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Purple Boots, Silver Stars … and White Parents – NYTimes.com

Purple Boots, Silver Stars … and White ParentsBy FRANK LIGTVOETPublished: October 13, 2013

“WHEN I wear my cap backwards, don’t copy me,” our 8-year-old son says to his 7-year-old sister. “O.K.,” she answers, “I will put it on sideways.”Enlarge This Image Joohee YoonConnect With Us on TwitterFor Op-Ed, follow @nytopinion and to hear from the editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal, follow @andyrNYT.Readers’ CommentsReaders shared their thoughts on this article.

Recently our African-American daughter, Rosa, had gone with an older black friend to Fulton Mall, a crowded commercial area in our Brooklyn neighborhood, where the shoppers are mostly black. Fulton Mall is not only about shopping, it’s also a place to flirt, talk, laugh and argue, and to listen in passing to gospel, soul, hip-hop and R & B.Rosa had seen some purple canvas boots with silver stars and lost herself in an all-consuming desire to have them. Immediately. I bought them, a bit later. A day later. And to be “fair,” I bought our son, Joshua, who is also African-American, a pair of black and yellow basketball shorts. Pretty cool as well.The next day they want to show off their new stuff and, somewhat to my surprise, they decide to do so at Fulton Mall. I am their white adoptive dad, and by now, at their age, they see the racial difference between us clearly and are not always comfortable with it in public. But they know they are too young to go alone to the mall. Before we leave, Rosa, who had always seemed indifferent to fashion, changes into tight jeans and a black short-sleeve T-shirt. Joshua twists his head to see how he looks from behind. He pushes his new shorts a bit lower over his hips, but doesn’t dare to go all the way saggy. And then — after they have their cap conversation — we go.They walk ahead. I am kept at a distance, a distance that grows as we get closer to the mall. I respect that; I grin and play stranger.  (click link below to read rest of article)

Looking east across Boerum Street at Fulton St...

Looking east across Boerum Street at Fulton Street Mall by David Shankbone, Brooklyn. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

via Purple Boots, Silver Stars … and White Parents – NYTimes.com.

 

 

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400 Years a Slave | Our Black Ancestry

Scars of a whipped slave (April 2, 1863, Baton...

Scars of a whipped slave (April 2, 1863, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA. Original caption: “Overseer Artayou Carrier whipped me. I was two months in bed sore from the whipping. My master come after I was whipped; he discharged the overseer. The very words of poor Peter, taken as he sat for his picture.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

400 Years a Slave   9 November 2013

 

After weeks of anticipation, I finally saw the movie 12 Years a Slave.In trying to unpack my thoughts, the one thing I do not want to do is review the film. Others will do that far more adeptly than I. Suffice it to say, the film was STUNNING — in every sense of the word, at all possible levels.As an African American genealogist, I am more informed than most about the history of African American people and our subjugation to slavery in the Americas. From my personal family tree, I can name 12 ancestors whose humanity was violated. And that is just the “top note” as I know there are others whose names will never be found.For the past 30+ years, I have been on a mission to bring their stories to light — not just for my own edification, but for public exposure. It was thus that I created Our Black Ancestry for the purpose of “empowering our future by honoring our past.”Every name I learn, every document I uncover, every story I reveal … all of it constitutes a mere fragment in the worldwide complicity of economic aspiration that resulted in a heinous crime against  humanity. It is a crime that has never been fully addressed, punished or resolved. White Americans relegate this past to the fond digression of films like Gone with the Wind. African Americans often refuse to look back, perhaps in an attempt to control the antipathy that surely must reside in our wounded souls.The powerful essence of the movie was that it encapsulated a visual depiction of the words I read in books and documents.As I witnessed the unfolding story of Solomon Northup, I was mentally transported into a cotton field where my great grandparents toiled without relief in  Lowndes County, Alabama.I lay in the bed of my great grandmother in Noxubee County, Mississippi as she succumbed to sexual objectification by the man who fathered her 17 children — thus being elevated over a 10 year span from “farmhand” to “housekeeper.”I experienced the anguish of an inconsolable mother whose cries for her stolen children were so overwhelmingly rife with anguish, her fellow slave retorted that she “stop wailing.” She then endured further punishment by being sold away by an owner who refused to entertain the unconscionable pain he had caused.As Northup was hung by the neck and left dangling in desperation, I envisioned my uncle who was lynched.I shared the pathos of generations of people — my people — kidnapped, chained, whipped, crippled, violated and traumatized in every possible way. Slave masters reduced themselves and their prey to a level of barbarity that defies imagination, unleashing a vicious cycle of violence that informs our society unto this very day.  I cannot fathom the cognitive dissonance of these men and their consort wives who did what they did and justified it with the word of a God I do not know.In the end, as Northup climbed into the wagon of his rescuers, all he could do was gaze with sadness and longing at the ones he left behind. In the final analysis, it was they who were the most tragic of victims because their subjugation was never to be relieved. Sixty years removed from the only relative I knew in person who was enslaved — my father’s grandmother — I am limited to a vicarious awareness of what she and my other family members endured. There is no doubt in my mind… I would NOT have survived. Yet, I am grateful they did because, if not for them, I would not BE.

