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When a police dog bit a black woman in West Baltimore and took out a sizable chunk

of her thigh, there was Sharif again, among a group of activists who protested

 the mauling and got arrested and charged with inciting to riot for their trouble

 

 

Activist Works on Next Level of Change

By Gregory Kane

The Sun, 15 December 1999

 

Ulysses Bagwell, book editor? The query will mean nothing to most of you, of course. But it will no doubt pique the interest of those who graduated from Baltimore City College’s Class of 1969, which the faculty probably would have voted the school’s looniest if such a tally had been taken.

Seventh District Congressman Elijah Cummings is one of the shining stars of that class, as is state Del. Tony Fulton. Bagwell now goes by the name Amin Sharif, the result of a conversion to Islam. None of us in City’s Class of 69 figured Sharif would go into politics. (He’s now a correctional counselor at the Baltimore City Detention Center.) But what we did know was that Sharif, single-handedly, made the 1968-1969 school year a helluva lot more exciting than in most other schools.

The fall semester found Sharif elected president of the school’s new Afro-American Club. Interviewed in The Collegian, the school’s newspaper, Sharif expressed the then-common notion among black militants that there were few, if any, good white people. The sentiment did not endear him to that segment of the City faculty who figured black students had already committed an offense simply by showing up at the school.

On Jan. 15, 1969, Sharif led a small but vocal band of students out of the school.

“We’re declaring Martin Luther King’s birthday a holiday,” he and other students announced, years before Congress and the rest of the country caught up. But the students spend the day goofing off. They went to Hopkins Plaza and conducted a teach-in on King and the civil rights movement. They didn’t consider themselves truant. They simply figured they had taken their education outside the walls of City College.

Later in the year, Sharif and other students went before the school board to urge it to give students options of taking the day off on Malcolm X’s birthday. In a close vote, the board agreed.

When a police dog bit a black woman in West Baltimore and took out a sizable chunk of her thigh, there was Sharif again, among a group of activists who protested the mauling and got arrested and charged with inciting to riot for their trouble. Out on bail, Sharif was in a car using a bullhorn to urge a crowd of people near Murphy Homes to protest the injustice when police grabbed him out of the car and arrested him again.

So we figured this Sharif guy might end up in the Nation of Islam or the Black Panthers or get some job as a professional rabble-rouser. But a corrections counselor and part-time book editor?

Well, he is, Sharif showed up at The Sun last week, dressed in a suit and tie, looking tres Establishment, to talk about the book. With him was Rudolph Lewis, who is co-editor of I Am New Orleans and Other Poems by Marcus B. Christian. How does a Baltimore guy end up co-editing a book about a New Orleans poet? That’s explained by the friendship between Sharif and Lewis.

After Sharif graduated from City, he and Lewis were roommates who shared a common philosophy.

“We were part of the black consciousness movement that lasted from the 60s to the early 80s,” Lewis explained. In the early 1980s, Sharif went abroad for a spell, and Lewis headed to New Orleans. While there, Lewis learned of the literary works—poems, letters, and history essays—of Marcus Christian. Impressed by what he read, lewis obtained some of Christian’s diaries, poems, and letters and “lugged them around” for ten years, trying to find a publisher.

In 1987, Lewis returned to Baltimore. He bumped into Sharif by accident. During the reunion Lewis told Sharif about Christian’s work, and the two worked together to find a publisher. Xavier University Press of New Orleans published 500 copies of the book in June, which have sold out.

“We’re ultimately interested in Marcus Christian being considered in the canon of African-American poets, especially at black colleges and universities,” Lewis said.

The editing duo managed to get 50 of the 2,000 poems Christian penned into the book. Christian wrote poems about love, racism, war (a couple of poems criticizing World War I and a few praising Ethiopians resisting the 1930s Italian invasion) and police brutality.

Lewis and Sharif consider Christian an unsung contributor to what Lewis insists should be called the “Negro Renaissance”—rather than the Harlem Renaissance—of the 1920s and 1930s.

“He’s different from most of the major figures in that he didn’t go to New York or Chicago,” Lewis said. But Christian was in frequent communication with the likes of W.E.B. Du Bois, and Langston Hughes and “was a close friend of Arna Bontemps.”

It took 30 years Ulysses Bagwell to make the journey from militant firebrand to Amin Sharif book editor and preserver of a portion of black America’s cultural legacy. You have to figure the ghost of Marcus Christian, who died in 1976, is most appreciative.

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.WashingtonPost

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

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posted 20 August 2005 / update 1 January 2012

 

 

 

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