In Puerto Rico, a push to revive indigenous culture

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Census/Demographics, History, Media Archive, United States on 2015-04-22 19:18Z by Steven

In Puerto Rico, a push to revive indigenous culture

The Associated Press

Anica Coto

SAN LORENZO, Puerto Rico (AP) — In Puerto Rico’s misty, bamboo-studded mountains, elementary school students are studying a nearly extinct language, beating on drums and growing native crops like cassava and sweet potato as they learn about the indigenous people who lived on the island before Christopher Columbus.

The children in four towns in the island’s southeast corner play a ceremonial ball game that was called batey by the native Tainos, who were all but wiped out during colonial times. The boys and girls also learn words from the local Arawak language, which was in part rebuilt with help from linguists, and still exists in varying forms among other native groups in the hemisphere.

Now, a group of academics and educators hope to expand the Taino education program to other public schools around the U.S. territory in an effort to teach children this little known part of the territory’s history.

“If you don’t know your roots, you don’t know yourself,” said anthropologist Carlalynne Yarey Melendez, director of the Taino cultural organization that runs the educational program. “There are so many communities and schools that want the classes, but I can’t keep up with the demand.”

Puerto Ricans’ interest in the territory’s indigenous past has grown in recent years, with 42,000 of the 3.7 million people then living on the island identifying themselves as at least partially Taino in the 2010 Census.

But even though that’s just a little more than 1 percent, Puerto Rico’s legislature is considering a proposal to declare Melendez’s Naguake organization to be the island’s first indigenous-based community. The designation would allow it to receive federal funds under a program that aids native groups, and expand the program to other towns…

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Wisconsin chief treading carefully after fatal shooting

Posted in Articles, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2015-03-10 01:10Z by Steven

Wisconsin chief treading carefully after fatal shooting

The Washington Post

The Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. — Within hours of a white officer shooting an unarmed black man, the police chief of Wisconsin’s capital city was praying with the man’s grandmother, hoping to strike a conciliatory tone and avoid the riots that last year rocked Ferguson, Missouri.

Chief Mike Koval said he knows Madison is being watched across the nation since 19-year-old Tony Robinson’s death Friday evening, and he has gone out of his way to avoid what he once called Ferguson’s “missteps.”

“Folks are angry, resentful, mistrustful, disappointed, shocked, chagrined. I get that,” Koval said Saturday. “People need to tell me squarely how upset they are with the Madison Police Department.”

The contrasts with Ferguson are many…

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Census Bureau may count Arab-Americans for the first time in 2020

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, United States on 2015-02-04 21:17Z by Steven

Census Bureau may count Arab-Americans for the first time in 2020

PBS NewsHour
Public Broadcasting System

Jeff Karoub, Reporter
The Associated Press

DETROIT — The federal government is considering allowing those of Middle Eastern and North African descent to identify as such on the next 10-year Census, which could give Arab-Americans and other affected groups greater political clout and access to public funding, among other things.

The U.S. Census Bureau will test the new Middle East-North Africa (MENA) classification for possible inclusion on the 2020 Census if it gets enough positive feedback about the proposed change by Sunday, when the public comment period ends.

Arab-Americans, who make up the majority of those who would be covered by the MENA classification, have previously been classified by default as white on the Census, which helps determine congressional district boundaries and how billions of dollars in federal funding are allocated, among other things.

Those pushing for the MENA classification say it would more fully and accurately count them, thus increasing their visibility and influence among policymakers.

The Census Bureau plans to test it later this year by holding focus group discussions with people who would be affected by the proposed change. Congress would still have to sign off on the proposal before the change could be added to the 2020 Census…

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Bill: New Yorkers could identify as multiracial

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2014-11-25 22:20Z by Steven

Bill: New Yorkers could identify as multiracial

The Associated Press

Jonathan Lemire, City Hall and Political Reporter

NEW YORK (AP) — New Yorkers may soon be able to identify themselves as more than one race under legislation introduced in the City Council on Tuesday.

The measure would change dozens of official documents, including applications for public housing, registration with the Department of Small Business Services and complaint forms with the city’s Commission on Human Rights. Documents required of more than 300,000 city employees would also need to be changed.

Currently, city forms that ask for ethnicity or race have five options: “black, not of Hispanic origin,” ”white, not of Hispanic origin,” ”Hispanic,” ”Asian or Pacific Islander,” and “American Indian or Alaskan native.”

