racism, albeit defensive, is racism

Just in case it came as a surprise to anyone who read yesterday’s post that black people can be classified as racist, I’m posting this for follow-up.

I did not know that I could love James Earl Jones even more than I already do.

I also did not know that there is a “black version” of the Huffington Post.

black-voices

I’m not sure that I love that.

Anyway, I think this thing that Mr. Jones said about the “need for independent thinking” is pure gold.  And yet he also understood his grandmother, and was even able to discern the truths contained in her closed-minded thinking from the poison of it.  That is beautiful.

James Earl Jones Talks Growing Up With A Racist Grandmother On BBC World News

James Earl Jones-CNO-005897

James Earl Jones opened up about the “most racist person” he has ever known: his grandmother.

During an interview with BBC News, the actor and famous voice of Darth Vader, shared information about growing up in rural Mississippi with his grandmother whom he said was profoundly racist, despite her Cherokee, Choctaw Indian and African American roots.

“She was the most racist person, bigoted person I’ve ever known,” Jones told BBC’s Stephen Sackur. “She trained us that way. She would consider it defensive racism, but it’s still racism, it’s still the same poison.”

Jones said he credits his grandmother with giving him his “first need for independent thinking” after he moved from Mississippi to Michigan, and giving him the ability to empathize with racists.

I’d go to school with white kids and Indian kids. I knew they weren’t the devils that she said they were. I had to start thinking for myself, and I had to start understanding the extent to which she was right too. But I can now live in the shoes of racists. When I hear about racists, I know exactly what they’re feeling. I said ‘I’m gonna allow myself to feel that, just for the hell of it.’ So I know what they’re going through.

The actor is currently starring in “Driving Miss Daisy” alongside Vanessa Redgrave at the Wyndham’s Theatre in London. In November, he received an honorary Academy Award for lifetime achievement onstage after a performance, where he graciously accepted the award.

“You cannot be an actor like I am and not have been in some of the worst movies like I have,” he said. “But I stand before you deeply honored, mighty grateful and just plain gobsmacked.”

i do not intend to be quiet about it

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While perusing Facebook the other day, I came upon a post that really excited me.  About Albert Einstein. Yeah…(nerd.)

I really admire the Einstein, thus was a bit shocked by my ignorance of his strong stance on this issue.  It’s like my strong stance.  How did I miss this?  Naturally, I dug through the interweb to see what else I could find to feed my curiosity.  I found a feast! There will be more on this topic tomorrow I believe.

I’m pleased to report that I have since forgiven myself for my ignorance, as it became clear that this hasn’t been common Einstein knowledge.  It was insignificant, irrelevant, and even egregious for the times.  Who would record such nonsense? Of course equality and human dignity were reserved for whites. No questions allowed.  But Einstein spoke anyway.  Imagine, being afraid of speaking in public, yet being courageous enough to speak publicly on a topic so taboo that he could have literally found himself in danger- political, financial, and physical. That is fierce.  That is being action in alignment with cosmic law.  That is something I truly admire.

Here’s the catalytic FB post:

Image

Einstein, when he arrived in America, was shocked at how Black Americans were treated. “There is separation of colored people from white people in the United States,” he said. “That separation is not a disease of colored people. It is a disease of white people. And, I do not intend to be quiet about it.” And, he wasn’t.

Although he had a fear of speaking in public, he made all the effort he could to spread the word of equality, denouncing racism and segregation and becoming a huge proponent of civil rights even before the term became fashionable. Einstein was a member of several civil rights groups (including the Princeton chapter of the NAACP).

 

There is, however, a somber point in the social outlook of Americans. Their sense of equality and human dignity is mainly limited to men of white skins. Even among these there are prejudices of which I as a Jew am clearly conscious; but they are unimportant in comparison with the attitude of the “Whites” toward their fellow-citizens of darker complexion, particularly toward Negroes. The more I feel an American, the more this situation pains me. I can escape the feeling of complicity in it only by speaking out.

Many a sincere person will answer: “Our attitude towards Negroes is the result of unfavorable experiences which we have had by living side by side with Negroes in this country. They are not our equals in intelligence, sense of responsibility, reliability.”

I am firmly convinced that whoever believes this suffers from a fatal misconception. Your ancestors dragged these black people from their homes by force; and in the white man’s quest for wealth and an easy life they have been ruthlessly suppressed and exploited, degraded into slavery.  The modern prejudice against Negroes is the result of the desire to maintain this unworthy condition.

