“ON BEING WHITE AND OTHER LIES” James Baldwin, Essence Magazine 1984

ON BEING “WHITE” • AND OTHER LIES James Baldwin (1924-1987)

baldwinJames Baldwin was the greatest expert on white consciousness in the twentieth century United States. Born in what he described as the “southern community” of Harlem, Baldwin published six novels, including his brilliant treatment of fathers, sons, and religion in Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953), and Giovanni’s Room (1956), a work concentrating on white, gay characters. Baldwin’s early essays, collected in Notes of a Native Son (1955), Nobody Knows My Name (1961), and The Fire Next Time (1963), are works of remarkable range, lucidity, and compassion. But his scandalously underappreciated essays, generously sampled in The Price of the Ticket (1985), push Baldwin’s arguments regarding race and the meaning of America, racism, homophobia, and the “male prison,” and whiteness and the immigrant experience to unprecedented levels of insight. “On Being ‘White’ and Other Lies,” published originally in the popular African-American magazine Essence in 1984, is a dramatic reminder that “becoming American” meant learning to be white in a new way for European immigrants.

“ON BEING WHITE  AND OTHER LIES”  James Baldwin, Essence Magazine 1984

The crisis of leadership in the white community is remarkable—and terrifying—because there is, in fact, no white community. This may seem an enormous statement—and it is. I’m willing to be challenged. I’m also willing to attempt to spell it out. My frame of reference is, of course, America, or that portion of the North American continent that calls itself America. And this means I am speaking, essentially, of the European vision of the world—or more precisely; perhaps, the European vision of the universe. It is a vision as remarkable for what it pretends to include as for what it remorselessly diminishes, demolishes or leaves totally out of account.

There is, for example—at least, in principle—an Irish community: here, there, anywhere, or, more precisely, Belfast, Dublin and Boston. There is a German community: both sides of Berlin, Bavaria and Yorkville. There is an Italian community: Rome, Naples, the Bank of the Holy Ghost and Mulberry Street. And there is a Jewish community, stretching from Jerusalem to California to New York. There are English communities. There are French communities. There are Swiss consortiums. There are Poles: in Warsaw (where they would like us to be friends) and in Chicago (where because they are white we are enemies). There are, for that matter, Indian restaurants and Turkish baths. There is the underworld—the poor (to say nothing of those who intend to become rich) are always with us—but this does not describe a community It bears terrifying witness to what happened to everyone who got here, and paid the price of the ticket. The price was to become “white.”

No one was white before he/she came to America. It took generations, and a vast amount of coercion, before this became a white country. It is probable that it is the Jewish community or more accurately, perhaps, its remnants—that in America has paid the highest and most extraordinary price for becoming white. For the Jews came here from countries where they were not white, and they came here, in part, because they were not white; and incontestably in the eyes of the Black American (and not only in those eyes) American Jews have opted to become white, and this is how they operate. It was ironical to hear, for example, former Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin declare some time ago that “the Jewish people bow only to God” while knowing that the state of Israel is sustained by a blank check from Washington.

Without further pursuing the implication of this mutual act of faith, one is nevertheless aware that the Black presence, here, can scarcely hope—at least, not yet—to halt the slaughter in South Africa. And there is a reason for that. America became white—the people who, as they claim, “settled” the country became white—because of the necessity of denying the Black presence, and justifying the Black subjugation.

No community can be based on such a principle—or, in other words, no community can be established on so genocidal a lie. White men—from Norway, for example, where they were Norwegians—became white: by slaughtering the cattle, poisoning the wells, torching the houses, massacring Native Americans, raping Black women. This moral erosion has made it quite impossible for those who think of themselves as white in this country to have any moral authority at all—privately, or publicly. The multitudinous bulk of them sit, stunned, before their TV sets, swallowing garbage that they know to be garbage, and—in a profound and unconscious effort to justify this torpor that disguises a profound and bitter panic pay a vast amount of attention to athletics: even though they know that the football player (the Son of the Republic, their sons!) is merely another aspect of the money-making scheme. They are either relieved or embittered by the presence of the Black boy on the team. I do not know if they remember how long and hard they fought to keep him off it.

I know that they do not dare have any notion of the price Black people (mothers and fathers) paid and pay. They do not want to know the meaning, or face the shame, of what they compelled—out of what they took as the necessity of being white—Joe Louis or Jackie Robinson or Cassius Clay (aka Muhammad Ali) to pay I know that they, themselves, would not have liked to pay it. There has never been a labor movement in this country, the proof being the absence of a Black presence in the so-called father-to-son unions. There are, perhaps, some niggers in the window; but Blacks have no power in the labor unions. Just so does the white community, as a means of keeping itself white, elect, as they imagine, their political (!) representatives. No nation in the world, including England, is represented by so stunning a pantheon of the relentlessly mediocre.

I will not name names I will leave that to you. But this cowardice, this necessity of justifying a totally false identity and of justifying what must be called a genocidal history, has placed everyone now living into the hands of the most ignorant and powerful people the world has ever seen: And how did they get that way? By deciding that they were white. By opting for safety instead of life. By persuading themselves that a Black child’s life meant nothing compared with a white child’s life. By abandoning their children to 180 BLACK ON WHITE the things white men could buy By informing their children that Black women, Black men and Black children had no human integrity that those who call themselves white were bound to respect. And in this debasement and definition of Black people, they debased and defamed themselves. And have brought humanity to the edge of oblivion: because they think they are white. Because they think they are white, they do not dare confront the ravage and the lie of their history. Because they think they are white, they cannot allow themselves to be tormented by the suspicion that all men are brothers.

Because they think they are white, they are looking for, or bombing into existence, stable populations, cheerful natives and cheap labor. Because they think they are white, they believe, as even no child believes, in the dream of safety Because they think they are white, however vociferous they may be and however multitudinous, they are as speechless as Lot’s wife— looking backward, changed into a pillar of salt. However-1 White being, absolutely, a moral choice (for there are no white people), the crisis of leadership for those of us whose identity has been forged, or branded, as Black is nothing new. We—who were not Black before we got here either, who were defined as Black by the slave trade—have paid for the crisis of leadership in the white community for a very long time, and have resoundingly, even when we face the worst about ourselves, survived, and triumphed over it. If we had not survived and triumphed, there would not be a Black American alive. And the fact that we are still here—even in suffering, darkness, danger, endlessly defined by those who do not dare define, or even confront, themselves is the key to the crisis in white leadership.

