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Playlist: Identity

Compiled By: Bernard Ouellette

Caption: PRX default Playlist image
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American or not?

From Holly Kernan | 05:07

commentator Elizabeth Price learns the harsh intricacies of international identity

Default-piece-image-1 Commentator Elizabeth Price is an American citizen, married to a Palestinian. They are the new parents of baby boy Hisham. When the two brought Hisham back to meet his relatives in Ramallah, Elizabeth got a harsh lesson in the intricacies of international identity.

Childhood Interrupted

From Liz Jones | Part of the A Village Away from Home series | 09:02

A look at how immigrant teens grapple with identity issues.

019_small Every day, Purepecha parents make the choice to uproot their families and move thousands of miles north, in search of a better future. They risk their lives, take on years of debt, and give up their native Indian language and way of life. In exchange, they hope their children will thrive in a land of new opportunities. But is the trade–off worth it? We ask teens on both sides of the border.

Indian Jews try to find an identity in New York City

From Thomas Grove | 03:22

Romiel Daniel, a member of the Benne Israel from Israel introduces his background to the Jewish comunity in New York's Rego Park neighborhood

Default-piece-image-0 Romiel Daniel, a member of the Benne Israel Jewish community from India was elected President of New York's Rego Park Jewish Center last spring. Some of the unconventionl traditions of the Bene Israel give conservative Ashkenazy Jews in New York a new perspective on their Judaism. This piece was broadcast on Columbia University Journalism School's student webcast on April 22, then again on Studio J's satellite broadcast on


From Native Public Media | Part of the We Shall Remain series | 05:00

Episode Five: Identity
Producer: Brian Bull

Who is an Indian? And who decides? Based on what criteria? The thorny politics of tribal enrollment - create tensions between mixed-race Indians and those who consider themselves culturally "purer" effecting the future of Native sovereignty.

Corresponds with PBS We Shall Remain episode: Wounded Knee that airs May 11th.


Indentity examines the controversial question,  “Who is an Indian?” Who should define who is Indian, and based on what criteria? In the last census more than 4.1 million Americans reported some Indian blood;  2.5 million reported only Native American. Most Native American tribes base membership on blood quantum; a Federally imposed definition on Indians. Most Tribes define membership based on a minimum of ? blood quantum. Some extreme leaders feel that marrying outside the tribe means that children could lose citizenship in the tribe. Many Indians criticize this bureaucratic approach to identity.  The complicated politics of tribal enrollment also creates tensions between mixed race Indians and those who consider themselves  culturally “purer” because of their high blood quantum. Today children are born who do not have enough “blood quantum” in any tribe to be enrolled but are considered part of the Indian community. T he issue has become even more complicated thanks to the vast sums of money introduced by Native gaming.  In some cases people are removed from Tribal rolls. Who  and how these issues  are decided is key to the future of sovereignty. 

Attorney Patrick Guillory,  a Muskogee Native , successfully represented disenrolled Tribal members and founder of Mixed Race Nations, an organization working with urban youth.
Wintun leader, Caleen Sisk Franco
Anthropologist Susan Lobo, author of “Urban Indians”
Joe Garcia, President of the National Congress of American Indians.
Morningstar Gali, SF Bay Area Urban Indian leader.


Searching for Roots

From Berkeley J-School | 04:13

Jessica Meyers reports on a group of Iranian Americans who are rediscovering their lost heritage.

Farsiclass_small Second generation immigrants get to claim multiple identities. It's a privilege and a struggle. They have a foot in both worlds but are rooted in neither. This piece looks at how Iranian Americans at Oakland's Islamic Cultural Center are characterizing themselves in light of increased tension between the U.S. and Iran.

You Sound like You're Not from Around Here

From With Good Reason | 29:42

Within seconds of hearing someone speak, we make judgments about that person and their background, just based on their accent.

Terryjones_small Within seconds of hearing someone speak, we make judgments about that person and their background, just based on their accent. Linguistics professor (George Mason University) explains how and when we develop accents and how these accents affect our identity. Also: Written in early English, Geoffrey Chaucer's fourteenth century writings may seem impenetrable, with strange pronunciation and incomprehensible phrases. English professor (Virginia Military Institute) says the best way to approach Chaucer is to read it out loud and hear the musicality of the words.

A Prohibition

From Terin Mayer | 04:27

Three students reflect on what it means to be "Black" at Carleton College

A Prohibition
Terin Mayer

Terinandkayeen_small Originally curated for a temporary museum installation at Carleton College, "A Prohibition" is a poetic contemplation of campus race relations. What do you mean when you say the word "black"? Why can't you say the word "nigger"? Three African American students navigate the language of identity.

