Sunday, September 30, 2007

First Presentation Now Just a Memory

The Southern Women's Writer's Conference has come to a close, and my first presentation was very successful. It was a small conference, so all that stressing I did over my little paper was for nothing. The Berry College community (about one and a half hours north of Atlanta) was very welcoming and the campus was beautiful, idyllic even. But, my most memorable moment at the conference, not my presentation. It was meeting Ms. Vertamae Grosvner. She spoke at one of the lunches, but while I walking accross the scenic campus, I heard that distinct Gullah accent asking for directions to the dinning hall. She was radiant and hip and I just had to introduce myself. Poet, actress, culinary anthropologist, and writer Vertamae Grosvenor is the reason I know how to cook rice ("properly" she added). She also had a featured role in Julie Dash's Daughters of the Dust (one of my most favorite movies), on which she was a language consultant.

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Taryari's Book Meme Challenge

Tayari Jones, author of The Untelling, was given a meme, and while she decided not to tag anyone, she's left it up to us to do our own. So, in an attempt to break out of my blogging slump and start October off right, I'm gonna meet the challenge.

Total Number of Books I Own: It’s impossible to know right now. In my living room, I have a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf that my beloved built. When we bought our home, we had to look for a house with a living room to accommodate this literary shrine. There are seven shelves, completely full with books on top of the ones that are properly placed. I have text books lined up on the side of it. I have books stacked up on my printer table. I have a smaller book shelf in my bedroom (also built by Mr. Persistence), and I have a waterbed in my guest room (the water mattress has long since been replaced with a futon mattress), and the headboard is a bookshelf filled with books….and the top of the headboard…and boxes in my garage that I still haven’t unpacked since moving here six years ago…and a box of books I left in St. Louis, packed away with old Chaka Khan and Billy Joel albums…Whew!

Five Meaningful Books:

One: The Learning Tree by Gordon Parks. I’d seen the movie and fell in love with Newt. When I realized there was a book too (not understanding at the time the movie was an adaptation), it became the first book I ever finished reading. It also became the first time I realized that a story could be created from the life of an ordinary black person; a young black person. It was the first time that I envisioned stories about my life, and people like me.

Two: In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose by Alice Walker. This was when I first became aware of Alice Walker. I’m a little embarrassed to say that I was already out of high school, but unfortunately, I don’t remember reading much, if any literature by women before college. I discovered Walker as I was also discovering black bookstores, realizing that there were whole stores with literature by us! It’s no wonder that I didn’t read much before. Walker’s books made me know and believe that stories about us, particularly black women, were important…and necessary. (Thanks Alice!)

Three: Here I had to try and decide between Richard Wright and James Baldwin. And while Native Son and Black Boy were very influential for me and my writing, (this is my way of adding a 6th book), I have to go with Just Above My Head by James Baldwin, primarily because of the young girl growing up in the church aspect. Spirituality was very important for me growing up, and I thoroughly identified with that character in this story.

Four: Jonathon Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. I grew up in Baptist and Pentecostal churches. This book confirmed what I’d always believed in my heart but didn’t know how to articulate: that spirituality doesn’t reside in a building, in a ghost, anything anthropomorphic, or anything outside of myself.

Five: The World According to Garp by John Irving: This book made me realize that I could identify, on some level, with a character completely opposite of myself: white, male, New Englander. I love all the Irving novels that I’ve read…and I’ve read plenty…twice…and thrice!

Last Book Read: Iola Leroy by Francis E. W. Harper. This book has become an important part of my research for my thesis. And, learning that this wasn’t just another “domestic” novel, a novel to extract sympathy for the abolitionist or Negro cause, was eye-opening. This novel was written to show that African Americans (and not just the ones with obvious “white blood”) were wholly capable and ready to take their place in American society after the Civil War. This novel demonstrates the literary diversity and cleverness of black women writers in the 19th century.

Last Book Bought: Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat. I enjoyed Breath, Eyes, Memory and The Farming of Bones. I love Danticat…she is fast becoming my favorite writer.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

As If...