Advocates of the bill believe the measure would provide a clearer picture of demographics and allow New Yorkers to better recognize their heritage.

“I am 50 percent Irish, 25 percent Korean and 25 percent unknown,” said Corey Johnson, a city councilman from Manhattan, who drew upon his own heritage to champion the bill during a rally on the City Council steps. Johnson, a Democrat, was one of the co-sponsors of the bill, along with Councilman Ben Kallos, another Manhattan Democrat.

New York City has the highest multiracial population in the country. More than 325,000 city residents identified as more than one race on the 2010 census…

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Confederate officer’s wartime diary decoded

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, United States on 2014-10-21 17:30Z by Steven

Confederate officer’s wartime diary decoded

The Associated Press

Chris Carola

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (AP) — A century and a half after Confederate officer James Malbone wrote his Civil War diary partly in code, a couple of Yankees have figured out why he took the precaution: He liked to gossip.

Sprinkled amid entries on camp recipes and casualties are encrypted passages in which Malbone dishes on such juicy topics as a fellow soldier who got caught in bed with another man’s wife.

Malbone also writes about meeting the wife of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and describes her looks in an apparent echo of rumors at the time that she may have been of mixed race.

“That’s pretty shocking,” said Kent D. Boklan, the Queens College computer science professor and former National Security Agency cryptographer who deciphered Malbone’s code with little difficulty. “It’s a military diary and you expect military information, but you don’t expect the first lady of the Confederacy to make an appearance in this diary.”

According to Boklan, Malbone’s encrypted entry about Varina Howell Davis describes her as “dark complected” with “very very brown skin dark eyes” and “high cheek bones wide mouth.”.

Davis’ wife was a well-educated woman for her time, and as a result, was the target of “all kind of gossipy innuendos from the ladies” in Richmond, Virginia, the Confederate capital, according to Sam Craghead of the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond

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Color Lines Are Blurred in ABC Comedy ‘Black-Ish’

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2014-09-19 18:29Z by Steven

Color Lines Are Blurred in ABC Comedy ‘Black-Ish’

The Associated Press

Frazier Moore, Television Writer

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — Tracee Ellis Ross delivers perhaps the funniest line you’ll hear on a sitcom this fall.

The character she plays on ABC’s comedy “black-ish” is, like Ross, an appealing mix of beauty, smarts and zaniness. She is totally plausible as a savvy mother of four and the loving wife of an up-and-coming ad exec (co-star Anthony Anderson), not to mention a busy anesthesiologist.

In this upscale African-American family, Dr. Rainbow Johnson also happens to be biracial. This occasionally spurs Andre, her hubby, who’s forever fretting about the family’s black cred, to question whether she is certifiably “black.”

He does this in the series’ premiere, to which, unfazed, Rainbow fires back, “If I’m not really black, then could someone please tell my hair and my ass!”

Reminded of that line during a recent interview, Ross cracks up.

“That’s what I love about our show,” she says. “With that line, my character sums it all up: ‘Are you STILL coming from the world that believes all black people are the same and all black people should think the same? C’mon, Dre!'”

With remarkable humor and finesse, “black-ish” (which debuts Sept. 24 at 9:30 p.m. EDT) addresses race, culture, socio-economics and other weighty matters…

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White mayor, black wife: Bill de Blasio and Chirlane McCray shatter an image in New York City

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2013-11-17 03:35Z by Steven

White mayor, black wife: Bill de Blasio and Chirlane McCray shatter an image in New York City

Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Jesse Washington, National Writer/Race and Ethnicity
The Associated Press

Another milestone is passing in America’s racial journey: The next mayor of New York City is a white man with a black wife.

Even in a nation with a biracial president, where interracial marriage is more accepted and common than ever, Bill de Blasio’s marriage to Chirlane McCray is remarkable: He is apparently the first white politician in U.S. history elected to a major office with a black spouse by his side.

This simple fact is striking a deep chord in many people as de Blasio prepares to take office on Jan. 1, with McCray playing a major role in his administration…

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Artists, Educators Laud Black Heritage In Dominican Republic

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Economics, Media Archive, Social Science on 2013-10-13 22:24Z by Steven

Artists, Educators Laud Black Heritage In Dominican Republic

The Associated Press

Ezequiel Abiú López, Foreign Correspondent
The Associated Press

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) — In a school auditorium filled with laughing students, actresses Luz Bautista Matos and Clara Morel threw themselves into acting out a fairy tale complete with a princess, a hero and acts of derring-do.

