ChickenBones: A Journal

for  Literary & Artistic African-American  Themes

   

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the whole question of earning a living as a writer is a vexation worthy of

 sainthood for those of us not interested in the commercial world. i am not

good at self promotion and do very little ambulance chasing (meaning

i don't push myself on folk asking them to hire me). i haven't yet, and

probably never will, learn how to talk myself up on lucrative gigs.

 

 

Books by Kalamu ya Salaam

 

The Magic of JuJu: An Appreciation of the Black Arts Movement  /   360: A Revolution of Black Poets

Everywhere Is Someplace Else: A Literary Anthology  /  From A Bend in the River: 100 New Orleans Poets

Our Music Is No Accident   /  What Is Life: Reclaiming the Black Blues Self

My Story My Song (CD)

 

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kalamu in the carolinas

e-drum, wordband, & sac

i

'm a writer, you might say "a full service writer," in that i have a broad view of what writing is and of how i make my living as a writer. actually, i define myself as a neo-griot. i write with text, sound and light. i perform as well as notate. i maintain e-drum (which i founded in august of 1998) and teach digital video to high school students. i publish all over the place as well as direct a weekly writing workshop. i cobble together a livelihood from bits of this and some of that, plus occasional royalty checks and appearance fees. nothing steady. from time to time, when someone sees me at one of the infrequent high profile events, they just assume that it's phat like that all the time, when in truth, it be lean and mean most days of the year, one step ahead of the wolf at the door, robbing a dollar from peter while i promise to pay paul six bits next week.

Philosophy of e-drum & Publishing

a couple of people have asked me about selling subscriptions to e-drum or devising some other way to turn e-drum into an income generator. i tell them that will never happen. i am not opposed to making money, however, i don't think everything should be for sale. i believe in the sacred, and for me the sacred is that which is of value that i freely give to others. i believe we should all have something sacred in our lives. we should all give something of value to the lives of others. that's part of the neo-griot.

trying to profit off of everything we do is a disease. my goal is to be healthy. moreover, i don't want to spend time as a bookkeeper and an accountant, keeping track off this nickel and that dime. from my perspective, when a member of e-drum at a college or university, or with a community program or arts organization, gets in a position to offer me a gig as a lecturer or to do a performance, that is the way i would prefer to generate money from e-drum. for the past three or four years, speaking engagements have accounted for a significant portion of my income.

the whole question of earning a living as a writer is a vexation worthy of sainthood for those of us not interested in the commercial world. i am not good at self promotion and do very little ambulance chasing (meaning i don't push myself on folk asking them to hire me). i haven't yet, and probably never will, learn how to talk myself up on lucrative gigs. i have a strong anti-academic bent and that keeps me at odds with certain individuals who could offer entrance to the higher circles of the university lecture circuit. and, because i have avoided publishing books with mainstream publishers (it's not simply that i won't, but rather more that i don't pursue them. in a couple of cases, there have been offers that for one reason or another did not work out. anyway, i don't have books from the major houses, from the university presses, from the "high-literature" oriented small presses. it's just old rusty-dusty me, doing what i do.), because i don't have an mfa or a phd (or, quiet as it's kept a "b.a."--all i got is a a.a. in business administration from delgado junior college), and because of my own out-of-the-box mannerisms (i mean i still run around in dashikis, and not only don't own a suit or tie, don't even own a button-down-the-front shirt!), not to mention the subject matter of most of my writing and my politics, because of all of that, i don't expect to become popular overnight or, for that matter, popular anytime soon.

so, when young folk ask me about making a living as a writer, i just smile and tell them good luck. and try to be honest with them about the difficulties of making a living based solely on one's work as a writer. and, yet, i am also, a poster child for those who are willing to work hard every day. you can survive, you can do your work, you can make a difference in your community, especially if you view your community as the world at large rather than a particular nation or a particular racial group.

