‘In the Heights’ and Colorism: What Is Lost When Afro-Latinos Are Erased

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Latino Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2021-06-22 20:36Z by Steven

‘In the Heights’ and Colorism: What Is Lost When Afro-Latinos Are Erased

The New York Times
2021-06-21

By Maira Garcia, Sandra E. Garcia, Isabelia Herrera, Concepción de León, Maya Phillips and A.O. Scott


The “In the Heights” cast includes Daphne Rubin-Vega, left, Stephanie Beatriz, Melissa Barrera (rear), Olga Merediz, Gregory Diaz IV, Dascha Polanco and Jimmy Smits. Warner Bros.

The film, set in a New York neighborhood known as the Little Dominican Republic, didn’t cast dark-skinned Latinos in lead roles. Our writers discuss how that absence reverberates.

In the Heights,” the long-delayed Hollywood adaptation of the Broadway musical, has been heralded as a step for more Latino representation in Hollywood, but a conversation has emerged about colorism and the casting of the film.

The New York neighborhood at the center of the story, Washington Heights, is predominantly Afro-Dominican. In an interview, Felice León, a video producer for The Root, asked Jon M. Chu, the director, and some of the stars about the lack of dark-skinned leads in the film: “As a Black woman of Cuban descent specifically from New York City,” she told him, “it would be remiss of me to not acknowledge the fact that most of your principal actors were light-skinned or white-passing Latinx people.” Chu said it was a conversation and something he needed to be educated about. In the end, he said, they “tried to get the people who were best for those roles.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is a part of the film’s creative team, which includes the writer Quiara Alegría Hudes, addressed the criticism last week in a statement on Twitter. He apologized for falling short in “trying to paint a mosaic of this community.” Several prominent Latinos came to Miranda’s defense, including the pioneering Latina actress Rita Moreno, who later backtracked her comments. It’s not the first time Chu has had to contend with questions of identity. His box office hit “Crazy Rich Asians” also had to address similar issues when it came to the casting of Asians and Asian-Americans in the film. (The lead actor in that film, Henry Golding, is biracial.)

I asked five critics and reporters at The Times to weigh in on the criticism and what it means for representation in the arts. These are edited excerpts from the conversation. MAIRA GARCIA

Read the entire article here.

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The Performance of Racial Passing

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2021-03-08 01:47Z by Steven

The Performance of Racial Passing

The New York Times Style Magazine
2021-03-02

Brit Bennett


The author Nella Larsen, photographed in 1934 by Carl Van Vechten. Carl Van Vechten, ©Van Vechten Trust, Courtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University

Though Nella Larsen’s classic 1929 novel is understood to be a tragedy, it also exposes race to be something of a farce.

This article is part of T’s Book Club, a series of articles and events dedicated to classic works of American literature. Click here to R.S.V.P. to a virtual conversation, led by Brit Bennett, about “Passing,” to be held on March 9.

There’s a scene in the 1959 melodramatic film “Imitation of Life” that I have seen dozens of times, but it’s not the one you’re probably imagining: the climatic funeral scene where Sarah Jane Johnson, a young Black woman passing for white, flings herself onto the casket of the dark-skinned mother she has spent the entire film disowning. Instead, the scene that sticks with me is halfway into the movie, when Sarah Jane meets up with her white boyfriend, who has secretly discovered that she is Black. “Is your mother a nigger?” he sneers, before beating her in an alley.

I’m not proud to admit that in elementary school, my best friend and I used to watch this scene over and over again, not because we thought it was tragic, but because we found it funny. The frenetic music in the background, the melodramatic slaps, Sarah Jane’s slow crumple to the asphalt. We knew we were wrong to laugh, but we were too young to take much seriously, let alone a character like Sarah Jane, whom we found more pitiful than pitiable. We’d watched her mope through the whole movie about not wanting to be Black. Well, fine. Go see how she likes it over there.