The past informs us of various kinds of people—criminals, adventurers and saints, to say nothing, of course, of popes—but it is the Black condition, and only that, which informs us concerning white people. It is a terrible paradox, but those who believed that they could control and define Black people divested themselves of the power to control and define themselves.

497f84c1-4ea4-47ab-9098-654817c93231.jpg

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The Long-Lasting Legacy of the Great Migration | History | Smithsonian

The Long-Lasting Legacy of the Great MigrationWhen millions of African-Americans fled the South in search of a better life, they remade the nation in ways that are still being feltAn African-American family leaves Florida for the North during the Great Depression. (MPI/Getty Images)By Isabel WilkersonSMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE | SUBSCRIBE SEPTEMBER 20168.9K 73 2 29 14 37 13.1K 8.9K 73 29 14 2 13.1KIn 1963, the American mathematician Edward Lorenz, taking a measure of the earth’s atmosphere in a laboratory that would seem far removed from the social upheavals of the time, set forth the theory that a single “flap of a sea gull’s wings” could redirect the path of a tornado on another continent, that it could, in fact, be “enough to alter the course of the weather forever,” and that, though the theory was then new and untested, “the most recent evidence would seem to favor the sea gulls.”FROM THIS STORY The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great MigrationBUYAt that moment in American history, the country had reached a turning point in a fight for racial justice that had been building for decades. This was the year of the killing of Medgar Evers in Mississippi, of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, of Gov. George Wallace blocking black students at the schoolhouse door of the University of Alabama, the year of the March on Washington, of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail.” By then, millions of African-Americans had already testified with their bodies to the repression they had endured in the Jim Crow South by defecting to the North and West in what came to be known as the Great Migration. They were fleeing a world where they were restricted to the most menial of jobs, underpaid if paid at all, and frequently barred from voting. Between 1880 and 1950, an African-American was lynched more than once a week for some perceived breach of the racial hierarchy.“They left as though they were fleeing some curse,” wrote the scholar Emmett J. Scott, an observer of the early years of the migration. “They were willing to make almost any sacrifice to obtain a railroad ticket and they left with the intention of staying.”The migration began, like the flap of a sea gull’s wings, as a rivulet of black families escaping Selma, Alabama, in the winter of 1916. Their quiet departure was scarcely noticed except for a single paragraph in the Chicago Defender, to whom they confided that “the treatment doesn’t warrant staying.” The rivulet would become rapids, which grew into a flood of six million people journeying out of the South over the course of six decades. They were seeking political asylum within the borders of their own country, not unlike refugees in other parts of the world fleeing famine, war and pestilence.Until that moment and from the time of their arrival on these shores, the vast majority of African-Americans had been confined to the South, at the bottom of a feudal social order, at the mercy of slaveholders and their descendants and often-violent vigilantes. The Great Migration was the first big step that the nation’s servant class ever took without asking.“Oftentimes, just to go away is one of the most aggressive things that another person can do,” wrote John Dollard, an anthropologist studying the racial caste system of the South in the 1930s, “and if the means of expressing discontent are limited, as in this case, it is one of the few ways in which pressure can be put on.”The refugees could not know what was in store for them and for their descendants at their destinations or what effect their exodus would have on the country. But by their actions, they would reshape the social and political geography of every city they fled to. When the migration began, 90 percent of all African-Americans were living in the South. By the time it was over, in the 1970s, 47 percent of all African-Americans were living in the North and West. A rural people had become urban, and a Southern people had spread themselves all over the nation.Subscribe to Smithsonian magazine now for just $12This article is a selection from the September issue of Smithsonian magazineBUYMerely by leaving, African-Americans would get to participate in democracy and, by their presence, force the North to pay attention to the injustices in the South and the increasingly organized fight against those injustices. By leaving, they would change the course of their lives and those of their children. They would become Richard Wright the novelist instead of Richard Wright the sharecropper. They would become John Coltrane, jazz musician instead of tailor; Bill Russell, NBA pioneer instead of paper mill worker; Zora Neale Hurston, beloved folklorist instead of maidservant. The children of the Great Migration would reshape professions that, had their families not left, may never have been open to them, from sports and music to literature and art: Miles Davis, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morr

Source: The Long-Lasting Legacy of the Great Migration | History | Smithsonian

 

Isabel Wilkerson is a former Chicago bureau chief for The New York Times and a Pulitzer Prize winner. She is the author of the best-selling The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration.

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Remembering Octavia Butler on her Birthday φ The Ubuntu Biography Project

Today is a special day. Wishing the giant spirit of OCTAVIA BUTLER a very happy birthday

Today, a woman of untold brilliance, insight, and vision was born, a woman whose literature changed not only my perspective, but my life.

