The Cosmopolitanism of Jamaican Jerk Chicken

This is a paper I wrote during my time at Spelman College.

Image result for jamaican jerk chickenTransatlantic Slave Trade: 

Prior to the colonization of Africa, the people of West Africa lived lives that were rich in culture. These African persons had language, even though the European men could not understand; they had kingdoms built upon hierarchy of class and rulers. These people were intelligent without a “Western” education. The African people were knowledgeable in politics, as well as the arts. They had technology and were skilled with medical practices. Math and astronomy were other skills that the African people were experienced in (International Slavery Museum). However, much of the culture that the African people built and grew to know, destructed when the European settlers entered. Although the slave trade helped excel the advancement of wealth and development for European nations, it depopulated and devastated the African continent (Adi).     

Slavery began well before the fifteenth century, but the most well-known and most significant remembered form of slavery is the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The Transatlantic Slave Trade was developed during the fifteenth century when many European nations were colonizing various lands overseas in the newly founded Americas. The Americas were founded in 1492 by Christopher Columbus, an Italian explorer who sailed under the Spanish empire, yet died thinking he had circumvented the globe. Later, the Americas were discovered by Amerigo Vespucci, another Italian explorer who sailed under the king of Portugal, between the years of 1499-1502; disputing Columbus’s claims that the America’s were the West Indies (Almagià).  

Originally, the Portuguese began enslaving Africans, by kidnapping them and transporting them back to Europe for trade. Due to the discovery of new lands in the East, demand for labor grew, and the African people were the ones who were forced to cross waters to deliver. The Spanish took the first set of Africans over to the Americas around 1503 and by about 1518 Africans were traded directly from Africa to the Americas: without first going to Europe (Adi).  

History of Slavery in Jamaica: 

Christopher Columbus was the first to sight the island of Jamaica in 1494, allowing the Spanish to occupy the small island in 1509 under a license from the son of Columbus. Yet with the invasion of these Europeans, benign diseases, wars, and cruel labor, the Arawak Indigenous People, slowly began depleting. The drastic decline in population of the Arawak people was the beginning for Jamaica’s involvement in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The Portuguese and Spanish looked at the New World as a place for mining and agricultural production. Enslaved people from Africa were imported to work on sugarcane plantations. However, similar to most Caribbean nations, Jamaica was captured by the British in 1655, and in 1670, The Treaty of Madrid was signed, formally giving the British control over Jamaica (Gomez 62). 

In 1513, the first group of Africans arrived from the West to the Jamaica, having been captured by the Spanish and Portuguese. These Africans were skilled, having been “servants, cowboys, herders of cattle, pigs and horses, as well as hunters” (Tortello). However, not long after the Spanish colonized Jamaica, the British fought and took over. 

The British were quick in their colonizing. They produced vast number of plantations that mainly focused on the cultivation and production of sugar. As a result of the great numbers of sugar plantations, sugar began to play a huge role in lives and culture of those in Jamaica (Tortello). For the most part, sugar, along with rum and molasses was transported back to Europe, but sugar was new. It gave a new flavoring – sweetening – to the bland foods the Europeans were accustomed to. It was also an ingredient some of the African people used in making their own foods, and there was plenty of sugar to go around.  

Jamaican Maroons’ Culture: 

The British takeover of Jamaica in 1655 is where historians can trace escaped enslaved African peoples, otherwise known as the Jamaican Maroons. As a result of the British invasion of Jamaica, the end of Spanish rein signaled a new rise of “an independent force, the Maroons” (Benitez). These escaped slaves lived a life of adventure and fear. Maroons constantly had to watch their every angle for fear of being recaptured and returned to slavery. They lived more in the interior region of Jamaica. They were nomads, constantly on the move. Scholar Bryan Edwards describes the Maroons as: 

Constantly on the move through the rough terrain of the interior of Jamaica. They frequently hunted for wild boar, often selling the meat to buyers in the settlements on the coastal regions. When they were not doing this, they were searching the woods for runaway slaves, whom they would return dead or alive for a reward. (Dubdoub). 

The Maroons were their own communities. They had escaped from the confinement of slavery to create a new way of life for themselves in a land they were unaccustomed to. . 

The word maroon stems from the Spanish word cimarrones which means mountaineers. The mountain regions of Jamaica were a good hideaway because it was difficult for white settlers to follow and chase them up such steep hills and rough terrain (The Maroons of Jamaica). As more Africans were brought to Jamaica to help work on the slave plantations, the populations of the Maroon community grew. 

Africans wanted freedom. They would attempt to run away, and those who were successful would join their fellow Africans in the Maroon communities in the mountains. Many slave rebellions occurred in the Jamaica and as a result, the British government felt a need to put an end to the Maroon communities. The first Maroon War occurred in 1728, which only further pushed the Maroons to be more determined and ambitious to win than ever. By 1739, the war ended, and the British and the Maroons made a truce. The Maroons could have their land and communities, but in return they would respect and honor the British government and also help in invasions against foreigners (The Maroons of Jamaica).  

It was a major win for the Maroons. They had won their freedom. Nevertheless, the Maroons are not only to thank for their bravery and determination, which gave so many Africans of Jamaica their freedom, but they also helped foster a new development in taste.  

Jamaican Maroons and Jerk Chicken: 

When these runaways setup their communities they met with the indigenous people on the island, known as the Arawak people. From this circumstantial event, the Maroons and the Arawak people united and the concept of cosmopolitanism erupted in many cuisines found throughout Jamaica. The Maroons being escaped enslaved people of Africa used their original African customs and traditions, while also incorporating new customs into their lives. One particular food that began with the Maroons is Jamaican jerk chicken.  

Keeping in mind, today’s version of Jamaican jerk chicken is different than how the Maroons made this authentic dish. Remembering that the Maroons were escaped slaves who were constantly on the run, their foods needed to have the ability to be made within a short amount of time and cooked in way that refrained from drawing attention. Smoke from fires drew attention and might cause the white settlers to come looking for them.  

Meat is a type of food that spoils quickly if it is not properly preserved. The Maroons preserved their meats by marinating them in “spice-heavy marinade” (Rothman). When it was time to cook these meats, the Maroons would dig holes and fill them with charcoals. The Maroons would then bury the meats in the holes with the charcoal, which they covered to prevent smoke from rising into the sky bringing attention (Rothman).   

Jamaican Jerk Chicken Today: 

Today Jamaican jerk chicken is a national dish that is shared with cultures worldwide. Many tourists relish in the idea of getting their mouths to taste the kick of spice in the jerk chicken from Jamaica and even go to nearby Jamaican restaurants in their home areas to try it. I am familiar with the Jamaican jerk chicken having grown up in Massachusetts, near Boston, which has a large population of Jamaicans. There were a few mini-restaurants that sold jerk chicken and I would go to them and eat their cuisines. In addition, my family travels. The two times I visited the country of Jamaica, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on some of the famous jerk chicken and eat it in its natural habitat.  

