Viewing entries tagged
African American interests

Book Talk: The Book Itch by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

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Book Talk: The Book Itch by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

I also had a chance to give a book talk on a special book that I recently read--The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth, and Harlem's Greatest Bookstore. It's book that represents my desire to see publishers publish more diverse books to more fully represent kid readers of various backgrounds. It is also a book that touches on my favorite period of American history--the Harlem Renaissance. And it represents one of my favorite places to hang: the local indie bookstore.

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Graduate School Musings: Finding My Place in the Quest for Many Stories

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Graduate School Musings: Finding My Place in the Quest for Many Stories

Currently the official canon of American Renaissance literature (defined by F. O. Matthiessen as literature written between 1850 and 1855) includes no women and no people of color. Across the US and the world that include American Renaissance, or the like, as part of their curriculum study this time period with only the perspectives of white men. But both women and people of color wrote landmark, culture-shifting works during this time that embody the very meaning of renaissance. I aimed to uncover and explore their works.

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Women's History Month Profile: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie—Writing to Power

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Women's History Month Profile: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie—Writing to Power

Adichie tells the story of a Nigerian family under the oppression of a fanatically religious father. The story is told through the sensitive eyes of fifteen-year-old Kambili. The wealthy and privileged family consists of father, Eugene; mother, Beatrice; elder son, Jaja; and younger daughter Kambili. They are members of the Igbo tribe and live in Enugu. Despite his tyrannical rule over his family, Eugene is known an upstanding businessman and kind-hearted, generous philanthropist who gives to widows, pays tuition for over one hundred poor children, and funds the efforts of his local Catholic church.

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Sole Sister History for Black Girls Who Run

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Sole Sister History for Black Girls Who Run

In honor of Black History Month and this illustrious group of black women who have done so much to encourage each other to live healthy, well-balanced lives, I share this history of black women who have run before us and whose spirits and drive still run with us today.

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The History Behind Black History Month

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The History Behind Black History Month

I think it's important to place special emphasis on the histories and contributions of the many ethnic groups represented in this country. When we don't, we tend to overlook the beauty of our diverse cultural perspectives—and almost assume that we all think alike and begin to hold each other to certain expectations and standards that if they are not met we feel justified in our expressions of hate or apathy toward each other's struggles and experiences.

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The Genius of Nonviolence and Peaceful Resistance During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s

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The Genius of Nonviolence and Peaceful Resistance During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s

Though Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is the very deserving front man on whom we shower accolades and credit for the achievements attained during the Civil Rights Movement, it was the collaborative effort of several groups of strategic thinkers who carefully plotted out and executed an irreversible, genius plan to equalize life for black people in America. The strategy used is called nonviolent direct-action protest.

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Doing My "It" Scared—Or Something Like That

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Doing My "It" Scared—Or Something Like That

For the last two months I have been a part of a local cast rehearsing (July and August) and finally performing (this month) the popular play Crowns: the Gospel Musical adapted for stage by Regina Taylor from the pictorial book Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats by Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry.

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Black History Month Tribute: 10 African American Publishing Firsts


The first African American to publish a book
Phillis Wheatley, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, 1773. Publishers refused to believe that she was a poet. A group of eighteen Bostonians questioned her then wrote a two-paragraph introduction confirming her talent. The book was finally published in England.

The first African American to publish a novel
William Wells Brown, Clotel, or the President’s Daughter: a Narrative of Slave Life in the United States, 1853. It was the story of a girl fathered by President Thomas Jefferson and born to his African American housekeeper.

The first African American woman to publish a novel
Harriet Wilson, Our Nig: Sketches from the Life of a Free Black, 1859. It was also the first novel by a black writer to be published in the United States. It told the story of a free African American woman’s experiences as a servant for a white Massachusetts family.

The first novel by an African American to become a book-of-the-month selection
Richard Wright, Native Son, 1940. Native Son, the story of a young black man who commits murder in a moment of panic, was a best seller and the first novel by an African American writer to enter the mainstream of American literature.

The first novel by an African American woman to sell over one million copies
Ann Petry, The Street, 1946. It is the story of a young woman struggling to raise her son in New York City’s Harlem.

The first African American novel to be bought by Hollywood
Frank Yerby, The Foxes of Harrow, 1946. An historical melodrama, set in the South just before the Civil War, The Foxes of Harrow was purchased by Hollywood and made into a film in 1947 starring Rex Harrison and Maureen O’Hara.

