Me with Mayor Frank Johnson at his office yesterday.
Yesterday, I got to spend some time with Cleveland’s 56th mayor, Frank Jackson.
I can not share all the details about the off the record conversation that a small group of African American and multiracial students from University School had with Mayor Jackson. I can tell you it was deep and he was very open about his thoughts and feelings on some really important issues.
How do you feel about the excessive force by Cleveland Police?
How do you feel about the Cleveland Police Union endorsing Donald Trump for President?
What are your views on immigration?
How do you feel about Stop and Frisk?
What is your view on what Colin Kaepernick did?
And he thoughtfully and wisely responded to each question. It was awesome to hear the views of a multiracial political leader on these difficult topics.
Mayor Jackson was elected in 2005 and re-elected in 2009 and 2013, making him just the second Cleveland mayor to serve three terms. Clearly, he is a very popular mayor and has led the City of Cleveland to a really great era. This year the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Championship, Cleveland hosted the Republican National Convention and now, the Cleveland Indians are headed to the World Series! Go Tribe! Go!
Jackson was born in Cleveland in 1946 to a black father and a white mother. After graduating from High School, he served in the Army. When he returned, he went to Cleveland State University to study Urban Studies and History. He also earned his master’s degree in Urban Affairs. He became an attorney, working as an assistant city prosecutor, after putting himself through law school also at CSU. Soon he won a seat on the Cleveland’s City Council where he was involved in creating a lot of positive change in an area of the city that had many problems. He is the first sitting member of Cleveland City Council to become mayor since 1867.
During his mayoral campaign, Jackson said that if he didn’t restore hope to the ailing city within 200 days of taking office, he would consider himself a failure. I have only lived in Cleveland for a year and a half, but this city is full of hope and excitement.
Shortly after winning the election he appointed his former opponent Triozzi as law director. This is really interesting because the law director would become mayor if the elected mayor is out of the city, resigns or becomes incapable of serving. Try to imagine Donald or Hillary appointing the other to a position like that! Many consider Mayor Jackson to be a unifier. An advocate for regionalism for Cleveland-Cuyahoga County, Mayor Jackson, in his Election Day 2005 speech, said, “We are one Cleveland, we no longer have the luxury of city and suburbs separate.”
Soon after his inauguration, Jackson began working with the Cleveland Police Department. He introduced a new use of force policy that states: “Excessive force shall not be tolerated.” It is very interesting that Cleveland has been a prominent city in this discussion of excessive force and police gun violence against black men since the shooting of 12 year old Tamir Rice by a Cleveland Police officer in 2014 and it was good to hear the Mayor’s views on it.
Thank you, Mayor Jackson, for spending time with the Junior Pembroke Society and #GOTRIBE
Federal government preliminary decisions are due now for the 2020 Census. The Census Bureau and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) are deciding the fate of multiracial terminology. There may be one more chance for final comments based on the October results, so it is critical that we send our comments in now.
What Should You Do?
Email as many comments as possible to OMB before October 26, 2016 by following the instructions below.
Type or cut and paste the following comment in the body of the email:
I strongly recommend the use of the word “multiracial” on all government forms requiring the use of racial and/or ethnic data. Proper, dignified, and respectful terminology is important for multiracial children. The term “multiracial” should be used when aggregating data or in any way naming or identifying the multiracial population.
Add your name and send.
We also encourage you to leave a public comment here
For full information about regulation FR Doc #2016-23672, go here
Feel free to share a personal story or reason you believe this decision is so important.
Ask all other people of any race, anywhere to send comments. The more comments, the better!
James McBride is a well-known multiracial writer and musician. He is of African-American and Jewish Ancestry. James was born in September of 1957 making him 59 years of age. James has an undergraduate degree in music composition, and also a journalism degree from Columbia University.
