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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Graduate Association for African American History (GAAAH) 17th Annual Conference

CALL FOR PAPERS: The Graduate Association for African American History (GAAAH)
 University of Memphis 
17th Annual Conference 
"From Slavery to Freedom: The Black Experience throughout the African Diaspora" 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

“To Be or Not to Be”: Choosing between a Black and African-American identity

“One ever feels his twoness-an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”

W. E. B. Dubois, The Souls of Black Folk

Hey scholars!
For the past several months, I have been reading, listening, and speaking about identities and preferences, especially Americans. For people of color, we have to use hyphens to specify our ethnicities before identifying as Americans. Of course, white Americans can use this too, for example, Irish-American, Italian- American, so on and so forth. To quote Toni Morrison, “In this country, American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.” It is as if the hyphen is a constant reminder of what you are not and that is American because of your otherness. The hyphen literally and figuratively separates your identities. As if being black and American makes you a foreigner. Hell, maybe it does.  

For convenience sake, if you are white in America, there really is no need to identify you or your family’s origins. I could get into the quest for and to prove whiteness in America but this post is not about that. My objective here is to discuss the identities (naming) among people of African descent in America. For black people in America, specifically those who were born and raised here, what does it mean to be black? How should we name/identify ourselves? Is there any right or wrong answers to this question? Well I think that an answer to this question goes a lot deeper than a simple yes or no. I think that people should decide for themselves which term accurately describes them to their satisfaction.

For too long, we as people of African descent in America have been group, lumped, and stuffed into a categorical box as a way to keep from having to understand who and what we are. For centuries, people of African descent living in America, have been referred to and have identified as Africans in America, Negro, Colored, Black, Afro-American, and African-American. For some, it does not matter if Black or African-American is used. For others, there is a preference for various reasons. I prefer the term Black. My preference of the term Black is a rejection of the label African-American. I think that African-American is not synonymous with being black and is misleading. For example, actress Charlize Theron was born in Benoni, Gauteng, South Africa. In 2007, she became an American citizen. Theron was born to an Afrikaner family of French, German, and Dutch ancestors. Other than being born in South Africa, she is not black; she does not have a drop of black African blood. Her African-ness is not black. Due to her birthplace and now current place of residence and dual citizenship, she is legally considered African-American. Bottom line, African-American does not mean that one is black. 

I prefer the term Black. For me, it is my identification no matter where in the world I am. As a pan-Africanist, it unifies me with all black people in the world. Pan-Africanism is the idea that all people of African descent throughout the African Diaspora are united. This unity is a critical component to the economic, political, and social upward mobility of African people throughout the African Diaspora. What I mean by the African Diaspora are the places in which African people dispersed throughout the world such as the Americas, Asia, the Middle East, and Australia. William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was also a pan-Africanist and the author of The Souls of Black Folk, in which, he discusses “double consciousness.” Du Bois’ concept of double-consciousness is the reflection and burden of being black and American in America. To be Black and American, these two identities constantly at war with one another. The struggle to understand what each mean separately and collectively.     

My preferring black over African-American is not my way of rejecting the notion of double-consciousness, quite the opposite. I am aware of the struggles that come with being black and America, especially in America. I have been to France where my American-ness was not an issue but my blackness was celebrated, embraced, and eroticized. And no, I did not feel as if I was being fetishized. I traveled to South Africa where my American-ness was celebrated and my blackness embraced. In America, my American-ness sometimes feel foreign, I attribute some of these feelings to my needing to be elsewhere other than in America. Here in America, my blackness and womanhood is often attacked, sometimes either/or, sometimes both, at the same time.   

Based on conversations and observations, many people choose the term African-American in order to assert their American-ness. For them, they can immediately place themselves in America, were born and raised here, have family here who have been here for generations, and have never been any other place but here. America is what they know, sometimes, all they know. In addition, many use it because other than knowing they are black, their African ancestry is so far removed. Africa is foreign to them. It is unknown which ancestors came from Africa as well as where in Africa their roots are located. This is the point Raven-SymonĂ© was trying to make when she sat down with Oprah in an interview for OWN’s “Where Are They Now?” During this conversation, Raven talked about her disdain with labels especially those regarding her sexuality and racial identity. She states, “I’m tired of being labeled. I’m an American. I’m not an African-American; I’m an American…I mean, I don't know where my roots go to. I don't know how far back they go... I don't know what country in Africa I'm from, but I do know that my roots are in Louisiana. I'm an American. And that's a colorless person."

As I stated earlier, I think that the term African-American is misleading. Here I am in agreement with Raven. I understand Raven’s argument about not wanting to be labeled as such. What I do find problematic is her referring to her ancestry roots in Louisiana as colorless. No matter how ethnically mixed up her ancestors in Louisiana were/are, colorless is not a way to define or identify them. Her statement, “…I do know that my roots are in Louisiana. I'm an American. And that's a colorless person” alludes to her desiring a colorblind society. I do not want to assume that this statement say as much but I can only go by what I have heard and read and colorblind lens is what I am getting from this statement. I want to live in a society that is race-less, sex-less (elimination of sexism), violent-less, poverty-less, drug-less, etc. What I do not want is to live in a society that is colorless- colorblind. For me to identify myself as a black woman is a powerful statement. I love being black and woman. Both, at the same time. This intersectionality is everything to me. However, it is not the summation of who I am. Me and my many intersections.   

