Yvonne Chouteau, Native American Ballerina, Dies at 86

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States, Women on 2016-02-11 03:34Z by Steven

Yvonne Chouteau, Native American Ballerina, Dies at 86

The New York Times
2016-01-29

Jack Anderson


Yvonne Chouteau, one of the five celebrated Oklahoma ballerinas with an American Indian background, in a 1963 photo. Credit Jack Mitchell/Getty Images

Yvonne Chouteau, a former principal dancer of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo who emerged as one of a celebrated group of dancers known as the American Indian ballerinas of Oklahoma, died on Sunday at her home in Oklahoma City. She was 86.

The cause was congestive heart failure, said Mary Margaret Holt, director of the School of Dance and dean of the College of Fine Arts at the University of Oklahoma. Ms. Chouteau was a founder of the dance school, one of the leading institutions of its kind in the Southwest

…Part French and part ShawneeCherokee, Myra Yvonne Chouteau was born into a pioneering Southwestern family in Fort Worth on March 7, 1929, the only child of Corbett Edward Chouteau and the former Lucy Annette Taylor. The family soon moved to Vinita, Okla., and her father, who was known as C. E. Chouteau, became a prominent American Indian figure in the state.

Ms. Chouteau was a direct descendant of Maj. Jean Pierre Chouteau (1758-1849), who established Oklahoma’s oldest white settlement in 1796…

Read the entire obituary here.

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Meet the New Student Activists

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, Media Archive, United States on 2016-02-10 02:18Z by Steven

Meet the New Student Activists

The New York Times
2016-02-01

As told to Abby Ellin

Young African-Americans and their allies are demanding change, leading people of all backgrounds to talk about issues that have lain dormant for decades. What do they want? Inclusion and representation — now. Here, seven students talk about the problems, the protests and themselves.

AMANDA BENNETT University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa

Bio: Senior, English/African-American studies; co-organizer of We Are Done movement; producer and co-author of “How Does It Feel to Be a Problem” video

My Story: I am totally African-American. My grandfather was a sharecropper in rural Alabama who moved to Atlanta and became a mechanic and worker at General Motors, so I grew up in Atlanta around middle-class black people. To come to Alabama and see this kind of segregation was horrifying to me. A lot of people who were impoverished 50 years ago, around the time of Selma, are still impoverished… .Nothing has changed structurally…

NAILAH HARPER-MALVEAUX, Yale University


“Black women are at the bottom of the totem pole. When you free women of color, you free everyone.” — Nailah Harper-Malveaux Credit Fred R. Conrad for The New York Times

Bio: Senior, American studies/theater studies; director of theatrical productions that tell the stories of African-Americans

My Story: I’ve been surrounded by social justice and law my whole life. My mom is a civil rights lawyer turned law professor at Catholic University, while my dad is U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Council. My dad is Cherokee and Macanese, from Macau, and my mom is Creole, a mixture of Spanish and black descent. I don’t look white but I don’t look black, either. I identify as Indian and black. Because I’m mixed I have been very conscious of race my whole life, which is probably why I’ve participated in so many political events at Yale, including the midnight march to walk the demands to the president’s house. It was very empowering…

Read the entire article here.

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When it comes to race, confusion is the most intellectually defensible position.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2016-01-28 23:44Z by Steven

Ethics generally commends telling the truth. But in a situation in which our ordinary ways of thinking are at odds with reality, there can be no easy truth to be had. When it comes to race, confusion is the most intellectually defensible position.

Kwame Anthony Appiah, “Can I Call My Nonbiological Twins Black Because My Husband Is?,” The Ethicist, The New York Times Magazine, January 27, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/31/magazine/can-i-call-my-nonbiological-twins-black-because-my-husband-is.html.

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Can I Call My Nonbiological Twins Black Because My Husband Is?

Posted in Articles, Family/Parenting, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Philosophy, Social Science, United States on 2016-01-27 22:02Z by Steven

Can I Call My Nonbiological Twins Black Because My Husband Is?

