(1)ne Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race seeks to challenge narrow perceptions of what Blackness is and what it looks like
On Black Friday, Nov. 29, a new book on racial identity by Drexel University’s Dr. Yaba Blay, one of today’s leading voices on colorism and global skin color politics, will be released from Blay’s recently launched independent press, Black Print Press.
To celebrate the release, a launch party will take place at The Painted Bride Art Center (230 Vine St.) on Nov. 29 from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. A concurrent photography exhibition is currently on display at The Painted Bride through Dec. 21.
The book, entitled (1)ne Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race, seeks to challenge narrow perceptions of what Blackness is and what it looks like. By combining candid narratives and photos from 60 contributors hailing from 25 different countries, the book provides a living testimony to the diversity of Blackness. It is intended to spark dialogue about the intricacies and nuances of racial identity and the influence of skin color politics.
A pre-release reading and book-signing with Blay and other contributors to the book will take place at The Painted Bride on Sunday, Nov.10 from 5 p.m. – 6:30 p.m., as part of the 12th Annual First Person Arts Festival. The storytelling event will interweave history with candid stories from participants in the Project and turns the spotlight on living testimonies of diversity. Participants include Danielle Ayers, Perry “Vision” Divirgilio, Zun Lee, Sembene McFarland, Biany Pérez and Brandon Stanford. The book will be available for purchase at this event. The book also will be available for purchase from Amazon.com, beginning Nov. 29.
Blay is an assistant professor and co-director of the Africana Studies program in Drexel University’s College of Arts and Sciences. The book is part of her larger, multi-platform project called (1)ne Drop – a reference to the “one-drop rule” from the early 1900s that held that anyone with 1/32 of “African Black blood” was Black.
“In recent history, many Americans have used the term ‘post-racial’ to describe the state of current U.S. race relations, somehow suggesting that we have ‘gotten over race’ or that we no longer have racial issues,” said Blay. “What (1)ne Drop demonstrates is that concerns about race and what ‘box’ people fit into are as important now, as it was when the country instituted the one-drop rule.”
The Project, which includes an online and traveling photography exhibition, ultimately seeks to raise social awareness and spark community dialogue about the complexities of Blackness as both an identity and a lived reality. The Project was the inspiration behind “Who is Black in America?”, the fifth installation of CNN’s Black in America television documentary series with Soledad O’Brien in 2012, on which Blay served as a consulting producer.
“(1)ne Drop offers an eye-opening look at issues that many of us too often take for granted,” said Amy DuBois Barnett, editor in chief of Ebony magazine. “Blay broadens our ideas about what counts as Black and challenges readers to rethink Blackness not only as a category but as an experience. As a biracial Black woman, I think this book is not only a must-read but a must-share.”
Actor Nicole Ari Parker said, “This book reveals that even though racism has a stronghold on our bodies and minds, a healing is at hand. People everywhere are taking the time to learn about and claim the fullness of themselves, one drop at a time. With each page, another tablecloth in the proverbial Big House is shaken off, and the crumbs of our systematically dismantled identity are powerfully, lovingly and proudly pieced back together, all over the world.”
Blay received her doctorate in African American studies and a graduate certificate in women’s studies from Temple University in 2007. Her research interests include skin bleaching, the politics of Black embodiment (skin color/hair), Black identity, Africana cultural aesthetics and aesthetic practices, issues of gender in Africa and the Diaspora and global Black popular culture. Blay is the recipient of a 2010 Leeway Foundation Art and Change Grant.