leah chase


New Orleanian: Leah Chase

 Gambit has honored a New Orleanian of the Year for all he or she has done for the city. This year's honoree is a familiar one: Leah Chase, the pioneering chef who recently turned 93,  and who still can be found working at her iconic Treme restaurant, Dooky Chase's.

  Though many are familiar with Chase's gumbo, greens and hospitality, her role in achieving equality for African-Americans is less discussed, at least by those who have bestowed upon her some of the nation's highest culinary awards for her Creole cuisine.

You won't see her memorialized in grainy black-and-white photographs of civil rights protests, holding up protest signs or sitting handcuffed beneath the scornful gaze of baton-wielding police officers. But in June 2014, when more than 100 veterans of the Louisiana civil rights movement gathered in New Orleans to commemorate the Freedom Summer and honor the civil rights activists of the 1960s, it was Leah Chase's restaurant that everyone remembered.

"It was just a place where we felt safe," recalled Doratha "Dodie" Smith-Simmons, a key figure in the civil rights movement who was a Freedom Rider and member of the New Orleans chapter of Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).

"For a lot of the people and students who came down here to work on voter registration, their fondest memory was of going to Dooky Chase's for a meal," Smith-Simmons says. "Because of what Leah and her husband did, people didn't forget that."

2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a crowning achievement of the civil rights movement that prohibited racial discrimination in voting. Its passage came a year after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and in the years leading up to both historic events, Dooky Chase's became a well-known meeting place for leaders and activists.

A younger generation of New Orleanians may have fond memories of the so-called queen of Creole cuisine and her iconic 5th Ward restaurant. They may remember her fried chicken, or her moss-hued gumbo z'herbes on Holy Thursday, and a few even may know that she was the basis for Princess Tiana, the first African-American Disney princess, in the 2009 animated musical The Princess and the Frog. If they're lucky enough to meet her, they'll remember a seemingly inexhaustible woman clad in a red chef's coat and a warm smile, who moves with ease, greeting customers and exchanging wry bits of wisdom with charismatic sass.

But the proprietor and chef at the brick mainstay on Orleans Avenue is remembered by an older generation as a steadfast leader for equality and social justice.

The oldest of 11 children, Chase was born in 1923 and grew up across Lake Pontchartrain in the then-small shipping town of Madisonville. She attended a Catholic school for black girls — St. Mary's Academy — in New Orleans, before eventually moving to the city permanently at the age of 18. Here, Chase began her love affair with food service, working for several years at a restaurant in the French Quarter before marrying Edgar "Dooky" Chase II, a trumpet player, in 1946.

Chase's husband's family opened the Dooky Chase restaurant, then a tavern selling po-boys and lottery tickets, on Orleans Avenue in 1941. It wasn't until Leah Chase came on board that she began tweaking menu items and decor concepts — imitating some of what she had experienced during her tenure in the French Quarter.

"The saddest thing about segregation for me was depriving people from learning," Chase says. "We didn't even know how to set the tables properly ... because we had no restaurants to go to."

Since most restaurants in the city were segregated, Dooky Chase's became a known outlier and safe haven; a hub where civil rights organizers and activists — black and white — could come together and strategize their next move over bowls of gumbo and red beans.

"Early on, when we were trying to bring about some social justice in the city, Leah's restaurant was a place to meet and to see if we couldn't all get on the same page," recalls Moon Landrieu, mayor of New Orleans from 1970 to 1978.

Don Hubbard, a local leader of desegregation efforts and a civil rights visionary, says Chase and her husband were "quiet warriors" who would accommodate the activists in a private upstairs dining room and always made sure that no one went hungry.

"They would always be gracious to us, even to those who couldn't afford it. She's always been able to walk a fine line, and she used food as an ambassador to broaden our community," Hubbard remembers.

Chase is characteristically modest about her role in the movement.

"My job was just to feed people," she says. "People like me could just be cooperative and support them, and that's what you did. In New Orleans, you don't do anything without eating. So they would come here and I would make gumbo and fried chicken, and they'd have lunch and plan their moves. Sometimes it was hard and sometimes it was frightening, because you didn't know who was going to come back and who wasn't."

Despite Chase's humility, Hubbard says, she was an influential person, revered for more than just her hospitality, cooking and kindness."Leah was always someone we could talk to in confidence," he says.

"If you were saying something that was more militant, she had her own way of extending the message, of making it more palatable," Hubbard says. "She had her own style while she was stirring the pot. Sometimes she'd pull us over and say, 'You really want to do it like that? Maybe you ought to try a different approach.' She always spoke with some power and our ears always perked up and listened because (we) thought that her opinion was worth something."

A longtime member of the NAACP, Chase recalls that many felt the civil rights movement at the time was "moving too slow," spurring a younger generation of activists to consider more radical approaches.

