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UPDATE 12/22/09:

CNN has posted a new article and video on Lou Jing, “TV Talent Show Exposes China’s Race Issue”:

http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/12/21/china.race/index.html

UPDATE 11/17/09 to original post on 10/1/09:

A newer article appeared in an Australian newspaper with an updated interview with Lou Jing. She says,  that she “was shocked by the thousands of web postings that followed, most of them negative and many of them expressing racist views.

“I couldn’t help crying. I felt hurt. I never meant to offend anyone,” she said.”

Read the full article here:

“Oriental Angel” triggers China race row

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Sharon found this fascinating article about a mixed race contestant in an American Idol-esque TV show in Shanghai. Besides being mixed race, the catch is that the contestant, Lou Jing, was not mixed with white, but mixed with brown. Here’s some excerpts from the TIME article. -JCD

Lou Jing

Lou Jing

Can a Mixed-Race Contestant Become a Chinese Idol?

…But there is one thing that distinguishes this 20-year-old from her peers, something that has made her the unwitting focus of an intense public debate about what exactly it means to be Chinese: the color of her skin. Born to a Chinese mother and an African-American father whom she has never met, the theater student rocketed into the public consciousness last month when she took part in an American Idol-esque TV show, Go! Oriental Angel.

The marketing gurus for the series could hardly have dreamed of a better promotional gimmick when they started to investigate the backgrounds of the dozens of pop-star wannabes to root out the competitors’ mushy stories of triumph over adversity that are a well-worn staple of the genre. Here was a tale guaranteed to attract eyeballs: a girl of mixed race, brought up by a single Chinese mother, struggling to gain acceptance in a deeply conservative, some would say racist, society.

The strategy worked — perhaps too well. In August, Lou’s appearance on the show not only boosted viewer numbers but also sparked an intense nationwide debate about the essential meaning of being Chinese. Over the past month on Internet chat rooms, where modern China’s sensitive issues are thrashed out by netizens long before they reach the heavily censored mainstream media, Lou’s ethnicity has been the subject of a relentless barrage of criticism, some of it crudely racist. Many think she should not have been allowed to compete on a Chinese show, or at least not selected to represent Shanghai in the national competition. She doesn’t have fair skin, which is one of the most important factors for Chinese beauty. What’s more, her mother and her biological father were never married; morally, the argument goes, this kind of behavior shouldn’t be publicized, so she shouldn’t have been put on TV as a young “idol.”

…As for Lou, she found the whole experience more than a little disturbing. She did well in the show, ranking in the top 30 contestants before she was eliminated. Now she’s back to her normal life as a college junior — with a little new insight into her home. “Through this competition, it’s really scary to find out how the color of my skin can cause such a big controversy.”

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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.

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

President-elect Barack Obama

President-elect Barack Obama

Going to the inauguration? If so, want to blog for us? Send your stories and/or photos to info@anomalythefilm.com. Reflect on the first (fill-in-the-blank) American president, Barack Obama. We look forward to hearing about your experiences in D.C.!

*TAKE OUR NEW INTERACTIVE SURVEY*

Regardless of where you’ll be on Tuesday, you can take our interactive poll on race relations in 2010! Will it be better? Worse? About the same?

You can vote as often as you like! Results will appear in real-time. Invite your friends to participate, too! -JCD

Yes, our President Elect has a sense of humor when it comes to race!

I had to start laughing out loud when I heard Obama’s first press conference post-election and his response to a reporter’s question about some of the details of the soon-to-be “First Family” — where were his daughters going to go to school, what kind of dog were they going to get, etc.

a puppy of unidentified heritage

a puppy of unidentified heritage

Because Malia, 10, has allergies, the family wants a low-allergy dog. But Obama said they also want to adopt a puppy from an animal shelter.

”Obviously, a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me,” he said with a smile. ”So whether we’re going to be able to balance those two things, I think, is a pressing issue on the Obama household.”

Some times when I hear people throwing around the terms “mutts” and “mongrels” for people of mixed race, I have to cringe. But in the context of a presidential press conference, and Obama’s offhandedness, his use of “mutt” was truly hilarious! Plus the fact that he was talking about a shelter dog and not some overpriced “purebred” dog from a puppy mill. 🙂

girl and pony

girl and pony

P.S. If allergies are a concern, how about a “First Pony” for Malia and Sasha? Every little girl wants a pony! 😉 -JCD

Sharon found this interesting article from The Boston Globe about race relations post-Obama’s election. I like how the reporters got input from different generations, and different walks of life in this article. -JCD

Checking racism’s postelection pulse

Checking race's post-election pulse

As they woke yesterday morning, settling into the news that voters had elected an African-American to be the next president, schoolchildren and professors, chief executives and bus drivers, black people, white people, and others were asking themselves a simple question.

Is racism in America dead?

The answer, coming as people began to digest the fact that a majority of Americans had chosen a black man, Barack Obama, to be the 44th president, was not nearly as straightforward. No, but sort of. Maybe, but probably not. While Obama’s achievement was profound, its psychological lift enormous for many, the impact on the rhythms of people’s everyday lives was revealing itself in subtler ways.

In Dudley Square, a teenager said he would no longer be stared at like a “creature” when he walks into downtown office buildings full of white people. A middle-aged mother from Roxbury hoped racial profiling by police would be less likely to occur. In a Dorchester classroom, an Asian-American teacher said he felt emboldened to pursue his dream of becoming a school principal or superintendent.

Amid the hope, there were reverberating notes of caution.

“Racism is not dead in America,” said Wayne A. Budd, former US attorney for Massachusetts, who in 1979 became the first black president of the Massachusetts Bar Association. “But I think the president-elect transcended race in many ways. People see him as Obama, the person, the leader, the powerful figure, and don’t necessarily focus on his race. That in itself is an enormous accomplishment. But racism? Is it dead? Certainly not.”

Read the full article

 

Image from telegraph.co.uk

Image from telegraph.co.uk

I had to pinch myself this morning that it wasn’t all a dream yesterday. There’s still the work to be done over the next 4 years…but I am proud of the country for participating in the political process in such overwhelming numbers and choosing Obama to be President! A lot of people are talking about him being the “first black president.” Well there are those of us who recognize he is not just the “first black president” but also the “first mixed race president.” 😉

 

I wonder how long is it going to be before we have to keep counting “first black president,” “first woman president,” “first _____ president,” etc.? The voters have shown he is a president for all of America.


On a more celebratory note, I heard this recently on the radio, wish I knew who said it first:

Rosa sat so Martin could walk. Martin walked so Jesse could run. Jesse ran so Barack could win. Barack won so our children can fly.

 

“Change has come to America!” –Barack Obama in his acceptance speech

Remembering where we have come from, let’s keep moving forward in the fight for equality for all people.  

~Jessica

Director/Producer, ANOMALY

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