Edwidge Danticat on the Dilemma of the Immigrant Writer

Edwidge Danticat on the Dilemma of the Immigrant Writer

Edwidge Danticat recently sat down to talk with Guernica Magazine about her new novel, “Claire of the Sea Light.” It’s Danticat’s first novel in more than a decade, and the first book she’s published since Haiti’s devestating 2010 earthquake. It’s a fascinating interview that touhces on everything from Danticat’s own creative process to how immigrant writers are categorized by publishers and Wikipedia. Here’s one part that really stood out:

Guernica: Would these be very different stories if you didn’t translate? If you took them down in Creole?

Edwidge Danticat: Oh, definitely. I had that experience with Krik? Krak! I made some of the stories into radio plays in Creole and they become totally different. More alive in some way. More immediate. In the epigraph to Drown, Junot Diaz uses a quote from a Cuban poet, Gustavo Pérez Firmat—“The fact that I am writing to you in English already falsifies what I wanted to tell you.” This is the dilemma of the immigrant writer. If I’d lived in Haiti my whole life, I’d be writing these things in Creole. But these stories I am writing now are coming through me as a person who, though I travel to Haiti often, has lived in the U.S. for more than three decades now.

Often when you’re an immigrant writing in English, people think it’s primarily a commercial choice. But for many of us, it’s a choice that rises out of the circumstances of our lives. These are the tools I have at my disposal, based on my experiences. It’s a constant debate, not just in my community but in other communities as well. Where do you belong? You’re kind of one of us, but you now write in a different language. You’re told you don’t belong to American literature or you’re told you don’t belong to Haitian literature. Maybe there’s a place on the hyphen, as Julia Alvarez so brilliantly wrote in one of her essays. That middle generation, the people whose parents brought them to other countries as small children, or even people who were born to immigrant parents, maybe they can have their own literature too.

Read the rest over at Guernica.

Asian American Students Still Face Bullying in New York City Schools

Asian American Students Still Face Bullying in New York City Schools

Back in 2008, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Schools Chancellor Joel Klein announced an ambitious new initiative to try to help curb bullying in the Big Apple’s classrooms. The plan included putting up “Respect for All” posters in school buildings, documenting reported incidents of bullying, notifying parents, and following up with students after they had reported harrassment. The plan was applauded by some of the city’s Asian American non-profit groups who had long pushed for measures to end bullying in classrooms.

But a follow up survey released this month by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund shows that there is significant work left to be done. In a snapshot survey of 163 Asian American students conducted in after school programs, youth leadership meetings, and houses of worship, researchers found that key components of the 2008 plan had yet to be fully implemented. Only 16 percent of survey respondents who reported bullying to their schools recieved a written report from their school, as mandated by the ‘08 plan. Additionally, only 0.5 percent of bullying victims surveyed reported that their parents were notified of their harrassment — another major requirement of the 2008 initiative. Overall, the survey found that reported incidents of bullying had actually increased 20 percent among Asian American students since a similar survey was conducted in 2009.

The survey’s authors are now pushing for the Department of Education (DOE) to publish yearly data on bullying and harrassment, along with increased training for school staff members on how to respond to bullying incidents and the implementation of resorative justice curriculum that emphasizes empathy instead of focusuing on punitive measures for students who engage in bullying behaviors.

Study Finds Growing Racial Divide Among Young People on Immigration

Study Finds Growing Racial Divide Among Young People on Immigration

On the whole, young people — particularly young people of color — are supportive of comphrensive immigration reform, according to a new study from the Chicago-based Black Youth Project. But while young people of color were generally supportive of immigration reform, they often had varying ideas of how immigration is changing the country’s landscape.

In an online survey that was conducted in both English and Spanish last Spring among 1,500 respondents between the ages of 18 and 29, the possibilities and challenges of building black-brown political alliances were made clear. The study’s key findings include:

  • Young people of color support a comprehensive approach to immigration reform at higher rates than white youth, who are more supportive of punitive measures and increased enforcement of existing law.
  • Majorities of both Black and white youth believe that undocumented immigrants take away jobs, housing, and health care from people born in the U.S.
  • However, Black (43.3 percent) and white (17.6 percent) youth disagree substantially about whether undocumented immigrants should be eligible for government services.
  • Black youth have a more inclusive and expansive view than white youth of the role of immigrants in American society.
  • A clear majority (61.1 percent) of Black youth believe that immigrants are treated better than most Black people born in this country. These feelings of alienation may inhibit the prospects for Black-Brown coalition-building.

