My Top Interracial Moments of 2013

2013 was quieter than usual on the blog, but not when it came to stories about race and relationships in the 21st century. Here are the interracial moments that caught my eye (and side-eye) the year:

The Declaration of Kanye West

"And a lot of what the Kardashians do that I don’t think they get enough credit, is they prep America to understand interracial relationships because I'm not talking about me...whatever they say in the barbershop don't matter 'cause I don't get my hair cut there! But, for the people that do get there hair cut there, and if there is like a white woman that's getting talked down to by her friends because, you know, she's dating a black guy, now you got a point of reference...because don't act like interracial relationships ain't been a problem..."
Clearly, I need to spend more time in barbershops in 2014 because that seems to be where all the deep conversations about interracial relationships are happening.  (See also, Cornball Brothas: Two Robs Don't Make a Right and What Would You Do: Black Guy Brings White Girlfriend to Harlem Barbershop.)  

 Charles "Dead Giveaway" Ramsey

"Bro, I knew something was wrong when a little pretty white girl ran into a black man's arms. Something is WRONG HERE...either she homeless or she got problems. That's the only reason she runnin' to a black man!"
I realize that while breaking the story about the rescue of Amanda Berry may not have been the right moment to say this, but instead of trying to muffle laughter (and failing miserably), the reporter could have responded: "Or maybe, Mr. Ramsey, a little pretty white girl or woman runs into a black man's arms because that black man is her friend, relative or heck, her spouse?" One can only hope that Mr. Ramsey will share his further musings on race in his forthcoming memoir.

The Cheerios Commercial

Rarely do I see a commercial featuring a family where the parents and children actually look they could be related biologically in real life.  General Mills took the radical step of depicting a biracial/multiracial child in a family with parents who are an interracial couple. And what happened? All of racist hell broke loose of course; because we've progressed so far as a society; because we have a black President; because New York City has a black First Lady; because I drink my coffee black, because it's 2013, because it's the 21st century, all post-racial everything, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Massachusetts State Senator Linda Dorcena-Forry: MC (Microphone Controller) of the Year

Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe

State Senator Dorcena-Forry on carrying on the half-century-long tradition of the state senator from the First Suffolk District hosting the South Boston St. Patrick's Day Breakfast even though she isn't an Irish-American man from Southie: 
“I have four bi-racial childrenIrish-American and black. I’ve been to Ireland four times. We celebrate the culture in my house. My two oldest sons were baptized in St. Augustine’s chapel in South Boston. I’m not just a random black woman who has this seat.”
To paraphrase: "Don't get it twisted. I am not the one."  

A true gem. Hope lots more people get to hear this story in 2014.

Thank you for another great year of "challenging the assumptions." I wish you grace, peace, and laughter in the New Year.

Nigerian Parents Gone Wild

As a general rule, I try not to give unsolicited advice.

Now, I'm sure certain family members and friends reading this are rolling their eyes right about now (that's right, I can see you, rolling your eyes, through the computer).  If you ask me my opinion, I'm going to be pretty honest; and I'll admit, 'tact' is not my strong suit.  But I know my limits.  I stay in my lane.  I have no problem admitting, "I don't know," or "I don't know what to say," and I'm quick to question self-proclaimed "relationship experts" and "gurus."

From time to time I get emails from you, my readers, asking for relationship advice and honestly, I feel just about as qualified to give relationship advice as I did when I was in fifth grade (although I gave some pretty darn good advice for a 10 year-old).  And I'm also extremely humbled.