The first African American woman to publish science fiction
Octavia Butler, Clarion, Kindred, Dawn, Adulthood Rites, Imago, and more. Her leading characters are usually independent African American women, and her themes deal with genetic engineering, alien beings, and the use of power.

The first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize
Gwendolyn Brooks, Annie Allen, 1949. Brooks was a poet, mentor, activist, and author of fiction and nonfiction.

The first African American writer to win the National Book Award
Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man, 1952. The novel was an account of a young African American’s confrontation with discrimination and his inability to be seen apart from his race.

The first African American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature
Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, Beloved (a Pulitzer Prize winner), Jazz, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination, Paradise, Love, and A Mercy. Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1993. “My world did not shrink because I was a black female writer. It just got bigger,” she says.

You can find more African American firsts in publishing and other areas in Joan Potter’s African American Firsts: Famous, Little-Known and Unsung Triumphs of Blacks in America (New York: Dafina Books, 2002, 2009).

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Black. Love. Literature.


I am a hopeful romantic. And those around me may not even know this.

I chose this poem to share this Valentine's Day during this month of black history, because it brings two things--well three things--together that I just love--literature, black culture, and...love. Black love literature. All literature is a work of love. All good literature, that is. Only those who've experienced the pain and addiction of love can write poetry that speaks to every human heart the way this special piece speaks to mine. I could hear my William saying this to me. I feel this way in my heart toward him. I am Lucinda, and I am the poet. How long did it take Langston Hughes to form these few words that weigh so heavily in my chest? How many arguments and make-ups with "Lucinda" helped him define his heart? Do these words say it all? What was his first draft? And when did he feel that it was just right? That it was good enough to give to us to help us articulate this complex emotion beating in our hearts? Maybe a lump formed in his throat or tears seeped into his eyes and down his cheek when the right words appeared on the paper. I can hear him saying, "Ah, yes, this is it."


How do you know when your words are just right enough to sing into someone else's heart?


Love Song for Lucinda
By Langston Hughes

Love
Is a ripe plum
Growing on a purple tree.
Taste it once
And the spell of its enchantment
Will never let you be.

Love
Is a bright star
Glowing in far Southern skies.
Look too hard
And its burning flame
Will always hurt your eyes.

Love
Is a high mountain
Stark in a windy sky.
If you
Would never lose your breath
Do not climb too high.





____________________________________

Langston Hughes* (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967) was an American novelist, playwright, short story writer, and columnist. He was one of the earliest innovators of the new literary art form jazz poetry. Hughes is best-known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, alongside those of his contemporaries, Zora Neale HurstonWallace ThurmanClaude McKayCountee CullenRichard Bruce Nugent, and Aaron Douglas.

He stressed the theme of "black is beautiful" as he explored the black human condition in a variety of depths.[33] His main concern was the uplift of his people, whose strengths, resiliency, courage, and humor he wanted to record as part of the general American experience.[13][34] His poetry and fiction portrayed the lives of the working class blacks in America, lives he portrayed as full of struggle, joy, laughter, and music.

*Brief bio of Langston Hughes from "Langston Hughes," Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Langston_Hughes (accessed February, 14, 2011).

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Black History Month Tribute: Blacks in Publishing


Black History Month always excites me. And why wouldn't it? It provides an opportunity for me and many others like me to be exclusively proud of our heritage--the struggles, the triumphs, the mishaps, the scars, the resilience, and the beauty. It also provides a learning experience for those who are unaware of the huge part black people have played in making America the nation that it is.

Someone asked me the other day, "Is it OK for black people to have black this and black that?" In other words, is it OK for black people to uniquely identify their successes, achievement, status, or lack thereof as "a black thing"? I have to say yes, and I would say the same for any other minority group. If we don't have an opportunity to highlight our presence in history and contemporary times and our hopes for the future, we run the risk of being overlooked. Yes, we really do.

Here is where I digress into my sociological background. A majority does not have reason--and sometimes the ability, because of its position of power--to recognize the plight of the minority unless the minority brings its issues or concerns to the forefront. Think about it. If you are seated on the peak of a mountain, your view of what's happening in the valley is limited. But if a loud noise starts to rise up and maybe your mountain begins to tremble a bit, causing you unrest, you may find yourself climbing off your perch to see what in the world is going on. And even further, if you think of a marriage relationship with one person as a dominate personality and one with a more understated personality, you can see how the one with the dominate personality would overshadow the other--at times, unintentionally, and other times with well-thought-out intention.

