Jane Smiley, Say it Ain’t So, Huck: Second thoughts on Mark Twain’s “Masterpiece” (Harper’s Magazine, 1996)
This is perfect.
Anita (Ardmore, PA) | “Guyanese-American”
“‘Negro’ certainly is a passé term from way back when. We got over ‘Negro,’ we got to be ‘Black and Proud,’ and I’m still Black and proud. I always liked the term ‘Black’ because it doesn’t leave people out. I find ‘Black’ a more encompassing term than ‘African-American.’ ‘African-American’ leaves me out in a way.”
Rosa (Bronx, NY) | “Black Puerto Rican”
“You have a lot of incredible Afro-Latino activists who still don’t say that they’re Black. What they say is that they’re ‘African-descended.’ They say they’re ‘Afro-Latino.’ But a lot of people still won’t say that they’re Black. I think most of people’s issue with calling themselves Black is psychological. It’s fear. If you don’t have to be Black, why would you want to say that? In this country, everything Black is negative. I didn’t start calling myself Black until I was a sophomore in college. But once I learned about the power of the Young Lords and the Black Power Movement, I was like, ‘Why wouldn’t I want to say I was Black?’”
Kenya (Atlanta, GA) | “Black”
“As an African-American, many of us trace White blood in our lineage to slavery and my family background is no different. The bottom line is my parents are Black, their parents are Black, my great grandparents are Black, and that makes me Black. I know there are people who are looking and thinking ‘She’s not Black.’ And that’s fine too. At the end of the day, I’m Black because I’m Black.”
Marianna (Baltimore, MD) | “Black“
“I get ‘exotic’ a lot ‘cause people can’t really pinpoint. ‘Is she Dominican?’ ‘Is she Trini?’ ‘Is she Black and Filipino?’ ‘Is she Black and Japanese?’ It’s almost like they can’t tell so that’s alluring. All they know is it’s not ‘just Black’ and that’s all that matters. They think it’s ‘Black and something,’ but it’s that ‘something’ that they’re more focused on and that holds their attention a little bit more.”
Ariel (Brooklyn, New York) | “Black”
“In Cuba, some people don’t see me as Black. Even Black people will deny my Blackness. Since I was a child, people gave me different names like ‘el chino’ because when I was younger I was really looking more like a Chinese. And then they called me names connected with my race and my ethnicity like ‘mulatto’ or ‘moro.’ They tried to emphasize that I was different because my skin is Black, but my hair is ‘White.’ So for many people in Cuba, I am mulatto or I am interracial – they don’t consider me Black. I think it goes back to the plantation days when slaves had a child with the owner, and for being less dark, that child would have a better job and a better position in society. Cuba has a long history of Whiteness in that sense – many Black people consider themselves as moving forward in society when they marry somebody White or when their kids are less dark.”
Soledad (New York, NY) | “Black Latina”
“People ask me ‘What are you?’ all the time. People tweet me that question. I used to take great offense, like immediately get annoyed; partly because I didn’t think the question came from a very good place. I think I read it as questioning my value and my reasons for being wherever I was. But now, I think it’s two-fold: One, I think that because I’m a journalist, people are really just trying to understand who I am. ‘You’re somebody I see on TV, but I don’t know you in person, so who are you?’ So often, it’s not really about the question. It’s about ‘What side are you on?’ and ‘What perspective do you bring?’ Then two, I think that part of my job as a journalist is to educate people about stories and some of these stories I’m a part of. I’m part of ‘Black in America’ even in the context of who is the filter of the story. So I’ve really gotten much better at taking that question and I’ve stopped hating it so much. It’s my job to elaborate and explain for people who I am. My mom is Afro-Cuban. My dad is White and Australian. I’m Black. I’m Latina.”
Malene(Brooklyn, NY) | “Black of Mixed Heritage”
“Trinidad is a cosmopolitan nation, probably more racially diverse than the rest of the Caribbean. We have descendants of European enslavers, freed Africans and enslaved Africans, Chinese and other Asian migrants, and a small East Indian population. You have all these mixtures and the mixtures are acknowledged. So I’m not Black in Trinidad; they consider me to be Chinese creole. They use all kinds of terms to identify people based on their racial makeup – ‘Indian,’ ‘negro,’ ‘creole,’ ‘Chinese creole,’ ‘Spanish,’ ‘coolie,’ ‘dougla.’ A ‘coolie,’ for example, is an East Indian. ‘Dougla’ is the mix of Black and East Indian. There’s really no difference between the two. It’s like saying ‘nigger’ and ‘nigga.’ To me, it’s all offensive. All of it comes from hateful places.”
“In Brasil, people of my color can be considered either Black or White, but it would depend on the situation, and it would also depend on the social and educational condition of the people who are seeing you. So what happens is that when someone of lower socioeconomic status sees me, they would treat me as White. But if I go to a high-class restaurant, where the people are of a higher status than me, people treat me as Black. Usually the general thought for Brasilians is that the place for Black people is in the kitchen or on the soccer field or in samba. So if you are not in one of those places, it’s like ‘Who are you and who allowed you to be here?’ And you can feel it.”