Importantly, those sentiments seem to have shifted over the course of President Obama’s time in the White House. In early 2009, slightly more than 54 percent of black youth between the ages of 18 and 29 believed that immigrants were treated better than most black people who were born in this country. That number has jumped to 61 percent in 2013, according to the survey.

“These findings have substantial implications not only for politics of immigration  reform, but also for the political cohesion of young Blacks and Latinos,” the survey’s authors write. “The findings in this report suggest that there are a variety of attitudinal barriers to Black-Brown collaboration. In an era where young people are deeply worried about the availability of jobs and affordable health care, it is important to limit the ability of the media and our politicians to exploit these concerns and generate mistrust and anxiety among young people of color.”

Visit the Black Youth Project for more information on the survey, titled “Immigration Reform and the Possibility of Black-Brown Coalitions Among America’s Youth.

High Unemployment Rates Aren’t Budging

High Unemployment Rates Aren't Budging

Today’s jobs report underscores the weak state of the U.S. economy as the country considers military action abroad. In August the U.S. added 169,000 jobs. That’s below analysts’ expectations. The overall unemployment rate barely declined to 7.3 percent from 7.4 percent.

Black and Latino unemployment remained virtually unchanged in depression-like territory at 13 percent and over 9 percent respectively. This minuscule decrease in joblessness registered for all the wrong reasons. 

The bottom line is that millions of people have dropped out of the workforce. The decline in those actively looking for work—officially known as the “labor participation rate”—is masking true unemployment.  The number of people who’ve stopped searching is the highest in almost four decades. As the official unemployment number only measures those “actively” looking for work, the exit of millions from the job force makes the overall jobless situation look better than is actually the case. In fact, if discouraged workers were added to unemployment calculations, then the number of those out of work would be closer to 10 percent. 

Adding to the less than stellar report is that it revised downward the number of official jobs created in June and July. There were 74,000 fewer hirings made during that time frame than were initially reported. Given today’s news—with looming critical deadlines in the next four weeks on the budget, debt, health care, and immigration—those concerned about economic justice can only hope that these issues receive top billing alongside the war resolution that’s currently up for consideration.

‘No Papers, No Fear’ Undocubus Destroyed in Los Angeles

'No Papers, No Fear' Undocubus Destroyed in Los Angeles

Last summer a group of undocumented immigrants traveled across the country for a “No Papers, No Fear” Ride for Justice in the Undocubus. Colorlines reporters followed the bus as it rode through southern states from Phoenix, AZ to the North Carolina Democratic National Convention. The riders were immigrants of all ages who joined the Undocubus caravan to advocate for immigration reform, and bring attention to racial profiling, prisoner abuse, and high deportation rates directly linked to Maricopa County, AZ Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Sheriff Arpaio is currently under federal investigation for these charges. 

This summer ”Priscilla the Undocubus,” was all but destroyed while on sabbatical in Los Angeles. Unknown persons vandalized the interior and exterior of the bus, and stole parts of the motor. The news came as a shock to the Undocu-riders, who were saddened to see the bus in such a terrible state when they were just starting to make plans to go back on the road.

“No Papers, No Fear” organizers started an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to rejuvenate the Undocubus so they can begin a new cross-country journey.  

5 Takeaways From Pitchfork’s Epic Janelle Monáe Story

5 Takeaways From Pitchfork's Epic Janelle Monáe Story

With Janelle Monáe’s sophomore album “The Electric Lady” due out on September 10, Pitchfork offers a sneak preview of what fans can expect. The story itself is pretty a pretty epic accomplishment of multimedia journalism and includes a digital stream of the new album. But here are some of the most interesting facts I picked up from it:

Monáe and her Wondaland Arts Society Take An Almost Scientific Approach to Art

The house is decked out for creative purposes in a highly studied way, as if someone has been reading up on Prince’s Paisley Park Studios in Chanhassen, Minnesota, or Jack White’s Third Man Headquarters in Nashville. Monáe has another home to herself in the Atlanta area, but she sleeps, eats, and breathes Wondaland when she’s in work mode.

