Thursday, June 20, 2013

Moving

WE’RE MOVING!

The Multiracial Advocacy BLOG is moving. To be more convenient to our members and those who read our blog, we are relocating on Saturday, June 22!

We will be located within our Project RACE website. Please visit us at www.projectrace.com/blog.

Be Sure to Bookmark our New Home

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Project RACE Loves Cheerios 1.0


I'm sure you have heard about the craziness around that Cheerios ad with an interracial family. My family loved it and was pretty shocked that there are still people who are so bothered by families like ours. My family is awesome! We love each other a lot. We are really close. We have so much fun together. We make each other better.  In other words, we are exactly what a family is supposed to be.

We came up with a bunch of ideas for Cheerios commercials of our own in support of General Mills and in response to the crazy people who somehow think we are different than they are. Here's one that my sister, former Project RACE Teens President Kendall Baldwin, and I shot for fun yesterday. We hope you like it and look forward to sharing some others with you soon!

- Karson

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day to dads like Darius Rucker, featured on this week's cover of Parade <www.parade.com>. The picture below is of  Rucker with his family.

Travis Dew

Source: Parade 

Cheerios Ad Parody


A new parody on the Cheerio's commercial is showing up all over the Internet. See it here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=gwReRl4Z7EQ

Thursday, June 13, 2013

MULTIRACIAL COMMUNITY: ZERO

Census Bureau: 3 ½ Million Counted—Multiracial Community: ZERO

Most people believe that the United States Census Bureau (CB) sends them a census form every ten years, compiles the data from those forms, and their work is done. Not so fast. The CB also takes a nationwide survey every year called the American Community Survey (ACS). The results of the latest ACS were revealed yesterday.

The CB did NOT use any classification to identify the multiracial population. This is a huge blow to the multiracial community. We were assurance by the CB and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that the classifications would remain the same as they were for the 2010 Census.

Our federal government has, once again, rendered multiracial people invisible. To say there may be an undercount of the multiracial population is a gross understatement.

Along with their actions being wrong on so many different levels, I wonder where our community is on this. Does anyone care or has the multiracial population become so apathetic toward the issue of appropriate racial and ethnic classification that it has lost its way completely? WAKE UP!

Our position at Project RACE has always stated that if the CB was going to collect population statistics at all, they needed to provide accurate data for our racial group. The CB’s American Community Survey tagline is: “A New Approach for Timely Information.” No kidding. That new approach got rid of any hope for the multiracial population.

Where are the other advocates? Eric Hamako is supposed to be representing the multiracial community on the Census Bureau’s National Advisory Committee (NAC) on Race, Ethnic, and Other Populations. Does he actually understand what happened on his watch?

Where are the academics? I know of at least one that was in an online chat room (still) taking pot shots at Project RACE and me, specifically. Another was tweeting about nothing.  At that same time, I was quickly reading about the population survey debacle and contacting the Census Bureau.

The survey figures came from 3 ½ million Americans. How could they not count the multiracial population? Does the multiracial community really not care to fix the government’s obvious discrimination and racism towards us? If that is the case, we might as well not exist at all. We are already invisible in the eyes of our federal government.   

Susan Graham








Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Multiracial Community Excluded from Population Data!

The Census Bureau embargoed its release of the American Fact Finder population estimates until tomorrow, June 13. The embargo was broken for the area of Washington DC only. From those estimates and the Census Bureau spokesperson quoted below, there is no way to include the multiracial population. In other words, they report in five major categories (White, Black or African American, American Indian and Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander) using "Race Alone or in Combination." If they are using some "formula" to reclassify multiracial people, we do not know what it is. We have been assured that we would be given the data on multiracial populations since the 2000 Census.

Apparently the US Census Bureau does not understand that being multiracial means that your races are all equal and no one race is considered "primary." We continue to try and educate them. More on this tomorrow as we obtain additional information. 

District grows younger and more white, census statistics show

The District is growing progressively younger and whiter, as a steep rise in the number of young white adults has outpaced the growth in African American residents, new census statistics show.