The Ethicist
The New York Times Magazine
2016-01-27

Kwame Anthony Appiah, Professor of Philosophy, Law
New York University


Illustration by Tomi Um

I’m a Caucasian woman married to an African-American man. Shortly after we married, I discovered that I couldn’t conceive my own biological children. We opted to ‘‘adopt’’ two embryos. (Couples who have successfully undergone in-vitro fertilization and don’t wish to have more children can donate remaining embryos to other couples.) I was soon pregnant and gave birth to twins. Based on the records of the fertility clinic, we know that our children are genetically mixed Hispanic and Caucasian. I am not comfortable being open about the origin of my children, except with family and close friends, until they are old enough for me to explain it to them. However, several times in the last three years, I’ve been asked about their race, most recently on a pre-K school application form. On this form, there is no option of ‘‘mixed race’’ or ‘‘other.’’ Therefore, I identified my children as black. Was this the right choice? Name Withheld, Chicago

Ethics generally commends telling the truth. But in a situation in which our ordinary ways of thinking are at odds with reality, there can be no easy truth to be had. When it comes to race, confusion is the most intellectually defensible position. Let’s try to sow some. If your children were your biological children, many people in our society would say that they were African-American, because we have a tradition, going back before emancipation, of treating people with one black parent as black . . . or Negro or colored or whatever the favored term was at various times in American history. That’s the ‘‘one-drop rule,’’ so called because consistent application of it would mean that anyone with any African ancestry at all was black. (Of course, unbeknown to those who started this system, we all have African ancestry in the long run, which shows how much our thinking is shaped by our lack of knowledge.)…

As it happens, millions of Americans are black according to the one-drop rule but don’t have any of the features that people associate with African ancestry. Lots of them ‘‘pass’’ for white. Many don’t, though. Walter White, the early-20th-century leader of the N.A.A.C.P., was able to travel the South investigating lynchings because, although his parents were ex-slaves, he ‘‘looked white.’’ His autobiography begins: ‘‘I am a Negro. My skin is white, my eyes are blue, my hair is blond. The traits of my race are nowhere visible upon me.’’ (In a bio­pic, he could have been played by, oh, Bryan Cranston.) ‘‘ ’Cause it’s swell to have a leader/That can pass for white,’’ wrote Langston Hughes, who with his ‘‘copper-brown skin and straight black hair’’ — his description — was himself taken for white during a trip to Africa and could have passed for Indian if he troubled himself to do so…

Read the entire article here.

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An Artist Stands Before Her Fun House Mirror

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2016-01-27 02:23Z by Steven

An Artist Stands Before Her Fun House Mirror

The New York Times
2016-01-06

Amanda Fortini


Genevieve Gaignard, “A Golden State of Mind” installation, 2015.
Credit: Eric Minh Swenson, via The Cabin LA and Diane Rosenstein

LOS ANGELES — On a recent Friday afternoon, Genevieve Gaignard, a photographer, collagist and installation artist, was sitting on her bed in the room she rents in the Echo Park neighborhood. For the last year, Ms. Gaignard, who takes self-portraits costumed as various alter egos she imagines, then builds fictional domestic spaces for them, has lived in this nondescript, book-filled and thoroughly carpeted apartment with a professional couple in their late 20s, their chatty lime-green parrot and three cats.

Ms. Gaignard, who is 34, with strawberry-blond hair and long, acrylic nails painted the matte pastel colors of Jordan almonds, had decorated her bedroom with charmingly girlish touches, like a white net canopy befitting a fairy-tale princess and a Felix the Cat clock with a pendulum tail. On every surface were snowdrifts of stuff: piles of clothing, toiletries, plastic sunglasses. On her desk, a bra and a half-eaten granola bar shared space with an assortment of wigs. “This is what happens; this is how involved I get in the artmaking,” she said, waving a manicured hand around at the clutter. “Everything else sort of falls apart.”