 —Albert Einstein “The Negro Question”, 1946

 

einstein1c-m

Albert Einstein, Civil Rights activist

Little-known aspect of physicist’s life revealed

By Ken Gewertz

Harvard News Office

 

Here’s something you probably don’t know about Albert Einstein.

In 1946, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist traveled to Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, the alma mater of Langston Hughes and Thurgood Marshall and the first school in America to grant college degrees to blacks. At Lincoln, Einstein gave a speech in which he called racism “a disease of white people,” and added, “I do not intend to be quiet about it.” He also received an honorary degree and gave a lecture on relativity to Lincoln students.

The reason Einstein’s visit to Lincoln is not better known is that it was virtually ignored by the mainstream press, which regularly covered Einstein’s speeches and activities. (Only the black press gave extensive coverage to the event.) Nor is there mention of the Lincoln visit in any of the major Einstein biographies or archives.

In fact, many significant details are missing from the numerous studies of Einstein’s life and work, most of them having to do with Einstein’s opposition to racism and his relationships with African Americans.

That these omissions need to be recognized and corrected is the contention of Fred Jerome and Rodger Taylor, authors of “Einstein on Race and Racism” (Rutgers University Press, 2006). Jerome and Taylor spoke April 3 at an event sponsored by the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. The event also featured remarks by Sylvester James Gates Jr., the John S. Toll Professor of Physics, University of Maryland.

According to Jerome and Taylor, Einstein’s statements at Lincoln were by no means an isolated case. Einstein, who was Jewish, was sensitized to racism by the years of Nazi-inspired threats and harassment he suffered during his tenure at the University of Berlin. Einstein was in the United States when the Nazis came to power in 1933, and, fearful that a return to Germany would place him in mortal danger, he decided to stay, accepting a position at the recently founded Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. He became an American citizen in 1940.

But while Einstein may have been grateful to have found a safe haven, his gratitude did not prevent him from criticizing the ethical shortcomings of his new home.

“Einstein realized that African Americans in Princeton were treated like Jews in Germany,” said Taylor. “The town was strictly segregated. There was no high school that blacks could go to until the 1940s.”

Gates, an African-American physicist who has appeared on the PBS show Nova, said that Einstein had been a hero of his since he learned about the theory of relativity as a teenager, but that he was unaware of Einstein’s ideas on civil rights until fairly recently.

Einstein’s approach to problems in physics was to begin by asking very simple, almost childlike questions, such as, “What would the world look like if I could drive along a beam of light?” Gates said.

“He must have developed his ideas about race through a similar process. He was capable of asking the question, ‘What would my life be like if I were black?’”

Gates said that thinking about Einstein’s involvement with civil rights has prompted him to speculate on the value of affirmative action and the goal of diversity it seeks to bring about. There are many instances in which the presence of strength and resilience in a system can be attributed to diversity.

“In the natural world, for example, when a population is under the influence of a stressful environment, diversity ensures its survival,” Gates said.

On a cultural level, the global influence of American popular music might be attributed to the fact that it is an amalgam of musical traditions from Europe and Africa.

These examples have led him to conclude that “diversity actually matters, independent of the moral argument.” Gates said he believes “there is a science of diversity out there waiting for scholars to discover it.”

entire article

—It’s Tiff again.  I just have to comment about that last excerpt from Gates. That “under the influence of a stressful environment, diversity ensures survival” thing.  In this case the stressful environment is racially segregated America.  The mutually exclusive, dangerously juxtaposed, white vs. black America.  To ensure survival, diversity is required.  I’ll go out on a limb here and relate this to being mixed like me (after all, these are the mulatto diaries if I recall correctly.) To ensure the survival of America, we have to exist.  We are everywhere even though we’ve been largely silent and unrecognized in any genuine manner.  Yet things improve, and change happens as we wake up, and adapt, and we are different…and so is America.

The interaction between organism and environment is central in evolution. Extinction ensues when organisms fail to change and adapt to the constantly altering … stressful environmental changes as documented in the fossil record. Extreme environmental stress causes extinction but also leads to evolutionary change and the origination of new species adapted to new environments.”-Eviatar Nevo

Don’t become extinct!

speaking of halle berry

i tumbled upon this interesting thread today at black hair media.com.  i personally feel that, of course, they “should be able to” call themselves black women.  i am all about self-identifying as one sees fit.  i wonder what kind of run-ins the questioner has had with biracial women with white mothers that would instigate such an inquiry.  in my opinion, many (certainly not all, or even most) biracial women that i know who have white mothers (into which category fall most of the biracial people i know) not only identify themselves as black, but seem more steeped in black culture than… well… than… me.  i have some theories as to why that is… i’m reluctant to share them… i’m going to sleep on it and hopefully grow a pair overnight, then come back and update this post adding my speculations tomorrow or sometime this weekend.