"We were always working to better the conditions for black people," Chase says. "But the (NAACP) leaders, like A.P. Tureaud and Thurgood Marshall, they thought we could move into the regular stream without offending anybody. Sometimes you can't do that. You're gonna offend somebody."

Dooky Chase's was near 917 N. Tonti Street, the home of Virgie Castle, a longtime bartender at the restaurant and the mother of civil rights activists Doris Jean Castle and Oretha Castle Haley. The house on N. Tonti became a magnet for activists at the time, a place where Freedom Riders and migrating revolutionaries, including James Farmer and James Baldwin, would crash whenever they were in town.

  "If we didn't eat there, we had food delivered from there," Smith-Simmons, who also stayed at the Tonti Street home on occasion, said of Dooky Chase's. She recalled how attorneys with the movement would deliver Chase's food to the Orleans Parish Prison when she and fellow activists were arrested.

  While Chase says she never really was frightened, she knew operating an integrated restaurant and supporting the civil rights movement was a dangerous endeavor in the segregated South; blacks attempting to organize the masses to vote were attacked, jailed and sometimes killed. Chase brushed off threats, even when someone threw a pipe bomb into the front of the restaurant.

"It hit the bar, tore the bar up and put a hole in the door, but nobody was hurt," Chase recalls. "It didn't frighten me."

"They were just outstanding citizens that saw something that needed to be done and did it, regardless of the consequences," says Smith-Simmons. "In those days, that was very brave of them to do."

In the years following passage of the Voting Rights Act, Chase's restaurant remained a mainstay on the activist circuit and a neutral ground for meetings and visiting dignitaries.

Visitors fill Dooky Chase's dining room, which is decorated with works by African-American artists. - PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • Photo by Cheryl Gerber
  • Visitors fill Dooky Chase's dining room, which is decorated with works by African-American artists.

Chase peppered the restaurant's multicolored dining rooms with works by African-American artists she purchased throughout the years to foster artistic growth among black artists.

Throughout her life, Chase has garnered accolades and awards for her constant push for progress and equality. The Southern Food & Beverage Museum named a permanent gallery in Chase's honor in 2009, she was inducted into the prestigious James Beard Foundation's Who's Who of Food & Beverage in America in 2010, and in 2011, the American Civil Liberties Union presented her with its Ben Smith Award for her efforts to promote racial equality.

Chase is still a constant presence in her restaurant's kitchen and dining rooms, where she stops to chat with friends and strangers and, if prompted, is happy to talk about her life. She likes to recount the degrees and accomplishments of all her grandchildren and says she hopes that her grandson, Edgar Chase IV, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, will take over the business one day.Underlying Chase's benevolent disposition and warm exterior is a determined, do-it-yourself attitude.

"We've come a long way but I think people need to do better about coming together and understanding one another," she says. "If you get to a certain place where you're on your feet, then you got to help somebody else on their feet. Whatever I can do, I try to do it.

"You have to get involved today, honey. Everybody has to make a difference."

Original Source:http://m.bestofneworleans.com/gambit/new-orleanian-of-the-year-leah-chase/Content?oid=2845911

alain thumb medium200 306In an attempt to improve the visitors’ experience whilst conserving the authenticity of Mission Lodge - one of Seychelles’ most valuable heritage sites - four local leading construction companies  have pledge their support to help bring back this site to its original splendour.


Recently the Minister for Tourism and Culture, Alain St Ange and the chief executive officer (CEO) of the Seychelles Heritage Foundation (SHF), Patrick Nanty laid the foundation stone for the re-development of Mission Lodge. This marked the beginning of a project that will see the creation of a reception area and a visitor’s information centre with a gallery as well as a cafeteria, larger parking space and toilet facilities.


Amongst the distinguished guests present at the ceremony, there was the Principal Secretary for Culture, Benjamine Rose, Chief Executive Officer of the National Arts Council, Jimmy Savy, the District Administrator of Port Glaud, Egbert Aglae and the four construction companies working on the project namely Vijay Construction, Laxmanbhai Construction, Shreeji Construction and Allied Builders.


Re-development Project of Mission LodgeDuring his opening remarks, Mr Nanty thanked the four contractors whose combined contribution of SCR1 million helped make the project a reality. A special thanks was also given to Constance Ephelia Resort who offered to provide information signs and naming each of the endemic plants found within the heritage site. Mr Nanty mentioned that the re-development project of Mission Lodge is aimed at making the site more visitor friendly and safe. In fact, the central pathway will be upgraded for comfort of visitors including the re-installation of a stone surface and the installation of soft lighting for any late evening activities. There will also be the restoration, cordoning and reconstruction on certain parts of the ruins to conserve the site and its history.


Furthermore, Mr Nanty revealed that much improved signage that blends well with the environment will be placed principally in the proximity of the ruins to provide visitors with an enriching insight. According to Mr Nanty, he believes that providing visitors with proper information will in turn help them be more knowledgeable and responsible of the site’s surroundings during their visits.


