Viewing entries tagged
Black history

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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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.





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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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