A 2014 graduate of Yale’s photography M.F.A. program, Ms. Gaignard does work that reclaims everyday items: hair curlers, curling irons, plastic party favors, costume jewelry, towels. These she finds at thrift shops, dollar and beauty supply stores, or via her mother, who, she says with affection, “is kind of a hoarder.” A forest of Vanillaroma air fresheners dangles from a pair of yellow knee-high boots. A collage made to resemble the faux-wood paneling of a suburban basement is appended with miniature knickknacks. “It’s not like, ‘Hmm, can I make something out of nothing?’” Ms. Gaignard said. “It’s literally like, ‘What do I have access to?’”…

Her recent show, “Us Only,” at Shulamit Nazarian Gallery in the Venice neighborhood, featured a variety of pieces that blurred the lines between highbrow and vernacular, unraveling stereotypes of gender, race and class in the process. Her photos are often likened to those of Cindy Sherman, arguably our most famous costumed self-portraitist. But this comparison takes into account neither the animating impulses of her art — Ms. Gaignard is biracial, and her background forms an essential through line in her work — nor the decades of intervening culture since Ms. Sherman began taking pictures in the late 1970s. Third-wave feminism, online dating, even the ascent of the selfie: All are likely influences on a female artist photographing herself today. (Ms. Gaignard told me that Diane Arbus, not Ms. Sherman, was her seminal artistic inspiration, in part because she feels like “one of the people she photographed.”)…

Sarah Lewis, a professor of history of art and architecture and African and African-American studies at Harvard, said that Ms. Gaignard’s art explores “the often undiscussed subject of racial indeterminacy.” It is, Professor Lewis notes, a topic well covered by 20th-century writers — Jean Toomer, Nella Larsen, Danzy Senna — but by few contemporary visual artists. Ms. Gaignard’s approach is not narrative, didactic or overtly political; she wittily employs symbols a viewer understands on a visceral level, even as a more explicit meaning remains elusive.

“Her work avoids any easy answers about race or identity,” said Gregory Crewdson, the director of graduate studies in photography at Yale. “I don’t think it’s in any conventional sense a critique. It’s more ambiguous than that. And that’s part of its power.”…

Read the entire article and view the photographs here.

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Black Indians Formed the First American Rainbow Coalition

Posted in Articles, History, Letters, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2016-01-23 23:06Z by Steven

Black Indians Formed the First American Rainbow Coalition

The New York Times
1991-03-17

To the Editor:

Census Finds Many Claiming New Identity: Indian” (front-page, March 5) discusses whites who now assert their Indian blood, but fails to mention African-Americans who can claim longer and more legitimate ties to America’s Indian heritage. Many in the New York area are pursuing their biracial heritage through such organizations as the National Alliance of Native Americans and radio stations such as WLIB.

The African-native American connection came to light in 1503, when Gov. Nicolas de Ovando of Hispaniola complained to King Ferdinand that African slaves “fled among the Indians . . . and never could be captured.” His words announced our first rainbow coalition. Today almost every African-American family — from Frederick Douglass, Langston Hughes and Alex Haley to Alice Walker, Jesse Jackson and L. L. Cool J — has an Indian branch in its family tree. The statistics are much lower for white Americans…

William L. Katz
New York
March 6, 1991

The writer, a scholar in residence at N.Y.U., is the author of “Black Indians: A Hidden Heritage” (1986).

Read the entire letter here.

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Many of the Indians who now strongly assert their identities are the children or grandchildren of Indians who “passed” as white.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2016-01-23 21:26Z by Steven

Many of the Indians who now strongly assert their identities are the children or grandchildren of Indians who “passed” as white. Others were adopted into white families, and later sought to reclaim their heritage. John Homer, for example, was born 44 years ago to Indian parents in Hugo, Okla., but was adopted by a white couple. As a child growing up in Arkansas, he knew that he was Indian and was bothered that he could walk comfortably in whites-only neighborhoods because of his adopted parents but that other Indian boys could not.