For his part, Minister St Ange also thanked the four contractors and Constance Ephelia Resort for their key participation stating that “it is a win-win situation for the country when we all work together. The Ministry of Tourism and Culture is committed to keeping the doors open to the private sector because we want you to keep on being not just the face of Seychelles but also the backbone that our country needs” he said.


The Tourism Minister went on to explain that, “the better we understand where we come from, the better we are able to understand where we are and where we are heading tomorrow as a nation”. This was in reference with the five cultures that are part and parcel of Seychelles’ heritage, one being Africa. “By 1872, around 2,500 African slaves in Seychelles were liberated and amongst them were many children. These ruins are a reminder of the settlement and the school which represents a more humane endeavour by others to provide shelter and education to children. It’s now up to us to conserve this site and tell its history,” said Minister St Ange.


The Tourism Minister is hopeful that the re-development project of Mission Lodge and its new facilities will certainly bring added value to the site and attract more visitors as well as boost the site’s application to become an UNESCO World Heritage Site.


About Mission Lodge (Venn’s Town)

The Mission Lodge was originally known as Venn's Town (named after an Aglican Missionary, Henry Venn) and was set up in the late 19th century by a Missionary Society. Following the abolition of slavery, around 2,500 African slaves were set free on Mahé by 1870. Few years later, the colonial government at that time had accepted the proposal made by the Missionary Society to set up a school for the liberated African slave’s children which officially opened in 1876. Today, the ruins of this former school are still clearly visible thus making Mission Lodge one of the most visited tourist attractions in Seychelles. From the shaded and peaceful confines of a gazebo where Queen Elizabeth II once sat for tea, visitors can enjoy some truly spectacular views of Mahé’s green forest landscapes, mountains and azure coastline.


Above photos:

Top- The popular viewing point at Mission Lodge boasting of breath-taking views. Middle left- The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Seychelles Heritage Foundation and the four private contractors. Middle Right- The Minister for Tourism and Culture, Alain St Ange addressing his speech to the assembled distinguished guests. Bottom- Minister St Ange and the chief executive officer (CEO) of the Seychelles Heritage Foundation (SHF), Patrick Nanty placing the foundation stone.



QueensAfrica-Dolls-300x300Taofick Okoya was trying to find a doll for his niece a few years ago. He lives in Nigeria and was appalled at the fact that he couldn’t find a black doll. Barbie has produced dolls of other races but there aren’t many and they are not anywhere near as readily available as the white dolls. So Okoya decided to take matters into his own hands and start up a doll company of his own.

He got a third party company in China to manufacture the doll parts and then when they were shipped to him he would put them together. He then made clothes for the dolls that looked like traditional Nigerian clothing. This made the dolls very unique and business grew very quickly. He sells them in a shop in a shopping mall in Lagos. Each year Okoya sells between 6,000 and 9,000 dolls. He thinks that he has a pretty good chunk of the doll market worldwide and estimates that he holds at least 10-15% of it.

The economy in Nigeria is one of the fastest growing in the world so it is no surprise that the dolls are selling like hot cakes. Little girls who see them in the shopping mall are excited because there is finally a doll that they can have that looks like them. Okoya says that the key is appealing to the demographic in the area that you are selling in. Having the dolls dressed in traditional Nigerian garb makes them very authentic to the area and the culture which makes them more desirable. It allows little girls to be proud of their heritage and show it off with their new toy.

Mattel and other companies like them have not tapped into this growing market but the longer they wait the better Okoya does with his business. By the time they get into the market it will already be ruled by Okoya’s “Queens of Africa” dolls. The dolls sell for amounts up to $22 (3,500 naira which is the Nigerian currency). These make them very affordable to the people who live in the area. 



Source: http://www.theblackhomeschool.com/2015/01/21/nigrian-queens-of-africa-dolls-to-surpass-barbie-in-sales/

Update: The “Queen of Africa” dolls have now surpassed “Barbie” doll sales.  

Daniel Hinds, a student from the visual and performing arts division of the Barbados Community College, writes about the traditional Bajan martial art called stick licking for Nation News. Here are excerpts:

Bajan Stick lickin’ is a stick fighting martial art that has its roots from Africa, where two participants used fire hardened wooden sticks, varying in length as weapons and bajanrying out fighting techniques. This art most likely came to Barbados during the 16th century, when the Europeans brought slaves to the Americas i.e. The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

[. . .] From the dawn of time, the martial way has been infused into the ethnic identity of many cultures. One erroneous global thought is the idea that China was or is the only country with such a complex and advanced martial science. However, Africa was the cradle of its birth, according to historians and pictorial records found in the Egyptian hieroglyphics of Beni Hasan (Baqt III, Tomb No. 15) (P. E. Newberry, 1893: 47, 48) There was also a stick fighting system in Egypt called Tahtib. The oldest remnants of Tahtib could’ve been found in the archeological site of Abusir (c. 2500 BC).