In a strange way, the beating scene itself is almost structured like a joke. Part of the pleasure of a passing narrative is watching the passer fool her audience; in this scene, however, the audience is aware while the passer is not. Sarah Jane asks her boyfriend to run away together, the boyfriend pretends to consider it. He only has one question: Is it true? Sarah Jane laughs, unsuspecting. Is what true? But of course, we already know the punchline…

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They Were Black. Their Parents Were White. Growing Up Was Complicated.

Posted in Arts, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, United Kingdom, United States, Women on 2021-03-06 22:48Z by Steven

They Were Black. Their Parents Were White. Growing Up Was Complicated.

The New York Times
Book Reviews
2021-02-23

Bliss Broyard


Georgina Lawton (Left), Rebecca Carroll (Right) Jamie Simonds/Loftus Media, Laura Fuchs

Georgina Lawton, Raceless: In Search of Family, Identity, and the Truth About Where I Belong (New York: Harper Perennial, 2021)

Rebecca Carroll, Surviving the White Gaze, A Memoir (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2021)

For most of us, racial identity is a combination of inheritance (you are what your parents are) and influence (you’re a product of where and how you were raised). But what if you are raised by people who didn’t look like you, in communities where you were the only one, steeped in a culture whose power was amassed through your oppression?

In a pair of new memoirs — “Surviving the White Gaze,” by the American cultural critic Rebecca Carroll, and “Raceless: In Search of Family, Identity, and the Truth About Where I Belong,” by the British journalist Georgina Lawton — two women recount growing up as Black girls with white parents who loved them deeply but failed them miserably by not seeing and celebrating them for who they were…

Read the review of both books here.

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In Ireland, Lifting a Veil of Prejudice Against Mixed-Race Children

Posted in Articles, Europe, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, Religion, Social Work on 2021-01-17 03:24Z by Steven

In Ireland, Lifting a Veil of Prejudice Against Mixed-Race Children

The New York Times
2021-01-15

Caelainn Hogan


Jess Kavanagh says she always knew that her mother, Liz, was adopted. “It was obvious,” she said. “My grandparents were white and my mam was Black.” Paulo Nunes dos Santos for The New York Times

The singer Jess Kavanagh is working to raise awareness about the experiences of mixed-race Irish people, particularly those born in the country’s infamous mother and baby homes.

While helping her mother work merchandise tables at some of Dublin’s most respected venues, Jess Kavanagh first got a taste for the music scene. When she started doing gigs herself — a petite singer with a belter of a voice — people would come up after to tell her she sounded “like a Black person,” the last words half whispered.

They were assuming she was white.

Ms. Kavanagh, a rising solo star in Ireland after years touring with acts like Hozier and the Waterboys, had to form what she calls a “linguistic arsenal” to express her experience as a mixed-race Irish woman. What drives her to speak out is a legacy of silence. As the daughter of a Black Irish woman who was born in one of Ireland’s infamous mother and baby homes, she is raising awareness about how those institutions hid away generations of mixed-race Irish children.

More than five years ago, reports that children were interred in a sewage system at a mother and baby institution in Tuam, in western Ireland, compelled the Irish government to open an investigation into the institutions, where unmarried women and girls who became pregnant were sent. They were run by religious orders.

The final report, published on Tuesday, confirmed that of the 57,000 children born in Ireland’s 18 homes over several decades starting in 1920, around 9,000 died…

Read the entire article here.

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Ancient DNA Shows Humans Settled Caribbean in 2 Distinct Waves

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation on 2021-01-05 00:56Z by Steven

Ancient DNA Shows Humans Settled Caribbean in 2 Distinct Waves

The New York Times
2020-12-23

Carl Zimmer


Taíno ceramic vessels from eastern Dominican Republic, circa A.D. 1400. Menno Hoogland/Leiden University

Millions of people living on the islands today inherited genes from the people who made them home before Europeans arrived.

When Dr. Juan Aviles went to school in Puerto Rico, teachers taught him that the original people of the island, the Taino, vanished soon after Spain colonized it. Violence, disease and forced labor wiped them out, destroying their culture and language, the teachers said, and the colonizers repopulated the island with enslaved people, including Indigenous people from Central and South America and Africans.

