ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes

   

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I did a book of linked essays with photographs by Keith Calhoun and

Chandra McCormick. The book is called "Banana Republic, Black Street

Life and Culture in New Orleans.". . . one of the best manuscripts . . .

but, for a variety of reasons will probably never be published.

 

 

Books by Kalamu ya Salaam

 

The Magic of JuJu: An Appreciation of the Black Arts Movement  /   360: 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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John Coltrane: Jazz Revolutionary 

 

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Books by Ryszard Kapuscinski

 

Another Day of Life Travels with Herodotus The Shadow of The Sun Shah of Shahs Emperor / Imperium

 

The Soccer War  / Encountering the Other

 

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Books by Alex Shoumatoff

 

The Rivers Amazon / The Mountain of Names / The Capital of Hope: Brasilia and Its Peoples

 

Russian Blood / Legends of the American Desert  / Weschester / African Madness

 

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Ryszard Kapuscinski

A trip round the world is a journey from backwater to backwater, each of which considers itself . . . a shining star. 

It was a small dog," recalls an anonymous functionary, "a Japanese breed. His name was Lulu. He was allowed to sleep in the Emperor's great bed. During various ceremonies, he would run away from the Emperor's lap and pee on dignitaries' shoes. The august gentlemen were not allowed to flinch or make the slightest gesture when they felt their feet getting wet. I had to walk among the dignitaries and wipe the urine from their shoes with a satin cloth. This was my job for ten years."

When I reflect on my journeys throughout the world, which have gone on for so long, it sometimes strikes me that the most troubling problems were not so much borders and front lines, or the exertion and the danger, as the constantly recurring uncertainty about the nature and course of my encounters with Others, with the other people I came across somewhere along the way..

 

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Interview with Award Winning Neo-Griot

Kalamu ya Salaam

8

Travel & Travel Writing

Rudy: You have visited a number of countries in the Caribbean, Europe, Africa. How have these places influenced your poetry and social vision? Could you point out some significant experiences?

Kalamu: Also Asia--China, Korea and Japan; and South America--Surinam and Brasil. I have written about this before. But to sum up, I think the major benefit of travel has been to keep me from becoming an ethnocentric essentialist. I have maintained a focus on being a human being, a particular expression of humanity, but a human being first. Thus, I was able to escape the torture of defining the world in black and white, that is, defining the world in racial terms. 

I am much more interested in culture and consciousness than in any emphasis on color (race). As for specific experiences, well, two of the most profound early experiences were attending the Sixth Pan-African Congress in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in 1974 as a delegate and a long visit to Haiti out of which I produced a book of poetry, Iron Flowers. Both of those visits influenced me to expand my understanding of the meaning and dynamics of being black in the world.

Rudy: Yes, I think travel is indeed important for rounding a person. That’s a cliché. But such experiences are indeed profound and enlightening. I spent ten weeks in the old Zaire, mostly, in Bukavu and Goma, the region which received the refugees from Rwanda. I haven’t been able to write about that experience, however. For me, it was a troubling experience. I didn’t have the money and so I went as a Peace Corps volunteer. And so I didn’t feel free to speak and associate as I desired. The reason for my trip was to confront head on the issue of our romance with Africa. Have you written about your African experience?

Kalamu: But, of course. I did a cover story on the sixth Pan African Conference for Black World magazine back in 1974. I have a manuscript on my trip to Ghana in 1994 for the First Panafest Festival. The book is called "Tarzan Can Not Return To Africa, But I Can." It is far from a romantic, son-come-home story. The structure is 26 parts, one for each letter of the English alphabet. There are three different elements going on simultaneously. One part is straight travelogue, descriptions of what we did, what we experienced.

Another part consists of mini-essays about various topics that interested me with relation to Ghana and/or Africa. The final part is an imaginary encounter with Tarzan who came walking through the wall of my hotel room early one morning around 3 a.m. while I was up reading and writing. Excerpts of the manuscript have been published in The Journal of African Travel Writing, published out of Duke University, and in Black Renaissance, published out of New York University (NYU).

Rudy: Are you familiar with the travel writings of Richard Wright? What characterizes a good travelogue?

Kalamu: Yes, I am familiar with the travel writings of Richard Wright; however, my first orientation towards travel writing came from reading Langston Hughes' two autobiographies, The Big Sea and I Wonder as I Wander. Just from their titles one can appreciate their strong emphasis on travel. My second major influence for travel writing came from working at the Black Collegian magazine and traveling to do interviews and stories. Actually, as I think about it, the Black Collegian was the third influence.

