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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Films by Haile Gerima
Adwa: An African Victory /
Ashes and Embers
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from PanaFest 1994
Gerima in Ghana
By Kalamu ya Salaam
USA based, Ethiopian filmmaker Haile Gerima
is also staying at the Marnico Guest House in Cape Coast. He
jokes that he has a room on the first floor in the back while
Nia and I are in the front building on the second floor. Usually
Haile is very intense, but, he feels at ease in Ghana. He is
smiling and joking. Even though he is somewhat relaxed here, his
sarcasm remains intensely funny and intensely cutting.
We begin exchanging jokes. I say,
"someone told me that there are 40 million people in
Nigeria and all of them are at the airport."
Haile laughs, that's like Jamaica where they
stand looking into the sky waiting for American Airlines to
descend with tourists.
Then Haile tells us a Cuban joke: A socialist
tragedy is a girlfriend but no house to take her to. A socialist
comedy is to have a house but your girl friend leaves you.
Socialist realism is you have a house and you have a girlfriend,
but the whole central committee is in the bedroom.
Haile is a trickster, but he is also very,
very serious and deeply concerned about the direction, or lack
thereof, of the African world. At one point he took on a
Jamaican dance troupe who objected to some statements he made
about Jamaica during a question and answer session. "When I
finished, they backed off. I told them how they make their whole
country into a bedroom for White tourists. People go there just
to fuck. That's all. And they spend their days and nights
preparing a place for these tourists to have fun with them. I
was there. I said do you want me to make a film about your
country. About how the women dance topless and let men feel all
over their breasts and slap their behinds. How they oil up the
skin of Black men and have them dance in bikini briefs with
White women shoving
money down the front of the bikini and feeling on the man's
organ. Everywhere you go in Jamaica that's all you see. What
kind of culture is that?"
Gerima's relationship with Ghana is
different. He despairs about the problems of Ghana but retains
some hope that change is possible. In Ghana, a few people have
been very helpful to him, but the higher-ups have generally, at
best, only given lip service in the development of Gerima's
Sankofa as well as in the shooting of a follow-up
documentary by Sharikiana Gerima, Haile's African American wife.
In her documentary she interviews African Americans living in
Ghana and describes the repatriation process that has been going
on since Nkrumah days.
"Every minute in Africa is explosive.
Everything can change in just one minute."
In one minute a coup.
In one minute an official rescinds a
In one minute a flight with necessary
equipment doesn't enter the country.
In one minute, the individual you need to see
is no longer here and no one knows where that person has gone.
In one minute, the currency is devalued and
your on ground support budget is suddenly deficient.
In one minute a piece of equipment can break
and its nearest replacement is two thousand miles (and who knows
how many dollars) away.
In one minute. Everything changes.
The beauty is that change is a constant and,
in one minute, everything can also get better. Africa's very
instability is an asset to those of us seeking to bring about
Yes, everything can change in one minute and
that magnifies the power of individuals who challenge and change
the course of events. Individuals in the right place at the
In Africa, every minute and every individual
For Haile and Sharikiana Gerima, while
filming in Ghana, the individual lever of history is Dr. Ben-Abdallah
who is currently a professor in the school of performing arts at the University of Ghana,
Dr. Ben-Abdallah is a former minister of
culture, and also a former minister of information. He is no
longer in the government but remains supportive of the Rawlings
administration albeit critically so.
At one point during the making of Sankofa,
Dr. Ben-Abdallah had engineered a
shooting contract for Gerima to film in Ghana at the
historic Cape Coast slave castle. Shortly after Gerima returned
to the States with his signed contract, he received a letter
from a ranking government official rescinding the contract. Dr.
Ben-Abdallah had been replaced. Gerima tried writing and
calling, but was unable to get a response. When Sharikiana
Gerima was in Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta) for a meeting
of film makers, she decided to make an impromptu journey to
Accra, Ghana. Burkina Faso is the country directly north of
Ghana. Fortunately, she was able to contact Dr. Ben-Abdallah.
The letters the Gerimas had sent were never
forwarded to Dr. Ben-Abdallah. He was under the impression that
everything had gone OK. Finally, they decided that they would
try again under the auspices of Dr. Ben-Abdallah's new post.
Haile was required to return to Ghana. Contracts were
renegotiated. Of course, more money was required.
"But you see if it were not for one
individual, I would not have been able to shoot the scenes at
the castle." Every minute in Africa is explosive.
So, on the one hand, while Gerima lambasts
and critiques bureaucrats and inept government officials, at the
same time Gerima remains hopeful about the future. "It may
not be here in Ghana, and I may never see it, but the idea of
Pan Africanism will not die. It will emerge."
To me the odds are, Pan African reemergence
will first come to fruition in Ghana. After all, Ghana, the
first sub-Saharan African country to attain independence, is the
home of Pan Africanism. Padmore and DuBois are buried here.
