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Thad Rutkowski (one of the characters in Anomaly), has a daughter, Shay, of Chinese, Polish and Russian roots. Thad recently told me the following story. -JCD

 

Thad's daughter, Shay, at home in NYC

Thad's daughter, Shay, at home in NYC

Thad: This fall, Shay will be entering fourth grade at N.E.S.T. + M. (New Explorations in Science and Technology, Plus Math), a public school on E. Houston St. in New York City. One of her assignments [in third grade] was to write a biography of a family member, and she chose her maternal grandmother, whom I believe is descended from one of the Russian areas.

When her teacher read the bio, he said, “I thought your mother was Hungarian.”

“No,” Shay said.

“Then why were you in Hungary?”

“We were on vacation,” Shay said. (Actually, we’d gone because I had some readings in Budapest last fall.)

“So let me get this straight. One grandmother is Chinese, and the other grandmother is Russian?”

“Right.”

Loving Day Flagship Celebration in NYC

Loving Day Flagship Celebration in NYC

Loving Day celebrates the anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, the historic Supreme Court decision that struck down laws against interracial marriages. Loving Day fights racial prejudice through education and builds multicultural community. With events throughout the U.S. and internationally, including a flagship celebration in New York City, find an event near you or host your own!

Mildred and Richard Loving (Associated Press)

Mildred and Richard Loving (Associated Press)

Richard and Mildred Loving of Central Point, Virginia, married in Washington, D.C. in the 1950s and according to Virginia state laws at the time, were living “illegally” as an interracial couple. Their case went all the way to the Supreme Court and on June 12, 1967, interracial marriages were no longer illegal in states ranging from Delaware to Texas. While the fight for equality continues along many different social lines, what a long way we have come in 42 years! It’s compelling to see how constructions of the American family continue to evolve.

To learn more about the Lovings and Loving v. Virginia, visit:

US Supreme Court media on the decision

http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1966/1966_395

Loving Day educational resources

http://www.lovingday.org/learn

Marian Wright Edelman: Remembering Mildred Loving

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marian-wright-edelman/remembering-mildred-lovin_b_107292.html

090528-multiracial-hmed2p.300wWell it’s official! 🙂 Multiracial Americans are percentage-wise, the fastest growing group in the U.S. See the MSNBC article.

There are a couple of points that stuck out to me:

The article cites that the number of multiracial Americans rose last year to about 5.2 million. The 2000 Census stated that there were 6.8 million multiracial Americans. What is this discrepancy?

Aside from numbers, though, are the political implications. This statement was a red flag for more debate:

“The significance of race as we know it in today’s legal and government categories will be obsolete in less than 20 years,” said William H. Frey, a demographer at Brookings Institution. “The rise of mixed-race voters will dilute the racial identity politics that have become prevalent in past elections,” he said.

Talking about mixed race people diluting something hearkens back to old-fashioned notions of mixed race diluting “pure” races. But more importantly, does Frey think that mixed-race voters are apolitical? Or that mixed-race voters don’t have involvement in racial identity politics? And can race as a construction become obsolete in 20 years? -JCD

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month! Here’s an official statement from Pres. Barack Obama.-JCD

“The vast diversity of languages, religions, and cultural traditions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders continues to strengthen the fabric of American society. From the arrival of the first Asian American and Pacific Islander immigrants 150 years ago to those who arrive today, as well as those native to the Hawaiian Islands and to our Pacific Island territories, all possess the common purpose of the fulfilling the American dream and leading a life bound by the American ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

During Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we remember the challenges and celebrate the achievements that define our history.

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have endured and overcome hardship and heartache. In the earliest years, tens of thousands of Gold Rush pioneers, coal miners, transcontinental railroad builders, as well as farm and orchard laborers, were subject to unjust working conditions, prejudice, and discrimination——yet they excelled. Even in the darkness of the Exclusion Act and Japanese internment, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have persevered, providing for their families and creating opportunities for their children.

Amidst these struggles, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have contributed in great and significant ways to all aspects of society…

I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 2009, as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. I call upon the people of the United States to learn more about the history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and to observe this month with appropriate programs and activities.”

