I was not familiar with Patricia Stephens Due until I recently stumbled across an old interview with her on NPR. Growing up, most of what I learned about the Civil Rights Movement was about the work of Dr. King and the March on Washington. In school I didn’t learn a lot about the everyday women who helped the movement that changed our country and resonated among Africans around the world.
I remember going to church as a child and understanding that I was different. My abuela and I used to go to a Pentecostal church that was mostly white Latinos, but I had darker skin. I would see the Pastor’s wife and I yearned to look like her. In my eyes, she had milky white skin and silky hair to her ankles. Though she never knew this, I would go home, look in the mirror and wonder why my skin was darker and my hair was significantly shorter than hers. I did not understand what it was to be Latina and black.
Puerto Ricans are descendants of Africans, Europeans and the indigenous Tainos, so it shouldn’t be surprising that Puerto Ricans come in many colors.
Half of a Yellow Sun, a novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, has been the recent focus of movie execs and members of the Igbo community in Southern Nigeria. A petition, developed by Ashley Akunna, is protesting the casting of Thandie Newton as the film adaptation’s lead character. Newton is an acclaimed actress who has gained greater recognition in recent years for her roles in films such as Mission: Impossible II, The Pursuit of Happyness and Crash. She is of Zimbabwean descent and is set to play an Igbo woman caught in the thralls of the Biafran War, which ravaged a newly independent Nigeria from 1967 to 1970. The book has been heralded as a stunning depiction of the relationship between the Hausa and Igbo tribes during this period and received the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2007.
A few days ago, an old friend from London came to New York for a visit. Cora’s trip was brief, but we managed to sneak in a dinner and catch up since our last lunch date 4 years ago. After chatting about the usual things–school, family, love–I asked her to fill me in on her experiences with the London Riots that swept the country for 4 days last August. She had much to say, but one thing stood out:
It was a really beautiful thing. This guy was shot by the police, and I mean, I know here in the US that type of thing happens all the time, it’s common. But in London, it started something.
I sat there quietly listening to the rest of her description of the riots, but I couldn’t move past her statement that state-sanctioned violence toward a person of color “is common” in the United States. Unfortunately she was right, and the past year has done nothing to suggest that this is changing.
On a recent, very brief trip to Ocho Rios, Jamaica, I was not surprised to experience the high quality of respect given to the memory of Bob Marley. Anything less would have been disappointing. However, as a lifetime follower of Marley, this trip highlighted a pattern much of the world is guilty of—pigeonholing Bob Marley as nothing more than a reggae artist and—thus losing sight of his revolutionary spirit.