Dancer, singer … spy: France’s Panthéon to honour Josephine Baker

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Europe, History, Media Archive, Women on 2021-11-29 22:14Z by Steven

Dancer, singer … spy: France’s Panthéon to honour Josephine Baker

The Guardian
2021-11-28

Jon Henley

‘Resistance heroine’: Josephine Baker entertains the troops at a London victory party in 1945. Photograph: Jack Esten/Getty Images

The performer will be the first Black woman to enter the mausoleum, in recognition of her wartime work

In November 1940, two passengers boarded a train in Toulouse headed for Madrid, then onward to Lisbon. One was a striking Black woman in expensive furs; the other purportedly her secretary, a blonde Frenchman with moustache and thick glasses.

Josephine Baker, toast of Paris, the world’s first Black female superstar, one of its most photographed women and Europe’s highest-paid entertainer, was travelling, openly and in her habitual style, as herself – but she was playing a brand new role.

Her supposed assistant was Jacques Abtey, a French intelligence officer developing an underground counter-intelligence network to gather strategic information and funnel it to Charles de Gaulle’s London HQ, where the pair hoped to travel after Portugal.

Ostensibly, they were on their way to scout venues for Baker’s planned tour of the Iberian peninsula. In reality, they carried secret details of German troops in western France, including photos of landing craft the Nazis were lining up to invade Britain.

The information was mostly written on the singer’s musical scores in invisible ink, to be revealed with lemon juice. The photographs she had hidden in her underwear. The whole package was handed to British agents at the Lisbon embassy – who informed Abtey and Baker they would be far more valuable assets in France than in London.

So back to occupied France Baker duly went. “She was immensely brave, and utterly committed,” Hanna Diamond, a Cardiff university professor, said of Baker, who on Tuesday will become the first Black woman to enter the Panthéon in Paris, the mausoleum for France’s “great men”….

Read the entire article here.

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A British betrayal: the secret deportations of Chinese merchant sailors

Posted in Arts, Asian Diaspora, Audio, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Justice, United Kingdom on 2021-11-11 22:09Z by Steven

A British betrayal: the secret deportations of Chinese merchant sailors

The Guardian
2021-11-10

Presented by: Nosheen Iqbal with Dan Hancox and Yvonne Foley
Produced by Joshua Kelly and Axel Kacoutié
Executive producers Phil Maynard and Archie Bland

Yvonne Foley, Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

During the second world war, Chinese sailors served alongside their British allies in the merchant navy, heroically keeping supply lines open to the UK. But after the war hundreds of them who had settled in Liverpool suddenly disappeared. Now their children are piecing together the truth

Liverpool is home to the longest-established Chinese community in Europe having built sea links with Shanghai from the 19th century onwards. A thriving Chinatown is among the city’s present day inheritance of the era. But there is a darker side to the story of Liverpool’s Chinese community.

During the second world war, Chinese men served alongside their British comrades in merchant vessels that kept supply lines of food and other essentials flowing into the UK. It was incredibly dangerous work as the enormous cargo ships were ready targets for German U-boats and many of the seamen perished. After the war, many of the Chinese sailors settled in Liverpool with some starting families. But from 1946 onwards many started to go missing from the city.

On a day that Britain remembers the sacrifices of its war dead, writer Dan Hancox tells Nosheen Iqbal how he began investigating what had happened to the missing Chinese sailors and found a story of betrayal that is largely unknown in the UK. In the months following the war, the Home Office carried out thousands of secret deportations of Chinese seamen leaving their wives and children to believe they had been abandoned.

Yvonne Foley tells Nosheen she was 11 when she was told the truth about her Chinese heritage and has been trying ever since to find out what happened to her biological father she has never known.

Listen to the story (00:30:52) here. Download the story here.

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Passing review – Rebecca Hall’s stylish and subtle study of racial identity

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2021-11-02 19:48Z by Steven

Passing review – Rebecca Hall’s stylish and subtle study of racial identity

The Guardian
2021-10-28

Peter Bradshaw, Guardian Film Critic

Hypnotic … Tessa Thompson and André Holland in Passing. Photograph: Netflix

Hall’s directing debut stars Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga as friends who are both ‘passing’ for what they are not in an adaptation of Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel

Rebecca Hall makes her directing debut with this intimately disturbing movie, adapted by her from the 1929 novel by Nella Larsen. Irene (Tessa Thompson) and Clare (Ruth Negga) are two women of colour, former school friends who run into each other by chance in an upscale Manhattan hotel in prohibition-era America. They are both light-skinned, but Irene is stunned to realise that her vivacious and now peroxide blonde friend Clare is “passing” for white these days, and that her odious, wealthy white husband John (Alexander Skarsgård) has no idea. As for sober and respectable Irene, she lives with her black doctor husband Brian (André Holland) in Harlem with their two sons and a black maid that she treats a little high-handedly.