This discovery clearly debunks the myth that stick fighting systems were an amalgamation of African stick fighting and European fencing. In that in European thought most complex systems and disciplines developed formed in Africa were thought to have some influences from Europe. These sticking fighting traditions were passed down as a sticking fighting dance form called Tahtib.

These stick fighting arts spread throughout all of Africa, being transformed into unique styles in each country that it settled (These are the various places and names of the stick fighting arts: Dambe – Nigeria, Niger and Chad; Nguni – South Africa; Nuba – Sudan; and Surma – Ethiopia).

The earliest reference of stick fighting in the Caribbean was from a lithograph [1] done in Dominica, 1779 by an Italian artist, Agostino Brunias (Mottley, 2014:11) [see above]. In the image you could see two persons in the middle and gathered around them are other stick fighters and watchers; some who are willing to fight and others that are old and experienced observing and watching over the fight.

Sticking fighting started to spread across the region with each having its own name. In Guadeloupe the name it was given was mayole, while in Haiti and Trinidad there was a similar name kalinda and kalenda respectively (Guyana – SetuCarricou – Bois) and finally, our art form Bajan Stick Lickin.

[. . .] Stick Licking in Barbados probably also had influences from English and Indian influences seeing that both of these countries had long histories of stick fighting traditions. However, my belief was that the influence could not have been that great, since there wasn’t a great amount of interaction and interbreeding of ethnicities in Barbados as compared to Trinidad, Guyana or other neighbouring countries.

In the Chill Magazine Jul-Sep 2006 Edition, Elombe Mottley talks about the aggressiveness of Bajan Stick lickers throughout the years. Bajans migrated to other West Indian countries such as Trinidad and Guyana and had very intimidating reputations as masterful sticklickers; fighting in many stickfighting gangs and the underground scene.

[. . .] The Bajan Stick Licking art form seemed to be one that was feared and distinctive from the other neighbouring islands art forms, even receiving praise from a famous Dominican Calypsonian, saying: ‘he was going to be as bad as a Bajan stickfighter’ (Chill 2006:28). [. . .]

Source: Repeating Islands

For original article, see http://www.nationnews.com/nationnews/news/63977/bhm-bajan-stick-licking

[Image above: Detail from “Stick Fighting, Dominica, West Indies, 1779,” painted by Agostino Brunias (copy in the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University) from The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record—www.slaveryimages.org, compiled by Jerome Handler and Michael Tuite, and sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library. For more details on the image, see http://hitchcock.itc.virginia.edu/Slavery/details.php?categorynum=12&categoryName=&theRecord=36&recordCount=55 ]




afromexIn mid-July of 2014, I had the pleasure of leading a group of twenty-three people on an African heritage tour of Mexico. The group was largely composed of African-Americans but also included a Black man from Guyana, a Nigerian, a young African woman from Niger and a Latina.  The purpose was to explore Mexico's African legacy.  It was a short tour of only seven days but it was a wonderful, intense and fun trip during which we visited the Catedral Metropolitana (the national church of Mexico where we got to see a splendid statue of a miraculous Black Christ), the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadeloupe (the most visited shrine in the Western Hemisphere), the pyramids at Teotihuacan, the town of Yanga (named after the African liberator of early Mexico--Gaspar Yanga--where we had a libation ceremony), and the beautiful ancient Mayan city of Palenque.  


But the real focus of the tour was the civilization called the Olmec. The Olmec civilization is universally regarded as the parent civilization of the Americas and the most outstanding and visible feature about the Olmec civilization are seventeen massive stone heads with African features.  On this tour I got to see and photograph fifteen of these heads and gathered much information to supplement that which I already had.  And the conclusion that I came to is that not only has there been a pervasive and influential African presence in Mexico from the most ancient times, but that at the height of the Olmec civilization in ancient Mexico there reigned a dynasty of African kings. 


Yes, I realize the magnitude and implications of what I am saying.  I know that it goes beyond the parameters of what we are led to believe about African people in the Americas.  I know that it goes beyond the realm of slavery.  But the evidence is indisputable that African people were well established in the Americas, particularly Mexico, both before Columbus and long before the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.  


I don't say such things lightly.   ;I worked under and had a close relationship with Dr. Ivan Van Sertima--the world's leading authority on the African presence in early America--from 1981 until his death in May 2009.  I have studied African history for more than forty years. In the last fifteen years I have traveled to more than a hundred countries, colonies and overseas territories in search of the African presence, have taken thousands of photos and engaged in relentless research.   I was staggered by what I saw in Mexico and so my real question is why is this information not well known and why it had not penetrated the popular imagination.   Such knowledge can even be healing.  