Read the full press release here.

professional editing and mixing with Logic

professional editing and mixing with Logic

Recently we finished the final sound design and mix of Anomaly with the talented Brett Hammond of Studio 11211! Brett cleaned up the location sound tracks, added SFX and foley, and mixed all the levels. It’s often said that film audiences will forgive flawed visuals, but have a hard time time focusing when the audio is inconsistent. How true!

another good tool in the box, Izotope

another good tool in the box, Izotope

One of the main challenges with this documentary was gathering the sound from our various characters in more than 26 different shooting locations and polishing it to seem like the same acoustic “space.” There was a dramatic before-and-after improvement that made it all more uniform and easy on the ears! Maybe we’ll post a few demo clips down the road. 🙂 Brett was a skilled and intuitive collaborator, with a fantastic ear for sound, and simply delightful to work with! Check out his various film and audio projects at Studio 11211.

IMDb logo

IMDb logo

It’s official — ANOMALY is now listed on the fabulous IMDb, the world’s largest online movie database! We’re excited to be adding new stars to the IMDb universe — such as Gabriella and Winnie, Michelle and her family, Pete, Thad, Rona, Eric, Ann, Jen, Michele E., Jennifer, and more! Plus it is a first for many of our crew people. 🙂 IMDb has a strict “verification” process to reject non-industry movies so we’re glad that it all went off without a hitch. -JCD

clip-art-cast1Jessica is recuperating from a broken foot and other injuries from being struck by a car. She’s been a little MIA in case you have unanswered emails and Facebook messages…we wish her a speedy recovery! -SKS

I’m bringing this interview back from the website archives. At the time, I even asked her about the possibility of Barack Obama becoming president. What a difference a year makes. -JCD

Q&A with Gabriella Callender

Interviewed by Jessica Chen Drammeh

Originally published April 2008

Gabriella Callender is a singer/songwriter/performer whose riveting story is featured in Anomaly. She grew up in Hollis, Queens, adopted by an African American family. Coming into adulthood, she made several attempts at finding out more about her biological mother, Winnie. During the film, Gabriella has a touching reunion with Winnie. The film also interweaves Gabriella’s original songs, such as “Black and White” and “It’s You.” At a screening, one audience member called Gabriella’s singing “the voice of an angel.”

Speak the Fire

Speak the Fire

Director Jessica Chen Drammeh caught up with Gabriella to find out where she is now, and about her upcoming album release, “Speak the Fire,” with Mahina Movement.

Q: Tell me a secret! (Or a little-known fact about Gabby.)

A: I absolutely love to cook, bake and I adore colorful fabric…There. I said it. Let’s please move on. [Gabby smiles.]

Q: What was the most fascinating part of being involved in Anomaly?

A: Capturing Winnie on film – to know that a small part of her huge story will be heard by your audiences… it makes me so happy because I know, even though she doesn’t say it – it means a lot to her. Also, your diligence in seeing this project through. Your commitment to excellence – it is inspiring.

Jessica: Well, thank you! One of the most fun and rewarding parts about doing documentary work is that you get to interact with people in their real lives. And to be part of your reunion with Winnie, and follow the many parts of your life, has been an honor.

Winnie and Gabriella

Winnie and Gabriella

Q: In Anomaly, we see your reunion with your biological mother, Winnie. What is your relationship with her like nowadays?

A: Just yesterday Winnie called me up, like she does once a week, with her joke for the week …

She really thinks they are funny and gets such a kick out of telling them that I have to laugh. Winnie and I have nothing hidden between us. We accept each other for who we are and where we are. Priceless.

Q: Do you have any mantras, mottos, or favorite quotations?

A: Honor your word – it’s all you have in this whole world.

Q: How did you first meet Moana and Erica (of Mahina Movement) and what has your process been like working with them?

Mahina Movement: Moana, Gabby and Erica

Mahina Movement: Moana, Gabby and Erica

A: I first met Moana at Bluestockings Bookstore on Allen Street. She was doing a reading from her then play, “Tongue In Paint.” She got so involved during her monologue that tears came and snot began to run out of her nose – she never wiped the snot off her face, she just let it stay there…I was like “Man! That’s someone I’d love to work with.”

 A few months later I came on board and met Erica.

A lot of people ask us about our process. Well, you know, we never factored it in as a formula or anything. We show up with our pieces, then we break out the food. We warm up, go over line-ups, perform them for each other, then we are really honest about what we think works and what does not work, then we take it to the next level. We collaborate our pieces together, get them into our body through different exercises, tweak, tweak, tweak, take turns directing each other, call each other out on our shitskas and then we break out some more food. We cry a lot, laugh a lot, yell sometimes, get on each others’ nerves, have each others’ backs, and then we come back and do it all over again. If I had to sum it all up in one sentence I would say the strongest, most valuable quality of our process is that we persevere – we keep showing up for each other week after week, month after month, year after year – everything else falls into place.

Q: Mahina Movement is a trio or trinity. Do you find any symbolism in that?

