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My White Childhood Best Friend Was Forbidden to See Me — Until She Found Me 29 Years Later

For those who remember my blog post about my friend Brandy, we’ve met now! I wrote about it for Ravishly:

In sixth grade, my best friend Brandy had the haphazard look of someone whose parents paid as little attention to their children as possible. I, in a similar fashion, had a bushy afro that didn’t know where it belonged.

Our school, which had just begun bussing, reflected the tense racial reality that would soon infiltrate our friendship. Lockers were removed after a series of bomb threats. Eighth-grade boys harassed me daily for being “white.” But inside our bubble, Brandy and I felt safe.

Read the rest here!

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Doctors Told Me I Was ‘Too Highly Educated’ to Be Sick, and other stories

I’ve been very remiss with sharing my new bylines here! So without further ado, here are my most recent articles. I’ll also probably be starting a newsletter soon.

Doctors Told Me I Was ‘Too Highly Educated’ to Be Sick, published in SheKnows:

Beginning in 2006, I slept 12 hours most nights and often took a two-hour nap in the afternoon. I wasn’t lazy — I was exhausted. I talked slowly, moved slowly and had difficulty driving because my brain couldn’t keep up…

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If 19th Century Novels had Clickbait Titles, published on Buzzfeed:

Ever wonder what classic authors’ titles would have been if they had to rely on clicks?

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The Historical Need for Black Colleges, published in JSTOR Daily:

Historically black Talladega College was widely criticized for its decision to have its marching band participate in President-elect Trump’s inauguration parade. Much of the uproar has to do with black colleges’ roots in combating unequal education, a feat that many argue will deteriorate under Trump’s presidency…

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More Hidden Figures of NASA History, published in JSTOR Daily:

By now, just about everyone has heard of the 2016 film Hidden Figures, starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe, who portray of a group of black female “computers” at NASA’s Langley Research Center. The film, which has already garnered a number of awards, cast these once unsung pioneers into the public eye…

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Rory Gilmore Will Not Get Rich From Her Memoir, And Neither Will You, published in The Financial Diet:

As I binge-watched Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, every so often, I checked my email to see if my article about the original series had been accepted for publication. This constant tug at my attention felt surreal, as the protagonist Rory was going through the same anxiety throughout much of the revival…

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Does the Multiracial Community Like The Loving Movie?, published in Multiracial Media:

I didn’t want to cry. I had seen the trailer for Loving, and honestly, I was afraid it was going to be a subpar movie. Partly because I thought the trailer sentimental in a Hallmark-y sort of way, and partly because I wasn’t sure Hollywood could do an interracial story justice…

That’s about it for now! You can see more of my articles by clicking on the “Portfolio” tab at the top of this page.

Love to all,

Shannon

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Does the Multiracial Community Like the Loving Movie?

On October 20th, I was fortunate enough to see the Hollywood premiere of Loving, which is set to release in the US on November 4th. Check out my article about the event here on Multiracial Media. I include quotes from other attendees, among them one of the child actors.

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Me at the Loving premiere, at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater.
Blog

A Race-Based Look at the Fall TV Lineup

I can’t watch TV without noticing race. I know when the first black extra gets a speaking role on a certain show. I’m aware of whether a white character is dating an Asian, an Asian character is dating a black person, an Indian is dating a Russian… well, you get the picture. So when I checked out some of the new shows in this season’s lineup, I definitely had my subconscious antennae up and wondered if they would satisfy my mixed race reality. I was pleasantly surprised, for the most part.

Timeless

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Photo courtesy of post-gazette.com

I’ve never been that interested in time travel shows, or at least those that go back in time instead of forward. Let’s be honest, if you’re a person of color in the United States, it’s best to stay in the present. Even if I get into a classic movie like Mansfield Park, I’m suddenly separated from the protagonist at the first mention of slaves.

The creators of Timeless either naturally wanted to appeal to my demographic, or they did so in order to boost ratings. Whatever their motives, it seems to have worked. Rufus Carlin, played by Malcolm Barrett, is a genius coder who flies the time machine, as he and his companions try to thwart a possible villain at crucial moments in history. Carlin gets to tell off racists of past centuries while, of course, hoping not to get shot dead in the process. Since he’s a central character and not another Rue, I’m guessing he gets to live.