With the great divide that exists between the Mexican-American and African-American communities in the United States such information about the African presence in Mexican history can even be healing.  For it tells us that we have a long history of interactions.  


To state that African people played a prominent role in American history from the very beginning is not an attempt to seize Native American and Mexican history and civilization.  But it is an undisguised attempt to set the record straight and that record states that African people have a history second to none, including a remarkable history in pre-Columbian America--and it is a history that deserves to be shouted to the world.


Olmec civilization began about 1500 BCE and lasted until near the beginning of the Christian era.  It profoundly influenced all of the Meso-American civilizations the followed, including the Maya, the Totonac, the Zapotec and the Aztec.  It is the parent civilization of the Americas.


The name Olmec was coined by archaeologists in the 1920s and means "people of the region of rubber."  The first great Olmec center was San Lorenzo Tenochtitlan, which flourished from around 1200 BCE to about 950 BCE.  Following San Lorenzo Tenochtitlan in Vera Cruz state the Olmec civilization blossomed again around La Venta in the Mexican state of Tabasco.  The final vestiges of Olmec civilization were at Tres Zapotes in Southeastern Vera Cruz.    


The Olmec seem to have been the first people in the Americas to move large objects in stone, to have calendars, to build pyramids, to engage in astronomy, even to play organized sports.   But mostly what stands out about the Olmec is a series of seventeen massive stone heads--all of which look Africoid and some of them extraordinarily so.


This is not new information.  The first was these heads was identified in 1862 by Mexican scholar Jose Melgar, who described it as "Ethiopian."  Harvard professor Leo Wiener wrote about them beginning in the 1920s in a three-volume work entitled Africa and Discovery of America.  But Wiener thought the heads represented slaves.  Apparently Wiener, though remarkably advanced in some ways, was still a product of his times in that he was prepared to recognize the African characteristics of the heads but would not allow himself to give this African element a prominent position in the Olmec world.  For Wiener, the colossal Africoid heads among the Olmecs only represented slaves.


In the 1930s and 1940s European-American archaeologist Mathew Stirling did the most advanced research among the Olmec civilization and unearthed most of the Olmec heads.  Indeed, it was Stirling who unearthed the Olmec head with the African braids at Tres Zapotes.  


At the end of the 1960s African-American researcher Legrand H. Clegg II began writing about the African presence in ancient America, including the Olmec.  Even the great anthrophotojournalist from Jamaica J.A. Rogers wrote about the Olmec heads.


But the great breakthrough for the Global African Community regarding a prominent African presence in the Olmec world occurred with the publication in 1976 of Ivan Van Sertima's hallmark work They Came Before Columbus: The African Presence in Ancient America. From this point the genie was out of the bottle for good.  


We must also look at the work of three African-American women scholars who have done great work in the field.  They are Paris Williams of Seattle, Alice Windom of St. Louis and Dr. Toni Humber of Los Angeles.  We should examine the writings of Alexander von Wuthenau, Clyde Winters, Paul Barton and David Imhotep.  


But it was Ivan Van Sertima who did the most and best work on the subject and who immortalized himself with his writings, his lectures and the inexhaustible endeavors to bring awareness to the African presence among the Olmec.  


The most prominent aspect of Olmec Civilization are the massive stone heads, the largest of which weighs forty tons.  These heads are in the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, the Museum of Anthropology in Xalapa, Parque-Museo La Venta, the Regional Anthropology Museum in Villahermosa, and two isolated heads--one at San Lorenzo Tenochtitlan and another at Tres Zapotes.  Tres Zapotes seems to have been the last great Olmec center and may have existed until the beginning the Christian era. It was also at Tres Zapotes where the first of the known Olmec heads was found in 1862.


What became of the Olmec civilization and its elite African element?  There are no certain answers.  Perhaps, after a thousand years, the environment could no longer support them.  Perhaps the land of the Olmecs was invaded and the Olmec succumbed. There is an Olmec figurine in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts of an Olmec man being tortured and perhaps even castrated.  The bottom line is that we simply don't know what happened to the Olmec.  We only know of the enormous contributions of the Olmec to ancient American civilization.


We also cannot say with certainty who and what the Olmec heads represent.  Leo Wiener believed that they were slaves. But who would carve a forty-ton head for a slave?  Others, because of the helmet gear that adorns each of the Olmec heads, have expressed that they were great athletes.  But one has to ask the same question.  Who would carve a forty ton head for an athlete, even the greatest of athletes?  And remember that the stone used to carve these heads came from many miles away from the ceremonial sites where the heads were eventually placed.  


Could they have been priests?  Perhaps they were deities.  But, for me, the answer is clear.  For hundreds of years ancient Mexico was ruled by a series of African kings.  And the massive Olmec heads of which we speak are the depictions of these kings--this African dynasty in ancient Mexico.