Octavia Butler was born on this day in 1947 (to February 24, 2006), She was an celebrated American Science Fiction author, who excelled in a genre with few African-American women. She won both the Hugo and Nebula awards. In 1995, she became the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant.Octavia Estelle Butler was born and raised in Pasadena, California. Her father Laurice, died when she was a baby, and Butler was raised by her grandmother and her mother (Octavia M. Butler), who worked as a maid in order to support the family. She grew up in a struggling, racially mixed neighborhood. According to the Norton Anthology of African American Literature, Butler was "an introspective, only child in a strict Baptist household" and "was drawn early to science fiction magazines such as “Amazing”, “Fantasy”, “Science Fiction”, and “Galaxy” and soon began reading all the science fiction classics. Nicknamed “Junie,” Octavia Butler was paralytically shy and a daydreamer, and was later diagnosed as being dyslexic. She began writing at the age of ten "to escape loneliness and boredom"; and when she was twelve, she began her lifelong interest in science fiction.  After earning her associate's degree from Pasadena City College in 1968, she enrolled at California State University in Los Angeles. She eventually left CalState and took writing classes through a UCLA extension. She would later credit two writing workshops for giving her "the most valuable help I received with my writing”.  She participated in The Open Door Workshop of the Screenwriters' Guild of America, West, a program designed to mentor Latino and African American writers. Through Open Door, she met the noted science fiction writer Harlan Ellison in 1969.  She also had high praise for her time in The Clarion Science Fiction Writers Workshop, where she first met Samuel R. Delany.  She remained, throughout her career, a self-identified science fiction fan, an insider who rose from within the ranks of the field. For some writers, science fiction serves as means to delve into fantasy. But for Butler, it largely served as a vehicle to address issues facing humanity. It was this passionate interest in the human experience that imbued her work with a certain depth and complexity. In the mid-1980s, Butler began to receive critical recognition for her work. Butler won the Nebula Award for Best Novel, “Parable of the Talents” in 1999, the Hugo and Locus Awards for Best Novelette, “Bloodchild” in 1985 and the Hugo Award for Best Short Story for “Speech Sounds” in 1984.  In 1995, Butler received a "genius" grant from the MacArthur Foundation, which allowed her to buy a house for her mother and herself.  She has been inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.  In 1976, Butler published her first novel, “Patternmaster.” This book was the first in a series of works about a group of people with telepathic powers called Patternists. Other Patternist titles include “Mind of My Mind” in 1977 and “Clay's Ark” in 1984. In the late 1980s, Butler published her Xenogenesis trilogy—“Dawn” in 1987, “Adulthood Rites” in 1988 and “Imago” in 1989. This series of books explores issues of genetics and race.  To insure their mutual survival, humans reproduce with aliens known as the Oankali. Butler received much praise for this trilogy. She went on to write the Parable series, which includes the novels “Parable of the Sower” in 1993, and “Parable of the Talents” in 1999. In 1999, Butler abandoned her native California to move north to Seattle, Washington. She was a perfectionist with her work and spent several years grappling with writer's block. Her efforts were hampered by her ill health and the medications she took. After starting and discarding numerous projects, Butler wrote her last novel “Fledgling” in 2005. In an interview by Randall Kenan, Octavia E. Butler discusses how her life experiences as a child shaped most of her thinking. As a writer, Butler was able to use her writing as a vehicle to critique history under the lenses of feminism. In the interview, she discusses the research that had to be done in order to write her bestselling novel, “Kindred.” Most of it is based on visiting libraries as well as historic landmarks with respect to what she is investigating. Butler admits that she writes science fiction because she does not want her work to be label or used as a marketing tool. She wants the readers to be genuinely interested in her work and the story she provides, but at the same time she fears that people will not read her work because of the “science fiction” label that they have. The nearly reclusive Octavia Butler died unexpectedly in February of 2006 at her home in Seattle after falling and sustaining a head injury. With her death, the literary world lost one of its great storytellers. She is remembered, as Gregory Hampton wrote in Callaloo, as writer of "stories that blurred the lines of distinction between reality and fantasy." And through her work, "she revealed universal truths."   Much has been written recently about Octavia E. Butler’s sexual orientation Many obituaries recognized her as “both a Black and Lesbian science-fiction writer” All references seem to link to an unsourced Wikipedia post.  She has been described by some close friends as bisexual, as asexual, and as heterosexual. She apparently never discussed any lesbianism publicly.  There is even a discussion with Octavia Butler and fellow Black sci-fi author Samuel Delaney on the MIT website where he briefly talks about being a gay man. It would seem natural that Octavia Butler might have used the opportunity to acknowledge that she was a lesbian, but she did not mention it in that discussion.  Dr. Ron Buckmire, a math professor at Occidental College, very near where Miss Butler lived until her move to Seattle, writes in his blog his reflections on her passing. He says that he knew her casually and does remark that she was a lesbian. Whatever her orientation, she was a gifted and inspiring writer whose work impacted and inspired the lives of many. The Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship was established in Butler's memory in 2006 by the Carl Brandon Society. Its goal is to provide an annual scholarship to enable writers of color to attend one of the Clarion writing workshops where Butler got her start. The first scholarships were awarded in 2007. In April 2014, it was announced that two new stories by Octavia E Butler had been discovered among her papers at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, and that the stories are set for release this summer. We remember Octavia E. Butler on this day in celebration of the 67th anniversary of her birth, and in appreciation for her brilliant writing, her unique and pioneering spirit, and for her many contributions to our community. Copyright © MMXIV Stephen A. Maglott.  I’m not fond of lawyers, but I have one anyway.  She insist that I inform you that permission to share this biography or any portion thereof, on an online service or blog other than Facebook, must be granted in writing by yours truly (Stephen Maglott).  Please feel free however, to share this post with others on Facebook. * If you enjoy these biographical tributes to same-gender loving/Trans men and women of African descent, please “like” the Ubuntu Biography Project page!  And then go back and select “Get Notifications”.  (https://www.facebook.com/UbuntuBiographyProject) Thank you.

Octavia Butler φ In the spirit of remembrance, talk about your favorite work by Butler. φ

 

Octavia Butler was born on this day in 1947 (to February 24, 2006), She was an celebrated American Science Fiction author, who excelled in a genre with few African-American women. She won both the Hugo and Nebula awards. In 1995, she became the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant.

Octavia Estelle Butler was born and raised in Pasadena, California. Her father Laurice, died when she was a baby, and Butler was raised by her grandmother and her mother (Octavia M. Butler), who worked as a maid in order to support the family. She grew up in a struggling, racially mixed neighborhood. According to the Norton Anthology of African American Literature, Butler was “an introspective, only child in a strict Baptist household” and “was drawn early to science fiction magazines such as “Amazing”, “Fantasy”, “Science Fiction”, and “Galaxy” and soon began reading all the science fiction classics.

Nicknamed “Junie,” Octavia Butler was paralytically shy and a daydreamer, and was later diagnosed as being dyslexic. She began writing at the age of ten “to escape loneliness and boredom”; and when she was twelve, she began her lifelong interest in science fiction.