 

via 400 Years a Slave | Our Black Ancestry.

 

 

 

 

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Artists, Educators Aim To Transform Thinking, Laud Black Heritage In Color-Obsessed Dominican Republic

English: Children at a mission in Santo Doming...

English: Children at a mission in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic Italiano: Missione genovese del Guaricano – Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) — In a school auditorium filled with laughing students, actresses Luz Bautista Matos and Clara Morel threw themselves into acting out a fairy tale complete with a princess, a hero and acts of derring-do.

Morel had wrapped a white plastic sheet around her multi-colored blouse, while Bautista donned a brown paper bag over her blue tights. The two black actresses wore their hair free and natural, decorated only with single pink flowers.

“Yes, you’re a princess,” said Bautista to Morel, who fretted that she didn’t look like a traditional princess with her dark complexion and hair. Bautista then turned to a young girl sitting in the front row, who shared the same African-descended features as both actresses. “And you too,” Morel said as the child smiled back at her.

The theater group Wonderful Tree has visited schools all over Santo Domingo and some in the countryside to spread the word among black children that their features and heritage should be a source of pride. That message, though simple, has been nothing less than startling in this Caribbean country, where 80 percent of people are classified as mulattos, meaning they have mixed black-white ancestry, but where many still consider being labeled black an offense.

Wonderful Tree represents a larger cultural movement that’s working to combat the country’s historic bias through arts and education. The Dominican choreographer Awilda Polanco runs a contemporary dance company that’s trying to rescue Afro-Caribbean traditions, while the Technological Institute of Santo Domingo has been training primary school teachers to respect and celebrate their students’ African heritage, including through skits that young children can more easily understand.

It’s a bid to transform a color-obsessed society where a majority of the country’s 10 million people choose to identify themselves as “Indio” — or “Indian” — on government documents despite their black roots, and many reject afros in favor of closely cropped hair or sleek blowouts. Public schools for decades even prohibited students from attending classes with their hair loose or in a natural frizz.

Such hair, in fact, is called “bad hair” in the local Spanish lexicon while straightened hair is “good hair.”

The Dominican population “has tried to disconnect itself from its African roots to the point where they’ve constituted a community that’s mostly mixed” but calls itself “indios,” wrote historian Frank Moya Ponsin in the prologue of the book “Good Hair, Bad Hair.”

In her school presentations, Morel flaunts her own natural looks as a point of pride. At one point in the play, Morel clutches a mask featuring straight black hair only to pull it away and reveal her dark brown kinky curls.

“This should be a source of pride because your color, your skin, your hair is an inheritance,” Morel told the children at the Albergue Educativo Infantil school in the town of Moca. “It’s the legacy of your parents, it’s the legacy of your grandparents.”

Morel said students have long been bullied and even attacked for their hair, while public schools have re-enforced the prejudice by cracking down on children sporting natural African hair, defending the measures as prevention against lice outbreaks.

“If it was only a health issue, it’d be fine, but children think there’s something bad about their features,” Morel said.

Maria Cosme, a Santo Domingo housewife, recalled the day she sent her young daughter to school with loose curly hair and a ribbon around her head. Teachers quickly tied up her daughter’s hair and warned it should remain that way if she wanted to attend classes, Cosme recalled.

“It’s a matter of racism, but also protocol,” said Cosme, who has straightened her daughter’s hair since age 4. She is now 7 years old.

Elizabeth Veloz, a graphic designer who always wore her hair natural, said the human resources director of her former company criticized her hair shortly before she was fired.

“He told me that curly hair is not proper hair, that it’s beach hair,” she said. “But the worst part is that he’s black, like me, and he cuts his hair really short because it’s kinky.”

Not everyone sees the hair issue in racial terms.

Hair stylist Yoly Reyes said she’s been relaxing her hair since she was 15.

“I am black and that will not change if I straighten my hair. But I think I look prettier with straight hair,” she said. “When have you ever seen (President Barack) Obama’s wife with kinky hair? I don’t think she straightens it to stop being black.”

Women in the Dominican Republic spend an estimated 12 percent of their household budgets on hair salons and treatments, according to “Good Hair, Bad Hair,” which included an economic and anthropological study of Dominican beauty salons.

Dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, who oversaw the killing of some 17,000 Haitians in 1937 in an effort to expel them from the Dominican Republic, was himself a mulatto who used makeup to make his face lighter.

