“Illegal Immigration”? How the Bengazi Added to Our Cultural Mix Before the Civil Rights Act

One of the biggest lies told you in school is about “America being the land of opportunity for immigrants”. It’s a lie because before 1965 immigration from non-white parts of the world was illegal. Many of the Chinese who came here to work on the Transcontinental Railroad in the 19th Century, were boxed up and shipped back to China as soon as the railroad was finished.

In terms of “non-whiteness” the Irish were only brought here in the 1840′s through 1870′s because they were cheaper than slaves, and made excellent cannon fodder during the Civil War. Black folks and Irish competed, and often worked for and on the same low paying dirty jobs, from digging coal mines, to ditch digging. That competition was sometimes not friendly – as demonstrated in the New York City Draft Riots during the Civil War, and later during the early Labor Union period of the 1900′s. But there is a pretty rich history between the two groups, certainly not all antagonistic.

South Asia was particularly singled out by American Immigration authorities, which is why few South Asians can trace their history in the US back more than 50 years. But some Indians and what would later become Pakistanis did come here nearly 150 years ago. They stayed here, they married, and raised families. A fascinating book (next on my loyal Kindle) uncovers this previously unknown and ignored bit of history…

The Bengazi in Harlem. A group of largely Muslim South Asian immigrants and their African-American and Puerto Rican Wives at a  1952 banquet at New York’s Pakistan League of America.

Bengali Harlem: Author documents a lost history of immigration in America

In the next few weeks, Fatima Shaik, an African-American, Christian woman, will travel “home” from New York to Kolkata, India.

It will be a journey steeped in a history that has remained unknown until the publication last month of a revelatory book by Vivek Bald. And it will be a journey of contemplation as Shaik, 60, meets for the first time ancestors with whom she has little in common.

“I want to go back because I want to find some sort of closure for my family, said Shaik, an author and scholar of the Afro-Creole experience.

That Americans like Shaik, who identify as black, are linked by blood to a people on the Indian subcontinent seems, at first, improbable.

South Asian immigration boomed in this country after the passage of landmark immigration legislation in 1965. But long before that, there were smaller waves of new Americans who hailed from India under the British Empire.

The first group, to which Shaik’s grandfather, Shaik Mohamed Musa, belonged, consisted of peddlers who came to these shores in the 1890s, according to Bald. They sold embroidered silks and cottons and other “exotic” wares from the East on the boardwalks of Asbury Park and Atlantic City, New Jersey. They eventually made their way south to cities like New Orleans and Atlanta and even farther to Central America.

The second wave came in the 1920s and ‘30s. They were seamen, some merchant marines.

Most were Muslim men from what was then the Indian province of Bengal and in many ways, they were the opposite of the stereotype of today’s well-heeled, highly educated South Asians.

South Asian immigration was illegal then – the 1917 Immigration Act barred all idiots, imbeciles, criminals and people from the “Asiatic Barred Zone.”

The Bengalis got off ships with little to their name. Continue reading

Chuck Brown – Godfather of Go Go

Used to be, you could tell what city you were in by the music on the radio. CATV and the homogenization of channels after major radio companies consolidated the small local stations – pretty much killed that.

Chuck Brown was a DC institution. I heard Chuck Brown play the first time back in the 70′s, and have heard him play probably 15 or 20 times since. For years he played the “Cabaret” circuit – yet another institution peculiar to DC.

The he started playing a new type of music – Go Go.

Two things you needed to go to a Go Go Club…

Your dancing shoes – and a willingness to boogie all night.

RIP Chuck!

And -

Musical history of the blues found in juke joints – CBS News

A few of the old Juke Joints still survive. Wynton Marsalis takes on a trip down History Lane finding several Juke Joints still operating.

Musical history of the blues found in juke joints

In a downhome neighborhood on the outskirts of Birmingham, Ala., Rita James bought an abandoned building and built a happy home for the blues. Her tiny, unmarked Red Wolf club invites the entire community.

Just four years old, The Red Wolf is a real juke joint. It’s roots go all the way back to Emancipation. In the old South, poverty made life more extreme. So folks found barns, shacks, anywhere – to play, sing and dance their sorrows away. Over time, these places became known as juke joints. Within their walls the blues were born.

Every Wednesday night, Wilson takes the microphone and gets the people on their feet. But it’s the music that brings them together.

“I just make them feel good,” Wilson said. “That’s just me period. Anywhere. I make the crippled feel good – make them think they can walk again.”

First-timer BJ Miller drove 500 miles from St. Louis for a chance to blow her trombone in a place where spirits are served, and freed.

“It’s not that they just serve alcohol,” Miller said. “It’s that they are serving musicians the opportunity to express themselves – and that’s not everywhere.”

