Lessons From Acclaimed Writer Octavia Butler on Change, Persistence, War, Racism, and Rage

Lessons From Acclaimed Writer Octavia Butler on Change, Persistence, War, Racism, and Rage

October 16, 2013 


by Yvette Carnell

Editor, Your Black World and BreakingBrown.com

The science fiction writer isn’t just a writer, certainly not in the traditional sense. She’s also a futurist because the genre demands it. Perhaps because she seamlessly blended race with precise portrayals of the tribulations of mankind, Octavia Butler became a world renowned science fiction writer. Butler said to the Los Angeles Times before her passing, “I’m black, I’m solitary, I’ve always been an outsider.” And the gritty choices Butler’s characters have thrust upon them continually highlight an ever present theme in the writer’s work–change.According to Butler, so much of life depends on how you manage and adapt to a wildly alive world.

Her novels included such works “Parable of the Sower” (1993); “Parable of the Talents” (1998) “Fledgling”, and Wildseed. Unlike most science-fiction novels, the main protagonist in Butler’s novels are often black women,  who Butler infuses with strong will, and humanizes in ways not oftenOctavia Butler_1998_Parable Of The Talents seen in any genre, let alone science-fiction. Butler brought what it meant to be African-American–gritty resolve and persistence-to science fiction. It is for that brilliance which she will be remembered. Below are some of Butler’s most poignant life lessons.

On persistence:

“Without persistence, what remains is an enthusiasm of the moment. Without adaptability, what remains may be channeled into destructive fanaticism. Without positive obsession, there is nothing at all. (Parable of the Talents)”

On realizing you’re all alone in the universe:

“Once you grow past Mommy and Daddy coming running when you’re hurt, you’re really on your own. You’re alone, and there’s no one to help you.”

On passion:

“If you want a thing–truly want it, want it so badly that you need it as you need air to breathe, then unless you die, you will have it. Why not? It has you. There is no escape. What a cruel and terrible thing escape would be if escape were possible” (Parable of the Talents)

On quiet racism, and quiet versus open rebellion:

“‘Don’t argue with white folks,’ [Luke] had said. ‘Don’t tell them ‘no.’ Don’t let them see you mad. Just say ‘yes, sir.’ Then go ’head and do what you want to do. Might have to take a whippin’ for it later on, but if you want it bad enough, the whippin’ won’t matter much.” (Kindred)

On managing your anger:

“When your rage is choking you, it is best to say nothing” – (Fledgling) 

On the inevitability of change:

“Change is the one unavoidable, irresistible, ongoing reality of the universe. To us, that makes it the most octavia_butlerpowerful reality, and just another word for God.”

Earthseed: The Books of the Living

On the importance of good habits:

“First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.”

On selecting your leaders:

“Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought. To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears. To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool. To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen. To be led by a liar is to ask to be told lies. To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery.” (Parable of the Talents)

On craven self-interest:

“Beware At war Or at peace, More people die Of unenlightened self-interest Than of any other disease” (Parable of the Talents)

yvette carnell



Yvette Carnell writes mostly about politics, social, and cultural issues for my personal blog, BreakingBrown.com as well as BreakingBrown.tv and Breakingbrown.me. She is also an editor for YourBlackWorld and a managing contributor on KuluteKritic.

BreakingBrown.com is a social media hub which aggregates the freshest and most insightful content from brown bloggers, podcasters and videocasters on the internet. We aggregate, distribute, critique and and explore black and brown people in the unending universe which is social media. Now there’s no longer a need for you to stalk cyberspace in search of an honest black or brown perspective.  

The Forgotten Preacher

Opinionator - A Gathering of Opinion From Around the Web

DISUNION October 21, 2013, 12:25 pm Comment

The Forgotten Preacher



Disunion follows the Civil War as it unfolded.

Henry McNeal Turner, the first black chaplain in the Union Army and one of the most prominent religious and political leaders of Civil War era black America, was born a free black on Feb. 1, 1834, in New Berry Court House, S.C. Turner was the oldest child of Hardy Turner and Sarah Greer Turner, and while we do not know much about Turner’s other siblings, we do know that Turner’s father died while he was still young.

Even though born as a free person, Turner still experienced the harsh reality of prejudice and racism; he worked in cotton fields alongside enslaved people as well as in a blacksmith shop under some of the harshest overseers.

