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I have been encouraging everyone to write.  It is an important part of the healing process

but it is also important for us to document the culture and history of

New Orleans from our perspective.  Yesterday afternoon we had "workshop." 



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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New Orleans Neo-Griot Workshop

Continuing the Work of Community

from Kalamu ya Salaam


a luta continua

[this is a communique to our new orleans neo-griot workshop members, and specifically to paulette (the associate director), freddi and aumra, all of whom are in madison, mississippi (just outside of jackson). i am sharing it with the world (a) because it is hard to write at this moment and i can't even begin to think about writing a separate update to share with folk who want to know, want to help us, and (b) because we are going to need help and support from everyone to survive and develop.

to help others contextualize what some of the info, i am prefacing my statement with paulette's email to me.

a luta continua--kalamu]

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Dear Kalamu:
Wishing you safe journeys.  Freddi was very upset when she heard that you don't plan to come back to New Orleans.  She has been under a tremendous strain here because her brother is sick and had to be hospitalized for a few days right after the storm.  I think that she had not yet started to grieve and that the announcement finally triggered some of those feelings.  We are, however working on the book.  Freddi brought all her papers and notes, we have made out a schedule for putting the finishing touches on the draft and have been able to keep to it so far.  I think it is even more important than ever to get this book out and I also think it will have a far greater audience than it might have found before Katrina.
I have been encouraging everyone to write.  It is an important part of the healing process but it is also important for us to document the culture and history of New Orleans from our perspective.  Yesterday afternoon we had "workshop."  Aumra read a very beautiful piece which asserts that the spirit and culture of New Orleans lives on in its people.  We are applying to the relief fund so I wrote an essay showing how precarious "middle class" status is for black Americans.  We all ended up riding with Freddi because even though we are professionals, we didn't have road worthy cars.  Will forward these pieces to you once we finish polishing them.
Yesterday I also bought Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents.  I will encourage everyone to read and discuss them because Butler's prophetic vision of social and economic collapse is coming true. 
The good news is that Loyola is going to pay us through December.  Aumra will also receive his regular salary. 
Other people need the computer so I have to go.
Take care,

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i just spent over a half hour writing a detailed response and aol crashed. and at the same time, greta (whom you don't know but who was critical to our sac work) called and the phone just quit, flat out quit, battery is refusing to re-charge. i just leaned back in the chair, closed my eyes and paused for a moment.

the challenges are overwhelming. overwhelming.

ok. i'm not going to even try to re-write what i had been saying. also, this is now a public statement and not just an exchange between us.

message to the workshop

1. freddi, i realize how distressing my statement about not moving back to new orleans may seem, but it was simply a statement of fact. none of us is going back anytime soon. and when it is no longer soon, eight months from now, a year from now, most of us will not be able to leave whatever we have established wherever we are and journey back to the "new" new orleans in the process of being born.  indeed, i am certain there will be no invitation to the hundreds of thousands of poor black people—the very people who created and sustained the culture of new orleans as it was known and celebrated worldwide.

my position is simple:

haiku #45

black people believe
in god and i believe in
black people. amen.

for me it's all about the people and not simply (or reductively) about the place where the people lived, struggled, and died. indeed, this is an inaugural moment in the 21st century history of the united states and of the world. 9-1-1, iraq and now new orleans. times of great change, unforeseeable as to the twists and turns life will take.

freddi, i am not giving up on new orleans, it is just that i do not identify new orleans primarily with the place. i identify new orleans with our people, and where our people are, there i must be, one way or another. that's my decision, i do not think that has to be everyone else's position. nor do i think my position is more principled, more correct, more anything than anyone else's position. my position is just that, my position.

at the same time i recognize that what i do affects more than just me. i recognize that, to varying degrees, i am perceived as a leader, so that what i do has a lot of influence. in that regard, i want to be clear. far from giving up or abandoning new orleans, i plan to become even more engaged, even more active, more dedicated.

each of us has to make the decisions we need to make to live and continue. i embrace each of you and offer whatever support i can as you move forward individually and collectively. for those who choose to do so, i feel a responsibility to help continue our collective work, but within the scope of our past focus and within the scope of a new and broader focus created by extraordinary times and events.

let us respond to events as agents of change rather than solely as objects of change. although limited in resources, mobility and opportunity, all of us can still to some degree make a choice, make a difference, and act as a conscious agent of change. we must will ourselves to make the world better and more beautiful than it is now.

specifically, freddi, my current plans are to set up oakland as a home base but to spend the next year on the road, with a neo-griot team, recording the history of new orleans and the voices of displaced new orleanians. the specifics of this are yet to be worked through and indeed this may change, i could find myself based somewhere else, even baton rouge (although i hope not, there's too many politicians to the square inch in baton rouge—that's a joke that will be lost on folk not from new orleans). but this is my vision and my commitment.

also, i can easily envision moving the neo-griot new orleans project base back to the "new" new orleans after a year or so, but that is much further on down the road. for the immediate term, i will be on the road going from place to place to further the project and also as a way of earning a living.

