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The Chicago African Festival of the Arts Reminds Us We Can Celebrate Ourselves and Each Other

by onelove

At the 2017 African Festival of the Arts in Chicago , the black diaspora came together to celebrate the music, art, fashion, dance and customs of their heritage. Walking around the festival held each Labor Day Weekend September 1-4, 2017, one could see diversity in the black community through languages, skin tones, art, music and dance.

African Festival Art

This year the festival organizers were deliberate in creating programming that reflect many regions of the world that represent the black diaspora in the United States.  African Americans represents the largest majority. Black people in the United States come from Caribbean countries like Jamaica, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, the continent of Africa including countries like Nigeria, Kenya, Cameroon, and South Africa. South American countries like Brazil, and Afro Latino people from Central America.  They speak in French, Portuguese, Jamaican Patois, Haitian Creole, Swahili and tribal languages from different African countries.

African Festival Chicago world music

 

The festival opened Friday night with “Millennial Night” that featured popular artist WizKid from Nigeria along with guest Taylor Bennett, brother of Chance the Rapper. Although WizKid canceled due to illness,  his music crosses genres like Afrobeat and Hip-Hop. His song “Come Closer” featuring Drake is a current global hit.

Saturday night, the festival focused on an all day “Reggae Block Party” where Chicago top djs performed. The headliner for Saturday was Wayne Wonder, an award-winning dancehall singer who is known for the hit song “No Holding Back.” Wonder’s performance was rained out, but he stayed an extra day to open for Sunday’s main act Wyclef Jean.



Wyclef Jean, from Haiti, is known for being lead singer in the 1990s Fugees band. He rocked the Sunday show paying homage to black music from the diaspora.  Jean shared how growing up in Brooklyn New York, he got first opportunity to rap with Jamaican dancehall singers. The crowd went wild when he played Caribbean Carnival music, Haitian kompa music, and popular African dance music by P-Square. He sang some songs in Spanish that he had written for artists like Shakira and Carlos Santana. During his performance, tons of people waved Haitian flags along with some waving the Jamaican and Ghanian flags.

African Arts Festival Chicago Wyclef Jean

Another highlight on Sunday “Inspiration Night” was the world music stage where a Mexican American named Lady Sol, performed and taught dancehall and hip-hop dance to an audience. The day was filled with unity among people who culturally are different but share a common root.

The festival closed Monday with a “Soul Fest” that celebrated African American music. The featured band “Heat Wave” are known for their 1970s funk/disco music.

African Festival Chicago Performance

The richness of black heritage spans regions, skin tones, and languages. We can learn a lot from celebrating ourselves and each other. As with any people, black music and culture is influential is worthy of celebration.

We Celebrate When the Most Liked Tweet Promotes Love Over Hate

by onelove

With the recent news where white nationalist rallied and killed one person in Charlottesville, Virginia it is hopeful to hear news that the most liked tweet of all time promotes unity, diversity and love over hate. It is more evidence that we as a society want unity.

Former President Barack Obama who wrote the much liked tweet in response to the Charlottesville terror attack, that killed one woman. The tweet showed a photo of the former president, looking into a window where toddlers from different racial backgrounds looked and smiled back at him. To caption the photo, Obama tweeted these words from Nelson Mandela.

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion…”

As of the writing over 3 million  people liked the tweet and more that 2 million people retweeted it.

 

We celebrate when diversity and unity is at the forefront in society. In times when it seems hate is more common than love, tweets like these remind us that love can overcome hate.



The former president continued the tweet with more from Nelson Mandela and wrote:

“People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love…

“…For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela

We at Unieros will continue highlighting these moments  that bring us closer to a equal multicultural society.

O Magazine Photographs Aim to Have ‘Honest and Passionate’ Conversation About Race

by onelove

In the May 2017 issue of O Magazine, a series of photographs by Chris Buck challenges the concept of race by showcasing white people in roles that stereotypically shown as minorities.

O Magazine photo by Chris Buck

In one of the photographs, a group of Asian women, seated in a nail salon, are getting pedicures by white women. In another photograph, a young white girl stands before a wall display filled with black dolls.

O Magazine photo by Chris Buck

The third photograph shows a Hispanic woman seated in a luxury home getting served by a white maid. These photographs, according to O Magazine aims to challenge and help encourage an “honest and passionate conversation” about race.