She tested the new album out at some Atlanta-area strip clubs.

At one point, they brought early versions of tracks to Atlanta’s fabled strip clubs to see what the women there could dance to—a somewhat surprising move considering Monáe’s android-obsessed subject matter is light years away from the champagne room.

Despite her loyal fanbase, Monáe hasn’t quite taken off — yet.

On one hand, she’s got Prince making the case that she should be on stage at the biggest annual televised celebration of black music. On the other hand, she kind of needs Prince to make the case that she should be on stage at the biggest annual televised celebration of black music. It is sometimes easier to like the idea of her—a whirling, twirling, fantastical funk robot in a tux, a firecracker of a live performer, a young woman who runs her own tight creative ship—than it is to forge a natural connection with her music and persona. With The Electric Lady, she has a chance to change that.

George Lucas is a big fan.

Star Wars mastermind George Lucas flew Monáe out to his Skywalker Ranch in California to give an intimate performance on the property.

Therapy is a really important part of her life.

“I didn’t like the idea of therapy at first,” she continues. “In the black community, nobody goes to therapy. You go to your pastor or you go to the Bible. There’s a stigma.” Monáe, who grew up in a devout Christian family, still says grace before meals. “But I think God blesses us with brains to find medicine, to find cures, and I don’t believe in not using that. Therapists are there to listen.”

‘City of God - 10 Years Later’ May Be Playing Near You Soon

'City of God - 10 Years Later' May Be Playing Near You Soon

It’s been more than ten years since “City of God” made its international debut and became a smashing success. The feature film, based on a 1997 novel by Paulo Lins, tells the story of the rise of organized crime in the country and became an classic in the United States, where it earned four Oscar nominations.

Now there’s a new documentary out that details what the film’s actors have been up to for the past decade. “City of God - Ten Years Later” was recently one of 20 films selected for Premiere Brazil 2013, a traveling screening that begins in Rio de Janiero and includes at least one stop in New York City. The festival in Rio will take place September 26 to October 10; details on a U.S. screening haven’t been released yet.

(h/t Shadow and Act)

Three Indigenous Women Represent at New York Couture Fashion Week

Three Indigenous Women Represent at New York Couture Fashion Week

While Native American themes have become popular in the fashion world, Native American designers have often been left out of the spotlight. In an effort to change this sad state of fashion affairs, three Native designers will be spotlight three designers this Friday: internationally acclaimed Sho Sho Esquiro, Lyn Kay Peters of Ringing Bell Robes, and Linda Lavallee of Cree Nisga’a Clothing.

The show will take place this Friday at the New Yorker hotel in Manhattan. According to its Facebook page, the event will celebrate “self-taught First Nation fashion designers who are sure to bring global awareness of this highly neglected and untapped resource of rich traditional talent.”

Esquiro talked about her 2013 collection with the Native American fashion blog Beyond Buckskin earlier this year and noted that in addition to drawing from indigenous cultures, she was also inspired by Frida Khalo and Day of the Dead. Here’s a video that features some of her designs on the runway back in 2012:

More photos from Esquiro’s collection:



Walmart Employees Stage Nationwide Protest

Walmart Employees Stage Nationwide Protest

Walmart employees nationwide are expected to join demonstrations today in downtown Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and 13 other U.S. cities in protest of continued low wages and employee terminations. Organized by the union-backed group Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart), the demonstrations come after Walmart failed to address the group’s Labor Day deadline to make a public commitment to a $25,000 minimum annual salary for full-time employees, and reinstating employees who were recently fired after going on strike. 

Walmart employees have been involved in multiple demonstrations since November, including a walkout in June and organized civil disobedience at the store’s Washington D.C. headquarters in August.  At least 20 employees have been fired and 80 more have received disciplinary actions. OUR Walmart organizers have also aligned with recent fast food worker strikes against low wages. 

