The Digital Afterlife of Lost Family Photos

Posted in Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, United States on 2016-05-01 17:18Z by Steven

The Digital Afterlife of Lost Family Photos

On Photography
The New York Times Magazine
2016-04-26

Teju Cole


The backs of found photos from the writer’s “Mrs. X” collection. Credit Jens Mortensen for The New York Times

The photographs were Polaroids, taken between the 1970s and the 2000s. Zun Lee bought them at flea markets, at garage sales or on eBay. Most of them depicted African-Americans: people wearing stylish clothes, relaxing in the yard, celebrating birthdays. A few depicted people in prison uniforms. All the photographs had somehow been separated from their original owners and had become what Lee calls “orphaned Polaroids.”

Found photographs have long been important to artists like Lee. Photos taken by amateurs can sometimes acquire new value on account of their uniqueness, their age or simply the knowledge that they were once meaningful to a stranger. As part of a group, they can evoke a collector’s sensibility or tell us something about a historical period in a way professional photographs might not. For Lee, collecting found photographs of African-­Americans — a project he called “Fade Resistance” — had an additional and deeply personal meaning.

Lee was raised in Germany by Korean parents. In his 30s, his mother told him that the man who raised him was not his biological father. But because her relationship with that man, who was black, had been fleeting, she refused to tell her son more about him. This revelation, at once momentous and limited, changed Lee’s life. To make sense of his personal loss, and to explore his connectedness to black America, he took up photography. I became friends with Lee around the time he began making pictures of black fathers and their children in the Bronx and elsewhere; that project led to a book, “Father Figure,” for which I wrote a preface. Later, Lee began to collect the Polaroids — thousands of them — that ended up in “Fade Resistance.”…

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At Yale, a Right That Doesn’t Outweigh a Wrong

Posted in Campus Life, History, Media Archive, Religion, Slavery, United States, Women on 2016-05-01 00:45Z by Steven

At Yale, a Right That Doesn’t Outweigh a Wrong

The New York Times
2016-04-29

Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore, Peter V & C Vann Woodward Professor of History, African American Studies, and American Studies
Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut

NEW HAVEN — Yale made a grievous mistake this week when it announced that it would keep the name of an avowed white supremacist, John C. Calhoun, on a residential college, despite decades of vigorous alumni and student protests. The decision to name residential colleges for Benjamin Franklin and Anna Pauline Murray, a black civil rights activist, does nothing to redeem this wrong.

It is not a just compromise to split the difference between Calhoun and Murray; there should be no compromise between such stark contrasts in values. The decision to retain the Calhoun name continues the pain inflicted every day on students who live in a dormitory named for a man distinguished by being one of the country’s most egregious racists.

To be sure, there’s something noteworthy about the contrast between these two figures who now sit across campus from each other. Although they lived in different centuries, Calhoun in the 19th, and Murray in the 20th, in many ways, she lived in — and fought against — the world that he built.

Calhoun, a Yale graduate, congressman and the seventh vice president of the United States, owned dozens of slaves in Fort Hill, S.C. Murray grew up in poverty in Durham, N. C., as the granddaughter of an enslaved woman. Calhoun championed slavery as a “positive good”; Murray’s great-grandmother was raped by her slave master. Calhoun profited immensely from the labor of the enslaved people on his plantation; Murray was a radical labor activist in Harlem during the Great Depression

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Boris Johnson’s Essay on Obama and Churchill Touches Nerve Online

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United Kingdom, United States on 2016-04-23 15:09Z by Steven

Boris Johnson’s Essay on Obama and Churchill Touches Nerve Online

The New York Times
2016-04-22

Sewell Chan, International News Editor

LONDON — Hours after President Obama landed in London to urge Britons to vote to remain in the European Union, Mayor Boris Johnson, arguably the most visible leader of the campaign for Britain to leave the bloc, hit back with an opinion essay that criticized the president but immediately raised hackles online.