Jamaican jerk chicken is not a food that is typically served by itself. From my own experiences and as I read on the same site from which I got the recipe, Jamaican jerk chicken is typically served with coconut rice and beans, as well as festival, which is a type of bread. Festival is known as Jamaican cornbread fritters, and they are termed “festival” because according to legend, eating them is fun like a festival (Kiesel). These mix of tastes make this cuisine a delicious meal that will leave one’s body feeling full and well fed.  

I’m sure the recipe for Jamaican jerk chicken varies depending on who’s making it and in what region, however, the taste is all so similar. The recipe I chose to use comes from a Jamaican travel and culture website. Their recipe calls for: 

Ingredient:  Portion: 
Chicken  

or 

Chicken Breast 

3 ½ lbs. 

or  

3lbs. 

Scotch Bonnet Peppers 

or 

Jalapenos  

6 
Thyme  2 tbsp. 
Ground Allspice  2 tbsp. 
Cloves of Garlic (finely chopped)  8 
Medium Onions (finely chopped)  3 
Sugar  2 tbsp. 
Salt  2 tbsp. 
Ground Black Pepper  2 tsp. 
Ground Cinnamon  1-2 tsp. 
Nutmeg  1-2 tsp. 
Ginger  1-2 tsp. 
Olive Oil  ½ cup 
Soy Sauce  ½ cup 
Juice of Lime  1 
Orange Juice  1 cup 
White Vinegar   1 cup 

In order to accurately make Jamaican jerk chicken, one must make the jerk sauce. All of the ingredients listed, except for the chicken, is blended together to make the jerk sauce. As one can see, the sauce is filled with a mixture of tastes: from spicy to sweet to other mixtures of blending spices. Once blended, the juice is spread over the chicken to marinate. The chicken is then cooked, preferably over coals. Once done, it is good to eat.  

This form of making this dish, incorporates all different arrays of ingredients that could be a form of a cosmopolitan ideal of cuisines. As seen with the Maroons, some of the cooking is a shared tradition with the people of the Arawak nation, while other aspects are pure convenience. The idea of smoking meat is a form of cooking brought on by the indigenous people. Cooking was a form of survival and cooking “right” was a necessity in order to avoid illnesses. Smoking meat allowed for both, while also adding a distinct smoky-like flavor to the foods. Jerk chicken is cooked in such a way, and was a form of cooking the Maroons most likely learned from the Arawak people.  

Aside from the form of actually cooking the meat, some of the spices, such as allspice, is probably an ingredient borrowed from the Arawak people. Allspice is a native spice of Jamaica and is also one of the many spices used in the making of the jerk sauce of the jerk chicken. Allspice is similar to pepper in the way it appears, but is “pungent and fragrant” (ACH Food Companies, Inc.). For the most part, a few of the ingredients, including: scotch bonnet peppers, onions, and sugar are native to the island of Jamaica. Some of their use in the making of Jamaican jerk chicken may be as a result of the uniting forces of the Maroons and the Arawak people. The use of sugar may be a “get back” type of ingredient towards the English settlers. These African people were forced to slave over the cultivation of sugar, but couldn’t actually use it. Perhaps the use of sugar is for its sweetening taste, as well as a take back after their hard labor.  

Many of the other spices originate from various parts of Asia. Through the slave trade, and just trade in general, these spices were able to circumvent the globe and land in several regions of the Earth; giving the people of Jamaica access to such spices. In this sense, the incorporation of these Asian spices, could constitute their involvement at cosmopolitan. As slaves, Africans would cook for their masters and whatever was left over they would keep and cook and eat for themselves. Cooking for their masters, gave the Africans the opportunity to try cooking with all different types of spices and foods, which they could then try for themselves. Liking the tastes of these unfamiliar ingredients, they would then take it upon themselves to integrate them within their own cooking, including jerk chicken.  

Jamaican jerk chicken is a nice example of a cuisine that started with slavery and ended in a celebratory dish that recognizes the bravery of escaped slaves. The cosmopolitan taste of the cuisine adheres to the unity of cultures that slavery forced upon nations. The indigenous people, the Europeans, and trade with Asia, allowed the jerk of the chicken to have such a strong and distinct kicking taste. The power that the jerk chicken has as a well-known dish of Jamaica, gives praise and recognition to those who struggled in slavery and allow African decedents of and in Jamaica to give thanks to their courageous ancestors and to recognize the blessings of slavery.  

There is no justification for the evils of slavery nor can we stay angry at those who withheld our ancestors from their rights to freedom. What we can do is reminisce on our ancestors bravery and courage and recognize the good that came from it all, such as the worldly foods that we now have. Jamaican jerk chicken is just one of many foods that allows us to remember slavery, the bravery of our people, and the combinations of cultures that goes into cooking food.  

From the intricate culture of the African people prior to the invasion of the Europeans, the African people came a long way. They battled the vicious seas and endured years of slavery due to the Transatlantic Slave Trade; crossing rough waters to newly founded Americas. In Jamaica, they were forced to adapt to two reigns. The Spanish first colonized Jamaica and then the British took over, which led to the adventurous and fearful culture of the Maroons. The Maroons gave way to the exotic tastes of new dishes like Jamaican jerk chicken blending ingredients due to convenience and cosmopolitan unison. From them, the cuisine spread and is now a nationally known dish shared, eaten, and welcomed by all.  

Gender, Class, Race: The Triple Oppression

This is a paper I wrote during my time at Spelman College.

Image result for painting of oppressionTsitsi Dangarembga is an Afrrican writer, whose novel, Nervous Conditions, serves as an educator and a reminder for the ways in which colonialism acted as an oppressor to the native African people. During colonialism, the native people were introduced to the concepts of gender, class, and race; all of which were used to classify and discriminate. Nervous Conditions is a novel based in Rhodesia, Zimbabwe, Africa and revolves around the life of Tambu and her family, while they are experiencing life living under colonialism and British reign during the 1960s. Throughout the novel, the reader is able to identify with the oppressions expressed by Tambu, the overall narrator, and various members of her family. Being born a female, Tambu struggles to overcome her disadvantage of being a female and having a brother who seems to get his way on most things. In addition, Tambu realizes the class difference between her family and that of her uncle’s as they come to visit and she listens to the way in which they speak and dress. Tambu must accept the fact that the reasons as to why the whites are looking down upon her and her people, and treating them with disrespect, is a result of the differences in skin color: black versus white. Gender, class, and race act as the triple oppression presented in the novel. As Tambu embarks on journey during the course of the novel, she must struggle through the obstacles in which the triple oppression of gender inequality, class discrimination, and racial differences have interfered with her life and make decisions that will set the course for the rest of her life.  