Adrian (Brooklyn, NY) | “Black Puerto-Rican”
“I think part of the misconception about Blackness is that it’s a skin color. For me personally, it’s just my way of life. Whether it’s my bloodline and family history, or the neighborhood I grew up in and the people I grew up with, or something as simple as the food that I eat, there’s so many different ways that I can identify with Blackness to where if somebody were to ask me, “Adrian, what makes you Black?” I would probably just counter the question with, “What doesn’t make me Black?” It’s not even something that I’m trying to prove. It’s just in me.”
Lauren (Philadelphia, PA) | “Black and Italian / African-American“
“The one-drop rule is not about letting society tell you who you are, but about understanding the structures around you that are already in place. It’s about understanding the complexities of Black identity and how you fit into that. At the same time, it doesn’t take away from your individuality and the beauty of your personal background or our collective history.”
I still feel some type of way that Dr. Yabba Blay never used me for her (1)ne drop project. Pero I still love her. I miss seeing her around.
The politics of being black in la comunidad.
Stories From the Real Coachella
Below is an excerpt from “How the P’urhépechas Came to the Coachella Valley,” an oral history of Pedro Gonzalez, one of thousands of P’urhépecha farmworkers living and working in the Coachella Valley of California. In an interview, he recounted the history of the P’urhépecha migration that created the Duros and Chicanitas labor camps located on the Cahuilla Indian Reservation:
I grew up in Ocomichu, Michoacán, which is a P’urhépecha town. When I was growing up, nobody knew how to speak Spanish. When you asked something in Spanish while they were working in the fields they would run, because they didn’t understand what you were saying. You suffer when you don’t know the language. My father wasn’t P’urhépecha, though, just my mother, so he taught us Spanish when we were young.
I first came to the U.S. in 1979. When I first arrived in Riverside I didn’t get a paycheck for two weeks. We survived off tortillas and oranges. We were working in the orange fields, and ate them for every meal. Someone lent us a couple of dollars and we would buy a package of tortillas. We needed to help each other, even when someone just needed a dollar. I just felt like crying back then, not knowing what to do.
Today in Duros or Mecca you can practically go anywhere and speak P’urhépecha with anyone. It wasn’t like that when I got here. I didn’t have anyone to talk to. I lived with an African-American man in Palm Springs for two months and felt very lonely. Nowadays the younger generation says our memories of what we suffered are exaggerated. That makes me feel bad. We walked two nights and two days crossing the border back then. Now it costs as much as $3,000 to cross the line. You have to work for more than two or three months to earn that much. It used to be that you didn’t have to pay another person to help you cross. Now it’s much harder and the coyotes charge so much. I used to help people cross for $300, and it was no big deal. I’ve helped others cross and they’ve never paid me. They forget.
I would say we have about three thousand P’urhépecha people in this area now. There are a lot of us. In Riverside alone I think there must be fifteen hundred people. Our hometown in Michoacán has also grown a lot. It used to be a small town, but it’s now a lot bigger. A few years back, they conducted a census in Mexico and determined there were about eight thousand indigenous people living in the hills of that area of Michoacán. I would say most are still there, but there are many of us now all over the U.S. We’re spread out in Palm Springs, Coachella, Indio, and Riverside.
Here in the Duros trailer park, there were only four trailers when I came in 1999. Slowly, people started arriving and everything started growing. Now I think there must be hundreds of people in these two parks, Duros and Chicanitas.
Most of us here work picking lemons and grapes, depending on the time of year. I like working the lemon harvest the most, because it pays piece rate (and not by the hour). If you work by the hour, it’s just over $7. On piece rate you can make about $1,550 every two weeks. If we do odd jobs here and there, it’s enough for us to live on. But piece rate makes you work fast, and some people don’t like it because they don’t like to work hard. For example, today I finished nine rows while some others only did five.
The owner of the park is a good man, a Native American. He even helped me fill out the immigration paperwork for my family, and only charged $500 when others would have charged $2,000.
But we used to have a lot of problems before the state took control of the park. A big one was the lack of security. Once, my wife heard knocking right after we’d left for work. She thought we’d come back, so she opened the door. It was an intruder. She yelled and he ran off, but the security guards wouldn’t do anything to protect us.
Rent on the trailer here costs us about $250, and with garbage, water, and security it goes up to $300 a month. If you’re getting paid $7 or $8 an hour, that’s hard. Gas prices keep going up and our wages don’t. Food prices are high. I spend more than $300 every time I buy food. If people got together and decided not to work for one day, it would have a tremendous impact on the economy; but people don’t do that because they are in need of money. We participated in a strike once. But there were other people who really needed work. They went into the fields to work even though we told them not to.
