Posts filed under education

Biracial is more than Black & White


We had the pleasure of meeting Jovonna Joskdiesel Rodriguez at our 3rd Open Photo Shoot at the Decatur Book Festival (as part of art|DBF, an art and culture showcase within the festival).  She along with over 100 other people were photographed by a team of photographers from across the city who partnered with 50 Shades of Black for the special event.

Since then, Jovonna has been a strong supporter of 50 Shades of Black and engages regularly on our Facebook Page .  Recently she shared a link with us to a deeply engaging, critical, and nuanced article titled Coming Out as Biracial by Stephanie Georgopulos.  We began to exchange back and forth and ultimately Jovonna generously offered these affirming words about 50 Shades of Black.  We are sharing them with you today with her permission.  We are so grateful today for Jovonna.

We are so grateful for you as well.  Share with us your thoughts, critiques, stories.  We'd love to feature them on one of our many platforms for affirming beauty and exploring sexuality and skin tone in the formation of identity.

Posted on November 1, 2013 and filed under community, education, personal stories, race, skin tone.


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Out of one, many.   

 #50 Shades of Humanity

Well-Preserved Find 1.8 Million Years Old Drastically Simplifies Evolutionary Picture

The skull offers evidence that humanity's early ancestors emerged from Africa as a single adventurous species, not several as believed, dramatically simplifying human evolution, an international research team said Thursday. -Wall Street Journal

The skull—the most complete of its kind ever discovered—is "a really extraordinary find," said paleoanthropologist Marcia Ponce de Leon at the University of Zurich's Anthropological Institute and Museum, who helped analyze it. "It is in a perfectly preserved state."

Read Complete Article at


Posted on October 18, 2013 and filed under africa, education, history, race.

Today In History: James Meredith Integrates University of Mississippi

  Integration at Ole Miss:   James Meredith walking to class accompanied by U.S. marshals. The men flanking Meredith are U.S. Marshal James McShane (left) and John Doar of the Justice Department (right) October 1, 1962  Photographer:   Marion S. Trikosko for U.S. News & World Report Source: Library of Congress

 Integration at Ole Miss:  James Meredith walking to class accompanied by U.S. marshals. The men flanking Meredith are U.S. Marshal James McShane (left) and John Doar of the Justice Department (right) October 1, 1962 Photographer: Marion S. Trikosko for U.S. News & World Report Source: Library of Congress

What do you see when you look at this photo? 

There is an entire novel I could write based on the characters in this photo alone.  The tight lipped scowl on the face of U.S. Marshall James McShane on the left, the disheveled appearance appearance of John Doar on the right whose suit seems to bear the discomfort of the mounting tension of the day.  I could write a horror film about the lurking presence of the two men behind Doar's left shoulder -one's soulless stare haunting me the more I look at it.  I see a mob -a mixture of men with white government issued hats and those who sans the presence of those hats would not hesitate to do what mobs of men have done to men like the one in the middle for years.

Then there is James.  James Meredith.  The look of poise and determination on his face is seemingly poetic.  In a photo where every nearly every person who is immediately surrounding him is looking down or who have eyes that have appear hollowed, stands a man with poise -the knot of his tie flawless.  What was he thinking?  Where did he get the courage?  When will we?

On this day (October 1) 51 years ago, James Meredith forced the United States Government and President John F. Kennedy to not feel settled with having signed laws that ensured the civil and human rights of all people.  By carrying out his mission of enrolling and thus integrating the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), he would consequently pressure the government to enforce those laws.  Up to this point, Ole Miss had been a whites only school and it had absolutely no intentions of changing that.

There is so much to learn about the months, days, moments leading up to this defining moment and the riots and deaths that ensued.  Learn More at  

creator of 50 Shades of Black

Posted on October 1, 2013 and filed under activism, education, history, race.

50 Shades of Black - Book In Production

Book Cover-web.jpg

Ladies & Gentleman, It's official. A Book Is About to be Made.