Gender has forever been one of the divides in society, and in Nervous Conditions Tambu realizes her disadvantage of being a female when she is removed from school, so her brother could attend due to their lack of wealth. Tambu’s father, Jeremiah, tries to emphasis the unimportance for her to receive an education because she is a woman when he says, “Can you cook books and feed them to your husband? Stay at home with your mother. Learn to cook and clean. Grow vegetables” (Dangarembga 15). To further accentuate the way society in Rhodesia view educated women, Tambu’s aunt, Maiguru, responds to a remark made by Tambu by saying:  

“When I was in England I glimpsed for a little while the things I could have been, the things I could have done if – if – if things were – different – But there was Babawa Chido and the children and the family. And does anyone realise, does anyone appreciate, what sacrifices were made? As for me, no one even thinks about the things I gave up” (Dangarembga 103). 

Maiguru is a woman of great knowlegde. She is educated and has a master’s degree, in which she earned on her own. Due to the fact that Maiguru is a woman, she was forced to sacrifice the opportunities that she rightfully earned. The village does not know nor care about the fact that Maiguru holds claim to an educational degree, but show the utmost respect for her Husband, Babamukuru. Maiguru’s quote demonstrates gender inequality and roles in which males and females play in Rhodesia. “This business of womanhood is a heavy burden” (Dangarembga 16), Ma’Shingayi, Tambu’s mother, states this when explaining to her daughter that when it comes to having to make sacrifices, women are the ones to make them. This demonstrates a generational gap because Ma’Shingayi has accepted her role in serving the men in her life, whereas Tambu is only trying to escape from that lifestyle. The role education has on Tambu and her family intertwines with the discrimination between classes.  

Class is often used to define importance, class is only noticed in the novel after one is educated; when Nhamo returned home from school he began to feel embarrassed for being poor and when Tambu returned from the missionary school, she noticed the poverty in which she lived. Throughout the novel, not much is truly spoken about class, rather insinuated. It is clear, however; that Tambu embraces where she comes from, whereas Nhamo looked down upon it. Tambu describes her perception of how Nhamo felt:“All this poverty began to offend him, or at the very least to embarrass him after he went to the mission, in a way that it had not done before” (Dangarembga 7). Nhamo himself, showed his disgust for the poverty in which he lived, when it came to returning from the mission. Whenever their uncle was not too busy with administrative work, he would drive Nhamo home, something Nhamo preferred. Nhamo’s complaint was not only because the bus was too slow, but also: 

“Moreover, the women smelt of unhealthy reproductive odours, the children were inclined to relieve their upset bowels on the floor, and the men gave off strong aromas of productive labour. He did not like sharing the vehicle with various kinds of produce in suspicious stages of freshness, with frightened hens, with the occasional rich-smelling goat. ‘We should have a special bus,’ he complained” (Dangarembga 101). 

The children within the novel are not the only ones that understand and have opinions with poverty. Ma’Shingayi recognizes her own insecurities with her financial standings and lack of education, when she spins off onto a tirade at Maiguru and says: 

“I am only saying what I think, just like she did. She did tell us, didn’t she, what she thinks, and did anyone say anything! No. Why not? Because Maiguru is educated. That’s why you all kept quiet. Because she’s rich and comes here and flashes her money around, so you listen to her as though you want to eat the words that come out of her mouth. But me, I’m not educated, am I? I’m just poor and ignorant, so you want me to keep quiet, you say I mustn’t talk. Ehe! I am poor and ignorant, that’s me, but I have a mouth and it will keep on talking, it won’t keep quiet” (Dangarembga 142). 

She resents Maiguru and realizes that these insecurities are the reasons why she has no voice for herself. Through poverty, racial differences arise, and both poverty and race are connected by the color of one’s skin. Race is one of the arguments brought up in discussing burdens of life.  

Race has been a social issue for centuries, the fact that the British invaded Zimbabwe and are impending their views upon the natives, demonstrates the racial issue Tambu must face and the cultural changes that some of the people, like Nyasha, undergo. Ma’Shingayi argues that being black and female act as a double burden when she says: 

“And these days it is worse, with the poverty of blackness on one side and the weight of womanhood on the other. Aiwa! What will help you, my child, is to learn to carry your burdens with strength” (Dangarembga 16). 

Yet instead of supporting Tambu to be strong and rally against such prevailing conditions, Ma’Shingayi encourages Tambu to passively accept the situations she feels are too far out of her reach to control. Ma’Shingayi’s words exemplify the difference in age between the two women and the way many Africans feel during this time period. The blame is placed upon the British. When Nyasha’s ways begin to be influenced by the British, people take notice. Nyasha is unable to speak the native African tongue of her people and can hardly understand the conversations that are held. At a dinner with her cousins, aunt, uncle, and her family, Tambu takes notice at Nyasha’s sensitivity when the topic of weight is introduced. Later, it is revealed that Nyasha suffers from an eating disorder, bulimia. Ma’Shingayi states, “The problem is the Englishness, so you be careful!” (Dangarembga 207) as an explanation for Nyasha’s eating disorder and. She believes that “Englishness” is the root of all of Babamukuru’s children’s problems and falls into some sort of depression when she comes to imagine these same troubles causing her own daughter to suffer. The belief that the British are to blame for the problems of the African people represents the point of view that white culture cannot and should not be imposed upon the native Africans. 

Tsitsi Dangarembga is an Afrrican writer, who was able to make strong, relevant, and eye-catching issues of oppression during colonization in Rhodesia by the British, come to the surface in her novel, Nervous Conditions. The triple oppression that was endured included: gender inequality, class discrimination, and racial differences. The females within the novel were forced to overcome the obstacles that society viewed them. Women were not to be educated and were to act as servants to the men in their lives. Class discrimination was evident in terms of those whom were educated and those whom were not. Nhamo resented his family for living in such impoverish conditions, whereas Tambu accepted her life for what it was, but was willing to overcome such obstacles. Race was more of an issue in terms of their influence on African society. Nyasha’s lack for speaking and understanding her native tongue and her obsession with her eating disorder, were signs of negative British influence upon the native Africans. Despite the fictitiousness of the novel, Nervous Conditions portrays the affects colonization had on some of the African people. Like Tambu, the African people had to struggle through the obstacles in which the triple oppression of gender inequality, class discrimination, and racial differences had interfered with their lives.  

African Lives of the Enslaved in Brazil 

This is a paper I wrote during my time at Spelman College.

Image result for slavery in brazilAlthough Christopher Columbus claimed the Americas for Spain in 1492, in 1501 Pedro Cabral returned to Portugal with claims to Brazil. The Portuguese and Spanish looked at the New World as a place for mining and agricultural production (Gomez 62). Due to the vast amounts of opportunities that could prosper from the New World, the Portuguese imported African enslaved persons to Brazil. Unlike any other nation in the New World, Brazil had the most imports of enslaved African persons due to the rich land and potential for wealth, which helped foster the Brazilian culture.

