Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

More than Christmas, with it's notorious shopping sprees, over-played holiday music and fruit cake, I am always considerably more giddy about the new year. I always look forward to new beginnings, starting fresh and all that jazz. This year will be extra special for me because for one thing, it is the Age of Obama. We will have our very first African American president of the United States. And if that wasn't enough, come May, I will be a college graduate; a moment I've been waiting for a long time. Here's hoping all of you have a gravity defying year.

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

What is the Neo-African American Aesthetic?

Since I have begun tossing this term around as though it was already a part of the literary lexicon, I thought that maybe it would behoove me to formulate an official definition, in order that others might understand what I mean when I say it. First, I should talk about how I came upon it.

Actually, it was a collaboration. A community effort. It was coined in an all black, African American Studies class on the Harlem Renaissance. It evolved.

New Black Renaissance.

New Black Aesthetic.

Neo-Black Aesthetic Movement.

I don’t remember which name came first, but Neo-African American Aesthetic (NAAA) developed from a discussion about what we personally expected from the literature and art of our people in the Age of Obama. It does, in fact, proceed from a combination of the intellectual efforts of the leaders of the Harlem Renaissance and the Black Arts Movement, in which members sought to create a black identity based on the black experience.

The Harlem Renaissance, which took place roughly from 1919-1940, was divided into two camps which became the primary debate of the movement: Art vs. Propaganda. But generally speaking, black writers during this time “shared common literary experiences,” and Sterling A. Brown lists those as: “(1) a discovery of Africa as a source for race pride, (2) a use of Negro heroes and heroic episodes from American history, (3) propaganda of protest, (4) a treatment of the Negro masses…with more understanding and less apology, and (5) franker and deeper self-revelation”.

The Black Arts Movement of the 60s and 70s, was spawn by young, politically conscious black artists who “proposed as one of its principal aims the grassroots mobilization and politicization of all black-identified people, using literature, music, dance, film and other art forms to achieve both artistic and political autonomy at any price”.

So, may I suggest, that the Neo-African American Aesthetic (NAAA) is a continuation of all these things. It is the best of both, with a 21st century awareness. It is art and propaganda reflecting the experiences of us all, the middle-class and the “low-down folks”. It is our beauty and our ugliness, however, presented in a way that is not always crass, not always proper, but always honest. It is an understanding that we no longer have to prove ourselves to be human and worthy to anyone but, each other. It is, in the Age of Obama, an understanding that “we can disagree without being disagreeable”. It is the profound declaration that who we are artistically is essentially priceless, and that no amount of money is worth selling our souls or the souls of our brothers and sisters. The Neo-African American Aesthetic (NAAA) should reflect our love of and commitment to craft, and it should always represent the apogee of our creativity, spirituality and humanity.

Source: The Handbook of African American Literature by Hazel Arnett Ervin
Artwork: John T. Scott, 1940-2007

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Exquisite Heats by Cherryl Floyd-Miller

It's not only because this poet/visionary/friend has been a powerful contemporary influence in my writing and life that I can't wait to read her new collection of poetry. It's also because I know that Floyd-Miller is a writer's writer; committed to the art, committed to the life. She has an amazing talent, and she embodies the Neo-African American Aesthetic. Exquisite Heats (Salt Publishing)is available right now, and would make an excellent Christmas gift.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Where's the Best African American Fiction?

In the class on the Harlem Renaissance that I just completed, there were some who wondered, "Who are the new black writers? Who are the writers who will usher in a new movement in African American Literature?" We (the class) proclaimed this new movement to be the Neo African American Aesthetic. If you're wondering who these writers are check out the new anthology Best African American Fiction due out in January, edited by Gerald Early and E. Lynn Harris.

Oh, and be sure to also check out Best African American Essays, also edited by Gerald Early with Debra Dickerson!

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Now It Feels Like "That" Time of Year...

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Gift Card Therapy for Post Semester Anxiety

There is always a point in the semester where I get so caught up with academic assignments that I don’t have time for much else. That point can be almost accurately detected by how far and few in-between my blog posts become. Indeed I have spent the last month wrapping up what has been my last full-time, undergraduate semester. And though I still have a few finals next week, I have completed what was my most important undergraduate assignment; my senior thesis. The thesis was a twenty-page analysis of the slave narrative, From the Darkness Cometh the Light or Struggles for Freedom by the little known writer, Lucy Ann Delaney, wherein I establish Delaney’s work as a “transitional narrative” within the black, female literary tradition.

For now, I must focus on final exams, and then just after Christmas, on New Years Eve, I’ll be attempting the BIG, UGLY, EVIL GRE again. And while I don’t get too caught up in the holiday shopping hype, I do like a good sale. And a little retail therapy always helps to calm my post semester anxiety. (I actually do become focused and less agitated when I stroll through Nordstrom’s shoe department.) Except that I don’t have time to hang out in the malls until after the holidays. That’s why I’m one of those people who love receiving gift cards!

However, I’ve recently received emails or heard that so many stores are closing and that the gift cards may be null and void, but I don’t think that’s true. Besides, I can’t hold on to a gift card that long. And should you receive a gift card, don’t sit on it; spend that money, honey! And, if you’re purchasing gift cards, I suppose you could just ask before you buy. In spite of the recent economy, not every retailer is going to hell in a hand basket. And as I understand it, they’re just waiting for you to use those gift cards. Furthermore, there are surveys that show gift cards as being the number one preferred gift, and have been for several years now. Gift cards make it easy for me to shop at my convenience. And if your friends know you well enough, they know what stores or restaurants you like and what gift card to purchase. So, if you're thinking of me, I'm very confident that Starbucks, Macy's, Barnes & Noble, Target, Whole Foods or any of those stores that I tend to shop at will not be going out of business before next Christmas. And I'll be sure to use those gift cards before then.