This week I'm sharing one of those emails which touches upon one of the most mystifying yet uninentionally hilarious creatures known to man: the African parent.  More specifically, the Nigerian parent.  Let's take a look:
Hello Atinuke,  
I'm sure you receive so many amazing e-mails that you may not ever read mine, but I hope you do read it sometime.  
I'm Shola O.*, a senior kinesiology major at the University of Maryland, College Park. I spent hours reading your all blog posts and about your blog purpose, and I must confess that I love your blog! As a native of Nigeria, I admire your passion in attempting to bring unity, clarity, and understanding between people of various races; I believe unity amongst all people is important.  As I grow older, unfortunately, I'm beginning to see my parents' prejudice and preconceived notions concerning my non-african friends and it makes me sad because I am very interested in interacting and dating a white male. However, the treatment my friends have received, from my parents, makes me very anxious to bring home a white male. It seems interracial relationships are highly frowned upon in the Nigerian community. Do you find this to be true? I'm interested to know how your husband's and your parents/family reacted and interacted since y'all got together?
My response:
Hi Shola O., 
Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to write.  I appreciate your kind words and glad you're enjoying the blog. 
The short answer? No, I don't find this to be true considering that my husband is my parents' favorite child. 
The long answer: Honestly, I've experienced an entire range of reactions.  Like all groups connected through a similar cultural identity, we're not monolithic; so while there are a lot of generalities that apply to us, there are variations depending on who the person is and their life story and social location. 
I have an aunt who lives on the West Coast of the United States and when we visit her, I'm always struck by how for many Nigerians there, outwardly, a Nigerian dating or marrying someone who is not a Nigerian is a non-issue.   
Similarly, as my parents' generation (part of the late 1970s "brain drain" with plans to return) look around and see their kids, nieces and nephews marrying people who aren't Nigerian, but embrace and appreciate aspects of Nigerian culture (even more than some Nigerians mind you -- but that's another discussion for another day), they relax a bit.
But at the end of the day, it's not just about people's outward reaction -- whether they just smile and nod and say the right things or politically correct things.  
Recently I heard a great quotation, "Each person, one at a time," meaning, that although you first approach a person or situation based on your assumptions, at the end of the day you should take the time to know the individual, not the person's "demographic." Similarly, you can anticipate certain reactions from certain people, and sometimes people will respond as you assumed (or worse), and sometimes they may surprise you!  And as a last resort you can send them to by blog or I can ask my parents if they're available to stage an intervention. 
I hope this is helpful.  Best wishes for the school year and I would say "Go Terps" but I'm a double Tarheel so you know...
What do you think? How did I do?  Any advice for Shola O. that I should've included?

*Names and details have been changed to protect the innocent and any of future online dating profiles

Cambridge Performance of 'One Drop of Love'

What do Ben Affleck, Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni, and Matt Damon have in common?

No, all three of them were not in Good Will Hunting (close, two out of three were).
No, all three of them were not in Gone Baby Gone (Bonus point: can you guess which two were?)
No, all three of them were not in Argo (close again, two out of three).

All three are producers of DiGiovanni's multimedia solo performance and documentary film One Drop of Love "which incorporates filmed images, photographs, and animation to tell the story of how the notion of ‘race’ came to be in the U.S., and how it influences the narrator’s relationship with her father."

All three also have ties to Cambridge, Massachusetts which will host a performance on Friday, August 30, 2013 at the James R. Fitzgerald Theater at Cambridge Rindge & Latin School, 459 Broadway Cambridge, MA 02138.

Look forward to seeing some of you there!

Why I'm Excited About ROMEO and JULIET on Broadway

One of my most prized possessions. 

I know what you're thinking.  And no, it's not just because of the interracial casting.

Okay, well, maybe a little bit, but here's why I'm really excited:

It's Shakespeare, duh.
When I spent the summer before my senior year of college studying abroad at Oxford University in England, I had no idea how the months I spent there studying 17th Century Literature and Shakespeare would forever shape me as a student, reader, writer and person.  As a girl whose previous references to Romeo and Juliet were largely "that movie Aaliyah was in" or "that movie with Leonardo DiCaprio," I left Oxford with a deep understanding of the connections between art, literature, poetry, and performance.  It was one thing to struggle through reading Chaucer's old English aloud in a hot, sweaty, college classroom and whole other to be immersed in Shakespeare's hometown of Statford-Upon-Avon, sitting in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre or along the banks of the River Avon, watching productions of the plays you've spent weeks discussing, dissecting, and analyzing during tutorial.  I've been a fan ever since.