Slavery had existed well before the discovery of the Americas. The Portuguese had been involved in slavery in the Eastern hemisphere. For years, they had been trying to find new routes to the Indian Ocean Commerce other than through the Red Sea and Arabian Peninsula. In 1475, the Portuguese managed to cross the equator and a decade later in 1487, the Portuguese succeeded in rounding the Cape of Good Hope. At this point, the Portuguese were exporting about seven hundred kilograms of West African gold within a peak of a year, which averaged nearly four hundred ten kilograms of West African Gold per year. However, between 1497 and 1498, Vasco da Gama’s voyage gave Portugal access to the Indian Ocean Commerce. By 1520, the Portuguese had become an Indian Ocean power (Gomez 61). Furthermore, in excelling in trade within the Indian Ocean, the Portuguese were also expanding its terrain and profits in the newly discovered Americas.

Pedro Álvares Cabral set sail in 1501 with the intentions of reaching India; however, due to strong currents, Cabral and his crew were pushed further west. Sighting birds, which signaled land, Cabral headed in the direction of the birds, and discovered the land now called Brazil, named for its wood (BBC). Cabral returned to Portugal with new claims to land in the Americas. Taking advantage of the opportunities the New World had to offer, the Portuguese quickly settled into Brazil.

In the beginning, the Portuguese made use of the indigenous people, making them work plantations. Yet, the indigenous people were unfamiliar to the European disease environment, so they lacked immunity. They were subjected to smallpox, measles, influenza, diphtheria, whooping cough, chicken pox, typhoid, trichinosis, and enslavement, all of which impacted the indigenous people’s population signaling its drastic decrease. Africans on the other hand, had been exposed to the Europeans disease environment for years and held more immunity than the indigenous people (Gomez 62). As a result, in the early 1500s, African persons became the new labor force in Brazil, enabling Brazil to become the largest nation of slave imports; nearly half of all Africans brought to the Americas, about half made their way to the shores of Brazil (Gates).

The use of slaves was not restricted to one region, nor was the type of labor required from the slaves subjected to a specific region. All over Brazil, African enslaved persons were used for their labor from farms to mines. In the early 1520s, Sugar was Brazil’s leading export. Sugarcane was planted mostly in the northeastern region of Pernambuco (Gomez 63). Although sugarcane plantations populated the majority of the African enslaved persons labor, enslaved people also worked on mines, on agricultural farming lands, with domestic farming, cleaning waste deposits, selling goods in the cities, transporting goods or materials across lands, and female enslaved persons worked as prostitutes, cooking and supplying food for work places, and in the homes. Enslaved people whom were forced to clean waste products became known as “Tigers” from the spots that appeared on their skin due to the leakage of acids from such filth (BBC). In the early 1700s, Brazil’s mining production took over its sugarcane plantations, which populated the Brazilian economy during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. During the eighteenth century, gold and diamond deposits were discovered; thus, turning Brazil’s sugar concentration over toward the exporting of mining production (Gates).

Enslaved persons of Brazil were not all calm and passive, many of the enslaved persons displayed signs of resistance. In the early 1550s, the enslaved persons created the Capoeira, a dance-like form of self-defense. The enslaved took pride in their thought-up dance, entertaining settlers and some using their dance to escape enslavement. But the Capoeira was not the only form of resistance the enslaved people tried. In 1708, the Church of Sal San Francisco was constructed; the majority of the work force consisted of slaves and freed blacks. To rebel against such undesirable labor, these workers sculpted figures of pregnant angels on the ceilings and walls. Other forms of resistance were striking their masters and denying their services, setting crops on fire, breaking machinery in factories, and offering ultimatums (Gates). In 1806, a group of slaves refused to work unless said demands were carried through:

“If my Lord also wants our peace, he must agree to the following: Friday and Saturday to work for ourselves; give us casting nets and canoes; more flour; reduce the daily quota of sugarcane we must cut; more men to cut the wood; someone to tend the fire at the kettles; we should be able to play, relax, and sing anytime we want. Accepting all the above, we are ready to serve you as before” (BBC).

The enslaved people of Brazil were tired of such harsh treatment. They were treated as objects less than animals. The value they had varied, but were still little. Enslaved African males were the majority of imported slaves and were responsible for the majority of the labor force. Enslaved African females were few but were responsible for mostly household affairs and pleasing the settlers in town. The majority of the settlers that came to Brazil were European, young males trying to prove themselves worthy, ambitious gamblers, or criminals or other people not wanted close to the main lands of Portugal. As a result, fornication between the settlers and the slaves was common. Enslaved African children were not valued; enslaved adults cost more than children (BBC). Due to the treatment and lack of appreciation, these enslaved persons grew tired and felt a need to fight back.  However, unlike most nations, Brazil does not use race as a cultural divide.

Brazil is different from most other nations that were involved in the slave trade because Brazil did not have ethnic exclusiveness. Brazil lacked numbers. In other words, the majority of Brazil’s population was enslaved Africans and European male settlers. A desire to raise families diminished on all sides, but children that were born were not neglected. Enslaved females attempted to abort themselves in order to protect the livelihood of their unborn child (BBC). Slave masters did not want to bear children with enslaved African women, but when a child was born, the master took them in. Generally, the masters taught the children the Portuguese language and educated them, unlike the British. For the most part, the children remained slaves, but there were instances where a child would become the next heir. Families were not the only form of integration. In 1710, the city of Diamantina was built and people both black and white lived together, integrated, day to day (Gates). A change in atmosphere was beginning to take place. Enslaved people were using revolts as a means to claim freedom and masters were finding maintaining their slaves more and more difficult.

In 1822, Brazil declares independence from Portugal and the son of the Portuguese King crowns himself as Emperor I of Brazil. A few decades later, in 1850, the slave trade in Brazil ends; however, slavery continues for a few more decades until Princess Isabel signs the “Golden Law” in 1888 abolishing slavery in Brazil. Brazil becomes the last colony in the western hemisphere to abolish slavery. During that same year, the Bronqueamento is enacted. This policy was put in place to encourage the migration of Europeans to Brazil in order to whiten the population (Gates). During this time, Brazil was heavily populated by the former enslaved Africans and people of African descent. After the abolition of slavery, people of African descent felt the need to shed light upon the roles in which their ancestors played to help establish the Brazilian culture.

During the years of slavery in Brazil, the enslaved African people continued to practice their love of music, dance, and religion, which played a huge role in the cultivation of Brazil and after the abolition of slavery, those of African descent wanted to acknowledge such influences. In 1918, Afro-Brazilian historian Manuel Querino published an essay about the influence Africans had on Brazilian culture. About a decade later, in 1933, scholar Gilberto Freyre published The Masters and the Slaves. The book detailed the roles that African slaves had in the development of the culture of Brazil. Later, in 1975, the Institute for Research of Black Culture was founded with the hopes of exterminating racism in Brazil. In 1989, Lei Cao was passed, which was an act against racism. In 2001, the descendants of slaves living in Rio da Ras were allotted a title of ownership by the Brazilian government, assuring them that they will never be forced from their land. And in 2003, the State University of Rio de Janeiro becomes the first university in Brazil to ordain affirmative action (Gates).