But at home, Dr. Aviles heard another story. His grandmother would tell him that they were descended from Taino ancestors and that some of the words they used also descended from the Taino language.

“But, you know, my grandmother had to drop out of school at second grade, so I didn’t trust her initially,” said Dr. Aviles, now a physician in Goldsboro, N.C.

Dr. Aviles, who studied genetics in graduate school, has become active in using it to help connect people in the Caribbean with their genealogical history. And recent research in the field has led him to recognize that his grandmother was onto something…

Read the entire article here.

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‘What a Barrister Looks Like’: A Young Black Woman Paves the Way

Posted in Articles, Law, Media Archive, Social Justice, United Kingdom, Women on 2020-11-01 01:35Z by Steven

‘What a Barrister Looks Like’: A Young Black Woman Paves the Way

The New York Times
2020-10-30

Megan Specia


Alexandra Wilson at her offices in London. “My ability is underestimated, quite a lot,” she said. Amara Eno for The New York Times

Alexandra Wilson is working to change England’s legal establishment, and perceptions about who belongs in it, from the inside.

LONDON — It was looking like a typical day at the office for Alexandra Wilson as she arrived at a London courthouse ready to defend someone accused of theft.

She tied her hair into a neat knot, shrugged on her black robe and pulled on a white horsehair wig — the official garb of Britain’s barristers, the lawyers who argue most cases in court.

But once she was in the courtroom, things went off script. In a patronizing exchange that was rude at best and hostile at worst, the prosecutor, an older white man, scoffed at Ms. Wilson, chided her for speaking with her client and tutted at her requests for details on court documents.

Unfortunately, it was an all too typical day for Ms. Wilson in a profession where, as a young Black woman, she often finds herself fighting for recognition and respect…

…As the 25-year-old daughter of a Black Caribbean father and white British mother from working-class roots, she is still a rarity in the cavernous halls of England’s courts.

Her unabashed observations about race and class have drawn a following of thousands on Twitter, inspired a book about her experiences and driven her to found a community for Black women in the legal professions. Just over a year into her career, she’s only getting started…

Read the entire article here.

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Black Like Kamala

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Biography, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States, Women on 2020-11-01 01:23Z by Steven

Black Like Kamala

The New York Times
2020-08-14

Jamelle Bouie, Opinion Columnist


Kamala Harris in 1966 during a family visit to Harlem. Kamala Harris campaign, via Associated Press

Republican efforts to deny Senator Harris’s identity as an African-American and turn her into a noncitizen are destined to fail.

It was probably inevitable that becoming Joe Biden’s running mate would result in controversy over Kamala Harris’s heritage.

Harris, whose mother emigrated from India and whose father emigrated from Jamaica, is a woman of Tamil and African ancestry who identifies as Black. That’s why, after Biden’s announcement, she was described as the first Asian-American and African-American woman on a major-party presidential ticket.

Not everyone thought this was the right description for Harris. Several allies of President Trump, for example, were quick to dispute the idea that Harris was or could be Black. The radio host Mark Levin said Harris’s Jamaican origins placed her outside the category of African-American. “Kamala Harris is not an African-American, she is Indian and Jamaican,” Levin said. “Her ancestry does not go back to American slavery, to the best of my knowledge her ancestry does not go back to slavery at all.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Bernard Cohen, Lawyer in Landmark Mixed-Marriage Case, Dies at 86

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, United States, Virginia on 2020-10-28 20:31Z by Steven

Bernard Cohen, Lawyer in Landmark Mixed-Marriage Case, Dies at 86

The New York Times
2020-10-15

Neil Genzlinger


Bernard S. Cohen, left, and Philip J. Hirschkop, co-counsels in Loving v. Virginia. The Supreme Court’s landmark unanimous ruling in that case in 1967 struck down bans on interracial marriage. Francis Miller/The LIFE Picture Collection, via Getty Images

With Philip J. Hirschkop, he brought Loving v. Virginia to the Supreme Court, which struck down laws against interracial marriages.

