The Old Problems of “New People”

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-06-22 14:29Z by Steven

The Old Problems of “New People”

New Republic

Morgan Jerkins

Courtesy Riverhead Books.

Danzy Senna’s new novel examines the ambivalent privileges of passing.

Danzy Senna, New People, A Novel (New York: Riverhead, 2017)

It is 1996 in Brooklyn. The crime rate is on the decline, artists are fleeing Manhattan and its staggering rents for neighborhoods such as DUMBO, Williamsburg, and Greenpoint, immigrants are flocking to the borough, and you could still buy a brownstone for under $500,000. This is also the year of the Fugees’s iconic album The Score, Lil Kim’s Hardcore, Foxy Brown’s Ill Na Na, and Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt. The era was one of creativity, movement, and rapid innovation, making it fertile ground for the racial dynamics explored in Danzy Senna’s highly anticipated third novel, New People. In a decade when the country had witnessed the Rodney King beating, the Los Angeles Riots, and the O.J. Simpson trial, racial tension were at an all-time high. This is not the time to try and escape one’s race. But there are Black Americans whose trauma from decades of racism leads them to cultivate themselves into a world of the light-skinned elite, and a world where they hope they will be safer, more compatible with the American Dream.

This is the world in which we meet Maria Pierce and Khalil Mirsky, two light-skinned, mixed race black people who want it all and are on track to get it: a Brooklyn brownstone, a wedding at a lighthouse in Martha’s Vineyard with nouveau soul food, a dog named Thurgood, and two children “with skin the color of burnished leather” and “hair the color of spun gold” named Indigo and Cheo. Maria and Khalil met at Stanford, where they fell in love over conversations about interracial dating and misogyny in hip-hop, Giovanni’s Room and Cosby episodes, chicken and waffles. Now, Khalil, a part-time technology consultant, is about to take advantage of the dot-com boom by creating an online community of black “modern tribalism” with his friend, while Maria spends her days finishing up her dissertation on the Jonestown Massacre. It’s perfect. Until it isn’t…

Read the entire review here.

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Michael Eric Dyson Discusses His Cover Story on Hillary Clinton

Posted in Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States, Videos on 2015-11-28 15:01Z by Steven

Michael Eric Dyson Discusses His Cover Story on Hillary Clinton

The New Republic

Mikaela Lefrak, Associate Editor

Obama will probably go down in history as one of the greatest presidents we’ve had. I just don’t think that the issue of race will earn him those kudos.” That’s professor Michael Eric Dyson’s opinion on the first black president of the United States. Dyson, a New Republic contributing editor, wrote “Yes She Can,” the cover story of our January/February issue. It’s an in-depth profile of Hillary Clinton and how she’s addressing race in America.

We sat down with Dyson to discuss some of the big issues discussed in the article. He talked with us about how Clinton can address race and gender, what President Obama has (and has not) done for black Americans, and which Republican presidential candidate would be the least bad option for the United States.

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How a Black Man From Missouri Transformed Himself Into the Indian Liberace

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-09-17 00:43Z by Steven

How a Black Man From Missouri Transformed Himself Into the Indian Liberace

The New Republic

Liesl Bradner

Photo: John Turner

Before Liberace, there was Korla Pandit. He was a pianist from New Delhi, India, and dazzled national audiences in the 1950s with his unique keyboard skills and exotic compositions on the Hammond B3 organ. He appeared on Los Angeles local television in 900 episodes of his show, “Korla Pandit’s Adventures in Music”, smartly dressed in a suit and tie or silk brocade Nehru jacket and cloaked in a turban adorned with a single shimmering jewel. The mysterious, spiritual Indian man with a hypnotic gaze and sly grin was transfixing.

Offstage, Korla—known as the “Godfather of Exotica“— was living the American dream: he had a house in the Hollywood hills, a beautiful blonde wife, two kids, and a social circle that included Errol Flynn and Bob Hope. He even had his own floral-decorated organ float in the Rose Bowl parade in 1953.

Like most everything in Hollywood, it was all smoke and mirrors. His charade wasn’t his stage name—it was his race. Korla Pandit, born John Roland Redd, was a light skinned black man from St. Louis, Missouri. It was a secret he kept until the day he died…

Read the entire article here.

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