Dirk Johnson, “Census Finds Many Claiming New Identity: Indian,” The New York Times, March 5, 1991. http://www.nytimes.com/1991/03/05/us/census-finds-many-claiming-new-identity-indian.html

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Another Win for a Player Getting in Touch With Her Japanese Roots

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive on 2016-01-23 03:22Z by Steven

Another Win for a Player Getting in Touch With Her Japanese Roots

The New York Times
2016-01-21

Ben Rothenberg


Naomi Osaka signed autographs after her 6-4, 6-4 victory over 18th-seeded Elina Svitolina at the Australian Open on Thursday.
Credit Issei Kato/Reuters

MELBOURNE, AustraliaNaomi Osaka (大坂 なおみ) liked to think she had a universal appeal to the crowd that watched her 6-4, 6-4 win over 18th-seeded Elina Svitolina at the Australian Open on Thursday afternoon.

“Maybe it’s because they can’t really pinpoint what I am,” said Osaka, who will play the two-time champion Victoria Azarenka in the third round. “So it’s like anybody can cheer for me.”

Osaka, 18, is coached in the United States by her Haitian-born father, Leonard Francois. She spends little time in her mother’s homeland of Japan, the country she represents in tennis, but received strong support from Japanese fans as she pulled off the upset on Show Court 2.

“I always think that they’re surprised that I’m Japanese,” she said. “So like the fact that there was like Japanese flags and stuff, it was like really touching.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Census Finds Many Claiming New Identity: Indian

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2016-01-22 23:57Z by Steven

Census Finds Many Claiming New Identity: Indian

The New York Times
1991-03-05

Dirk Johnson

For the first 43 years of her life, Barbara Anderson did not talk about her ethnic background. But now it is a matter of pride — and record. On the latest census form, Mrs. Anderson, now 48, checked a different box: American Indian.

“I no longer had to pretend,” she said.

Census officials are finding a sharp increase in the number of people who identify themselves as American Indians. Tribes are swamped with applications for enrollment. And a large wave of urban Indians now takes part in traditional Indian practices, like the “vision quest,” a time of spiritual reflection spent alone in the wilderness.

As American society becomes more accepting and admiring of the Indian heritage, and as governments set aside contracts and benefits for tribe members, an increasing number of Indians, like Mrs. Anderson, feel freer to assert their identities.

“There were many people who were ashamed of their Indian past, so they hid it,” said Russell Thornton, a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and a sociologist at the University of California at Berkeley. “But a lot of people who went the assimilationist route have come back. And the tribes have been enjoying a renaissance.”

Since 1960, the Government count of American Indians has tripled, to an estimated 1.8 million. The Census Bureau has so far released ethnic data from 38 states and the District of Columbia showing a 38 percent increase in the last 10 years. Some of the biggest increases came in states without large Indian populations: Alabama rose 118 percent, New Jersey 78 percent. In Wyoming, which had an overall population loss of more than 3 percent, the number of Indians grew by more than 33 percent…

…Many of the Indians who now strongly assert their identities are the children or grandchildren of Indians who “passed” as white. Others were adopted into white families, and later sought to reclaim their heritage. John Homer, for example, was born 44 years ago to Indian parents in Hugo, Okla., but was adopted by a white couple. As a child growing up in Arkansas, he knew that he was Indian and was bothered that he could walk comfortably in whites-only neighborhoods because of his adopted parents but that other Indian boys could not…

Read the entire article here.

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“Of all the places I’ve lived, there’s only one where I felt uncomfortable being black. It was where I am from: the United States.”

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2016-01-22 18:37Z by Steven

“Of all the places I’ve lived, there’s only one where I felt uncomfortable being black. It was where I am from: the United States.” —Nicholas Casey

Nicholas Casey, “Moving to Venezuela, a Land in Turmoil: Q&A: Race and Racism in Venezuela,” The New York Times, January 21, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/cp/reporters-notebook/moving-to-venezuela/race-racism.

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