...I shouldn't be studying for a Spanish exam, or like I actually have time for fun reading in the thick of the semester. But Danticat has a new book, and I couldn't help myself. I just love the wisdom, loveliness and intensity in danticat's work. She is an old soul who writes as though her life depended on it.

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Friday, September 07, 2007

Power Hour for Jena!

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everwhere."
Martin Luther King, Jr.

There's power when people unite!

What would you do if Mychal Bell (Jena 6) was your son, cousin, or nephew? Would you wait for Obama, Oprah, Russell Simons or Kanye West to speak up before you step up?

You don't have to be a superstar to make a difference! Your skin doesn't have to be a certain color to connect you to the movement to Free the Jena 6. If you believe in Martin Luther King's dream of racial equality we need you to contribute to the Power Hour for Jena and express yourself! Commit to tapping into the Power Hour for Jena by completing one or more of the following activities today and everyday counting up to the national peace rally for Jena on September 20, 2007!

Here's how you can help:

1. Identify ways in which you can support the Jena 6 movement and begin to take action!

2. Sign petition to end this injustice --

3. Call 10 people to notify them of the injustice!

4. Appeal to the Jena District Attorney to drop all current charges against the Jena 6 and demand the release of Mychal Bell. Bell has been incarcerated since December 2006!

5. Send letters to the Louisiana Governor & Louisiana Attorney General - Sample letters available --

6. Send letters to the 2008 Presidential Candidates & to President George Bush. Where do they stand on this issue? Will you vote for someone who allows Mychal Bell to continue to sit in jail? What does this really say about our leaders?

7. Ensure the leadership of your church and associations (incl. sororities & fraternities) know about the Jena 6 case and plan to support. Post a press release or statement of opposition online and communicate a CALL TO ACTION to all members.

8. Contact U.S. Congress representatives to state your opposition to the Jena 6 case --

9. Make a phone call to the Governor or the Board of Pardons in LA, between 8am-4:30pm EST, 1-225-342-7015.

10. Contact local and national TV & radio stations to demand ongoing coverage! Until then, tune into for the latest interviews & commentaries...Real Talk!

11. Write letters to the editors of local newspapers & magazines.

12. Print 10 blank letters of support, find 10 supporters, buy 10 stamps and mail them!

13. Write a heart felt letter of support directly to Mychal Bell, Inmate, A-Dorm, LaSalle Correctional Center, 15976 Highway 165, Olla, LA 71465-4801.

14. Encourage educators to utilize the Jena 6 case as a teaching tool. Is this American Justice?

15. If you're a DJ, artist, or promoter, throw in a "shout out" to Jena 6 at every opportunity!

16. Send FREE Jena 6 text messages pointing people to

17. If you cannot travel to Jena, LA, show solidarity by wearing black and join other local supporters of the Jena 6 to rally in your hometown on September 20.

18. Make Free Jena 6 t-shirts and sell them as a Jena 6 Defense fundraiser in your city.

19. Ask your church to collect a Jena 6 Defense fund offering on Sunday.

20. Post Jena 6 information to e-groups, myspace, facebook, and/or your online social network.

21. Team up with your investment club, alumni association, or support group to raise Jena 6 Defense funds and awareness.

22. Share the Jena 6 case with people of other ethnicities and discover the common ground we share on racism in America.

23. Discuss the Jena 6 case with your family members, friends & young people.

24. Pray for the support of the Jena 6, justice, racial equality and world peace.
Your commitment to the Power Hour for Jena will build the momentum necessary to put Racism in America on blast! The Jena 6 is just one example of the many unjust cases that pass through the U.S. Justice system. Although racism continues to choke America, it is no longer the American way!! Your voice must be heard on this issue!

Be the change you want to see! Right here, right now!

Send this email to at least 10 of your friends and challenge them to contribute to the Power Hour for Jena! Let's all take a step together and hold ourselves accountable until justice prevails!!

Together we will win!!


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

john t. scott, 1940-2007

one of the highlights of my last visit to new orleans (just
before katrina), was a trip to the museum in city park and an exhibition of
john t. scott's work. gazing at his scupture and paintings was like a familiarity, a recollection of something
i'd known before. his work contained the absolute sublimeness of purity.

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