When I think of people saying, “I teach my children not to see color,” I cringe. There is nothing wrong with seeing one’s color. The problem comes with seeing a person’s color and using it against them- colorism. If this post was about racism, I would argue that colorblindness is actually racist, but this is not that post, so I digress. When people see me, they see a golden brown black woman, the result of a dark complexioned father and a light complexioned mother. I want you to see my color but what you will not do is use it to oppress me. Some people I know who prescribe to colorblindness argue that they are concerned with a person’s character. That sounds good and all, however, by denying that you do not see one’s color is to say that you refuse to see people. Why deny that part of a person? How can you really see a person if you decide to be blind to important parts of them? For me, my color, my blackness, is an important part of who I am as well as whom and where I come from. Being a black woman, a person of African descent, it traces and places my roots to the birth of mankind, the Motherland. To me, that is powerful and beautiful. I am proud of it. See it. Ask me about it. Do not be blind to it.   

Friday, August 7, 2015

“I want to feel what I feel. Even if it’s not happiness.”: Exploring The Strong Black Woman Archetype

I wish I knew how
It would feel to be free
I wish I could break
All the chains holdin' me
I wish I could say
All the things that I should say
Say 'em loud say 'em clear
For the whole 'round world to hear

Nina Simone- I Wish I Knew How Good it Felt to Be Free 

Hey scholars!

Recently, while going through some stuff in my closet, I came across a note a friend wrote for me back in 2010 as we wrapped up our study abroad trip in South Africa. She wrote many humbling and beautiful things in this note. One of the things that stood out to me was her referring to me as a strong (black) woman. As I read that line, I wondered what was it about me that led to her defining me in such a way. Do not get me wrong, I took it then and even now, as a compliment. I read that note, particularly that line, over and over again. As I did so, I thought back to where I was mentally. The year 2010 started out on a strong note. I was accepted into graduate school to obtain a Master’s in Humanities with a concentration in African and African American Studies. In February of that year, I decided to study abroad in South Africa. In June, we began preparing for our July departure. One Friday night in June, I almost passed out in the shower, which caused to freak out. I thought I was dying. My head was spinning, my heart racing, and my body became too heavy to hold up. Well, Monday morning, I went to Student Health Services on campus to see what was up. I had very low blood counts. As it turned out, I was anemic, severely anemic. This not knowing what was going on with my body, led to the next two and a half years of anxiety and panic attacks. During this time, I had daily anxiety and/or panic attacks. I found myself staying in my apartment a lot out of fear that I would have an attack in public. I limited my outside travels to going to class, work, and occasional outings with friends. If it had not been for school, I may have suffered a lot more than I did. Graduate school was a great experience for me. On the outside, I was cool as a cucumber, on the inside, I was suffering, at home, I was suffering by myself and in silence. I remember telling my mother a little bit of the things I was going through. Late one night, I called her because I was having shooting pains in my right arm. I knew it was not a heart attack but the pain was enough to scare me. Therefore, she drove from her home in Cincinnati to Dayton where I was living and attending school to take me to the ER. While waiting to be seen, my mother handed me an article and said to me, “Here read this. This sounds like you.” The first line of the article read, “I feel like I am dying.” This did sound like me. At the time, I felt and even said this line at least twice a day. The article was about generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). I was suffering from GAD. Really, just from almost passing out in my shower late one night about roughly four months before reading this article? This experience goes against the image and definition of the strong black woman or does it?  

Defining the Strong Black Woman

What is a strong black woman? What qualities does she possess? How do we define her? Is she immune to certain thoughts, feelings, and actions? Is she supposed to be? In the BuzzFeed article, “It’s Time to Say Goodbye to TV’s Strong Black Woman” by Nichole Perkins, this archetype is defined as a woman “who can take on the world with no though of their own needs, without emotion, and without complaint.” This image of black womanhood puzzles me. While this superhero image of black womanhood is supposed to be a compliment, why do we have to suppress our emotions, neglect our needs, and suck up how we feel in order to not appear weak? In order to be what we need to be for others, how does neglecting ourselves help? Women, especially black women, have to be everything for everyone at the same, all of the time. As we define ourselves, we notice that the intersectionality of our identities is quite a list. This archetype is supposed to re-imagine and re-define black womanhood in the place of the negative stereotypes that have been the faces of black womanhood. While this model of black womanhood is supposed to be a compliment, it is dangerous as it causes black women to suffer in silence as we are thought to be superwomen. 

