Jews of color, once sidelined, now being recruited by Jewish agencies

Posted in Articles, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion, Social Justice, United States on 2021-09-22 01:46Z by Steven

Jews of color, once sidelined, now being recruited by Jewish agencies

The Jewish News of Northern California
2021-08-05

Rachele Kanigel, Professor of Journalism
San Francisco State University


Paula Pretlow (right) with her daughter Alison in Jerusalem.

During her 13 years as a lay leader in the Jewish community, Paula Pretlow couldn’t help but notice the obvious: When decisions were being made, she usually was the only Jew of color in the room.

As a retired executive of an investment management firm, Pretlow was a “catch” for Jewish organizations. She was well versed in the language of finance, and she had impressive professional experience and connections.

Shortly after she joined Temple Isaiah in Lafayette in 2007, her rabbi suggested she serve on its board of directors. Later, when she moved to San Francisco and joined Congregation Emanu-El, she was asked to join that board. And then a major national philanthropic organization, the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, invited her to become a trustee.

Other leaders in the Jewish community sought her counsel. She was a macher, a person of influence. But as a Black woman, she rarely saw other Jews of color in similar positions of power.

That’s begun to change in the past year.

In the 14 months since the brutal murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer transfixed and transformed the nation, Pretlow has seen local and national Jewish organizations not only reach out to Jews of color but start to grapple with the racism that has festered for years in corners of the community…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Truths We Hold: An American Journey

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Biography, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States, Women on 2020-08-12 00:29Z by Steven

The Truths We Hold: An American Journey

Penguin Press
2019-01-08
336 Pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4
Hardcover ISBN: 9780525560715
Paperback ISBN: 9780525560739
eBook ISBN: 9780525560722

Kamala D. Harris

A New York Times bestseller

From one of America’s most inspiring political leaders, a book about the core truths that unite us, and the long struggle to discern what those truths are and how best to act upon them, in her own life and across the life of our country.

Senator Kamala Harris’s commitment to speaking truth is informed by her upbringing. The daughter of immigrants, she was raised in an Oakland, California community that cared deeply about social justice; her parents–an esteemed economist from Jamaica and an admired cancer researcher from India–met as activists in the civil rights movement when they were graduate students at Berkeley. Growing up, Harris herself never hid her passion for justice, and when she became a prosecutor out of law school, a deputy district attorney, she quickly established herself as one of the most innovative change agents in American law enforcement. She progressed rapidly to become the elected District Attorney for San Francisco, and then the chief law enforcement officer of the state of California as a whole. Known for bringing a voice to the voiceless, she took on the big banks during the foreclosure crisis, winning a historic settlement for California’s working families. Her hallmarks were applying a holistic, data-driven approach to many of California’s thorniest issues, always eschewing stale “tough on crime” rhetoric as presenting a series of false choices. Neither “tough” nor “soft” but smart on crime became her mantra. Being smart means learning the truths that can make us better as a community, and supporting those truths with all our might. That has been the pole star that guided Harris to a transformational career as the top law enforcement official in California, and it is guiding her now as a transformational United States Senator, grappling with an array of complex issues that affect her state, our country, and the world, from health care and the new economy to immigration, national security, the opioid crisis, and accelerating inequality.

By reckoning with the big challenges we face together, drawing on the hard-won wisdom and insight from her own career and the work of those who have most inspired her, Kamala Harris offers in The Truths We Hold a master class in problem solving, in crisis management, and leadership in challenging times. Through the arc of her own life, on into the great work of our day, she communicates a vision of shared struggle, shared purpose, and shared values. In a book rich in many home truths, not least is that a relatively small number of people work very hard to convince a great many of us that we have less in common than we actually do, but it falls to us to look past them and get on with the good work of living our common truth. When we do, our shared effort will continue to sustain us and this great nation, now and in the years to come.

PRH Audio · The Truths We Hold by Kamala Harris, read by Kamala Harris
Tags: , , , , , ,

Mary Ellen Pleasant Becomes a Rich, Black Abolitionist (feat. Lisa Bonet) – Drunk History

Posted in Biography, History, Media Archive, Passing, Slavery, United States, Women on 2020-01-28 19:18Z by Steven

Mary Ellen Pleasant Becomes a Rich, Black Abolitionist (feat. Lisa Bonet) – Drunk History

Drunk History
Comedy Central
2019-06-16

Mary Ellen Pleasant was a former slave who posed as a white woman in San Francisco, amassed a fortune and fought for the rights of black people.