Topic: biracial women with white mothers
Posted: Today at 11:21am
-Do you think that biracial women with white mothers and black fathers should be able to call themselves black women? I get frustrated with this because how can they be a black woman when they didn’t even come from one and really don’t know much about us. I don’t think they should get that title. I hate hearing Halle Berry (who has a white mother) be called “The most beautiful black woman). To me, that just seems unfair. Who else feels this way?
-I don’t think anyone who’s biracial (that is, black and white) regardless of which one of their parents is black or white should be calling themselves black. If the mother’s white and the father’s black, you are mulatto. If the mother’s black and the father’s white you are a mulatto. Case closed.
 -i use to feel this way..but honestly it all about how they are raise..if they want to identify themselves as white or black they have the right to..what would you say if it were you? AlSO, i rather someone tell me their either black or white.. rather than running around screamin “im mixed” all the time.
 -You know what I just realized??…why do people think of mutliracial people like they are slices of pizza???

Genetics dont work like that.
 -I think white people call every bi racial person black just because they are darker.
Ive only see people sometimes calling biracial white in Africa.
Plus, for me its hard to see biracial peeps with white mothers who raised them feeling they are black just because they have white culture. When you have a black mother and live with her, you feel black just because of what your mother taught you.
But some biracial with white moms, who know they are rejected by their white part, take advantage on the black community since they like them. I guess OP thats the Hally berry case.
-um it depends. i think mixed girls with white moms tend to be more whitewashed. i dont view some of them as true black people because they identified with their white mom more so of course they are gonna have that white influence.  vs. a mixed person with a black mom who was the main influence a lot of times u can just tell a difference. plus some of them like hauts said feel better than regular blacks and take advantage of the praise and attention. NOT ALL MIXED PEOPLE, BUT SOME
also if you are half nonblack and half black, you cannot be the prettiest black anything. how that work when half your genes come from a white woman? halle may be the prettiest mixed woman but her beauty cannot represent black women b/c she is not fully black.

oh… baby nahla…

sorry for the sporadic posting.  i’ve been working out of town and it’s harder than i’d anticipated to keep up with the blog.

anywho, i figured i’d get around to acknowledging this mess….

some readers and viewers and friends have asked me how i feel about this, and all i can say is that it makes me sad.  i just do not understand the impetus to uphold the one drop rule.  i’m baffled.  it’s so illogical to me.  it clearly only applies to racially mixed with black people.  i’d go so far as to say that it only applies to racially mixed black and white people.  i am quite sure that other mixes do not have such strict identification restrictions.  if you are anything other than black + white, you are not so harshly criticized for claiming the whole of yourself (not that i believe that racial categories constitute the whole of a human self.) i totally understand allegiance to the black community.  i understand that society’s gonna view you one way if you look one way (however, i think the jury’s still out on nahla’s phenotype.)  regardless of that though, i think we’re coming to a time in the collective consciousness of humanity, where it’s most important to be what you are.  regardless of history or politics.  the best we can do is be who we are.  and once we each accept and embrace our authentic selves, it’ll be so much easier to accept and embrace our fellow man as his/her authentic self. whoever they say they are.  whatever they show us they are.  and it’s by defying these antiquated “rules” that we free ourselves and each other to… be ourselves… and each other…

but back to nahla, i’m confident that she’ll find her way, find herself. but, goodness gracious i think her parents are going to make it much more difficult than necessary with this “she’s black because there’s a one drop rule” vs. “don’t you call my child black” (see below) nonsense that we’ve read about… ay yai yai

via TMZ

Sources connected with the former couple tell TMZ … whenever Gabriel would read a story about Nahla that referred to her as “black,” he would go off, insisting his baby was white.  We’re told Gabriel would tell Halle and others they should demand a “retraction” when such references were made regarding his daughter.

As TMZ previously reported, sources tell us Gabriel has called Halle the “N” word  — and one woman previously involved with him referred to him as a “borderline racist.”

Halle Berry on her daughter’s race and interracial romance

As her custody battle with ex Gabriel Aubry turns ugly, Halle Berry is speaking out to the March issue of Ebony magazine about their daughter Nahla and the role that race plays in her own relationships.