What I mean by this archetype being dangerous for black women is psychological affects it has on us. Within the black community, mental health is not a topic that is discussed often and therapy is not an option for many for various reasons. Within the community, mental health tends to be stigmatized and most would say that going to church would solve all problems. Among black women, depression is one of those unspoken dangers. Within this past couple of years, I think of the number of black women such as authors, entertainers, and bloggers/vloggers who have committed suicide and afterwards it came out that those sistas were suffering from depression. In addition, when it comes to the mental health of adolescent girls, no one talks about the black girls who suffer from eating disorders, cutting, and depression. Growing up, when an incident of a black girl cutting herself came up, people would say, “Only white girl’s do that” as if suffering is colored coded. When it comes to entertainers/celebrities, people tend to forget that they are people as well and suffer just as much as anyone else. Recently, I watched the Netflix documentary, “What Happened Miss Simone?” and Nina Simone too suffered from depression and bipolar disorder. Being a historian, I do trace these behaviors back to slavery when our many great grandmothers were supposed to suppress their feelings. They were physically and mentally brutalized and forced to keep such incidents to themselves and keep moving along. While the times may have changed, people’s attitudes about how we are to handle our mental (in)stabilities are often handled the same way, “keep it to yourself,” “don't tell nobody,” “just don’t think about it,” and “you're too strong to let that get you down.” These sayings are dangerous and detrimental to our health.    We should not and do not have to suffer in silence.

There is also another side to the image of the strong black woman. Strong black women catch a lot of heat for being angry and independent. This image of black womanhood enrages me. I think that people do not understand what independent truly means. This term is used loosely and incorrectly. Since when does wanting to take care of yourself and not needing or even wanting to always have to rely on someone else for anything? Growing up, it was men in my family who told me that when I am in a relationship with a man to make sure I am with him because I want to be not because I need to be. I was taught to be independent. I was told to take care of myself. Not once was I told to emasculate men or tear down men. I never thought and still do not think that I need to tell me off to let them know that I am more than capable of taking care of myself. While working towards my PhD, I also work as a Teaching Assistant. This past spring semester, in an undergraduate US history survey class, we were discussing colorism, sexism, and racism and the topic of strong black women came up. One of the male students complained about his mother not asking her boyfriend for help when she needs it because she rather figure out how to get back on track. There were different responses to this story. Some of the other male students wanted to know why she refused help especially from a man who wanted to help her. The female students who spoke out took up for his mother arguing that they saw nothing wrong with a woman doing what she needed to do. The male student who shared this story had also at one point during the semester complained about people asking for handouts. It is mindsets like his that contributed to so many problems. If we ask for help, we always have our hands out and are deemed lazy, like we are the reasons why our social system is as jacked up as it is. When we do not ask for help, we are berated. We cannot win with this shit.     

Black womanhood in Popular Culture

A friend posted a question on Facebook asking women, are they first, a woman, or their color/ethnicity. My answer is I am both, first, at the same time, all the time. I clicked on this post, curious to see how women were answering and the answers varied. Some women stated that they were their color/ethnicity first; some stated they were women first, and a number of black women stated they were black and woman first, at the same time, all at once. One of the comments to this response from white women alluded to misunderstandings about how black women chose both their womanhood and blackness instead of one or the other. I think this misunderstanding is grounded in the long-standing protection of white womanhood. For white women, their womanhood has been placed on a pedestal and protected while black womanhood has not been. For white women, their gender because of their color/ethnicity has afforded them protections that black women have not and do not have. Speaking of privilege, the case of Rachel Dolezal has been on my mind for various reasons.

I find her problematic and delusional. One reason is that her definition of black womanhood boils down to hair texture, being able to braid hair, and skin tone. When it comes to our hair, black women have a multitude of textures. There are many hair-typing charts out there but our hair is as diverse as we are. Not all black women can braid hair. Not all black women enjoy doing hair. Her ability to braid hair was a point she kept trying to push when she sat down with Melissa Harris-Perry for an interview. We all know that the skin of black women comes in many shades from pale to dark. In that interview with Dr. Harris-Perry, Rachel kept defending her imposition of black womanhood as being able to identify with the black experience. What does that mean? When I hear the phrase the ‘black experience,’ I cringe because it sounds like the experience of black people is linear. Again, our experiences, wherever we are, are as diverse as we are. Being a black woman, I feel that Rachel could never truly understand black womanhood unless she was a black woman. No amount of makeup, nor no natural hair textured wig, could lend themselves to understanding our experiences. While black women were voicing their discomfort and disappoint with this situation, many black men were coming to her defense. Again, white womanhood being protected while black women were attacked for feeling violated. Imagine if a black woman decided to identify as white, no one would come to her defense. First, everyone would remind her that she is black. Secondly, people would attack her for hating her blackness and herself. Thirdly, her mental stability would be questioned big time. No protection there! At all!      

