Category Archives: Uncategorized

Smiling in the Park

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There’s an adage about a hummingbird that was carrying a droplet of water in its beak, heading towards a forest fire. Asked what it thought it could do to put out the blaze with such a small contribution, it replied (presumably without dropping the droplet): “I’m just doing my bit”.

I’ve always loved that story, and I thought of it this morning as I was jogging through Summerfield Park in Birmingham, smiling at passers-by and saying “Good morning” to anyone who smiled back.

In Salvador, Bahia, the Brazilian city where I lived for nearly 30 years and still have close family, it is customary to say “Bom dia” to people one meets in the morning – indeed, all day long. It may hark back to African traditions, which are still strongly present in that city’s culture. Certainly, it is a Yoruba custom to greet people in the morning by saying “E kaaro”.

In Birmingham’s Summerfield Park, I make a point of smiling and greeting everyone I meet, unless they are (a) staring fixedly at their phones, (b) deeply engaged in conversation or (c) small children who might mistake me for a paedophile.

What I have found is that, no matter whom I greet – black, white, brown, male, female, bearded, covered,  or not – most will smile back. Some even seem pleasantly surprised that a middle-aged white woman is smiling at them.

What started out as a natural exercise in cordiality has become my mission to smile at everyone I meet in attempt to assuage some of the hurt brought on by Brexit-fuelled prejudice (or the prejudice that fuelled Brexit).

Which brings me back to the hummingbird. I may have become, “that smiling white lady who jogs in the park”, but at least I am making my own minuscule contribution to peace and harmony in my community. A small step for a woman, an incremental move forward for humankind?

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Postscript: Yesterday evening, the same day I wrote and published this post, I went to a talk with the “grandfather of Black British photography”, Vanley Burke. Through a photograph he took, I learned that Summerfield Park was the site of a major peace rally in 2011, following riots during which three young men were killed, hit by a car in Dudley Road.

Promoção de livro sobre Manuel Querino e Booker Washington

O livro Travessias no Atlântico Negro, reflexões sobre Booker T. Washington e Manuel R. Querino está disponível pelo preço promocional de R$4,99 até amanhã (3 de setembro de 2018). O valor normal é R$34,99. Promoção válida apenas no Brasil, nos sites da Amazon – http://www.amazon.com.br (Kindle) – e da Livraria Cultura – http://www.livrariacultura.com.br (Kobo)TAN capa final small

Apologies, and moving on

I apologize for the last few posts, publicising my new e-book in Portuguese. I am working on an English translation, adapted for a non-Brazilian readership. I have changed the name of this blog to encompass other topics that might arise. I have recently noticed, for example, that the debate on the supposed Booker T. Washington/W.E.B. Du Bois dichotomy is still alive and well, and intend to weigh into it shortly. Watch this space!

Travessias no Atlântico Negro, agora no Kindle brasileiro

Travessias no Atlântico Negro: Reflexões sobre Booker T. Washington e Manuel R. Querino está disponível no Kindle brasileiro. Veja uma amostraTAN capa final small

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Novo e-book no prelo

Neste livro, Sabrina Gledhill analisa as trajetórias e táticas antirracialistas de Booker T. Washington (1856/1915) e Manuel Raymundo Querino (1851/1923), dentro do contexto do Atlântico Negro. Apesar do prestígio que desfrutaram em vida, suas imagens foram dilapidadas após a morte: Washington com a mácula de “comodista” e até “traidor da raça”; e Querino com a imagem de um “humilde professor negro” de parcos poderes intelectuais. A realidade, como os dois educadores negros que são o enfoque deste trabalho, foi muito mais complexa.

Querino foi uma figTAN capa final smallura multifacetada: pintor-decorador, artista, abolicionista, jornalista, líder operário, político, professor de desenho industrial e pesquisador, fundador da historiografia da arte baiana, defensor dos terreiros de candomblé, sócio fundador do Instituto Geográfico e Histórico da Bahia, inspiração para Pedro Archanjo (protagonista de Tenda dos Milagres) e o primeiro intelectual afrobrasileiro a destacar a contribuição do africano à civilização brasileira.

Educador, orador e conselheiro de presidentes dos Estados Unidos, Washington nasceu escravo e chegou a ser considerado o “negro mais famoso do mundo”. Após a Emancipação, trabalhou como zelador para custear seus estudos no Instituto Hampton, fundou o Instituto Normal e Industrial Tuskegee e tornou-se o líder da “nação negra” nos Estados Unidos, tendo como seu maior rival o intelectual negro W.E.B. Du Bois.

Depois de apresentar o contexto em que viveram e traçar as interconexões entre suas realidades, Gledhill analisa suas trajetórias durante a vida e após a morte. Mostra como Manuel Querino poderia ter acesso a informações detalhadas sobre a vida e obra de Washington décadas antes que sua autobiografia mais conhecida, Up from Slavery, fosse lançada no Brasil, traduzida por Graciliano Ramos. Paul Gilroy, o idealizador do conceito do Atlântico Negro, usa a metáfora de navios atravessando o oceano. Gledhill mostra que as “travessias” também poderiam ser realizadas por meio de traduções e da telegrafia.

 

A “Brazilian” in Blighty

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Photo by wynand van niekerk

 

When I used to visit the UK while living in Brazil, I sometimes found myself doing what I would do in Bahia – like slapping the side of a London bus that was pulling away from the stop in hopes that it would let me on (not a chance, and I found myself stared at). Now that I live here, I am becoming rapidly acculturated. I even think 14 degrees (Celsius) is mild! However, a recent experience has shown that I haven’t stopped being (or acting) Brazilian in Blighty.

When my daughter was visiting me in Birmingham, we went out for an Indian meal with an old friend who wanted to meet her. My friend had advised me to use a particular car park, so when we got there I pulled out the ticket as the gate spat it out, and popped it under the windscreen. I think. As we were walking away from the car, I realised that it wasn’t a “pay and display” but a “walk and pay” system, so I went back for the ticket. It was nowhere to be found. Neither my daughter nor I could remember what I’d done with it after I pulled it from the gate, although I was sure I had stuck it under the windscreen. We tore the car apart. No ticket to be seen. Finally, I resigned myself to paying the full fee – about £16 – and we walked glumly to the restaurant to meet up with my friend.

Hours later, cheered by a varied and not-too-pricey meal at Jimmy Spices, the three of us returned to the car park. While my daughter went back to the car to make a last-ditch effort to retrieve the *&(£$% ticket, my friend and I tried to find someone I could pay to let us leave. The glassed-in office was dark and empty, and for a moment I thought we would be there all night, but then I noticed a light gleaming through a crack in an inner door. Instinct took over and I suddenly slapped on the glass. Instantly, a man sprang out and opened the outer door to see what the fuss was about. “My ticket has vanished!” I cried with all the scene-chewing passion of a Brazilian soap star. “Here, take this,” he blurted, handing me a ticket. “It’ll let you out.” I was confused at first. How much would I have to pay? I tried to validate the ticket but the machine refused to recognise its existence. Finally, I decided to take a chance, said good-night to my friend and drove up to the barrier. The ticket went in, the barrier went up, and my daughter and I drove through. Free of charge. When I told my friend he couldn’t believe it. I still can’t. I wouldn’t try it again.

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,100 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 18 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.