Trujillo was the first to include the term “Indio” in official documents, said historian Emilio Cordero Michel.

Yet U.N. officials noted in a 2013 report that “Indian” identifiers don’t accurately reflect the country’s ethnicity and expressed concern about the country’s denial of racism. The government’s migration director, Jose Ricardo Taveras, has repeated such denials, insisting any racism is isolated.

It’s a claim that many reject, including Desiree del Rosario, coordinator of the Center for Gender Studies who runs the technological institute’s teacher training program.

Del Rosario said the country’s racism was tied to its troubled relationship with neighboring Haiti, where the population is darker-complexioned and where African culture holds a prominent place in society. Del Rosario summed up the common Dominican mentality as “The Haitians are black, and we, white.”

For Bautista and Morel, however, change is coming one child at a time. After one typically spirited, even goofy show, a dark-complexioned boy with his hair shaved close to his scalp approached Morel.

“I want to be part of your group,” the boy told the two women. “I want to be an Afro-descendent.”

 

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You’re Not Alone: Emotional Health and the Black Graduate Student

Black Swan Lake

Black Swan Lake (Photo credit: epSos.de)

 

You’re Not Alone: Emotional Health and the Black Graduate Student

 

Posted by For Harriet | Labels: graduate school, higher education, racism

 

by Nana Brantuo

 

Sitting in class after a long day of teaching and data entry, my mind drifted away for the discussion at hand. Events from the day played over and over in my head. Earlier in the day, the class I TA reviewed Donald Murray’s case against the University of Maryland (Pearson v. Murray, 1936). Out of nowhere, he raised his hand, Mr. White Privilege/Future Leader of America. Without a care in the world, he attempted justifying segregation – referring to it as “unfortunate” but necessary to maintain financial sponsors of the institution (some of his white peers nodding their heads in agreement). By the time my evening course began, I was still upset. Was this the life I planned on, teaching privileged white kids who had no interest in the lives of experiences of people of color? I wasn’t interested in hearing my classmates reflect on years of teaching Black and Brown children (stories that I label as The White Savior Chronicles). I was fed up with their eyes staring at me when discussions shifted to diversity and equity, sorry attempts at soliciting the Black woman to speak. Familiar feelings of doubt and depression consumed me and quickly shifted to feelings of sadness.

 

What was I doing here? Why does it feel as though I have to build a case, a defense for the education of Black and Brown children in a country that prides itself on democracy, liberty, and justice? Instead of bottling in these feelings, I turned to social media to disclose my feelings. My status read, “Are periods of sadness common among graduate students along with feelings of doubt?” After a few minutes I began seeing responses.

 

“I thought I was the only one.”

 

“Girl yes!”

 

“Yes, but keep moving…”

 

“Yes, You have to find balance otherwise this mess will consume you…”

 

I was not alone. I was not the only one. This outpour of understanding and support helped me realize how unhealthy the graduate school process can be without proper self-care, self-love, and foresight for the future ahead. I had been avoiding address the stress and anxiety that had consumed me, sometimes to the point of physical illness. I would have anxiety attacks in private, during lunch breaks, even once during a class. At one point, my hair was thinning out. I used happy hour as a way of drinking my problems away. Why? Because I didn’t think of them as real problems with real consequences if not handled properly.

 

“All of the sacrifices my family and ancestors have made are much greater than these anxiety attacks.”

 

“Snap out of this, Black people don’t have anxiety attacks. Black people don’t get depressed.”

 

“You can’t let them see you sweat. You can’t let these white people see you sweat.”

 

These were the things I would tell myself when the pressure of graduate school began consuming me. I held on so strongly to my upbringing of sucking it up and moving along that I allowed my emotional and physical health to deteriorate. Now, I am taking the time to say, “Enough is enough!” We must take the time to address and nurture our emotional health in order to fight the battles ahead. The experiences of Black graduate students (POC graduate students in general) are filled with anxiety, stress, anger, depression, and sadness. Amid endless pages of readings, deadlines that never end, comprehensive exams, and upcoming thesis/dissertation proposals and defenses, our emotional health can take a turn for the worst. We constantly have to defend our spaces, our causes, and our communities in academic spaces that resist diversity. We push ourselves to the limit for the degrees and certifications but is that the ultimate goal? Our work and our sacrifices are not for these institutions, professors, or classmates but rather for the communities we love and our people. We must take care of ourselves holistically as we make our way through these academic journeys. Forming support groups, going to therapy, and finding outlets (i.e. writing, painting, exercising) are three among numerous steps towards creating balance in lives that are often thrown off of equilibrium by classes, coursework, and academic writing.