A: We know, as do our spiritual followers, that we have been chosen by the Almighty God to be Her disciples….ok…ok…I’m just kidding! [big laugh] These kinds of questions make me want to make jokes. [another big laugh] Well, we each have our own meaning and personal symbols for the word Trinity – mine is this – at the end of the day we are one. Our energies are different, our personalities are very different. If you met us each individually you might not think the three of would even know each other – that’s what makes us special. When we perform together our individual ways of being fuses into something all its own –it is its own life force and for the most part it seems to work.

Q: On your new album, “Speak the Fire”–if you could make it into a food analogy, what kind of food dish would it be?

A: It wouldn’t be a food dish– it would be an entire entrée of delicious food dishes to choose from …fried chicken, baked macaroni and cheese, collard greens, corn bread, enchiladas con mole, tortas, candied yams, yucca, fish with coconut, potato salad, octopus, stuffed peppers, mmm, yum, chocolate chip cookies, flan, chocolate layer cake, coconut and mango ice cream…lots of different juices to drink and of course…sparkling water.

Q: You have one night only for a jam session to play with any four musicians or vocalists, living or deceased. Who is in your fab five?

A: Just one night? Well, Omari Brown (3 years old), Imani Brown (5 years old), Angelique (3 years old) and give me two more 3 – 5 year old kids who love music ….If I only had ONE night I would definitely jam with the kids – the talent is off the hook, they are waaaaaaaayyyy fun and I can’t tell you how much I learn about being open, vulnerable and having fun when I jam with kids.

Q: If you could go forward/backward in time (or be in the present), to have dinner with one person, who would that be and why?

A: It would absolutely be the person who cooks the best food in the entire world, wouldn’t mind me with cooking with her/him, knows good wine, loves to eat, knows the art of a great conversation, and knows how to have a ton of fun without being weird.

Barack Obama at the DNC 2004

Barack Obama at the DNC 2004

Q: Barack Obama is probably the most visible mixed race person in the U.S. today. Is America ready for a black, multiracial president? (or Latino/a, Asian American, Native, Arab American, etc.)

A: We are ready for Blacks, Multiracial folks, Transgender people, Queer folks, Lesbians, Gay men (well, we’ve actually already had a few of these), Latinos, Asian Americans, Indigenous Peoples, Women, Arab Americans, Pacific Islanders, Physically impaired people, even People with piercings and tattoos – it doesn’t matter as long as they can listen to the people and get our job done. That’s what George Bush did – he got us READY. We have been eating crap for years. We are now READY for a real meal. The only people who aren’t ready are the people who aren’t ready – but they have never been ready and they might never be ready…we can’t afford to wait on them anymore.

Q: Say that in the next lifetime, you had to come back as someone of a completely different ethnic background. What would you be?

A: When I come back I’m coming back as a Gabican from the planet Gabulous …yep by that time we’ll be mixing with beings from other planets …you know, get things a little more interesting cuz lord knows those census questions could use some more flava.

Thanks so much, Gabby, for getting us up to date on your work! If you are in New York, come to the CD release party of “Speak the Fire” on Saturday, April 12th. Or, visit the Mahina Movement website to sample songs and get your very own copy of the CD! www.mahinamovement.com

For details on hosting a screening of Anomaly and having Gabriella perform live, email info@anomalythefilm.com

Candid. Thought-provoking. Compelling. Anomaly interweaves the thoughts and experiences of the participants with the director’s narration, creating a rich tapestry of mixed dynamics. Unlike prior works on mixed race issues that focus on one ethnic mix, Anomaly is truly multiracial. Our participants come from many diverse backgrounds and multiple generations. Meet the voices and spirit of Anomaly here…

Gabriella Callender

Gabriella performing her song, "It's You"

Gabriella performing her song, "It's You"

 

“Genealogically, I’m multiethnic. Culturally, I’m African American, with European influence…  Once upon a time I used to say ‘I’m black’ because that’s how I was raised and to say anything other than black meant you’re trying to pass, and if you’re trying to pass then that is just it: you do not belong in our community, how dare you! It was a big taboo.”

Gabriella Callender is a singer/songwriter who was raised in Queens, New York, by an adopted family during the 1960s and 1970s. In Anomaly, she performs her autobiographical song, “Black and White,” which tells the story of growing up in a family where “it was all about the black and white.” In the film, Gabriella speaks about her adoption and journey of self-discovery to find her birth mother. To hear Gabriella’s work, visit the Mahina Movement website at www.mahinamovement.com.

