Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of sitting on a panel—it started at 8:00AM!—hosted by the ACLU and Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) at the gorgeous Newseum in D.C. The panel, filmed by C-SPAN (it’s not embeddable) was a continuation of the discussion of CJR’s March/April issue package on media coverage of race, class, and social mobility. The coverstory and panel were moderated by the incomparable author and fellow Journalist-American Farai Chideya. My co-panelists were Jeff Yang, Gene Policinski and Richard Prince.
I could barely hear myself speak, as my ears popped loudly throughout the discussion. The night before I couldn’t figure out how to turn off the AC in my hotel room and fell asleep re-reading a long article about white plight in Philadelphia that was as uninspired as it was superficial. It literally bore me to sleep. I woke up the following morning congested and with a swollen nose, rushing to make it to the venue on time.
The issue that I was most interested in was improving coverage about race, in which class and social mobility are interdependent factors. A major reason that articles like Being White in Philly and If I Were A Poor Black Kid are so banal and outrageously out of touch is because the outlets they are published in are totally gentrified. We know what happens when a community becomes gentrified: the gentry comes in and sets up shopt, builds communities atop of existing ones, rendering the native population invisible. The same can be said across the board in mainstream publishing.
We need more biological/phenotypical, sociopolitical-cultural, and gender diversity in the media—even with writers and editors who identify as white. One of the best essays about race I’ve read this year is from the perspective of a white man (Disclosure: I’m not giving David J. Leonard props because he reviewed by book for HuffPo months later. I posted the article across all social media outlets when it first came out!).
For photos from the panel, visit my Facebook page.
The Dominican Studies Institute at CUNY is near and dear to my heart for obvious reasons. I donated my book to their library earlier this week. They wrote a short review which, in part, states:
Cepeda celebrates vividly her ethnic makeup and with raving honesty; she dissects concepts of race, identity, and ancestral DNA among Latinos by using her own Dominican-American story as a specific example.
Last night I had the honor of being hosted by La Casa Azul Bookstore in East Harlem. I labored through the reading, congested and all, with those in attendance graciously sitting through it all. I cut it short because, well, I couldn’t breathe and read but I’m glad I did. The discussion that followed really informed me. The crowd was diverse and included a group of students from Trinity College in Texas (whose professor says he wants to teach Bird of Paradise… in the near future!), and folks from the community. Thank you to all those that came and a special shout-out to Casa’s… founder Aurora Anaya-Cerda for her support.
LA CASA AZUL: BIRD OF PARADISE… BOOK READING & SIGNING