Blind Traveler

From daniella ponet | 10:01

Pat, a blind activist and singer/poet, describes her life in New York City

Default-piece-image-1 This piece follows Pat through midtown Manhattan and into the subway as she recounts stories of falling down stairways and participating in the blind power movement. She has been in the NYC Labor Chorus for years and loves to get arrested for worthwhile causes. She explores ideas about identity politics, the state of the left, and the importance of activism, while also discussing what life is like for a blind person living in NYC.

Destination DIY: Gender Expression

From Rendered | Part of the Destination DIY series | 28:07

Can gender be a do-it-yourself project?

Destdiy2c2_small Can gender expression be a do-it-yourself project? We'll attempt to answer that and many other complex questions about sexuality, biology and identity in four interviews with people across the gender spectrum. Diane Anderson-Minshall, executive editor of Curve Magazine, who identifies her gender as "femme," will discuss how her partner, Jake's transition from female to male has made her think differently about the innate nature of gender. Kodey Park Bambino, who identifies as "genderqueer" will discuss life outside the gender binary. We'll also hear from Ace Furnish, a young man who began his transition from female to male at age 15.

This I Believe - Sufiya Abdur-Rahman

From This I Believe | Part of the This I Believe series | 03:45

Sufiya Abdur-Rahman believes being black is beautiful and not a condition she has to rise above.

Tiblogosmall_small HOST: Today on This I Believe, we hear from Sufiya Abdur-Rahman, a teacher in Hyattsville, Maryland. Although "post-racial" is a popular term these days, Abdur-Rahman's belief could be considered a throwback. But to her, it's central to her identity, pride and heritage. Here is Sufiya Abdur-Rahman with her essay for This I Believe. ABDUR-RAHMAN: I'd been searching for a job for months with no success. I was just about ready to settle into permanent unemployment and a deep depression when my siblings suggested I try something I'd never before considered. "Why don't you put a different name on your resume," they proposed. Something less ethnic-sounding and easier to pronounce, something that doesn't set off alarm bells like my name apparently does. Out of the question, I said. "If they don't want Sufiya Abdur-Rahman, then they don't want me." I'm the daughter of two 1970s African-American coverts to Islam. I am black, I am proud and I don't shy from showing it. I wasn't going to downplay my cultural identity to accommodate someone else's intolerance, because I believe that black is beautiful. I believe in living that old 1960s credo, as out of style as it may be. Growing up black, and to some extent Muslim, colors almost all that I believe and just about everything I do-how I talk, what I eat, the clothes I wear, what I fear and love. In fifth grade, while my friends disguised themselves as witches and zombies for Halloween, I became Queen Nefertiti, celebrated Egyptian wife of the pharaoh Akhnaten. I thought I really looked like her with my tunic belted above the waist, feet exposed in my mother's sandals and heavy eyeliner, just like I saw in pictures. My neighbor thought I looked more like an ancient Roman or Greek. Back then I didn't know how to articulate to her the dignity I had for my heritage, so I said nothing. I just cut my trick-or-treating short that night. I learned, along with every other American school kid, that at one point in this country being black meant being less than human. But that never made me wish I wasn't black. I love that my African people were among the most innovative in the world and am constantly amazed that my ancestors survived a period of unimaginable hardship. I'm forever grateful to my grandparents' fight for equal rights and equally admire my brothers for creating a music and culture with impact worldwide. So I could never mask who I really am, not even to get a job. People like me may have gone out of style, with leather Africa medallions and embroidered FUBU T-shirts but I still believe in celebrating my blackness. It starts with my name and remains at the forefront of my identity because for me, there is no shame in being black. And I don't mean just having brown skin. There's no shame in having thick nappy hair, big full lips, a colorful melodic vernacular or even an inherent sense of rhythm, stereotype or not. So I refuse to be anyone but myself: hip-hop listening, nappy hair-having, "Girlfriends"-watching, James Baldwin-, Zora Neale Hurston-, Malcolm X-reading me. I've internalized that black is beautiful, not a condition to rise above. For as long as it takes, I'll keep being Sufiya Abdur-Rahman on my resume and everywhere else I go.

This I Believe - Sheri White

From This I Believe | Part of the This I Believe series | 03:12

Even though we tend to focus on our differences, Sheri White believes there is much that unites us.


HOST: Today's essay comes from Sheri White, who works at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.   She's an assistant scientist working in submarines doing deep sea research.  White was inspired to write her essay after attending a This I Believe event at her local bookstore.  She put her essay inside a copy of our book and gave it to her parents, who are the inspiration for her belief -- in the hopes that they might write an essay, too.  Here's Sheri White with her essay for This I Believe.

WHITE:  My mother is a geneticist, and from her I learned that despite our differences in size, shape and colors, we humans are 99.9 percent the same.  It is in our nature to see differences:  skin, hair and eye color, height, language, gender, sexual orientation, even political leanings.  But also in our nature, way down in the DNA that makes us human, we are almost identical.  