I am particularly intrigued by his memoir, The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute To His White Mother. While I have not personally read his book, I have heard nothing but good things. There is a part where McBride asks his mother whether he is white or black, and she says: “You’re a human being. Educate yourself, or you’ll be a nobody.” I couldn’t help but smile as I came across this excerpt as it reminded me so much of my own mother. I think it is so important to realize that we are all much, much more than the color of our skin.
Perhaps his mother’s advice is what drove McBride’s career, education, and work ethic. His memoir has sold over 2.5 million copies, and has also been translated into 15+ languages. McBride has collected countless accomplishments over the years, and is sure to achieve even more over the years.
Salma is a film actress, producer, and former model. She was born on September 2, 1966 in Coatzacoalcos, Mexico. Her father is of Lebanese descent and her mother is of Mexican/Spanish ancestry. She began her career in Mexico before moving to the United States in 1991. She landed her fist major role in Desperado in 1995 after venting her frustrations on a late night Spanish talk show about the roles given to Latino’s. Robert Rodriquez and his producer wife were watching and loved the intelligent, opinionated woman. Hayek’s movies have included: Frida, Puss In Boots, Desperado, Dogma, Across the Universe, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, From Dusk Till Dawn, and Wild Wild West. Hayek is a naturalized United States Citizen; however she has stated she tries to represent her Mexican roots loud and proud. She married French billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault in 2009. She has reported she is trying to keep her daughter immersed in all three cultures: Mexican, American, and French. Salma’s activism has included increasing awareness on violence against women and discrimination against immigrants.
A rare disease diagnosis requiring a suitable bone marrow match to keep a child alive is something no parent ever wants to deal with. Yet many do.
In director Jeff Chiba Stearns’ documentary Mixed Match, the challenges that children of multiracial unions sometimes face finding compatible donors to fit their genetic markers and the issue of race in medicine is well explored. The Emmy-nominated and Webby Award-winning Vancouver director (One Big Hapa Family, 2010) is the co-founder of Vancouver’s annual Hapa-palooza Festival, Canada’s first and largest celebration of people with mixed ancestry that keeps growing.
A news report about the passing of a 23-year-old of Eurasian descent who was searching the global donor bank but unable to find a match in time sparked his interest in the Mixed Match subject matter. His film featuring live action and inventive animation took six years to complete.
“When you walk down the street in Vancouver, you see so many mixed-race families and children and the prediction is that will be the majority fairly soon,” said Stearns. “Tons of babies being born right now are born to mixed (parents) and, while rare blood diseases are thankfully rare, I thought we should do something to focus on the people stories. There are people searching now and desperate now.”
In searching out the unique stories, the director came into contact with the American-based Mixed Marrow organization which is trying to build mixed-race donor banks. He also profiles scientists working on the cutting edge of genetic science, aw well as racist trolls and some truly inspirational subjects such as Imani Cornelius. This spectacularly well-spoken, lively young woman in Wisconsin is as good a spokesperson as anyone could hope for to get more people onto a donor registry.
“We wanted a call to action. We wanted to cover all the angles. It’s controversial in so many ways how we talk about the racial language in medicine and beyond,” said Stearns. “But what we didn’t want was a two-hour PSA. We wanted the people like Imani to make the point.”
Mixed Match is more than a movie for Stearns. His own child’s birth becomes part of the awareness-raising in the film. The tagline for the film says it all: “When being mixed race is more than just an identity, it’s a matter of life and death.”
Muhammad Ali was an amazing man. A world champion fighter, a civil rights activist, and a hero to many people. When he passed away this summer it was a great loss to the world. My mom worked for Muhammad for a number of years and was lucky to consider him a special friend. Below you can see pictures of some of the fun times they shared. But as much as my mom and people around the world will miss The Greatest, there are, of course, few people who will miss him as much as his children. Today’s Famous Friday is Laila Ali, Muhammad’s 8th, and probably most well-known, child.