The essay, published in the right-leaning tabloid The Sun on Friday morning, recycled a story about a bust of Winston Churchill that was removed from the Oval Office shortly after Mr. Obama took office in 2009. It also mentioned a theory, prominent among some right-wing Americans, that Mr. Obama is motivated by a radical anti-imperialist agenda and that “the part-Kenyan president’s ancestral dislike of the British Empire” motivated the removal of the bust…

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With ‘Keanu,’ Key & Peele Break Into Feature Films — With Kittens in Tow

Posted in Articles, Arts, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2016-04-21 01:26Z by Steven

With ‘Keanu,’ Key & Peele Break Into Feature Films — With Kittens in Tow

The New York Times
2016-04-20

Dave Itzkoff, Culture Reporter

There is no longer “Key & Peele,” the razor-sharp Comedy Central sketch series that ended in September. There are only Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, the comic actors and writers who used the five seasons of that show to shine a satirical spotlight on racial stereotypes and injustice (not to mention the increasingly distinctive names of college football players). And so the two men started pursuing their individual career paths.

A few months later, those paths have brought Mr. Key and Mr. Peele back together on their first movie, “Keanu,” which Warner Bros. will release on Friday, April 29. In this comedy, they star as cousins in Los Angeles who take in an adorable kitten they name Keanu. (It can mean “cool breeze,” too, you know.) But, unaware that Keanu once belonged to a notorious drug lord, the strait-laced pair must navigate the city’s criminal underbelly to reclaim Keanu when he is stolen from them.

There’s a running idea in “Keanu” about black men who don’t fit traditional stereotypes having to navigate a world of stereotypical characters. Is that drawn in any way from your real-life experiences?

PEELE Part of it is a commentary on the lack of representation in movies. Certainly, there’s an overwhelming amount of stereotypes in movies. We’ve placed ourselves in a more typical world of Hollywood stereotypes.

KEY African-American culture’s not a monolith. You could take 56 pictures, and there’s one picture where you make this face [contorts his features], and that’s the picture they pick. “He loves to make that face!” No, dude, you didn’t look at the other 55 pictures. If we’re black nerds, we write from a point of view being black nerds. But we’re still African-American. In my life, it’s been frustrating when someone says, “You’re not black enough.” And I’m going: I’m black enough to not get that cab you also didn’t get. They didn’t pick me up either…

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An Heir to a Tribe’s Culture Ensures Its Language Is Not Forgotten

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Oceania on 2016-04-11 02:11Z by Steven

An Heir to a Tribe’s Culture Ensures Its Language Is Not Forgotten

The Saturday Profile
The New York Times
2016-04-08

Michelle Innis


Stan Grant, a Wiradjuri elder, at his home in Narrandera, Australia. Mr. Grant was an author of “A New Wiradjuri Dictionary,” after years of advocating to preserve the Wiradjuri language.
Credit Adam Ferguson for The New York Times

NARRANDERA, AustraliaStan Grant, crudely tattooed in a way that hints at the petty crime and drunken brawls of his youth, clasped gnarly hands across his round belly and murmured: “birrangbirrang, birrangbirrang.”

Mr. Grant had spotted a small kingfisher, or birrangbirrang in Wiradjuri, as it swooped low over the Murrumbidgee River in the oppressive summer heat, calling to its mate.

Slipping back into English, he spoke over the whirring of cicadas in the river red gum trees that line the sandy banks: “It is smaller than a kookaburra. Its mate will be nearby.”

Mr. Grant, 75, is an elder of Australia’s second-largest Aboriginal tribe, the Wiradjuri, who roamed most of central New South Wales before white farmers surged inland in the early 1800s.

Until recently, he was one of only a handful of people still speaking the tribal language, also called Wiradjuri (pronounced wi-RAD-jury), which nearly died out in the 20th century, when Aboriginals could be jailed for speaking their native tongue in public.

“You are nobody without language,” Mr. Grant said. “The world does not respect a person who does not have language.”…

…Mr. Grant was probably 8 or 9 years old the night a local policeman heard his grandfather, Wilfred Johnson, and locked him up. But he does not recall a sense of alarm.

“He was an elegant man,” he said of Mr. Johnson. “He was beautifully dressed, usually in a coat and hat. But he was black. So it wasn’t the first time he had spent the night in jail.”

