Sunday, April 27, 2014

Educating Ourselves and Others

June 2, 2014

We (I) see it in tweets and posts all the time. I've even touched on it on POC in Classic Film a bit myself. "Why do black people (girls specifically) know Marilyn Monroe, but not Dorothy Dandridge/Lena Horne?"

Lena Horne (from Quite Continental)

I, for one, think such statements are exaggerated and blown out of proportion--I say this from personal observation. I could actually be wrong, but that isn't the purpose of this post. Let's say that such a statement is true. What exactly are we doing about it? I discussed this another a blog and made a statement like this:

"We get upset that black girls don't know anything about Dorothy Dandridge or Lena Horne or Eartha Kitt, but instead of teaching them--we tell them that they hate themselves and that something is wrong with them. 

Say someone who has grown up in the city visits a family member who lives on a farm. They don't know how to milk a cow--because they haven't been exposed to cow milking. Will the farm-dwelling relative teach them how to milk a cow? Or will they chastise them and do nothing else about it?"

Those weren't my exact words, but that's just about the gist of it. Basically, we're chastising girls and boys (a lot of women and men, too) for their lack of knowledge about our classic stars of color, but we (the people who know some things) are doing little to nothing to change things for them. You can't know or love something or someone that you haven't been exposed to. That's what "learning" is all about. It's time for us all to do a little less chastising and a lot more teaching. 

Below is a list of some material that I believe could aid in the education of those around us--and ourselves.



(Series of books for Children, Teens, and Young Adults)

Vintage Black Glamour Book

Heroes, Lovers, & Others: The Story of Latinos in Hollywood

Works of Donald Bogle

Chinese in Hollywood

Chicanos and Film: Representation and Resistance

Hollywood Asian: Philip Ahn and the Politics of Cross-Ethnic Performance


Images of America

We don't have to limit our learning and teaching to famous people, either! I highly recommend that people visit their local bookstores (Barnes and Noble is probably the best) or Arcadia Publishing's website to check out books from their "Images of America" series:

"Discover hometown history and help your loved ones remember their past in books filled with vintage photographs and images. From the sports lover to the rail enthusiast, from adored amusement parks to alma maters, you'll find a unique gift for everyone."

As the description above states, you can find books filled with vintage photographs of and for just about everything. Your local Barnes and Noble may carry books specific to your area (for example, I'm from Richmond, Virginia, and my family owns two books with vintage photos of African-Americans from the city and a nearby county). Not only can you purchase city-specific books, but you can also purchase ethnicity-specific ones. Chinese in Hollywood is a part of that series, by the way.


Lee and Low Books

"LEE & LOW BOOKS - An independent children's book publisher focusing on diversity. It is the company's mission to meet the need for stories that all children can identify with and enjoy."

 I have to give a special "shout-out" to a blogging acquaintance and co-moderator of mine, Ms. M, for bringing this book publisher to my attention! Lee and Low publishes books that, as the description says, promotes diverse reading, particularly for children of color. These books can be used for your child's private collection, for homeschooling, public/private school, and wherever else your child learns. Lew and Low also provides free reading resources for teachers.

Here are just a few books published under Lee and Low:

Baby Flo: Florence Mills Lights Up the Stage

Paul Robeson

Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story

Rent Party Jazz


A Mighty Girl

"The world's largest collection of books, toys and movies for smart, confident, and courageous girls."

Another shoutout to Ms. M! Here are just a few books available with A Mighty Girl:

Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat: Ella Fitzgerald

When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson

Jazz Age Josephine



Segment on African-American vaudevillians in the PBS documentary, Vaudeville
(YouTube - Part I, Part II)

Jazz (by Ken Burns) 
(PBS Link)

Small Steps - Big Strides: The Black Experience in Hollywood 
(Amazon Link)

(Warning: A photo of a man burned alive is shown for a few seconds in this documentary. I haven't watched it in awhile, but if memory serves me correctly, the image appears when the documentary transitions from WWII era Hollywood and into the 1950s. The pan over the photo, and onto the actual image of the man is very slow--it gives you enough time to realize something graphic is about to appear)


I'll continue adding on to the list as time goes by and I would be extremely appreciative of your suggestions!

Again, a little less chastising and a little more teaching, please. :)

Let's start a movement, shall we?

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