What Does it Mean to be Black?

As symbolized by the second inauguration of President Barack Obama on Martin Luther King Jr. day, many consider America to have entered an era of racial reconciliation. But in this so-called “post-racial” society, what does it mean to be black?

People of African descent reflect a multiplicity of skin tones and phenotypic characteristics. Often times, however, when interacting with people who self-identify as ‘black’ but do not fit into a prototypical model of ‘blackness,’ many not only question their identity, but may challenge their blackness. The multi-platform project, (1)NE DROP, started by  Dr. Yaba Blay, assistant teaching professor of Africana Studies at Drexel, explores the other” faces of blackness – those who may not immediately be recognized, accepted or embraced as ‘black’ in a racially visualized society.
1nedrop(1)NE DROP – a reference to the “one-drop rule,” the early 1900’s law turned social rule that held that anyone with 1/32 of “African Black blood” was black – seeks to challenge narrow perceptions of what blackness is and what blackness looks like. The project ultimately seeks to raise social awareness and spark community dialogue about the complexities of blackness as both an identity and a lived reality. The inspiration behind CNN’s Black in America Who is Black in America?” documentary with Soledad O’Brien that aired earlier this year, (1)NE DROP continues to spark much-needed dialogue about the intricacies and nuances of racial identity, and the influence of skin color politics on questions of  racial determinacy and authenticity.

“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.”

As part of the project, a photography exhibit entitled (1)NE DROP: Fact, Fiction, or Fate? will be on display at Drexel’s James E. Marks Intercultural Center (30 S. 33rd Street) from Feb. 1 through mid-March. The exhibition brings to life this discussion about identity though combination of photography, personal memoir and historical information, literally putting a face and a voice to this important issue. On Monday, February 4, 2013, a gallery reception will be held from 5 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. followed by a discussion with Dr. Blay from 5:45 p.m to 7 p.m. at the Intercultural Center. This event is free and open to the public.

The exhibit is presented by the Department of Africana Studies in Drexel’s College of Arts and Sciences and the Office of Equality and Diversity. For additional information please contact Jacqueline Rios at jsr62@drexel.edu.

Members of the news media who are interested in speaking with Dr. Yaba Blay can contact me at ahm62@drexel.edu.