Books by Kalamu ya
The Magic of JuJu: An Appreciation of the Black Arts
A Revolution of Black Poets
Everywhere Is Someplace Else: A Literary Anthology
From A Bend in the River: 100 New Orleans Poets
Our Music Is No Accident /
What Is Life: Reclaiming the Black Blues Self
My Story My Song (CD)
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Hands on Deck
these communiqués serve two purposes: one--to
organize neo-griot activities and specifically to gather
together workshop members into a cohesive force even though we
may be physically separate, and two--to demonstrate to and
interface with our friends, supporters and allies worldwide.
this dynamic dialectic is precisely the praxis we need.
dynamic = everything is in flux. we are forced by circumstance
to improvise and to react to specific conditions that differ
from place to place.
dialectic = what one does in one place directly affects what
another does someplace else, we are intertwined and it is the
resulting synthesis that is our essence, not one person in one
place, or one group in one place, but rather we are defined by
the cooperation between individuals and groups in getting our
we must very carefully and seriously maintain this dialectic. it
is both our strength and our sustenance. operating in a
coordinated fashion increases the effectiveness of our actions,
indeed, enables us to do more than any of us could do as
isolated individuals or small groups. but more than simply make
our work stronger and more effective, dialectical work sustains
us, particularly in times when it seems we are overwhelmed by
external forces both natural and social/political/economic.
of course I am aware that much of this sounds overly
theoretical, but if we lack a theoretical understanding of what
works and why, and what does not work and why, we will flounder
along and generally fail to meet the enormous challenges we
praxis = finally, we must put our theories into practice,
because it is only in practice that we can test the truthfulness
of our theories, and only through practice can we achieve our
goals and be of ultimate service to our people and to the world.
ok, enough of theory. here are some suggestions for forward
motion—and please do not look upon these items as dictates or
even directives, but rather these are put on the table for
discussion. these, as well as all other suggestions, are open
for discussion, critique, amendment, etc.
every workshop member must feel they can and should participate
in the decision making process. additionally, over the next
month our organizational structure will increase exponentially.
we are going to take on new members, expand into new arenas of
operation that were completely unknown even a week ago.
1. neo-griot workshop
paulette, you are the neo-griot workshop director. you are in
charge of gathering and organizing our writers. we all look
forward to receiving your programmatic suggestions. please be a
bit more efficient than fema in presenting your plans. ;->)
additionally, paulette, as we discussed yesterday, since you are
there with freddi, we need you to take the leadership in
identifying all necessary steps to complete freddi’s
kalamu will make the contact with marie brown.
kalamu will continue to handle e-drum on a daily basis. once we
stabilize a bit and figure out where everyone is and plans to
be, we can then begin looking at the possibility of someone else
picking up this task if anyone is interested. it is tremendously
time consuming but it is also a vital window on what is
3. breath of life
mtume ya salaam and kalamu are handling that. no changes there
in the foreseeable future.
4. the new orleans project
there is so much to be done here. first, kalamu will outline the
project. asante salaam has agreed to come aboard as coordinator.
yall all know kalamu is not the one to organize the business
side, even though he understands and knows how to do it.
kalamu is in discussion with a number of people who are
interested in the project. within the next week we will have a
full progress report.
5. ya mama’nem
lynn pitts (who is in new york city and is also a former
associate director of the workshop) with the help of asante
salaam is going to head up this project. they are still in the
planning stages, but essentially it will be a website gathering
memories of new Orleans. here is how lynn explains the genesis
of the idea.
”During a conversation with Asante yesterday we talked about
an idea I had for an e-book of writing and artwork from New
Orleans artists to be sold as a fundraiser... by the time we
finished talking though, we both thought a website might be a
better idea. A place all the artists that we know could post
fiction, poetry, memoir, photos, artwork, etc. that speaks to
their memories of the city when it was whole. We think people
would appreciate the opportunity to express themselves and I
also think it's important the rest of the country understand
what was lost last week. Asante came up with the title:
"How Ya' Mama'nem?: Love Letters for New Orleans."