The series of photographs appear in O Magazine by Buck who was commissioned to do the work.

“I feel like whenever I photograph someone of color, I have some awareness of the fact that they have a different background than me. One thing I try to do is to treat people to same. If you look at my book of portraits, you see people of color. You’ll see they look just as awkward as my pictures of White people. My portraits are about the vulnerability and humanity of individual people. I want to see that in people of all different backgrounds.”

Conversations about race is often a difficult issue among a multi-ethnic society in the United States. Lucy Kaylin, editor-i- chief of O Magazine said the idea for the race series came from Oprah.  Kaylin said,

“The main thing we wanted to do was deal with the elephant in the room — that race is a thorny issue in our culture, and tensions are on the rise. So let’s do our part to get an honest, compassionate conversation going, in which people feel heard and we all learn something — especially how we can all do better and move forward.”

In addition to the series of photos, blog posts about racism including a post by Monique Truong who wrote about the racist names her classmates called her as a Vietnamese growing up in North Carolina.

As Truong wrote, it is everyone’s responsibility to stand up to the indignities of racism. With photo series as these, hopefully, we come one step closer to a reality where everyone is treated with dignity and humanity.

What Happens After a F*%k Up Caused By Racial and Other Insensitivity?

by onelove

We’ve all read news stories of company advertising gaffes that are insensitive to people’s racial, gender and abilities and culture. In April 2017 alone,  several top companies have had to apologize for their racial insensitivity.  Pepsi for example had to pull its insensitive ‘black lives matter’ commercial, Nivea did the same for a ‘White Purity’ ad and the latest cringe-worthy gaffe came from Shea Moisture hair commercial about black women’s hair. You can read about each of the situations in depth. This post explores what happens to the company and consumers, of these brands after insensitive advertisements.

Public Apologies and Criticisms

Usually after such gaffes responses pour in online from apologetic statements from the company and outcry on social media from the consumers. For example, Pepsi wrote in a statement on its website “Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly, we missed the mark, and we apologize”.

The hope with statements as these is to publicly illustrate the company aims to do better and not repeat its mistake. For the offended, it seems this is time to vent frustrations on social media. Just read some Twitter comments below on Shea Moisture commercial.

In response to Shea Moisture gaffe, a Twitter commenter wrote that Shea Moisture could make a more direct statement the company ‘love, respect, celebrate and appreciate Black Women.’

This Twitter post did not accept Nivea’s apology say that it was not a ‘good apology.’

What Happens Next?

But after these apologies and comments then what? Does the company simply state their apology and go back to business as usual? Does the consumer celebrate the company’s tarnished reputation and settle satisfied in their justified comments?

What I hope could happen is that there are moments after or during these public relations failings and criticisms that each person recognizes one thing – we all f*%k up. Think about it. We don’t know everything. We don’t know every nuance about each other’s racial group, gender, ability levels.

For companies and individuals who want to do better, these moments are opportunities to take real steps to improve.  Most of us socialize and work in homogenous environments which can be breeding grounds for insensitivity those who are different. Perhaps, more companies could do better by simply hiring more diverse professionals that represent minorities blacks and Hispanics, for example, to ensure that they are on the leadership team that helps finalize creative decisions.

Most of us socialize and work in homogenous environments which can be breeding grounds for insensitivity those who are different. Perhaps, more companies in the United States could do better by simply hiring more diverse professionals that represent minorities such as Black, Hispanic and other underrepresented professionals, to ensure that they are on the leadership team that helps finalize creative decisions.

Studies have shown that diversity and the perspectives these professionals bring help companies make better decisions. Individuals who want to learn from their mistakes can actually take initiative to learn a little more about the culture, race, gender, or religious where they have been ignorant. Much easier to learn from each other when we are in the same room.

Find events to meet, have a conversation or sit at a table with more people we don’t know. Shameless plug, perhaps join a Unieros multicultural event or join our conversations online.

The intention to be sensitive to others can be awkward but why continue down the same path until the next time you read about a company’s public or have your own personal gaffe? Learn from mistakes and let the sunshine on those dark places even if burns a little.