I do not say this to create an argument but to make a point. It is important to recognize the innate desire of the minority to create balance--or the necessity to fight for balance. Sometimes the minority needs to make lots of noise to be heard, so that the majority is "encouraged" to have a conversation that welcomes an equal place at the table. This is an eternal struggle. Even if the balance shifts and the once minority becomes the majority (perceived power and all), the new minority will have to make itself known to keep things in balance.

This is why I love Women's History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Native American Heritage Month, and any other time where the minority has a chance to tip the scales and celebrate itself in a big way. My hope is that a residue is left after the celebration that affords the minority increased visibility and voice.

I began plotting out how I would contribute to Black History Month 2011 some time last year. I wanted to discuss our history in the context of my current life focus, which is publishing. I have had an opportunity to explore and discuss with other publishing professionals how people of color are positioned in publishing as decision makers and as the talent--and while things have come a long way since the Jim Crow South, we still have a long way to go.

People of color (not just blacks) make up only 2 percent of publishing professionals, according to Elizabeth Bluemle's Publishers Weekly article "The Elephant in the Room." I can't singlehandedly change that--obviously. But what I can do is talk about the impact of black publishing, and in turn add to the noise that is seeking for ethnically reflective representation in the industry. Because, as Bluemle says, "This discrepancy between the real world and the publishing world limits the range of books published, the intellectual scope of discussion, and—for the bottom-liners among us—greatly stunts the potential market." And we just ain't gon' have none of that!


I invite you to join me for the next several weeks as I explore Black America's contribution to the world of publishing.
    Please feel free to leave comments in any of the posts adding what you know or appreciate about people of color in publishing--as professionals, authors, and readers. I want to get your feedback especially your thoughts about the history, where diversity in publishing is today, and what the future of publishing looks like for people of color. No wrong answers. One rule: be constructive, uplifting, and solution oriented. The rest is for the birds!

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    On Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer, and the ‘N’ Word


    My response to Publishers Weekly and NPR articles on the new editions of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer that remove all racial epithets.

    “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter.”
    —Mark Twain

    English class was the one place that we could air all our crazy teenage/twenty-something philosophies about the world, history, language, art, religion, fashion, technology, and so much more. I recall it being the one class I never skipped. We hashed out race and gender issues, theological differences, and ideals verses reality. I feel that removing “offensive” language from literary classics robs students and teachers from being able to have these kinds of meetings in the classroom.


    Of course teachers should be well trained in how to facilitate effective and beneficial conversations on controversial topics, but I remember leaving my classes feeling enlightened and more aware of my neighbor’s plight. My professors were brilliant! We didn’t have to agree, but we were encouraged to respect and understand.

    Are we so politically correct that we are afraid to confront the hard stuff of life head on and then make our way back to common ground? It is a scary thought. My husband and I stay happily married because we aren’t afraid to confront the hard stuff. Our “talks” can get pretty heated. However, we approach them with the desire for understanding each other a little better and being able to empathize with the other’s feelings or position. This is a discipline. Empathy is a discipline. We were taught this at home and at school through many avenues, one of which was open discussion about cultural, religious, and racial differences. Twain's novels encourage this kind of discourse. Do we care that this is at stake with NewSouth Books' way of thinking?

    I’d have to say that this removal of the racial epithets in the Twain novels is not the beginning of our lack of addressing cultural/ethnic differences. Our discussions have been decreasing in frequency and substance over the last several decades to the point that our children lack empathy and understanding of people who are different from them. I believe that NewSouth’s thinking is partly the kind of thinking that has contributed to the rise of bullying and cold-heartedness in our schools.

    You may be able to hide relics of the past, but the memories bubble up in the form of passive aggression.
    NewSouth has continued to stand by their decision to publish the novels without the N word, saying that they have provided a detailed introduction that examines the use and context of various racial slurs and why their edition will not contain them. But I agree with Stephan Tawny, who said in his blog Tuesday, If the publisher finds it acceptable to confront the language head-on, why not place the note in the front of the book and then leave the original text alone?”

    We can rob the upcoming generations of their opportunity to have an understanding of other ethnic groups if we erase the historical context of what makes these ethnic groups who they are. None of us want to glorify the past or stay stuck there, but we need it to stay in tact so that we can grow from it.