Based on the popular web series, Drunk History is the liquored-up narration of our nation’s history. Host Derek Waters, along with an ever-changing cast of actors and comedians, travels across the country to present the rich tales that every city in this land has to offer. Booze helps bring out the truth. It’s just that sometimes the truth is a little incoherent.

Tags: , , , , , ,

‘I am who I am’: Kamala Harris, daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, defines herself simply as ‘American’

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States, Women on 2019-02-03 04:47Z by Steven

‘I am who I am’: Kamala Harris, daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, defines herself simply as ‘American’

The Washington Post
2019-02-02

Kevin Sullivan, Senior Correspondent


Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), center, sings the Alpha Kappa Alpha hymn at the sorority’s annual “Pink Ice Gala” on Jan. 25 in Columbia, S.C. (Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg News)

SAN FRANCISCO — In early 2010, an Indian American couple hosted a fundraiser in their elegant Pacific Heights home for Kamala Harris, then a Democratic candidate for California attorney general.

Harris had been San Francisco’s high-profile district attorney for more than six years, but Deepak Puri and Shareen Punian had only recently learned that Harris was, as Punian said, “one of our peeps,” a woman whose mother was an Indian immigrant.

They had always assumed Harris was African American, and so did most of the 60 or 70 Indian American community leaders at the event, many of whom asked Puri and Punian why they had been invited.

“At least half of them didn’t know she was Indian,” said Punian, a business executive and political activist.

Harris, 54, now a U.S. senator and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, would be several firsts in the White House: the first woman, the first African American woman, the first Indian American and the first Asian American. The daughter of two immigrants — her father came from Jamaica — she would also be the second biracial president, after Barack Obama.

Obama’s soul-searching quest to explore his identity, as the son of a white mother from Kansas and a Kenyan father who was largely absent from his life, was well-documented in his autobiography.

But when asked, in an interview, if she had wrestled with similar introspection about race, ethnicity and identity, Harris didn’t hesitate:

“No,” she said flatly…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

White Women’s Role in School Segregation

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Campus Life, History, Media Archive, Passing, Social Science, United States, Women on 2019-01-07 01:45Z by Steven

White Women’s Role in School Segregation

JSTOR Daily
2019-01-04

Livia Gershon
Nashua, New Hampshire

A classroom of white students in the 19th century
via Flickr

White American women have long played significant roles in maintaining racist practices. One sociologist calls the phenomenon “social mothering.”

In recent years, many public conversations about American racism have focused on white women—their votes for Trump, their opposition to school desegregation, their calls to the police about black people doing innocuous things. As sociologist Joseph O. Jewell points out, however, this is nothing new. White women have long played a role in maintaining institutional racism in this country.

Jewell focuses on two nineteenth-century incidents involving school segregation. The post-Civil War era was a time of changing racial and gender ideologies. White Anglo-Protestant families in U.S. cities viewed the growing visibility of upwardly mobile racial outsiders as a threat. Meanwhile, public schools and other institutions serving children were growing, creating new roles for middle-class white women—what Jewell calls “social mothering.”

In 1868, a white New Orleans engineer and Confederate army veteran learned there were nonwhite students attending his daughter’s school. When questioned, the school’s principal, the ironically-named Stephanie Bigot, provided a list of twenty-eight students “known, or generally reputed to be colored”—presumably girls whose appearances were passably “white.” Bigot claimed that she had no knowledge of their racial backgrounds but that there were rumors among the student body that they were not white.

Jewell writes that the enrollment of racially ambiguous girls posed a particular threat to white New Orleans families. “Allegations of racial passing compromised the entire student body’s ability to secure either marriage into a ‘good’ family or ‘respectable’ employment,” he writes…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Other(ing) People’s Children: Social Mothering, Schooling, and Race in Late Nineteenth Century New Orleans and San Francisco

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Campus Life, Economics, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, Social Science, United States, Women on 2019-01-05 20:01Z by Steven

Other(ing) People’s Children: Social Mothering, Schooling, and Race in Late Nineteenth Century New Orleans and San Francisco

Race, Gender & Class
Volume 21, No. 3/4, RGC Intersectionalilty, Race, Gender, Class, Health, Justice Issues (2014)
pages 138-155

Joseph O. Jewell, Associate Professor of Sociology
Texas A&M University

Social mothering—women’s carework in the public sphere—played an important role in whites’ responses to racial minorities’ claims to middle-class mobility and identity in the late nineteenth century. In New Orleans and San Francisco, two cities where racial minorities used public education to achieve and reproduce middle-class position, white women principals were central figures in struggles over schooling that contributed to the de jure segregation of black and Asian children. I analyze two historical cases to show how racialized constructions of social mothering helped to maintain links between race and class. In both incidents, public opinion held white professional women responsible for ensuring the racial purity of white children’s public spaces and social identities. I argue that analyses of the race-class intersection should more carefully consider how the economic domination of racial minorities is maintained through various gendered forms of reproductive labor.