Santa Barbara Yoga Studio Hosts ‘Ghetto Fabulous’ Class

Santa Barbara Yoga Studio Hosts 'Ghetto Fabulous' Class

Santa Barbara, California’s Power of Your Om Yoga Studio decided to host a “Ghetto Fabulous” class recently. According to Jezebel, students were instructed to wear conrows, snapbacks hats, and heavy lip liner along with their lululemon leggins. The flyer for the class dubbed it “A Ghetto Fabulous Yoga Event: Namaste With Attitude.” (NWA, get it?) There’s even more ugliness on the studio’s Facebook page.



TAGS: Racism Yoga

Aziz Ansari Is Sick of Hearing Your Outdated Indian Jokes

Aziz Ansari Is Sick of Hearing Your Outdated Indian Jokes

Comedy Central aired its Roast of James Franco this week in whch comedians stepped up to poke fun at the actor. And since it’s a mainstream comedy show, the sets included plenty of racist so-called humor.

Leave it to Aziz Ansari to call them out. The comedian used his time at the mic to call out all of the night’s racism and homophobia. “Those stereotypes are so outdated. My God,” Ansari said. “There’s more Indian dudes doing sitcoms than there are running 7-11s. We are straight up snatching roles from white actors. My last three roles were Randy, Chet and Tom.”

(h/t Angry Asian Man)

Florida Voter Registration Fraud Investigation Comes Up Empty

Florida Voter Registration Fraud Investigation Comes Up Empty

An investigation into voter registration fraud in Florida—groups like ACORN registering “Mickey Mouse” to vote—has surfaced no proof of its existence, except on the part of some GOP operatives. Florida’s Secretary of State spurred the state’s Department of Law Enforcement to research registration fraud, a project that ended up roping in Florida New Majority, a progressive organization that advocates for expanding democratic participation and was instrumental in registering scores of people of color last year. The investigation found nothing on Florida New Majority, according to The Tampa Bay Times. But it did net fraud from Strategic Allied Consultants, a GOP contractor that made headlines last year when its owner Nathan Sproul was caught red-handed falsifying registration forms. As for any other registration fraud from Democrats, Independents, the Obama campaign, ACORN or any other group Republicans accused of dirty registration tactics, the investigation turned up none. 

In 2011, Florida Republican state legislators passed pitiless voter participation rules that criminally punished registration drive conductors if they failed to turn over voter registration forms to the government within 48 hours.  Before 2011, groups conducting registration drives had up to 10 days to turn in forms, so the new rules threatened to leave inauspicious effects on elections volunteers from Florida’s black churches, NAACP chapters and the League of Women Voters. Republicans claimed this was needed because registration fraud was rampant, even alleging that people disqualified from voting due to felony convictions were voting from jail. A federal court overturned the stifling registration rules last June. 

Earlier this year, Florida Gov. Rick Scott appeared to see Republican errors in their new voting rights rules and walked back policies like early voting cuts-also passed in the name of voter fraud, but which disproportionately hampered voters of color. The investigation from Florida’s Law Enforcement Department proves that the restrictive elections laws were based on myths. 

Today in Twitter Racism: ‘WhyDoBlackPeople’

Today in Twitter Racism: 'WhyDoBlackPeople'

Last week the Twitterverse produced a delightful response to a conspicuously colorblind list of smart women by Fast Company, with thousands of tweets coming out in support of SmartBlackWomenOfTwitterSmartLatinaWomenOfTwitter, and SmartAAPIWomenOfTwitter

Today an incredibly unsmart hashtag is trending, and some Twitter users are wrapped up in a contest to see who can be the most racist. #WhyDoBlackPeople started trending this morning, after being ignited by Hunter Moore with this prompt:  

And the hashtag seems to be giving people a platform to share their most racist curiosities.

But it seems some twitter users are already reclaiming the topic, asking more provocative questions.

What’s your take on this hashtag? Which posts are the best or worst you’ve seen?

