Saturday, 23 April 2011

On Saturday, April 23rd and Sunday, April 24th at 7:30 pm the Maysles Cinema will be screening the film, Frederick Douglass and the White Negro, directed by John J Doherty followed by The San Patricios: The Tragic Story of the St. Patrick's Battalion, directed by Mark R. Day. On Saturday, April 23rd the screening will be followed by a talk with Sandy Boyer and Kevin Keating.

"I See White People" kicked-off in January and resumes every quarter (April, July, October). This series will include films, speakers, writers and performers. Normally, in societal discourse, whiteness goes unnoticed and white people are rarely viewed as "an ethnic group" or "racial category" with all the attendant stereotypes and assumptions that follow. This virtual invisibility allows whiteness to become an assumed cultural standard by which all others are judged, usually unfavorably. This invisibility of whiteness is in many ways the backbone of white privilege and foundational to both perceived white supremacy and white racism.

The history of the Irish in this country, and in Ireland as well, is an interesting example of just how socially-constructed "whiteness" can be. For a long time, and up until today in some ways, Irish people, and some other European peoples, were not considered part of "white" race and thus were dehumanized, discriminated against and in the case of the Irish colonized by the English. As part of a group outside of the white race, which was primarily conceived of as white Anglo-Saxon protestant, there was more possibility for and actually existing solidarity between Irish, African-Americans and other people of color. However, there is also a history of violence, struggle and racism that paved the way on the Irish road towards being accepted as white in this country. Before Irish were subsumed under the category of "white" there was also a distinctiveness of Irish culture that was totally separate from mainstream white American culture (that continues to this day to some extent), although many aspects of Irish culture are now indistinguishable parts of American life. So as much as this history looks at the struggles of Ireland and the Irish and their troubled relationship/solidarity with other oppressed non-white communities, it also a celebration of the distinctiveness of Irish culture as separate and distinct from the culture of undefined "normal" White America.

So on Saturday, April 23rd and Sunday, April 24th at 7:30 pm Maysles Cinema will be screening the film, Frederick Douglass and the White Negro, directed by John J Doherty. This film covers the life and times of the famous former slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass focusing in large part on the time he spent in Ireland and the influence this had on him. The film looks at Frederick Douglass's relationship with Ireland and the Irish as a prism through which to analyze the relationship between African-Americans and Irish-Americans as well as the similarities and differences between the state of African slaves in the United States and state of Irish laborers and the Irish generally at that point in history. The San Patricios: The Tragic Story of the St. Patrick's Battalion directed by Mark R. Day will be screened next. This film tells the little known story of 500 immigrant soldiers (mostly Irish) who deserted during the United States-Mexico war to fight on behalf of Mexico. On Saturday, April 23rd the screenings will be followed by a talk with Sandy Boyer who is the host of WBAI's Radio Free Eireann program which cover the Irish Freedom Struggle from a republican point of view and connects that struggle with other freedom struggles around the world. The other speaker is Kevin Keating, the director of Giuliani Time who is also developing an upcoming narrative film about the San Patricios titled Turncoats.


I See White People

A quarterly series on the visibility of white racism, white privilege and unacknowledged white cultures in documentary and fiction film.

(This Quarter: How the Irish Became White!)

Frederick Douglass and the White Negro

John J Doherty, 2008, 52 min.

Frederick Douglass and the White Negro tells the story of this 19th century leader, and author of "The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave," and his escape from slavery, leading to refuge across the Atlantic Ocean in Ireland on the eve of the Great Famine. The film focuses on the powerful influence Ireland had on him as a young man. It also explores the turbulent relationship between African Americans and Irish Americans in general. The relationship is exposed as a complex and tragic sequence of events culminating in the bloodiest riot in American history on the streets of New York City. This transatlantic story covers the race issue and is as relevant today as it was when Douglass escaped to Ireland.


The San Patricios: The Tragic Story of the St. Patrick's Battalion

Mark R. Day, 1996, 48 min.

This film investigates the historic U.S.-Mexican War, the desertion of five hundred immigrant soldiers (mostly Irish) from the American army to the Mexican side, and the way historians view this event today. The deserters, who made up St. Patrick's Battalion, are considered traitors in the States, and heroes in Mexico. This documentary tells the complex story and invites viewers to come to their own conclusion about the Irish-American soldiers who changed their name from St. Patrick's Battalion to St. Patricios, and who switched their allegiance overnight.

Saturday's Post-Screening Discussion: Q&A with Sandy Boyer and Kevin Keating

Sandy Boyer

is the co-host and producer of WBAI's Radio Free Eireann which covers the Irish freedom struggle from an Irish republican point of view. Radio Free Eireann also uses the Irish experience to relate to various liberation struggles around the world. Sandy Boyer has led campaigns to free Irish political prisoners including the Guildford 4, Birmingham 6, and Roisin McAliskey. He has taught Irish history at the Irish Arts Center and lectured on Irish politics and history at numerous colleges and universities and contributed articles on the Irish struggle to publications in Ireland and the US including New Politics, The Irish People, Fortnight, Fourthwrite and The Blanket.

Kevin Keating

is the director of the documentary Giuliani Time, and did cinematography for When We Were Kings

and Harlan County,U.S.A. He is developing a narrative film project about the Patricios titled "Turncoats."

Maysles Cinema
343 Lenox Ave
(127th and 128th streets)
New York, NY 10027

U.S. Senior Advisor on Darfur Travels to Rwanda, Qatar, and Sudan

Media Note
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC

April 20, 2011


Ambassador Dane Smith, the U.S. Senior Advisor on Darfur, departs for Rwanda today on his latest trip to support international efforts to reach a definitive end to conflict in Darfur. Ambassador Smith will first visit Kigali, where he will meet with Rwandan government officials to thank them for their support to the African Union/United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and discuss peacekeeping in that region of Sudan.

The Senior Advisor will then travel to Doha to encourage the Sudanese government and Darfuri armed movements to make progress on political talks aimed at reaching a ceasefire and negotiated settlement that will lead to improvements in the security and humanitarian situation in Darfur.

Finally, Ambassador Smith will travel to Sudan to promote peace and security in Darfur. He will visit several internally displaced persons camps to emphasize the need for Sudan to allow unrestricted access to UNAMID and humanitarian agencies in order to protect civilians and provide humanitarian assistance to people in need. This will be his fourth trip to Darfur in the past four months.