My second major influence was working with the Free Southern Theater, from the summer of 1968 to around 1973, under the tutelage of Tom Dent. Tom introduced me to numerous people and places, taught me the value of doing oral histories and inculcated in me a deep appreciation of studying our people and our culture. There is a big, big difference between simply experiencing a culture and actually studying the culture. Tom was also responsible for personalizing Caribbean culture.

Tom introduced me to the works of Kamau Brathwaite and then introduced me to Kamau Brathwaite the man, with whom I have continued to have contact. When I was with the Black Collegian I started traveling throughout the Caribbean, including a couple of trips to Jamaica, where I interviewed then president Michael Manley, and a trip to Haiti, which resulted in the poetry chapbook, Iron Flowers. Later, in the eighties, Tom introduced me to travel writers.

Tom's last book was  Southern Journey, a travelogue of traveling through the deep South, revisiting the sites of major civil rights struggles, doing a then and now comparison. Tom liked to drive around the South from Texas to Florida, and he had friends in all those places. I remember meeting Ralph Featherstone in West Point, Mississippi. Feather was organizing and building catfish farming cooperatives. You know, I saw Feather driving a tractor in a field, digging a catfish pond. Also, within New Orleans, Tom would take me deep into the culture, show me out of the way, off-the-beaten-path places. For a couple of years we used to hang out at the Glass House, uptown on Saratoga Street, enthralled with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band in the early years of their development.

Well, the experiences I had with Tom changed me forever. Tom's example sparked a fire within me. I wanted to document our people and do it in such a way that the reader felt the flame of Black culture. Towards that end, I did a book of linked essays with photographs by Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick. The book is called "Banana Republic, Black Street Life and Culture in New Orleans." "Banana Republic" is one of the best manuscripts I ever put together, but, for a variety of reasons will probably never be published. I consider that travel writing. I didn't have to travel very far in terms of miles. I was reporting on the sights, sounds, feelings and meanings of under-recorded, seldom documented aspects of our culture.

A fourth thing that affected my travel writing was that I can type very, very quickly. My mother sent me to touch typing classes the summer after sixth grade. The classes were in the front room of a school teacher who was a friend of my mother. I remember practicing my keystrokes with a recording of Lionel Hampton playing in the background. This particular teacher played jazz recordings to help us build up our speed. And my daddy had an old Royal manual portable. That was my first typewriter. As a result of the classes and my father giving me his typewriter, I was never ever under the impression that typing was a "White" or a "sissy" thing to do. The result was that I could type faster than I could write by hand.

To this day, other than writing haiku, I do 99% of my writing on a computer, and before computers, I did it on a typewriter. I write haiku by hand because of a method I have developed to write haiku. I use little marks to keep track of the syllable count and I write phrase and line variations, play with word choice, etc. all on one sheet of paper. But other than haiku, everything is written on a keyboard.

Ok, now here is the interesting part. Because that's the way I write and because I don't keep journals or diaries, nor do I do detailed notes. When I travel somewhere, I collect books, brochures, tape record interviews, take photographs (well, actually, I used to take photographs; I don't do that any longer), and would assemble the story when I got back. As a result, I was always dealing with impressions--what struck me, what I remembered.

And like most people, my memory is dramatic and specific but fragmented. I recall a specific sound, a specific color, an action, the way someone danced or talked, the look of a car passing in front of a building. So, ok, because I don't have a photographic memory, I write in detailed, highly sensual bursts. I write like a human recording of the moment. And I write with intensity. I want the reader to understand what I am writing about, but also, and equally important, I want the reader to feel it.

This is a long answer to a short question, but anyway, I dug the way Langston Hughes could do those quick sketches and you would get it. Wright's style, which is much more analytical is not for me. Even though I have done a lot of analytical writing, I really don't use an analytical approach to what some would call "travel writing."

Finally, I would add that I am always, always reading. For a couple of years I subscribed to Granta, a literary magazine out of England. They publish a lot of travel writing. The two travel writers whose work I have read extensively are Ryszard Kapuscinski and Alex Shoumatoff. K. is Polish and has done a lot of work in Africa. Tom turned me on to Shoumatoff. Of course, I have read a lot of others. But none of them has influenced me stylistically as much as has Langston Hughes.