“The blues has good and sad, so it’s for good too,” Wilson said. “And you know I like the blues. I like music period, I like all music, so music cheer me on and make me feel good.”

The blues are good for the soul. Their rhythms are inseparable from the American identity, and they’re not naive. The blues tell us bad things happen all the time, and they do, and we can engage with them. The blues are like a vaccine. If you want to get rid of something, give yourself a little bit of it, and when the real thing comes – you’re ready for it.

If Rita has any say in the matter, they’ll be an integral and constant part of the future. Wilson said her club will stay open, “until I drop.”

Un-Hyphenate Me! Some Object to African American Label

One of the major changes brought about by Civil Rights was the right of self determination – the ability to decide what to call yourselves.

Some blacks insist: ‘I’m not African-American’

The labels used to describe Americans of African descent mark the movement of a people from the slave house to the White House. Today, many are resisting this progression by holding on to a name from the past: “black.”

For this group — some descended from U.S. slaves, some immigrants with a separate history — “African-American” is not the sign of progress hailed when the term was popularized in the late 1980s. Instead, it’s a misleading connection to a distant culture.

The debate has waxed and waned since African-American went mainstream, and gained new significance after the son of a black Kenyan and a white American moved into the White House. President Barack Obama’s identity has been contested from all sides, renewing questions that have followed millions of darker Americans:

What are you? Where are you from? And how do you fit into this country?

“I prefer to be called black,” said Shawn Smith, an accountant from Houston. “How I really feel is, I’m American.”

“I don’t like African-American. It denotes something else to me than who I am,” said Smith, whose parents are from Mississippi and North Carolina. “I can’t recall any of them telling me anything about Africa. They told me a whole lot about where they grew up in Macomb County and Shelby, N.C.”

Gibre George, an entrepreneur from Miami, started a Facebook page called “Don’t Call Me African-American” on a whim. It now has about 300 “likes.”

“We respect our African heritage, but that term is not really us,” George said. “We’re several generations down the line. If anyone were to ship us back to Africa, we’d be like fish out of water.”

“It just doesn’t sit well with a younger generation of black people,” continued George, who is 38. “Africa was a long time ago. Are we always going to be tethered to Africa? Spiritually I’m American. When the war starts, I’m fighting for America.”

Joan Morgan, a writer born in Jamaica who moved to New York City as a girl, remembers the first time she publicly corrected someone about the term: at a book signing, when she was introduced as African-American and her family members in the front rows were appalled and hurt.

“That act of calling me African-American completely erased their history and the sacrifice and contributions it took to make me an author,” said Morgan, a longtime U.S. citizen who calls herself Black-Caribbean American. (Some insist Black should be capitalized.)

She said people struggle with the fact that black people have multiple ethnicities because it challenges America’s original black-white classifications. In her view, forcing everyone into a name meant for descendants of American slaves distorts the nature of the contributions of immigrants like her black countrymen Marcus Garvey and Claude McKay.

Morgan acknowledges that her homeland of Jamaica is populated by the descendants of African slaves. “But I am not African, and Africans are not African-American,” she said.

In Latin, a forerunner of the English language, the color black is “niger.” In 1619, the first African captives in America were described as “negars,” which became the epithet still used by some today.

The Spanish word “negro” means black. That was the label applied by white Americans for centuries.

The word black also was given many pejorative connotations — a black mood, a blackened reputation, a black heart. “Colored” seemed better, until the civil rights movement insisted on Negro, with a capital N.

Then, in the 1960s, “black” came back — as an expression of pride, a strategy to defy oppression.

“Every time black had been mentioned since slavery, it was bad,” says Mary Frances Berry, a University of Pennsylvania history professor and former chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Reclaiming the word “was a grass-roots move, and it was oppositional. It was like, `In your face.’”… (more)

 

Increasing Number of Latinos Identify as Native American

In some Latin American countries – being Native American is a definite negative. Discrimination, such as that experienced by Native American people in Southern Mexico is common. So historically, a lot of Hispanics have run away from their Native American background (Not unlike the disappeared black folks in Mexico). So this is interesting…

Ana María Tekina-eirú Maynard, right, dances at the 2010 Taíno Day ceremony in Puerto Rico.

Taino Festival in Puerto Rico

More Latinos identify as Native American, census shows

When Ana María Tekina-eirú Maynard filled out her census form last year, she checked the box for Latino, and for the first time, she also checked the box for Native American.

It had taken her more than 30 years — plus research and genetic testing — to discover her ties to the indigenous Taínos of Puerto Rico, to claim her identity and re-learn what she thought she knew of her history.

She’s not the only one. Since 2000, the number of Hispanics who identified themselves as Native American grew from 407,073 to 685,150, according to the 2010 census.