When Turner was “eight or nine years old,” he later recalled, he had a dream that placed him in front of a large crowd of both blacks and whites who looked to him for instruction. The dream not only became a guiding light for Turner, but it also gave Turner a desire for education. However, state laws at the time did not allow blacks, enslaved or free, to attend school or to learn how to read and write. After obtaining a spelling book, Turner attempted to learn how to read and write with the help of several people in his community. But each time Turner would begin to study, others would find out and have the teaching stopped. Having learned only a little from his teachers, Turner attempted to learn to read and write on his own — by the time he was 15, he had read the entire Bible five times and started a habit of memorizing lengthy passages of scripture, which helped him develop a strong memory.

Turner attended revival services with his mother and finally joined the Methodist church in Abbeville, S.C., in 1848. His “conversion,” as he called it, came in 1851 under the preaching of plantation missionary Samuel Leard in a camp meeting at Sharon Camp Ground. In his conversion experience, Turner remembered rolling on the ground, foaming at the mouth and agonizing under conviction until he felt the presence of Christ in his life. Soon after, Turner became convinced that the dream he had earlier was a call to preach the gospel.

Licensed to preach in the mixed-race Southern Methodist Church at 19 years old, Turner spoke before to large integrated audiences. But he found it frustrating that the Southern Methodist Church would never ordain him, and that as a licensed exhorter he had already achieved the highest level a black person could attain in the denomination. Instead, he joined the all-black African Methodist Episcopal church in 1858. Four years later he became pastor of Israel A.M.E. church in Washington.

Not long after, Abraham Lincoln commissioned Turner to the office of chaplain in the Union Army, making him the first black chaplain in any branch of the military. In this capacity, he also became a war correspondent, writing articles for The Christian Recorder newspaper about the trials and tribulations of the First Regiment, United States Colored Troops. When the war ended, he found himself assigned to the Freedmen’s Bureau in Georgia as a chaplain.

Leaving the military for good in 1866, Turner turned his attention to politics. During the period of Reconstruction, and while still working with the Freedmen’s Bureau, Turner became a Republican Party organizer and helped recruit and organize black voters throughout Georgia. He helped establish the first Republican state convention, and helped draft a new Georgia state constitution. Elected later as one of the first African Americans in the Georgia Legislature, Turner believed that change had finally come. He garnered support and respect from black people by organizing Loyal Leagues and Equal Rights Associations.

Civil War Timeline

Fort Sumter

An unfolding history of the Civil War with photos and articles from the Times archive and ongoing commentary from Disunion contributors.

However, any excitement that Turner or black people in general had for ushering in a new day after the Civil War disappeared quickly when white members of the state legislature voted in 1868 to disqualify blacks from holding elected office. After his ouster from the Georgia state legislature, Turner became the postmaster in Macon, Ga., the first African American to hold that position. However, pressures began to mount on the federal government to dismiss Turner based on trumped-up improprieties. Fired after only two weeks in office, Turner then took a position as a customs inspector in Savannah, Ga. He held this position for several years, but eventually resigned from this position because of increasing demands of the church.

Turner then focused his efforts on building the A.M.E. Church in the South; by 1876, he had become the church’s publications manager. This allowed him to travel to all the districts and meet the pastors and leaders of local churches. During the next four years, he developed a following that led to his election in 1880 as one of the bishops of the church. Turner finally had a national platform to espouse his ideas on race, politics, lynching and other issues of the day. However, as racism became more of an issue for blacks, Turner increasingly became a proponent of emigration.

Toward the end of the 19th century, after several failed attempts at an emigration plan and with the rise of a new generation of black leaders like Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois, Turner’s influence started to wane. He edited two newspapers — The Voice of Missions, from 1893 to 1900, and The Voice of the People, from 1901 to 1904 – served as chair of the board of Morris Brown College from 1896-1908, and kept a busy schedule up to the end of his life. He was in Windsor, Ont., at the general conference of the A.M.E. church in 1915 when he suffered a massive stroke. He died hours later at a Windsor hospital.

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Andre E. Johnson is an associate professor of rhetoric and religion and African American studies at Memphis Theological Seminary. He is the author of “The Forgotten Prophet: Bishop Henry McNeal Turner and the African American prophetic Tradition.”