The Oscar winner, whose mother is white and father is black, tells Ebony that she identifies herself as a black woman but plans to let 2 1/2-year-old Nahla — whose dad is white and French Canadian — make her own decision about her race when she’s old enough.

“I’m not going to put a label on it,” she says. “I had to decide for myself, and that’s what she’s going to have to decide — how she identifies herself in the world. And I think, largely, that will be based on how the world identifies her. That’s how I identified myself.”

But, Berry adds, “I feel like she’s black. I’m black and I’m her mother, and I believe in the one-drop theory.”

Regardless, the actress acknowledges that being biracial isn’t easy.

“If you’re of multiple races, you have a different challenge, a unique challenge of embracing all of who you are but still finding a way to identify yourself, and I think that’s often hard for us to do,” she explains. “I identify as a black woman, but I’ve always had to embrace my mother and the white side of who I am, too. By choosing, I’ve often [wondered], ‘Well, would that make her feel like I’m invalidating her by choosing to identify more with the black side of myself?'”

Like Aubry, Berry’s current boyfriend, actor Olivier Martinez, is white, but she tells Ebony love has nothing to do with skin color.

“I’m very connected to my community, and I want black people to know that I haven’t abandoned them because I’ve had a child with a man outside of my race and I’m dating someone now outside of my race who is Spanish and French,” says Berry, who has romanced men from a variety of ethnic groups.

“I have never been more clear about who I am as a black woman…the people I have dated sort of hold up a mirror to me and help me realize more of who I really am,” she said. “And who I really am is a black woman who is struggling to make my race proud of me, who is struggling to move black women forward in the profession I’ve chosen, and those relationships have actually helped me identify myself more clearly. Not to say that I wasn’t able to do that when I was married to two black men, but it certainly hasn’t detracted from feeling very connected to my community, and who I really am at my core.”

Berry goes on to say that “the truth is that it’s taken me a long time to learn how to love myself, and color isn’t really a part of what I look at when I’m deciding who I want to spend time with. I look for the soul, the person, the evolution, what he believes in, who [he is as a person] and how does it affect me in a positive way.”

Divorced from athlete David Justice and singer Eric Benet, Berry has vowed to never marry again, but now says she might make an exception.

“The only reason I would is if I found somebody who proved to be on-another-level special to me,” she says. “And if for some reason I felt like it would be important for Nahla and her sense of family unit. I’ve been married twice, and [the marriages] didn’t work out. They were painful divorces, and I’m not so sure I ever want to subject myself to that kind of pain and heartbreak again. I don’t know if I can.”

speaking of the confederate flag

ok, so, i like kid rock a little bit.  for three reasons: 1. he’s from detroit (well, Michigan anyway) 2. i think his song Amen is brilliant and beautiful 3. he has a biracial son (is that, like, racist of me…or some kind of positive prejudice…or just silly?)

anywho, i do not like his use of the confederate flag.  to be fair, i don’t like anyone’s use of it.  especially if the user has a child of some significant color.  i understand that to some people the flag is simply a symbol of “southern pride.”  i really do believe that said people do not view the flag as a pro-slavery emblem… they don’t go around looking at black people wishing they were allowed to own them.  that’s too easy, too “obvious racist bad-guy.”  but, i think it is from a vantage point of either white privilege or ignorance (or both) that one can insistently be so insensitive as to say (or infer) “i know that this flag is hurtful to many, it reminds them of a time when they were considered less than human and were treated no better than cattle, it may make them feel unsafe…they may get the idea that i think back on those days as the good old days and wish we could revert back to them.”  i’m sorry, but the flag is just  not THAT cool, not worth all of that.  nothing is.  i would like to believe that it would be an easy “sacrifice” to put that flag away (as in not on your car, belt buckle, t-shirt…but whatever you want in your own home…) so as not to bring up all of that hateful, hurtful stuff to the people who are still negatively affected by the history of the flag, the implications of it.  how about a little more love, compassion, sensitivity… amen.

i mean, this is really not that much cooler than this….

not enough to warrant offending people to their core… even if it’s only 14 people, even one… especially if the one might be your kid, Kid.

Kid Rock’s NAACP Award Protested Over Use Of Confederate Flag

via HuffPost Entertainment

Some people don’t think Kid Rock is meeting their great expectations.

The rocker is set to accept the NAACP’s Detroit chapter’s Great Expectations Award at their annual Freedom Fund dinner in May, and some members of the historic black rights organization are so unhappy about it, they’re boycotting the 10,000 person affair.

It’s the singer’s use of the Confederate flag in his stage shows that has them so upset, according to the Detroit News.