Another thing that puzzles me is black women’s participation in the violation of black womanhood. For example, the Lifetime television show entitled “Girlfriend Intervention.” A group of black women with different skill sets helps white women find their inner strong black woman by making them over. What the hell? Whose idea was this? It is mess like this that weakens our annoyance towards Rachel Dolezal. How can we truly be mad about Rachel when black women are participating in bullshit like this?! Honestly, I have not watched the show. There is an NPR article that discusses the show and based on what I read, the black women involved in it have certainly put on a minstrel show. I am so not here for that. At. All. 

One of the most recognizable public figures is first lady Michelle Obama. She is see as the epitome of the strong black woman, she is educated, a wife, mother, and is one of the most visible and outspoken first lady’s. When using the Google search engine, results range from elegant and stunning to deeply disturbing. However, she is depicted; she is physically and literally shown to be strong. This strength is often used as a weapon against her as many pictures show as a militant caricature of a primate or flexing with superimposed muscles photo-shopped onto her body. Earlier this year, Mrs. Obama gave the commencement address at Tuskegee University where she voiced her concerns regarding the public’s perception of her especially during the 2008 election season. “As potentially the first African-American First Lady, I was also the focus of another set of questions and speculations; conversations sometimes rooted in the fears and misperceptions of others," she said. "Was I too loud, or too angry, or too emasculating? Or was I too soft, too much of a mom, not enough of a career woman?” These questions and concerns encompass many of the problems black woman face every single day. Being loud, angry, and emasculating are also traits of the Angry Black Woman (see post: Stereotypesand Images of Black Women in the Media).

                                                     (photo credit: Ebony Magazine)

Black women need to give ourselves permission to cry, speak about our feelings and emotions without fear of neglecting others or being ashamed of our thoughts, feelings, emotions, and wellbeing. We have to give ourselves permission to take care of ourselves, whether that means, taking one night a week to relax, speaking to therapist, picking up a hobby, weekly massages, whatever. To quote Toni Morrison, we also have to allow ourselves to feel what we feel, not matter what those feelings are- the good, the bad, the ugly. Not only do we need to allow ourselves to feel, we need to know what to do with them and how to do something about them. We can be strong black women, but as strong black women, we need not feed into other people’s definitions and images of us. We need to define ourselves for ourselves. For too long, we have been defined and imagined by other people. Take that power back and be the woman you want to be. That makes you a strong black woman- at your worst and at your best. Yeah, I am still learning how to do this. I'm growing...      

*For further reading, I suggest checking out Behind the Mask of the Strong Black Woman Voice and the Embodiment of a Costly Performance by Tamara Beauboeuf-Lafontant. Lafontant explores how the performance of the strong black woman is mentally and physically detrimental.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Interracial Relationships, Symbols of Hate, and Supreme Court Rulings

Hey scholars!

This post is an Author’s Spotlight and a Promotion of a forthcoming double novel. The topic of this new book is very controversial and in my opinion is relevant and right on time with what is going on in our society today. This post is going to cover quite a bit of information and topics but I truly hope you enjoy it. So let us get into it.

In my "20 Random Facts About Me" post, I listed two of my favorite authors. One of those writers is Tiana Laveen. I began reading her work in 2012 with her publication, “The Slave Master’s Son.” The story piqued my interest because not only is it an interracial romance novel, it is also a historical novel. At the time I came across this book, I was finishing my Master’s thesis, which explores the creative works of Black American women. I strongly believe in bringing fiction into the classroom as does many other educators who have and are currently using such works in their curriculum. I make a greater argument for using historical fiction especially if the history informs the fiction. At the time, I was dealing with revising thesis chapters, speaking at conferences, graduate assistant duties, anticipation regarding admission decisions from PhD programs, and dealing with rejection letters from a number of PhD programs. In my need to get away from my everyday hustle and bustle before going insane, I started reading “The Slave Master’s Son.”

                                (photo credit: Tiana Laveen)

While reading the book, I had a few thoughts running through my head regarding how the book was put together. I was impressed with this writer’s style of storytelling. When I read, I like to know more than what the characters say, where they are, and what they are wearing. She really knows how to set a scene. For me, if a book is well written, at a certain point I am no longer reading a book, rather, I am watching it play out. I could tell pretty much immediately that some serious research took place. Not only did she look into the intricacies of slavery, she also did her research in regards to regions, specifically Richmond, Virginia and New York City during slavery and on the dawn of Reconstruction. Although slavery had been prohibited well before 1864  in NYC (the book opens in 1863), there were laws that prohibited blacks from enjoying certain liberties that were automatically afforded to whites. In addition, her research is proven when she provides details of the surroundings of the characters in Richmond and New York City, which is important since these areas look vastly different in the 19th century from the 21st century.