After earning her associate’s degree from Pasadena City College in 1968, she enrolled at California State University in Los Angeles. She eventually left CalState and took writing classes through a UCLA extension. She would later credit two writing workshops for giving her “the most valuable help I received with my writing”. She participated in The Open Door Workshop of the Screenwriters’ Guild of America, West, a program designed to mentor Latino and African American writers. Through Open Door, she met the noted science fiction writer Harlan Ellison in 1969. She also had high praise for her time in The Clarion Science Fiction Writers Workshop, where she first met Samuel R. Delany. She remained, throughout her career, a self-identified science fiction fan, an insider who rose from within the ranks of the field.

For some writers, science fiction serves as means to delve into fantasy. But for Butler, it largely served as a vehicle to address issues facing humanity. It was this passionate interest in the human experience that imbued her work with a certain depth and complexity. In the mid-1980s, Butler began to receive critical recognition for her work.

Butler won the Nebula Award for Best Novel, “Parable of the Talents” in 1999, the Hugo and Locus Awards for Best Novelette, “Bloodchild” in 1985 and the Hugo Award for Best Short Story for “Speech Sounds” in 1984. In 1995, Butler received a “genius” grant from the MacArthur Foundation, which allowed her to buy a house for her mother and herself. She has been inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

In 1976, Butler published her first novel, “Patternmaster.” This book was the first in a series of works about a group of people with telepathic powers called Patternists. Other Patternist titles include “Mind of My Mind” in 1977 and “Clay’s Ark” in 1984.

In the late 1980s, Butler published her Xenogenesis trilogy—“Dawn” in 1987, “Adulthood Rites” in 1988 and “Imago” in 1989. This series of books explores issues of genetics and race. To insure their mutual survival, humans reproduce with aliens known as the Oankali. Butler received much praise for this trilogy. She went on to write the Parable series, which includes the novels “Parable of the Sower” in 1993, and “Parable of the Talents” in 1999.

In 1999, Butler abandoned her native California to move north to Seattle, Washington. She was a perfectionist with her work and spent several years grappling with writer’s block. Her efforts were hampered by her ill health and the medications she took. After starting and discarding numerous projects, Butler wrote her last novel “Fledgling” in 2005.

In an interview by Randall Kenan, Octavia E. Butler discusses how her life experiences as a child shaped most of her thinking. As a writer, Butler was able to use her writing as a vehicle to critique history under the lenses of feminism. In the interview, she discusses the research that had to be done in order to write her bestselling novel, “Kindred.” Most of it is based on visiting libraries as well as historic landmarks with respect to what she is investigating. Butler admits that she writes science fiction because she does not want her work to be label or used as a marketing tool. She wants the readers to be genuinely interested in her work and the story she provides, but at the same time she fears that people will not read her work because of the “science fiction” label that they have.

The nearly reclusive Octavia Butler died unexpectedly in February of 2006 at her home in Seattle after falling and sustaining a head injury. With her death, the literary world lost one of its great storytellers. She is remembered, as Gregory Hampton wrote in Callaloo, as writer of “stories that blurred the lines of distinction between reality and fantasy.” And through her work, “she revealed universal truths.”

Much has been written recently about Octavia E. Butler’s sexual orientation Many obituaries recognized her as “both a Black and Lesbian science-fiction writer” All references seem to link to an unsourced Wikipedia post. She has been described by some close friends as bisexual, as asexual, and as heterosexual. She apparently never discussed any lesbianism publicly. There is even a discussion with Octavia Butler and fellow Black sci-fi author Samuel Delaney on the MIT website where he briefly talks about being a gay man. It would seem natural that Octavia Butler might have used the opportunity to acknowledge that she was a lesbian, but she did not mention it in that discussion. Dr. Ron Buckmire, a math professor at Occidental College, very near where Miss Butler lived until her move to Seattle, writes in his blog his reflections on her passing. He says that he knew her casually and does remark that she was a lesbian. Whatever her orientation, she was a gifted and inspiring writer whose work impacted and inspired the lives of many.

The Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship was established in Butler’s memory in 2006 by the Carl Brandon Society. Its goal is to provide an annual scholarship to enable writers of color to attend one of the Clarion writing workshops where Butler got her start. The first scholarships were awarded in 2007.

In April 2014, it was announced that two new stories by Octavia E Butler had been discovered among her papers at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, and that the stories are set for release this summer.

We remember Octavia E. Butler on this day in celebration of the 67th anniversary of her birth, and in appreciation for her brilliant writing, her unique and pioneering spirit, and for her many contributions to our community.

Copyright © MMXIV Stephen A. Maglott. I’m not fond of lawyers, but I have one anyway. She insist that I inform you that permission to share this biography or any portion thereof, on an online service or blog other than Facebook, must be granted in writing by yours truly (Stephen Maglott). Please feel free however, to share this post with others on Facebook.

* If you enjoy these biographical tributes to same-gender loving/Trans men and women of African descent, please “like” the Ubuntu Biography Project page! And then go back and select “Get Notifications”. (https://www.facebook.com/UbuntuBiographyProject) Thank you

From Prostitute to Professor: The 7 Lessons of Maya Angelou’s Messy Life φ Yolanda Young

From Prostitute to Professor: The 7 Lessons of Maya Angelou’s Messy Life

Yolanda Young

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Yolanda Young is the author of On Our Way To Beautiful founder of http://www.onbeingablacklawyer.com.

Posted: 06/12/2014
MAYA ANGELOU

The death of Dr. Maya Angelou provided us the opportunity to once again delight in her memoirs, which chronicle the eclectic, bohemian first half of her life. Yet, we know from her writings that such praise was often withheld as she pursued her dreams of being a dancer and poet while raising a young child as a single mother. How many times must she have been urged to settle down and give up her artistic and cultural pursuits, which time and time again left her broke and broken? While we now refer to Angelou as a renaissance woman, until she published I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings in her 40s, her life resembled what is referred to in ghetto parlance as a hot mess.