Neo-Griot & WordBand At Chapel Hill

anyway, back at the beginning of november i was in chapel hill. i did a neo-griot workshop on friday and on saturday night did a performance with my band, the wordband. the neo-griot concept is something i have been working on for the last two years, i subtitle neo-griot as writing with text, sound and light. there is much more to the concept, plus, as a result of teaching high school students, i have been putting together an aesthetic and ideology of what it means to be a neo-griot. it is one thing to know how to do something, and a whole other thing to be able to teach whatever it is that you know how to do. the task of teaching has pushed me and enabled me to sharpen my views and tightly focus what is distinctive about the neo-griot concept. teaching has forced me to produce a theoretical concept and also to develop a methodology to enable the practice of the neo-griot concept. i judge my success not solely by how well i do, but rather also by how i influence my students and workshop members, and by how well they do. neo-griot is not a catch phrase thought up as a marketing concept or slogan, for me neo-griot is both a way of writing for me personally and a praxsis that i can and do teach to others.

at chapel hill we had five people in the workshop, including the a.v. technician who was there to make sure the equipment was working. one of the folk who attended, was an e-drum member from the west coast who happened to be visiting the chapel hill area at that time and had read my notice that i would be appearing at unc. she decided to attend the workshop and afterwards expressed how glad she was she made it to the neo-griot workshop. and it has been that way for the last two years on the road, everywhere i have gone, there has been at least one person, and usually more than one, in the audience who is an e-drummer.

the neo-griot workshop went well. it was a quick two hours, i talked some, screened videos, asked and answered questions. i know it will take maybe another two years of development and of going around sharing the neo-griot concept before it is fully realized. over the next three or four months i plan to collect, edit and expand on the teaching handouts i have already developed, and also plan to complete a general essay or two so that i can produce a small neo-griot instructional manual. we will also soon begin to make some of the videos available in dvd format. all things in time.

on saturday night we did a wordband performance. wordband is a poetry performance ensemble. i started the wordband back in 1990 with myself and vocalist maria "gingerbread" tanner, bka "ginger." we soon added a second vocalist, anua nantambu, and a percussionist, johnathan blount. after about three months, johnathan was so in demand for other gigs, he was not able to make our low paying (when we paid at all) gigs. percussionist kenyatta simon joined us. in december of 1995, i completely revamped wordband. we dropped the vocalist and percussionist, and added three poets: kysha brown, saddi khali and glenn joshua. that lasted for about a year. i was never good at marketing, so we worked haphazardly and performances became more and more infrequent.

just when i was about ready to permanently disband the wordband, i was invited to do a jazz poetry cutting contest with john sinclair, who had a band called the blues scholars. i invited guitarist carl leblanc to work with me. kysha and ginger were at the gig and sat in on two or three numbers. it was exhilarating. carl plays everything from traditional new orleans jazz on banjo to way out free jazz--he toured and recorded with sun ra. i remember walking down the street after the gig and telling ginger and kysha, i have seen the future of the wordband. we have been a quartet ever since and there are no plans to make any further personnel changes.

at chapel hill we did one long set, about an hour and a half. it was beautiful, simply beautiful. kysha has really come into her own not only as a poet, but also in terms of making music/singing and improvising. we did "forces of nature," a number we had not done in over a year, and kysha got so deep up in it, she didn't want to stop, so we stretched out a bit. and that's the way we roll, although i am the leader and call the tunes, our arrangements are open-ended. we do a lot of improvisation, and when one member is feeling really good, they have the freedom to take the selection and flow with it. we are always experimenting, always added new numbers, re-arranging old numbers, always challenging ourselves to give more and more. we do blues, we do gospel, we do straight ahead jazz and we do way out shit, we do some r&b, funky one moment, cerebral the next, chanting on a melodic hook, or scatting over a modal number, with poetic text mixed all up in it.

the gig at unc was in fact a return engagement. we had been there in march and did so well they invited us back in november. and though i really, really love doing gigs with the wordband i am neither addicted to nor am i trying to turn it into a full time gig. we perform when the gigs are right, i.e. either a paying gig or for a political/cultural event i want to support (in which case i will pay the band members something out of my own pocket). i'm saying all of this to help explain to folk what we do and how we do it. people see us from afar and make all kinds of assumptions. the reality is we are struggling to make it but not just doing anything to survive. the whole point of doing this work is to make change and not simply to become popular or make money, and thus, while we recognize that we must have money to survive in america (you think you're free--try living without money in america!), our dedication is to people and principles before profit and popularity.