There is an almost supernatural shiver in Irene and Clare’s meeting: as if the two women are the ghosts of each other’s alternative life choices. Irene is herself passing for middle class, passing for successful: she has an entrée into modish artistic circles through her friendship with the celebrated white novelist Hugh Wentworth (Bill Camp) who is passing for straight. But there is something else. Clare is also passing for happily married. The dangerously transgressive Clare, for whom this chance meeting has triggered a desperate homesickness for her black identity, demands access to Irene’s life and simperingly makes Brian’s acquaintance…

Read the entire review here.

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Rebecca Hall on race, regret and her personal history: ‘In any family with a legacy of passing, it’s very tricky’

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, History, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2021-10-28 15:52Z by Steven

Rebecca Hall on race, regret and her personal history: ‘In any family with a legacy of passing, it’s very tricky’

The Guardian
2021-10-27

Ellen E. Jones

Rebecca Hall: ‘In any family that has a legacy of passing, you inherit all of the shame and none of the pride.’ Photograph: Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP

The actor has just directed her first film, an adaptation of Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel Passing. She discusses the family story that inspired her, cultural appropriation and class in Hollywood

It would be easy to assume that Rebecca Hall has never had to fight for anything in her life. Now 39, she made her screen debut at the age of 10 in The Camomile Lawn, the 1992 TV series directed by her father, the British theatre grandee Sir Peter Hall. Her stage debut came a decade later, in his production of Mrs Warren’s Profession. There followed 15 hugely successful years as an actor, working with Steven Spielberg (The BFG), Christopher Nolan (The Prestige), Woody Allen (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) and many more. But for more than a decade she has been struggling to build a second career, as the director of a movie that some would say she has no right to make.

That movie is Passing, which Hall has adapted herself from the 1929 novel by the Harlem Renaissance writer Nella Larsen. It is an emotionally resonant study of racial identity, seen through the eyes of two Black women, Irene (played by Tessa Thompson) and Clare (Ruth Negga), both of whom, to varying extents, “pass” as white. Hall remembers first encountering the book in her early 20s and feeling a rush of inspiration: “I was sat there reading and I could just suddenly start seeing it: their two faces, seeing each other in that tea room, and I had that idea of looking from Irene’s perspective and panning through someone staring at you and then coming back. That was really there, and very potent, in black and white in my head.”

The phenomenon of “passing” is, in many ways, historically specific. It made sense only in a time and place when the oppression and segregation of American “negroes” (defined, according to the “one-drop rule”, as anyone with any African ancestry) coincided with the severing of community ties, making it both possible and desirable for people of European appearance to “cross the colour line” into white society. And yet, what Larsen’s book revealed – and Hall’s film further elucidates – is the universality of the passing experience. Nobody fits entirely comfortably into the identity categories assigned them by society; every human is more complex than any label can account for…

Read the entire article here.

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‘How is Pauli Murray not a household name?’ The extraordinary life of the US’s most radical activist

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Gay & Lesbian, History, Law, Media Archive, Social Justice, United States, Women on 2021-09-30 03:38Z by Steven

‘How is Pauli Murray not a household name?’ The extraordinary life of the US’s most radical activist

The Guardian
2021-09-17

Steve Rose


‘I lived to see my lost causes found’ … Pauli Murray. Photograph: Everett Collection Historical/Alamy

She explored her gender and sexuality in the 20s, defied segregation in the 40s and inspired Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Now, a film is bringing her trailblazing achievements to light

It seems inconceivable that someone like Pauli Murray could have slipped through the cracks of US history. A lawyer, activist, scholar, poet and priest, Murray led a trailblazing life that altered the course of history. She was at the forefront of the battles for racial and gender equality, but often so far out in front that her contributions went unrecognised.

In 1940, 15 years before Rosa Parks, Murray was jailed for refusing to move to the back of a bus in the Jim Crow south. In 1943, she campaigned successfully to desegregate her local diner, 17 years before the Greensboro lunch counter sit-ins of 1960. Her work paved the way for the landmark supreme court ruling Brown v Board of Education in 1954 – which de-segregated US schools – to the extent that Thurgood Marshall, a lawyer for the NAACP civil rights group, called Murray’s book States’ Laws on Race and Color “the bible for civil rights lawyers”.