A Clear and Simple Reason Why Blacks Shun the Republican Party

By Comparing Obamacare to Slavery, Dr. Ben Carson Has Become a Jim Crow Caricature

By Comparing Obamacare to Slavery, Dr. Ben Carson Has Become a Jim Crow Caricature


Dr. Ben Carson “Jumps Jim Crow”

By  Dr. Wilmer J. Leon, III

“You know Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery…it is slavery in a way, because it is making all of us subservient to the government, and it was never about health care. It was about control.”                                                                                                                         Dr. Ben Carson October 11, 2013

Dr. Ben Carson is a world renowned American neurosurgeon. He is a brilliant physician with an incredibly compelling and motivational story. Born into poverty in Detroit in 1951 and raised by a single mother with a third-grade education, Carson became the first surgeon to separate conjoined twins and the youngest to head a surgical department. His focus, work ethic and commitment to excellence should be emulated by as many as possible.

Over the past year Dr. Carson has emerged on the political scene as a spokesperson for conservative interests.  Most recently he addressed the 2013 Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., making the remarks referenced above.

“Obamacare” or more accurately the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the worst thing in this nation since slavery?  Really?  I understand political diatribes and hyperbole but the worst thing in America since slavery?  How can reducing the number of uninsured Americans through an expansion of Medicaid and the creation of new health insurance exchange marketplaces be worse than slavery?

The 13th Amendment abolished slavery in America except as punishment for a crime in 1865. Since then, African Americans have been lynched, had their farms confiscated, been denied the right to vote and have had limited or no access to public and private facilities. For an African American of Dr. Carson’s intellect and stature to publically make such assertions is historically inaccurate, irresponsible and promotes many of the racist stereotypes that are being used to garner support to overturn the law.

Does Dr. Carson really believe that the ACA is worse than the Tuskegee syphilis experiment of 1932?  This infamous clinical study was conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service on 399 African American men from 1932 to 1972 to trace the natural progression of untreated syphilis.  These human “laboratory animals” thought they were receiving free health care from the U.S. government.  By the end of the experiment, 28 of the men had died directly of syphilis, 100 were d**d of related complications, 40 of their wives had been infected and 19 of their children had been born with congenital syphilis.

Would Dr. Carson have us believe that the ACA is worse than the government sanctioned, racially motivated attack on the Greenwood district of TulsaOklahoma in 1921?  The Greenwood district of Tulsa, also know as Black Wall Street, was the wealthiest African American community in America. During a 16 hour period from May 31 and June 1, 1921 whites rioted, attacked the community and b****d it to the ground based upon the rumor that an African American shoeshiner named d**k Roland touched a white female elevator operator named Sarah Page.

An estimated 10,000 African American residents were left homeless and 35 city blocks composed of 1,256 residences were destroyed by fire. The official d***h count by the Oklahoma Department of Vital Statistics was 39, but other estimates of African American fatalities have been up to about 300.

From 1920 – 1970 the state of North Carolina forcibly sterilized more than 7,600 women.  Most of these women were poor and African American.  This eugenics program began as a means to control the birth rates of poor white woman and quickly expanded as an attack on African American woman. Woman were being sterilized like cats and dogs are spayed and neutered. Dr. Carson wants us to believe that the ACA is worse than this?

As Carson is being promoted in conservative political circles as an informed spokesman on the talk circuit he has quickly become a political minstrel show.  He’s jumping Jim Crow. Jump Jim Crow is a song and dance that was performed in blackface by a white comedian named Thomas Dartmouth around 1830, the early minstrel era of American entertainment.  It made a mockery of African Americans; lampooning them as dim-witted, lazy, and buffoonish.  The expression to Jump Jim Crow came to mean “to act like a stereotyped stage caricature of a black person” usually by a white person.

Dr. Carson has once again put his black face on political ideology that is contrary to the interests of the African American community and validates denigrating stereotypes perpetuated by its enemies. Earlier this year Carson told a CPAC audience that “Nobody is starving on the streets (of America). We have always taken care of them. We have churches which actually are much better mechanisms for taking care of the poor because they are right there with them. This is one of the reasons we give tax breaks to churches…”

He is lending his voice and using his personal narrative to validate the conservative “blame the poor” political agenda and undermine the social safety net in America.