This messiness is what we all fear. It is why rather than pursue our dreams, we settle into the lives expected of us. Cubicles and cul-de-sacs become the things of our imagination. Only happiness and satisfaction studies suggest they are not enough. A GALLUP Poll last year found that only 30 percent of U.S. workers are passionate about their work. The majority (52 percent) are unhappy with their jobs and put little energy into their work while another 18 percent actually hate their jobs and actively work to undermine coworkers. We sacrifice our dreams only to find ourselves restless, bored and frustrated in midlife having realized what Angelou told us all along; “making a living is not the same thing as making a life.” Worse still, we recognize the irony in discovering after layoffs, financial setbacks and divorce that the “mess” is unavoidable.

These unmet expectations and realization that youthful aspirations have been abandoned are suspected as the cause of feelings of discouragement and depression among those in midlife. The British think tank NatCen Social Research found that studies show that people between 35 and 55 suffer a dip in well-being. A separate study that analyzed data from “nationally representative” surveys in Australia, Britain and Germany found that the bell curve in well-being dips to its lowest point around the ages of 40 to 42.

Even those who choose to pursue unconventional dreams don’t escape these feelings, especially if such pursuits have come at the expense of nearly everything else. I abandoned life as a lawyer in favor of one as a writer, activist and entrepreneur. Now having entered midlife without any of our culture’s success markers — husband, children, two-car garage — I have had to answer, both to myself and to others, the question of whether the path I’ve chosen was a wise one. Reflecting on Angelou’s has helped me find the answers.

1. Be uniquely you.

Angelou described herself in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings as “a too-big Negro girl, with nappy black hair, broad feet and a space between her teeth that would hold a number-two pencil.” She knew such a girl would’ve perished trying to conform to mainstream conventions. “If you’re always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” Instead of fretting over not being a swan, Angelou reinvented herself as a rare bird. As many biographers have noted, she won’t be remembered for her poems or plays, but for her memoirs and for being Maya Angelou. The key to discerning one’s authenticity is quite simple: “Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.”

2. When it comes to failure, be courageous.

Angelou was a marvelous failure. Her most noteworthy stage performance, playing the seamstress in the two-woman play Mary Todd Lincoln, earned her a Tony nomination but closed on opening night. The rolling stone never stuck to one thing for long. She moved from coast to coast, continent to continent, sometimes making poor childcare decisions, one of which resulted in her son’s brief abduction. She didn’t have a stable home or steady job until she was in her 50s, an age at which many are preparing for retirement. She divorced several times but would would never confirm the exact number, “for fear of sounding frivolous.” Aware of all her failings, Angelou was brave enough to look at herself. “We have to confront ourselves. Do we like what we see in the mirror? And, according to our light, according to our understanding, according to our courage, we will have to say yea or nay — and rise!”

3. Know who your friends are.

One would be hard-pressed to identify a significant black figure Angelou didn’t know. She danced with Amiri Baraka. Billie Holiday visited her home and explained the meaning of Strange Fruit to her young son. While a calypso dancer she worked with Alvin Ailey. James Baldwin gave her the introductions that would lead to the publication of her first memoir. These were people she deeply cared for, but in anEssence interview, she had this to say of friendship.

There’s a marked difference between acquaintances and friends. Most people really don’t become friends. They become deep and serious acquaintances. But in a friendship you get to know the spirit of another person, and your values coincide. Friends may disagree, but not about serious matters. A friend will stand for you when you are no longer able… Years ago one of the slick White women’s magazines asked if they could photograph me with my closest friends for an issue they were doing on friends. The editor wanted me to bring Oprah. I have 30 years on Oprah. She calls me her friend, her mother, all that. I am very close to her in a motherly way. So I told [the magazine], ‘I have three dear friends — Dolly McPherson, Jessica ‘Decca’ Mitford and M.J. Hewitt — they are sisters to me.’

4. Believe you can do anything.

For Angelou, inexperience was never a reason not to take on an interesting job. Angelou’s only criterion was seemingly that a new occupation share little to no similarities with her previous one. At sixteen, she became San Francisco’s first African-American streetcar conductor and later passed herself off as an experienced Creole chef. She held jobs dancing in a nightclub, stripping paint from old cars, and singing Calypso. She knew nothing about being a journalist when she accepted a position as an editor for The Arab Observer,” an English-language magazine. She said of the experience,

I stayed at the Arab Observer for over a year and gradually my ignorance receded. I learned from Abdul Hassan how to write an opinionated article with such subtlety that the reader would think the opinion his own…I received a raise from Dr. Nagati, the respect of my fellow workers and a few compliments from strangers…

She made her television debut as Kunte Kinte’s grandmother in the acclaimed television adaptation of Alex Haley’s Roots. And in the one-time high school dropout who never attended college became the Reynolds professor of American studies at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.

5. Forgive others and yourself.

In addition to enduring the injustices that came along with being poor, black and female in the South, Angelou was also raped as a child and beaten as a young woman. In a May 9th interview at her home she told Armstrong Williams, “I’ve learned that forgiving is one of the greatest gifts that I can give myself…And as soon as I do I feel lighter, brighter and better.”

In Gather Together in My Name, Angelou shares one of her lowest periods when she served as a pimp for two lesbian prostitutes and sometimes worked as a prostitute herself. In one interview, she said of the experience.

If you happen to fall into that sort of experience, what you have to do is forgive yourself. If you’re in the very gutter, see where you are and admit it. As soon as you admit it, you can be like the prodigal son, the prodigal daughter. Get up and go home — wherever home is. Get up and go to a safe place, someplace where your spirit is not kicked and brutalized and your body not misused and abused. Get up. But you can’t get up unless you see where you are and admit it.

6. Persevere.

In A Song Flung Up to Heaven, Angelou tells of her midlife crisis which was accompanied by great sorrow. Returning to the States after the end of a romance in Africa, Angelou became a Civil Rights activist only to be witness to the Movement’s greatest tragedies. She was working with Malcolm X to establish his foundation when he was assassinated New York City. Three years later she was working as the northern coordinator for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he was gunned down in Memphis on Angelou’s 40th birthday. For a time, Angelou withdrew from society unable to deal with the tragedy, but eventually she harnessed her grief and regrets to write her seminal work, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. From then on, she would rise at dawn and set out for the motel room where she would write. Her only companions were a Bible, a dictionary, a thesaurus, a stack of legal pads, and a bottle of sherry. Having written her way out of the worst time in her life, she credited it with her survival. “All my work is meant to say, ‘You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated…Nothing will work unless you do.”