Brazil has come a long way since its first days of slavery, dating back to the 1500s. The culture of Brazil is largely populated by the enslaved Africans traditions taken from their homelands and incorporated with various festivities throughout Brazil. In addition, Brazil continues to be heavily populated with people of African descent; being the world’s second most black populated country at one point. Since the end of slavery, Brazil’s government has also drastically transformed. From a monarchy, Brazil became a federal republic, to a dictatorship, to finally a democracy. In 2010, Dilma Rousseff becomes Brazil’s first female president (Timeline: Brazil). Although Brazil appears to be a country of magic and wonders, the taste of slavery is still very much remembered and seen through various regions of Brazil.

 

 

 

 

Pair of Figurative Staffs (Edan) – African Art in Depth

This is a paper I wrote during my time at Spelman College.

 “The Ogboni society is one of the many numbers of councils and associations that assists in how Yoruba kings rule” (Visonà 242). In particular, Ogboni is one of the most prominent associations, which consists of both male and female elders. The Pair of Figurative Staffs (Edan) were made by the Yoruba people, but are associated with the Ogboni society.  

Within the Ogboni society, “Edan serves as public symbols of power and presence” (Visonà 243). Edan can also be seen by and exposed to non-members, which is unlike some other forms of artwork used within this particular society. They “refer to the male and female founders of the community and express the cooperation between men and women in society and the need for a balance of power between them” (Visonà 243). It is clear that the representation of men and women are essential to the Ogboni society. By creating Pair of Figurative Staffs (Edanthere is no surprise in their devotion for the male and female body and the ability for the male and female to come together and procreate. Yet, these figures are not just figures, they are a symbol for the unity between male and female and represent something greater than just being hung around the necks of members.  

Categorizing Pair of Figurative Staffs (Edan) is a hard task to attempt. These figures are symbols honored by the Ogboni society and have various uses. Yet, they still needed to be categorized. It is clear that these figures are not a painting or picture, so it only seemed right to classify them as a sculpture. A sculpture due to the fact that these figures are used not only to be hung around the necks of the elders, but also to stand as a symbolic symbol of unity during disputes. These figures have more in depth meaning that goes into the idea in which the Ogboni society was trying to portray. Their sizing and all that goes into the makeup of the sculpture play a huge role in allowing the audience to interpret a similar meaning to what is being displayed.  

The Pair of Figurative Staffs (Edan) were created sometime during the nineteenth century and are about sixty by twenty-seven point nine by nine point two centimeters in proportion. If these figures were any smaller, the amount of detail put into it, would be jumbled. The details in the makeup of the female and male figures would be lost. It would be too compact in too little space. If the figures were any bigger, they would be too heavy, and these figures are used to suspend around the necks of the elders. The size is perfect, and the figures are loose. One can tell the looseness from the way in which the chains dangle from the figures and the figures themselves are able to dangle from the chain that loops around one’s neck.   

These figures were made from tools and equipment of brass and iron structure. The sculpture depicts a male and female in a sitting position. The female is holding a baby, while the male is smoking a pipe. The proportions of the figures relate to how they are used and displayed in society. The two figures – male and female – are connected by a chain, which is then hung around an elder’s neck. The chain linking the male and female symbolize “the union of male and female, a force of primordial unity invoked in times of disharmony among community members” (Yale University Art Gallery). In other words, if there is a dispute amongst members of the community, this sculpture may be put out on display in order to summon peace and unity and bring civility between the members. However, there are more than just argumentative purposes in which these figures are used.  

These brass figures are suspended around elders’ necks “as an emblem of office” (Visonà 243). They serve almost like a “badge of membership and an indicator of status within the organization. It may also convey messages and protect its owner” (Visonà 243). These staffs are “commissioned for a new member at the time of his or her induction into the society” (Visonà 243). With this brief explanation as to what and how this figure is used, now it is time to delve into the overall appearance, structure, style and form of the figure.  

Form and style are important in evaluating art. Form in art is the way in which the visible elements of an artwork that come together to unite. Style in art is the way the form and composition of an artwork combine to make it more distinctive; however, style is not technique. This particular sculpture was difficult to identify in terms of form and style, as a result of its complexity.  

A Pair of Figurative Staffs (Edan) has an interesting form. The sculpture is of a gray coloring and has a humanistic shape. The lining that makes up the figures is detailed and intricate. The lines are irregular more so than straight, and some are jagged. The texture, which refers to the physical touch of the artwork, appears rough in some aspects, and smooth in others. The roughness stems from the three-dimensional-looking lines on the figures as well as the chains that attach each figure and dangle from the figures by their legs. The irregular-shaped arms appear to smooth to the eye. These characteristics are useful in referencing the style.  

The composition is how the artwork is aligned to display a message to the audience. With this sculpture, the figures which are male and female, sit side by side. They are connected by a single chain. The woman is distinct because she holds a baby in her arms, whereas the man is smoking a pipe, and appears to have facial hair. Yet, to some, the facial hair on the male figure could be a necklace, along with a necklace on the female figure. With a more in depth view of the sculpture, it looks as though both of the figures are wearing necklaces and the male figure does not have facial hair.  

Aside from the in depth appearance of the figures, as a whole, the idea of unity is painted. Unity between the male and female body, and unity amongst the elderly. As for form, the lining on the face, the gray coloring of the piece overall, and the humanistic shape, give the artwork an elderly appeal. In addition, the overall appearance of the artwork falls between naturalism and abstract. The figures have a humanistic quality and look to them. The male figure in particular has what looks like a beard on his face. Both the male and female figures look to be wearing earrings, as well as a hat atop of their heads. In addition to those humanistic features the male and female figures to seem to have breasts and nipples. These characteristics are what give the sculpture a more realistic view. Yet, the abstract appearance stems from the face. The face looks almost animalistic: like that of a dog. This abstract appeal gives the figures a more sacred vibe. Often times, cultures depict their deities in an animalistic form, which explains the Yoruba people for using an animalist face on the figures.  