There are streets, and centers and libraries named for diaspora
heroes of African unity and struggle. Nkrumah was certainly a
visionary, and though he had his problems, he has left Ghana
marching upward on a road of embracing worldwide Pan African
True there has been debate and struggle
within Ghana about the relevance of and Ghana's role in
propagating Pan Africanism. Part of the struggle revolves around
a Ghanaian assessment of the positives and negatives of Nkrumah
and his legacy. Ghanaian poet Kofi Anyidoho wrote a series of
poems focusing on this debate. One of the poems frankly reveals
both the attraction of Pan Africanism in bringing the diaspora
to Ghana as well as the thorn on the rose: the rejection of Pan
Africanism by some continental Africans who came to power after
the Nkrumah years.
for Dzifa for Maya
so they says ma Name is Lolita Jones?
that aint ma real Name.
never has known ma Name our Name
cud'a been Naita Norwetu
may be Maimouna Mkabayi
may be Aminata Malaika.
Name cud'a been sculptured
colors of the Rainbow
bosom of our Earth.
ago your People sold ma People.
People sold to Atlantic's Storms.
Storms first it took away our Voice
it took away our Name
it stripped us of our Soul.
then we've been pulled
stepped upon and spat upon.
been all over the place
aint got nowhere at all.
why when the Black Star rose
flew over to find ma Space
aint nobody like this Brother
gave me back ma Soul.
you you kicked hem out
you pushed him off
segeregated him from his SoilSoul.
yet since that fucking day
You all aint
done nothing worth a dime!
his soul is gone on home
sit out here you mess your head
drink palm wine you talk some
shuckin' n jivin' n soundin'
all just arguin' funerals.
nothing gone down here at all
And you all is
nothing worth ma pain.
gather ma tears around ma wounds
fly me off to ma QueenDom come.
got me a date with our SoulBrother
this aint no place for our Carnival.
hang out here
grind your teeth
cry some mess
talk some bull
drive some corpse to his KingDom Gone.
dont you talk of Life for a change?
all is so hang up with the Dead
I aint got no time to die just now.
cudnt care to wait for judgment of your Gods.
never was no case against our SoulBrother.
you all is trial here
I cudnt care to wait
hang you even by the Toe.
didnt even invite me here at all.
But I came
& I spoke ma Soul
The occasion is that of the death in exile
of Kwame Nkrumah, the deposed first President of Ghana. There is
an imaginary trial going on in Ghana to decide whether he
deserves to be brought back home for a hero's burial. Lolita
Jones is the final and uninvited witness, testifying to
Nkrumah's Pan African legacy. See "In the High Court of
Cosmic Justice", in my earlier collection Earthchild
(Accra: Woeli Publishing Services, 1985).
Source: Kalamu ya Salaam. Tarzan Can Not Return to
Africa, But I Can -- PanaFest 1994
Haile Gerima: Filmamker
Born in Gondor, Ethiopia in 1946, Haile Gerima is the fourth
child of ten children. His father was a writer and his mother a
teacher. As a youth Gerima performed in his father's theater
troupe, which presented original and often historical drama,
always submersed in the genuine culture of Ethiopia.
Gerima came to the U.S. in 1967 to study at the Goodman
School of Drama. He slowly realized that "with cinema I
could control many more things than in the theatre." Gerima
went on to receive his MFA from UCLA in 1976 and to produce
several films. Hour Glass, and Child of Resistance were
his first films, Bushmama and Harvest 3,000 Years
followed, all produced during his years at UCLA.
Review/Film; Reliving a Past of Slavery
posted 21 December 2005
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Guarding the Flame of Life
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New Orleans Jazz Funeral for tuba player Kerwin
They danced atop his casket Jaran 'Julio' Green
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1. Congo Square (9:01)
2. My Story, My Song (20:50)
3. Danny Banjo (4:32)
4. Miles Davis (10:26)
5. Hard News For Hip Harry (5:03)
6. Unfinished Blues (4:13)
7. Rainbows Come After The Rain (2:21)/Negroidal Noise (15:53)
8. Intro (3:59)
9. The Whole History (3:14)
10. Negroidal Noise (5:39)
11. Waving At Ra (1:40)
12. Landing (1:21)
13. Good Luck (:04)
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music website >
writing website >
daily blog >
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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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The New Jim Crow
Mass Incarceration in the Age of
By Michele Alexander
Contrary to the
rosy picture of race embodied in Barack
Obama's political success and Oprah
Winfrey's financial success, legal
scholar Alexander argues vigorously and
persuasively that [w]e have not ended
racial caste in America; we have merely
redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial
segregation has been replaced by mass
incarceration as a system of social
control (More African Americans are
under correctional control today... than
were enslaved in 1850). Alexander
reviews American racial history from the
colonies to the Clinton administration,
delineating its transformation into the
war on drugs. She offers an acute
analysis of the effect of this mass
incarceration upon former inmates who
will be discriminated against, legally,
for the rest of their lives, denied
employment, housing, education, and
public benefits. Most provocatively, she
reveals how both the move toward
colorblindness and affirmative action
may blur our vision of injustice: most
Americans know and don't know the truth
about mass incarceration—but her
carefully researched, deeply engaging,
and thoroughly readable book should
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The White Masters
of the World
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 / Black World
Browse all issues
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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 Slavery /
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
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(Books, DVDs, Music, and more)
13 January 2012