This book is not just another historical romance novel. As I stated previously, it is an interracial romance. Typically when discussing the interactions between black women and white men during slavery, these relationships are depicted as being consensual although there were many that were. This angle right here sets this book a part from many other historical books for that reason alone. For many reasons, this dynamic, black women and non-black men relationships tend to be overlooked and still frowned upon not just in the 19th century but also in our contemporary moment. I have heard many people say that black women who are in relationships with white men are marrying the slave master as if black women and white men form relationships with one another to play out some slave/master fantasy. During slavery, not all of the sexual relationships were forced or brutal, many were actually very loving. In these relationships, past and present, white men were not with black women because they believed the notion that black women were promiscuous and hypersexualized. On the other hand, black women are not with white men or any other non-black men due to self-hate or hating black men. Let us fast forward to the 20th century when laws stipulated that interracial relationships were illegal regardless of the legitimacy of the dynamics.   

                                       (photo credit: Bettman/CORBIS)

I think back to the relationship of Richard and Mildred Loving. In 1958, Richard Loving, a 23-year-old white construction worker, and Mildred Jeter, a 17-year-old black woman, married in Washington, D.C to avoid Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which stipulated that miscegenation was illegal between whites and blacks. After marrying, the Loving’s returned home to backlash against their marriage. They were charged with unlawful cohabitation and thrown in jail. The judge who presided over the case, Leon M. Bazile, stated at the time, “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents.... The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix” ( He then sentenced the Loving’s to a year in jail, which would be suspended if they agreed to leave the state of Virginia for 25 years. The couple left Virginia for D.C. to live with family. Shortly after, they returned to Virginia to visit family and were arrested for traveling together. In 1963 with the Civil Rights Movement raging on, Mildred Loving wrote a letter to then Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy asking him if the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would allow them to return home. In his response, Kennedy, stated that bill would not affect their marriage and told her to contact the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). A lawyer for the organization, Bernie Cohen, agreed to take the case. 

This is what the letter says:

Dear Sir:

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, I am part negro and part Indian. At the time we did not know there was a law in Virginia against mixed marriages. Therefore we were jailed and tried in a little town of Bowling Green. We were to leave the state to make our home.

The problem is we are not allowed to visit our families. The judge said if we enter the state within the next thirty years, that we will have to spend one year in jail. We know that we can't live there, but we would like to go back once and awhile to visit our families and friends. We have three children and cannot afford an attorney.

We wrote to the Attorney General, he suggested that we get in touch with you. Please help us if you can. Hope to hear from you real soon.

Yours truly,

Mr. and Mrs. Richard Loving

In 1967, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the state bans on interracial marriages were unconstitutional, thereby striking down any remaining segregation laws. In its opinion written by Chief Justice Earl Warren, it was stated that miscegenation laws were in direct violation of the Constitution’s equal protection clause. Warren wrote, “We have consistently denied the constitutionality of measures which restrict the rights of citizens on account of race.”

          Eleven years later in January 1978, Ebony magazine ran an article entitled, “Black Women/White Men: The ‘Other’ Mixed Marriage.” This otherness denotes that while controversial, marriage between black men and white women were public and talked about while the ‘other’ marriage among black women and white men was something that was largely invisible and not a topic of discussion regardless that this dynamic existed for a very long time. This invisibility has been contributed to the “low profile” lives they live or in the case of many entertainers of the time, Pearl Bailey, Diahann Carroll, Eartha Kitt, and Lena Horne, choosing not to flaunt their personal lives, instead choosing to keep parts of their personal lives as private as possible. This is not to say that the relationships among black men and white women are seen as highly visible due to black men’s desires to flaunt their trophy wives as a way of acquiring power and achieving status, something that white men married to black women do not do. However, this statement of mine contradicts the sentiments of an interviewee in the article who claimed that black men were marrying white women to flaunt and parade them around their friends. One of the interesting aspects in this article is the survey that was conducted in Minnesota, Indiana, and Arizona, by a black woman to gauge the thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and experiences of black women with white men. This survey exposed the negative and hypocritical thoughts and actions of black men in regards to black women being in relationships with white men. While a number of black men have felt and many today do as well that black women have turned their backs on them, black women have stated that this is not the case and instead simply married men who love them- no power plays, no status symbols. 


           This dynamic has brought out the violent nature of many hateful individuals and groups. Case in point, in 2008 in Riverside, California, a married couple, was killed in their home, execution style. August 2012, a white man was beaten nearly to death by three black men for being with his black girlfriend in a public space. As they were walking around Savannah, this group of men taunted the two for being an interracial couple. Last year, a black woman and her boyfriend who is Armenian, were attacked in Pasadena, California for being an interracial couple. Since we have a black president, we are supposed to be living in a post-racial society, right? (*serious eye roll*)   

The shooting by a white supremacist in Charleston’s most historically black church has brought up the question, should the Charleston crime keep black women from dating white men? I admit that when I first saw this question I was like, WTF?! While I can understand their emotional responses, I do not think that this thinking is practical nor is it rational. I think of all the black women who have been attacked by black men for being with men who were not black. I think of all of the black women who have been beaten, raped, and killed by black men. Even with all of this, I do not hear an outcry from black women stating that no longer will they date and marry black men, so why allow the thoughts and actions of a small number of racist, hateful men lead you to think that as a group that white men should be written off. As black women, we know better than anyone does what this type of thinking does to a group, how hurtful it is, how psychologically traumatizing this is. A vlogger that I follow, Christelyn Karazin, responded to comments made by black women regarding the question of deciding not to date white men. Here is the link to the page:   