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , ,

Dream of the Water Children: Memory and Mourning in the Black Pacific

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Biography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs on 2018-06-10 03:30Z by Steven

Dream of the Water Children: Memory and Mourning in the Black Pacific

2Leaf Press
2018-06-08
470 pages
Paperback ISBN-13: 978-1-940939-28-5
ePub ISBN-13: 978-1-940939-29-2

Fredrick D. Kakinami Cloyd

Introduction by Gerald Horne
Foreword by Velina Hasu Houston
Edited by Karen Chau

Fredrick D. Kakinami Cloyd’s debut, Dream of the Water Children: Memory and Mourning in the Black Pacific, is a lyrical and compelling memoir about a son of an African American father and a Japanese mother who has spent a lifetime being looked upon with curiosity and suspicion by both sides of his ancestry and the rest of society. Cloyd begins his story in present-day San Francisco, reflecting back on a war-torn identity from Japan, U.S. military bases, and migration to the United States, uncovering links to hidden histories.

Dream of the Water Children tells two main stories: Cloyd’s mother and his own. It was not until the author began writing his memoir that his mother finally addressed her experiences with racism and sexism in Occupied Japan. This helped Cloyd make better sense of, and reckon with, his dislocated inheritances. Tautly written in spare, clear poetic prose, Dream of the Water Children delivers a compelling and surprising account of racial and gender interactions. It tackles larger social histories, helping to dispel some of the great narrative myths of race and culture embedded in various identities of the Pacific and its diaspora.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

William Alexander Leidesdorff: Forgotten San Francisco Pioneer

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, United States on 2018-04-24 17:53Z by Steven

William Alexander Leidesdorff: Forgotten San Francisco Pioneer

San Francisco Travel
2014-08-22

Cindy Hu


Photo by vgm8383 / CC BY-NC

Financial district hotshots pass by tiny Leidesdorff Street, hardly more than an alley, and few can pronounce its name. Little do they know that the namesake of this charming hitching post-lined lane blazed the trail for them some 150 years ago. Fewer still realize he was the city’s first prominent businessman of black ancestry.

William Alexander Leidesdorff was born the son of Alexander Leidesdorff, a drifting Danish seaman, and a mulatto woman on St. Croix Island in the West Indies. The child was given Danish citizenship, though his father never shared in the raising of young William. However, an English plantation owner grew fond of the young boy and saw to his care and education.

When Leidesdorff grew into a strapping young man, the Englishman sent him to New Orleans to live with the planter’s brother and to become a cotton merchant. Leidesdorff and the mercantile industry were a perfect fit. He quickly learned the industry and built a reputation as a keen businessman. When the Englishman and his brother suddenly died, just months apart, Leidesdorff fell heir to their New Orleans estate.

When he was not managing the estate, the striking, young and wealthy Leidesdorff courted a southern belle named Hortense, whose prominent family claimed membership in New Orleans’ high society and whose lineage heralded back to Louis XIV of France. Keeping his mixed ancestry secret, Leidesdorff became engaged to the blonde, fair-skinned Hortense…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

A Girl Full of Smartness

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2018-04-24 02:25Z by Steven

A Girl Full of Smartness

The Paris Review
2017-06-02

Edward White


Mary Ellen Pleasant

As an entrepreneur, civil-rights activist, and benefactor, Mary Ellen Pleasant made a name and a fortune for herself in Gold Rush–era San Francisco, shattering racial taboos.

They did things differently in the Old West. On the morning of August 14, 1889, Stephen J. Field, a justice of the Supreme Court, was eating breakfast at a café in Lathrop, California, when David S. Terry, a former bench colleague, stopped by Field’s table and slapped him twice across the face.