The city gained about 6,500 non-Hispanic whites in 2012, accounting for almost half the year’s total growth, and they now make up 35.5 percent of the District’s 632,000 residents.

In contrast, the city last year gained 1,700 non-Hispanic black residents, who make up 48.6 percent of the population. If the 9,300 black Hispanics who live in the city are counted, African Americans maintain the slight majority of 50.05 percent.

One in 10 residents is Hispanic, both black or white, while Asians account for less than 4 percent of the population.

The 2012 population estimates from the Census Bureau show a continuation of trends that have dramatically changed the District’s demographic characteristics over the past decade. Although African Americans remain the largest single resident group, their numbers have been on a long slide since the peak in 1970, when seven in 10 District residents were black and people proudly said they lived in “Chocolate City.”

Over a little more than a decade, the city has rebounded and reversed a population slide that began after residents started moving out to the suburbs. In the past two years, the city’s population has soared by about 30,000 people. That is 10,000 more residents than it gained in the decade preceding it.

The shift has been as much generational as racial. The bulk of the growth since 2010 has been among people between the ages of 25 and 39. That group has contributed to a baby boomlet, adding 6,000 more children younger than 5. As a result, the median age has dipped slightly, from 33.8 in 2010 to 33.6.

The figures for the District also illustrate some of the complexities of determining race in an era when one of the fastest-growing groups in the nation is people who consider themselves multiracial.

The District’s black population, for example, does not include any of the almost 16,000 residents who say they are two or more races. Ben Bolender, a demographer with the Census Bureau, said that because the census does not ask people to pick a primary identity, there’s no way to determine whether the 9,300 people who said they were both black and Hispanic think of themselves more as one than the other.

But even if all black Hispanics in the District are counted as part of the African American population, demographers agree it is probably a matter of time before they slip below the 50 percent milestone, if they haven’t already.

Source: The Washington Post Company/By  and Ted Mellnik, Updated: Wednesday, June 12, 11:03 AM

Part 2 of PR Kids Krew Series, "My Fave Multiracial Celeb!"

Time for part two! Last time Kids Krew members Alexandra and Kelly wrote about Vanessa Hudgens and Rihanna. Today you'll hear from Kids Krew member Diamond and ... ME!  lol.  -Karson





Diamond K. Benjamin
Alicia Keys was born Alicia Augello Cook on January 25, 1981. She is a singer-songwriter, record producer, and actress. Keys' mother is of Italian, Scottish, and Irish descent and her father is an African American. According to Keys, she has always been comfortable with her biracial heritage. At the age of 7 she began playing the piano and learned about such classical composers as : Beethoven, Mozart, and Chopin. Keys attended the Professional Performing Arts School at the age of 12 and began writing songs at 14. She graduated 4 years later at the age of 16 as the valedictorian. Besides winning numerous awards and selling over 30 million albums Keys is also the co-founder and Global Ambassador of Keep a Child Alive. It is a non-profit organization that provides medicine for families with HIV and AIDS in Africa. Alicia Keys is more than just an entertainer she is also someone that cares about the welfare of others. This is why she is an inspiration to me. 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Karson Baldwin
If you follow my blog posts you won't be surprised that my favorite multiracial celebrity is Blake Griffin. To start with, he is a great dunker and has won the NBA Slam Dunk contest! He was the first pick in the NBA draft and plays for the L.A. Clippers. He's been an All Star and Rookie of the Year. He makes funny commercials especially the ones for Kia. Have you seen them? He founded Dunking for Dollars and donates $100 to fight childhood obesity for every dunk he makes. He also has a fund-raising site called Team Blake, in honor of his friend who died from Hodgkin's lymphoma.  And he has a black dad and white mom, just like me.

Census Bureau Estimates do NOT Include Multiracial Community!

