Black Nannies and White Children (Happy MLK Jr. Day)

There are many good and important ways to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. today. You could go back and read his words, or someone’s editorializing his words, or have a conversation about race and rights in the United States (or abroad, MLK Jr. was interested in international affairs as well). Whatever you do, it’s important to remember that race relations in the United States, while it is certainly evolving, is still full of inequality. Ellen Jacobs explores the uncomfortable and inequitable position of nannies in her series “Substitutes”:


Jacob was especially interested in the economics involved in the nanny-child relationship. “Being a nanny is a low-paying job where love between the nanny and child is one of the anticipated but universally unspoken duties. This is an unusual expectation in a financial transaction,” Jacob wrote. (via


Nannies are overwhelmingly women of color working long hours for low wages and few, if any, benefits. You can see more of Jacob’s work on her website or at SohoPhoto Gallery through Feb 1.

And Now I Wish I Were in Boston

The MFA has a new exhibit up showcasing photographs by Arab women, speaking to the lives of Arab women. As we stand in a sea of bloody images coming out of Egypt and Syria, and on the brink of the possibility of war, let us take the time to remember that we are talking about societies full of human beings full of stories and histories and dreams.



Bullet Revisited #3. 2012. By Lalla Assia Essaydi.


The show, She Who Tells a Story: Women Photographers From Iran and the Arab World, opens at the Museum of Fine Arts on Tuesday and runs through Jan. 12, 2014. You can also check out some of the photos on


After 3o hours in and out of airports, I need some time to recover. Back soon, I promise, but until then, enjoy a Public Health announcement from Filutonu:


Filitonu is Tonga Family Health’s drama group which began in 2000 as part of the Adolescent Reproductive Health project.

Filitonu translates to mean ‘right choice’ in English. The drama group deliver performances to Tongan schools and communities that explore issues that effect the local youth – such as drinking, obesity, violence, peer pressure and sexual health. They also perform entertainment at a variety of local events to raise the profile of the Tonga Family Health Association.

Fili Tonu is currently made up of nine volunteer artists, but is open to the broader public to join. All the dramas are scripted and written by Fili Tonu.

Out of the Archives: Arts, Asia, America

Today, Out of the Archives is looking at Art. Big A art, as in the artasiaamerica digital archive, which saves and displays contemporary art history. I actually came across it looking for Khmer American archival material, which has been difficult to find. There is some politics involved in the process of recording and memory, based on financial ability, the visibility of causes, and America’s  relations with countries. Is there not? Luckily, artsasiaamerica holds some of the work of Leah Melnick, a Jewish American photographer who worked with and documented the Khmer community in the Bronx, NY:

cambodian teenagers

Two Cambodian teenagers and friend

11×14 inches (h x w x d)

This image is from the exhibit “From Cambodia to the Bronx” at the Asian American Arts Centre in 1988. In the center of this image is the late Leah Melnick.


group portraits

Look how different the metadata is for this arts archive, compared with academic library archives! What? That’s not what interests you? But it interests me! Archivists, help me out! While I wait for the cavalry, here’s more on the archive, via the arts asia american website:

artasiamerica is a professional digital archive of Asian/Asian American contemporary visual artists. It is a historical image & document archive specialized in Asian American visual culture from 1945 to the present. Currently emphasis is on artists participating in Asian American Arts Centre (AAAC) exhibition program initiated in 1983.

artasiamerica is a high-quality research tool accessible globally to scholars, historians, curators, artists, as well as an educational resource for college and high school students, teachers, and community members.

In 2006, one of a number of grants from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) to cultural organizations in Lower Manhattan’s Chinatown area post 9.11, enabled us to start the process of digitizing the first group of artists, chosen from over 1,500 files in the AAAC Artist Archive. This picture of the creative presence of Asians in the USA now sees the light of day and is accessible to a national and international public.

Launched in summer 2009, its main emphasis for the next few years will continue to be artists participating in Asian American Arts Centre (AAAC) exhibition program in New York City since 1983 to the present. Artists who have been key for AAAC in exemplifying the subject of Asian American art and the issues that embody the question of diversity in America during the past 60 years are priority for the selection process. artasiamerica will also include an exhibition history section that introduces a timeline of the history of Asian American artists and their relationships with AAAC in the past 30 years.

The Undisputed Greatest Writer of All Time

A new book of poetry by Beau Sia, or as I think of him, the guy who wore that sweater on Def Poetry Jam. It was sparkly, yes? Moving forward in time, to the new book:

the future is not a place
to play pretend with your past.


That’s all, ladies and gentlemen, that’s all! Ruminate on that (I have been. It’s been stuck in my head, which is why I’m sharing it with you)! And then, of course, check out the rest of the poem here. Or pre-order on (if you haven’t already. I know you readers have good taste and keep on top of the news.)

This Week, in Filipino American Heritage Month

The winner of the most-ethnicities-in-one-title-describing-one-man award– Joe Bataan, the Afro-Filipino king of Latin Soul! That’s really something, isn’t it? If you’re in the Washington DC area, talk a ride down the NMNH and find out just how something it is:



The official description:

Come learn about the power of music to move people—to get us on our feet and across borders of race, geography, class, language, and culture. The intersecting lines of heritage in Joe Bataan’s music and identity offer a unique entry point into the lives and community commitments of the civil rights movement and a deeper understanding of the American experience. Born and raised in Spanish Harlem to a Filipino father and an African American mother, Joe Bataan symbolizes the dynamic intersections between Afro-Asian-Latino histories and cultural forms.

Join us for a public discussion featuring Joe Bataan, activist and performer Nobuko Miyamoto, and African American Studies scholar Dr. Jeffrey O.G. Ogbar. With them we revisit the political and cultural ferment and collaboration of the late 1960s and 1970s in New York City when groups such as the Black Panther Party, the Young Lords Party, Asian Americans for Action, and El Comité contributed to dynamic social justice movements, catalyzed largely by young people, which inspired cultural pride, creativity, and activism. Miguel “Mickey” Melendez, author and former member of the Young Lords, will moderate the discussion.

Friday, October 19, 2012
Public Talk: 6:30 p.m. — 7:30 p.m
Performance: 8:00 p.m. — 9:00 p.m

National Museum of Natural History
Baird Auditorium
10th & Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C.  20530

Free and open to the public

More Riot

The literarily lovely Sahra Nyugen has a new book out, one ounce gold. There are several reasons you should check it out:

a. You need something to read or else your imagination will turn to dust and your intellect to crap.

b. I got your wish list. You asked for an Easy Bake Oven and Dalmatian puppies, but I got you some legwarmers and thick socks for the brutal New  England winter. You’ll thank me later. I refuse to wrap secret gifts, sneak them under the tree then give all the credit to an imaginary old white man  who never did anything for me! Your father and I work our asses off washing clothes and painting houses to give you everything you have. It’s not much  right now, but we are alive, healthy and together. Baby, that’s real. (That’s an excerpt. If you like it, go read more. That’s better than me telling you to have faith in my opinion, isn’t it?)

c. It’s pay as you see fit. Get while the getting is good.

Thank you for supporting my friends! Sahra’s a good one!