besides hoarding articles, traveling too much for work, and evolving into a more holistic version of myself I had a fantastic time chatting with Heidi and Jennifer on the Mixed Experience podcast while I wasn’t blogging over here. Y’all know I love me some Heidi Durrow. She’s not only been a wonderful friend to me, but an inspiration as well! Oh yeah, there’s also that riveting novel she wrote called “The Girl Who Fell From the Sky.” Such an important novel. Period. And in terms of the mixed experience it, like Heidi, is a true gem. Here’s the interview if you’d like to listen. I’ve been told it’s pretty good. I also further explain why I had to take a break…again.
I am so f’in excited about this that I can’t even organize my thoughts. But I’m gonna try. So yesterday, just like the first time I voted for Obama, I ran to the school where I vote to mark my ballot for…
Now, I must admit that though I do like what little I know of his politics and am not shy about my democratic tendencies, I was really voting for…
For the guy who prompted a good friend of mine to text, “Are those his kids!?” as de Blasio delivered his sagacious acceptance speech standing amidst his family.
I voted for the man who once made the bold choice to give up some of his white privilege to live the life he wanted with the woman he loved. For the guy with kids that remind me of me. For the family that looks like mine did once.
I voted for a future where people have learned to see this:
and think “family.” A friend of mine once wrote in a wonderful novel*, “What a family is should shouldn’t be so hard to see. It should be the one thing people know just by looking at you.” That is Truth. But for some of us it hasn’t been the truth of our experience. And that doesn’t feel so good.
Now…maybe, soon… people will see this
or this 😉
and think Father/Daughter, and not Age “Inappropriate” Interracial Couple?
I voted for the future I always wanted to be my present. I left that school and I skipped up the block. Just for, like, 17 seconds cuz I am 37 years old after all, but I just couldn’t contain the joy! I couldn’t have predicted that feeling either. I think that even though we have the Obamas, it’s not quite the same and I figured it wouldn’t get any better than that. It just did! Thank you de Blasio Family and thank you New York City! xo-Tiff
*The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow
P.S. Here’s a fun, and totally non-political, article. I love what Chiara says about seeing what other people have to go through. She acknowledges her white privilege. Yeah, we get a fraction of that too.
The newly elected NYC mayor’s teens are just about the coolest kids in politics — and their edgy fashion senses, trendy hairstyles, and enthusiastic participation in their dad’s campaign are just the beginning. Here’s what you need to know about Chiara and Dante!
Chiara de Blasio, 18, and Dante de Blasio, 16 are such stylish young adults that they nearly stole the spotlight away from their dad, Bill de Blasio, who was elected the new mayor of New York City on Nov. 4. Learn more about the new first kids of NYC!
5 Things To Know About NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Kids
1. Chiara and Dante are really smart! Dante is a high school junior at Brooklyn Tech, which one of the city’s elite public high schools. Chiara, is a sophomore in college at a private liberal arts school in northern California. She plans to major in environmental studies.
2. Dante’s afro is so cool that absolutely everyone is noticing! President Barack Obama even mentioned it at a Democratic Party Fundraiser in New York in Sept. 2013. He “has the same hairdo as I had in 1978,” Obama told the crowd before complimenting his look. “Although I have to confess my Afro was never that good. It was a little imbalanced.” Chiara loves switching up her own style, from sporting floral crown hair accessories to trying out dreads.
3. Dante was featured in his dad’s campaign ads, and his videos quickly went viral. Chiara also expressed that she loved being part of her dad’s campaign process. “I like understanding what’s going on better. In every way I think that I’m lucky to live the life that I live,” Chiara told NY Mag. ”I don’t have a lot of the problems that other people have. It’s very important for me to see what other people go through.
4. Chiara’s fashion sense is completely new for a first daughter of New York City. She has ear gauges, an eyebrow piercing, and a nose piercing.
5. Chiara has publicly said that her dad is not “some boring white guy,” and that his cultural awareness comes from his global projects and his own multi-cultural family! Chiara and Dante’s dad, Bill comes from German and Italian American backgrounds and their mom, Chirlane McCray is African American. “A lot of people could look at him and just see the color of his skin, but it’s so much deeper than that,” Chiara told NY Mag.
The following essay is reblogged from Southern-Style. A real life modern-ish mammy story! I’ve long been interested in the dynamic between black women and other people’s white children. When I was in college studying African-American history for the first time, I stumbled upon the thought that Mammies had raised our nation and yet black women generally are not revered (to say the least). When I was a nanny myself, I thought a lot about mammy. And, back in January, when I devoured The Help I pondered her some more. If you haven’t read it yet, please do yourself a favor and put Kathryn Stockett’s The Help on your summer reading list. It’s one of the greatest books I’ve ever read. Right up there with The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, Caucasia, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, Memoirs of a Geisha, and Life of Pi. i.e. the rest of your summer reading list.
