Amiri Imamu Baraka
Poet Laureate, Playwright, Speaker, Activist
I was planning a trip to the beach. Fortunately, Atlanta affords me the leisure of choosing between various Georgia Islands, or a few hours drive to Florida, South Carolina or the coast of Alabama. I decided to do a quick turn around trip to one of the Golden Isles off the coast of Georgia. Distracted, I began to flip through Facebook and came across an article about Igbo Landing or Ebo landing.
“The Igbo Landing occurred when Igbo slaves who had taken control of their ship marched into the water and drowned at Dunbar Creek on St. Simons Island, Glynn County, Georgia.
After surviving the rigours of the Middle Passage, the 75 Igbo slaves who were bought for labour on the plantations of John Couper and Thomas Spalding for 100 dollars each.
The slaves were chained and put aboard a small ship to be transported to their destinations. During this voyage, they took control of the ship and grounded it, drowning their captors in the process.”
(from the site pulse.ng)
I looked up St. Simons Island and discovered it was a mere 4.5 hours away and I could choose lodging on the island or in nearby Brunswick, Ga. There are so many stories to be told. So many lands to be visited and honored or memorialized, and as a writer I believe there are always new words to discover. New smells and newly uncovered ways to describe emotions. So I booked my lodging, fueled up the Buick, and hit the road.
I am reading this jewel of a book this morning for one of my classes. (ok… it’s Saturday so I am doing some work around the house so I have the audio on as well)
There are so many jewels that I am coming across in this text that I want to share some. Enjoy 🙂
“I learned to love my son without wanting to possess him and I learned how to teach him to teach himself.” – Maya Angelou
“I am convinced that people do not grow up. We find parking spaces and honor our credit cards. I think what we do is mostly grow old. We carry accumulation of years in our bodies and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are still innocent and shy as magnolias.” – Maya Angelou
“Some entertainers have tried to make art of their coarseness. When they heap mud upon themselves and allow their tongues to wag with vulgarity, they expose their belief they are not worth loving.” Maya Angelou
“The ship of my life may or may not be sailing on calm and amiable seas. The challenging days of my existence may or may not be bright and promising. Stormy or sunny days, glorious or lonely nights. I maintain an attitude or gratitude. If I insist on being pessimistic, there is always tomorrow.” Maya Angelou
I have visited the majority of the civil rights museums in the southeastern states. The Center for Civil Human Rights in Atlanta, Ga. and the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN are two of my favorite. This past spring, in Montgomery, Al., a space opened that is the first of it’s kind in this country. “The National Memorial For Peace and Justice is the nation’s first comprehensive memorial dedicated to the human loss suffered during the era of racial terror lynchings, which swept across the south and beyond in the decades following the abolition of slavery.”
The memorial is a collection of work done by the Equal Justice Initiative, identifying more than 4,000 African American men, women, and children who were lynched between 1877 and 1950. This space was haunting. In the same breath, this space made me feel like another piece of me had been reconciled.
Until now, lynching had been painted in songs, danced about in novels. The impact of seeing 800 steel monuments inscribed with crimes of lynching, some detailing the reason why, presented a different sentiment. While this is a space that uses literature, sculpture, art and design to tell its’ story, there was no rhythm or pace to it. There were no perfectly fitted color patterns or designs, it just happened. There was no spell check, no correction of verb/noun agreement, the art at this memorial lends escape to no one. This space brings name to the thousands of men, women and children who were hideously and violently murdered for mere social transgressions and some from absolute innocence.
There is tons of history in Montgomery, Al to see. So planning a trip to this memorial is not the only thing you will be making time for. This is a must for anyone seeking reconciliation against violent crimes committed against African Americans in this country. This is a must see for anyone seeking retribution for human justice.
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!
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:
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.
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!
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.
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!