Symbolically, in African art, the males’ heads are generally made to be bigger than the women’s head. From interpretation, this could indicate male dominance, but it allows the audience to distinguish the genders; knowing that the males have a larger head. From this, it is clear that the male figure is on the right based off the fact that the head is shaped bigger and the obvious clues that indicate that this figure would be male. The perspective from which this sculpture must be looked upon is linear rather than aerial. The linear perspective comes from the frontal details on the figures. One cannot determine what the sculpture is or is trying to explain from an aerial view point. The frontal features depict a male and female, both of whom have overlapping components which add to the detail in explaining the unity. The baby in the female’s arms overlaps with the arms of the female in a way that gives light to the care and tenderness that a woman possesses. The overlapping components also help to define the spacing arrangement of the sculpture. The bland coloring makes the figures solid. The figures are not see-through and have a definitive color. In addition, the figures are connected by a chain, yet each figure has its own definite space. The female stands out alone from the male with emptiness in between. The chain is that bridge of unity, connecting the two forces – male and female. To finalize the message of unity would be the representation of circles, ovals, and the chains enhance the meaning of what the sculpture stands for. Circles and ovals are round and represent everlastingness. Each figure has many oval or circular forms that help to support the structure. The chains, which are clearly depicted in the sculpture, portray the idea of unity by their continuous connections. 

The value of light versus shadow greatly affects this sculpture. For the most part, the sculpture is more depicts more light than shadow. Light because the sculpture is thin and the features are more in depth. More light than shadow enhances the value and makes the sculpture’s features more distinguished, such as the face. The dull coloring, gives a hard exterior appearance, but the coloring in itself, is simplistic. This simplicity gives the sculpture a more natural expression and highlights the idea of procreation. The idea of male and female union is portrayed and the female figure is holding a baby, which indicates the idea of creating new life.   

The Yoruba people take great pride in honoring their community members. The Ogboni society is just an enhanced group of elders that honor both male and female. Pair of Figurative Staffs (Edangive way to an in depth unity that the male and female body share. The figures have common similarities, while also displaying their differences in subtle ways. The figures are placed in honor of the new members of the community who also cherish the idea of the bond between the male and female, as well as during member disputes. The style and form that compose the sculpture help to bring out the overall idea of unity and everlastingness. From researching these figures, the a new sense of honor was exposed by the Yoruba culture through the Ogboni people in the way that the male and female are both equally important.  

 

 

Trinidad & Tobago Reflection

This is a paper I wrote during my time at Spelman College.

Over the years, my view on life has changed drastically. I have always been blessed and fortunate to travel and experience various cultures around the world. This was my first abroad experience with Spelman College, and it was very interesting. I had no expectations going to Trinidad and Tobago. I had been to numerous other Caribbean islands and assumed that this would be similar, and in some ways it was. My reason for going was mainly because I had never been to Trinidad and Tobago and I thought it would be a fascinating experience. I am intrigued by the various cultures within the African Diaspora. I thought that this opportunity would give me a better in depth manner to experience and learn about a culture within the African Diaspora from a different lens point. I plan to develop a career conducting genealogical research and writing about various cultures and issues. The lifestyles in Trinidad and Tobago really captured my interest.

The lifestyles in Trinidad and Tobago are similar to those in the United States and other islands of the Caribbean. The eating habits are like those in the United States, which is why, just like in the United States, the people in Trinidad and Tobago suffer from diabetes. The lack of knowledge also contributes to the elevated numbers of people diagnosed with diabetes. Unfortunately, diabetes is not the only similarity that Trinidad and Tobago share with the United States. Women’s issues and topics surrounding rape culture, domestic violence, and so on are very current and important issues occurring. This reminded me of how rape culture is becoming more problematic in the United States; however there are more laws and regulations enforced in the United States to protect women’s rights. As for the LGBTQ community, there is far greater acceptance for them in the United States than in Trinidad and Tobago. In Trinidad and Tobago it is a sexual criminal offense to be anything other than a heterosexual person.

While the similarities were there, the way the issues were handled were different. Trinidad and Tobago seem to be more reserved than the United States. Issues in the United States are more in your face and talked about. People want change and don’t fear the government. At the same time, the United States government caters to the people of the United States. I feel like people in Trinidad and Tobago fear their leader to an extent and that some issues are purposely kept quiet because the government does not want to address them. The issue with women’s rights seems to be a big problem, yet not enough support is being offered. The fact that the laws are still in place to criminalize people who identify as being a part of the LGBTQ community, says a lot about the prejudices that are still being promoted throughout the country.

On the other hand, I enjoyed the multicultural aspects of Trinidad and Tobago. The islands are populated with various cultures, and many of the cultures are integrated into society. All people celebrate the various cultural holidays even if they do not belong to that particular religion or ethnic group. I like that. I wish the United States was more united in this way. I actually want live my own personal life in a more multicultural facet. Issues of racism or prejudice don’t seem to be concentrated against skin complexion or ethnicity as it is in the United States. I like that. Sometimes, I wish that the United States didn’t focus so largely on race and ethnicity, but instead on what the person is on the inside.

While my overall feelings on my trip to Trinidad and Tobago fluctuate, I am happy I went. I learned a lot, and even more importantly, I felt inspired. I am a writer and being in Trinidad and Tobago and hearing the issues from the women of the country and the people speak at the Gender Institute, inspired me to want to write a fictional book that addressed some of the issue in Trinidad and Tobago. At the same time, traveling to the islands, made me realize that I would like to consider applying to be a Fulbright Scholar. I enjoy conducting study/research abroad and focusing on genealogy. My minor in the African Diaspora helped open my mind up to all the possibilities out there.

Since I have graduated, officially, from Spelman College, I plan to pursue a career in genealogical research. Traveling is a passion of mine along with writing and I know now, that I would like to travel conducting genealogical research for people, but also write about historical fiction and issues relevant to the global world.

Interrogating the Black Identity with a Black Queer Analysis

This is a paper I wrote during my time at Spelman College.

For centuries, the black identity has been silence just as the black queers are being in the present day. Identity being a psychological and cultural process by which we freely construct and express our sense of self. During colonialism and slavery, women were even more subjected to the perverse theory of the white world. Dominated by the heterosexual, white hegemony, the black female body suffered from an inability to vocalize their inner pains.

The female body in the West is not a unitary sign. Rather, like a coin, it has an obverse and a reverse: on the one side, it is white; on the other, not-white or, prototypically, black. The two bodies cannot be separated, nor can one body be understood in isolation from the other in the West’s metaphoric construction of “woman” (Hammonds 1).

Essentially “woman” is objective, in the sense that there is no definitive identifiable race. However, the white Western world has customized the meaning of “woman” to mean the white woman. Similarly, the “Cult of Domesticity” defined what “true womanhood” was. “True womanhood” was subjective to the white woman for the simple fact that black woman had no control over their own bodies.