As to what I think characterizes a good travelogue--I don't know. I know how to do what I do. I know I like K. and Shoumatoff. I know Langston Hughes and Tom Dent are my major literary influences for travel writing. That's what I know. In thinking about this a bit more, I also realize that I am an autodidact. I taught myself.

I didn't learn anything about writing in school. I never took a writing course. Dropped out of college early, so never even got much in terms of English composition or what have you. I have an associate arts degree in Business Administration from Delgado Junior College in New Orleans. I graduated from high school in 1964 and didn't get my AA degree until 1975. That's the extent of my formal education.

So, as far as being able to say much about what is good travel writing, I really don't know. I can describe in detail what I am trying to do and how I do it, and why I use certain techniques. I can tell you about my influences. I can tell you about my jazz aesthetic and blues aesthetic philosophies in terms of how I write. No doubt, it is interesting to note that I don't pay any attention to genre separation, I mix it all up.

But other than telling you about what I do, I really can't say what the standard ought to be or what the standard is for a given genre. I mean I study and understand what is happening in a given literary field, but as for me making any pronouncements from my own perspective, later for that. I follow Langston Hughes, simply "dig and be dug in return." I believe, dig what you can dig, and leave alone what you can't. Don't fake the funk. If you dig it, do it. If you don't, regardless of what others might say or what experts say you are supposed to dig, if you don't dig it, leave it be. Move on and do something you do dig. Life is too short to spend time following the dictates of others.

At the same time, however, I am very, very curious about diverse forms of human expression, human culture. You know, the nothing human is foreign to me syndrome. Plus, because I am deeply into jazz, I also know that just because I don't understand something when I first hear it, that doesn't mean I shouldn't check it out. For example, I am an unadulterated Coltrane freak. I have over 100 cds by Coltrane. I've got Coltrane books, discographies, magazine clippings, you name it. But, I wasn't always into Trane.

Check this, I can remember listening to a popular jazz show that used to come on the radio in New Orleans on Saturday afternoons, 3 pm to 7 pm, Larry McKinley's "This Is Jazz." This is back in the mid-sixties, '62 to '64 primarily. Larry played all the hip artists--Miles, Ellington, Blakey, Horace Silver, but he also played the avant garde. I heard Ornette [Coleman], Cecil Taylor, Eric Dolphy and Trane from the early Impulse days. I can remember being on the picket line with a portable radio in my pocket.

Walking the picket line in a civil rights demonstration and listening to Cecil Taylor and Sunny Murray play from that live album, Nefertiti, The Beautiful One Has Come, a trio session with Jimmy Lyons on alto, Cecil on piano and Sunny on drums recorded at Cafe Monmartre in Copenhagen, Denmark on November 23, 1962 and probably not released until 1963, and McKinley had it on his radio show in the summer of 1963. This was some of the freshest stuff on the music scene. That was challenging and difficult music. Music that was at odds with the finger-snapping swinging shit.

(As I talk about this, I guess I have to list Larry McKinley as a major influence on me.) Anyway, the point is, I used to get up and go to the bathroom or go get a snack if I was home in the den listening whenever Larry played "Chasing the Trane." I couldn't understand it. I didn't like it. But something inside me knew I needed to keep listening to the program. I rarely missed my music appreciation class, which is how I viewed those four hours every Saturday. McKinley played stuff that I really, really liked, like Miles at the Philharmonic, My Funny Valentine, and Max Roach and Mingus. Oh, man, I really, really dug Mingus. Peggy's Blue Skylight with Roland Kirk. Those Mingus recordings with John Handy.

And of course Art Blakey, who would be my major influence when I started playing drums for the short period I was a musician (and that is another story that I won't go into at this time). McKinley's mix of music was so broad, so challenging and at the same time so satisfying that he kept me listening, and while listening, he challenged me and kept introducing me to new sounds. I'm walking the picket line, in the sun and the rain, and hearing Cecil Taylor. It was hard being out there. Hard convincing folk to change old habits, convincing our people to try a new way, to stop being Colored and be Black!

I remember how hard it was to convince our people to embrace our Blackness. And through the music I am learning that Blackness swings but some of Blackness also challenges us to grow and expand, to learn to appreciate aspects of our lives that initially turn us off. You know the genre of music called jazz is so broad, so very far reaching. I used to say that there is some kind of jazz that everybody can dig. I mean you can like classical music, or country and western, or Broadway show tunes, whatever, regardless of what your tastes are, there is some jazz style or artist whom you will like.