Michelle Myers

Michelle on location in Philadelphia

Michelle on location in Philadelphia

 

“Epic memory awakened, I remember you: you are the land of my birth. I will return to you.” –from Michelle’s piece, “Arirang”

Spoken word artist Michelle Myers, who grew up in rural New Jersey, reflects on the intense alienation she experienced in her childhood from peers and the white side of her family for being half Korean. Through her work in the duo Yellow Rage and the collective Asians Misbehavin’, she confronts stereotypes and myths about Asian Americans in an outspoken, controversial way. She is also the mother of three mixed race children featured in Anomaly. To sample Michelle’s pieces, such as “I’m a Woman (Not a Flava),” visit www.yellowrage.com.

Pete Shungu

Pete on trumpet

Pete on trumpet

 

“I’ve found my way, comin’ from parents of completely different heritage/So I got a problem with you if you got a problem with interracial marriages…” –from Pete’s piece, “Third Eye-dentity”

Pete is a musician/poet based in Boston. His mother is Caucasian from Kansas, and his father African from the Congo. Showing a younger generation coming of age, Pete was born in the early 1980s. Like Michelle, he grew up in New Jersey, but found a more supportive family life for acknowledging both of his heritages. Through his poems and music, like “Third Identity” and “Other,” Pete challenges the social categorization of mixed race people, while exploring both sides of his rich family identity. Pete’s website is at www.afroDZak.com.

Thaddeus Rutkowski

Thad Rutkowski

Thad Rutkowski

 

Thaddeus Rutkowski is a spoken word artist and poet who grew up in central Pennsylvania and lives in New York. His work has appeared in numerous publications and he has been a resident at Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, and Ragdale. He is a winner of the Poetry Slam at the Nuyorican Poets Café, and performs pieces like “White and Wong” in Anomaly. Thad identifies as biracial; his mother is Chinese, and his father was Polish American. Find out about his first book, Roughhouse, and his latest novel, Tetched, at www.thaddeusrutkowski.com.

Rona Taylor

Rona hails from the Bay Area and took one of the first people of mixed heritage courses in the U.S. at UC Berkeley in the 1980s. In Anomaly, she recalls her childhood navigating Filipino and African American/Native American heritages. Early on, she identified as a “world citizen.” She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and is raising two daughters and a son.

Additional participants include:

Sabrina Margarita Alcantara-Tan, Jazz Biancci, Ella Mei Yon Biggadike, Kiyomi Burchill, Brenda Gannam, Stephanie Nokes, Ajani Schuster,  Rebecca Schuster, and James Spooner

Key experts contextualize the issues:

Jennifer Chan
Former Adjunct Professor, “Asian Americans of Mixed Heritage” course, A/P/A Studies Program and Institute, New York University.

Jen Chau
Founder/Executive Director, Swirl, Inc., a national community organization founded in 2000 that serves the mixed race community.

Michele Elam, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of English, Director of African American Studies at Stanford University; author of Race, Work and Desire in American Literature and the forthcoming Mixtries: Mixed Race in the New Millennium.

Eric Hamako
Doctoral student in the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Social Justice Education Program. Eric has been involved in mixed-race community organizing since 2000.

Ann Morning, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Sociology at New York University, specializing in race and ethnicity, especially racial classification; the multiracial population; and demography. Fulbright Scholar and Ford Foundation Fellow.

Maria P.P. Root, Ph.D. (advisor)
Clinical Psychologist; Editor of The Multiracial Experience; Author of Love’s Revolution: Interracial Marriage and “The Bill of Rights for Racially Mixed People.”

photo by jannem on flickr

photo by jannem on flickr

Anomaly screenings are getting lined up for the spring, and so far, in March we have:

March 2:
DePaul University, Chicago, in the class, “Focal Point: Asian American Cinema,” with Prof. Yvonne Lau

March 3:
DePaul University, Chicago, in the class, “Sophomore Seminar in Multiculturalism: Mixed Race Art and Identity” with Prof. Laura Kina

Both of the courses are part of DePaul’s core curriculum and as such are open to all majors from across the University. To our non-DePaul fans in Chicago: Sorry these are not public screenings! Email us at info@anomalythefilm.com if you want to host one. 😉

Ongoing thru June 14:
We have clips in the “My Place or Yours: Embracing Mixed Identities” Community Portrait Gallery, Wing Luke Asian Museum, Seattle.

Also of interest, our YouTube video views have surpassed the 10,000 mark! Look for new clips in the coming weeks, including one with poet Thaddeus Rutkowski. -JCD