I Remember Mammy:
Mattie Lee Martin (“Mammy”)
By one who loved her, Sharman Burson Ramsey
Thirteen year old Mattie Lee Martin took her mentally challenged older sister by the hand and led her down the rutted, red clay country road. Neither looked back. Mattie was determined her sister would not be abused again in their grandparent’s home. She’d finally accepted that her parents would never come back to get them. The road led to the town of Dothan, Alabama, and a life, Mattie Lee hoped, that would be better than the one they’d known on that god-forsaken farm.
Mrs. Bender stood at the door of her variety store, broom in hand, and watched the two girls walk toward her down the sidewalk. Mattie, the spokesperson for the two, stepped forward and boldly asked, “I need work and a place where me and my sister can stay. Do you know of anything?” She looked up at Mrs. Bender quite seriously. Her black eyes were wide. Anxiety was written all over her round black face that now dripped in sweat in the hot summer day after her long walk. Mrs. Bender read in that expression that she’d gotten this far, but now the little girl was in a quandary as to what should she do now? She looked at the tight grip she had on her much larger, but obviously more dependent, sister.
Mrs. Bender sized them up and in her gentle voice said, “I hear they are hiring maids across the street at the Wadlington Hotel, but come in here and let me help you with something to wear to your interview. Your sister can rest here while you go and inquire. Tell them I sent you.”
Mattie stood straight and said, “I don’t take no charity. I’ll pay you back.” Mrs. Bender nodded.
That Jewish lady remained a dear friend to Mattie the rest of her life.
Mattie Lee Martin later became highly regarded for her cooking skills. She cooked at the restaurant of the Houston Hotel for awhile and then took a job as the private cook for Dr. Moody, founder of Moody Hospital in Dothan. When the Moodys moved into their big house on Main Street from the house across from the hospital, Mattie for some reason was not going with them. Dr. Moody recommended Mattie to Dr. E. G. Burson, my father. The Moodys gave her a house as a parting gift.
When Mattie Lee Martin interviewed with my mother, she told my mother, “I don’t work with children.”
Yet as the pictures reveal, Mattie Lee Martin became as dear to us as our grandmothers and so she deserved just as endearing a name. Thus she came to be called “Mammy.”
Mammy came to work every morning before seven, except Sunday, either by bus or by taxi and stayed until after five. Even after our overweight dog, Sir Bow Wow, went blind, he would meet Mammy at the bottom of the hill where she got off the bus every morning and together they would plod their way to the house. She cooked, cleaned, and loved us. I remember seeing one of her paychecks in the amount of $27.00. I also remember the days we’d take Mammy home and she’d ask Mother to stop by the grocery store several blocks away. Then she’d put some money in my hand and I’d run into the grocery store and plunk the money down saying, “Bit o Dental Snuff, please.”
Mammy ordered the groceries to cook for lunch from Murphy’s Market downtown first thing in the morning and a boy on a bicycle delivered them in time for her to cook. Dinner was served at exactly 12:00 noon. (In the South we eat breakfast, dinner and supper.) The meat went on a platter before “the doctor”. The table was set precisely with forks on the left of the plate (with the napkin) and the knife (facing inward) on the right. The glass was placed above the knife. She trained us well.
…Mammy had worked for the aristocracy of the town, Dr. and Mrs. Earl Moody. While she often locked horns with my mother (whose own father had been killed when logs rolled off a log truck when she was 13 leaving her mother to struggle raising five children) she refused to give up on us. “Yo mama, she be mean. But I be mean too, so we get along.” Mother had been awarded campaign ribbon for service in World War II as a nurse at the Battle of the Bulge. She could curse a blue streak and did so on occasion when things did not go to suit her. Sometimes those disagreements would get so heated that Mother would fire Mammy, but we’d cry and carry on so, she’d have to go and ask her to come back. My father was a doctor and his father was a doctor and that made us worth Mammy’s time and effort. My mother might not know what was “proper” but Mammy did, and she was determined to turn us out well.
…Mammy did have her own family…a daughter Lucy Mae Dixon who was my Mother’s age. Mammy had very little education herself and the lists she made could barely be read, so she valued a good education. Mammy skrimped and saved and sent her to college in the North. It must have been a Catholic college because Lucy Mae converted to Catholicism. Mammy was a dedicated member of the Cherry Street AME Church. Lucy earned her Masters and came home to teach. Mammy bought her items of silver “on time” as birthday gifts. The mahogany furniture in their living areas was always covered in plastic to “save” it.
…I guess Mammy told my brother and sister the same thing she drilled into me. “Yo daddy be somebody. You gotta be somebody.” My sister is a cardiologist in New Orleans (Dr. Sylvia Burson Rushing) and my brother (Elkanah George Burson III ) has just started a pharmaceutical company (Burel Pharmaceuticals). Me? After you’ve got a man it’s all right “to rune yo hands” with Ajax, I learned. I wash a mean bathtub and have stayed married to the same man, an attorney of whom she approved (whose family once owned the Houston Hotel where she had worked) for forty years doing a little teaching and writing. This humble generous woman whom I never saw wear a single piece of jewelry gave me a pearl and gold bracelet for graduation from high school. She who worked from can to can’t all of her life gave me a silver goblet when I got married. I wonder if she ever knew how much they mean to me and that I realize the sacrifice and love those gifts demonstrated.