. The argument is that the Carson’s of the world have overachieved in spite of the odds; therefore, the inability of the poor (stereotypically the “Black poor”) in America to rise into the middle class or beyond is due to personal failure, lack of drive, initiative, and dependence upon the government. Carson made it; why can’t they?

The ACA is far from perfect.  The flaws in the legislation will be flushed out and addressed over time or it will die a natural d***h.  How the Obama administration allowed the government web site to go live without beta testing, anticipating the problems and without immediate fixes for them is at least irresponsible.  These issues should not invalidate the reality that providing access to health care coverage for more Americans is a good thing.

As a physician Dr. Ben Carson should know better.  If he has problems with the ACA he should present his issues using accurate data and facts; not baseless political ideology and foolish hyperbole.

Dr Carson’s stature in the medical community makes his comments even more reckless. Even reasonable but uninformed people might try to find truth in his words. He is allowing the reputation that he has earned based upon his stellar professional accomplishments, focus, work ethic, and commitment to excellence as a surgeon to be used as a front by white ultra-conservatives. He is attempting to undermine greater access to health care and other social programs; the social safety net that is needed now more than ever before.

He’s a pitiful one-man minstrel show.  He’s Jumpin’ Jim Crow.

Dr. Wilmer Leon, an OUR COMMON GROUND Voice,  is the Producer/ Host of the Sirisu/XM Satellite radio channel 110 call-in talk radio program “Inside the Issues with Wilmer Leon” Go to www.wilmerleon.com or email:wjl3us@yahoo.comwww.twitter.com/drwleon and Dr. Leon’s Prescription at Facebook.com  © 2013 InfoWave Communications, LLC

A disturbing look at the theological roots of Senator Ted Cruz: Christian Dominionism – Democratic Underground

See on Scoop.itOUR COMMON GROUND Informed Truth and Resistance

Sound like the whole Revelations hysteria.

OUR COMMON GROUND Omnibus‘s insight:

"The reason governmental regulation has to disappear from the marketplace is to make it completely available to the plunder of Christian "kings" who will accomplish the "end time transfer of wealth." Then "God’s bankers" will usher in the "coming of the messiah." The government is being shut down so that God’s bankers can bring Jesus back. "

See on www.democraticunderground.com

Lost document reveals Columbus as tyrant of the Caribbean

See on Scoop.itOUR COMMON GROUND Informed Truth and Resistance

Christopher Columbus, the man credited with discovering the Americas, was a greedy and vindictive tyrant who saved some of his most violent punishments for his own followers, according to a document uncovered by Spanish historians.

OUR COMMON GROUND Omnibus‘s insight:

Christopher Columbus, the man credited with discovering the Americas, was a greedy and vindictive tyrant who saved some of his most violent punishments for his own followers, according to a document uncovered by Spanish historians.

See on www.theguardian.com

SoundCloud – Hear the world’s sounds

See on Scoop.itOUR COMMON GROUND Informed Truth and Resistance

In this clip, Over One Million Black Men declaring  their right to justice to atone for their failure as men and to accept responsibility as the family head.

OUR COMMON GROUND Omnibus‘s insight:

Saluting Black History

Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan led more than a million Black men to gather in Washington, D.C. to declare their right to justice to atone for their failure as men and to accept responsibility as the family head.

On that day, Monday, October 16, 1995 there was a sea of Black men, many who stood for 10 hours or more sharing, learning, listening, fasting, hugging, crying, laughing, and praying. The day produced a spirit of brotherhood, love, and unity like never before experienced among Black men in America. All creeds and classes were present: Christians, Muslims, Hebrews, Agnostics, nationalists, pan-Africanists, civil rights organizations, fraternal organizations, rich, poor, celebrities and people from nearly every organization, profession and walk of life were present. It was a day of atonement, reconciliation and responsibility.

“The Million Man March was one of the most historic organizing and mobilizing events in the history of Black people in the United States,” said Chicago-based Dr. Conrad Worrill, who was a main organizer of the March and the current president emeritus of the National United Black Front.

OUR COMMON GROUND HONORS the significances of this day, the men who responded and the vision of the giants that made it happen.

OUR COMMON GROUND with Janice Graham

See on soundcloud.com