SUNDAY LIST: Perceptions and Preconceptions

Posted on Posted in Inspirations, Jewelry, Sunday List

Two colorful and completely encompassing weeks whizzed by. I participated in the GlobalDesign Jewelry Trade Show in Philly, lugging birch logs and 50 pounds of sand to create a display for my jewelry (see photo below.)

Trade shows seem to be a necessary evil in the jewelry world. Think days of standing behind the counter, waiting and watching as people trickle by. It’s good for one thing – the development of patience. The best though is having the owner of a really cool store (they wear badges so you know who they are) stop short, ask to look at jewelry, then buy into your most artistic (ie. risky) pieces. That store: Max’s (www.stylebymax.com), now carrying my jewelryart line.

This week, at the invitation of the architect, Joan Pierpoline (see past blog), I participated in an auction and gala to support the Time In Children’s Art Initiative, a remarkable organization that enriches under-served schoolchildren with the arts. See http://www.hiartkids.com/fr_timein.htm. In an extraordinary coincidence, I encountered, after 13 years, the woman who’d held my first (and sold-out, if I may quote Kathy here) solo gallery show in New York. She was now co-hosting the event. It was a strange and time-warping moment as so many chapters had closed on our lives, and new unfamiliar ones unfolded in front of us. The last I’d see her was the day after my art opening at her gallery, where I was waiting for my now ex-husband to arrive from JFK Airport. He was flying in from Tokyo. Instead, I received a call from the airline telling me he’d had a medical emergency and that I should meet him at the nearest hospital in Jamaica, Queens. His illness did not last and neither did our marriage, and I never saw the warm, enthusiastic and hard-working Kathy after that. There she was again, on hands and knees in the midst of hanging paintings, elegantly dressed and much the same, though her husband too had changed. Thank you, Universe!

A highlight that evening was hearing the enormous and gorgeous voice of a young tenor, David Lomeli, whom I hope to hear many times over in this lifetime. His voice: a gift from the Gods. Afterward, we spoke and I learned he was Mexican, that his grandmother was a soprano and his first teacher, and that he had been touring the world’s opera houses in competitions and roles. Hear him at the link below, though note that this recording is 4 years old, and he was just 26 years old or so at the time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbuY529PLlM

Well, we got onto the topic of nationality and how he was perceived, being Mexican. He mentioned that people tried to identify him as Italian, to make sense of his talent; that it was somehow inconceivable that a Mexican could sing like him.

A college alumnus once said to me with utter incredulity, “How did someone like you possibly come from Jamaica? And end up at Williams?” I tried to take it as a back-handed compliment. But who was someone like me, and what did this mean for the rest of my fellow-Jamaicans? Like the gracious man working the elevators at the Time In event. Worse, he’d just visited another Caribbean country and thought that his week-long visit was enough to educate him on the depth, complexity, and outreach of another island over a thousand miles away from the one whose beach he’d sat upon. He was not the first, nor the last, to make such statements.

Sure, Jamaica has drug posses just as Mexico has cartels, and migrants from both countries make up a hefty percentage of workers who are undocumented as they are willing to work hard in hot fields, filthy kitchens, demeaning domestic uniforms so as to feed their families and send money to support their relatives back home. Just as both countries have knowledgeable, cultured citizens. I imagine we also have our fair share of people who are unaware of their blinders, and who need you and everything else around them to fit their preconceptions. Like color. Jamaicans like Mexicans like Americans come in all skin shades. Sure, there are more of one shade than another. I, like many ‘yardies’ (as Jamaicans call each other), tend to categorize by behavior, comportment, intelligence as well as integrity – the true warmth or chilliness of a person. Skin is mostly descriptive.

This brings me to another recent interaction. That of the editor-in-chief of an online African-American fashion and lifestyle magazine who was interested in doing a write-up. She contacted me via email to feature me in a Meet the Designer piece, requesting jewelry photos and one of me, and said she would send questions to answer for the article. She also said she was working on a tight deadline. So I sent in the photos right away, and now, two weeks later, I still haven’t heard back even after following up. I wonder: Did she not expect someone so light-skinned? Is my hair too straight? Will her readers feel the same way? Sure, I can ‘pass.’ But the fact is that in the U.S., I am legally black. The one-drop rule applies in most states, and I most certainly have more than a drop of African ancestry. However, it’s easy to ignore those drops in a photograph. Since I ‘pass’ as white, should I also ignore my family members whose drops are distinguishable? Should my darker cousins who also have a kink in their hair, or even more voluptuous lips and noses, not acknowledge me?

Think Obama. Too many only seem to see his blackness. The man’s mother is WHITE. If there really is a black culture in this country, then our President is culturally WHITE. His mother raised him amongst her family members. Imagine if he were to be judged the way that many of my fellow Jamaicans assess him – by behavior, comportment, intelligence and integrity. I can’t think of another president or presidential-hopeful in my lifetime that can hold a candle next to him.

5 Sunday Wishes

1.     That we look for the similarities in others, not differences;

2.     That when differences are evident, we honor and celebrate them for the richness and complexity they bring to our existence; Think if we only had Wonder Bread instead of also Whole Wheat, or even Sprouted Organic Spelt Bread;

3.     That skin color not matter;

4.     That we value behavior, comportment, intelligence and integrity;

5.     That we teach our children the same.

One thought on “SUNDAY LIST: Perceptions and Preconceptions

  1. great blog Anna…I like you are tired of the persistent questions (some of even from other Jamaicans) about me being a Jamaican. I do not pass for white but most certainly do not look like a typical yardie. I do not however suscribe to that one drop rule…as far as I’m concerned is is utter foolishness…I’m not born here so I will adopt the things that make this country great and reject the ones that don’t!

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