It is important to know that African people did not begin their history in the Americas as enslaved people.  They arrived as masters of their own fate and the arbiters of their own destinies.  


Runoko Rashidi is a historian and anthropologist based in Los Angeles, California and Paris, France.  He regularly coordinates African heritage to the famous and not so famous corners of the world.  For more information and updates on his tours please write to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , call Runoko at (210) 232- 7272 or visit his web site at www.travelwithrunoko.com. 

Editors Lauren H. DerbyRaymundo Gonzalez and Eric Paul Roorda recent publication of their new book The Dominican Republic Reader: domrepHistory, Culture, Politics (Duke University Press, 2014) is a must read.

Description: Despite its significance in the history of Spanish colonialism, the Dominican Republic is familiar to most outsiders through only a few elements of its past and culture. Non-Dominicans may be aware that the country shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti and that it is where Christopher Columbus chose to build a colony. Some may know that the country produces talented baseball players and musicians; others that it is a prime destination for beach vacations. Little else about the Dominican Republic is common knowledge outside its borders. This Reader seeks to change that. It provides an introduction to the history, politics, and culture of the country, from precolonial times into the early twenty-first century. Among the volume's 118 selections are essays, speeches, journalism, songs, poems, legal documents, testimonials, and short stories, as well as several interviews conducted especially for this Reader. Many of the selections have been translated into English for the first time. All of them are preceded by brief introductions written by the editors. The volume's eighty-five illustrations, ten of which appear in color, include maps, paintings, and photos of architecture, statues, famous figures, and Dominicans going about their everyday lives.

Eric Paul Roorda is Professor of History at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the author of The Dictator Next Door: The Good Neighbor Policy and the Trujillo Regime in the Dominican Republic, 1930–1945, published by Duke University Press.

Lauren Derby is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is the author of The Dictator's Seduction: Politics and the Popular Imagination in the Era of Trujillo, also published by Duke University Press.

Raymundo González is a researcher at the Dominican National Archives and Social Science Coordinator for the Dominican Ministry of Education. He teaches at the Universidad Iberoamericana and the Instituto Filosófico Pedro Francisco Bonó, both in Santo Domingo.

For purchasing information, see https://www.dukeupress.edu/The-Dominican-Republic-Reader/  and http://www.amazon.com/The-Dominican-Republic-Reader-Politics/dp/0822357003


FashionAfrica online marketing 17july-wpcf 240x350After writing about African fashion for years, noted fashion blogger Jacqueline Shaw has compiled her experiences and knowledge about the continent’s rapidly growing industry into a book titled ‘Fashion Africa’. Due to be released this February by London-based publisher Jacaranda, the book offers a visual overview of contemporary African fashion, seen through a more sustainable and ethical perspective.


 Fashion Africa is a visual overview of contemporary African fashion, compiled with an ethical perspective. This guide is the first of its kind to bring together designers, design companies, ethical manufacturers and more, all with an African connection. In Fashion Africa, Shaw (creator of the blog Africa Fashion Guide) showcases over 40 of these fresh African designers, across the whole continent from Kayobi in Ghana to Brother Vellies in South Africa and Namibia, with specially commissioned photographs and revealing interviews

There is a fashion renaissance going on in Africa – from ready to wear to haute couture, from street clothes to luxury wear. In recent years, the fashion world has seen a flurry of new collections inspired by Africa’s vibrant colours, patterns and textures from the likes of Louis Vuitton, Diane von Furstenberg and Junta Watanabe to name a few. Increasingly, designers and labels are choosing to move the entire production of their collections to Africa. Fashion big hitters Vivienne Westwood, ASOS, Diesel and Edun (the brand label of Bono and wife Ali Hewson) are just some examples of fashion explorers who have found inspiration, sourced sustainable materials, constructed their garments using high-quality, ethical workshops and benefited from exposure in both local and international markets that this vast continent provides. The fashion industry is wising up on Africa’s potential.

These examples of fashion royalty are doing something they’ve hardly ever done before: following in the footsteps of up-and-comers. It is the new young stars of African fashion design that are destined to make headlines in the next few years.  The glitterati are already ahead of the Africa curve: A-listers Heidi Klum, Beyonce, Thandie Newton, Naomi Campbell, Lucy Lui and Kendall Jenner have all been seen in up-and-coming African designers. Bold African prints from newcomer SUNO NY can also be seen gracing the White House corridors thanks to First Lady Michelle Obama.

