Perhaps another blogger has already covered this topic, but since it's Black History Month and when I was watching Manderlay, it struck me that recent studies on the shifting ethnic and national origin cast of Black America (as Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture's Black Migrations site and similar studies on this topic have made clear) are being reflected in some of the brown faces on screen in Hollywood these days. Each of the following actors was born in another country, or grew up there, and several have at some point played not only played foreign roles (as Africans, as Black characters of indeterminate national origin, etc.), but African-American ones. In fact, I remember that some fans of the excellent HBO series "The Wire" were very surprised to learn that the gorgeous Idris Elba was British and had a pronounced accent (when not in his role as "Stringer Bell"). Marianne Jean-Baptiste, who first came to wider US notice through her superb performance in the British film Secrets and Lies, now plays Vivian Johnson on the US TV show Without a Trace (which I believe also stars Australian Anthony LaPaglia as an American).
Clockwise, from left: Idris Elba [UK], Marianne Jean-Baptiste [UK], Maurice Dean Wint [UK/Canada], Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje [UK]
Clockwise, from left: Thandie Newton [Zambia], Djimon Hounsou [Benin], Richard Chevolleau [Jamaica/Canada], Sophie Okonedo [UK]
Clockwise, from left: Boris Kodjoe [Austria], Zoe Saldaña [US/Dominican Republic], Razaaq Adoti [UK] Adrian Lester [UK]
Isaach de Bankolé [Côte d'Ivoire], Garcelle Beauvais [Haiti], Rae-Dawn Chong [Canada], Chiwetel Ejiofor [Nigeria/UK]
I was trying to think of others who might fit this category; any suggestions?
Roles for Black actors from any background in Hollywood still far too often fall into stereotypes and are nowhere near as numerous as for White actors, but over the last 30 years, things have improved, in terms of there being more films directed (and produced) by Black people, more TV roles, especially on cable, and more race-blind casting opportunities, which benefits not only African Americans and other Blacks living in the US, but other non-American Black actors, especially from Britain and Canada (Rae-Dawn Chong's father Tommy Chong is Canadian, but several of her siblings, like hottie brother Marcus Chong, were born in the US.)
I wonder if there have been any discussions among American-born Black actors about the presence of foreign-born Black actors in Hollywood, and what sorts of conversations have occurred between and among the two groups. Is their presence even on the radar screen? (I know some Black writers and directors have written non-US roles into their work, and for many years African-American actors have played non-US Black characters.) I also wonder if the majority of African-Americans, especially outside the Eastern seaboard and larger cities, realize how great the immigration of Blacks from Africa, Latin America and Europe has been over the last 10-15, and if folks are even aware that these actors are not US-born, though I'd argue that at some level, people may be aware, since there are foreign-born Blacks (and not only just people from the Anglophone Caribbean) living in predominantly Black and non-Black communities across the US. Whether the presence and representation in film and televisual media of non-US born Black actors may be reshaping perceptions is another question, though it's one I think that could and should be posed.
From an email I received from the wonderful Carolyn Micklem of Cave Canem:
Seeking Book Donations
The New Orleans Public Library
(New Orleans LA)
The New Orleans Public Library is asking for any and all hardcover and paperback books for people of all ages in an effort to restock the shelves after Katrina. The staff will assess which titles will be designated for its collections. The rest will be distributed to destitute families or sold for library fundraising. Please send your books to:
Rica A. Trigs, Public Relations
New Orleans Public Library
219 Loyola Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70112
If you tell the post office that they are for the library in New Orleans, they will give you the library rate which is slightly less than the book rate.