Like her father, Laila was a boxer. Boxing among women was pretty new when she began the career, which earned her multiple middleweight and light heavyweight championships and ended without a single defeat! Laila graduated from Santa Monica College with a business degree. She is also a TV personality and an author of Reach! Finding Strength, Spirit, and Personal Power, a book written to motivate and inspire young people. Laila married Johnny McClain, who became her business manager but divorced after 5 years. In 2007, she married Curtis Conway who played for the Bears, Chargers, Jets and 49ers. Together they have a son and a daughter.
Laila was born in 1977, to Ali and his then wife, Veronica Porsche-Ali who is multiracial (Louisiana Creole). The picture above of Laila wearing a “Beautifully Blended” tshirt was posted by Laila recently on her Instagram account. It received a ton of comments about her shirt and whether or not she is multiracial. Here are a couple of them:
You are true beauty, true inspiration. Love your t-shirt! I’m tri-racial 💕💜😊
I have this same shirt. It means whatever you are blended with created something beautiful. Does not mean you have to be “mixed” but that we live in a MixedNation 💜💙💚💛
Most children of immigrants are regularly asked “Where are you from?” but Canadians of mixed heritage are also asked “Which side are you, really?”
Both questions cause a stir of emotions.
Many second-gen Canadians — individuals born to at least one immigrant parent — who are mixed particularly find that latter question the toughest to answer.
We know we look different — sometimes, not even like our parents. Some of us don’t know about our parents’ cultures or speak the languages, yet, there’s often a desire for others to categorize us as belonging to one culture or the other.
Why isn’t it enough to say we’re Canadian? We were born and raised in Canada, we grew up eating “Canadian food”, watching Canadian shows, and learning Canadian history. But because there is a struggle to define what it means to be Canadian, it can get more complex with other identities in the mix.
“As I’ve gotten older I’ve developed a firmer definition of my self-identity. Though it’s not exactly rock solid and I think I will always be a bit conflicted about how to scale the different races that make up me and my family, I know what defines me.”
“I don’t believe the places where my parents were born define me. And I don’t think they define them either. They’re just labels, words we use to help us form connections, but also words that separate us.”
“The question I’ve been asked consistently throughout my life is, “which side do you identify more with?” I hate this question. You are forcing me to choose between my Italian culture and my Filipino culture. It feels like you’re asking me to decide between pasta and puncit. Between gelato and halo-halo. Between my mom and my dad.”
Eight years ago, I fell in love with a musician who had a great smile, strong convictions, and proved he was a kid at heart by climbing trees with me on our first date. We married in 2011, have two children, and are still best friends to this day. It just so happens that I’m Caucasian and my husband is Korean, African-American, and Cherokee. His skin is the color of dark caramel and his eyes do the coolest crinkly thing when he laughs. I, on the other hand, very closely resemble a peach Crayola crayon with brown, curly hair.
Needless to say, meeting our kids for the first time was AWESOME.
Of course, it would have been, no matter what we looked like. But one unique element about our family is that our son and daughter both represent four entirely different ethnicities from four different continents. History class will take on a whole new meaning for them.
Honestly, skin color doesn’t come up very often in our house, unless we’re having a specific discussion or teachable moment together. It simply isn’t a “thing.” But when I stop and see my life from the outside, I’m reminded that there really are differences in being a white mom with multiracial kids. Some of them are hilarious. Some of them are sobering. All of them are a privilege to experience if it means I get to spend one more day being my children’s mom.
You’re probably waiting for me to dish the dirt on all the terrible things strangers have hissed in my ear in the grocery aisle. We do live in a messed up world, but honestly, most people just stare.
Will my children face some of the persecutions their father faced as a child? Will they face things that their white classmates and cousins won’t understand, and, to a degree, I won’t fully understand? Yes. But every family faces challenges, no matter their skin color. Every family is made up of completely unique individuals. Every family has their “weird is the new normal” moments. Here are a few of ours.
1. Your kids may not look anything like you.
In my case, my kids look like their daddy. It’s just the nature of the dominant genes. That’s fine. I happen to think he’s adorable, so bring on the adorable descendants. We didn’t fall in love because of our skin color, or decide to have children because of that. The byproduct of our different races means that the kids simply don’t look like me very much.