Diversity Doodle Wins Big at Google

by onelove

If you want to know what Google thinks of diversity, look at the winning drawing of the Doodle 4 Google 2017 competition. The winning drawing by Sarah Harrison, a 10th grader at Bunnell High School in Connecticut, featured on Google’s website March 31, 2017 shows a group of teens wear sweatshirts that identified their diverse  ethnic, religious  and social backgrounds.

Symbols depicted in the drawing on the teen’s attire include Star of David, Islam Star and Crescent moon, Christian cross. LGBT rainbow, and a young man in a wheelchair.

“I wanted to draw something that I hoped would show that we can all get along well, and that it’s possible for us to be happy with each other,” the 15-year-old told Google.



The annual Doodle 4 Google competition asks contestants to think about what they want to see in the future. The contest also aims to increase STEM education. Harrison won a $30,000 award along with a visit to the Google complex in Palo Alto. Her school will also receive Google Chrome Books and money from Google.

In a statement, Harrison wrote about the wing: “When I started, I was thinking of how there’s a lot of animosity toward diverse communities of people in the world right now. So I wanted to draw something that I hoped would show that we can all get along well, and that it’s possible for us to be happy with each other.”

Dobet Gnahore Entertaining Performance in Chicago

by onelove

World music entertainer and vocalist Dobet Gnahore from Cote de Voire (Ivory Coast) performed in Chicago at Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago.

Dobet Gnahore Band

She sang songs  in French and tribal about Africa, traditions she learned from her  ancestors. The songs ranged from melodic tunes that highlighted her vocal talents to upbeat dance songs that she danced to in high heels.

Watch her preformance of “Cote de Voire” a song about her homeland the Ivory Coast.

Gnahore’s band included a lead guitarist, bass guitar and drummer. The audience clapped along and repeated their call and response sounds.

Born in the Ivory Coast in 1982, Ghnahore has performed worldwide. She performed in Chicago during a three week US Tour. Local NPR station WBEZ and the Old Town School of Folk music presented Dobet Ghnahore concert in Chicago.

Get Caught Up on Black History in a Podcast

by onelove

All of February celebrates Black History Month in honor of the contributions, Black Americans and Black people in the diaspora have contributed to American life. In September 2016, the new National Museum of African American History opened on the grounds of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.  The museum holds objects, photographs, and artifacts that showcase African Americans in history.

Black History Lessons

In a series of podcasts called “Historically Black”, to celebrate the museum’s opening, The Washington Post, interviewed and asked African Americans to share some of their personal objects that connect them to Black History.  Alot of history is shared and discussed in the series.

In one podcast titled, “Black Love Stories” discusses the history of marriage in the black culture from slavery to today.  A participant in the podcast shared and a photograph of her parents who had been married more than 50 years. Historically, enslaved black people were not allowed to marry and when they did the made commitment with rituals like ‘jumping the broom’ to embrace their African roots.

In another podcast, called “The Path of Founding an HBCU”, tells the story of Alabama’s ‘greatest secret’,  William Hooper Councill who founded  Alabama A&M, a historically black college that was founded in 1875 only ten years after slavery was abolished.

National Museum of African American History

A visit to the museum is a must for all who want to learn more about the history and celebrate black culture. Since its opening, the museum boasts more than 750,000 visitors so far. Obtaining tickets to the museum will require some planning as there are scheduled times when tickets become available for groups and individuals. Visit the website here.

Besides online and museum, Black history can be celebrated every day by learning more about black people and their culture through conversations and connections.  Join us for upcoming Unieros events where you can connect with people across ethnicity and race.

 

Best Superbowl Ads That Commercialized Celebrating Diversity

by onelove

Top companies used their lucrative commercials spots in Superbowl 51 to broadcast celebrating America’s diversity. The ads feaured immigrants and their diversity.

Budwieser’s Superbowl commercial “Born the hard way” shared the story of Adolphus Busch, a German immigrant who came to America to pursue his dream and founded  AnheuserBusch beer company.

Coca-ColaCola company’s super bowl commercial called “It’s Beautiful” featured diverse voices singing the song “America the Beautiful” in different languages such as Spanish, Arabic, and English.

Airbnb, promoted its poignant Superbowl ad with the hastag #weaccept. The home sharing company further wrote on its website the following statement.

“We believe in the simple idea that no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love, or who you worship, you deserve to belong.”