7. Change.

Angelou was a master of reinvention. She didn’t settle on a name until after her first marriage, claiming her childhood nickname and a twist on her first husband’s last name. For Angelou, change was essential. Perhaps more so when one decides nothing can be done at all. “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

 

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“Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear . . . I RISE” φ Victory Service Honoring the Life of Dr. Maya Angelou

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“Out of the huts of history’s shameφ
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise”

 

Watch the full Service Here

The good white folks of the Academy

OPINION

The good white folks of the Academy

by Willie Osterweil @ajam January 15, 2014
How Oscar-nominated films misrepresent African-American history

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A scene from “12 Years a Slave.” From left: Lupita Nyongo, Michael Fassbender and Chiwetel Ejiofor.
Fox Searchlight/Everett Collection

The Academy Awards have made progress in terms of racial representation. This year a film about slavery is the clear front-runner in many of the major categories, and if “12 Years a Slave” or “Gravity” wins best picture, it would be the first time a movie by a nonwhite director takes the prize. It’s also possible that Lee Daniels (“The Butler”) could join Steve McQueen (“12 Years”) and Alfonso Cuaron (“Gravity”) to make best director a majority-minority category for the first time ever.

It’s certainly a relief to see Oscar-nominated films about black experience actually written and directed by black people (unlike, for example, recent Oscar darlings “Django Unchained,” “The Help,” and “The Blind Side”). But it’s the movie’s producers — who have more power over a film’s content than most recognize — who will actually walk up to accept the best picture statuette. Unsurprisingly, most of them are still white.

That might be one reason why the representations of black experience that the Academy deems best-picture-worthy remain fundamentally unchallenged. Out of the 120 films that received a best picture nomination in the last 20 years, only 17 featured nonwhite protagonists or major characters. In all but four of those films these characters were either extremely poor or criminals. Out of the four remaining, one featured a slave (“Django,” 2012), another an entertainer (“Ray,” 2004), another an athlete (“Jerry Maguire,” 1996). Needless to say, the white characters in these and the other 103 films nominated for best picture held a much wider variety of occupational and socioeconomic positions.

When “The Butler” is nominated this year — as it will surely be when nominations are announced on Thursday — it will buck this trend by featuring a black domestic servant who happens to be middle class [editor’s note: the film was not nominated for best picture]. The biopic traces the civil rights movement through the eyes of one of the White House’s black butlers. In its version of 20th-century black struggle, the civil rights bill came about because the movement appealed to the goodness of JFK’s heart (rather than forcing his hand with its power), the Black Panthers were overaggressive youth who got what they deserved, and Obama’s election is the apotheosis of everything the movement was fighting for. “The Butler” won’t win, but it would have had a much better chance last year, when historical-revisionist ideology celebrating the executive branch (“Argo,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Lincoln”) was all the rage.

Based on a true story

A much better film, “12 Years a Slave” focuses on the visceral horrors of American slavery. Produced by Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner and John Ridley, among others, it tells the story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped and sold in the decades before the Civil War. Based on Northup’s memoir of the same title, it’s a well-crafted and emotionally powerful film, and for many has provided a devastating condemnation of slavery.

And yet it has major shortcomings. The film portrays the North in 1841 as a racism-free place where black and white live in harmony. White characters get much more dialogue and characterization than black ones: We learn more about the life story of Armsby, a white laborer who appears for two scenes, than we ever do about Patsey, one of the film’s slave protagonists. The slaves are often singing but rarely speak to one another: They remain mostly-silent extras whose graphically suffering bodies make us feel bad about slavery. Though there is a plethora of white stars, the three famous black actors outside of Chiwetel Ejiofor as the lead character get token roles, appearing only once or twice. What happens when we recognize the white characters and actors, while the black people remain largely anonymous? Who does this suggest the film is for?

In the predictable ending, the good white people outmaneuver the evil white people and return Northup to safety. The obvious defense of this dramatic device — “but that’s what really happened!” — shows exactly how “based on a true story” shuts down critical thought. The point is not to question its factual accuracy: The film by all accounts keeps quite close to Northup’s memoir (although some scholars debate the memoir’s veracity). But that objection ignores the fact that the filmmakers chose to tell this particular story and to tell it in this particular way.

Executive producer and screenwriter Ridley’s 2006 article “The Manifesto of Ascendancy for the Modern American Nigger,” in which he glorifies Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Ayn Rand and calls on wealthy black people to separate themselves from “niggers” — i.e., poor black folks who victimize themselves — exemplifies this position on race and storytelling. Ridley writes, “If we as a race could win the centuries-long war against institutionalized racism, why is it that so many of us cannot secure the advantage after decades of freedom?” Of course, the idea that institutionalized racism disappeared with Jim Crow is absurd. But Ridley’s answers to this loaded question imply that now that racism is over, then black folks have no one to blame but themselves and should drop their anger and just forgive white people, for their own good.

A historical aberration

Modern filmmakers who want to accurately convey the evils of slavery could do so through the stories of Toussaint Louverture or Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman or Frederick Douglass — or any of the other thousands of slaves who didn’t look to white saviors to escape their bondage. But you’d never know from watching Hollywood movies that a single slave ever freed herself. “Django Unchained, “Glory,” “Lincoln” — these films all feature the benevolent intervention of white protagonists. Even Steven Spielberg’s “Amistad,” about a slave uprising, is as much about the white lawyers arguing the slaves’ case.

A particular narrative about slavery is told over and over: The institution was a historical aberration perpetrated by evil white people, but luckily there were good white people who listened to the black people, and they helped free the slaves, and now it’s all over. A similarly simplistic narrative emerges out of Hollywood’s revision of the civil rights movement: In “The Butler,” the cause was noble, but some black people took it too far and it was ultimately victorious because white presidents listened to the brave moderate blacks and beat the evil white racists. Now racism is over, because, you know, Obama.