Fripp Island, Gullah Land, & Privilege

friday, 8 nov. 2002--it's south carolina this time, specifically, the south sea islands for a meeting at penn center on st. helena island. we are staying in a beach house on fripp island, which is the next island over from st. helena.

penn center is a historic black cultural center. when folk say forty acres and a mule, we generally mean it in terms of the governments broken promise of reparations to black folk coming out of slavery during the reconstruction era. as the civil war drew to a conclusion and the north won, general sherman declared that our people were to be given forty acres and a mule, but the government reneged and never came through. well, st.helena and neighboring islands plus a good stretch of carolina and georgia coastal land is specifically the land referred to in general sherman's decree. for these folk, forty acres is not just an abstract concept, instead it is specific terra firma, the ground they walk on, they plant crops on, sacred ground where they rear their children, live their lives and be buried when they transition. and here the gullah folk are not only proud of their history, keeping it alive and continuing the struggle for self-determination, they also make clear connections to their african heritage in terms of language, social customs, attitudes and aspirations. they are not simply of african heritage as in "came/were kidnapped from africa long, long time ago." in gullah land africa is alive every time they open their mouths, sit down to eat, sing and shout, walk across the fields or wage a struggle for control of the land.

for most of the 20th century the south sea islands were mainly populated by black folk. after world war 2, bridges were built connecting the islands. eventually, this black archipelago was viewed by real estate speculators as prime territory for resort homes for the rich. today, a fierce battle rages around ownership and land use. even on the islands, such as st.helena which are nominally under black political control, wave after wave of unceasing efforts seek to deluge the locals by offering what seems to be princely sums for plots of land, but with the final outcome being that as ownership changes hands, so does the character and quality of life for ordinary black folk.

left to the wiles and whims of the moneyed folk, these islands would all be turned into enclaves for the rich, with exclusive gated communities, immaculately-kept golf courses, and spanish-moss-shrouded, tree-lined highways. along with fellow educators from new mexico and from other parts of south carolina, we stayed in a beach house that would put many mansions to shame. you don't get in if your name is not on the list with the guard at the front gate, or you don't have an invite to a specific residence. it's all beach front property with deer grazing the front yards in the morning, and post-card picturesque beaches to walk at sunset. in the five bedroom house where we stayed the living room alone was larger than many apartments in two bedroom flats in harlem.

the nearest major airport was in savannah, georgia. as soon as we landed it was clear to my wary eye that here there was no need for "the south" to rise again because they were making it clear to one and all that they never were down for the count. they've got the airport decored as a plantation, so you know how old black me was feeling. and while no one was nasty and there didn't seem to be an overt racial disharmony, at the same time it was clear, you may not have to be white but you best have some money if you wanted to live the good life around here.

going back and forth between the penn center and fripp island just reinforced for me that the dollar bill is the color line of the 21st century. if you are not a firm advocate of capitalism with either a healthy endowment or a steady income of ducats, well, you might as well be working the fields back before sherman slid through here in eighteen-sixty-something with over 20,000 contraband (as the blacks escaping slavery by tagging along with the army were officially referred to). agribusiness is putting small farmers out of business. hotels, golf courses and gated communities are the main employers and you know what kind of labor they are hiring. can you say yes sir and yes mam with appropriate jolliness as you wait, serve and clean up for those (of whatever color) with the means to pay the cost to be the boss in this neo-slavery situation?

kalamu, you sound bitter. well, naw, not bitter. just realistic. i'm from new orleans. i know what a tourist dominated economy does to black communities. i know what happens to the educational system, to the morals of poor people trying to earn a living by pleasing rich people, to the government and police force when the majority of the wealth is controlled by outsiders regardless of how beneficent some of the individual investors may be.

we were gathered at the penn center for a meeting about education, but the reason we are even struggling with the question of education is because the public educational system is failing our people, particularly in the south where the whole concept of public education grew out of reconstruction, a period which is universally referred by well-to-do southerners as a period of public corruption and administrative ineptitude. reconstruction, a period that looked something like, well something like the present when we have so many black public officials and so little good and effective government in southern cities, towns and villages. all across this country, but particularly in the south, the public school systems are not working for the majority of black students.