The Census Bureau embargoed its release of the American Fact Finder population estimates until tomorrow, June 13. The embargo was broken for the area of Washington DC only. From those estimates and the Census Bureau spokesperson quoted below, there is no way to include the multiracial population. In other words, they report in five major categories (White, Black or African American, American Indian and Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander) using "Race Alone or in Combination." If they are using some "formula" to reclassify multiracial people, we do not know what it is. We have been assured that we would be given the data on multiracial populations since the 2000 Census.

Apparently the US Census Bureau does not understand that being multiracial means that your races are all equal and no one race is considered "primary." We continue to try and educate them. More on this tomorrow as we obtain additional information. 

District grows younger and more white, census statistics show

The District is growing progressively younger and whiter, as a steep rise in the number of young white adults has outpaced the growth in African American residents, new census statistics show.

The city gained about 6,500 non-Hispanic whites in 2012, accounting for almost half the year’s total growth, and they now make up 35.5 percent of the District’s 632,000 residents.

In contrast, the city last year gained 1,700 non-Hispanic black residents, who make up 48.6 percent of the population. If the 9,300 black Hispanics who live in the city are counted, African Americans maintain the slight majority of 50.05 percent.

One in 10 residents is Hispanic, both black or white, while Asians account for less than 4 percent of the population.

The 2012 population estimates from the Census Bureau show a continuation of trends that have dramatically changed the District’s demographic characteristics over the past decade. Although African Americans remain the largest single resident group, their numbers have been on a long slide since the peak in 1970, when seven in 10 District residents were black and people proudly said they lived in “Chocolate City.”

Over a little more than a decade, the city has rebounded and reversed a population slide that began after residents started moving out to the suburbs. In the past two years, the city’s population has soared by about 30,000 people. That is 10,000 more residents than it gained in the decade preceding it.

The shift has been as much generational as racial. The bulk of the growth since 2010 has been among people between the ages of 25 and 39. That group has contributed to a baby boomlet, adding 6,000 more children younger than 5. As a result, the median age has dipped slightly, from 33.8 in 2010 to 33.6.

The figures for the District also illustrate some of the complexities of determining race in an era when one of the fastest-growing groups in the nation is people who consider themselves multiracial.

The District’s black population, for example, does not include any of the almost 16,000 residents who say they are two or more races. Ben Bolender, a demographer with the Census Bureau, said that because the census does not ask people to pick a primary identity, there’s no way to determine whether the 9,300 people who said they were both black and Hispanic think of themselves more as one than the other.

But even if all black Hispanics in the District are counted as part of the African American population, demographers agree it is probably a matter of time before they slip below the 50 percent milestone, if they haven’t already.

Source: The Washington Post Company/By  and Ted Mellnik, Updated: Wednesday, June 12, 11:03 AM

Loving Day


Happy Loving Day! 

Learn more about Loving Day at 
http://www.lovingday.org/

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Conservative vs Liberal View of Multiracial People

Conservatives More Likely than Liberals to Identify Mixed-Race Individuals as Black, NYU Study Finds


Conservatives are more likely than liberals to identify mixed-race individuals as Black, according to a series of new studies by researchers at New York University. Their findings, which appear in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, suggest that there is a link between political ideology and racial categorization.

“A person’s race is often thought to be clear-cut and fixed,” explains Amy Krosch, a doctoral student in New York University’s Department of Psychology and the lead author of the paper. “However, our research suggests that the perception of a person as Black or White is related to one’s political views and beliefs about equality.”

The study may be downloaded here.

The paper’s other authors were: Leslie Berntsen, an NYU undergraduate at the time of the study and now a graduate student at the University of Southern California; David Amodio, an associate professor in NYU’s Department of Psychology; John Jost, a professor in NYU’s Department of Psychology; and Jay Van Bavel, an assistant professor in NYU’s Department of Psychology.

Their findings also showed a link between nationality and racial classification. The study’s U.S. subjects were more likely to identify as Black mixed-race individuals labeled as Americans than they were mixed-race individuals labeled as Canadians.