Thanks to the Oscars, hundreds of thousands more will see the versions of black history told by “The Butler” and “12 Years a Slave”: A best picture nomination is a huge boon for ticket sales, adding millions to a film’s box office, rental take, and audience. The Academy that chooses who gets that cash is 77 percent male, 94 percent white and 86 percent over the age of 50. As such, if a movie wants that precious Oscar bump, it would do well to reproduce the worldview of the rich old white men who run the industry. And that’s precisely why “Fruitvale Station, the movie about the 2009 killing of Oscar Grant, a young black man whose murder by police in Oakland sparked riots, is unlikely to receive a nomination.

The real problem for ‘Fruitvale Station’ is that it’s a film about racism without a happy ending

“Fruitvale Station” won the 2013 Sundance Grand Jury award, the same award that “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” another film about black experience in America, won in 2012. Notorious Oscar campaigner the Weinstein Co. distributed “Fruitvale Station,” and it opened in more than 1,000 theaters. It was met with universal critical acclaim and made $16 million at the box office, more than presumptive nominees “Nebraska” or “August: Osage County.” The point being, this is no tiny indie or critical cause celebre: “Fruitvale Station” has a solid resume for a best picture nominee. It’s even based on a true story! Commentators have claimed it’s not “stylistically innovative” enough, but it’s stylistically consistent with the washed-out steadycam of guaranteed nominee “Captain Phillips,” and a markedly better movie to boot. “Fruitvale Station” develops real emotional stakes (unlike “The Wolf of Wall Street”), refuses to stereotype its black characters (unlike “The Butler”) and doesn’t rely on precious twee misogyny to make you care about its protagonist (unlike “Her”).

But the Oscars have never been about celebrating the year’s best movie (“Crash, anyone?). The real problem for “Fruitvale Station” is that it’s a film about racism without a happy ending. It’s about a tragedy that cannot be redeemed. Not that it’s even a particularly radical film — it just can’t pretend that time has solved the problems it portrays, as “12 Years a Slave” does, and can’t give the contradictions of history a tidy conclusion, as “The Butler” does with Obama’s election. Instead, it connects into a current struggle, evoking the trauma and horror that racist violence and overpolicing produce in minority communities across the country.

The point is not to berate the Oscars for not nominating “Fruitvale Station,” but rather to see how the Oscars, and the film-critical apparatus surrounding them, dictate what constitutes a “serious” depiction of race. No one really believes the Oscars are a meritocracy, but the awards still end up giving certain movies massive new audiences, deciding which films critics will write about and people will talk about.

If, come March 2, when the envelopes are opened, “12 Years a Slave” gets snubbed — beaten by, say, “American Hustle” — expect a lot of people to start talking about the racism of the Oscars. They’ll be right to. But if “12 Years a Slave” wins, let’s not be too hasty in celebrating the Academy’s rich white men for an anti-racist victory.

Willie Osterweil is a writer and editor at The New Inquiry and the frontman of the punk band Vulture Shit.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera America’s editorial policy.

Source:  http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/1/the-good-white-folksoftheacademy.html

 

The Annual OUR COMMON GROUND Black History Games >> March 1st LIVE

The Annual OUR COMMON GROUND
Black History Games
March 1, 2014 10 pm ET LIVE

Challenge Your Black History Intelligence

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20 Questions – 10 Points Each
Call In to pick up Bonus Questions
Call In WITH a BONUS QUESTION
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African Americans, as a distinct ethnic variation in the African diaspora, were created by slavery. Millions of Africans wound up in America only because they were kidnapped to fill the needs of a slave economy. This process forged a new people, who became American by necessity, and included 12 generations of chattel slavery. For nearly 250 years, American culture dehumanized those it enslaved and, more insidiously, socialized generations of African Americans for enslavement. The nation’s economic reliance on slavery mandated a rigid and pitiless racial hierarchy.

THE HISTORY of BLACK HISTORY MONTH

As a Harvard-trained historian, Carter G. Woodson, like W. E. B. Du Bois before him, believed that truth could not be denied and that reason would prevail over prejudice. His hopes to raise awareness of African American’s contributions to civilization was realized when he and the organization he founded, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), conceived and announced Negro History Week in 1925.
Seeing the need to spread the news about Black history to the general public as well as scholars, Dr. Woodson and the ASNLH pioneered the celebration of “Negro History Week” in 1926, which has since been extended to the entire month of February.
By the time of Woodson’s death in 1950, Negro History Week had become a central part of African American life and substantial progress had been made in bringing more Americans to appreciate the celebration. At mid–century, mayors of cities nationwide issued proclamations noting Negro History Week. The Black Awakening of the 1960s dramatically expanded the consciousness of African Americans about the importance of black history, and the Civil Rights movement focused Americans of all color on the subject of the contributions of African Americans to our history and culture.
The celebration was expanded to a month in 1976, the nation’s bicentennial. President Gerald R. Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” That year, fifty years after the first celebration, the association held the first African American History Month. By this time, the entire nation had come to recognize the importance of Black history in the drama of the American story. Since then each American president has issued African American History Month proclamations. And the association—now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH)—continues to promote the study of Black history all year

03-1 black historyIn honor of this bold act for empowerment of our people, OUR COMMON GROUND celebrates Black History Month with the nation throughout the month. Each year, we use our broadcast to host, the Annual OCG Black History Games. Testing and challenging your Black History intelligence.

About The Games
1. We select and structure 20 questions covering significant facts about events, people and accomplishments in Black History from Reconstruction through 2014. For each question, listeners can assign 10 points for each correct answer. Five (5) of the questions will feature a (5 point bonus) question. Listeners listen for the questions, answer and call in with the answers once all the questions are posed.
2. For bonus points, callers who call in with their scores can ask for an additional listener only question to bolster their overall score.
3. We encourage teams made of family, friends and regular listeners who want partners.