‘Pier Kids: The Life’ Shines Light on LGBT Homeless Youth

'Pier Kids: The Life' Shines Light on LGBT Homeless Youth

Take a look at this sneak peek of Elegance Bratton’s documentary film “Pier Kids: The Life.” New York City’s homeless population has risen dramatically in recent years to more than 50,000, and it’s estimated that 40 percent of all homeless youth identify as LGBT. The Pier has long been a home — albeit a contested one — for queer youth of color. And this new film sheds some light on their struggles.

(h/t Huffington Post

TAGS: homeless LGBTQ

UCLA Student Body Drops the I-Word

UCLA Student Body Drops the I-Word

Here’s some happy news to start the school year. Last week, the Undergraduate Students Association at the University of California, Los Angeles unanimously passed a proposition to endorse our Drop the i-word campaign and stop using the term “illegal immigrant.”

The college newspaper the Daily Bruin reports that the decision was made, in part, as a sign of respect to the school’s undocumented students. It’s an important move, especially in light of Janet Napolitano’s move from the Department of Homeland Security to head the University of California.

(h/t Huffington Post)

Ask a Slave: An (Actually Funny!) Web Series

Ask a Slave: An (Actually Funny!) Web Series

Black filmmaker Azie Dungey stars in a new comedy series on YouTube called “Ask a Slave.” The show, which premiered on Labor Day and airs episodes each Sunday, is actually pretty funny. Take notes, Russell Simmons. 

TAGS: slavery

Watch Rebel Diaz’s New Immigration Anthem

Watch Rebel Diaz's New Immigration Anthem

The Bronx trio Rebel Diaz first performed at an immigration rally in 2008, and in their brilliant new single “I’m an Alien” they keep insisting that people drop the I-word. Check out this video from their debut album “Radical Dilemma.” 

(h/t Latino Rebels)

Inside Out 11M Public Art Project Hits Miami

Inside Out 11M Public Art Project Hits Miami

After winning the 2011 TED Prize, French street artist JR launched the Inside Out Project with the goal of creating a global participatory art project with the “potential to change the world.”  Each installment of Inside Out is site-specific, addressing current issues in that country such as LGBT rights in Germany, and orphans with HIV/AIDS in South Africa.

Inside_Out_Miami_090313.jpgThe U.S. installment of the project, titled “Inside Out 11 M,” launched this summer and draws attention to the 11 million undocumented immigrants who remain in legal limbo awaiting comprehensive immigration reform.  Since July, a mobile photo booth has been traveling the country capturing individual portraits, which are then transformed into public art installations. Inside Out mirrors JR’s signature style of larger than life black-and-white photograph wheat paste posters that often take up entire buildings or are placed in unexpected locations. 

The project completed its Miami Beach installment over the weekend on the Freedom Tower at Miami Dade College, which once served as an immigration processing point for refugees fleeing Cuba.  More than 600 people showed up to participate in the Miami edition in solidarity with immigrant rights. 

The mobile photo booth will continue traveling to cities across the U.S. through the end of September. 

Spanish Language Film Breaks Box Office Records

Spanish Language Film Breaks Box Office Records

Instrucciones no incluidas” was a big hit this Labor Day weekend. The Spanish language film, known as “Instructions Not Included” in English, came in fifth and raked in a whooping $10 million in sales—despite the fact it only premiered in 347 theaters. For comparison, “The Butler” brought in double the amount of ticket sales this holiday weekend, but played in nearly 3,330 theaters.

If you haven’t yet heard about “Instructions Not Included,” Jorge Rivas over at Fusion will explain why—along with a review that’s worth the read.  

Thirty Eight Brilliant and Underrated Queer Black Musicians

Thirty Eight Brilliant and Underrated Queer Black Musicians

The Internet’s still responding to Talib Kweli’s assertion that in order to really confront homophobia in hip-hop, there just needs to be a “rapper who’s better than everybody else.” has a slideshow of 38 queer black musicians and it includes: Sylvester, Billy Strayhorn, Josephine Baker, Frankie Knuckles, Frank Ocean, and Bessie Smith. It’s a long list that includes classics and contemporaries. Check it out.

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