ADVANCE PRAISE FOR (1)NE DROP
The one-drop rule has policed life both across and within the color line for centuries. Blay brilliantly and lovingly reframes our visions on the strength and vitality of our visual diversity.
Mark Anthony Neal, author Looking for Leroy: Illegible Black Masculinities
I want everyone to read (1)ne Drop, to study the portraits of “Black,” “Black/Guyanese-American,” “Black Puerto Rican,” “Black of Mixed Heritage” individuals. Let their stories sink into you. Let these maps of family histories draw themselves upon your brain. I want people to stare at these photos, at the lips and noses and hair. And all the while, listen to your inner conversation about race without judgment. Let the complexity of how we see each other and ourselves rise up and conquer the failure of imagination and humanity that is racism.
Bliss Broyard, author of One Drop: My Father’s Hidden Life — A Story of Race and Family Secrets
It has become quite chic to write off discussions of racial identity as passé — so very ’90s and just so “Next!” (1)ne Drop chin-checks that hasty notion. Hard. Combining meticulous and refreshingly soul-sensitive research with truth-telling portraiture, Blay and her contributors complicate stagnant understanding of Blackness in the 21st century by forcing readers to confront, both visually and intellectually, the inaccuracy of the African American monolith. Highlighting the impact of immigration, transnationalism, culture, ethnicity, and immigration on the alleged black-and-white-ness of the U.S. racial narrative, these poignant testimonies reassert that the lived experience of Blackness is far more than a mere social construct. Thankfully, Blay has harnessed a bit of its potential to offer America a far more nuanced and generative understanding of herself.
Joan Morgan, cultural critic, writer, and author of When the Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip-Hop Feminist Breaks it Down
With (1) Drop, Dr. Blay has assembled a series of personal narratives on race identification that immediately activate the reader’s own anxieties, subconscious generational fears and righteous modern day cultural agendas. She also raises fresh questions about the power of words used to describe the color of a person: black, white, brown and ‘yella.’ Words that describe tone: light, dark, mixed…and how these words are STILL needed to describe one’s nationality or faith: African, American, Haitian, Puerto Rican…Muslim, Jew… For example, even though he identifies as “a Black man,” one would describe my husband as the mixed light-skinned Black child of a Black Ghanaian father and White German Jewish mother. That’s a whole lotta words to put next to a box. But, Dr. Blay reminds us that when examining the political history of this country and all the races of people who were sacrificed to build it, these random adjectives ironically pointed to only two far more serious ones: free or enslaved.
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.
Nicole Ari Parker, actor
The humanity of Africa is always implicated in systems of racial classification all over Africa, the Americas, Europe, and Asia. This challenge in the United States has presented itself in colloquial terms as the “one-drop rule.” How and what diversity means is problematized by the real life experiences of people who are branded with having one drop of black blood or blood that supposedly originated in Africa. The absurdity of this system is reflected in the fact that all humans come from Africa, that we know the process in which melanin is transmitted from one human being to another, and that we know that the content of melanin in ones skin has nothing to do with their mental or physical capacities.
Blay has done us a great service by focusing her piercing intellect on the parameters of racial classification systems as practiced today within an international context. The world is smaller, what it means to be Black is in flux, and she helps us understand this process by brilliantly revealing a number of cases and stories from around the world.
Tukufu Zuberi, Lasry Family Professor of Race Relations and Professor of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania and host of the PBS series History Detectives
(1)ne Drop shatters the notion of a singular or unified Black experience. Blay’s academic and personal analysis provides the historical perspective, while Théard’s deeply engaging portraits tell stories of their own. The first-person accounts of lived Black and Multiracial experiences raise a mirror to a new Black America, more diverse and dynamic than ever before. The focus on identity, history, and meaning make it a crucial book for anyone interested in understanding Multiracial experiences today.