          Due to the shooting in Charleston, instead of addressing white supremacy and focusing on the shooter’s fate, and discussing how alive and prevalent racism truly is, there has been rallying cries to remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina state capitol. This began because when flags were lowered because one of the victims was Clementa Pinckey, who was a pastor and a member of the South Carolina Senate. Well all of the flags were lowered except one, the Confederate flag. The firestorm began. Since then, media attention has been drawn away from the shooter, the victims, and discourse on racism and white supremacy. Battle lines were drawn. One side hollered that the flag is a symbol of heritage and the other cried it is a symbol of racism. The battle lines were not necessarily drawn by color; there are people of different colors (mostly black and white) on both sides of the debate. In my opinion, the Confederate flag has become a symbol of hate. Knowing the history behind the flag, that heritage is built on hate. For anyone arguing that the Civil War was not about slavery, I say you need to read. Of course, there were many reasons why the war took place, but slavery was at its core, the very heart of it. Since the Civil War, it has been embraced by racist hate groups namely the KKK. While I am for the flag being taken down, this does not mean that our problems are solved. I feel that in this situation the flag was used as a scapegoat. While we sat back and listened to our elected government officials argue back and forth on whether to leave it up or take it down, activist and filmmaker Bree Newsome took the damned thing down herself.

                                                  (photo credit: Democracy Now)

        Ultimately, a decision was reached and the flag was taken down and sent to a museum. Due to this decision, the KKK in South Carolina staged a protest and came face to face with anti- white supremacy protestors at the South Carolina Statehouse. The anti- white supremacy protesters were there to call for government officials to do more than bring down a flag. Obviously, they were valid in their reasoning if a hate group known for its terrorizing and violence towards other groups especially black people was given permission to hold a rally and not just in South Carolina but in other states in the south. We need a lot more action than removing flags. Removing a flag does not change the hearts and minds of those who worship its significance, carry it, wear it, and fly it with unapologetic pride. 

                                               (photo credit: John Moore/Getty Images)

           Back to Tiana Laveen (finally Rebekkah, I thought you said this was about her anyway….). There are many reasons why I consider Tiana Laveen one of my favorite authors. I love how she covers topics that are considered taboo or touchy. Many readers say that they enjoy a book because it is relatable. I have found this to be true for every story of hers that I have read. Not only does she publish novels but she has volumes of short stories as well. When introducing someone to her works, I always suggest that they read at least one of the short story volumes first to get acquaint themselves with her writing style. After reading “The Slave Master’s Son,” I bought every book she had published up until that point. Eventually, I read Cross Climax II. In this particular volume is a short story, “The N-Word” about an imprisoned white supremacist, Aaron falling in love with a black woman, Mia who is an elementary school teacher. Yes, she went there! I am so glad that she did. They met through a prison pen pal system. After a few letters exchanged between the two of them, Aaron gets suspicious and even falls in love with her. They make arrangements to meet and once he sees her, let’s just say the story heats up from there...

                                                    (photo credit: Tiana Laveen) 

          Tiana has since expanded this story and will be releasing it as a full-length novel, actually a double novel- The N-Word and Word of Honor. I strongly encourage you to read the short story “The N-Word” first. I think that the release of this double novel is timely. This post discussed so many issues we face in our society with many of them being the topic of conversation whether in the media, in classrooms, in homes, public institutions, and across social media platforms. I am looking forward to seeing how this story has been expanded upon, how deep into white supremacist organizations she delves into, and how Aaron and Mia’s relationship begins and grows.

                                               (photo credit: Tiana Laveen) 

I love that with each book, Tiana releases a book trailer. 

          48 years after the Supreme Court ruled that the miscegenation clause was unconstitutional, the Supreme Court ruled to legalize same sex marriage across the nation. Now all marriages regardless of color and/or gender is legal. Love wins again. Still.

*I encourage you to check this phenomenal woman out for yourself. 

**Also, there is currently a contest for authors who write under the interracial/multicultural genre. The contest is open until September 30th 2015. You may vote once a day for multiple authors. I am not telling you how to vote, but if you saw this contest through this post, do me a favor and please vote for Tiana in both categories at least once. Thank you! 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

We Ain't What We Ought to Be

Stephen Tuck. We Ain’t What We Ought to Be: The Black Freedom Struggle from Emancipation to Obama. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010. 

