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Charles Johnson in his essay writes about how Obama and his wife Michelle

are avatars of a new black America. The word avatar has begun to enter

our vocabulary. Is it now possible to "dream" a world?

 

 

Books by E. Ethelbert Miller

 

How We Sleep on the Nights We Don’t Make Love  /  Fathering Words  / In Search of Color Everywhere

 

First Light: New and Selected Poems Where are the Love Poems for Dictators?  /  Whispers, Secrets and Promises

 

Beyond The Frontier: African-American Poetry for the 21st Century  / Season of Hunger/Cry of Rain

 

Synergy: An Anthology of Washington D.C. Black Poetry

 

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The Meaning of Barack Obama

 By E. Ethelbert Miller

 

Charles Johnson just sent me a copy of his essay that's in the latest issue of Shambhala Sun (November 2008). "The Meaning of Barack Obama" is written from Johnson's Buddhist perspective. It provided me with an opportunity to develop more probes; ideas that scholars might need to examine under conditions of deep thought and reflection.

Johnson begins his essay by mentioning how the general election in November might be an opportunity to take the temperature of racial attitudes in American at the dawn of a new century.

I like Johnson's medical reference here. I've always felt the major question of the 21st Century is the one that appears in The Salt Eaters by Toni Cade Bambara. "Do you want to be well?"

Thank you Minnie Ransom. Sorry Dr. DuBois—we are moving beyond the Color Line. Is America well? Do we have "race" fever? Back in 1877 we caught what was known as Liberia Fever. Obama Fever should make us all reach for the thermometer. But what is America's normal temperature? One man's hot is another man's cold.

Johnson writes in his essay that "race is our grandest lived delusion and grief-causing fiction."

I don't know about this. It seems we give race a bad name these days. We talk about race as if it was a bad hairstyle. Do we want everyone to have cornrows? I don't think so. Why don't we look at race as being one of the wonderful things to celebrate instead of something to shed? Why must we see Race as a cocoon and buy into the concept that only butterflies are free? What is this about? I think the struggle is against racism and prejudice and not race. The challenge is similar to the one Ellington faced. How do we keep this Big World Band playing together? Should only white people get to solo? Pass me some more Strayhorn and let's get this composition right.

I thought I heard Johnny Hodges say . . .

The focus on the belief that the upcoming election is about Obama and race misses the big picture. Obama is more representative of the technological transformation of our society. How his campaign is being run is what will determine the character and the content of our lives. Obama is opening the door to a new form of participatory democracy. His impact on local elections should help us better organize. What he has done is refined his skills as a community organizer and placed it on a national level.

Let's bring in McLuhan here and see how Obama represents the new global village. His ancestry is very symbolic but too often we examine it without looking at all of the symbols. Mother from Kansas? How come we don't talk about the Kansas of John Brown? Kansas key to the making of America. Bleeding Kansas as important as throwing tea into the ocean around Boston. Father from Kenya? Where are we always tracing man's beginnings back to? Early footprints always seem to be around Kenya and Tanzania. Indonesia? The largest Muslim populated nation in the world. Obama is influenced by all of this.

America's biggest future challenge might not be race but instead religion. Even Obama seems reluctant to use his middle name. What will it mean if he is elected and sworn in and folks hear his middle name mentioned? What will it mean when he places his hand on the bible and takes the oath? A coming together of Islamic and Christian roots? Obama is not a Muslim but his grandfather was. This will only keep us divided if we are backwards looking. If we look forward we begin to see a new world attempting to move beyond the duality of things. We are moving beyond black and white because even television long ago moved beyond black and white. People are finally able to see color.

Whew...didn't it take us a long time? Now we are talking about going digital. Are you ready? No place for racism in a digital world. Many of us will be left behind and might as well be pirates living off the coast of Somalia. Like Palin's Rapture many of us might get left behind if we can't even "imagine" where Alaska is. Which brings one back to Obama and the link to Hawaii. In a symbolic way America by moving further West has now come closer to the East. If you wanted to know who was coming after Reagan (and California), well it looks like Obama and Hawaii.

The symbolism here shouldn't be lost and perhaps that's why we need to look to creative writers and poets to help usher in the new era. It's why I advocate that we need to pursue visionary literature and recognize at this historical moment we are the children of Whitman.

Back to a probe. Some scholar(s) need to examine Iowa and the issue of race. Why did so many white people in this state vote for Obama? Was it about Obama's race or was it how he ran his campaign? What really happened in Iowa? Remember how certain places were almost linked to whiteness? Iowa was one of them. Ironic or symbolic?

Obama is the face of our changing world. If we find him exotic it's only because we have always found the exotic in names, places, and style. Obama brings it all together under the sphere of the cool. The man is Miles coming after the hot wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The question is whether the rebirth of the cool will coincide with the return of the Cold War. We only have to monitor Russia's actions the next few months. Is it just a matter of weeks before Russian boats return to the Caribbean?

Charles Johnson in his essay writes about how Obama and his wife Michelle are avatars of a new black America. The word avatar has begun to enter our vocabulary. Is it now possible to "dream" a world? Might we be capable of creating the Beloved Community - on line (at least)?

Something to ponder especially when we know that too often worlds collide. Which might bring us back to Johnson's Buddhist principles and beliefs. Maybe race is an illusion as much as this thing we now call life. Which brings me back to those early Obama speeches that came out of Iowa—Now's The Time. Sounds very much like Charlie Parker and Miles.