Cultural Work & New Orleans SAC Program

i am the co-director of the students at the center (sac) program in new orleans. we are a six-year-old writing-based, independent program that operatives within the new orleans public schools. i am in my fourth year with the program and became the co-director in august 2002. sac is an elective. we work at some of the best high schools and at some of the worst. we believe in small classes, no more than 15 students. in order to affect that policy, we hire what amounts to extra teachers. we set up special classes. reductively we increase the number of teachers at every school we work within. we are democratic and view our students as a resource and not just as recipients of our instruction. our goal is to empower our students not simply with knowledge as an individual possession but with an understanding that a major goal of education ought to be community development. we advocate that the community is the classroom and partner with community-based social change organizations and individuals.

we teach the skill of writing within the context of social development. the school system likes us because we provide a source of teachers that they don't have to pay for out of their already over-taxed budgets, and because our students do well. but even though we have carved a niche within the system, we still face opposition from some administrators as well as some teachers, often hard opposition.

we have our share of hard problems we are trying to solve. we struggle with racial questions and class questions. some people oppose us because jim randels, the driving force and the founding teacher of students at the center is a white man. sac developed out of one of his classes when he and two of his students wrote a grant to ensure that they could continue to have a writing program. jim is an ardent organizer with the overwhelmingly black united teachers of new orleans.

others oppose sac because they think of us as either a bastion of liberal leftism or else think of us as irrelevant to meeting the immediate goal of raising leap scores. leap is the name for the statewide proficiency tests that are used to measure school achievement. orleans parish schools rank at the bottom, with over half of the schools on the verge of total educational meltdown. for many administrators and teachers, the only programs that count are programs that directly teach children how to pass the leap test.

and, of course, you have people who don't think much of the arts in schools, and they view writing programs as an arts program rather than as a necessary component of the english curriculum. and there are other points of opposition, but suffice it to say, working with sac is no picnic, no simple walk in the park. indeed, one of our biggest problems is identifying and retaining teachers, especially black teachers. i started off teaching radio production and now teach digital video. i view both radio production and filmmaking as forms of writing. my goal is to nurture students to become change agents who use writing as a means to improve their communities and their lives, as well as a means of self-development and self-expression.

so, we are at the penn center meeting with three other groups of educators and with members of the breadloaf school of english who are partnering with us in this effort to improve public schools. new orleans is one of four areas/programs identified by a rockefeller initiative in terms of innovative educational partnerships of the arts and public schools. our cohorts are from organizations and consortiums in new mexico; lawrence, masachusetts; and the south carolina low country.

i know all of this seems to be a stretch when we talk about being a poet, being a creative writer, but, for me, working in an innovative, public education writing program is an important aspect of actualizing myself as a committed cultural worker. teaching is as important to me as writing a poem or an essay. while i don't view teaching as the same thing as writing or the same thing as maintaining e-drum, i believe i need to walk on two legs. i believe that i need to be directly involved in community work as well as ardently dedicated to my work as an individual artist. community development and self-expression go hand in hand.

during one of our meeting sessions, we engaged in a sharp and animated dialogue about the role of arts in the curriculum. i argued against arts for arts sake, against artists in residence who merely taught technique and demonstrated individual excellence. i argued for arts for social change and arts based on teaching the students to express the truths of their particular lives within the context of their particular communities and social organizations (families, churches, schools, etc.). i argued that within the public school context our job was to educate students and not simply to dazzle them with our artistic abilities. moreover, i challenged those who stress the technical aspects of arts to match their students against our students and let us see what the students are doing for themselves and their communities.

the sac delegation consisted of two adults and two students. jim and myself, plus towana pierre, a sophomore at howard university who was in the first set of students i taught video, and continues to work with sac, and michael chancley, a high school senior who is the editor of "our voice," a city wide teen newspaper that sac students produce (write, edit and layout). both towana and michael are articulate and engaging personalities. at sac we try our best to involve our students at every level of work including leadership and decision making. while we were meeting at the penn center, their heritage festival was going on. unfortunately, we did not have a lot of time to view the events because we had meetings to attend. 

