Category Archives: african american culture

“The Pieces I Am”

The AMAZING Toni Morrison has a documentary film coming out June 21st in Los Angeles and New York. The rest of the world will be able to see it June 28th. CHECK YOUR LOCAL LISTINGS!

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Toni Cade Bambara, the scholar

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This book. Is. Absolutely. Brilliant.

“The Salt Eaters” is one of those books that took me years to read. For some reason, I always seemed to begin to read it and after the first few pages I had to put it down. Part because I couldn’t grasp the concept of what was going on and because I had too much going on in my life. See, this book demands you be abandoned when you read it. After finally reading the book, I realized it was difficult to read because it was personal. It felt like a conversation I would have with my girlfriends. It was “an older book” that was still relevant. It gave me the feel of a Zora Neale Hurston book or Toni Morrison. It is time bending and revolutionary.

I was introduced to Bambara around the time I began to consume myself with literature from black women. The summer going in to my sophomore year of undergraduate school when I sat on the library floor and found Sanchez, Shange, Giovanni, Walker, Brooks, Jordan, Clifton to name a few. I was a theatre student, who also loved poetry, scouring for material to perform and interpret for auditions and competitions. Bambara was one of the names that kept coming up so I kept her on my list of authors that “changed the game”.

Those who know me know that I am a thrift store book shopper. I never buy used books for over $3.00 and one day (years ago) I came across this book:

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Continue reading Toni Cade Bambara, the scholar

Road Paver – Kathleen Collins

Today would have been the 77th birthday of poet, playwright, writer, filmmaker, director, civil rights activist, and educator, Kathleen Collins.  I am taking time to insert her into my repertoire because she was the first black woman to direct a feature-length drama. Collins paved the road for Julie Dash. Commonly, Julie Dash is given credit for being the first black woman to direct a feature length film.

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Influenced by the works of playwright, Lorraine Hansberry, Collins’ work centered around African Americans as human subjects and not as mere race subjects. This being a clear indication to her black feminism work in film and activism against vilified images and stereotypes.

As I journey on this path of shifting, reflecting and altering my personal perceptions of my artistic work in literature, I am “inserting” the names of black women who may exist prominently in the shadows. May their names and work re-join the rain dancers and roux makers of black women creators.

Happy Birthday Kathleen Collins!

Re-membering Lugenia Burns Hope

As many of you know, I am a writer. I am so excited to share my latest work of fiction this fall, a work of historical fiction. During my research while writing the book, I came across one of the inspirations for my plot focus, and her name is Lugenia Burns Hope.

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Hope founded the Atlanta Neighborhood Union and was a social activist, reformer, and community organizer during the early 20th century. The Neighborhood Union worked to improve black communities through traditional social work, improved education opportunities, and community health campaigns. Hope was also one of the founding members of the Atlanta chapter of the National Association of Colored Women’s Club. The organization had the motto, “Lifting as we climb”, to demonstrate to “an ignorant and suspicious world that our aims and interests are identical with those of all good aspiring women.”

Look her up! She was a very important black women who stood for community reformation and liberation as well as placing voice to black women’s societal concerns. Upon re-entering grad school, I have come to realize that my work (including works of fiction) have been to place a black feminine presence in historic moments. Hope inspired and educated women that went on to found the Women’s Political Council (WPC) in Montgomery, Alabama that organized the infamous bus boycott.

His-story would like for us to think Black women’s contribution to civil rights were sporadic moments of genius and courage. This is far from the facts! We just don’t know their names! The names of these communities of women that organized and implemented movement for progress and change. This is Lugenia Burns Hope, and we thank her! Happy Birthday!

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Re-Establishing my Journey

Years ago I decided I would not never become a teacher. I envisioned it as confinement. I am a creature of routine BUT I do not want one imposed on me. I always saw being an educator as someone who was doomed with routine and rewarded with low pay. That was not the life I wanted to live.

As time and the ancestors would have it, my poetry created a platform for me to engage my art at colleges and universities. Not just as the “entertainment” but additionally as an educator to young writers on the importance of preserving the black vernacular. My art eventually evolved to focusing on the feminine narrative. Encouraging the black feminine voice expressed and written from a holistic perspective and not just as a presence to move a plot forward. These discussions exposed two things, (1) I had more questions than answers and needed to do more research to educate myself (2) I was pretty good at this teaching thing.

My community knows me primarily as a performance poet and from the theatre. Both of these creative platforms allowed me to express undivided and intellectually intact. I had the company to be beautiful and the security to laugh at myself and others. As I immersed myself more with the writing community, plays and novels, I felt absent- invisible even. I was stifled with this feeling once before when I studied film at Howard University for my M.A. In screenplay writing, I didn’t have the company of voice, meaning the character written or represented on film, was not a bridged visualization of my existence as a woman. A black woman, a woman of color living in this country. My questions about the presence or the acceptance of what was represented as the black feminine narrative, now became a plaque of concerns. That was until I got my hands on Toni Morrison’s “Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination”.

Continue reading Re-Establishing my Journey

Thankful for Toni Morrison

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“A literary artist of the first rank.”

“She delves into the language itself, a language she wants to liberate from the fetters of race. And she addresses us with the luster of poetry.”

Those words are from the Nobel Committee that awarded Ms. Morrison her Nobel Prize in Literature on this day in 1993.

Her acceptance speech spoke of ‘spreading like algae because this prize is being distributed to various regions and nations and races.’  Morrison shared this win with women, the mid west, the east coast and African Americans.  She is one of the reasons I am in love with pen to pad.  Why I love words to dreams.  Why I am courageous enough to speak my vernacular.

People do speak highly of my art.  And I have been used in some really nice analogies during introductions to stages.  And for that, I am thankful for Toni Morrison.

 

 

 

Some Time for Angela Davis

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Angela Davis is a political activist, academic and author. She emerged as an activist in the 1960’s in northern California with the Black Panther Party. The thing that I personally admire about Angela Davis is her willingness to grow and learn. Many of her contradictions have come from her speaking on new learnings where there hasn’t been a language for Black women. Therefore I don’t view these as contradictions, she was creating a language along the way. She was shifting point of views and stand points. And she continues to do so.

I have heard her speak several times. Once she mentioned that growing up in Birgmingham, Alabama she was friends with two of the girls now infamously known as “The 4 Little Girls”. I can only imagine that her critically thinking mind began back then.

Happy Birthday Angela Davis! Thank you!

 

Celebrating Zora!

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It’s not too late to join the annual festivities in the name of the literary icon, Zora Neale Hurston:

https://zorafestival.org/

What Are The ZORA!™ Festival’s Goals ?
  • To celebrate the life and work of Zora Neale Hurston
  • To celebrate the historic significance of Eatonville
  • To celebrate the cultural contributions which people of African ancestry have made to the United States and to world culture