anthony Neal and Danzy Senna

In 1974, Fran Ross published her first and only novel, “Oreo.” The satirical tale of a biracial teenager’s Theseus-style quest to find her father was almost completely overlooked in its era. Now, more than 4 decades later, its re-issue is being met with critical praise. Producer Mythili Rao explores why Ross’s take on racial identity was so ahead of its time.

Listen to the interview (00:10:58) here.

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Review: ‘Oreo,’ a Sandwich-Cookie of a Feminist Comic Novel

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2015-07-25 00:59Z by Steven

Review: ‘Oreo,’ a Sandwich-Cookie of a Feminist Comic Novel

The New York Times
2015-07-14

Dwight Garner

Fran Ross’s first and only novel, “Oreo,” was published in 1974, four years after Toni Morrison’sThe Bluest Eye” and two years before Alex Haley’sRoots.” It wasn’t reviewed in The New York Times; it was hardly reviewed anywhere.

It’s interesting to imagine an alternative history of African-American fiction in which this wild, satirical and pathbreaking feminist picaresque caught the ride it deserved in the culture. Today it would be where it belongs, up among the 20th century’s lemony comic classics, novels that range from “Lucky Jim” and “Cold Comfort Farm” to “Catch-22” and “A Confederacy of Dunces.”

These sorts of lists have been for too long, to borrow a line from the TV show “black-ish,” whiter than the inside of Conan O’Brien’s thigh.

“Oreo” might have changed how we thought about a central strand of our literature’s DNA. As the novelist Danzy Senna puts it in her introduction to this necessary reissue: “ ‘Oreo’ resists the unwritten conventions that still exist for novels written by black women today. There’s nothing redemptively uplifting about her work. The title doesn’t refer to the Bible or the blues. The work does not refer to slavery. The character is never violated, sexually or otherwise. The characters are not from the South.”

Instead, in “Oreo” Ms. Ross is simply flat-out fearless and funny and sexy and sublime. It makes a kind of sense that, when this novel didn’t find an audience, its author moved to Los Angeles in the late 1970s to write for Richard Pryor

Read the review here.

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