And, by the same token, it's almost a guarantee there is a lot of jazz you won't like, probably never will dig. That's Blackness. That's our culture. So, I used to walk out on Trane, but I kept listening and eventually I became a Trane freak. I dig all of Trane's music, including what some people think of as the difficult late period Trane. Well, jazz became my model. And if you look at my writing, you see the same breath. I have stuff that swings and I have way out shit. I've got quiet refined pieces and I got noisy, hollering screaming pieces.

Jazz is my stylistic template. I learned how to type hearing Lionel Hampton. Started off slowly with something like "Midnight Sun" and picked up speed and proficiency with something like "Flying Home"; walked the picket line hearing Cecil Taylor and hearing Mingus and Max Roach--especially that Freedom Now Suite LP with Abbey Lincoln; eventually got deep, deep into Coltrane. Would listen religiously every Saturday. Would absorb all this music. And the stylistic breath of the music became the model for me as a writer. So, when it comes to what I believe is the right thing, well, I don't have "a" thing I believe is the right way to write. There is so much out there.

I believe the thing is to embrace as much of what's out there as you can. Keep growing. Keep stretching. I believe you should learn as much as you can and develop your voice, do your thing. Practice and play, woodshed and bandstand. Listen to as much as you can hear. Always put new sounds into your mix--and by new, I mean whatever is new to you. Or as I say in one of my haiku--"what we know limits/us. wisdom loves everything/not yet understood." And tell the truth. Be sincere. Write like a jazz player solos--always reaching for something new, something different, but at the same time something sincerely felt in the heart and soul, something you truly believe reflects the best of what you are at any given moment.

And finally, to answer that last question: a good travelogue is what takes you there. The writer's goal should be to be like Mavis Staples when she sings, "I'll take you there."

Another little trivia thing I just thought of: from those early days in the mid-sixties listening to Cecil Taylor with drummer Sunny Murray, fast forward to some time in the early nineties. I'm working with Kidd Jordan, a New Orleans saxophonist, music teacher at Southern University in New Orleans, and staunch avant gardist. I do totally improvised poetry with his groups. We do a set one night at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

I'm on the stage improvising poetry with the band, and you know who the guest drummer was--Sunny Murray! The show was great, but as good as the music and stuff was, there was something more that until now, I've never even talked about. There was this spiritual affirmation that if you live right, if you follow the music, make the music, love the music, there will be opportunities for your own development that are totally beyond anything you can think of. I never once, ever thought of myself sharing the stage with Sunny Murray, of Sunny Murray playing drums while I am reciting poetry. Never thought about that. And then it happened.

I have recordings of Amiri Baraka reciting with Sunny, but I never thought about doing it. And I was so humbled by the experience. I realized how much I have been blessed and I realized how important it is to keep on the path I'm on. I never saw Coltrane live, passed up the one chance I did get to see him because I didn't dig him at the time. That was in 1963, I believe. But I have shared music with Sunny Murray. And since we are talking about travel writing. It took me a minute to realize it, but this is important. Jazz musicians are my other major influence in terms of travel writing. They traveled all over the world.

As far as travel among African Americans, in the 20th century, jazz musicians were the first out of the box in any appreciable numbers, and they would weave influences from all over the world into their music. And they would come back and talk about those places and what they had seen. They used world experiences in their work. So, I just did like the jazz musicians. Yeah, I would say, even more than any particular writer per se, including Hughes, I saw how the jazz musicians worked it and twerked it.

And that's what I wanted to do. You know like Pharoah Sanders on the great LP Karma and don't mention Sun Ra, whom I saw numerous times in New York, and in Philadelphia, Atlanta, and in New Orleans at least four or five times. Kidd would always have Sun Ra come over to SUNO when Ra was in town. Talk about traveling, well you couldn't do much more spiritual traveling than traveling the spaceways with Sun Ra.

In fact, guitarist Carl LeBlanc, who was formerly a student of Kidd Jordan at SUNO, well Carl eventually joined Sun Ra's band and is featured on those recordings Sun Ra did on A&M records. Carl is the guitarist in my poetry performance ensemble, The WordBand. But that's a whole other discussion. Right now we're just talking about writing, but I do want to make mention of the immense influence jazz has had on my travel writing--and that influence shows up in fiction, in poetry, in prose, on recordings, in performances, everywhere.