I think it’s a good idea, a really good idea.
marian moore, we need you to step forward and take on the task
of developing and maintaining our listserv. right now I’m
sending material out on the fly, but we need to have a moderated
listserv to make sure information is shared efficiently and
also consider gathering and sharing material of interest from
the internet, which you already do, but stepping up the process
by being a clearing house for this, so that members who see
stuff of interest know to send it to you and you in turn decide
whether to share it with the neo-griot listserv.
marian this is really a formalizing of a task you have already
been doing, however, you may not have computer access. let me
know if you have a laptop, if not, we’ll need to get one to
you. two reasons I’m asking you: one, you were already
maintaining our basic listserv and two, you are a computer
programmer and can build the database that will be needed as we
expand and develop our work.
for certain, over the next year for sure and right on into the
next two or three years we will be living all over the united
states and abroad. the internet is going to be our major
communications medium. marian, let me know 1. if you’re up for
it, and 2. if you need a laptop.
7. internet infrastructure
we have two commercial servers, paid for and up and running. the
domain name kalamu.com is active. we are prepared to build on
what we have already started with breath of life and e-drum.
8. ideological development
we have got to find a way to continue and deepen our collective
study. for example, many of you remember the works of primo levi
that we studied, particularly some of his descriptions about
life in the concentration camps in germany. some of the
seemingly baffling behavior trumpeted by the media, is not so
baffling once it is contextualized in the crucible of extreme,
systematic oppression and social trauma.
I’m open to suggestions for documents, books, articles we can
share to advance our development.
9. social/spiritual development
remember that time we drove over to Atlanta for a national black
arts festival event, and I joke that if we got stopped it was
going to be difficult to explain what we were doing with a
pagan, a muslim, a christian and a jew in one car ;->)
I bring this up because it is critical that we not only respect,
but more importantly, that we embrace diversity even when we are
dealing with a group of “black”
people there is still a great deal of diversity. and indeed,
that is the nature of the human condition at this time.
I’ve outline this in some detail for two reasons:
1. so that neo-griot folk can see the big picture and get
in wherever they can fit in. and, to reiterate, we also expect
folk to react critically to this outline and not just blindly
accept it as some kind of military marching orders. we are a
collective, everyone has both a voice and a vote, and the
emphasis is on consensus rather than a simple majority takes
2. so that others can see how we work and interface with
us, as well as learn from us and share with us, thereby folk can
learn from us and we can learn from them.
I’m smiling at the moment because I remember the year we took
to read/study the alphabet versus the goddess. as I look back
over the list of assignments, it is clear that women are taking
the lead. is it any accident that we are switching from text/the
book as the primary method of storing and sharing information,
to the internet.
consider that the times picayune was forced to switch to the
internet and in the process reached far more people than they
ever could have when they were mainly a print medium. consider
that the cnn was the prime source of information—what method
of communication with the people did the government have?
nothing! no emergency channel. not even a government radio
station to give people updates and information.
and in the aftermath as cell phones and land lines went down,
people are finding each other through the internet, connecting
much, much more efficiently than through any other means.
this is the 21st century, an age that starts off using digital
technology. but technology is no replacement for social
interaction. we need to use the technology to facilitate our
hugs are important. not only all hands on deck, but also all
hands around each other.
enough for now. more to come. awaiting your replies
a luta continua,
posted 6 September 2005
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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.—
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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in
By Melissa V.
According to the
author, this society has historically exerted
considerable pressure on black females to fit into one
of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the
Matriarch or the Jezebel. The selfless
Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to
white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of
those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the
relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable
temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as
an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the
characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television
shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
points out how the propagation of these harmful myths
have served the mainstream culture well. For instance,
the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for
black females to feel a maternal instinct towards
As for the source
of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their
own bodies during slavery given that they were being
auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless,
it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate
the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate
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The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
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Ancient African Nations
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If you like this page consider making a donation
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Negro Digest /
Browse all issues
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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
George Jackson /
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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
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(Books, DVDs, Music, and more)
update 2 January 2012