The study focused on the principle of hypodescent, which posits that multi-racial individuals are categorized according to their most socially subordinate group membership. This principle—“the one-drop rule”—was applied in the U.S. from the antebellum period through the Civil Rights Era in order to subjugate individuals with any non-White heritage by denying them full rights and liberties under the law. It was also used to send Japanese-Americans—some of whom were one-eighth Japanese—to internment camps during World War II.

In the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology study, the researchers explored the possibility of a connection between political ideology and racial categorization of unknown individuals—and, if so, what might explain this phenomenon.

To do so, they conducted three experiments, two of which included only White American subjects; a third included a racially heterogeneous panel of American subjects.

In the first experiment, White female and male subjects were shown a series of computer-generated adult male faces that morphed real-world Black and White faces at varying percentages. Subjects were instructed to categorize each of the 110 faces they saw as either “Black” or “White.” Subjects’ ideology was measured using an established seven-point, self-reported scale (1=extremely liberal to 7=extremely conservative).

Here, the results showed a link between political ideology and hypodescent: subjects who self-identified as political conservatives were more likely to identify the faces seen in the experiment as Black than were those who self-identified as liberals.

In a second experiment, the researchers explored reasons to explain this finding. Previous studies have shown that members of racial minority groups (e.g., Blacks and Asians) were just as likely as Whites to apply the principle of hypodescent in making racial judgments. This suggests that racial categorization is not simply a perspective exhibited by Whites; instead, it would appear to be more a reflection of system-justifying biases. That is, conservatives of any race may maintain traditional boundaries associated with the hierarchical social order—and, as a result, they categorize multi-racial individuals according to the most socially subordinate group membership.

The researchers repeated the experiment with a new sample, seeking to explain why conservatives are more likely to apply the principle of hypodescent. The sample of 71 subjects was overwhelmingly white (54), but was also composed of bi- or multi-racial, Asian, South Asian, Latino, and Native American subjects.

In addition to measuring political ideology in this experiment, the researchers also sought to determine if their initial findings might be the result of a system-justifying bias. To do so, they gauged the subjects’ views by administering a Social Dominance Orientation scale, which includes two factors: group-based dominance (“If certain groups stayed in their place, we would have fewer problems”) and opposition to equality (“We should do what we can to equalize conditions for groups”). This metric has been used in earlier studies to measure racial categorization.

Their results showed that, indeed, among conservatives, “opposition to equality” was a powerful predictor in the categorization of mixed-race faces as Black rather than White. However, this was not the case for “group-based dominance.” “These results suggest that conservatives may be categorizing mixed-race faces as Black to justify racial divisions that are part of the historical legacy of the social system in the United States,” the researchers wrote.

They added that while the findings in this experiment were statistically significant for its White subjects, the sample size for non-White subjects was too small to draw any meaningful conclusions.
But these results left open another question: If hypodescent among conservatives is motivated by a justification of racial divisions that are part of the United States’ legacy, then such judgments should be solely directed toward Americans. To test this, the researchers conducted another experiment in which a third set of American subjects (all White) were asked to make racial judgments of the faces they viewed. In this experiment, unlike the previous two, in some conditions the study’s subjects were told certain faces were “American” and in others they were informed faces were “Canadian.” These labels of nationality were randomized—facial images labeled as “American” to some of the study’s subjects were billed as “Canadian” to others.

Here they found self-identified conservatives were more likely than liberals to identify mixed-race “American” faces as Black than as White—a finding consistent with the other experiments. However, there was no relationship between political ideology and racial categorization for “Canadian” faces.

“It seems reasonable to conclude on the basis of these results that bias in the process of racial categorization may reflect, among other things, the motivation to defend and uphold traditional racial divisions that are part of the historical legacy of the United States,” the researchers concluded. “Conservatives exhibit stronger system justification tendencies in general and are presumably more sensitive than liberals to challenges directed at the legitimacy or stability of the social order, with its attendant degree of racial inequality.”
“Although it may be tempting to conclude political ideology leads to biases in racial categorization, the causal relationship is still open for debate,” cautioned Van Bavel.