    What I’ve also been privy to is that the editor, Dr. Alan Gribbean, who sought to make these changes is white, and because I am blessed to have a multiethnic group of friends and colleagues, I understand that my white friends are very sensitive to the N word—sometimes more than I am. It hurts them to the core. So I do hear Dr. Gribbean’s heart on this. However, let’s not cover up the past or erase it. Let’s use it as a learning tool, as a jumping-off point. Maybe from now on, books should be careful to not use the N word.

    So what does this one move by NewSouth Books mean? Should we start hiding Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Roots, Birth of a Nation and The Color Purple? Then what do we do about classic books that have demeaning messages about women (The Scarlett Letter was pretty deep) or any other minority group for that matter? Why stop with just those two books?

    This is a bad idea. Cover-ups like this have the potential to promote further ignorance, which leads to fear, which leads to hate.

    I’m thinking I’d better go buy the editions of these books with the racial slurs in them before they’re all wiped out!

    What are you thinking?

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    Merry Christmas From Paul Lawrence Dunbar


    I wanted to wish you all a merry Christmas with a little touch of culture from one of my favorite poets. “Paul Laurence Dunbar was the first African-American to gain national eminence as a poet. His style encompasses two distinct voices—the standard English of the classical poet and the evocative dialect of the turn-of-the-century black community in America. He was gifted in poetry—the way that Mark Twain was in prose—in using dialect to convey character.” You can read more of his bio and works here.


    I have included two examples that show the contrast of his unique and masterful styles. So in keeping with the season, please enjoy “Christmas Carol” and “Speakin O’ Christmas” by Paul Lawrence Dunbar.

    Christmas Carol
    Ring out, ye bells! 
    All Nature swells 
    With gladness of the wondrous story, 
    The world was lorn, 
    But Christ is born 
    To change our sadness into glory.

    Sing, earthlings, sing! 
    To-night a King 
    Hath come from heaven’s high throne to bless us. 
    The outstretched hand 
    O’er all the land 
    Is raised in pity to caress us.

    Come at His call; 
    Be joyful all; 
    Away with mourning and with sadness! 
    The heavenly choir 
    With holy fire 
    Their voices raise in songs of gladness.



    The darkness breaks 
    And Dawn awakes, 
    Her cheeks suffused with youthful blushes. 
    The rocks and stones 
    In holy tones 
    Are singing sweeter than the thrushes.

    Then why should we 
    In silence be, 
    When Nature lends her voice to praises; 
    When heaven and earth 
    Proclaim the truth 
    Of Him for whom that lone star blazes?

    No, be not still, 
    But with a will 
    Strike all your harps and set them ringing; 
    On hill and heath 
    Let every breath 
    Throw all its power into singing!




    Speakin' O' Christmas

    Breezes blowin’ midlin’ brisk,
    Snow-flakes thro’ the air a—whisk,
    Fallin’ kind o’ soft an’ light,
    Not enough to make things white,
    But jest sorter siftin’ down
    So’s to cover tip the brown
    Of the world’s rugged ways
    ‘N’ make things look like holidays.
    Not smoothed over, but jest specked.
    Sorter strainin’ fur effect,
    An’ not quite a-gittin' through
    What it started in to do.
    Mercy sakes! It docs seem queer
    Christmas day is ’most nigh here.
    Somehow it don’t seem to me
    Christmas like it used to be,—
    Christmas with its ice an’ snow,
    Christmas of the long ago.
    You could feel its stir an’ hum
    Weeks an’ weeks before it come;
    Somethin’ in the atmosphere
    Told you when the day was near,
    Didn’t need no almanacs;
    That was one o’ Nature’s fac’s.
    Every cottage decked out gay—
    Cedar wreaths an’ holly spray—
    An’ the stores, how they were drest,
    Tinsel till you couldn’t rest’
    Every winder fixed up pat,
    Candy canes, an’ things like that,
    Noah’s arks, an’ guns, an’ dolls,
    An’ all kinds o’ fol-de-rols.
    Then with frosty bells a-chime,
    Slidin’ down the hills o’ time,
    Right amidst the fun an’ din
    Christmas come a bustlin’ in,
    Raised his cheery voice to call
    Out a welcome to us all;
    Hale and hearty, strong an’ bluff,
    That was Christmas, sure enough.
    Snow knee-deep an’ coastin' fine,
    Frozen mill-ponds all ashine,
    Seemin’ jest to lay in wait,
    Beggin’ you to come an’ skate,
    An’ you’d git your gal an’ go
    Stumpin’ cheerily thro’ the snow,
    Feelin’ pleased an’ skeert an’ warm
    ‘Cause she had a-hol yore arm.
    Why, when Christmas come in, we
    Spent the whole glad day in glee
    Havin’ fun and feastin’ high
    An, some courtin’ on the sly.
    Bustin’ in some neighbor's door
    An’ then suddenly, before
    He could give his voice a lift,
    Yellin’ at him, “Christmas gift.”
    Now such things are never heard,
    “Merry Christmas” is the word.
    But it’s only change o’ name,
    An' means givin’ jest the same.
    There’s too many new-styled ways
    Now about the holidays.
    I’d jest like once more to see
    Christmas like it used to be!