The best example of the black female body being void of a voice is the infamous Hot-Ten-Tot, otherwise known as Sara Baartman. Not until recently, was Baartman allotted the respect to be seen as a human being. Originally from South Africa, the young woman was brought to Europe and used as a statue. She was a representation of blackness and the sexual deviance of the black woman. Sadly, Baartman dies at the young age of twenty-five. Once she passed, her body parts were put on display. Physically – genitals and butt – were used as evidence of mental traits – sexual immorality – and sexual availability. Hegemonic society was trying to create excuses as to why the white man was sexually assaulting and abusing the black woman. During the slavery the black woman was raped, bore children by men whom she may not have wanted, especially by her white master, and was subjected to having her children sold away from her. These left a black woman with no rights to her own body. The white slave owner, who usually also had a white wife, was openly known to having a black mistress. Adultery. He was cheating on his wife. The excuses were to blame the black “woman” and to dehumanize her and all black people. Sara Baartman was the symbol used to uphold the actions of the white man. For years her body has been kept separated from her family. Not until recently, were her remains returned to her family back in South Africa; however, supposedly some remnants were lost. This shows that Baartman was never respected, and perhaps, still is not respected.

Writer and author, Toni Morrison, identifies blackness as a representational trope that signals difference. Morrison questions how blackness is used for white people, non-blacks in general, to explore sexuality, shame, and difference. From an overall view, blackness appears to be fungible and the white imagination is subjectively determined by race. In literary works, as well as in reality, blackness makes possible the formation of the white identity. Morrison critiques the white imagination in ways deeper than just admitting that the black identity makes possible the formation of the white identity. This is true because race is a social construct created by the white race. In addition, blackness creates a fantasy world in which whiteness can safely be explored. White supremacy seems valid when blackness becomes submissive and dehumanized. The first motion picture was Birth of a Nation, which is when American identity is formed against blackness. Playing in the Dark, written by Morrison identifies Africanism and how black characters are made to almost be caricatures. “Black characters in classic American novels, she maintains, have been as marginalized as their real-life counterparts” (Steiner). The black identity stands as a backbone for white identity, but is like a ghost, ignored.

The black identity is deeply rooted throughout history. Ideally, the black identity was created by white hegemonic society. Without whiteness, there is no blackness. Blackness hence was formulated by whiteness. In Africa, European nations came in and colonized the land and formed territories. Already, slavery was established, but then escalated when The New World was found. African people were captured and enslaved and forced to work in the Americas. A stolen identity and culture was robbed from these African-American people. Alas, literature, especially literary works written by white writers, exploits the black identity. In America, blackness has always been associated with “evilness.” Darkness represents all that is bad. Historically, being black was what you didn’t want to be. African Americans who were fair skinned and had features that resembled that of a Caucasian, sometimes chose to racially pass for white in order to live freely. Even within the black community, blackness is discriminated based on the spectrum of blackness. The whole notion of light-skinned versus dark-skinned fundamentally was generated when the slaved master would produce offspring with one of his female slaves. The child would be lighter than the rest and would often be treated better. “House slaves” were often reduced to less laborious tasks and were of the lighter complexion, creating jealousy amongst the other black enslaved persons. Nonetheless, all of these ideologies stem from the white creators. Literature only further propagates these theories.

Not all literary works come forth and distinguish a character as being a particular race. Yet, when described, physically one can denote the race that is being talked about. “I could go further and note that even when race is mentioned it is a limited notion devoid of complexities. Sometimes it is reduced to biology and other times referred to as a social construction” (Hammonds 2). Factual evidence upholds the logistics of the white and black body. There is no question that physically there are differences, and not just in skin complexions. At the same time, with the mixing of races, combinations have been created to create similarities between the modern day black American and the white American. But society doesn’t care. Still color blinds all else and common sense goes out the window.

Returning to the issue of black identity, literary works fail to validate the black identity as a realistic subject matter. Blackness is the root of all life. Supposedly people originate from Africa. America was built on the blood and sweat of enslaved Africans. Without blackness, whiteness cannot and does not exist. Hegemonic society is ignorant to the reality of how it was truly established. Morrison says it best in her critique of white American literature. Literature, we must note, holds some societal fact whether it is nonfiction or fiction. Nonfiction is bias and is written in the perspective of a sole person from his/her point of view and “true” in his/her eyes. Fiction is a fantasy world that the majority wishes were somewhat true. The majority being the hegemonic society, which consists of the white, heterosexual, man.

The black “shadow” has, paradoxically, allowed white culture to face its fear of freedom, Ms. Morrison continues. Though Pilgrim, colonist, immigrant and refugee embraced America for its promise of freedom, they were nevertheless terrified at the prospect of becoming failures and outcasts, engulfed by a boundless, untamable nature. It was not surprising, then, that writers explored American identity in the most anxiety-ridden genre of literature — the romance. There they could fill in the romance’s “power of blackness,” as Melville called it, with the figure of the slave, whose lack of freedom and whose blackness confirmed his contrast to the master. Africanism, the culture’s construction of black slavery, stood, therefore, not only for the “not-free” but also for the “not-me” (Steiner).

The black identity has been sculpted into a lens to make the white identity appear to be valuable. Morrison critiques literature simply because literature has a huge impact on the mindsets of society. Propaganda is often formatted in writing and pictures. Literature creates a bias or false reality that mainstream society finds fascinating. Romanticizing slavery and portraying the black body as being hypersexual creates a barbaric image of the black identity and authenticates the white identity. Morrison reveals a need to take back the voice of the black identity. Personal narratives from the black experience are necessary in reconstructing the black identity for the black body. Reclaiming the right of self-worth is essential in gaining respect.

With a false reality that tries to erase, or forget history, and a falsified fantasy, the black identity has been white-washed and forced to endure years of pain and suffering. The black community must salvage the black identity from those trying to destroy it. “To name ourselves rather than be named we must first see ourselves. For some of us this will not be easy. So long unmirrored, we may have forgotten how we look” (Hammonds 8). The black community is ignorant to their own worth. Black on black crime is so ramped that it is causing other races to question our value. Killing one another, in the eyes of the “not-black”, almost justifies them killing and devaluing the black body. Our complexions should not matter in the scope of the prejudices we all receive for being black. Black is black. Black Nationalism is what all black Americans need to reserve. A pride for being part of a community of such leadership. As a unity, black people must unite and see themselves and all that they have achieved. A rich history and characteristics of strength, survival, and faith compose the black identity. Silence is how the black community has been forced to become, but with the changing of times, the black community needs to arise and recognize who they are individually and as a whole. The black identity is important and is worth more value than people give it credit.

Subjective Interpretation on the Black Queer Studies Course

This is a paper I wrote during my time at Spelman College.

Since birth, I have grown up in a heteronormative society balanced with white hegemony. Being that I am a women of “color” or African descent, I wanted to venture outside of the world I had grown accustomed to. I was adopted to an Italian American immigrant family, with a single mother and me being an only child. My upbringing was unique – transracial. We weren’t the typical family with parents and children being relatively close to the same skin complexion, instead, we were crossing the boundaries of normativity. Yet, despite the fact that I was adopted, I never once let my adoption hold me back. I was determined to find my biological family, and once I did, I was thrusted on a journey in which I was not aware of.

