Greetings Fly Folk! Just wanted to make two announcements regarding Fly Brother, the blog, and Fly Brother, the man.
Image by Paul Lowry
First, the Flybrary is finally up and running. Ever since I started the blog, I’ve had readers ask me about some of the films and literature that have influenced my travels. It’s not at all exhaustive, but the Flybrary lists a few of the most impactful things I’ve ever read or watched: A Death in Brazil, one of my favoritest books in life; Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, my first foreign film (I was maybe 11 when it came on Cinemax’s Vanguard Cinema); The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which I got autographed in Colombia by the wondrous Junot Díaz himself; Eve’s Bayou, which forever reminds me of the moss-draped live oaks and my own Southern Gothic culture. So take a look and keep coming back, as I’ll be making additions every couple of weeks. And please feel free to make suggestions about books, music, films, TV shows, or websites you think I should check out.
Second, if you don’t have a subscription to the requisite lifestyle magazine for every black household – Ebony – then I’d like you to (please) run and grab the current issue from the closest newsstand or grocery store:
Then take a look at page 65.
Yes, that’s me.
I was interviewed by phone a few months back and the magazine compiled my answers into a two-page feature with the fly graphic and fly photos. Sincerest thanks, Ebony, for helping me get lifted!
Journalist and budding documentarian Dash Harris explores the shades of identity and racism in her documentary series Negro, currently in production. The New York-based Panamanian, raised partially in the States and in Panama, studied broadcast journalism and business at Temple University in Philadelphia before heading to the Big Apple and a job in TV news. She left that all behind this summer for a three-week trip to Colombia and the Dominican Republic, where she filmed the first part of her self-financed documentary. Eat your heart out, Henry Louis Gates.
I asked Dash about her motivation behind the series:
I am a very proud Latina. I am proud of the different roots that comprise us all. Growing up my parents instilled that pride and that was because we embraced all facets of who we are. I remember my mother saying to me you have big eyes, big nose, big lips and I think you are so beautiful. Sadly, sometimes, those same things are looked on as ugly. Negro: A Docu-Series about Latino Identity tackles a lot of where these ideas stem from. European colonization, oppression and supremacy can be found the world over and why a lot of these issues are global. The Latino ethnicity is comprised of African, European and Indigenous influences. Unfortunately, many times the African aspect is denied, stifled or falsely made as if it is not part when it is in fact an integral part of our very music, food, religion, traditions and customs.
Part of what drew me to Dash’s documentary – aside from the very subject of the film – is my own personal experience as a black American who has lived in both the Dominican Republic and Colombia, and who has had to deal with foolishness from various points on the color spectrum. I’ve been to a batey (a community of marginalized Haitians living in the DR, usually operated by a sugar company) and spoken with brothers and sisters who were terrorized during Trujillo’s American-backed regime. I’ve danced the mapalé as a school Carnival king in Colombia. What’s always drawn me to Latin America is the pervasiveness of black culture in the overall cultural matrix of the region, unlike in the United States, where we’ve been more thoroughly relegated to our own space. Dash plugs into the shared culture that enthralls me and the ingrained self-hatred that infuriates me.
And the story’s not done. You can help send Dash to Brazil, Puerto Rico, and Cuba to complete Negro by making a donation through her GoFundMe page. Let’s uplift this sister, folk.
For a week now, I’ve been trying to write a post about the decline, nay, decay of my hometown Jacksonville in general, and of the black community that I grew up in, in particular. It’s been hard; I still haven’t figured it out. After this last trip home, I agree even more with my parents’ assertion that integration wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. My mom was, after all, fully 30 years old when the school system in my hometown finally desegregated, and both my parents remember well the benefit of having successful, accessible community leaders in the community. I remember it, too. It almost feels like I’m from the last generation to actually have that benefit, since nowadays, the only community leaders seem to be drug dealers and thugs. Despite everyone else in our family staying on the straight-and-narrow, we’ve got one little knucklehead who just refuses to do right. I say it’s all that hip-hoppin’, gang-bangin’ garbage they’re listening to these days (or is that just me getting old?), since he certainly wasn’t brought up that way. Then, I question my own role as a “community leader” who, while not necessarily all that financially successful, can certainly stand as an example of how staying out of trouble can lead to an extraordinary life. But then, I left the community, too. The reasons are various and justifiable, but the fact remains that I went back to my hometown, observed the sorry state of affairs amongst what should be a proud people, reasserted my conviction to never move back there unless absolutely necessary, and flew back off to my own life. So the quandary, then, is how to have my own life and still serve a community that I do care about and am still a part of. Or is there no longer a place for community-mindedness in “post-racial” America? And who, exactly, is my community?