Some attribute the increase to immigration from parts of North and South America where there are large indigenous populations. In some cases, it’s because of recently discovered ties to native cultures.

Growing up in the Bronx, New York, and spending summers in Puerto Rico, Maynard said she had no words to identify who she was. She just felt “different.”

“It is one thing to know that you have indigenous blood,” Maynard said. “And I have always known it. I look at the faces of my mother and grandmother, and that reality is undeniable.”

But Maynard had long been taught that Taíno Indians, the indigenous people of Puerto Rico, were “gone, dead and buried” for centuries, decimated by Spaniards who arrived on the island in the 16th century.

“Why would you question what you have always been taught and what was considered as common knowledge?” she asked.

Still, 14 years ago, Maynard founded the Puerto Rican Folkloric Dance & Cultural Center in Austin, Texas, to preserve the culture of indiginous Puerto Ricans. Today, Maynard gives dance and singing classes as a volunteer at the center, in addition to her full-time job as an engineer with IBM.

Four years ago, Maynard heard about the work of Dr. Juan Carlos Martinez Cruzado, a geneticist from the University of Puerto Rico. In an island-wide genetic study, he found that at least 61.1% of those surveyed had mitochondrial DNA of indigenous origin.

Cruzado’s findings eventually cast doubt upon the notion that the Taínos of Puerto Rico had been completely extinguished but suggested that they assimilated.

“When I learned about (Cruzado’s) work, my life changed,” Maynard said. “It was an awakening that the Taíno heritage was not extinct.”

 

Africa – The Mother of All Languages

Africa – the mother of all peoples on earth, was also where the first spoken languages were developed.

LANGUAGES

The Mother of All Languages

The world’s 6,000 or so modern languages may have all descended from a single ancestral tongue spoken by early African humans between 50,000 and 70,000 years ago, a new study suggests.

The finding, published Thursday in the journal Science, could help explain how the first spoken language emerged, spread and contributed to the evolutionary success of the human species.

Quentin Atkinson, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand and author of the study, found that the first migrating populations leaving Africa laid the groundwork for all the world’s cultures by taking their single language with them—the mother of all mother tongues.

“It was the catalyst that spurred the human expansion that we all are a product of,” Dr. Atkinson said.

About 50,000 years ago—the exact timeline is debated—there was a sudden and marked shift in how modern humans behaved. They began to create cave art and bone artifacts and developed far more sophisticated hunting tools. Many experts argue that this unusual spurt in creative activity was likely caused by a key innovation: complex language, which enabled abstract thought. The work done by Dr. Atkinson supports this notion.

His research is based on phonemes, distinct units of sound such as vowels, consonants and tones, and an idea borrowed from population genetics known as “the founder effect.” That principle holds that when a very small number of individuals break off from a larger population, there is a gradual loss of genetic variation and complexity in the breakaway group.

Dr. Atkinson figured that if a similar founder effect could be discerned in phonemes, it would support the idea that modern verbal communication originated on that continent and only then expanded elsewhere.

In an analysis of 504 world languages, Dr. Atkinson found that, on average, dialects with the most phonemes are spoken in Africa, while those with the fewest phonemes are spoken in South America and on tropical islands in the Pacific.

The study also found that the pattern of phoneme usage globally mirrors the pattern of human genetic diversity, which also declined as modern humans set up colonies elsewhere. Today, areas such as sub-Saharan Africa that have hosted human life for millennia still use far more phonemes in their languages than more recently colonized regions do.

(more)

Mother Brought to Tears By Child’s Racial Attitudes in CNN Test

This is a revision of a study first performed nearly 20 years ago with dolls. The new study shows that the children’s attitudes still remain nearly the same.

Kids’ test answers on race brings mother to tears

A 5-year-old girl in Georgia is being asked a series of questions in her school library. The girl, who is white, is looking at pictures of five cartoons of girls, all identical except for skin color ranging from light to dark.

When asked who the smart child is, she points to a light-skinned doll. When asked who the mean child is she points to a dark-skinned doll. She says a white child is good because “I think she looks like me”, and says the black child is ugly because “she’s a lot darker.”

As she answers her mother watches, and gently weeps.

Her daughter is taking part in a new CNN pilot study on children’s attitudes on race and her answers actually reflect one of the major findings of the study, that white children have an overwhelming bias toward white, and that black children also have a bias toward white but not nearly as strong as the bias shown by the white children.

Full coverage: Kids on race

Renowned child psychologist and University of Chicago professor Margaret Beale Spencer, a leading researcher in the field of child development, was hired as a consultant by CNN. She designed the pilot study and used a team of three psychologists to implement it: two testers to execute the study and a statistician to help analyze the results.

Full doll study results

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