The lead author was supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (DGE-0813964) and the research was supported by a grant from NYU’s College of Arts and Science Dean’s Undergraduate Research Fund.
Source: NYU

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Now Accepting Applications for Project RACE Teens President


Project RACE is seeking a dynamic, motivated multiracial teen to serve as the next President of Project RACE Teens. This is a high profile position at the forefront of multiracial advocacy.  The chosen candidate will work with the Executive Director, Advisory Board and Presidents of our other divisions, Project RACE Kids and Project RACE Grandparents, to advocate for multiracial people in a variety of important arenas.

This is a volunteer position, but the benefits are extraordinary. Previous Presidents have testified before Congress, worked with legislators, held successful bone marrow drives, appeared on the Tyra Banks Show and CNN, given interviews to many of the nation’s top newspapers and syndicates, been quoted in text books, had their writings published, petitioned the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, interviewed multiple celebrities and much much more! The two previous Presidents are both currently attending Harvard University and credit the  leadership experience they gained with Project RACE for helping to get them there. While the position can sometimes be demanding, Project RACE always encourages our volunteers to be first and foremost dedicated to your studies and families.

The ideal candidate will be mature, confident and creative with strong oral and written communication skills. The individual must embrace their multiracial identity and believe strongly that multiracial people should be allowed to identify with their entire heritage. As we would like the new President to serve a minimum two year term, students entering 9th, 10th or 11th grade are preferable, but others may also be considered.

The responsibilities include: Contributing to the organizations website and blog, creating content on the PRT Facebook and Twitter accounts, giving media interviews, responding to internal and external emails, promoting membership, planning at least one event per year (could be a fundraiser or minority-focused bone marrow donor drive, or a new idea), managing the PR Teens National Advisory Panel, contributing to programs that can be utilized to obtain grants and other activities as they arise.

Interested candidates should submit a brief few paragraphs on why they would like to be PRT President and why they feel they are qualified to projectrace@projectrace.com. Please put “Teen President” in the subject line of your message. The second round of applications will be reviewed beginning June 30th.
We look forward to hearing from you!

Breast Cancer Patients and Gene Mutations


Gene mutations found in 22% of African American breast cancer patients

CHICAGO – BROCA, a genetic screening panel that combines BRCA1 and BRCA2 testing with screening for all 18 known breast cancer genes, detected at least one loss of function mutation in 56 of 249 unrelated African American women with breast cancer.
African American women are disproportionately affected by early-onset and triple-negative breast cancers, possibly because of a higher frequency of inherited mutations in DNA repair pathways. The finding of abnormalities in 22% of these women represents the first comprehensive screen of all known breast cancer susceptibility genes using next-generation sequencing in African American women, according to Dr. Jane E. Churpek, who reported the results at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
These high carrier frequencies suggest the importance of screening for all gene mutations in African American breast cancer patients who are diagnosed at a young age, have a family history, or have triple-negative breast cancer. The results should be used to encourage testing of at-risk family members to identify those who would benefit from lifesaving interventions, said Dr. Churpek of the University of Chicago.

In the 249-patient study, inherited damaging mutations were seen in 44 of 144 patients with a family history and in 12 of 145 women without a family history of breast and ovarian cancer. Of the 67 women who had triple-negative disease, 20 (30%) had mutations; in the 146 women under age 45, 67 (27%) had mutations.
"Even in the absence of triple-negative disease and family history, there are patients with gene mutations," she said.
While the majority of the 56 women with mutations were positive for BRCA1 (26 patients) or BRCA2 (20 patients), other inherited mutations detected in the BROCA panel were found in 10 patients. Those mutations included CHEK2 (n = 3), PALB2 (n = 3), ATM (n = 5), and PTEN (n = 1), she reported. The study population consisted of women who were treated at the University of Chicago cancer risk and breast cancer clinics.
Having an all-encompassing test like BROCA would allow women to undergo a single test, Dr. Churpek said. Further, advances in technology via targeted genomic capture and next generation sequencing allow this test to be performed inexpensively using 3 mcg of peripheral blood. The current clinical approach to testing requires BRCA1 and BRCA2 testing (BRACAnalysis, Myriad) and possible further testing via a genetic panel, which can be expensive and sometimes difficult to get covered by payers, Dr. Churpek said.
She said there are no plans to market the BROCA test, however. Myriad Genetics holds the U.S. patent on the BRCA genes in the context of cancer diagnostics until 2015. The U.S. Supreme Court is considering the legal issues surrounding the gene patent in the case of Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics. Oral arguments in the case were heard in April, and a decision from the court is expected before July.
Dr. Churpek had no financial disclosures.