Still, I see similarities flash by — like when my daughter speaks in a gentle voice to her stuffed animal when it’s “injured,” stroking its fur and giving it hugs. Or when I saw my 1-year-old son toddle out of his room recently. His eyes darted around as he tried so hard to hide the little quiver in his chin, and when his eyes locked on mine, his face wrinkled and his eyes welled with tears as he raced into my arms. It’s in those little moments that I see it. The gentle hand. The shape of the quivering chin. That’s when I see me.
2. People regularly ask, “Are your children adopted?”
My uterus gets a little angry every time someone asks me this question. I can’t fault them for their assumption, so I’m not offended, but the devil in me always wants to answer with something like, “No, after two pregnancies and 41 total hours of labor, I birthed both of these children straight from my Caucasian loins.”
3. People don’t know how to ask about your kids’ ethnicity.
I hear things like this a lot: “Aww ... these are your kids? Wow! So, what’s their … um … who … uh … ”
Meanwhile, their hands flail about, searching for the right words in mid-air.
It usually ends with a benign, “W-where is their dad from?”
So I answer honestly. “Virginia.”
“ … ”
“I’m just messing with you,” I say. “You’re really asking what his ethnicity is, right?”
A sigh of nervous relief tumbles out of the other person. “Yes, yes, that’s what I was asking.” ::vigorous head nodding::
The thing is, I totally get the curiosity. My husband has dealt with this his whole life — sometimes with far less polite inquiries and assumptions made of him. I’ve tried to reverse roles and picture someone doing that to me.
“So, you’re German and English right? Can you say any German phrases? Can you sound like My Fair Lady? Do you know any good sauerkraut recipes?”
(I don’t, by the way.)
According to my husband, this video accurately depicts the hilarity of what his whole life has been like:
4. Everyone in your family is tanner than you … dang it.
My daughter was born during a Midwestern winter when the light-skinned world is at its pastiest. My little newborn was like a sweet caramel candy in my arms.
Don’t even get me started on how long it takes them to tan each summer. When my husband and kids wear sunblock, they still come home three shades darker. It’s cool. I can be the pasty mom. It’s cool… ::sniff::
5. People might think your baby’s birthmark is a bruise.
I had no idea what a “Mongolian spot” was before I became a mom. When my daughter showed up on the scene with a birthmark that looked like an ink stain on her lower back, I immediately asked my husband about it. His reply was, “It’s an ‘Asian baby’ thing.” Turns out, more than 80% of babies from Asian descent are born with the bluish gray birthmark.
It’s not even just Asians, though. According to the US National Library of Medicine, “Mongolian blue spots are common among persons who are of Asian, Native American, Hispanic, East Indian, and African descent.” Less than 10% of Caucasian babies have it.
So basically, this is a completely normal birthmark for nearly everyone except white people.
When my son was born, his Mongolian blue spot looked like a splotchy map of North and South America stretched across his lower back, right hip, and buttocks. I totally bragged about it to my family ALL the time. “Look at my baby’s cool birthmark.” (Sorry, son. I stopped, I promise.)
That was until the day we were told that an incident report was filed while he was in a child care facility. One of the attendants changed his diaper and noticed the bluish marks, completely unaware of its origin. Out of concern and to make sure proper paperwork was filed to prove that he wasn’t injured while in their care, the attendant filed a report about the mark and gave it to the director … who showed it to me.
The whole matter was cleared up because we’d been friends with this director and many of the people on his team for years. They knew we would never abuse our children. Still, the danger of other caregivers mistaking our son’s large birthmark for injuries and calling CPS unnerved us. We decided to photograph the birthmark and file a signed statement from his pediatrician that it was, in fact, a birthmark (which led to the most embarrassing trip to the Walgreens photo lab I’ve ever taken).