ORDER TODAY Book Release June 22. Details to Come.
(More Tears)

Part 1: Why the Kenyan lioness should listen to the Jamaican hummingbird’s tunes lamenting “politricks” of yesteryear.

On December 3rd, 1976, Bob Marley, his wife Rita and some friends were wounded by gunmen at his home in Kingston, Jamaica and in 1980 Jamaica saw close to 900 murders: what’s the connection? In 1976 and 1980 there were bitterly contested national elections between the People’s National Party and the Jamaica Labour Party.

The last few general elections have not been mired by as much violence. Everyting hasn’t always been irie during Jamaican elections. Jamaica’s experience with election violence in the post colonial period offers salient lessons to be imparted to Kenya and other countries that experience a high incidence of violence and murder during elections from Jamaica’s reduction of election violence incidence through distrust of “big man” politics and forging of a strong national identity.

As I write this I’m attending a daylong conference on Kenyan election violence: “Fragile Democracy? The 2013 Kenyan elections between reform and regression”.  Although two very different places I see some parallels between the two situations based on my conversations over the years with Kenyans and following the news coverage of Kenya’s recent elections. The memories of the over 1000 of Kenyans who were murdered in the aftermath of 2007 election and the haunting conversations that I had with Kenyan friends are still very much present.

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Crystal  was one of my first friends in college. We instantly clicked. An 18 year old me was utterly fascinated with anything African. She was the first Kenyan woman I met, and to finally get to have conversations about all the things I read about Kenya as a teenager was bliss for me. She was surprised by my knowledge of Kenya’s history, I remember how taken a back she was when I was asking her about Jomo Kenyatta, the Swahili coast and asking her about the tensions between Kenya's many ethnic groups. A few weeks into our freshman year she introduced me to Njeri and Wangari, two of her friends who were going to Salem College, another school in Winston-Salem. I also became good friends with the both of them. I loved hearing them speak Swahili –mellifluous is how I’d describe it—I remember them telling me that they liked my accent, and we all loved reggae and dancehall. To this day whenever I hear Brown Skin by Richie Spice, I think of these three Kenyan friends and remember how we bonded over cultural exchange.

The first time I realized the centrality of the ethnic identity to Kenyan political sentiments was in the run up to the 2007 presidential elections. It was at this juncture that it was clear that Wangari and Njeri were Kikuyu and Crystal was Luo. Crystal was very vocal about her support for Raila Odinga, who like her was Luo and a close family friend. She exhibited almost blind support and was effusive in her praise of the man and exhibited unwavering belief that Raila’s victory was imminent. I still remain somewhat scarred by the conversations I had with the three of them in the initial stages of the violent social upheaval in the aftermath of an election marred with irregularities and where Odinga is believed to have been robbed of the presidency. Needless to say Crystal was shattered.

Fast forward five years. We are now 23 year olds. You can imagine how much of a shock it was for me to hear that Crystal had relinquished her job with the EU in Nairobi to become campaign manager for a Muslim candidate from Northern Kenya. Say whattt???!!! This surprised me on so many different fronts, I had to get to the bottom of this what had changed about how the Christian Luo woman saw herself to make this unexpected turnabout. Had her “Luoness” waned???  A hundred more thoughts had come and gone in a matter of minutes. And, then we Skyped.

The course of that conversation made it  clear that both of us had matured as political beings, no we had evolved. The naiveté, unbounded idealism, and the political views and attitudes inherited from our parents had in some ways evaporated or undergone some critical assessment and reworking. This bodes well for Kenya’s future. This is political maturation both at the micro and macro levels. During the conversation that ensued I told Crystal that Kenya and other countries that have to contend with social divisions and high levels of social inequalities and resulting outbursts of conflict such as election violence could learn from Jamaica.

To be continued…See Part II here.

Posted on May 2, 2013 and filed under music, history, education.