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    Publishing for African American Audiences

    The question of the hour is, “How do we reach African American audiences?” But it seems that the question is far too infrequently directed at African Americans. Or if it is asked of them, it seems the answers aren’t good enough. As if somehow the majority knows what’s best for the minority. Answer is given, then “experts” say, “No, that can’t be it. That won’t sell.”

    What if publishing for African Americans really is about smaller niche audiences within the larger audience? What if it really is about book clubs and independent reviewers, magazine featurettes and book signings/readings? What if African American audiences don’t trust or rely on mainstream/traditional methods of book marketing? What if it really is about accepting African American views on race, sexually, religion, and politics? And then not just accepting it, but realizing that it may be different than the mainstream and being OK with letting that voice speak out. Is that OK with the publisher asking the question? Are they ready to engage and develop relationships with the channels that would best position African American titles? Can publishers accept and handle the unique demands, expectations, and felt needs of African American readers? I think those are the better questions, not that I can claim to have any of the answers.

    I’m not going to even touch the topic of where to place these books in the bookstores—do they get their own section or should they join the rest of the books on their particular subject? Nope, not going there. But here’s what I want to know from African American readers, reviewers, authors/writers, and publishing professionals:

    What do you think are the best-selling trends in African American literature both fiction and nonfiction, especially, but not limited to, those with Christian themes? Then, what are the best ways for publishers to market those titles to African Americans? What publishers are doing it well?

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    What the Marketing Behind JayZ's Decoded Teaches Me About Author Platform


    I am a fan of hip-hop. I am influenced by hip-hop. I could totally be Sanaa Lathan in Brown Sugar. I grew up during the time when people were saying it was a fad and wouldn’t last. I recall the East Coast vs. West Coast beef. The battles. The violence. The utter shock, genius, and necessity of it all.

    I wouldn’t be categorized as a hip-hop head anymore, probably because my tolerance for shock value, language, and violence has changed tremendously since my teens and twenties. Not to mention my spirituality. But I respect it as a music genre, and you will still find some of my favorite hip-hop artists on my iPod.

    My point is not to argue for or against the goodness, artistry, or cultural implications of hip-hop, but to simply make a case for why it is still the top responsibility for authors to build platforms for their book projects, second only to writing an incredible manuscript.

    I bring JayZ into this scenario not to make any writers irritated by his apparent global celebrity, but to point out the simple fact that even he with his insane iconic image still has to build a literary platform around his new book, Decoded.

    Yes, it would seem that he could tell a million people, “Jump,” and that every one of them would ask in unison, “How high, JayZ?” But it can all change when it comes to them flocking to read a book by someone who is in an entirely different industry that is not known in the mainstream for being especially bookish.

    His very actions this week prove the validity of my statements. JayZ has sought an intellectual posse and marketing strategy to wrap himself in to be positioned as a worthy member among bibliophiles. This is very smart, and I have loved following it.

    He is shifting his platform so that his book will sell. So now he’s saying, “I’m not only rapper, mogul, and CEO but also thinker/writer. Here’s why you need to hear from me in this way.”

    Not only did he set a new standard for engaging in social media with his websites and partnership with the search engine Bing, but he has also been on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, interviewed with Cornel West and Paul Holdengräber live from the New York Public Library, and spoke with the Associated Press about some political matters. I am not a PR person and certainly not on the inside of JayZ’s crew, but I can see his calculated effort to build a literary following.

    I can predict that people who don’t necessarily listen to his music will most certainly buy his book because of this genius promotional repositioning plan.