6. Every day with your partner would have been illegal not that long ago.
My husband’s entire existence represents his parents’ interracial union and the progress this world has made. Our union is one step even further down that path. Things weren’t so rosy in the United States 50 years ago, however. Interracial marriage wasn’t even legalized until 1967.
I’m so grateful to live in a world that doesn’t hate my family or hunt us down or persecute us. Again, I’m not saying these things won’t ever happen, because people are people, but I’ll take every good day as a gift. Our ancestors made their choices. Now it’s up to us to make ours.
7. Your kids will ask you some day, “Mommy, why doesn’t your skin look like mine?”
I think about that one quite a lot. Everything I read and watch and listen to makes me think about my children and the world in which they’re growing up. I’m sure that’s the same for all parents. I cannot do anything about other people’s prejudices or misguided beliefs on race. What I can do is show acceptance in my own home.
My children will know that I love them. They’ll know that I love their father. They’ll know that we accept each other’s families.
My husband and I talk openly about racial issues with each other, gaining a better understanding each time. We’ll watch a movie and discuss why a person of a certain race was cast in a certain role. We’ll reflect on our childhood and compare the moments when we felt like outsiders, often for very different reasons.
I don’t think we meant to do this, but all these conversations are preparing us for the day when our children ask us that one question, “Why doesn’t my skin look like yours?” “It’s actually a beautiful story,” I’ll tell them. “Your own little history.”
Until that day, I will patiently wait, pray, and prepare for my babies to ask their questions and find their voices in this world.
This week’s Famous Friday features someone who has been in the headlines quite often lately, Colin Kaepernick. He was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and he is of African American and European descent. From a young age he continually excelled in all sorts of sports. He is currently a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers.
If you haven’t heard, Kaepernick began a silent protest during the NFL preseason. Instead of standing for the national anthem, he takes a knee. He doesn’t do this to disrespect veterans or our military, but to protest police brutality. When asked about the reasoning behind his protest Colin said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
Several other NFL stars have joined in on his protest. Not only that, but athletes from college all the way down to pee-wee leagues are also taking a knee in protest. One of those protestors is Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall he said the following: “I’m not against the military. I’m not against the police or America, I’m against social injustice.”
This quote from Kaepernick really hit me, “You have people that practice law and our lawyers and go to school for eight years, but you can become a cop in six months and don’t have to have the same amount of training as a cosmetologist. That’s insane. Someone that’s holding a curling iron has more education and more training than people that have a gun and are going out on the street to protect us.” I understand that some people may have an issue with Colin’s method of protest, but I encourage you to look beyond the method and see the message Kaepernick is trying to get across.
Historic recognition: Washington’s family tree is biracial
ZSun-nee Miller-Matema poses for a portrait at Mount Vernon, the plantation home of former U.S
ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — George Washington’s adopted son was a bit of a ne’er-do-well by most accounts, including those of Washington himself, who wrote about his frustrations with the boy they called “Wash.”
“From his infancy, I have discovered an almost unconquerable disposition to indolence in everything that did not tend to his amusements,” the founding father wrote.
At the time, George Washington Parke Custis was 16 and attending Princeton, one of several schools he bounced in and out of. Before long, he was back home at Mount Vernon, where he would be accused of fathering children with slaves.
Two centuries later, the National Park Service and the nonprofit that runs Washington’s Mount Vernon estate are concluding that the rumors were true: In separate exhibits, they show that the first family’s family tree has been biracial from its earliest branches.
“There is no more pushing this history to the side,” said Matthew Penrod, a National Park Service ranger and programs manager at Arlington House, where the lives of the Washingtons, their slaves and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee all converged.
President George Washington had no direct descendants, and his wife Martha Custis was a widow when they married, but he adopted Martha’s grandchildren — “Wash” and his sister “Nellie” — and raised them on his Mount Vernon estate.
Parke Custis married Mary Fitzhugh in 1804, and they had one daughter who survived into adulthood, Mary Anna Randolph Custis. In 1831, she married her third cousin — Lee, who then served as a U.S. Army lieutenant.