About Jacuqueline Shaw

Jacqueline Shaw was born in London and since 2001 has worked within the fashion industry in the UK, China, Turkey, and now in jshawafgAfrica. She is a Fashion Designer by profession, a businesswoman, bespoke bridal-wear dressmaker, an eco-entrepreneur and visionary. Jacqueline undertook a BA on Fashion Design at the Surrey Institute of Art and Design and holds a Masters in Ethical Fashion from the University for the Creative Arts (UCA), from which the book Fashion Africa was birthed. Jacqueline has traveled extensively throughout Africa, chronicling the fashion and textile industry and social enterprises across the continent from Ghana to Nigeria and Southern Africa. Shaw is the creator of the popular fashion and textile blog Africa Fashion Guide, which was enlisted as one of the top ten African fashion blogs by British national daily The Guardian.


b italian boys


When a 20-year-old PR from London asked me whether there are Black people in Italy, I killed the first shocked and almost offended reaction I was going to serve her and answered with a rather surprised “Yes.” The girl, who was trying to get me and my friends a deal for a club in Piccadilly Circus, was as stunned as I was. And she explained she was afraid to go to Italy because she thought she would have been the only Black person there

I am Black. And I am from Italy. Ergo, there are Black people in Italy.

But don’t get me wrong, the country doesn’t exactly explode with citizens from Sub-Saharan Africa or the Caribbean islands. There are 3.8 million foreigners in Italy and among them only 870.000 are from Africa.

In this already restricted group as large as the Liverpool population, 7 out of 10 Africans come from North Africa, mainly Morocco. Other big groups are formed by residents from Senegal, Nigeria and Ghana, says a report from the NGO Caritas Italy.

But are there any Black Italians?

I could use the example of my experience again, but it would get old. So I will just say that there are Black Italians. Some of them obtained the Italian citizenship after moving from another country. Others, were born on the Italian soil and gained the right to the citizenship.  

                                                                                                               This is the so-called second generation of migrants.


Source: http://balobeshayi.com

Balobeshayi is also the maker of the documentary (in)visible cities, a long-term documentary on African migrants in 12 cities of the world.


Below are some graphs taken from the Italian Institute of National Statistics (ISTAT), about the number of African registered residents in Italy in 2010 divided by gender.

slave portugal

A significant difference between African slaves in Renaissance Europe  and pre- and post-revolutionary North America is that in Europe, slaves  were more likely to be freed. According to wills, testimonies, and  other documents from the 16th century, owners of black Africans in  Western European countries not only liberated their slaves, but also  often helped them establish livelihoods as lawyers, churchmen,  schoolteachers, boatmen, authors, artists, and more. Renaissance Lisbon  was home to the highest percentage of blacks in Europe at the time,  ranging in status from slaves to knights.

This reality is reflected in an unusual painting made by an unknown  artist, probably from the Netherlands, of the Lisbon waterfront in the  late 16th century, where blacks and whites from a variety of social  strata co-exist in a public square. Read more at www.artnews.com

Carib"In a backwoods town along a river cutting between green mountains, quick-footed men and women spin and stomp to the beat of drums. One dancer waving a knife is wrapped head-to-foot in leafy branches, his flashing eyes barely visible through the camouflage," writes David McFadden in Business Week.

This traditional dance re-enacts the Jamaican Maroons' specialty: the ambush. It was once a secret ritual of the fierce bands of escaped slaves who won freedom by launching raids on planters' estates and repelling invasions of their forest havens with a mastery of guerrilla warfare.

But on this day, descendants of those 18th century fugitives are performing for tourists, academics, filmmakers and other curious outsiders in a fenced "Asafu" dancing yard in Charles Town, a once-moribund Maroon settlement in eastern Jamaica that seemed destined to lose its traditions until revivalists gradually brought it back.

Maroons in the Caribbean are increasingly showcasing their unique culture for visitors in hopes that heritage tourism will guarantee jobs for the young generation and preserve what remains of their centuries-old practices in mostly remote settlements. The basic idea has been tried around the world, from the Gusii people of Kenya to the artisans of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

"If we don't follow in the footsteps of our foreparents we will find ourselves on the heap of history," said Wallace Sterling, the "colonel" of the Windward Maroon community of Moore Town. It is one of Jamaica's four semi-autonomous Maroon tracts, each governed by an elected colonel, a title bestowed on Maroon leaders since their battles with the British army, and a council appointed by the leader.

Trying to counter the endless tide of migration and assimilation, long secretive Maroons are more and more going public with the old ways — singing sacred songs, drumming, making herbal medicine, talking to ancestral spirits, woodcarving, hunting and "jerking" wild pigs. Maroons are credited with inventing Jamaica's "jerk" style of cooking, in which aromatic spices are rubbed or stuffed into meat before it is roasted on an open fire.

The turn to small-scale tourism for income can safeguard the Maroons' future and their cultural identity, leaders say. They say it has boosted pride among younger Maroons and encouraged some to stay in their rural hometowns. Other money-making opportunities are scarce in the communities of modest cement-block homes and tiny shops selling cold drinks and snacks.