This was not unprecedented behavior. Despite having risen to the rank of chief justice of the Supreme Court of California, Terry was described by one contemporary as an “evil genius” with an “irrepressible temper,” who once stabbed a man for being an abolitionist and killed a Congressman wedded to the Free Soil movement. His gripe with Stephen Field, however, had nothing to do with slavery. In 1883, Terry’s wife had filed a lawsuit (Sharon vs. Sharon) against the multimillionaire U.S. Senator William Sharon, claiming she had been married to him in secret some years ago and that, having been callously discarded by the womanizing senator, she was owed a divorce settlement. After five years the case ended up at a federal circuit court, where Field found in favor of William Sharon; there would be no divorce settlement. Terry was livid and promised to exact revenge.

It was only the latest twist in what had been a bizarre case. On the first day of the trial, William Sharon’s attorney asserted that his client was the victim of a plot involving an elderly black woman who had used voodoo to steal Sharon’s hard-earned fortune. That woman was known to the San Francisco public as “Mammy Pleasant,” around whom sinister rumors had swirled for years. Some accused her of being a murderess, a madam, and a practitioner of black magic who befriended white families only to curse them and bleed them dry; a nightmarish image of “the mammy gone wrong,” to quote one historian. But just as many—especially among the black community—knew her as Mary Ellen Pleasant: an ingenious entrepreneur, pioneering civil-rights activist, and beloved benefactor who broke racial taboos and played a singular role in the early years of San Francisco…

Even within her lifetime, there were several competing stories about Pleasant’s origins. One version has her born into slavery in Georgia; another says she was the daughter of a wealthy Virginian planter who had a fling with a voodoo priestess from the Caribbean. In her published reminiscences she claimed to have been born in Philadelphia in 1812, to a Hawaiian father and “a full-blooded Louisiana negress.” Racial mixing and ethnic ambiguity, themes that would repeat over and again throughout Pleasant’s life, appear to have been part of her identity from the start…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The real history behind Mary Ellen Pleasant, San Francisco’s “voodoo queen”

Posted in Articles, Audio, Biography, History, Media Archive, Passing, Slavery, United States, Women on 2018-04-24 02:04Z by Steven

The real history behind Mary Ellen Pleasant, San Francisco’s “voodoo queen”

KALW Local Public Radio, 91.7 FM
San Francisco, California
2015-09-09

Olivia Cueva & Liza Veale


Performer Susheel Bibbs poses in front of an image of Mary Ellen Pleasant.
Photograph by Olivia Cueva

In the mid-1800s, boomtown San Francisco was a city of men — only about 15 percent women. While slavery was illegal in California, white men were the ones cashing out on the boom. Mostly.

Then there was Mary Ellen Pleasant. She was one of the richest and most powerful people in the state — and she was a black woman. In fact she was a freedom fighter; her nickname was “Black City Hall.”

Yet today, Pleasant is barely remembered. The story that does get told is a mythologized tale about San Francisco’s so-called “voodoo queen.”

Why did this extraordinary woman fall from the city’s graces, left to haunt its history as the voodoo queen? We start at the last stop on a city tour called the San Francisco Ghost Hunt.

The tour brings you to the corner of Octavia and Bush streets, where Mary Ellen Pleasant’s mansion once stood. Six huge eucalyptus trees tower above the spot. Pleasant planted them herself over a hundred years ago.

Jim Fassbinder guides the tour. He tells a tale that he admits is not quite fact, not quite fiction.

He says Pleasant had power over San Franciscans because she practiced “voodoo.” He says some claim she was responsible for the death of four people, including her longtime business partner. Rumor has it her servant “found Mary Ellen pulling apart the bones of his head and picking out bits of his brain,” says Fassbinder.

As the story goes, she’s haunted this corner ever since the day she died. But the story’s been mangled by history. What really happened?

“It still is a mystery,” says Susheel Bibbs, “Her life is still a mystery.”

Bibbs has been studying Pleasant for over 20 years. She says part of the reason it’s so hard to distinguish fact from fiction is because Pleasant herself never kept her story straight.

“It was ingrained from the very beginning that survival meant that you don’t tell. You just keep secrets,” Bibbs says.

By best accounts, Pleasant was born on a plantation in Georgia. Once she was freed as a young girl, she began falsifying her identity. Slavery was still alive and well, so she needed to protect herself from law enforcement.

“If they decided she was an escaped slave and she had no freedom papers, they could just wrest her off the streets and back into slavery,” Bibbs says.

Her skin was fair enough to pass, so when she docked in San Francisco in 1852, she arrived as a white woman

Read entire story here. Listen to the story (00:08:37) here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,