After the arrest, Mr. Johnson, who spoke seven languages, refused to speak Wiradjuri in public…

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‘The Firebrand and the First Lady,’ by Patricia Bell-Scott

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2016-04-03 02:40Z by Steven

‘The Firebrand and the First Lady,’ by Patricia Bell-Scott

Sunday Book Review
The New York Times
2016-02-19

Irin Carmon


Pauli Murray, in 1946, and Eleanor Roosevelt, circa 1943. Credit Left, Bettmann/Corbis; right, Stock Montage/Getty Images

Patricia Bell-Scott, The Firebrand and the First Lady: Portrait of a Friendship: Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Struggle for Social Justice (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016)

The February 1953 issue of Ebony included an article entitled “Some of My Best Friends Are Negroes.” The byline was Eleanor Roosevelt’s, though the headline, apparently, was not. “One of my finest young friends is a charming woman lawyer — Pauli Murray, who has been quite a firebrand at times but of whom I am very fond,” Roosevelt wrote. “She is a lovely person who has struggled and come through very well.” Indeed, nothing was ever easy for Murray, a black woman born in 1910, a woman attracted to women and also a poet, memoirist, lawyer, activist and Episcopal priest. But her tender friendship with Roosevelt, sustained over nearly a quarter-century and more than 300 cards and letters, helped. It is the rich earth Patricia Bell-Scott tills for “The Firebrand and the First Lady,” a tremendous book that has been 20 years in the making.

You could say Pauli Murray was born too soon, and saying so captures the essential injustice of her life, but it would also rob her of credit for making her own time the best she could. “I’m really a submerged writer,” Murray once told her friends, “but the exigencies of the period have driven me into social action.” The granddaughter of a woman born into slavery and a mixed-race Union soldier, Murray was arrested for refusing to sit in the colored section of a bus 15 years before the Montgomery bus boycott and for participating in restaurant sit-ins in the early 1940s, long before the 1960 sit-ins at Woolworth’s lunch counter. She led a national campaign on behalf of a black sharecropper on death row…

Read the entire review here.

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‘The Black Calhouns,’ by Gail Lumet Buckley

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, United States on 2016-04-03 02:13Z by Steven

‘The Black Calhouns,’ by Gail Lumet Buckley

Book Review
The New York Times
2016-03-16

Patricia J. Williams, James L. Dohr Professor of Law
Columbia University, New York, New York

THE BLACK CALHOUNS
From Civil War to Civil Rights With One African American Family
By Gail Lumet Buckley
Illustrated. 353 pp. Atlantic Monthly Press. $26.

In “The Black Calhouns,” Gail Lumet Buckley displays a particularly panoramic view of American society. Daughter of the legendary entertainer Lena Horne, she was raised among show-business royalty. But as the descendant of a privileged and lucky line of well-educated African-American professionals, she also grew up related to or knowing nearly every major figure in the movements for racial, gender and economic equality, from Reconstruction onward.

The name “Calhoun” is mostly remembered today in association with our ardently secessionist seventh vice president, John C. Calhoun, a fiery orator who fashioned his conviction that slavery was a “positive good” into the ideology of states’ rights. His nephew was Andrew Bonaparte Calhoun, a wealthy doctor who owned the slaves whose descendants include Buckley’s and Horne’s maternal line. This link between history’s white founding fathers and the slave families who carried their names into freedom is a story with which most African-Americans are all too familiar, but one that has remained remarkably suppressed as a matter of general public knowledge. Only in recent years have some stories come to light, such as Annette Gordon-Reed’s excavation of Sally Hemings’s genealogy and Essie Mae Washington-Williams’s revelation that Strom Thurmond fathered her by a black family maid…

Read the entire review here.

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Cuba Says It Has Solved Racism. Obama Isn’t So Sure.

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy on 2016-03-23 17:52Z by Steven

Cuba Says It Has Solved Racism. Obama Isn’t So Sure.

The New York Times
2016-03-23

Damien Cave, Deputy Editor for Digital

HAVANAPresident Obama spoke of his Kenyan heritage. He talked about how both the United States and Cuba were built on the backs of slaves from Africa. He mentioned that not very long ago, his parents’ marriage would have been illegal in America, and he urged Cubans to respect the power of protest to bring about equality.

“We want our engagement to help lift up Cubans who are of African descent,” he said, “who have proven there’s nothing they cannot achieve when given the chance.”