Murray also co-founded the National Organization for Women (NOW), in 1966, alongside Betty Friedan. When Ruth Bader Ginsburg won the Reed v Reed case in 1971, which ruled that discrimination “on the basis of sex” was unconstitutional, her arguments were built on Murray’s work. Ginsburg named Murray as co-author of the brief. “We knew when we wrote that brief that we were standing on her shoulders,” Ginsburg later said.

Murray ought to be celebrated as an American hero, commemorated in stamps, statuary and street names, not to mention biopics, so why is her name relatively unknown?…

Read the entire article here.

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Bernardine Evaristo on a childhood shaped by racism: ‘I was never going to give up’

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Biography, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2021-09-28 01:40Z by Steven

Bernardine Evaristo on a childhood shaped by racism: ‘I was never going to give up’

The Guardian
2021-09-25

Bernardine Evaristo


Bernardine Evaristo: ‘I liked the same music as my little white pals, ate the same food, had the same feelings – human ones.’ Photograph: Suki Dhanda/The Observer

My creativity can be traced back to my heritage, to the skin colour that defined how I was perceived. But, like my ancestors, I wouldn’t accept defeat

When I won the Booker prize in 2019 for my novel Girl, Woman, Other, I became an “overnight success”, after 40 years working professionally in the arts. My career hadn’t been without its achievements and recognition, but I wasn’t widely known. The novel received the kind of attention I had long desired for my work. In countless interviews, I found myself discussing my route to reaching this high point after so long. I reflected that my creativity could be traced back to my early years, cultural background and the influences that have shaped my life. Not least, my heritage and childhood

Through my father, a Nigerian immigrant who had sailed into the Motherland on the “Good Ship Empire” in 1949, I inherited a skin colour that defined how I was perceived in the country into which I was born, that is, as a foreigner, outsider, alien. I was born in 1959 in Eltham and raised in Woolwich, both in south London. Back then, it was still legal to discriminate against people based on the colour of their skin, and it would be many years before the Race Relations Acts (1965 and 1968) enshrined the full scope of anti-racist doctrine into British law.

My English mother met my father at a Commonwealth dance in central London in 1954. She was studying to be a teacher at a Catholic teacher-training college run by nuns in Kensington; he was training to be a welder. They married and had eight children in 10 years. Growing up, I was labelled “half-caste”, the term for biracial people at that time…

Read the entire article here.

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The last humanist: how Paul Gilroy became the most vital guide to our age of crisis

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, Philosophy, Politics/Public Policy, Social Justice, United Kingdom on 2021-09-22 02:07Z by Steven

The last humanist: how Paul Gilroy became the most vital guide to our age of crisis

The Guardian
2021-08-05

Yohann Koshy, Assistant Opinion Editor


Prof Paul Gilroy near his home in north London. Photograph: Eddie Otchere/The Guardian

One of Britain’s most influential scholars has spent a lifetime trying to convince people to take race and racism seriously. Are we finally ready to listen?

In 2000, the race equality thinktank the Runnymede Trust published a report about the “future of multi-ethnic Britain”. Launched by the Labour home secretary Jack Straw, it proposed ways to counter racial discrimination and rethink British identity. The report was nuanced and scholarly, the result of two years’ deliberation. It was honest about Britain’s racial inequalities and the legacy of empire, but also offered hope. It made the case for formally declaring the UK a multicultural society.

The newspapers tore it to pieces. The Daily Telegraph ran a front-page article: “Straw wants to rewrite our history: ‘British’ is a racist word, says report.” The Sun and the Daily Mail joined in. The line was clear – a clique of leftwing academics, in cahoots with the government, wanted to make ordinary people feel ashamed of their country. In the Telegraph, Boris Johnson, then editor of the Spectator magazine, wrote that the report represented “a war over culture, which our side could lose”. Spooked by the intensity of the reaction, Straw distanced himself from any further debate about Britishness, recommending in his speech at the report’s launch that the left swallow some patriotic tonic.

The Parekh report, as it was known – its chair was the political theorist Lord Bhikhu Parekh – was not a radical document. It was studiously considerate. Contrary to the Telegraph front page, it didn’t claim “British” was a racist word. It said that “Britishness, as much as Englishness, has … largely unspoken, racial connotations”. This was the sentence that launched a thousand tirades, but where did this idea come from? Follow the footnote in the offending paragraph and you arrive at the work of an academic called Paul Gilroy

Read the entire article here.