Condola. Freakin'. Rashad.
Last fall she had me and pretty much everyone else in the Cort Theatre picking up our respective jaws from the floor in Kenny Leon's production of Lydia Diamond's Stickflyconfirmed by her Tony Award nomination.  Unlike my husband, once I knew Condola Rashad was playing Juliet I cared very little about the rest of the cast:

"Who's playing Romeo?  Who else is in the play?" My husband asked.  
"Oh I don't know...some random guy named Orlando something.  Oh, and that guy from American Idol with the curly hair.  I think he was the same season as Kelly Clarkson." 
"Oh you mean Orlando Bloom? From Pirates of the Caribbean?" 
"I don't know.  Doesn't ring a bell.  Wait, Pirates of the Caribbean? Wasn't that Johnny Depp?"

Needless to say, the production ROMEO and JULIET on Broadway kicks off this Friday, August 24th at the Richard Rogers Theater in New York City starring Condola Rashad as Juliet and Orlando Bloom (not Johnny Depp) as Romeo (and Justin Guarini as Paris).

Do you plan on seeing Romeo and Juliet on Broadway?  If you do, leave a comment and let us know what you thought!

3 Reasons Why I'm Not "Buying" Cheerios

No disrespect to General Mills, but this we roll in the Diver household.

I had a dream last night that I was wandering down the cereal aisle at my local CVS and saw a sign: "Cheerios 2 for $4."  The shelves--what someone might see the night before a major natural disaster, Y2K, or Armageddon--were pretty much cleaned out except for one, lonely, sad box all the way in the back of the top shelf which I couldn't reach.

And then I woke up.

Just a few days ago while attending TEDxBoston, someone asked: "So what's all this Cheerios stuff about anyway?" I explained how Cheerios placed a commercial on Youtube depicting an interracial couple and biracial child.  After confirming with her mother that Cheerios are "heart healthy" we see the father on a couch, awakened to Cheerios poured all over the left side of his chest (he does let out a little scream at the end, is he saying "Jan"?).  

And it appears people don't like seeing a commercial that involves a white actor, a black actor and a biracial child.  Like any good capitalistic society, Americans responded to show their solidarity and support of interracial families through articles, blogs, commercial spoofs, websites, and yes, buying Cheerios.

But here are three reasons why I'm not buying them; the product or the claims.

First, because I'm not paying $4-$5 for a box of (processed) cereal.  Call me cheap, call me stingy, call me "not down with the struggle," but I think name brand (processed) cereal prices are getting way out of control for the average household (unless you are the coupon whisperer or live near a Wal-mart or buy your groceries on Which leads me to my next reason.

Second, because I grew up on generic food, Latin, and British brands.  I have no loyalty to Cheerios.  As a child, the fact that we bought so many "off brand" items (except for beer and processed meats) reinforced the stark differences between the world inside of my Nigerian, immigrant household and the urban, American life I lived once I walked out of our front door.  I wondered why the staples we picked up from the store and kept in our refrigerator and cupboards looked, smelled and tasted so different from the food I saw on television commercials or my friends' lunch boxes (I mean have you ever seen a commercial, in America, on an English-speaking network, for cow's tongue? I rest my case).   

My parents rarely bought "fun junk food" like Oreo cookies, Lays potato chips, Chef Boyardee or Spaghetti O's.  And for a good chunk of my childhood I had "orange drink" instead of orange juice; and what would a good, 1980s, African party be without a cooler the size of a coffin or a trash can big enough for a child to fall into, stuffed to the gilds with ice and the full panoply of Shasta soda cans and a few Huggies thrown in for good measure?  I don't share the America = Cheerios ethos and nostalgia.  Do I identify an American upbringing with Cream of Wheat? Yes. Weetabix? Yes. Bird's Custard, Ovaltine, and Milo? Yes. Cheerios? No, not so much.