Island Festival & SAC at Penn Center

but from what i did see and based on my past experience as a festival administrator, i could see both a joyous community celebration and a fierce struggle for direction. there were booths and two stages, plus exhibits in the museum and open house activities. people came out from all over the island. got a chance to hear the mcintosh county shouters, who perform in the ring shout tradition. they had food booths featuring local cuisine. and they also had the afro-centric vendors, and the pseudo-handicrafts vendors, and a healthy selection of music vendors who were featuring more bootleg cds and vhs-tapes then i have ever seen openly displayed at a public event. i mean straight up bootleg, with computer scanned covers and shrink wrapped packaging on the vhs tapes. they had eminem's "8 mile" movie and that particularly friday was the official release date.

while it might seem like a good policy to simply say "no vending if you are illegal or inauthentic," it really is not quite that simple for a small festival like the penn center heritage festival. there are economic questions. if one isn't careful, the rules will become so stringent that only the well-off can afford to participate. there are community involvement questions: should we apply the same criteria to locals who all have a difficult time matching the products and prices of people from the mainland, especially people who make a living vending at events? and what about all of the people who were setting up stands at the side of the road leading to and from the heritage site, some displaying items on card tables, others hawking everything from pocketbooks and cds to t-shirts and sugar cane stalks from thee open trunks of their cars or from the flat beds of their pick-up trucks?

as we left that evening, we passed a young girl, she must have been about 10 or 11 years old, smiling broadly as she hoisted a sweet potato pie and poured her spiel over us: "sweet potato, just $5 dollars. they eight dollars down the road and they six dollars over there (she pointed across from us), but i got 'em for just $5 dollars!" we waved and continued walking, but she didn't give up. she ran a few feet behind us and with a smile as delightful as fresh sunshine she delivered her clincher, "besides, ours is made from scratch!"

well, we were on our way to diner at a restaurant about half a block away, but i couldn't resist. i crossed the road and we made a deal. later the pie was presented to the hosts of an after session get together. although we left to attend a reception before i got a chance to taste it, it sure did smell delicious as it warmed up in the kitchen stove. the reception turned out ok as receptions go--it featured "tea" donated by a local distributor that had not offered money but instead gave four or five cases of liquor (and not no rot-gut, this was expensive cognacs and blends). board members of penn center were present and leading organizers from breadloaf. we had not been particularly anxious to go to the reception, but it turned out to be an important networking occasion in that bernie wright, the director of penn center was really pleased that we came and asked each of us to say a few words.

we had met back in the summer up at breadloaf in vermont. he saw some of our videos and heard our presentations there, and likewise during our meetings at penn center. he obviously liked what he witnessed. you never know sometimes how you affect other people. after the presentations were done, we shook hands on a deal for sac to return to penn center in the spring for a meeting in march.

this time we would bring a contingent of sac students to interact with the young people at penn. and we would bring our equipment and make a video about the 40 acres and a mule struggle that continues to animate the important work of penn center.

after the reception we went back to the beach house and showed more videos, including the rough cut on our latest big project: "baby love," which is a 75-minute, feature-length drama focusing on teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and suicide. baby love was well received, one person wanted a copy immediately even though we are still in post-production working on the soundtrack, editing the video and still have a short scene to shoot. towana is the co-producer with myself and she was seeing the latest developments for the first time as i have been working with musican/engineer "bass heavy" on the soundtrack. when baby love is complete, i will be sure to let folk know.

sunday morning we got up around sunrise and drove back to savannah, flew to atlanta, towana changed planes and headed back to howard, and the rest of us returned to new orleans. more to come 

a luta continua,

kalamu

friday & saturday, 1 - 2 november 2002, university of north carolina, chapel hill.