"For a long time, it's been very difficult to keep the young people because they tend to leave for the cities to seek work. But now we can train tour guides and our people can sell their crafts, their banana and coconuts," said Fearon Williams, the colonel of Accompong. An annual Jan. 6 celebration draws thousands of visitors to the isolated town, which sits among rocky cliffs and limestone towers in northwestern Jamaica. "Tourism is making us stronger."

A tour bus now comes weekly to Charles Town, a village whose colonel, Frank Lumsden, worked as a commodities trader in Chicago before returning to Jamaica in the late 1990s to focus on his ancestral roots.

There are also Maroons in Suriname, on the South American mainland, where escaped slaves over the centuries built their own African-centered societies in sparsely populated Amazonian forests. Suriname's Maroons also say a broadening emphasis on ecotourism is helping fight cultural disintegration.

"The world is turning into one large village, so it makes no sense for Maroon villages to keep out tourists. Tourists and the money they bring stimulate people in the Maroon communities to produce the products that represent their culture," said Ronny Asabina, a Maroon who serves in Suriname's legislature.

But most acknowledge the obstacles facing Maroons, who are estimated to number in the thousands in Jamaica and the tens of thousands in Suriname. The passing along of traditions and customs from one generation to the next has long been weakened by the lures and necessities of modern life.

In Scott's Hall, a subsistence farming community in eastern Jamaica, longtime colonel Noel Prehay said he hopes tourism can provide a place for many of his townspeople to relearn their traditions.

Prehay said devotion to clandestine spiritual rituals is strong among the town's ever-dwindling number of elderly residents, as is their knowledge of the Maroon's Kromanti language, which is closely related to the Twi spoken in parts of the West African nation of Ghana.

"If a person is mad or if they are sick, we can make a healing dance. Our Obeah is a good Obeah," Prehay said, referring to an Afro-Caribbean religion that involves channeling spiritual forces and is feared by some in Jamaica's countryside, where superstitions about shamanism and the occult run deep.

Carib_maroonsBut visitors are very rare in his poor town along a dusty, rutted road about a 45-minute drive from Jamaica's capital, Kingston. Unlike the other three Maroon communities in Jamaica, Scott's Hall has no museum, dancing grounds or other attractions aimed at tourists.

So Prehay worries that most young Maroons will still continue to leave.

"I think the young people are willing and ready to accept the teaching of the culture. But the continual migration to Kingston, to London, to Canada is difficult," the 70-year-old Prehay said, pointing to surrounding slopes that were farms when he was a young man but are now overgrown with bamboo.

Settlements of escaped slaves emerged in many places in the Western Hemisphere, including the U.S., but the Maroons' biggest success came in Jamaica, where they helped the British expel the Spanish and then turned on the new rulers, wreaking havoc across an island that was then one of the world's largest sugar producers.

The Maroons' name derives from the Spanish word "cimarron," which means "untamed" or "the wild ones." Descendants of the warrior Ashanti and Fante tribes of West Africa, the Maroons became adept at surviving in tangled forests in the mountains.

Jamaica's Maroons avoided open warfare, relying on their knowledge of the terrain, camouflaging themselves with leaves and communicating with the abeng, a cow horn whose call carries for miles.

After nearly a century of fighting, the British finally granted the Maroons formal freedom in a 1739 treaty signed in a cave a few miles outside Accompong by legendary Maroon leader Cudjoe and British army Col. John Guthrie.

But in return for their autonomy, the Maroons agreed to help the British hunt down future runaway slaves. That arrangement may be at the root of a sense of isolation some Maroons felt from other Jamaicans and long kept them living apart. Maroon separatism began to fade with the ebbing of colonialism in Jamaica, which became independent in 1962.

Not all Maroons are confident that relying on tourism can successfully bring back cultural traditions.

"It will take a giant effort if you can find the will. I am not sure that the will is there," said C.L.G. Harris, a highly respected 95-year-old who was Moore Town's colonel for decades and worked hard to modernize the community — sometimes, he says, at the expense of traditional religious practices.

Anthropologist Kenneth Bilby, whose book "True-Born Maroons" is based on years of research, much of it conducted while living in Moore Town in the 1970s, said it remains to be seen whether heritage tourism can preserve indigenous communities.

"It's really quite a complex question whether or not communities can try to develop aspects of their culture and commodify them without also suffering certain losses or negative consequences," Bilby said from his home in Colorado. Some experts fear that cultural tourism can introduce harmful influences or can make communities into parodies of themselves.

Still, the message of cultural identity is reaching some young Maroons.

"What I've learned is that without the culture, you're nothing," said Rodney Rose, Charles Town's 29-year-old abeng blower and museum treasurer who until recently had to travel outside the village for employment. "And while we young Maroons are learning, people from overseas can also learn."

Photo; (b) David Mc Fadden

The original report is at http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2012-07-10/caribbean-maroons-hope-tourism-can-save-culture#p1