Dose Impacts African Americans


Genetic Variations Impact Warfarin Doses For African Americans


A common genetic variation that can impact the therapeutic dose of the blood-thinning drug warfarin among African Americans has been found, according to a new report in The Lancet.

The finding revealed that people of African ancestry who have the rs12777823 variant require a notably lower dose of warfarin to achieve all the advantages, compared to those without this single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP).

Julie Johnson from the University of Florida and lead researcher explained:

"Adding this genetic marker - found in more than 40% of African American patients in the study - to standard dosing algorithms improved the predictability of warfarin dosing by 21% in these individuals, which has the potential to increase the safety and effectiveness of this notoriously hard to dose drug."


Warfarin is used to prevent blood clots in patients who experienceatrial fibrillation, have a history of blood clots, or after major surgery. It is one of the most prescribed drugs around the world, adding up to around 35 million prescriptions in the USA in 2011.

Dosage requirements range widely between people, making it hard to get the dose correct. Additionally, warfarin contributes to a third of hospitalizations for adverse drug reactions in people over 65 years of age in the USA.

Previous research has revealed that two genes, VKORC1 and CYP2CP, can account for about 30% of the difference in warfarin response in people of Asian and European descent. 

However, these genetic markers are less predictive of dosing regimens in African Americans.

In order to pinpoint additional genetic factors that control warfarin dose requirements in African Americans, the investigators examined health information and DNA samples from 533 African-American adults on stable doses of warfarin from the International Warfarin Pharmacogenetics Consortium (IWPC) sites and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

After checking through a range of genomes, the researchers found that the strongest signals were clustered around the well-known VKORC1 and also found a significant link between the rs12777823 variant on chromosome 10 and warfarin dose. This result was verified in an independent cohort of 432 additional African American patients.

The outcomes suggest that African Americans who carry one or two copies of this polymorphism need a dose decrease of approximately 7-9 mg less per week compared to other patients.

Mark Alberts, from UTSW Medical Center in Texas, commented on the study saying:

"Use of genetic backgrounds to help to guide warfarin dosing has been advocated for several years by the US Food and Drug Administration... However, the practical aspects (and limitations) have not been fully appreciated. Genetic testing has several challenges: it is not widely available in some areas; it is costly; and clinicians often can identify the correct dose before test results are available. If these problems were corrected, the actual use of such tests might increase substantially."


Source: Medical News Today/Written by Kelly Fitzgerald 

Cape Verde Jewish Heritage Project


Rededicated burial site among ‘beautiful vestiges’ of Cape Verde’s Jewish presence

 

Lisbon’s Chief Rabbi Eliezer Shai di Martino offered prayers during the rededication ceremony of the Jewish burial site in Praia, Cape Verde. The islands are a former Portuguese colony. U.S. Ambassador to Cape Verde Adrienne O’Neal is to the far right; the French and Portuguese ambassadors were also present. Credit: Cape Verde Jewish Heritage Project, Inc.

There are just 10 Jewish graves at the Jewish burial site in the Cape Verde capital of Praia—several with Hebrew inscriptions, the oldest dating to 1864, the most recent to 1918—surrounded by a sea of tombstones in a Christian cemetery. 

Those 10 graves, however, are reminders of the Jews who contributed to the growth of Cape Verde and whose descendants remain prominent in the 10-island, predominately Catholic, African archipelago. 

