Do You Cross Racial National or Ethnic Lines?

 I’ve been reading alot of blogs lately. I’m interested in what black folks are thinking and what they’re talking about.  I’m one who is interested in crossing over racial, national, international, all kinds of lines.  Maybe that my curious nature.  After all I have worked with books my entire life.  Books are my life.  Information is my interest.  Knowing new people and places is interesting to me.  It’s easy to say that these things are interesting and what not.  But would I cross over any “lines” to interact with people of another culture?  Would you?  How much do we black people know about each other.  I’m an African American, born and raised in San Francisco, CA.  I have had many opportunities to meet black people from other countries and nations as well as white people, Latino people and Asian people of different nations,  and I have been enriched by it.  But are we black people really, truly interested in our fellow black people? Or is it irrelevant? 

As I skip along in the blogosphere, reading this blog and that blog, I “see” a lot of black folks lamenting their national issues and problems.  And this is a worthy exercise.  Black people world wide have so many issues to deal with, of which I won’t even go into here.  But I see a lot of frustration and a general throwing up of our collective hands.  But should we throw up our hands?   I have heard it said that there is strength in numbers.  There’s something to be said for alliances. Should black people of different places and ethnicities even consider forming any alliances?  Is it wrong?

Let me tell a little story.  Back in the 1990s, I used to vend at a little place called the Berkeley Flea Market.  Actually, it was just the parking lot of the Ashby Street BART station at the corner of Adeline and Ashby Sts. in Berkeley CA. (Yes, the same infamous BART where Oscar Grant was murdered) On the weekends, rain or shine, the Berkeley Flea Market was open and we vendors would rent each parking space as a booth space for a mere $30 a day and set up our wares for sale.
As one would get off of the BART train at the Ashby station, one would be greeted by a wonderful drum circle made up of folks of different ethnicities!  You would see beautiful women both black and white, just dancing away, lost in the power of the drums!  If you could tear your eyes away from that scene and proceed into the Market, you would then smell numerous flavors of incense burning from The Incense Lady, hear some oldies playing from The Music Man (if you needed to know the name of a song, tell him a few lyrics and he would know which song you meant).  If you kept going up the first aisle, you’d see The Carpenter Man, an old white guy who never smiled but had some very nice, reasonably priced shelving units that he built himself.

Further along was another incense man, a Vietnamese guy who rented a double spot and had every kind of imported incense, including the ubiquitous Nag Champa–for those incense connoiseurs of discriminating tastes.   Across from the Incense Man was the Jamaican food truck, where you could get the best vegetarian rotis and meat patties ever, along with a Ting lime soda!  Yum!   Turn left and go down the next aisle and you would see the Soap Lady with her beautiful homemade soaps and bath salts. Then there was the brotha selling adidas sneakers (were they real or fake?) Then you’d come to the booth of the young Buddhist couple who sold jewelry and trinkets!


Keep going then you’d come to the Middle Eastern man selling regular American hot dogs for a dollar.  Across from him was his son selling doughnuts and soda!  Then you’d come to the coveted “corner booth” of brother Hassan from Senegal, with all of his beautiful African fabrics and jewelry!  Brother Hassan had that corner lot sewed up for years! It was a prime piece of real estate in the Berkeley Flea Market.  Brother Hassan had a beautiful disposition and a smile that could brighten your day! 

Then as you turned  you’d see another food booth, A Taste of Africa!  Bow down and worship.  I don’t even remember where they were from in West Africa, but they had some of the best tasting food that could come from a rickety food truck!  The food was very delicious!  The white kids from UC Berkeley would line up and wait patiently and long for their plates of Jollof rice, akara and the spinach dish that I don’t remember the name of.   Sidenote:  whenever you see a long line of white folks–know that whatever it is that they are patiently waiting for is going to be good!!  