“Dear Sir,” began the letter from Washington that found its way to Bernard S. Cohen at the American Civil Liberties Union in June 1963. “I am writing to you concerning a problem we have. Five years ago my husband and I were married here in the District. We then returned to Virginia to live. My husband is white, and I am part Negro and part Indian.”

The letter, from Mildred Loving, went on to explain that when she and her husband, Richard, returned to Caroline County, Va., to live, they were charged with violating Virginia’s law against mixed-race marriages and exiled from the state.

“It was that simple letter that got us into this not-so-simple case,” Mr. Cohen said later. The not-so-simple case was Loving v. Virginia, which Mr. Cohen and his co-counsel, Philip J. Hirschkop, eventually took to the Supreme Court. In a landmark unanimous ruling in 1967, the court said that laws banning interracial marriage, which were in effect in a number of states, mostly in the South, were unconstitutional.

Mr. Cohen died on Monday at an assisted-living center in Fredericksburg, Va. He was 86…

Read the entire obituary here.

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The Black Violinist Who Inspired Beethoven

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Europe, History, Media Archive on 2020-09-11 02:13Z by Steven

The Black Violinist Who Inspired Beethoven

The New York Times
2020-09-04

Patricia Morrisroe


The violinist George Bridgetower has, like so many other Black artists, been largely forgotten by a history that belongs to those who control the narrative. The Trustees of the British Museum, via Art Resource, NY

George Bridgetower, the original dedicatee of the “Kreutzer” Sonata, was a charismatic prodigy but faded into history.

Six months after Beethoven contemplated suicide, confessing his despair over his increasing deafness in the 1802 document known as the Heiligenstadt Testament, he was carousing in taverns with a charismatic new comrade, George Polgreen Bridgetower. This biracial violinist had recently arrived in Vienna, and inspired one of Beethoven’s most famous and passionate pieces, the “Kreutzer” Sonata.

Beethoven even dedicated the sonata to Bridgetower. But the irritable composer — who would later remove the dedication to Napoleon from his Third Symphony — eventually took it back.

While Napoleon didn’t need Beethoven to secure his place in history, this snub reduced Bridgetower to near obscurity. Though his name was included in Anton Schindler’s 1840 biography of Beethoven, he was described inaccurately as “an American sea captain.” Like so many Black artists prominent in their lifetimes, he has been largely forgotten by a history that belongs to those who control the narrative.

Bridgetower was born on Aug. 13, 1778, in eastern Poland, and christened Hieronymus Hyppolitus de Augustus. His father, Joanis Fredericus de Augustus, was of African descent; his mother, Maria Schmid, was German-Polish, making Bridgetower what was then known as a mulatto, a person of mixed race. (The poet Rita Dove’s 2008 book “Sonata Mulattica,” an imagined chronicle of Bridgetower’s life, has helped raise his profile a bit in recent years.)…

Read the entire article here.

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Black, Native American and Fighting for Recognition in Indian Country

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Slavery, United States on 2020-09-11 01:10Z by Steven

Black, Native American and Fighting for Recognition in Indian Country

The New York Times
2020-09-08

Jack Healy, Rocky Mountain correspondent


Ron Graham’s father, Theodore Graham, center, as a youth with his youngest sibling, Rowena, on his lap, in a photograph from around 1912. Mr. Graham spent decades assembling documentation showing that he is a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. via Ron Graham

Enslaved people were also driven west along the Trail of Tears. After a historic Supreme Court ruling, their descendants are fighting to be counted as tribal members.

OKMULGEE, Okla. — Ron Graham never had to prove to anyone that he was Black. But he has spent more than 30 years haunting tribal offices and genealogical archives, fighting for recognition that he is also a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

“We’re African-American,” Mr. Graham, 55, said. “But we’re Native American also.”

His family history is part of a little-known saga of bondage, blood and belonging within tribal nations, one that stretches from the Trail of Tears to this summer of uprisings in America’s streets over racial injustice.

His ancestors are known as Creek Freedmen. They were among the thousands of African-Americans who were once enslaved by tribal members in the South and who migrated to Oklahoma when the tribes were forced off their homelands and marched west in the 1830s…

Read the entire article here.

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