Jazz teaches you to be yourself, but it also teaches you to get outside the limits of the self you are and become a larger and more spiritual self who embraces the whole of the human experience and beyond into the cosmos. I mean if you just check out the titles of some of the jazz compositions. Space is the Place. The night before we left for the 6th Pan African Congress in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in August of 1974, we went up to Columbia College to check out a Sun Ra concert with dancers and light show, and slides and that great band and them strolling through the audience chanting "Space is the Place."

Rudy: Maybe it was last year, I read some of the writings you sent back on your listserv from England. I quite enjoyed this vicarious experience. You gave a number of presentations. Could you recount briefly some highlights of that trip and some Afro-British writers we should check out?

Kalamu: Hey, man, no I can't recount briefly. I already recounted. That's what the report was. If people want to dig it up, they can go to the e-drum archives and read it. They can go get that record. Why should I try to recreate something that already exists, and exists in it's most sincere form? The e-drum archives are at www.topica.com/lists/e-drum and anyone and everyone can access them.

On another note, a number of folk keep telling me I need to publish those reports. I'm not opposed to the travel reports getting published in book form, but I'm also not going to stop my daily activities to spend a bunch of time trying to get a book deal for them. I wrote them, they are out there. If somebody wants to publish them, fine. But I've got other things to do. Besides, when I wrote them, I wrote them with an eye toward the future. I believe we have three audiences.

Our contemporary audience who reads our work as we write the work and get the pieces out there. Then there is the audience of our ancestors--I believe I have a responsibility to make them proud, to tell their stories, to create work that provides a sanctuary for their souls; work in which they live. And then there is the audience of the future--fifty years from now, a hundred, two hundred years from now, hopefully, some of our future progeny will read our work to find out about their ancestors, to find out what we were doing and thinking and feeling. These reports, of course, have a contemporary audience, but they were really written so that fifty years from now those who want to know will be able to check out my reports and get a good picture of, a hip recording so to speak, of our literary scene at the turn of the 21st century.

I am very, very aware that I am creating historical documents. That's one reason I call so many people by name, who was on what panel, who read at what performance, what they said, etc. I guess you could say, for me, travel writing is history writing.

As for writers to look for in England--I don't know. I can tell you some of the writers I like. I like Kadija Sesay (aka Kadija George) as a publisher and friend. I mean she is very, very important in terms of keeping the scene going. I believe her contributions as a publisher are seminal and much more significant than her contributions as a writer per se. And you know, as someone who has spend the last ten years or so putting together anthologies rather than trying to publish my own individual books of poetry, I really, really respect those of us who are committed to making sure a diversity of Black writers get published.

In a similar vein, up in Manchester, England, there is my good friend SuAndi, who is doing excellent work with the Black Arts Alliance, in addition to doing her own work in poetry and writing lyrics. In fiction there is Roger Robinson and Courttia Newland. In performance work there is Jean Binta Breeze and my good friend Malika Booker. I also like poet Dorethea Smartt. Those are the names that come immediately to mind, although there are others. But, I would say, folk should get a couple of anthologies and check out what's happening. Oh, yeah, there's also Vanessa Richards and Khefri with Mannafest. Naming names out of context is hard. Invariably you forget somebody, forget to point to certain scenes and important people.

Also, we need to keep in mind that the producers are often just as, if not more important, than any particular artist. By producers, I mean the people who do all the hard grunt work of creating shows, finding funding, finding venues, fighting to ensure that there are stages and creative spaces for our work to be launched, people who find and/or create publishing opportunities for others. People like Melanie with Renaissance One and Jacob Sam-LaRose, and Segun up in Manchester. People like that, who may not get much play if you just talk about writers per se, but without whom, the whole literary scene would not be as vital as it is. Those folk are in England but it's the same pattern everywhere. We should check out who the producers and editors are in addition to who the writers are.

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

Fiction

#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter

Non-fiction

#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Hopes and Prospects

By Noam Chomsky

In this urgent new book, Noam Chomsky surveys the dangers and prospects of our early twenty-first century. Exploring challenges such as the growing gap between North and South, American exceptionalism (including under President Barack Obama), the fiascos of Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S.-Israeli assault on Gaza, and the recent financial bailouts, he also sees hope for the future and a way to move forward—in the democratic wave in Latin America and in the global solidarity movements that suggest "real progress toward freedom and justice." Hopes and Prospects is essential reading for anyone who is concerned about the primary challenges still facing the human race. "This is a classic Chomsky work: a bonfire of myths and lies, sophistries and delusions. Noam Chomsky is an enduring inspiration all over the world—to millions, I suspect—for the simple reason that he is a truth-teller on an epic scale. I salute him." —John Pilger

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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America.