What I found so endearing about these kids was that they would then sit on the curb, one next to the other and eat their African food with relish!! Beautiful!  Everyone loved A Taste of Africa’s food and some were bold enough to get a miniscule speck of the HOTT! pepper sauce on the side. (I tried it once, but never again, and I grew up on Tabasco sauce!) Then there was another Middle Eastern man selling beautiful two-piece caftan-types ladies outfits.  Then there were the Jamaican bruddas selling crocheted red gold and green tams and scarves and anyting Red Gold and Green as well as the best artists of roots reggae (and some dancehall) music on cassette tapes. I heard that they were selling more than that! 😉 

Then there was the African American book man, and another African American record man, and the African American blanket lady and the white lady selling jewelry and the Afro Cuban Man selling used appliances!  The Berkeley Flea Market was a wonderful mini version of the United Nations!  We all were very friendly and caring and supportive of each other, and we got along very well!  When I look back on it all, what truly stands out for me is that we black folks easily crossed racial, national and ethnic lines in that little space–the parking lot of the BART station at Ashby and Adeline Sts in Berkeley, CA!


15 Comments Add yours

  1. I feel that the lines and barriers that divide us exist only in our minds. We all have our individual life situations and experiences which twist the lens through which we see the world.In reality we all need the same things, freedom, education, food & shelter and love…If we could just take a step back and quit labeling ourselves and others, lose our incredible greed, and move forward with the best interests of everyone in mind.As John Lennon said "IMAGINE". Anne Renee I love the thoughts you share on your blog…keep up the good work.

  2. Mista Jaycee says:

    Sounds like a beautiful place. I hope that we can continue to reproduce things of that sort all over! Jaycee

  3. Anna Renee says:

    @Grannie Annie-It's true! You may say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one!@Mista Jaycee–It was beautiful! The place is still happening, but the hard economy has marred its beauty somewhat.

  4. Ohima? says:

    I 100% agree with Grannie Annie, 'we all need the same things, freedom, education, food & shelter and love…If we could just take a step back and quit labeling ourselves and others, lose our incredible greed, and move forward with the best interests of everyone in mind.As John Lennon said "IMAGINE".'However for many it seem so difficult to do that…

  5. I love this post. At times, I still wonder if we are interested in going beyond our usual walls and extending our minds, interests, thoughts, friendships and relationships to other cultures, races, nationalities and ethnic lines. I'm the first to admit that I'm a bit of an idealist but I really do envision all peoples reaching to and accepting each other, differences and all. I'm at a place where I hunger to know people different from me. Maybe I'm just a dreamer….

  6. glamah16 says:

    My first time here. I agree with the first commenter 100 percent. I hate to be put in a box because of what I look like on the outside., If one looked closer they can see there is more to me than their perceived stereotype.And anyone who doesn't dare to be themselves because of others perceptions is lost.

  7. Val says:

    The amazing thing is that White supremacy works to keep people of color apart by having us fight each other for scraps. If People of Color began to unite we would be a powerful force.

    And I’ve been to the Ashby flea market lots of times and it is a very interesting place.

    1. Anna Renee says:

      Are you from the O? Westsiiide!!

  8. Val says:

    Lol, no but I live close to Oakland. I can almost see it from my house!

    1. Anna Renee says:

      You know you crazy for that!! Sarah! LOL

  9. Mark says:

    This was a beautiful post! The problem with the different groups in this country is that the whites and blacks stick to their enclaves at the lower end of the socio-economic lines… the mixing at the top doesn’t count because everyone at the top end STAY with those who are at the top end… And those at the very bottom cling to ardently to their stereotypes and allow for their perspectives to be dictated to them… if we were all willing to see what one another had to offer and what they are capable of bringing to the party, then perhaps there could be a movement from the bottom up that brings down those who are at the top and repressing the majority…

    1. Anna Renee says:

      Thanks Mark! Yes too many stick together in their little clicks, but we have to take the clue from those who are able to break free and mix it up – blending with and learning from people of other nationalities, races, and cultures.

  10. Reggie says:

    Well there is certainly nothing wrong with reaching out. Sometimes it helps to get out of your comfort zone and take a look on the other side. How will any of us grow if we don’t?!?

    1. Anna Renee says:

      We wont grow, my brother. And we see the evidence of lack of growth everywhere we look. Most of us dont really respect clicks. They turn all evil on themselves as they tend to go negative on others outside their small grouping.

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