…Mammy was a proud person who made the most of her situation and, selflessly, with hard work and determination earned respect and made a good life for herself and her family. She raised us, her white family, to believe we could do whatever we chose to do and that we should make our parents proud. She drilled into us values of honesty, integrity, and a sense of responsibility. Because we had been given so much; much was expected. Because we loved her, it was Mammy we wanted to make proud.
Read more HERE
I am so, so sad to be missing this year’s festival! It just doesn’t feel right. If you are in L.A. this weekend, do yourself a favor and attend it. Shine some light there for me, please.
3rd Annual Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival (TM)
June 12-13, 2010
Japanese American National Museum
369 East 1st Street
Los Angeles, CA
The Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival is a non-competitive, annual arts festival dedicated to sharing and nurturing storytelling of the Mixed experience. The Mixed experience refers to interracial and intercultural relationships, transracial and transcultural adoptions, and anyone who identifies as having biracial, multiracial, Hapa or Mixed identity.
Heidi & Fanshen & Jenni
This is exactly how I felt while reading Heidi Durrow’s debut novel The Girl Who Fell From the Sky (available today yesterday wherever books are sold). Except that I do know her, and I thank God that she’s not dead because I need more from this author/friend of mine. Heidi has written one of the best books I have ever had the pleasure of reading, biracial subject matter or not. Truly beautiful, profound, poignant. All that good stuff and more! I read (more like devoured) TGWFFTS during an extremely difficult time in my life. I felt as though the book was saving me. And reminding me of all the good things I have to offer. And that no matter what hardships and tragedies we may go through in life, the story goes on- there’s another chapter to be lived.
Though the book is not entirely about being black and white, there are many beautiful passages that honestly touch upon the heart of that matter. I often find myself lamenting the fact that this biracial identity is so misunderstood out in the world at large. The Girl Who Fell From the Sky offers much insight. I sincerely hope that it is widely read. We all need this book. Whether we know it or not.
A few of my favorite “themes” of the novel:
Loss of self, becoming the “new girl”, becoming “black”, forsaking white. Making deals with the self. Deals which become layers covering over the authentic self. The self that the biracial kid loses when they feel pressured to be just one thing. Then eventually you long to be just one thing because no matter how hard you pretend to be whatever it is they want you to be, you can never totally convince yourself that you are exclusively that one thing. Because you aren’t. But most people seem completely incapable of understanding that, of allowing that. So we find ourselves feeling alone and lonely in groups of people.
One of my favorite quotes from the book is, “I think what a family is shouldn’t be so hard to see. It should be the one thing people know just by looking at you.” Unfortunately, we’ve been trained to recognize families as homogeneous groups. Seeing interracial couples is still jarring for many. Mentally pairing a mother with a child that “does not look like” her can be a major stretch of the imagination. But it is not an imagined thing for many. It is a reality. And for whatever reason that people who don’t have to deal with this don’t seem to understand, we need our families to be recognized.
I could go on and on. I have pages of notes. But I hope this is enough to pique your interest and motivate you to buy (and read!) The Girl Who Fell From the Sky. I’d love to hear what you think!
Here’s a link to an article featuring two of my favorite (biracial) authors: http://www.lawattstimes.com/life-and-style-mainmenu-31/community/691-times-book-festival-features-black-women-writers-panel.html.
Black, White, Other (Funderburg) was the first book I read when I embarked on my “from black to biracial” journey. Caucasia (Senna) was the second. They couldn’t be more different, one being fiction the other non, nor could they have had a more positive influence in guiding me through the paradigm shift.
I love what they had to say about “biracial” in the age of Obama:
Senna stressed that she in no way trying to compete with the president before noting, “I’ve been thinking about this long before Obama.”
Asked if it bothers her that Barack Obama identifies as black, Senna answered that it did not. “He’s very open about his multiracial background. I identify as black. It’s a very mixed-race experience.”
Funderburg agreed, saying that the influence of his biracial heritage emerged prominently during the speech Obama made in Philadelphia last year in the aftermath of the controversy surrounding his former minister the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
“I have the great, great fortune of having loving connections to the white and black sides of my families,” Funderburg said. “I’ve had from birth the chance to understand how identity forms on different levels, to understand more than one side in every story.”
I am very much looking forward to reading Pig Candy and Where Did You Sleep Last Night?. And speaking of favorite biracial authors, I’m also very much looking forward to reading Heidi W. Durrow’s novel The Girl Who Fell From the Sky which you can pre-order from Amazon…http://www.amazon.com/Girl-Who-Fell-Sky/dp/1565126807/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1241193951&sr=8-1