Notorious

PIPER PERABO, DANIEL SUNJATA
Photo courtesy of thetvaddict.com

There’s nothing extra special about Notorious race wise, but it does co-star one of my celebrity crushes, mixed race actor Daniel Sunjata. He plays opposite Piper Perabo’s Julia George, and the two have a professional yet flirty relationship as a news producer and a criminal defense attorney, respectively. While the race representation in this show is fairly standard, I’m enjoying seeing a mixed race lead.

One thing that does leave me wanting, though, is the portrayal of Sunjata’s brother Bradley Gregorian, played by J. August Richards. It’s not apparent what Richard’s role is yet, given he only gets about five lines an episode, if that, and mostly to give Sunjata’s character Jake Gregorian an emotional compass. It’s also slightly annoying that Richards and Sunjata look nothing alike, and not just color wise. It’s as if the casting director thought, “Here’s another black actor. He’ll do for the brother,” without considering that not all black people look alike.

The Good Place

The Good Place - Season 1
Photo courtesy of indiewire.com

I couldn’t get past the first episode of The Good Place, and even that was a bit excruciating. It’s not so much the race representation in this show that leaves me wanting; rather, the storyline just seems a bit (very) bland. However, it does irk me that the central conflict seems a cheap knockoff of Selfie, which was tragically cut short after one season. Both shows center around a white female protagonist who tries to be good through the influence of a male protagonist of color.

In Selfie, Karen Gillan and John Cho’s characters had sexual tension that put the storyline into the well-known “will they or won’t they” category, which worked for this couple. However, in The Good Place (at least through the first episode), Kristen Bell’s Eleanor Shellstrop has no redeeming qualities and no interest in her “assigned soulmate” Chidi Anagonye, played by William Jackson Harper. Instead his whole purpose is to teach Eleanor how to be good in the afterlife. Jackson, from Texas, also loses his “Nigerian/Senagalese accent” before the first episode is over, and no one seems to mind.

This Is Us

NBCUniversal Events - Season 2016
Photo courtesy of tvgoodness.com

By far my favorite new show of the season, This Is Us is a sentimental drama about a nontraditional family. The narrative takes place in two different timelines–the present day and the 1970s, and it centers around two white twins and an adopted black baby who was born on the same day and raised with them. The narrative doesn’t gloss over the racial implications of an ethnically blended family, which includes K. Sterling Brown as the adopted son. Nor does it shy away from displaying race-based tension within the family structure itself.

Brown’s character Randall was raised lovingly by his white family, but still desperately seeks to know his troubled black father who’s dying of cancer. It’s a storyline all to familiar to me: it’s one I’ve lived. This Is Us‘s blending of Shonda Rhimes-like racial exploration with Parenthood-like sentimentality makes for the perfect fall favorite.

I look forward to the next episodes of each of these shows (well, except The Good Place), and I’m enjoying seeing plotlines that include relatable roles.

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Celebrating the 1st Annual Mixed Heritage Day at Dodger Stadium

What happens when a young, mixed race boy asks his mother what ethnic day is meant for him? The Los Angeles Dodgers have special days for certain ethnicities, but none celebrating mixed race heritage… until now.

 

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Nice day at the Dodgers vs. Cubs game.

Sonia Smith-Kang and her business partner Delia Douglas approached the Dodgers about creating a Mixed Heritage Day. The Dodgers obliged, and yesterday about 200 people came to celebrate at a game against the Chicago Cubs. I arrived with my friend Jennifer, and at first I had trouble trying to find Delia and Sonia in the bleachers. I scanned the faces of the children and adults, trying to spot a large grouping of people set apart by varying skin tone and racial admixture. Funnily enough, I had difficulty finding them in the crowd, because the bleachers were filled with fans of all different hues. There wasn’t much that set this group apart, and that was the point. Los Angeles is becoming increasingly diverse and increasingly mixed, and having a day to celebrate a mixed race heritage is thus tremendously important for children who grow up in interracial families.

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Sonia and her family at the game. Photo courtesy of Sonia.