Obama represents the new music. Many of us can hear it—we just can't play it yet. November is either a major concert or just another dress rehearsal. We could all be stuck in our black and white costumes and going nowhere. Our horns broken by our own hands.

Source: Ethelbert Miller Thursday, September 25, 2008

posted 16 November 2008

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The 5th Inning by E. Ethelbert Miller

The 5th Inning is poet and literary activist E. Ethelbert Miller's second memoir. Coming after Fathering Words: The Making of An African American Writer (published in 2000), this book finds Miller returning to baseball, the game of his youth, in order to find the metaphor that will provide the measurement of his life. Almost 60, he ponders whether his life can now be entered into the official record books as a success or failure.

The 5th Inning is one man's examination of personal relationships, depression, love and loss. This is a story of the individual alone on the pitching mound or in the batters box. It's a box score filled with remembrance. It's a combination of baseball and the blues.

To see a clip of Ethelbert reading The 5th Inning click here: http://www.eethelbertmiller.com/etube

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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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1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.”

We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.

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The Great Divergence

America's Growing Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do about It

By Timothy Noah

For the past three decades, America has steadily become a nation of haves and have-nots. Our incomes are increasingly drastically unequal: the top 1% of Americans collect almost 20% of the nation’s income—more than double their share in 1973. We have less equality of income than Venezuela, Kenya, or Yemen. What economics Nobelist Paul Krugman terms "the Great Divergence" has until now been treated as little more than a talking point, a club to be wielded in ideological battles. But it may be the most important change in this country during our lifetimes—a sharp, fundamental shift in the character of American society, and not at all for the better. The income gap has been blamed on everything from computers to immigration, but its causes and consequences call for a patient, non-partisan exploration.

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The Gardens of Democracy: A New American Story

of Citizenship, the Economy, and the Role of Government

By Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer

American democracy is informed by the 18th century’s most cutting edge thinking on society, economics, and government. We’ve learned some things in the intervening 230 years about self interest, social behaviors, and how the world works. Now, authors Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer argue that some fundamental assumptions about citizenship, society, economics, and government need updating. For many years the dominant metaphor for understanding markets and government has been the machine. Liu and Hanauer view democracy not as a machine, but as a garden. A successful garden functions according to the inexorable tendencies of nature, but it also requires goals, regular tending, and an understanding of connected ecosystems. The latest ideas from science, social science, and economics—the cutting-edge ideas of today—generate these simple but revolutionary ideas: (The economy is not an efficient machine. It’s an effective garden that need tending. Freedom is responsibility. Government should be about the big what and the little how. True self interest is mutual interest.

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The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry

By Rita Dove

Selecting poets and poems to represent a century of poetry, especially the riotous twentieth century in America, is a massive undertaking fraught with peril and complication. Poet Rita Dove-a Pulitzer Prize- winning former U.S. poet laureate, professor, and presidential scholar- embarked on what became a consuming four-year odyssey. She reports on obstacles and discoveries in an exacting and forthright introduction, featuring striking quotes, vivid profiles, and a panoramic view of the evolution of poetic visions and styles that helped bring about social as well as artistic change [...] Dove's incisive perception of the role of poetry in cultural and social awakenings infuses this zestful and rigorous gathering of poems both necessary and unexpected by 180 American poets. This landmark anthology will instantly enhance and invigorate every poetry shelf or section.—Booklist

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Sonata Mulattica: Poems

By Rita Dove

This 12th collection from the former U.S. poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize recipient is her third book-length narrative poem: it follows the real career of the violin prodigy George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower (1780–1860), a former pupil of Haydn, as well as the grandson/ of an African prince, or so his promoters and teachers in England said. Moving to Vienna during the Napoleonic Wars, the violinist met and befriended the famously moody Beethoven, who was prepared to dedicate his famously difficult Kreutzer Sonata to Bridgetower until a rivalry for the same woman drove them apart. Dove tells Bridgetower's story, and some of Beethoven's and Haydn's, in a heterogenous profusion of short poems, some almost prosy, some glittering in their technique. In quatrains, a double villanelle, what looks like found text, short lines splayed all over a page and attractive description, Dove renders Bridgetower's frustrated genius: Music played for the soul is sheer pleasure;/ to play merely for pleasure is nothing/ but work. Dove does not always achieve such subtleties—those who loved her early work may think this book too long: few, though, will doubt the seriousness of her effort, her interest at once in the history of classical music and the changing meanings of race.—Publishers Weekly

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Life on Mars

By Tracy K. Smith

Tracy K. Smith, author of Life on Mars has been selected as the winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. In its review of the book, Publishers Weekly noted the collection's "lyric brilliance" and "political impulses [that] never falter." A New York Times review stated, "Smith is quick to suggest that the important thing is not to discover whether or not we're alone in the universe; it's to accept—or at least endure—the universe's mystery. . . . Religion, science, art: we turn to them for answers, but the questions persist, especially in times of grief. Smith's pairing of the philosophically minded poems in the book’s first section with the long elegy for her father in the second is brilliant." Life on Mars follows Smith's 2007 collection, Duende, which won the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, the only award for poetry in the United States given to support a poet's second book, and the first Essence Literary Award for poetry, which recognizes the literary achievements of African Americans. The Body’s Question (2003) was her first published collection. Smith said Life on Mars, published by small Minnesota press Graywolf, was inspired in part by her father, who was an engineer on the Hubble space telescope and died in 2008.

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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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update 13 May 2012

 

 

 

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