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

Fiction

#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter

Non-fiction

#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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So Rich, So Poor: Why It's So Hard to End Poverty in America

By Peter Edelman

If the nation’s gross national income—over $14 trillion—were divided evenly across the entire U.S. population, every household could call itself middle class. Yet the income-level disparity in this country is now wider than at any point since the Great Depression. In 2010 the average salary for CEOs on the S&P 500 was over $1 million—climbing to over $11 million when all forms of compensation are accounted for—while the current median household income for African Americans is just over $32,000. How can some be so rich, while others are so poor? In this provocative book, Peter Edelman, a former top aide to Senator Robert F. Kennedy and a lifelong antipoverty advocate, offers an informed analysis of how this country can be so wealthy yet have a steadily growing number of unemployed and working poor. According to Edelman, we have taken important positive steps without which 25 to 30 million more people would be poor, but poverty fluctuates with the business cycle.

The structure of today’s economy has stultified wage growth for half of America’s workers—with even worse results at the bottom and for people of color—while bestowing billions on those at the top. So Rich, So Poor delves into what is happening to the people behind the statistics and takes a particular look at the continuing crisis of young people of color, whose possibility of a productive life too often is lost on their way to adulthood.DemocracyNow

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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America.

This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies. 

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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Allah, Liberty, and Love

The Courage to Reconcile Faith and Freedom

By Irshad Manji

In Allah, Liberty and Love, Irshad Manji paves a path for Muslims and non-Muslims to transcend the fears that stop so many of us from living with honest-to-God integrity: the fear of offending others in a multicultural world as well as the fear of questioning our own communities. Since publishing her international bestseller, The Trouble with Islam Today, Manji has moved from anger to aspiration. She shows how any of us can reconcile faith with freedom and thus discover the Allah of liberty and love—the universal God that loves us enough to give us choices and the capacity to make them. Among the most visible Muslim reformers of our era, Manji draws on her experience in the trenches to share stories that are deeply poignant, frequently funny and always revealing about these morally confused times.

What prevents young Muslims, even in the West, from expressing their need for religious reinterpretation? What scares non-Muslims about openly supporting liberal voices within Islam? How did we get into the mess of tolerating intolerable customs, such as honor killings, and how do we change that noxious status quo?

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The New New Deal

The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era

By Michael Grunwald

Time senior correspondent Michael Grunwald tells the secret history of the stimulus bill, the purest distillation of Change We Can Believe In, a microcosm of Obama’s policy successes and political failures. Though it is reviled by the right and rejected by the left, it really is a new New Deal, larger than FDR’s and just as transformative. It prevented an imminent depression, while jump-starting Obama’s long-term agenda. The stimulus is pouring $90 billion into clean energy, reinventing the way America is powered and fueled; it includes unprecedented investments in renewables, efficiency, electric cars, a smarter grid, cleaner coal, and more. It’s carrying health care into the digital era. Its Race to the Top initiative may be the boldest education reform in U.S. history. It produced the biggest middle-class tax cuts in a generation, a broadband initiative reminiscent of rural electrification, and an overhaul of the New Deal’s unemployment insurance system. It’s revamping the way government addresses homelessness, fixes infrastructure, and spends money.

Grunwald reveals how Republicans have obscured these achievements through obstruction and distortion. The stimulus launched a genuine national comeback. It also saved millions of jobs, while creating legacies that could rival the Hoover Dam: the world’s largest wind farm, a new U.S. battery industry, a new high-speed rail network, the world’s highest-speed Internet network.  Its main legacy, like the New Deal’s, will be change.

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Pictures and Progress

Early Photography and the Making of African American Identity

Edited by Maurice O. Wallace and Shawn Michelle Smith

Pictures and Progress explores how, during the nineteenth century and the early twentieth, prominent African American intellectuals and activists understood photography's power to shape perceptions about race and employed the new medium in their quest for social and political justice. They sought both to counter widely circulating racist imagery and to use self-representation as a means of empowerment. In this collection of essays, scholars from various disciplines consider figures including Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and W. E. B. Du Bois as important and innovative theorists and practitioners of photography. In addition, brief interpretive essays, or "snapshots," highlight and analyze the work of four early African American photographers. Featuring more than seventy images, Pictures and Progress brings to light the wide-ranging practices of early African American photography, as well as the effects of photography on racialized thinking.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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