Monday, November 27, 2006

Bebe Moore Campbell, 1950-2006

"If this is a fair world, Bebe Moore
will be remembered as the most important African-American novelist
of this century -- except for, maybe, Ralph Ellison and James Baldwin. Her writing is
clean and clear; her emotions run hot, but her most important characteristic is
uncompromising intelligence coupled with a perfectionist's eye for detail."
—The Washington Post Book World


Friday, November 24, 2006

...Not Idi Amin's Story

If you want to watch the genius, which is Forest Whitaker, bring to life the notoriously vile legend of Idi Amin Dada, then prepare to have all your fears and uneasiness, which were ignited in the ‘70s upon learning of Amin in the media, rekindled. If you’re looking for a movie to more closely examine the life of the infamous, African president, don’t see this movie. This is not Idi Amin’s story. And, while I don’t know enough to dispute the atrocities of this Ugandan president’s regime, I do understand that the novel, written by Giles Foden, a British journalist who spent twenty years in Africa, is a historical novel, which includes both fact and fiction. In fact, The Last King of Scotland is the story of a fictional young doctor, Nicholas Garrigan, who becomes the personal physician and confidante of the tarnished Amin. And, from the time of Joseph Conrad, white men have been going into the Dark Continent, coming out with stories about wild, uncivilized Africans, conjuring unfathomable nightmares in Western dreams. Again, I am not debating the events that we have been told about which characterize the life and administration of Idi Amin Dada. But, because I have been born into a world that has always been post colonial and post slavery, and because I am a descendent of those colonized and enslaved, and because I live in a world which continues to recognize me as one of the “others”, it is sometimes difficult to hear stories about other “others” without at least a fraction of doubt. Even as an American, I don’t feel that I have the luxury of taking things at face value. So, as for me, I must do more research in order to satisfy my own understanding.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

How Funny Is This...

The day before Thanksgiving, I’m preparing for my Post Colonial Literature class…had to read from chapter ten through chapter thirty-two. Now, with only a day in between classes, I thought that was a lot to cram in a day, along with eight hours spent at my internship, my necessary sweet potato pies, traffic and what not. After navigating my way through the traditional holiday grandmammas shopping for the best collard greens, two stores completely out of butter, traffic and what not, I rushed home to try and finish a hundred of those pages only to dose off after a big bowl of vanilla ice cream. I realized, okay, I’m not going to be prepared for class, but maybe I can fake it. I gathered my book bag and headed to campus for my six o’clock class, and what did I find? An empty parking lot! Instead of two days for the holiday, it turns out we got three. In this case, I didn’t mind feeling a little simple. I generally thrive when it comes to deadlines, so in studying the syllabi for my classes, I am focused on lessons, what has to be read and what has to be written by what date; holidays and days off are incidental, because it usually just means an extra day to study and prepare for class. Maybe if I were twenty years younger, I’d be a little more excited about those off days…From now on, I will study the syllabi a little more closely.

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Eliminating Hunger

Growing up in a working-class family with three siblings, we didn’t have a lot. We weren’t poor, because we had what we needed. There were times I wished my mother had been a little less frugal. For example, it would have been nice to have the rich, expensive Chip Ahoy! Chocolate Chip Cookies sometimes, instead of the 3-packs of cookies for a dollar. You know the ones: the cute little star cookies with that hardened (I guess strawberry) jelly in the center, the hard, oatmeal cookies with the crispy, white icing on top, and my favorite, the almond, windmill cookies with maybe two pieces of a slithered almond glued to it. We weren’t even on welfare, but my mama shopped generic long before it became popular. I used to envy my friends whose moms splurged on Frankenberry, Coco Puffs, and Lucky Charms; for our sugary breakfast cereals consisted of Corn Flakes…and when we were lucky…Rice Krispies…not the frosted ones…just Rice Krispies. But, although we didn’t always get what we wanted, food was never an issue. I always had the privilege of being able to go to our kitchen and satisfy my hunger.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that there are 35 million Americans who don’t have that option. But, their effort to eliminate hunger doesn’t involve making sure people have food to eat. Their idea of eliminating hunger involves eliminating the word hunger from the description of people who don’t have the luxury of just opening the fridge for glass of milk. However, to clear up the distinction about whose more uhm, hungry than others, they’ve revamped the whole hungry thing, and gave it some nice, new, shiny labels. So now, if you eat pork chops instead of range-free chicken, fried in lard as opposed to baked in extra-virgin olive oil, you have “low food security”. But, if you lay away at night wishing like Hell you had those pork chops, fried in lard, then you have “very low food security”.

I keep thinking about the autobiography of Richard Wright, Black Boy. He was raised on “lard mush and greens”, and went hungry so often that later, when his job at the U.S. Postal Service was dependent on him passing a physical examination, he was so under nourished, and weighed so little that he lost the job. And as a little boy, whenever there was an opportunity, he would stash food in his pockets for fear of not having anything to eat later.

Mark Nord, the lead author of a report that the Agriculture Department issues every year measuring Americans' access to food, said "hungry" is "not a scientifically accurate term for the specific phenomenon being measured in the food security survey." Maybe it’s just me…but, there’s something about the word hungry that just sounds perfect if you have “very low food security”. Where I come from, if it really gets bad we say hōn’gree. And, smacking a fancy-schmancy label on such a condition to make one feel better about having “high food security” (the label for people who have regular access to steak and caviar), doesn’t eliminate the feeling of having to learn algebra on an empty stomach. Something tells me Mark Nord has never been hōn’gree. But then again, people with “very low food security” probably don’t care what we call it.

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