Outside the marriage, Parke Custis likely fathered children with two of his stepfather’s slaves: Arianna Carter, and Caroline Branham, according to the exhibits at Arlington House and Mount Vernon.
The first official acknowledgment came in June when the Park Service re-enacted the 1821 wedding of Maria Carter to Charles Syphax at Arlington House, the hilltop mansion overlooking the capital that Custis built (and Lee later managed) as a shrine to his adoptive stepfather. A new family tree, unveiled at the re-enactment, lists the bride’s parents as Parke Custis and Arianna Carter.
“We fully recognize that the first family of this country was much more than what it appeared on the surface,” Penrod said at the ceremony.
The privately run Mount Vernon estate explores this slave history in “Lives Bound Together,” an exhibition opening this year that acknowledges that Parke Custis also likely fathered a girl named Lucy with slave Caroline Branham.
Tour guides were hardly this frank when Penrod started at Arlington House 26 years ago. Staffers were told to describe slave dwellings as “servants’ quarters,” and “the focus was on Lee, to honor him and show him in the most positive light,” Penrod said.
He said no new, definitive evidence has surfaced to prove Parke Custis fathered girls with slaves; rather, the recognition reflects a growing sense that African-American history cannot be disregarded and that Arlington House represents more than Lee’s legacy, he said.
Scientific proof would require matching the DNA of Carter and Branham descendants to the progeny of his daughter and the Confederate general, because the Parke Custis line runs exclusively through the offspring of his daughter and Robert E. Lee.
Stephen Hammond of Reston, a Syphax descendant, has researched his family tree extensively. He said the Park Service’s recognition of the Custis’ paternity is gratifying. “It’s become a passion of mine, figuring out where we fit in American history,” Hammond said.
Hammond said he and his cousins have yet to approach the Lee descendants to gauge their interest in genetic tests, and it’s not clear how they feel about the official recognition — several didn’t respond to Associated Press requests for comment.
Some family records are kept at Robert E. Lee’s birthplace, Stratford Hall, but research director Judy Hynson said she knows of none that acknowledge Parke Custis fathered slaves.
“That’s not something you would write down in your family Bible,” Hynson said.
The circumstantial evidence includes the Carter-Syphax wedding in Arlington House — an unusual honor for slaves — and the fact that Parke Custis not only freed Maria Syphax and her sons before the Civil War, but set aside 17 acres on the estate for her.
Indeed, after Mount Vernon was seized by Union forces, an act of Congress ensured that land was returned to Maria Syphax’s family. New York Sen. Ira Harris said then that Washington’s adopted son had a special interest in her — “something perhaps akin to a paternal instinct.”
Oral histories also argue for shared bloodlines.
Maria Carter’s descendants know, for example, that her name was pronounced “Ma-RYE-eh,” not “Ma-REE-uh,” said Donna Kunkel of Los Angeles, who portrayed her ancestor at the re-enactment.
“As a kid I would always tell people I was related to George Washington, but no one would believe me,” she said.
Branham descendants include ZSun-nee Miller-Matema of Hagerstown, Md., who said “my aunt old me that if the truth of our family was known, it would topple the first families of Virginia.”
She said she discovered her truth by happenstance in the 1990s, when she spotted a portrait with a family resemblance while researching at the Alexandria Black History Museum for a stage production. A museum staffer soon sat her down with records. Eventually, she traced her ancestry to Caroline Branham, who appears in documents written in the first president’s own hand.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” she said. “Gen. Washington was taking notes on my Caroline?”
As slaves, the women could not consent to the sexual advances of the plantation owner’s adopted son, but Kunkel said she tries not to think of the acts as rape.
“I try to focus on the outcome. He treated Maria with respect after the fact,” she said.
Incorporating these family histories into the nation’s shared story is particularly important at a time of renewed racial tension, Miller-Matema said.
“We’re all so much a part of each other,” she said. “It just makes no sense any more to be a house divided.”