Dr. Yaba Blay, professor and scholar of black identities and skin color politics at Drexel, addresses the global unfamiliarity of race via her soon to be released book, “(1)ne Drop: Conversations on Skin Color, Race and Identity.”
After having been interested in the topic of race throughout her life, receiving a Ph.D in African American studies from Temple and conducting a host of other projects relating to the field, Blay began to write her own publication about skin color politics in 2011.
“Race is not something that people are familiar with,” said Blay, professor of Africana studies at Drexel and publisher and Editor-in-Chief at BLACKprint Press.
“(1)ne Drop” is a study of the “multiple experiences of blackness” of people from all over the world, Blay said. It seems that racial identity is more complex than the few options given on personal information forms.
“‘(1)ne Drop’ is this interesting combination of personal narrative and photography,” Blay said.
The research is comprised of 75 people of the black diaspora and the work includes the narratives of 58 of them.
“I interviewed all of them to ask them about their ideas of blackness and their experience of blackness,” she said.
Blay’s desire to know more about experiences of race began early in her life.
“My work is very much connected to the realities that I live,” Blay said. “For a long time, I’ve been acutely aware of skin color politics. I grew up in New Orleans where we have a very large population of people – not black, but Creole people. In that environment, if people have an option to not be black, they won’t.”
Blay said she learned that many identities consist within the identity of being black, and that more often than not, people identified more with their other option than their black option. Her many encounters of the complexities of race drove her to travel around the world and study people who did not readily assume the identity of being black.[blockquote who=”Dr. Yaba Blay” what=”professor and scholar of black identities and skin color politics at drexel”] I’m proud that this book has practical application. [/blockquote]
“I wanted to know what it was like to claim whatever identity,” she said.
Consequently, Blay traveled to South Africa, Brazil and more than 20 other countries, dialoguing with various people to understand their own identities, in spite of their position under the umbrella of blackness and to explore how past ideas of race have translated into current racial identities.
Blay’s main aim of the book is to get people to think critically about the issue of race. She said she hopes that the book will aid readers in shifting their perspectives and question their perceptions on what it truly means to be black. She also shared her desire for the book to actually have an effect on the lives of her audience.
“I know how much and how often we end up reading so much theory and people’s research that doesn’t apply,” Blay said. “I’m proud that this book has practical application.”
By looking at the support and anticipation the book already has before even being released, it seems that Blay’s goal of having her research impact people’s lives has been reached. Via the funding platform Kickstarter, Blay set out to fund her novel this summer, and reached her goal of $9,000 in late August after one week, though Kickstarter allowed for 30 days of funding.
“We nearly doubled the goal,” Blay said. “I was ecstatic that so many people were interested in getting the book and getting the book early.”
She explained that the success in funding her book in such a short span of time was due to her own vigorous marketing of the book, the publicity already surrounding her research due to previous public appearances, and the community of people interested in skin politics that was consequently formed.
“(1)ne Drop: Conversations on Skin Color, Race and Identity” will be available for purchase on Black Friday this year, Nov. 29, at the book’s launch party at The Painted Bride in Old City.
Following the launch party, the book will be available at BLACKprint Press’ website and Amazon.com.
Jameeda Rucker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.