Friday, March 23, 2007

the black Irish

As has been mentioned elsewhere, Matana Roberts is blogging about her current music/geneology project at Shadows of a People. At her gig at Stone she told the story in her first post (handsome man at Whole Foods)- I have to admit at the time I found it disconcerting and uncomfortable on the gig, but fleshed out on the page it makes a lot more sense.

One story tangentially related to the post about her connection to a Irish judge in Tennessee. As one who grew up in a fairly Irish community, "black Irish" actually means something pretty different. (By American standards it's a bit of a misnomer) The story goes that when the Spanish Armada lost to the British in the 18th century (?) several ships landed/washed up on the west coast of Ireland, and the sailors settled in those villages. So, on the west coast you have a fair number of folks who have much darker hair and eyes (and tan better) than the rest of their brethren. My grandmother had jet black hair and dark brown eyes, features I inherited; my grandfather was much more stereotypically redheaded and freckled. (My grandfathers other two prominent features were premature baldness and a healthy very old age- I know I got the first, I'm rooting for the second.) I think the Irish (at least Irish-americans) like to think that that's as far as blackness got on the Emerald Isle (there's another essay there), at least until the last decade or so. But as Matana mentions, if you shake the tree hard enough...

But I know that's not what she was talking about... The most recent post is a doozy, I'm still wrapping my head around it.

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