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But in the past year, off the track [Lewis] Hamilton has started to find a voice about his racial identity. He has been taking a knee; raising a clenched fist.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2021-07-15 20:03Z by Steven

But in the past year, off the track [Lewis] Hamilton has started to find a voice about his racial identity. He has been taking a knee; raising a clenched fist. Long dormant concerns about racism and discrimination have been rudely awakened following the Black Lives Matter uprisings. In the process, Hamilton has transformed the way he sees himself: from a compliant go-with-the-flow character to a change agent who is determined to make waves. He has shaped the way others see him too, going from an inoffensive, if gaffe-prone, socialite focused only on his sport, to a politically aware role model conscious of his wider cultural significance. Now, he is about to take on the sport that brought him fortune and fame, with a commission demanding racial diversity and meaningful outreach to underrepresented groups – as well as more racial equality in general.

Gary Younge, “Lewis Hamilton: ‘Everything I’d suppressed came up – I had to speak out’,” The Guardian, July 10, 2021. https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2021/jul/10/lewis-hamilton-everything-id-suppressed-came-up-i-had-to-speak-out.

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Lewis Hamilton: ‘Everything I’d suppressed came up – I had to speak out’

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, Social Justice, United Kingdom on 2021-07-15 15:50Z by Steven

Lewis Hamilton: ‘Everything I’d suppressed came up – I had to speak out’

The Guardian
2021-07-10

Gary Younge, Professor of Sociology
University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom


Lewis Hamilton: ‘I don’t just want to be remembered as a driver.’ Styling: Law Roach. Photograph: Ike Edeani/The Guardian

He’s the most successful driver Formula One has ever seen, and its only Black star. Now Lewis Hamilton has a new mission: to change the sport that made him.

As Lewis Hamilton rose through the ranks of competitive go-karting, his father, Anthony, told him: “Always do your talking on the track.” Lewis had a lot to talk about. Bullying and racial taunts were a consistent feature of his childhood in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, a new town 30 miles north of London; his dad taught him the best response was to excel at his sport.

The trouble was he didn’t have many people to talk to about what he was going through. Lewis is mixed-race, born to a white mother, Carmen Larbalestier, who raised him until he was 12, when he went to live with his Grenadian-British father, from whom she had separated. “My mum was wonderful,” he tells me. “She was so loving. But she didn’t fully understand the impact of the things I was experiencing at school. The bullying and being picked on. And my dad was quite tough, so I didn’t tell him too much about those experiences. As a kid I remember just staying quiet about it because I didn’t feel anyone really understood. I just kept it to myself.” Sport offered him an outlet. “I did boxing because I needed to channel the pain,” he says. “I did karate because I was being beaten up and I wanted to be able to defend myself.”

I understand where he’s coming from; I too grew up in Stevenage. Hamilton’s mother and I went to the same school – though not at the same time. As close to London as it was, it might as well have been in a different universe. In London the Black experience appeared authentic; in Stevenage it felt synthetic. Race in London was something you read about in the papers; race in Stevenage was something you didn’t even acknowledge. I was 22 before I found my first Black male friend…

Read the entire article here.

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‘An American riddle’: the black music trailblazer who died a white man

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Communications/Media Studies, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2021-07-15 15:14Z by Steven

‘An American riddle’: the black music trailblazer who died a white man

The Guardian
2021-07-14

Ammar Kalia


Harry Pace, lawyer and cultural entrepreneur, thought by his family to have been Italian. Photograph: Courtesy of Peter Pace

A fascinating new podcast delves into the life of Harry Pace, forgotten founder of the first black-owned major record label in the US – and unlocks a shocking and prescient story about race

There are, according to the academic Emmett Price, “six degrees of Harry Pace”. He is referring to the man born in 1884 who founded America’s first black-owned major record label; desegregated part of Chicago; mentored the founder of Ebony and Jet magazines and spearheaded the career of blues singer Ethel Waters. Pace is a figure who is seemingly everywhere at once, yet his name has been suspiciously absent from the history books.

“This story encapsulates how progress comes about in America – and it is never in a straight line,” says Jad Abumrad. “It is often a cycle – one that contains hope and despair, smashed together.”

Best known for their work on Radiolab and its hit spin-off, Dolly Parton’s America, Abumrad and his co-producer Shima Oliaee are speaking from New York about their latest podcast, The Vanishing of Harry Pace. The six-part series examines the life and legacy of its titular character – the founder of Black Swan records, who had a hand in coining the term “rock ‘n’ roll”. Pace was also a civil rights lawyer, a collaborator of WEB Du Bois, and, you might think, a pioneering black American erased from history because of his race…

Read the entire article here.

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