    Another thing that strikes me is that he and his team are working hard to keep the “memoir” and “autobiography” categories from pigeonholing his book even more. Personal memoirs, autobiographies, testimonies can be a hard sell, even for famous people.

    So if he, with all his fame and fortune, is doing all this strategizing and working very hard to be “seen” in literary circles as an intellectual and creating innovative ways to leverage social media, why would any other author with less fame think that somehow they would not have to work to promote themselves and build an audience for their book? That the publishing company would do this for them? While his access to media and various venues is very different from the average writer, there is no reason to think that it is easy for him or that he just loves to promote himself. It’s his job to make it look that way; he’s a hustler (and I mean literally a hard worker).

    What are your thoughts on the rapper-turned-author? (Only nice, objective, and observatory comments allowed, please.)

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    American History and the African American: Reflection for Black History Month


    It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others….One ever feels his twoness—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.
    W. E. B. DuBois, author, intellectual, historian, sociologist
    From The Souls of Black Folk


    “We the people”—it is a very eloquent beginning. But when the Constitution of the United States was completed on the seventeenth of September in 1787, I was not included in that “We the people.” I felt for many years that somehow George Washington and Alexander Hamilton just left me out by mistake. But through the process of amendment, interpretation, and court decision, I have finally been included in “We the People.”
    —Barbara C. Jordan
    The first black woman to be elected to the Texas Senate
    U.S. Congresswoman from 1972–1978


    There is no Negro problem. The problem is whether the American people have loyalty enough, honor enough, patriotism enough, to live up to their own constitution.
    —Frederick Douglass
    American abolitionist, lecturer, author, and slave


    My father was a slave and my people died to build this country, and I'm going to stay right here and have a part of it, just like you.
    —Paul Robeson
    Athlete, singer, actor, and advocate for the civil rights of people around the world


    This week on Twitter, I had the pleasure—no, the honor—to tweet thoughtful quotes by contemporary and historical African American authors and writers. The initial idea popped into my head without me really consciously understanding the impact reading and posting these quotes would have on me.

    But the analytical person inside me started to pull out the sociological significance of what some of these people were saying. This gave me pause as I began to replay some of my own feelings related to being an African American. Do I personally feel the duality that surfaced in many of their sayings or writings? I’d have to say yes.

    W. E. B. Dubois is one of my favorite thinkers. I just love the way he worded things. So elegant. So respectful. Yet powerful and direct. Those who want to speak the truth in love may want to take some lessons from the writings of this man. His quote that I posted at the top of this post is just so true. In my everyday life, I find myself consistently trying to balance the “two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals.” It can be tiring, let me tell you.

    I often hear it said that we need to go back to the foundations of our great country. Has anyone thought about what going back sounds like to an African American? For many of us, going back to any roots may have us reliving Roots (the bestselling 1970s book and movie by Alex Haley). We don’t want that. When people mention going back to the founding fathers, it is hard for an African American not to think of those men as slave owners or the framers of the Constitution as exclusively referring to white people. Can I get a “holla!” that the Constitution gave room for growth within its lines? That had to have been divine intervention, or we would have been screwed.

    African Americans have a very different historical perspective than white Americans—and I would think that could go without saying. Many of us want to move forward together, yes. But to go back to anything? Not so much. I would have to be fair and say that every culture has very different historical perspectives. So why not look for ways for all of us to move forward into something more positive for our country?

    I can tell you that there is no other place in the world I would want to be (except Tuscany, but that’s another blog) other than America. I love being an American. I love being in America, but I feel that America has a very sordid past that really should be grounds to learn from and move past, not to return to.

    Another thing that I hear is when people mention going back to the Father Knows Best and Leave It to Beaver days. Again, what was that time like for African Americans? Yeah…, so let’s not talk about going back.

    My motivation for writing this is to encourage us all to be culturally sensitive. We have come such a long way together, and almost like marriage, it ain’t been easy.

    Just understanding this little bit is so expansive to me—freeing even. It helps me to put a finger on what is that uncomfortable feeling I get when people start talking about going back to the foundation of our country or going back to the simple, traditional family values of the 1950s and 1960s. I understand that even without the cultural complexity there, the past is not something to return to. It is something to learn from, something to help us position ourselves for the best present and future we can hope for. I am excited because, I know that we all, as a country, will continue to find ways to move together into a future that has so much promise.

    Disclaimer: I am one black person, and I cannot possibly speak for all black people. Just a little note to consider. Thanks for reading!

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