Ross Oscar Knight Brings 50 Shades of Black, Ethics, & Art Together at Emory University

I have the great pleasure of working with amazing artists on a daily basis.  As the Director of the Ethics & the Arts Initiative at the Emory University Center for Ethics, I have the pleasure of working with artists across artistic disciplines whose work (like this project) address social issues and is used as a vehicle for positive social change.  50 Shades of Black has also exposed me to an entirely new set of  talented artists and has allowed me to build personal relationships with them that I otherwise may not have been able to build.

This isn't exactly the case though with Ross Oscar Knight, though.  Based in Atlanta, but with suitcase packed to travel to any part of the world at any given time, Ross and I go back to pre 50 Shades of Black days.  To have him play an intimate role in its development and future means a lot to me.

Tonight both worlds come together with Ross because he is a featured artist for both the  Ethics & the Arts Program and for 50 Shades of Black.  His exhibit Beauty in the Face of Destruction is a set of breath taking images taken in post earthquake Haiti.  Having returned from a second trip to Haiti less than 2 weeks ago, Ross will have fresh insight and (I'm sure) renewed zeal for the country and the people who embraced him while he was there.  Learn more about Ross on our Featured Artist Pages.

Related Article From KNIGHT Blog >> Ross Oscar Knight Haiti Exhibit Toured by International Visitors to Emory University


Opinion Editorial by 50 Shades of BLACK Creator feature in local newspaper

Opinion Editorial by 50 Shades of BLACK Creator feature in local newspaper

Earlier this month I made a post on Facebook, and it stirred quite a conversation.  It was picked up by The Blackshear Times when the paper's editor saw the original Facebook Post.

Look. I get it. Almost anybody would have said no. This is a crazy world and unfortunately you can't be too careful...much less when u are a woman, visibly pregnant, and out of breath from walking from the grocery store and carrying a gallon of milk...slipping with every step from the grasp of your now aching finger tips. But regardless of the almost inevitable response of no and the inevitable scorn of a grandmother who was more than ready to hand off a very cute but super active two year old, I had to turn around and at least offer my assistance. Getting out of the car 100s of things were going through my mind: don't run across the street toward her too fast or she will feel threatened. Fix your coat so u don't look creepy. Speak softly so u don't seem too aggressive...and then there was the moment. This was a white woman and no matter how careful you approach or how straight your coat is or what tone of voice you use there isn't much you can or should try to do to squelch any apprehension she may have that may unconsciously arise when she sees the color of your skin..when the fact that an unsolicited black male is approaching her. Deep breath. Slow pace. Speak: "I'm sorry ma'am I could see from a distance that you may have been struggling to make it to your destination. I just wanted to stop to offer you any assistance that I could". After a somewhat startled look at first a tired, weary, and uncertain voice replied slowly "I'm ok. Just a long walk". I returned to the car at the same pace as I had left it. My only consideration now was not getting hit by a car and not getting in a wreck trying to quickly get home. I talk to my students all the time about how race plays out in our consciousness in sometimes startling and in sometimes subtle ways. I try to explore ways to discuss more difficult to explain concepts like privilege. To this day, I don't have a perfect definition but I think that I can use today as an example to illustrate a number of different things and to meditate on my own life and how even I am victim and perpetrator within a very complex system in this society of race understanding. To be clear the woman bears not burden of guilt, condemnation, nor is she the key to understanding white privilege in this scenario. But maybe privilege in a very anecdotal definition is: when getting out of your car to cross a street to help a pregnant woman (in any way you can) of all the things that we would all jointly consider before we approach her as to not make her feel too uncomfortable, the color of your skin is not one of those considerations. -Carlton Mackey (02/01/2013)

Read Edited Version as printed in the Blackshear Times

What are your thoughts?

Carlton Mackey is the Creator of 50 Shades of BLACK -exploring sexuality and the complexity of skin tone in the formation of identity.

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