Mr. Obama’s speech on Tuesday, in an ornate Spanish colonial-style hall in Havana, was not only strikingly personal. It was also an unusually direct engagement with race, a critical and unresolved issue in Cuban society that the revolution was supposed to have erased.

For many Cubans, Mr. Obama’s comments were striking for their acknowledgment of racism in both countries. His remarks served as a reminder that their particular kinship with him — as reflected in dozens of conversations and responses to his history-making three-day visit this week — involves not just policy, but also identity.

“It’s a revolution,” said Alberto González, 44, a baker who was one of the few Afro-Cubans to attend a discussion with the president about entrepreneurship on Monday. “It’s a revolution for everyone with a background descended from Africa.”…

…Socialized medicine and education also helped create a society more deeply shaped by interracial interactions and marriages than the United States.

And yet, Cuba is no more postracial than anywhere else. Many Afro-Cubans in Cuba and abroad have been quick to point out that the presence of Mr. Obama, the first black president of the United States, only highlights that the Cuban government does not reflect the demographics of their country.

On an island that is around two-thirds black and mixed race, according to a 2007 study by the Cuban economist Esteban Morales Domínguez, the civil and public leadership is about 70 percent white. He also found that most scientists, technicians and university professors, up to 80 percent in some fields, were white…

…Some Afro-Cubans, like the hip-hop artist known as Soandry, linked the president to “what can be achieved in a capitalist system.”

Other Cubans brought up race more directly, without prompting, arguing that because Mr. Obama is African-American, he understands their country.

Mr. González, whose bakery counter is adorned with photographs of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, said it was not just the president whom people admire. “Look at that family,” he said, smiling broadly. “Can you imagine? Have you ever seen a more beautiful family?”…

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Proud of Obama’s Presidency, Blacks Are Sad to See Him Go

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2016-03-13 19:26Z by Steven

Proud of Obama’s Presidency, Blacks Are Sad to See Him Go

The New York Times
2016-03-12

Yamiche Alcindor

CHICAGO — In his 30s and 40s, the Rev. C.T. Vivian rode with the Freedom Riders, organized sit-ins in Nashville and worked closely with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Many years later, before the 2008 election, he traveled the country along with other civil rights leaders exclaiming to voters that a Barack Obama presidency was exactly the kind of prize that they had been fighting for all their lives.

All of that came back to him during a meeting at the White House three weeks ago between President Obama and several of those leaders. Mr. Vivian told the president how proud he was of him, and how sad he was to see him go.

And then he began to cry…

…But if seven years under President Obama has opened possibilities for black Americans, many of those interviewed were torn about his lasting impact on race relations.

They were, on one hand, hard-pressed to imagine a white president saying “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” inviting the Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. and the white police officer who had confronted him to a White House “beer summit,” or singing “Amazing Grace” at the funeral of the pastor who was one of the nine black churchgoers gunned down in Charleston, S.C., last year.

“We are losing a soldier who has actually been through the things that individuals are going through,” said Jakya’s father, Jevon Hobbs, 42. “None of the current candidates,” he said, “know what it’s like to be accosted by the police for no reason.”

On the other hand, they said they did not believe a white president would have heard “You lie!” shouted at him from the floor of Congress; or would have had his birth certificate challenged and then seen a man who challenged it become the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination…

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Don’t Call Me the ‘Black Seth Rogen’

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, United States on 2016-03-01 03:07Z by Steven

Don’t Call Me the ‘Black Seth Rogen’

The New York Times
2016-02-27

Colton Dunn


Richie Pope

Los Angeles — YEARS ago, I was in a cast in what’s called a “network showcase.” Hollywood does tons of these types of showcase shows. The networks bring in young actors to create material and perform for agents, managers and casting directors. The goal is to get actors signed or brought in for auditions for pilots and eventually to create a star.

The theme of this particular showcase was “diversity” — “diversity” being an umbrella term to describe “not white” and, more recently, “not white and/or not straight.” Blacks, Asians, lesbians, Pacific Islanders, Latinos, Indians are all welcome. I have a black dad, a white mom and I’m straight, so thanks to Dad, I was in, too — being mixed race, or, as I call it, “presidential.”

The showcase was directed by a wonderful woman who has worked in casting for years. Her showcases have featured many talented people whom you see on TV today, and I’m grateful for the opportunity she gave me. I really am…

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