This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."

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So Rich, So Poor: Why It's So Hard to End Poverty in America

By Peter Edelman

If the nation’s gross national income—over $14 trillion—were divided evenly across the entire U.S. population, every household could call itself middle class. Yet the income-level disparity in this country is now wider than at any point since the Great Depression. In 2010 the average salary for CEOs on the S&P 500 was over $1 million—climbing to over $11 million when all forms of compensation are accounted for—while the current median household income for African Americans is just over $32,000. How can some be so rich, while others are so poor? In this provocative book, Peter Edelman, a former top aide to Senator Robert F. Kennedy and a lifelong antipoverty advocate, offers an informed analysis of how this country can be so wealthy yet have a steadily growing number of unemployed and working poor. According to Edelman, we have taken important positive steps without which 25 to 30 million more people would be poor, but poverty fluctuates with the business cycle.

The structure of today’s economy has stultified wage growth for half of America’s workers—with even worse results at the bottom and for people of color—while bestowing billions on those at the top. So Rich, So Poor delves into what is happening to the people behind the statistics and takes a particular look at the continuing crisis of young people of color, whose possibility of a productive life too often is lost on their way to adulthood.DemocracyNow

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Allah, Liberty, and Love

The Courage to Reconcile Faith and Freedom

By Irshad Manji

In Allah, Liberty and Love, Irshad Manji paves a path for Muslims and non-Muslims to transcend the fears that stop so many of us from living with honest-to-God integrity: the fear of offending others in a multicultural world as well as the fear of questioning our own communities. Since publishing her international bestseller, The Trouble with Islam Today, Manji has moved from anger to aspiration. She shows how any of us can reconcile faith with freedom and thus discover the Allah of liberty and love—the universal God that loves us enough to give us choices and the capacity to make them. Among the most visible Muslim reformers of our era, Manji draws on her experience in the trenches to share stories that are deeply poignant, frequently funny and always revealing about these morally confused times.

What prevents young Muslims, even in the West, from expressing their need for religious reinterpretation? What scares non-Muslims about openly supporting liberal voices within Islam? How did we get into the mess of tolerating intolerable customs, such as honor killings, and how do we change that noxious status quo?

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The New New Deal

The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era

By Michael Grunwald

Time senior correspondent Michael Grunwald tells the secret history of the stimulus bill, the purest distillation of Change We Can Believe In, a microcosm of Obama’s policy successes and political failures. Though it is reviled by the right and rejected by the left, it really is a new New Deal, larger than FDR’s and just as transformative. It prevented an imminent depression, while jump-starting Obama’s long-term agenda. The stimulus is pouring $90 billion into clean energy, reinventing the way America is powered and fueled; it includes unprecedented investments in renewables, efficiency, electric cars, a smarter grid, cleaner coal, and more. It’s carrying health care into the digital era. Its Race to the Top initiative may be the boldest education reform in U.S. history. It produced the biggest middle-class tax cuts in a generation, a broadband initiative reminiscent of rural electrification, and an overhaul of the New Deal’s unemployment insurance system. It’s revamping the way government addresses homelessness, fixes infrastructure, and spends money.

Grunwald reveals how Republicans have obscured these achievements through obstruction and distortion. The stimulus launched a genuine national comeback. It also saved millions of jobs, while creating legacies that could rival the Hoover Dam: the world’s largest wind farm, a new U.S. battery industry, a new high-speed rail network, the world’s highest-speed Internet network.  Its main legacy, like the New Deal’s, will be change.

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Pictures and Progress

Early Photography and the Making of African American Identity

Edited by Maurice O. Wallace and Shawn Michelle Smith

Pictures and Progress explores how, during the nineteenth century and the early twentieth, prominent African American intellectuals and activists understood photography's power to shape perceptions about race and employed the new medium in their quest for social and political justice. They sought both to counter widely circulating racist imagery and to use self-representation as a means of empowerment. In this collection of essays, scholars from various disciplines consider figures including Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and W. E. B. Du Bois as important and innovative theorists and practitioners of photography. In addition, brief interpretive essays, or "snapshots," highlight and analyze the work of four early African American photographers. Featuring more than seventy images, Pictures and Progress brings to light the wide-ranging practices of early African American photography, as well as the effects of photography on racialized thinking.

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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

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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