         In We Ain’t What We Ought to Be, Tuck argues that “there was no such thing as a single black protest agenda,” “no single black experience,” nor was there “a single black culture” (3). Instead the fight for civil rights was fought by diverse participants who utilized diverse tactics and strategies to achieve their goals on local and national levels. Tuck demonstrates how activists were diverse in their goals. For example, the rivalry between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B Du Bois demonstrated how some activists believed that racial uplift could be achieved through accommodation while others believed that political and social power was the best approach. Many activists were separatists while others were integrationists and there were those who supported the back to Africa movement while others believed in the American dream.
We Ain’t What We Ought to Be is a chronological narrative history of the black freedom struggle for full and equal rights. Tucks describes this book as “an introduction for the general reader as well as an interpretation for the specialist” (2). Tuck dismisses the notion that the 1960s marked the pinnacle of the “protest generation.” He traces the black freedom struggle from Emancipation in 1961 into the 21st century with Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the inauguration of Barack Obama in 2009. Tuck refers to these two events as the “pain and promise” of the black freedom struggle. This pain and promise is further demonstrated in the events of the Civil War and Reconstruction, the Fisk Jubilee Singers fight against prejudice in America while finding success in Europe, the race riots following Jack Johnson’s “fight of the century,” the social and intellectual upheaval of the Harlem Renaissance, the activism of students and women in the Civil Rights Movement, the radicalism of the Black Power Movement, and the popularity and controversy of Hip Hop culture.
Recent scholarship has suggested that the civil rights movement did not begin in 1954 with the Brown v. Board of Education decision or in 1955 with the Montgomery bus boycott. For historian Adam Fairclough, the movement took shape in the 1890s with Ida B. Wells’ anti-lynching campaign. Glenda Gilmore situates the origins of the civil rights movement in the 1920s with the racial violence towards African Americans following World War I. Patricia Sullivan traces the movement to the 1920s with the activists and organizations that emerged prior to and after the New Deal. Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, argues that the long civil rights movement formed in the liberal and radical environment of the 1930s. Nelson Lichtenstein, Robert Korstad, and Harvard Sitkoff locate the movement’s roots in the depression and in the 1940s placing emphasis on the emerging black urban working class. Historians have adopted the notion of a long civil rights movement to encompass the roots of the movement as well as the ongoing struggles of African Americans to the present day. Tuck dismisses the notion of a long civil rights movement and instead argues that the black freedom struggle began in 1861 with African Americans fighting for freedom during Emancipation.

[1] Historian Jacquelyn Dowd Hall coined the phrase “the long civil rights movement.” See her essay “The Long Civil Rights Movement and the Political Uses of the Past, “The Journal of American History 91, no. 4 (2005): 1233-1263.   

Impossible Subjects

Mae M. Ngai. Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America. Princeton:Princeton University Press, 2004. 

In Impossible Subjects Ngai argues that in the 20th century ideas of citizenship, race, and the nation-state were shaped by restrictive immigration policy. The period from 1924-1965 is critical to Ngai for a couple of reasons. First, many historians studying immigration have focused on immigration from Europe prior to 1924. The next wave of scholarship on immigration has been situated in the period after 1965, “when the national origins quota system was abolished and immigration from the third world increased” (3). The second reason is because the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 was the first comprehensive restrictive law. This law established the first ever “numerical limitations on immigration and a global racial and national hierarchy that favored some immigrants over others” (3).
Ngai outlines the two ways in which restrictive immigration policy “remapped” the nation. The first is the creation of categorical and hierarchical distinctions between race and ethnicity. Second, there was a sense of territory discernible through contiguous land borders. This study ends with the year 1965; it marks the passage of the Hart-Celler Act which lifted the national origins quotas. By covering the years between 1924 and 1965, this book seeks to fill the space in American immigration historiography in regards to the major themes of transnational history, labor history, citizenship, and race.  
Impossible Subjects is divided into four parts. Part one “The Regime of Quotas and Papers,” laid the legal foundation of restrictive immigration. The ever changing political and economic conditions demonstrated how some immigrants were more desirable than others. Part two “Migrants at the Margins of Law” discusses the roles of immigrant laborers such as Filipinos and Mexicans in the West and Southwest. “War, Nationalism, and Alien Citizenship,” examines Asian Americans citizenship during WWII and the Cold War. At this time, Japanese Americans citizenship status did not prevent their internment during World War II. Ngai explains that the government did not fully strip take away Japanese Americans citizenship status “but in effect it nullified their citizenship, exclusively on the grounds of racial difference” (175). In the last part,” Pluralism and Nationalism in Post-World War II Immigration Reform” Ngai evaluates how the government overhauled immigration policies causing high levels of illegal immigration. As a result, illegal immigration became problematic to America’s immigration policy throughout the 20th century and into the 21th century.    

Charleston, South Carolina: The Ellis Island for Enslaved Africans

 Historians have referred to Charleston as the "Ellis Island for African Americans" because roughly fifty percent of enslaved Africans brought to America during the transatlantic slave trade entered through ports in the lowcountry of South Carolina. this phrase is controversial because the immigrants at Ellis Island arrived there voluntarily whereas Africans were captured and brought here against their will. There are a number of reasons why Africans were brought to the low country, the main reasons had to due with climate, crops, and labor. First, the climate of the lowcountry is similar to that of countries in West Africa such as Sierra Leone, Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), and the Senegambia region (Senegal and the Gambia). The Europeans were not used to this type of climate making Africans perfect for the area. Second, rice crops were prevalent to the region. Africans, not Europeans, were knowledgeable about rice cultivation again making them a perfect solution to the problem. Third, Africans did not know the lay of the land and therefore were ideal in terms of labor. Natives were not used to the type of labor needed  for the crops and were susceptible to the diseases that Europeans carried from Europe.