I believe there is more that unites us than divides us.

My mother came to the United States from India.  She is dark enough that she was refused service in a diner in 1960s Dallas.  My father is a white boy from Indiana whose ancestors came from Germany in the mid-1800s and England in the mid-1600s.  I am a well-tanned mix of the two of them.

It seems silly to admit now, but I never noticed that my parents were different colors.  One day when I was a junior in high school, I watched my parents walk down the aisle of our church together.  They were participating in the service that day, and as they walked, I saw their hands swinging together in unison. I noticed for the first time how dark my mother was, and how white my father was. I knew them as my parents before I saw them as people—before I perceived their skin color.  I’m sorry to say that now when I see a mixed race couple walking down the street, I see the “mixed race” first and the “couple” second.  

When my parents married in 1966, there were still places in this country that had laws against interracial marriage.  The landmark Loving v. Virginia case was the following year.  My white grandfather, whose father had been a member of the KKK, was not against their marriage.  But he was concerned about how others would treat them and about their safety.  Thirty years later, my father fully understood how his father felt when I came out to him as a lesbian. 

Some of us are men, some are women.  Some are gay, some are straight.  Some are young, some old. Some are Christian, some Jewish, some Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and some atheist.  Some of us are short, and others tall.  Some right-handed, some left-handed, some disabled.  We have lots of differences; we are all unique.  But deep down inside us, down in our DNA, we are 99.9 percent the same. And I believe we need to remember that.

Searching For Self

From Voices of Our World | 28:00

Octavio Warnock-Graham struggled with a pivotal question as his sense of self was developing.

Default-piece-image-1 Part One: Searching For Self From childhood to manhood, Octavio Warnock-Graham struggled with a pivotal question as his sense of self was developing. Family photos document his dilemma. Mom, Step-Dad and baby sister, uncles and his beloved grandmother were all very noticeably Caucasian. Young Octavio however looked like he was sporting more than just a tan! For whatever reason Octavio could never get the straight answer he was looking for. But the budding filmmaker turned his frustration into a remarkable 25 minute long film, about his search for his true identity, titled Silences. His film recently won the prestigious Angelus Award presented annually by Family Theater Productions. Kathy Golden talks with Octavio Warnock-Graham. Part Two: Last Chance Connection For his fourth book, Life,Death & Bialys; a Father/Son Baking Story, writer and criminal defense lawyer, Dylan Schaffer borrowed from a most gripping passage of his life. In 2002, Dylan, living in California received a phone call from his somewhat estranged Dad in New York. His father, also a writer and known as Flip to family and friends, was inviting his son to participate with him in a master baking course at the French Culinary Institute. The kicker both men were very aware the Flip had little time left due to end stage lung and bladder cancer. What followed, in the book and in real life is a remarkable story of reconciliation. Kathy speaks with author, Dylan Schaffer.

William Utermohlen

From Eric Molinsky | 10:12

An artist paints self-portraits while battling Alzheimer's

William20utermohlen_small Painter William Utermohlen was old-fashioned -- and completely unknown for most of his career. But the self-portraits he made while he was suffering from Alzheimer's disease made him a star. Eric Molinsky traces the history of an artist who was always a little out of step with his generation.

The History of My Names

From Judah Bruce Leblang | 05:01

An exploration of the power of names and identity

Default-piece-image-1 "The History of My Names" is a reflective piece about the power of names and the influence of my particular names on my life. I examine my family and cultural history (in a humorous way) and explore the way these labels have shaped my identity.

Diet Coke

From Holly Kernan | 02:21

what diet coke reveals about global identity

Diet Coke
Holly Kernan

Default-piece-image-1 When immigrant Sandip Roy craves a diet coke, he realizes he's become more American than he imagined.....

Come Soul, I Have Need Of Thee

From Salt Institute for Documentary Studies | 07:59

A Maine folk singer struggles with his identity, since losing his voice to cancer.

Kendallmorsepic_small Kendall Morse is an entertainer known for two things:  his Maine humor, and his renditions of traditional folk songs.  For Kendall, there’s a difference between being an entertainer and being a performer.  A performer puts on a show.  But for an entertainer, the show never ends.  It’s part of their everyday life. 

Until recently, Kendall didn’t anticipate having to end his show early.  But over the past few years, he’s faced the reality that he may never again be able to do what he loves most.

Mind on the Brain

From Salt Institute for Documentary Studies | 08:31

A personal look at Traumatic Brain Injury.

Default-piece-image-1 At 22, Marie Cotnoir ran her car into a telephone pole and sustained a severe brain injury. Six years later, she finds herself "recovered" and, on the face of it, completely normal, but suffering from lingering effects of her brain injury that leave her isolated.