 

#HISTORY MATTERS
#TALKTHATMATTERS

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OCG This Week: The Gullah Geechee Nation with Queen Quet Marquetta L. Goodwine Head-of-State for the Gullah/Geechee Nation

           OUR COMMON GROUND with Janice Graham 
                    2014 Black History Month 

                        02-1-14 Quet2

The Gullah Geechee Nation
OUR GUEST: Queen Quet Marquetta L. Goodwine 
Head-of-State for the Gullah/Geechee Nation

LISTEN LIVE

Saturday, February 1, 2014
10 pm ET  LIVE

ABOUT the GULLAH/GEECHEE NATION
queenquet10queenquet12queenquet5The Gullah/Geechee Nation exist from Jacksonville, NC to Jacksonville, FL. It encompasses all of the Sea Islands and thirty to thirty-five miles inland to the St. John’s River. On these islands, people from numerous African ethnic groups linked with indigenous Americans and created the unique Gullah language and traditions from which later came “Geechee.” The Gullah/Geechee people have been considered “a nation within a nation” from the time of chattel enslavement in the United States until they officially became an internationally recognized nation on July 2, 2000. At the time of their declaration as a nation, they confirmed the election of their first “head pun de boddee”-head of state and official spokesperson and queen mother. They elected Queen Quet, Chieftess and Head-of-State for the Gullah/Geechee Gullah Nation.

ABOUT QUEEN QUET MARQUETTA L. GOODWINE

queenquet9Queen Quet Marquetta L. Goodwine is a published author, computer scientist, lecturer, mathematician, historian, columnist, preservationist, environmental justice advocate, environmentalist, film consultant, and “The Art-ivist.” She is the founder of the premiere advocacy organization for the continuation of Gullah/Geechee culture, the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition. Queen Quet has not only provided “histo-musical presentations” throughout the world, but was also the first Gullah/Geechee person to speak on behalf of her people before the United Nations in Genevé, Switzerland.

Queen Quet was one of the first of seven inductees to the Gullah/Geechee Nation Hall of Fame. She received the “Anointed Spirit Award” for her leadership and for being a visionary. In 2008, she was recorded at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France at a United Nations Conference in order to have the human rights story of the Gullah/Geechee people archived for the United Nations. In 2009, she was invited by the Office of the High Commissioner of the United Nations to come and present before the newly founded “Minority Forum” as a representative of the Gullah/Geechee Nation and the International Human Rights Association for American Minorities (IHRAAM) which is an NGO in consultative status with the United Nations. Queen Quet is a directorate member for IHRAAM and for the International Commission on Human Rights. She represented these bodies and the Gullah/Geechee Nation at the “United Nations Forum on Minority Rights.”

Due to Queen Quet advancing the idea of keeping the Gullah/Geechee culture alive, the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition under the leadership of Queen Quet, worked with Congressman James Clyburn to insure that the United States Congress would work to assist the Gullah/Geechees. Queen Quet then acted as the community leader to work with the United States National Park Service to conduct several meetings throughout the Gullah/Geechee Nation for the “Special Resource Study of Lowcountry Gullah Culture.” Due to the fact that Gullah/Geechees worked to become recognized as one people, Queen Quet wanted to insure that the future congressional act would reflect this in its name and form. As a result in 2006 the “Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Act” was passed by the United States Congress and signed into law by the president.

Queen Quet is vetted with the United States White House as an Expert Commissioner in the Department of the Interior. She is also the Chair of the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor General Management Plan which is being completed by a commission created by the act for there to be a “Gullah/Geechee National Heritage Corridor.” Queen Quet is also a member of the “National Park Relevancy Committee” and proudly continues to work to protect the environment and to insure that diverse groups of people engage in the outdoors and the policies governing them. Queen Quet has engaged in several White House conferences on this issue.

queenquet7The Mission of the Gullah Geechee Nation 

To preserve, protect, and promote our history, culture, language, and homeland and to institute and demand official recognition of the governance (minority) rights necessary to accomplish our mission to take care of our community through collective efforts which will provide a healthy environment, care for the well beings of each person, and economic empowerment.

 

 

2014 season   BROADCASTING BOLD BRAVE BLACK 

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OUR COMMON GROUND “In Conversation with George Curry”

OUR COMMON GROUND with Janice Graham

“Transforming Truth to Power, One Broadcast At a Time”

“In Conversation with George Curry”

October 26, 2013 
10 pm ET                                     LIVE and Call -IN

10-26-13 Curry

About our Guest George Curry

George E. Curry is the editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service. The former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, Curry also writes a weekly syndicated column for NNPA, a federation of more than 200 African American newspapers.

Curry, who served as editor-in-chief of the NNPA News Service from 2001 until 2007, returned to lead the news service for a second time on April 2, 2012. His work at the NNPA has ranged from being inside the Supreme Court to hear oral arguments in the University of Michigan affirmative action cases to traveling to Doha, Qatar, to report on America’s war with Iraq.
As editor-in-chief of Emerge, Curry led the magazine to win more than 40 national journalism awards. He is most proud of his four-year campaign to win the release of Kemba Smith, a 22-year-old woman who was given a mandatory sentence of 24 1/2 years in prison for her minor role in a drug ring. In May 1996, Emerge published a cover story titled “Kemba’s Nightmare.” President Clinton pardoned Smith in December 2000, marking the end of her nightmare.

Curry is the author of Jake Gaither: America’s Most Famous Black Coach and editor of The Affirmative Action Debate and The Best of Emerge Magazine. He was editor of the National Urban League’s 2006 State of Black America report.

His work in journalism has taken him to Egypt, England, France, Italy, China, Germany, Malaysia, Thailand, Cuba, Brazil, Ghana, Senegal, Nigeria, the Ivory Coast, Mexico, Canada, and Austria. In August 2012, he was part of the official US delegation and a presenter at the US-Brazil seminar on educational equity in Brasilia, Brazil.
George Curry is a member of the National Speakers Association and the International Federation for Professional Speakers. His speeches have been televised on C-SPAN and reprinted in Vital Speeches of the Day magazine. In his presentations, he addresses such topics as diversity, current events, education, and the media.

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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 

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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.