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SandraLaing

Sandra Laing (1955- ) was a black girl born to white Afrikaner parents in South Africa back in the days of white rule and apartheid, of keeping the races apart.

It seems that her white father was her true father: blood tests showed that his blood matched hers. Sandra also looked too much like her brother Adriaan, who was white.

Although Sandra’s great grandparents were all white, someone in her family tree must have been passing for white, probably several people on both sides. Their genes came together in her. Most white Afrikaners are only about 89% white by blood.

The trouble started when she went to school. The white children called her names, like “blackie” and “frizzhead”. They hit her. The school did nothing to stop them: it saw her as the cause of the trouble.

For four years parents and teachers of the school pushed to have her kicked out. Then on March 10th 1966 the police came and took her out of the school: the government said she was no longer white in the eyes of the law but coloured (mixed-race).

For two years her father fought to have her changed back to white, taking it all the way to the Supreme Court. He won. But it did little good: few white schools would take her. Nine said no. Only a Roman Catholic school far away said yes. By then she had fallen too far behind in her studies and never caught up.

Very few whites would befriend her. Nearly all her friends were black. She felt more comfortable with blacks than with whites.

At 14 she fell in love with a black man. Her father pulled a gun on him and told him never to come back and told her that if she married him, he will cut her off from the family.

At 15 she married him and ran off with him to Swaziland where she became his second wife. Her father made good on his threat.

LAING_3When she returned to South Africa she was forced by law to live in a black township, a place with no power or running water. Even worse, her children were not allowed to live with her: they were “black” and she was still “white”. She tried to get herself changed back to coloured so they could stay with her, but her father blocked it! It took her ten years to get them back.

Her father went to his grave never seeing her again. Even her two (white) brothers, who are still alive, will not see her. They blame her for their parents’ unhappiness: ever since she ran away they were never happy again. But she did get to see her mother in 2000 just before she died.

Her story was made into a documentary in the 1970s – which was not allowed to be shown in South Africa! It has also been made into a book, “When She Was White” by Judith Stone, and a British film, “Skin” (2009), starring Sophie Okonedo and Sam Neill.

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This is a man’s world, this is a man’s world
But it wouldn’t be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl

You see, man made the cars to take us over the road
Man made the trains to carry heavy loads
Man made electric light to take us out of the dark
Man made the boat for the water, like Noah made the ark

This is a man’s, a man’s, a man’s world
But it wouldn’t be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl

Man thinks about a little baby girls and a baby boys
Man makes then happy ’cause man makes them toys
And after man has made everything, everything he can
You know that man makes money to buy from other man

This is a man’s world
But it wouldn’t be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl

He’s lost in the wilderness
He’s lost in bitterness

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donyale

Donyale Luna (1945-1979) was an American fashion model from the 1960s. In March 1966 she became  the first black woman ever to appear on the cover of British Vogue. She also appeared in a number of films by Warhol, Fellini and Otto Preminger.

She was beautiful and troubled, tall and strange. Like a shooting star she was here and then she was gone. She died of drugs at 34.

She was 5 foot 10 (1.78 m) and her measurements were 31-21.5-36 (79-55-91 cm), giving her a waist-to-hip ration (WHR) of 0.60. That is extremely low for a fashion model, but this was just before Twiggy changed everything.

She was born Peggy Freeman in Detroit. Her father was a mean man who was murdered when she was 18. She said he was not her true father, but a man who came from Mexico with the name of Luna.

She was discovered in Detroit by photographer David McCabe. Her mother wanted her to stay in Detroit and become a nurse. She went to New York and became a model. When she walked through the doors of Harper’s Bazaar magazine, they called her “an extraordinary apparition”. They put a drawing of her on their cover in 1965. It made her name.

She did not like New York:

There were bad things. People were on drugs or hung up on pot. There was homosexuality and lesbianism and people who liked to hurt.

So in December 1965 she fled to London and Paris, where she made $60 an hour (48 crowns an hour), a good rate in those days.

britvogue1966She was the first black woman on the cover of British Vogue, but her hand covers half her face so that you cannot tell she is black: she could be Italian or Middle Eastern. Reportedly that was done so its regular readers would not be upset.

But it was not just Vogue that had a hard time accepting her race. She did too. She did not like it when people brought up the fact that she was black. In 1968 when asked about breaking down doors as a black actress, she said:

If it brings about more jobs for Mexicans, Chinese, Indians, Negroes, groovy. It could be good, it could be bad. I couldn’t care less.

She lived the high life, hung with the Rolling Stones and discovered LSD. But then she began to act even more strangely. Beverly Johnson said she “doesn’t wear shoes winter or summer. Ask her where she’s from – Mars? She went up and down the runways on her hands and knees. She didn’t show up for bookings. She didn’t have a hard time, she made it hard for herself.” Her modelling days were soon over.

She appeared in some films: “Satyricon” (1969) by Fellini, “Camp” (1965) by Warhol and she played the lead in “Salome” (1972). You can see her on “The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson” for December 12th 1966.

She appeared in Playboy in May 1975 in a picture of her naked taken by her lover, Luigi Cazzaniga. Their daughter still lives in Italy where she is a dancer.

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