 

Our growth and increased understanding of the connection between physical, mental, and emotional health is essential to developing and uplifting our communities. Everyday I pull from the strength of generations that have come before to push on in my journey. I remind myself that I’m working for the youth, ensuring that they will have access to high quality education that is centered on their social and academic growth. I speak with close friends and trusted advisors when I feel myself consumed by feelings of doubt. I remind myself that I am the child of a race that has come so far and will continue moving forward.

 

Related:

 

Black, Poor, and Woman in Higher Education: What I Learned From Graduate School

 

Nana Brantuo, a Ghanaian/Sierra Leonean American, is a second-year doctoral student at the University of Maryland, College Park in the Minority and Urban Education program and an alumna of Howard University. Nana is the creator of The New African, a blog focused on embracing the diversity of African and African descendants. Currently, she is a content developer for an up and coming blog/magazine that focuses on Africans in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area.

 

via You’re Not Alone: Emotional Health and the Black Graduate Student.

 

 

 

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When Black Men Ruled the World: 8 Things The Moors Brought to Europe – Atlanta Black Star

The reflecting pool in the Patio de los Arraya...

The reflecting pool in the Patio de los Arrayanes , at the Moorish Alhambra of Granada, Spain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

When the topic of the Moorish influence in Europe is being discussed, one of the first questions that arises is, what race were they?As early as the Middle Ages, “Moors were commonly viewed as being mostly black or very swarthy, and hence the word is often used for negro,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary.Author and historian Chancellor Williams said “the original Moors, like the original Egyptians, were black Africans.”The 16th century English playwright William Shakespeare used the word Moor as a synonym for African. His contemporary Christopher Marlowe also used African and Moor interchangeably.Arab writers further buttress the black identity of the Moors.  The powerful Moorish Emperor Yusuf ben-Tachfin is described by an Arab chronicler as “a brown man with wooly hair.”Black soldiers, specifically identified as Moors, were actively recruited by Rome, and served in Britain, France, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Romania.  St. Maurice, patron saint of medieval Europe, was only one of many black soldiers and officers under the employ of the Roman Empire.Although generations of Spanish rulers have tried to expunge this era from the historical record, recent archeology and scholarship now shed fresh light on the Moors who flourished in Al-Andalus for more than 700 years – from 711 AD until 1492.

The Moorish advances in mathematics, astronomy, art, and agriculture helped propel Europe out of the Dark Ages and into the Renaissance.Source:  Stewartsynopsis.com/moors_in_europe.htmUniversal EducationThe Moors brought enormous learning to Spain that over centuries would percolate through the rest of Europe.The intellectual achievements of the Moors in Spain had a lasting effect; education was universal in Moorish Spain, while in Christian Europe, 99 percent of the population was illiterate, and even kings could neither read nor write. At a time when Europe had only two universities, the Moors had seventeen, located in Almeria, Cordova, Granada, Juen, Malaga, Seville, and Toledo.In the 10th and 11th centuries, public libraries in Europe were non-existent, while Moorish Spain could boast of more than 70, including one in Cordova that housed hundreds of thousands of manuscripts. Universities in Paris and Oxford were established after visits by scholars to Moorish Spain.It was this system of education, taken to Europe by the Moors, that seeded the European Renaissance and brought the continent out of the 1,000 years of intellectual and physical gloom of the Middle Ages.Source: Blackhistorystudies.com/resources/resources/15-facts-on-the-moors-in-spain/Culturespain.com/2012/03/02/what-did-the-moors-do-for-us/

 

via When Black Men Ruled the World: 8 Things The Moors Brought to Europe – Atlanta Black Star.

 

 

Am I Black? by Greg Robinson – 60 sec

vanessa:

ethnic identity…..toxic or healthy?

Originally posted on Am I Black? by Greg Robinson:

Am I Black? by Greg Robinson – 60 sec Trailer

Story of a young, white, male kid who struggles to fit into a black world.

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Posted by on September 27, 2013 in African American Psychology

 

OPPRESSED HAIR | PUTS A CEILING ON THE BRAIN | By Alice Walker

vanessa:

Oppressed Hair

Originally posted on kreative Young millionaire:

A talk given on Founders’ Day, April 11, 1987, at Spelman College in Atlanta.
From Living By The Word: Selected Writings 1973-1987 by Alice Walker.

 

Alice-Walker-05As some of you no doubt know, I myself was a student here once, many moons ago. I used to sit in these very seats (sometimes still in pajamas, underneath my coat) and gaze up at the light streaming through these very windows. I listened to dozens of encouraging speakers and sang, and listened to, wonderful music. I believe I sensed I would one day return, to be on this side of the podium. I think that, all those years ago, when I was a student here and still in my teens, I was thinking about what I would say to you now.

It may surprise you that I do not intend (until the question-and-answer period perhaps) to speak of war and peace, the economy, racism…

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Posted by on September 26, 2013 in African American Psychology

 
 
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