Morel had wrapped a white plastic sheet around her multi-colored blouse, while Bautista donned a brown paper bag over her blue tights. The two black actresses wore their hair free and natural, decorated only with single pink flowers.

“Yes, you’re a princess,” said Bautista to Morel, who fretted that she didn’t look like a traditional princess with her dark complexion and hair. Bautista then turned to a young girl sitting in the front row, who shared the same African-descended features as both actresses. “And you too,” Morel said as the child smiled back at her.

The theater group Wonderful Tree has visited schools all over Santo Domingo and some in the countryside to spread the word among black children that their features and heritage should be a source of pride. That message, though simple, has been nothing less than startling in this Caribbean country, where 80 percent of people are classified as mulattos, meaning they have mixed black-white ancestry, but where many still consider being labeled black an offense.

Wonderful Tree represents a larger cultural movement that’s working to combat the country’s historic bias through arts and education. The Dominican choreographer Awilda Polanco runs a contemporary dance company that’s trying to rescue Afro-Caribbean traditions, while the Technological Institute of Santo Domingo has been training primary school teachers to respect and celebrate their students’ African heritage, including through skits that young children can more easily understand.

It’s a bid to transform a color-obsessed society where a majority of the country’s 10 million people choose to identify themselves as “Indio” — or “Indian” — on government documents despite their black roots, and many reject afros in favor of closely cropped hair or sleek blowouts. Public schools for decades even prohibited students from attending classes with their hair loose or in a natural frizz.

Such hair, in fact, is called “bad hair” in the local Spanish lexicon while straightened hair is “good hair.”…

…Women in the Dominican Republic spend an estimated 12 percent of their household budgets on hair salons and treatments, according to “Good Hair, Bad Hair,” which included an economic and anthropological study of Dominican beauty salons.

Dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, who oversaw the killing of some 17,000 Haitians in 1937 in an effort to expel them from the Dominican Republic, was himself a mulatto who used makeup to make his face lighter.

Trujillo was the first to include the term “Indio” in official documents, said historian Emilio Cordero Michel

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Obama bares his ‘blackness’ in Trayvon speech

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2013-07-23 19:51Z by Steven

Obama bares his ‘blackness’ in Trayvon speech

The Buffalo News

Sonya Ross
The Associated Press

In a move unparalleled among presidents, Barack Obama reflects on being black in America.

WASHINGTON – Something in President Obama’s voice caught Gregory C. Ellison’s ear. It was fleeting, subtle, and easy to miss — unless you’re a black man, too.

“In between his personal reflections on what it feels like to be an African-American man, and the history of pain and his strategic plan, there was what I call a very pregnant pause,” says Ellison, a theology professor in Atlanta.

“If I ever have an opportunity to talk to President Obama, I would ask him what was he searching in his soul during that pregnant pause?”

Obama was wrapped in presidential authority Friday as he talked to a nation rubbed emotionally raw in the week since the man who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was acquitted in a Florida courtroom.

Then, in a move hardly anyone saw coming, Obama unwrapped himself, and put his own young, black face on Trayvon’s dead, young, black body.

This first black president, the guy accused by some of running from his blackness, of trying to address black folks’ needs on the down low, suddenly lifted the veil off his black male identity and showed it to the world. It was something no American president before him could have done.

He had to do it, Obama said, because “Trayvon Martin could have been me, 35 years ago.”…

Greg Carr, chairman of the Afro-American Studies department at Howard University in Washington, said the president “has an authenticity, because he does signal to the black community that he too has experienced what we experienced.”…

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Put a hoodie on him and have him walk down an alley, and see how biracial he is then…

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2013-07-14 16:51Z by Steven

Exhibit A is President Barack Obama. He declined to check the box for “white” on his census form, despite his mother’s well-known whiteness.

Obama offered no explanation, but Leila McDowell has an idea.

“Put a hoodie on him and have him walk down an alley, and see how biracial he is then,” said McDowell, vice president of communications for the NAACP.

Jesse Washington, “Black or biracial? Census forces a choice for some,” The Associated Press, April 14, 2010.

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