“It’s a slap in the face for anyone who fought for civil rights in this country,” Adolph Mongo, head of Detroiters for Progress and a boycotting NAACP member told the paper last week. “It’s a symbol of hatred and bigotry.”

For his part, Rock defended the use of the flag in a 2008 interview with the Guardian. “Why should someone be able to own any image and say what it is?” he said. “Sure, it’s definitely got some scars, but I’ve never had an issue with it. To me it just represents pride in southern rock’n’roll music, plus it just looks cool.”

He also spoke about touring with a famed rapper and how it impacted his audience.

“I’ve got Rev Run [from Run DMC] on tour with me right now – we have fun trying to count the number of black people every night. We’re like, ‘There’s 14 tonight, yeah!'”

Though he was a staunch defender of President George W. Bush, the singer went to back for Barack Obama after his election, in the process defending America against accusations of racism.

“It’s good the U.S. has proved it’s not as racist as it’s sometimes portrayed,” he told Metro UK (via Spin Magazine).

He also spoke about his own experience growing up with black people in the interview, saying, “Black people were kind to me growing up and taught me hip-hop and the blues.”

For more on the NAACP controversy, click over to the Detroit News.

is this ok?

When I first read this article yesterday, I came to the conclusion that it was all in good fun and why take everything so seriously…  Then I watched Oprah’s Oprah Presents Master Class on OWN last night and she spoke about her little six year old self being made to sleep on the porch because she was the unfavored dark skinned child of the house.  I wanted to cry.  Oprah did.  I felt guilty that I have light skin.  I wanted to inflict harm on the light-skinned woman who inflicted this harm on my Oprah.  (I’m back on the Oprah kool-aid, btw. Loving the Oprah Winfrey Network.  LOVING. IT.)  Anywho, after I grounded myself in the reality that Ms. Winfrey’s just fine now, I thought about this article, this game, and I changed my mind back to “I don’t like it.”  I think.  I’m not sure.  It’s still a major issue.  Maybe making fun of it is the way to take the charge out of it.  Maybe not.

 

Light Skin Vs. Dark Skin Dodgeball Tourney

by Adrienne Samuels Gibbs, Senior Editor

SOMEWHERE IN THE GULF OF MEXICO ON MONDAY AFTERNOON-

Yes, you read that headline right: Light skin vs. dark skin dodge ball. Of course it helps that the spirits were flowing for hours before the color-charged dodgeball tourney commenced on the top deck of the cruise ship.

Beneath the clear blue skies and in between tremendous gusts of wind, Kid N’ Play were the live sports commentators, selected because they’re fun and also because they represent both sides of the skin spectrum. Both took turns at the mic to recruit, commentate and poke fun at those who dared take to the greens during the second day of the Tom Joyner Morning Show’s Fantastic Voyage.

Many onlookers went out of curiosity. Some went as a form of anger management
therapy. In the end though, it was good colorful fun. Team Light Skin recruited
a few White people and a Portuguese lady. Team Dark Skin wound up with lots of
brown skins and one light skin who said she wanted to be affiliated with her
darker brothers.

Kid, who rooted for team light skin but told EBONY he still loves a dark sista,
took to the mic between games and started singing odes to Pebbles and
Christopher Williams – classic singers who some felt best represented Team
Light. Play, on the other hand, yelled “Nino Brown wins!” when Team Dark threw a
final ball that clinched the tourney.

Off on the sidelines, the spectators got rowdy. Each side began chanting. Then
the guys started taking off their shirts. As for the women? They sat down to
watch the light and dark men go at it with each other. Things got rough as one
ball hit a light guy, richocheted, flew over the edge of the ship and floated
away.  Then a dark guy hurt his ankle. Comedian Damon Williams entered the fray,
ready to add some points to Team Dark’s score.

To be sure, many onlookers shook their heads, not sure what to make of such a
tourney. The Black community has a long history with light-dark issues, most of
which stem from post slavery trauma. The commentators didn’t get into all that,
instead leading the group to poke fun at what is often a deadly serious topic.

Who won? Who knows. It all ended with fun and jokes and hugs.

speaking of drake…

I’m super-curious about this guy and am itching to know more about the experiential intricacies of his Black/Jewish upbringing, and how he reflects on all of that from where he sits currently as the “New Jew in Hip-Hop.”  I don’t think this is a direct quote from Drake, but it rings true:  “Finally, his outsider background has become an asset.”  That’s exactly how I feel about my own self and I wouldn’t be surprised if a multitude of biracials are emerging into the same space of appreciation for the experience and are cultivating ways to make use of it in a world that was not ready to handle our truth before.  Some still aren’t ready.  Look out, some!