Is Your Social Network Causing Implicit Bias?

by onelove

Could the racial demographic makeup of your social networks contribute to your implicit bias? Scientists have proven that hanging out with people from different backgrounds can reduce ‘implicit bias.’

One way to think of implicit bias is the automatic judgments you make about others that is sometimes based on race. It is different than calling someone a racist.

Often it is inevitable that we all have some form of implicit bias due to our upbringing. In addition,  the media and the repeated images they portray can result in us developing biased associations about people.

For example here are some  implicit biases:

  • White is American
  • Disabled is weak
  • Family is female
  • Poor is lazy

One way to reduce implicit bias is to socialize and develop meaningful friendships outside your racial group. Take a look at your social network, ask yourself who is in it? Are you surrounded by a diverse mix of friends from different racial and ethnic backgrounds?

To test whether I could have implicit bias, I recently did a manual audit of my Facebook friends list and discovered that the primary racial demographic in my social network were as follows: 39% white, 30% black, 17% Hispanic, 4% Asian.

With this information, I concluded that my social network is racially diverse due to the friends and connections made through Unieros.

Diversity in Unieros

Because of the Unieros diverse network, I experience and socialize with people who have different perspectives of the world. I learn from things they share, which ultimately help shape my understanding of the each race.

In order to improve diverse social connections, Unieros provides the spaces, places, and a community where you can meet people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds.  We are real people making meaningful connections across racial and ethnic lines.

By participating in our events, you will increase more diversity in your social network.

Join us for an upcoming event.

For further information about bias, watch the POV New York Times video “Peanut Butter and Jelly Racism” to learn more about implicit bias.

 

Kingston Jamaica Culture Food and Music Scene

by onelove

Happy New Year from the island of ‘one love’! On a recent trip to Kingston, Jamaica I enjoyed the authentic food and scenes of the third largest island urban capital city in the Caribbean Sea.

The natural fruits and vegetables are grown  and celebrated in Jamaica’s cuisine. The roots reggae music evokes peace, love and unity despite many Jamaicans are living through economic struggles and hardships.

Naturally beautiful, Jamaica’s landscape is green and hilly with great Blue Mountains in the east. In the hills, there are plenty coconut, banana trees, mango trees and the national fruit tree – the ackee tree.

Jamaica landscape banana trees

Jamaica rural landscape with banana trees

Jamaican Food

Jamaican tradtional breakfast

Traditional Jamaican breakfast ackee and saltfish, festival, fried plaintain, Escovitch fish, bamee and green callaloo

Authentic Jamaican cuisine comes from the land. The national dish called ackee and saltfish, is fried in oil with cod fish, onions and hot peppers. The dish is served at breakfast with iron-rich leafy green callaloo, boiled green bananas, yams and fried Johnny Cakes.

jamaica beach

Kingston, Jamaica beach

Jamaican steamed snapper fish

Steamed snapper fish from the Caribbean cooked with okra

With the Caribbean sea surrounding the island, fish dishes like snapper are also served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

In Kingston and throughout Jamaica, people sell fruits and vegetables from the land along the road and in large outdoor markets like the popular Coronation Market in downtown Kingston.  Fruits sold roadside include the green breadfruit that looks like a large cantaloupe and sugar cane chopped into bite sized stalks are sold in as a juicy snack.

Staddaday interview

Staddaday rasta reggae artist. Watch the interview with Staddaday here

Jamaican Reggae Music

Known for its reggae music, Jamaica’s music scene is a vibrant part of the Jamaican culture. Kingston is the site for the famed Bob Marley museum. I had the privilege to spend time at the Youth Promotion Music Center of late reggae artist Sugar Minott. Inside the walls of the center grounds, are colorful painted murals paying homage to some of Jamaica’s top reggae artists such as Dennis Brown, Mighty Diamonds, Garnet Silk, Tenor Saw, and Bob Marley. Many up and coming reggae musicians work and perform at Sugar Minott’s studio.

Watch the Drive through Kingston with background music “Jah Love Cover Me” by reggae artist Staddaday, whose melodic sounds is mix of Sanchez and Bob Marley.

 

A visit to Kingston, Jamaica is an opportunity to enjoy food and music grown directly from the island and its people.