Danzy Senna’s New People Explores Race, Love, and Gentrification

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-08-10 00:47Z by Steven

Danzy Senna’s New People Explores Race, Love, and Gentrification


Lisa Shea

The Caucasia author returns to her home ground: the personal and political dynamics of race.

In her latest novel, New People (Riverhead), Danzy Senna bores into the dynamics of race, identity, heritage, poverty, and privilege in contemporary America, exposing the pride and promises of change therein, as well as the pitfalls and pathologies. Agile and ambitious, the novel is also a wild-hearted romance about secrets and obsessions, a dramedy of manners about the educated black middle-class—the “talented tenth”—that is Senna’s authorial home ground. One critic, in reviewing Senna’s 2009 memoir, Where Did You Sleep Last Night?, about her writer parents’ marriage and divorce, and her father’s disappearance from her life, called her trenchant observations on America’s fixation with race “nod-inducingly brilliant.”

The female protagonist of New People, Maria, shares some of Senna’s biographical outlines: Maria refers to herself as a “quadroon” adopted and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts, by a single mom, Gloria, who struggled for years but never was able to complete her dissertation at Harvard. Maria meets Khalil—who “grew up in a liberal, humanist, multiracial family, oblivious to his own blackness,” when they are students at Stanford—after he’d broken up with his white girlfriend. “Maria liked to joke that she was his transitional object,” Senna writes. “He was morphing into a race man before her very eyes.”

Now it is 1996, and they’re engaged and living together in a gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood. “Interspersed among the old guard—the Jamaican ladies with their folding chairs, the churchy men in their brown polyester suits—are the ones who have just arrived. It is subtle, this shift, almost imperceptible. When Maria blurs her eyes right it doesn’t appear to be happening. They dance together at house parties in the dark. If I ruled the world they sing, their voices rising as one, Imagine that. I’d free all my sons.“…

Read the entire review here.

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Amandla Stenberg Is Ready to Be Your Role Model

Posted in Articles, Arts, Interviews, Media Archive, Social Justice, United States on 2015-08-16 20:40Z by Steven

Amandla Stenberg Is Ready to Be Your Role Model


Chaedria LaBouvier

The actress and activist talks exclusively to ELLE.com about everything from box braids to Black Lives Matter to her ambitions in front of and behind the camera.

As one of Hollywood’s most exciting young faces and voices, Amandla Stenberg—whose first name means “power” in Zulu and was used as a rally cry against apartheid in South Africa—more than lives up to the name in her presence, commentary, and poise. I know because I got to talk to the 16-year-old last week, and our conversation, which ranged fluidly from box braids to Black Lives Matter, did not disappoint. (And let’s be honest, some of us can’t even have this range of conversation with twenty- and thirty-somethings.)…

Though she wasn’t born when some of her boho, curly-haired predecessors were gracing the big and small screen in the early ’90s—actresses like Lisa Bonet and Cree Summer, who I grew up adoring—I get the feeling that Amandla is definitely a worthy heir to the crown. Of curls, of course.

First things first: Let’s talk about your style and particularly your hair. I noticed on Instagram that you experiment with different styles. Is hair a form of expression for you?

When I was younger, I struggled with my hair a lot because it was too hard to deal with—it was too poofy, it was too big, and I just wanted it to go down, flat against my head. I put treatments in my hair to try to make it look straight, and in the past year, I realized that that’s so not necessary. I really love my natural hair texture and my curls and so I went totally natural and had to do the big chop…and the curls sprung back to life.

And all of the sudden, it gave me so much more confidence. I’m so much more comfortable with my hair, my body, and everything. So hair is super central to how I express myself because it’s just kind of part of the Black experience: Doing your hair is always an event. I really love my hair, I really embrace it, and I’m so glad that I made the decision to wear it natural…

Read the entire interview here.

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Women in TV 2015: Tracee Ellis Ross in ‘black-ish’

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2015-01-10 23:41Z by Steven

Women in TV 2015: Tracee Ellis Ross in ‘black-ish’


Seth Plattner, Culture Editor

This article appears in the February 2015 issue of ELLE magazine.

Clones and copywriters. Journalists and sex scientists. Cult survivors and carnival acts. These actors fearlessly take on roles that are all over the map. So what do they have in common? A gift for delivering complex female characters who always leave us wanting just one more episode, please!

There are on-screen moms—and then there are Prime-Time Matriarchs. Thanks to Tracee Ellis Ross, Rainbow “Bow” Johnson of ABC’s Black-ish may just be the next Clair Huxtable or Marge Simpson. She first played the den-mother type in a group of four friends living in Los Angeles on UPN/The CW’s Girlfriends. On Black-ish, Ross, 42, is now lending that warmth (and many a sideways glance) to a traditional family setup and an audience of nearly 8 million viewers per week.

Bow is an anesthesiologist who, with her ad-man husband, Dre (Anthony Anderson), is raising four precocious kids in upper-class suburban L.A.—and has to constantly deal with Dre’s concern that their family isn’t adequately in touch with all that it means to be black. In exploring that issue through one family, Black-ish makes race not a thing by making it a thing. “In 1950, the black experience was specific,” says Ross, a former model who is the daughter of Diana Ross and Robert Ellis Silberstein. “But in this day and age, it isn’t. Race, culture, family, socioeconomics, tradition—we’re pulling from all those places to pull the whole conversation forward.”

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