And third, because I don't think Cheerios will unclog my arteries.
Aside from babysitting, my first "job" at the age of 13 was volunteering at Washington Hospital Center where my mother worked for several decades as a Respiratory Therapist.  My assignment?  The Cardiac Catheterization Lab where I kept charge over the waiting room while families read, paced, prayed, and waited nervously for loved ones to emerge from procedures that unblocked arteries and restored bloodflow to the heart.  Now I did a lot of eavesdropping that summer and overheard a lot of conversations and advice to prevent repeat visits: exercise...oatmeal...Coumadin.  But no, can't say I ever heard the cardiologist prescribe Cheerios.

But what I can appreciate about "Cheerios-gate" is how it serves as a reminder of an important reality amidst many drinking the proverbial post-racial Kool-Aid: that yes, while in the words of Hillary Clinton James Cleveland we've "come  too far from where we've started from," we still have a ways to go.

I Speak For Myself, And I'm Talking Taboo

When Enuma Okoro asked about my interest in contributing a short essay on what remains unspeakable at the intersection of my faith and gender, in my mind I said: Shoot! Girl! You ain't got to ask me twice!  But my actual email back to her it was more along the lines of,  Am I interested? Uh...YEAH. Lol. And honored and humbled.

Today,  Talking Taboo: American Christian Women Get Frank about Faith officially goes public with the launch of our Indiegogo crowd-sourcing campaign and website where you can sign up for emails and updates as our October 23, 2013 publishing date draws near.  Talking Taboo is the fourth book in the I Speak for Myself Series published by White Cloud Press. 

My essay, Running Into Glass Doors, is one of of the 40 essays contributed by 40 American, Christian women under 40.  I wrestle with my experiences on the receiving end of the church's deafening silence—and at times outright rejection or animosity—toward a sense of professional ambition and calling beyond the realm of ministry or church service.

In celebration of our launch, many of the Talking Taboo contributors are blogging about why they are talking taboo:

I'm talking taboo because I lost my virginity on a Wednesday night in Shepardstown, West Virginia (RIP Chris Kelly).

I'm talking taboo because all I hear are crickets, my heart is beating fast and I'm sweating profusely.

I'm talking taboo because I keep running into glass doors. 

I'm talking taboo because that's how my village raised me.  

I'm talking taboo because I've learned that "courage isn’t waiting for the absence of fear, but doing things afraid."

I'm talking taboo, because I...have a voice.

Learn more about the book, the I Speak for Myself Series, the contributors, and how you can join the movement of truth-tellers and risk-takers at:

Visit our Facebook page for updates on events in your area and on Twitter find us using the hashtag #talkingtaboo

Why Boston?

It's been kind of a rough week.

Many of you know that most of my hilariously frustrating experiences in an interracial relationship take place in the city I call home: Boston, Massachusetts.  I've mentioned the Boston Marathon in a previous post and most recently during my own journey from backslidden jogger to 2012 Boston Marathoner.

Last Monday I spent the afternoon camped out near the finish line of the Marathon, at the corner of Newbury and Hereford Streets, cheering on friends running in this year's race.  The intense noise from spectators was so deafening that a simple phone call from a friend became an an exercise in futility:
After a few failed attempts to get through a wall of people and closer to the finish line, I figured it might be wise to make my way home since I had to catch a flight to DC in a few hours.  Within minutes of taking off, it became the most depressing flight ever.

One word that describes my feelings over the past week?  Conflicted:  Should I keep watching a news station if the anchors can't pronounce the names my city's street names?  Where do homeless people go during a shelter-in-place? What if the suspect had fled to Roxbury instead of Watertown?  Why is All-American Muslim considered an oxymoron?  What would our city and our world be like if we harnessed the same energy and resources used to track down these suspects, to search for every child that went missing?  Is an arrest more like chopping off a branch than killing at the root?

On Saturday morning I had to remind myself that the last six days were not a dream.

"How do you feel knowing they caught the suspect last night?" my husband asked.
"I feel a sense of ease...but not relief," I replied. "Because I still have more questions than answers."