The Jewish burial site was rededicated in early May, thanks to the efforts of the Cape Verde Jewish Heritage Project, Inc. (CVJHP), which was founded in 2007 by Carol Castiel, who works for Voice of America

While many Jews to the former Portuguese colony had come during the Inquisition, they were for the most part New Christians (Jews forcibly converted by the Inquisition) who disappeared into the population. A second wave of Jews—representing some dozen or so Moroccan families—arrived in the mid-1800s, emigrating directly from Morocco or via Gibraltar to the trans-Atlantic commercial hub. 

Ensuring the memory of those Jews— merchants and traders with such surnames as Auday, Benros, Benoliel, Benchimol, Cohen, Levy, Pinto, Seruya and Wahnon that persist to this day—is CVJHP’s focus.


He contributed $100,000 in 2010, the largest donation the tiny nonprofit has received, Castiel says. In a message read at the dedication, his senior adviser, Andre Azoulay, called the king’s support of the project  “representative of Morocco’s attachment to the preservation of its patrimony—Arab, Jewish or Berber.”

The project has the support of Cape Verde’s government, too. 

“By preserving the cemeteries, the Jewish Heritage Project is preserving part of our history and culture,” says Maria de Fatima Lima de Veiga, Cape Verde’s ambassador to the United States.

In addition, she says, officials hope that these remnants of a time when Jews lived in Cape Verde will draw Jewish tourists to the islands.
The project has been a labor of love for Castiel who first learned that Jews had once lived on the islands—and their non-Jewish descendants remain—back in the mid-1980s when she was working on a project for the African-American Institute and spent time in Cape Verde. 

“To see in a predominately Catholic country a remnant of the Jewish people—it touched me,” she says.

Castiel did research, interviewed descendants and wrote articles about these Jews. “Little did I know that later on I would actually spearhead the actual restoration of the cemeteries,” she says.
In early 2007, Castiel met lawyer Richard Popkin by chance; he offered to do the paperwork to help her create the CVJHP as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, which allowed her to begin fundraising and working with Cape Verdean officials to restore the cemeteries. “If we had waited any longer, they would have been beyond repair,” she says.

The restoration of the four burial sites is just one of Castiel’s goals for the nonprofit. She hopes to put together a symposium in 2015, bringing together scholars who have studied the Jews of Cape Verde, including those who may have pre-dated the arrival of the Moroccan and Gibraltarian Jews of the 19th century. “We hope to have a lively and fruitful exchange among scholars,” she says, culminating “in a book on the Jews of Cape Verde.”

This month’s dedication was in a sense a family reunion for descendants of those early Jews. Among them were two American cousins named Wahnon, one whose family remained Jewish, one whose did not. Another cousin, Carlos Alberto Wahnon de Carvalho Veiga, was Cape Verde’s first democratically elected prime minister in 1991. He, too, attended the rededication ceremonies along with numerous other Wahnons.

“There are lots of Cape Verdean descendants of Jewish families right now; there was quite a crowd, getting and sharing stories” during the dedication, says John Wahnon, a Silver Spring, Md., resident who is not Jewish and emigrated from Cape Verde in 1962 at age 20.

“There probably isn’t a person there who doesn’t have a drop of Jewish blood in them,” he says, noting his belief that it is important to know one’s roots, something he has shared with his children.
Wahnon says he is pleased that the burial sites are being renovated and rededicated. “We are celebrating the fact that the person was here and in some form that person contributed to the society in which they lived,” he says.

His cousin, Sheppard, is Jewish—the men’s great-great-grandfather, along with his son, John’s great-grandfather, immigrated to Cape Verde. Another son, Sheppard’s great-grandfather, did not make the move—and lives in New York.  

It was a thrill, Sheppard Wahnon says, “to be somewhere where my obscure name is known and respected.” He believes the restored burial grounds will help give descendants of the Jews “a sense of connection with this past.”

Pointing to some descendants who have returned to Judaism, including Nuno Wahnon, the B’nai B’rith International representative in Brussels, he says, “My hope is for them to start being Jewish again.”
Source:
and filed under World, Features.
By Debra Rubin/JNS.org