Margaret L. Hunter, author of Race, Gender, and the Politics of Skin Tone
I found it difficult to contain my blood from boiling over as I read about the struggle and pain that so many have endured, and are continuing to suffer globally over the issue of color and racial identity. Sadly, in this age of Barack Obama and Trayvon Martin, the conversation on the issue of race, is still very relevant and needed. I salute Professor Blay for revisiting this ever growing and thought provoking discussion. The historic and the dynamic portraits captured by Noelle Théard complemented and gave light to this very significant subject.
Jamel Shabazz, photographer, urban anthropologist, and author of Back in the Days
Before reading (1)ne Drop, I can’t remember when any other book made me stop, consider and then dismiss beliefs I had with every single page. Many books preach to the choir, reminding us why we agree with something, but that is impossible here as each testimony is so nuanced and so personal that it is impossible to make sweeping judgments or stand behind old modes of thinking. Instead, Blay shows us the expansiveness of identity and reminds us that categories work for things, not people and their complex histories. (1)ne Drop is a new telling of the consequences of one of America’s oldest pathologies and should be required reading for all who think they “get” this thing called race.
Ayana Byrd, co-author of Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America
(1)ne Drop offers an eye-opening look at issues that many of us too often take for granted. 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.
Amy DuBois Barnett, Editor in Chief, Ebony
(1)ne Drop: Shifting the Lens of Race is a gorgeous and evocative book. Through personal narrative, photographic portraits and an astute historical backdrop, the reader is brought on a journey exploring both the borders and the depth of the complicated racial category “Black.” The book is at once intellectually and politically challenging as well as emotionally powerful. Tears, laughter and life transforming ideas blossom on page after page. I highly recommend One Drop to anyone interested in race, identity and humanity.
Imani Perry, professor at Princeton University’s Center for African American Studies and
author of More Beautiful and More Terrible: The Embrace and Transcendence of Racial Inequality in the United States
An engaging contemporary read about history and identity that makes visible the joy and pain of this age-old topic. The poignant first-hand accounts read like pages of a personal diary, with each contributor capturing the humanity found in small instances and the instability of home life. Some reflect on social issues, while others share personal struggles. What emerges is a remarkable book that negotiates the complexities of life stories on race. This thoughtful collection also makes visible these powerful stories through environmental portraits, many produced by the amazing Noelle Théard. This eye opening book is a must read by all!
Deborah Willis, author of Posing Beauty: African American Images From the 1890s to the Present
(1)ne Drop: The Shifting Lens on Race is one of those rare photographic book projects that provides a coherent and relevant connection between its subjects and the project’s theme—in this case, the fluid concept of race. In her short yet concise and illustrated introduction—that is destined to be part of classroom curriculums on race for years to come—Dr. Blay elucidates the historical foundations of racial classifications within the paradigm of global white supremacy, and explains how they continue to impact the lives of people of color today.
The vibrant photographs of Noelle Théard, combined with the poignant personal narratives by the subjects from across the globe, leave viewers more than just intrigued, but also transformed by how each subject navigates his or her own identity. With beautiful narratives that complement and sometimes contradict each other, these personal stories reinforce Dr. Blay’s introduction and vice versa.
(1)ne Drop is a powerful exposé into the perception, classification, and identity of people across the vast African diaspora. The work reminds us that racialization—whether as African, Black, or Mixed—still remains a salient component of the human experience. Accessible to both the casual reader and scholar alike, (1)ne Drop is an invaluable contribution to the photographic arts, the social sciences, and the burgeoning field of critical mixed race studies.
Steven F. Riley, MixedRaceStudies.org
(1)ne Drop is a quintessential milestone in the American identity journey. This compilation of narratives from a co-op of contributors provides a profound work of literature, one that is destined to redirect the flow of racial discourse commensurate with the 21st century and beyond.
Ronald E. Hall, co-author of The Color Complex: The Politics of Skin Color in a New Millennium
(1)ne Drop is very relevant because we all need to know and embrace our own history and take a closer look at how we perceive each other and the damages we may cause. (1)ne Drop is an open and honest dialogue that will hopefully begin the shift in our thinking about race and skin color. It is imperative that we teach our children to let no one dictate who they are. We are all one human race.
Marc Baptiste, fashion and celebrity photographer