The New Face of Hip-Hop

By JON CARAMANICA

New York Times

For most of his teenage years Drake, tall, broad and handsome, was still known as Aubrey Graham (Drake is his middle name) and played the basketball star Jimmy Brooks on the popular Canadian teenage drama “Degrassi: The Next Generation.” In the last 18 months, though, he’s become the most important and innovative new figure in hip-hop, and an unlikely one at that. Biracial Jewish-Canadian former child actors don’t have a track record of success in the American rap industry.

But when “Thank Me Later” (Aspire/Young Money/Cash Money) is released this week, it will cement Drake’s place among hip-hop’s elite. It’s a moody, entrancing and emotionally articulate album that shows off Drake’s depth as a rapper, a singer and a songwriter, without sacrificing accessibility. That he does all those things well marks him as an adept student of the last 15 years: there’s Jay-Z’s attention to detail, Kanye West’s gift for melody, Lil Wayne’s street-wise pop savvy.

In rapid fashion Drake has become part of hip-hop’s DNA, leapfrogging any number of more established rappers. “I’m where I truly deserve to be,” Drake said over quesadillas at the hotel’s lobby bar. “I believe in myself, in my presence, enough that I don’t feel small in Jay’s presence. I don’t feel small in Wayne’s presence.”

But “Thank Me Later” is fluent enough in hip-hop’s traditions deftly to abandon them altogether in places. Finally his outsider background has become an asset. As a rapper, Drake manages to balance vulnerability and arrogance in equal measure, a rare feat. He also sings — not with technological assistance, as other rappers do, but expertly.

Then there’s his subject matter: not violence or drugs or street-corner bravado. Instead emotions are what fuel Drake, 23, who has an almost pathological gift for connection. Great eye contact. Easy smile. Evident intelligence. Quick to ask questions. “He’s a kid that can really work the room, whatever the room,” said his mother, Sandi Graham. “Thank Me Later” has its share of bluster, but is more notable for its regret, its ache.

As for Ms. Berry’s cousin, Drake’s interested, of course, but wary. “I think I have to live this life for a little bit longer before I even know what love is in this atmosphere,” he said. More fame only means less feeling, he knows.

Dodging vulnerability has been a fact of Drake’s life since childhood. His parents split when he was 3. An only child, he lived with his mother, who soon began battling rheumatoid arthritis, a condition that eventually prevented her from working, forcing Drake to become responsible at a young age. “We would have this little drill where, Lord forbid something happened, if there was a fire or an emergency, he would have to run outside and get a neighbor and call 911,” Ms. Graham said. His father, Dennis, who is black, was an intermittent presence — sometimes struggling with drugs, sometimes in jail.

“One thing I wasn’t was sheltered from the pains of adulthood,” Drake said. When something upset him as a teenager, he often told himself: “That’s just the right now. I can change that. I can change anything. The hand that was dealt doesn’t exist to me.’ ”

From an early age he’d been interested in performing, whether rewriting the lyrics to “Mary Had a Little Lamb” or spending time as a child model. By then, he and his mother were living in Forest Hill, a well-to-do, heavily Jewish neighborhood on the north side of Toronto, where he attended local schools, often the only black student in sight. His mother is white and Jewish, and Drake had a bar mitzvah. At school he struggled academically and socially. “Character-building moments, but not great memories,” he recalled. In eighth grade he got an agent and was soon sent off to audition for “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” an updated version of the popular 1980s Canadian drama.

He auditioned after school, on the same day, he said, that he first smoked pot from a bong. Nevertheless he landed the role of the wealthy, well-liked basketball star Jimmy Brooks, who was originally conceived as a white football player.

“Part of his journey is trying to figure where he does fit in in the world, having a white Jewish mom and a black, often absentee father,” said Linda Schuyler, a creator of the show. “It’s almost a comfort factor with Jimmy Brooks. That was the antithesis of his life at the time. It was probably reassuring and a bit escapist for him to play that role.”

Sometimes he was hiding even when the cameras were off, sleeping on the show’s set. “When I woke up in the morning, I was still the guy that could act and laugh,” he said. “It’s just that home was overwhelming.” Along with “Degrassi” came a new, more diverse school closer to the set, where he first tried rapping in public. As he got older, he also tried out his verses on one of his father’s jailhouse friends, who listened over the phone…

READ MORE