My time at Spelman College has helped me discover more about myself and my personal interests. As of my late junior year, the theme of identity has become a revolving factor in shaping who I was and who I wanted to become. In another class, my African Diaspora independent study course, I decided that I would research the effects that genealogy had on shaping one’s identity. In doing this, I was open to a whole world of new forms of identity and in part, I found this course quite helpful.

My original intent for enrolling in the course was to fulfill my African Diaspora minor requirement. Yet, after sitting in class, I began to grow a liking to the meaning of the class and found it helpful in contributing to other class and worldly discussions. The Black Queer Studies course not only taught me about the true meaning of “queer”, but also how to look at the gay and lesbian community through a different lens outside of the heteronormativity lens in which I had been taught to encompass. Some terms I was unfamiliar with, I found beneficial in writing my book, and I also enjoyed being schooled on my own ignorance. I say ignorance because I never took the time to try to understand anything beyond a heterosexual lens because that’s how I have, and still do, identify. I do wish we had had more time to discuss the films we watched. Maybe if we watch the films first and then have more time to discuss the film and even incorporate various aspects of the readings and class discussions. At the same time, I am aware that the women’s center works closely with the Spelman Archives. Being that I am a fan of archives and all things genealogy related, I feel like we maybe should have had one more paper that incorporated archival research. Maybe looking at the evolution of Spelman College as an institution and how it has adjusted to the LGBTQ community or even selecting a historical figure within Spelman and how they were affected by the injustice system surrounding the rights of LGBTQ people.

Aside from adding a few more writing plans, I had taken a women’s study course prior and I found that the main reason I was able to understand the readings and lectures was because I had taken a women studies class prior. With that being said, I think for Spelman women, it would be wise if they had an introduction to women’s studies class prior to enrolling in the Black Queer Studies course. As for males who want to participate, I believe that only those who are truly serious about the class and understand what is being asked from them will attempt to enroll, so I personally do not see a problem with allowing men from Morehouse College to cross-register.  I’m not sure about Clark Atlanta University students. I know that if you allow Morehouse men to cross-register you can’t deny Clark students. Although, I would assume that any student trying to take the Black Queer Studies course who is not affiliated with Spelman College, must have a passion and desire for wanting to take a class that explores queerness through a different lens and gain a better, or new, sense of understanding for life beyond the heteronormativity.

While in class, I found the readings interesting. Some of the readings incorporated the themes of identity, while others just simply gave me a better understanding of the definition of “queer” and “queerness.” I realized that even I was implementing a heteronormative lens before when I was trying to understand LGBTQ relationships. I heavily enjoyed reading The Politics of Passion: Women’s Sexual Culture in the Afro-Surinamese Diaspora by Gloria Wekker. The book captured my attention because of how it introduced me to a new world outside of America. Identity goes beyond the United States. Sometimes I fall ignorant to that, and forget that the United States, alone, is a nation of immigrants. Outside of the United States is a global community of people with other variations of identity and the way in which they self-identify. The Politics of Passion explores womanhood and queerness in Suriname, which enabled me to think outside the box. This book personally inspired me to want to embark on a new research project that analyzes other cultural aspects. I want to engage in a researchable discussion that illustrates my own personal genealogical Diasporas by comparing and contrasting African Diasporic immigration to the United States and the cultures that were created as a result of it and Sicilian Diasporic immigration to the United States and the cultures that resulted from it. I know historically, both Sicilian Americans and African Americans were looked down upon at an equal playing field and after reading The Politics of Passion, I came to the realization that the Suriname women described within the book, are in some ways, similar to other queer women of the African Diaspora. I enjoyed the various sections in which Wekker had broken down her dialogue and interactions. I also enjoyed how each section stuck to a central theme, but not only explored the concept, but also defined the overall meaning tying each section together.

Apart from the constant theme of identity and understanding other cultures, Politics of Passion discussed the political power of femininity. Towards the end of the book, there was a chapter dedicated towards examining the empowerment of being a woman and how some women viewed sex. Throughout the book, sex between two women was explored, but at the same time, there was some insight on the dynamic of sex between a man and woman. I found it intriguing how it was made to seem as though sex with a man was more for economic achievement. A woman might indulge in a relationship with a man if the man could provide her with financial stability or social and economic status. Yet, at the same time, there was a similar feat in the way some women interacted with other women. What I found peculiar was the way that domestic abuse was explained. From the way I read it, it appeared as though the domestic abuse was more common in relationships that involved the same sex because it was to establish dominance and power. I am not one who condones violence of any kind, and maybe from a Westernized lens, I found that disturbing. There are other methods in which one can establish control. At the same time, it forced me to try to read the book, in general, from a lens outside of my normal comfort level and understanding. I had to force myself to almost imagine as if I was submerged in that culture myself and not judge. This technique teaches me to incorporate the absence of judgement from trying to learn about and understand other cultures.

While I very much enjoyed one of the readings from the class for both selfish and critical understanding purposes, I didn’t really enjoy Butch Queens Up in Pumps: Gender, Performance, and Ballroom Culture in Detroit written by Marlon M. Bailey. While I found the overall concept fascinating because I had never known of Ballrooms or the culture surrounding ballrooms, I found the book itself, repetitive. I am not a fan of books that make me feel dumb. When I grasp a concept I like to think that the author is aware that he/she made his/her point clear and concise enough to not have to constantly repeat his/herself. When an author excessively repeats his/herself, I begin to question whether or not the author is articulate in his/her area of study. I should be confident in trusting what the author has to say, and not questioning the validity of his/her work. I enjoyed the film that coincided with the book, and felt like it relayed the message without repeating the underlying theme. I truly am fascinated with ballroom culture and would like to go and experience one for myself; however, Butch Queens initially turned me off because I struggled trying to even get through it.

Being that I have an interest in identity, diasporic cultures, and genealogy, the class was both insightful and useful. My own knowledge was sharpened on ways to interrogate other cultures and identities, but I also now have an awareness to an identity and culture that I was never before familiar with. I have a lens that articulates in various perspective. I have the white hegemonic lens, the heteronormative lens, the queer lens, and then a lens from my own personal experiences. I value the queer lens because it challenges the “normal” way of thinking. While I personally am a heterosexual female, I often view things beyond the way society would typically attempt to categorize it. In this sense, I understand that queer assimilates to anything outside societal normativity. While personal enjoyment of identity is clear, I would have liked to further discuss queer identity beyond the United States some more. I enjoyed each reading and the books, but I would have liked to have analyzed other African Diasporic cultures and how queer ideology/identity is incorporated into those cultures. Realizing that the language used and the skills I learned from the course is refreshing. Knowledge is power. Even though I do not personal identify with queer identity, it is a lens that I am now comfortable using and that I feel can better understand people who both identify as queer or part of the LGBTQ community. Compassionate feels like a better fitting word for that. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the time I spent in the course. I am taking a lot with me when I graduate this December, and I greatly appreciate all that I was taught. I hope that I can use this information in a way that intellectually challenges both my writing and those who read my work.