The Dodgers displayed “Mixed Heritage Day” on the jumbotron in between innings, just as they do for other cultural days at the stadium. This day was a bit different from most, however, because Sonia and Delia were presented a certificate by the Los Angeles mayor, who himself identifies as mixed race. Adults, children and families gathered together in celebration and community as they cheered their team to victory. It was a victory not just for the players, but also for the families who saw their love recognized and validated just like any other.

Sonia and Delia plan to make Mixed Heritage Day a yearly tradition. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter to see what went down in 2016!

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See you next year!
Blog

Is Culture Innate, or Is It Learned?

I often write about growing up folk dancing with my family in the Santa Cruz mountains. We mostly participate in Israeli and Balkan folk dancing, even though no one in my family is Israeli or of Balkan ancestry. Regardless of race, I’ve been doing this type of dancing since I was in the womb.

Just before I was born, my aunt (white) and my uncle (white and Japanese) met at folk dancing classes at UCSC. Another class member owned land in the Santa Cruz mountains, and he invited my aunt and uncle, as well as a few other people, I believe, down to his property to practice. This was about 40 years ago. It quickly grew into a biannual event, with weekend-long dances over the Labor Day and Memorial Day weekends. This type of music is not in my blood, and I didn’t even grow up in this culture. However, I spent countless long weekends dancing with people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, including those who have immigrated from the Balkan region.

About 15 years ago, I surprised a Macedonian coworker by jumping right into a folk-dancing event at the nearby Seattle Center. She never saw it coming but was pleasantly surprised. Amazed that her black friend knew this aspect of her culture so intimately.

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At my sister’s wedding in 2013, with my mom second from right.

Whenever I dance in a circle with my left hand attached to one person and my right hand attached to another, I feel a sense of connection that I’ve never feel anywhere else. It’s not just the hand holding, and it’s not just the movement in and of itself. It’s this particular tradition that I’ve grown up with since birth. Whenever I attend weekends at what we refer to as “The Land,” I feel like I’m reconnecting with my roots.

I’m black on my dad’s side, and German, English, Irish and Scottish on my mothers. If anything, ancestry says I should love African dancing. I should love square dancing or English country dancing. But I don’t. For me, it’s Balkan and Israeli all the way.

This connection brings up many questions regarding ethnic identity. For example, if a black child is raised by white parents, is he culturally–in his bones–white? Can Rachel Dolezal claim blackness? Perhaps the simple difference is that I don’t see myself as Israeli or of Balkan origin. I don’t pretend to know much about the cultures or even the histories, besides what I’ve learned in school and picked up orally.

But when the music plays, whether it’s in the car or at The Land, my very bones feel that connection. My feet move as if they’ve always been meant to folk dance. I grab the belts of those next to me as if I were meant to perform this very act. Even when years go by between my visits –even when the landscape of who is attending is almost completely foreign to me–once I get on the dance floor, I’m connected to the wood, to the earth beneath, and to the rhythm that pervades my very core. I am a black folk dancer.

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The Day I Became a Writer With a Capital “W.”

Even though I’ve been making steady progress with my writing for a number of years, it wasn’t until April 19th that I felt like I writer with a capital “W.” That’s the day I landed my first article on Essence.com.

Gabrielle Gorman was easy to write about… with the only difficulty being how to summarize this amazing young woman in just 300 words. Her film Dear America has won awards over the past few months, and I had the privilege of sitting down with her for an interview. What makes Gabrielle so special is her desire to be vulnerable, and to use that vulnerability to bring people together. I hope you like the article as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Feature image courtesy of Jill Valle, iamawomanwho.com.

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A Yellow Bone’s Analysis of Beyonce’s Formation

 

I just tried out Medium.com for the first time. Here’s the beginning of my essay with a link to the rest below:

Like most of Black America, I watched Beyonce’s “Formation” video yesterday in wonder. And like most of America (not just Black America) I’ve had dozens of opinions flash across my newsfeed. As a fellow “yellow bone,” I’d like to weigh in and suggest that Beyoncé’s lyrics are revolutionary not because they express a unique viewpoint, but because this viewpoint was expressed by one of the most salient Black women in America. I also argue that Beyoncé uses the sometimes “-shallow” lyricism of traditional Pop and R&B songs to dismantle, or at least disrupt, the very genre itself…

Read the rest here.