                                               (photo credit: Google image search)

 Charleston, South Carolina is home to a number of Historical Landmarks. Among these landmarks are slave marts, plantation homes, schools, and antebellum homes. This post discusses 4 landmarks in Charleston: Old Slave Mart Museum, Drayton Hall, Avery Research Center, and the Aiken-Rhett House Museum.

Old Slave Mart Museum:

                                                             (photo credit: Flickr)

The museum opened its doors in 2007 at the site of Ryan's Mart. The building is a complex that consisted of three other buildings- a four-story brick building partially containing a "barracoon," or slave jail, a kitchen, and a "dead house," or morgue. In 1808 a ban on the United States' participation in the international slave trade led to an increase in the demand for slave labor. This created an internal slave trade in which Charleston became a major port of collecting and reselling slaves. In the decades between the drafting of the Constitution and the Civil War, more than one million African-Americans were sold to plantations in the lowcountry. In 1856, a city ordinance prohibited the public selling of slaves resulting in the opening of the Old Slave Mart and a number of other sales rooms, yards, or marts along Chalmers, State and Queen Streets. As of November 1863, slave auctions ended at the Old Slave Mart. After the Civil War, the property had many owners. Between the years of 1878 and 1937 the building was a tenement for black families as well as an auto repair shop. Miriam B. Wilson bought the building in 1938. By then the building became a museum that featured African and African American arts and crafts. In 1964 Judith Wragg Chase and Louise Wragg Graves took over the property and in 1973 placed it on the National Register of Historic Places. They operated the building until 1987. In 1988, the city of Charleston acquired the property.

                                                  (photo credit: National Park Service)

Drayton Hall:

                                                        (photo credit: Carolina Heart Strings)

                                                       (photo credit: Google Image Search)

Drayton Hall was built in 1738 and is the oldest Southern plantation house accessible to the public. TIn its 300 hundred year history, the home has not been restored. The home belonged to generations of Draytons who owned the rice plantation and kept the Georgian Palladian house until 1974. Drayton Hall was also home to African American families such as the Bowens who were brought to South Carolina as slaves from Barbados. After slavery was abolished, Richard Bowens Sr., lived and worked on the property. They were arrived with a member of the Drayton family. The population of black people on the property was very diverse: there were Central West Africans, Angolan Catholics and African Muslims, as well as Native Americans and those of mixed ancestry.

     Similar to many public plantations, Drayton Hall is a popular wedding destination. Why anyone would want to get married on a plantation in this day and age is something I can not wrap my psyche around. I am not superstitious nor do I believe in ghosts but the thought is a bit too creepy for my liking.

                                      (photo credit: Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau)

Avery Research Center: 
                                                      (photo credit: College of Charleston)

 The Avery Research Center opened in 1865 and was established as a school for freed slaves under the name the Avery Normal Institute. Its mission was provide an  academic education to freed slaves. The three-story structure was built in 1868. The Institute was closed in 1954, and the building was later purchased by the state of South Carolina. In 1990, the Avery Research Center opened in the renovated school building by the College of Charleston. The archives of the Avery Research Center focus on the  experiences of African peoples in the Lowcountry. The archives contain documentary material dating from 1777 to the present, including manuscript, photograph and video, and audiotape collections; oral histories; African and African-American art and artifacts; a variety of published materials, including newspapers; and bibliographies.

                                                         (photo credit: College of Charleston)

Aiken-Rhett House:

                                           (photo credit: Historic Charleston Foundation)

 The Aiken-Rhett House provides a different insight into the lives of slaves. People tend to think that slaves lived only plantations. This house provides a different picture and that is slaves living in urban antebellum homes.

                                                         (photo credit: Historic Charleston Foundation)

                                                    (photo credit: Historic Charleston Foundation)

The complex was the home of former governor of South Carolina and prominent politician William Aiken Jr. and his family. The slave quarters, home to the Greggs and the Richardson families, among others, are some of the most well-intact in the country. The preserved home contains real artifacts belonging to the families and remains a true relic of the 19th century, with no electricity or major renovations.

                                           (photo credit: Historic Charleston Foundation)

  This museum offers visitors insight into the live of domestic slaves while debunking myths about house slaves and their comfortable lifestyles. Domestic slaves were constantly under the watchful eyes of their maters and mistresses. They were called upon around the clock. There was little time for downtime. Being in the "big house" did not mean that the lives of  domestic slaves were better than slaves in the fields.

                                                 (photo credit: Historic Charleston Foundation)