My kids are here legally now, and I’m in the process of obtaining legal residency for my last child. They all speak P’urhépecha, which is what we speak in the house. My wife doesn’t speak Spanish too well. She refused to learn it in the beginning because she said she wouldn’t need it. But now look at how necessary it is to speak English in this country. When my kids were young we had such a humble life in Mexico. They used to run around with holes all over their clothes. But our life has changed. Now if they have a little tear, they want to throw the clothes away. They even waste a lot of food. They don’t know how to value things. My family still has land in the ejido. My brother sold his plot when the land reform law changed, but I still have mine. My father died but my mother is still alive, and my wife’s mother is as well. We never forget about them, and send them money continuously. I don’t think my kids will return to Michoacán to live, though. Even though some were born over there, when we go to visit they always want to come back. But I don’t think they will lose their language and culture living here. We hold onto the P’urhépecha traditions with dances, weddings, baptisms, and quinceañeras. We all help each other out. There are many P’urhépechas here so everyone feels at home. I might go back to Mexico to live someday, but I don’t know when. I haven’t been there in years. I don’t even have my voter card. I’ve never voted in my life.
Read more at New America Media
Photos and interview by David Bacon
i’m in love with this song.
1. My name; I want to hear it stumble out of your lips like the first steps of a child. I want you to roll each letter around your mouth— taste each syllable, suck it clean of its meaning — before letting it falter off your tongue.
2. Your fears; when you’re sober, you say you have none. We both know that’s bullshit.
3. Your first heartbreak; the way you were clawing shards of her words out of your skin for months after she left you. You didn’t wear your heart on your sleeve, you ripped it out of your chest and set it, barely beating, in her palms.
From every other angle, you seem whole, but from here I can see your cracks. I’ll seal them with honey but I wont stitch them back together, you’re even more beautiful this way.
4. What keeps you up at night; I want to know how many fireflies you think light up in heaven— I want to know if you really believe a place like that exists, or if its just what bankrupt souls tell themselves to keep from losing the spare change jingling in their back pocket. How there are more coins in the world than there is humanity.
5. Your mumbling; a shipwreck of sounds against my neck, I could float off to sea on a lifeboat made of your voice.
6. Love; I want to know if you think its possible to unravel yourself and leave nothing behind but a needle and thread to piece you back together. Or if the stardust in our veins have condemned us to orbit what we need most, never close enough to touch, forever chasing our desires.
7. Your breathing; inhale- butterflies spreading your lungs like wings, waiting to catch flight - exhale- all the words that got caught under your tongue, leaving the taste of regret like cheap wine staining your throat.
8. Your laughter; I want to feel it seep through my skin so I can wear it like last years perfume. I’ll hide your smile like bottles of vodka stashed under my bed— I could get drunk from either but nothing can intoxicate me like your lips.
9. Your voice; like rushing water, forcing its way into my cracks. I’ll throw away my umbrella if its you who can turn my bones into flower petals when it rains.
10. Nothing; I want to feel your heartbeat on my fingertips, rising and falling like the tide. I want your warmth flooding the curve of my hips, I want to taste questions in your collarbone and whisper answers back in your ear. I used to be scared by the vastness of space but I see the universe in your eyes and I swear I wouldn’t think twice before drowning in those."
- 10 things I want to hear when you’re drunk (via thewordsat3am)
To women with daughters
hoping to raise subservient
Hand your daughter
before you give her
a kitchen knife.
Or better yet,
let her choose
her own weapon.
Teach her how to
manage a bank account
before you enlist her
to domestic service.
with a strong voice,
so that she may
those who may feel
her place better
than she does.
So no one
can make her
decisions for her.
Allow her to choose:
her own colours,
her own way,
her own likings.
She may not like
dresses after all,
what’s the harm?
to be independent,
to pursue her dreams.
You were not born
believing that your
body is a factory,
so why would
you impose the idea
on one of your own?
If you tell your daughter
that she is
in any way
less than a man,
the problem is that
she will eventually
I don’t usually discuss the story behind a piece of writing, but this one stands out.
My parents had a few families over for dinner recently and I wanted to help in the kitchen to the best of my ability. So I was putting clean dishes away, clearing out the ones from inside the sink, etc.
As I did this, one of the ladies said to me from behind me: “It’s wonderful that you’re helping your mother out, but don’t you dare do this when you’re married, or else your wife will never do any work! ”
It could have been a joke, but it wasn’t. Because she proceeded to cite examples of wives who did not do “what they were supposed to do.” Essentially, she was telling me that it’s perfectly fine to help my mother in the kitchen, but unacceptable to do the same for my wife when I’m married.
The problem with this is that she has two young daughters of her own, and she is raising them with this backwards mentality that men should be excluded from domestic work simply on the basis of biology, which is completely unacceptable.
Boys aren’t princes and girls aren’t slaves. There is nothing more special about a man which puts him above a woman. There is something incredibly wrong with this mentality, the fact that it persists and is being instilled into children from a young age.
— Nav K(via navk)
Yes yes and more yes