2. paulette, you are the new director of the workshop. let me know if you accept the responsibility. you have already written the most comprehensive history of the workshop. you were the associate director. you are where there is the largest concentration of workshop members. we need you to step forward and take charge on the ground.

this is a historical moment that is thrust upon us. hopefully we can respond. on the ground in madison, mississippi there are two immediate tasks we need to prepare to complete. a) the completion of freddi's book on congo square and b) the neo griot workshop website, both of which we had already discussed.

a) congo square book
freddi, this book takes on monumental importance at this juncture. we are very close to the finish. my vision is that the work i am doing and the contacts i have will enable us to get a major publisher for this book in partnership with runagate. here is what i suggest--and, i await your response before putting any of this into effect:

contact marie brown, who is perhaps the premiere literary agent concentrating on african american oriented literature. marie has already been in touch with me about personal matters and stands ready to help. the help i would ask would be to get freddi's book published.

we need to face both our opportunities and our limitations. the history of congo square that freddi has put together along with the major input of a number of people including paulette as a translator, this book is absolutely necessary. i know it can be done. indeed, i am certain we will be able to get both a u.s. publisher and an international publisher.

on your end paulette, please focus on getting the final edits together. the target ought to be no later than october 1 for the completion of a computer file of the book.

paulette, we need an inventory of illustrations/pictures--what we have, what we still need to get, what format material is in, etc. you know that process. let's get it completed.

freddi, there's no pressure on you to finish the final touches on the manuscript, just get it done by october 1, 2005.

again, with all of the above i await your response whether you accept the work sketched out above. please feel free to make whatever changes you feel necessary. i am suggesting a direction. you all on the ground have to determine the specific steps to take.

i await your response before making any further moves with regard to freddi's history of congo square book.

b) neo-griot workshop website
paulette, i want to get the neo-griot workshop website up within two months. it's going to take a minute to get everything ready. the site has to be designed. we have server space already paid for and ready to use. when mtume and i did breath of life, i recognized that we were going to run out of space within a year, so we purchase space on a different server. we actually have two servers up and ready to use.

as for the neo-griot website, paulette, you will need to be the site moderator, if not long term, at least to get us up and running.

as a professor at loyola university you are used to teaching literature and have already done a lot of work using websites. so the learning curve will not be too steep for you.

additionally, paulette, please keep on holding workshop. gather up the writings. in fact, that might be something to start working on—contacting folk wherever they are. (we can get together online later and i will share the contacts i have and the info i have on where folk are.) see what material we have. whatever it may be. journals. completed pieces. incomplete pieces. whatever. more in a minute on that.

in any case, let me know if you are ok with becoming the workshop director. don't feel any pressure to accept the position. either it's yes or no, and in either case you have my support and my embrace as we move forward with whatever our individual and collective plans are.

3. the third mirgration
this is the third major migration. 1st migration = slavery. 2nd migration = the great migration of the 20th century (which actually stretches from post-reconstruction thru the great depression). 3rd migration = new orleans.

we are looking at well over three million people displaced. and in this case, when i say "new orleans" i mean more than new orleans proper. i mean the areas affected by katrina in general, but also specifically mean the poor and black of new orleans. i have a dual focus in mind, and we should not allow one of the foci to disappear the other, i.e. we can't just consider the black and poor from new orleans, but at the same time we can't simply assume a focus on the victims of katrina will deal with the concerns of the black and poor in new orleans.

by the way, have you seen aaron broussard's statement as president of jefferson parish. i have been seeing a number of statements that suggest that not many poor whites have been affected, that all the whites are rich and all the blacks are wretched. i don't think that is a correct assessment. when you see aaron broussard (who is not poor), he makes clear that there are a lot of whites affected, many of whom are utterly devastated by what has happened. if we do not consider their plight and are not at the very least willing to include them in our circle of concern we deserve to be forgotten about. period.

to see broussard's statement (and i urge you to do so) go to:

we need to document this migration from the viewpoint of those caught up in it. people are always talking about giving voice to the voiceless, but this is no simple matter. some of us have been studying this issue for a long time. have been talking about it for a long time. well, guess what, now is the time.

i will have a preliminary outline completed tomorrow and will share it with everyone at that time.

4.) dialogue and community
we have got to keep that going. if we stop we will die. we are far flung at the moment. isolated we will not only fall apart, we will shrivel up and become dysfunctional, if not outright die. let us keep talking with each other, wherever we are, howsoever we can.

personally, i am overwhelmed with emails, my cell phone is down. it is sometimes almost impossible. sometimes i find myself just staring into space. i feel like balling up in a fetal position and not moving... but, i won't. i can't. we must continue.

but at the same time we who are relatively safe must understand that none of us is truly safe. mentally we are all traumatized.

whatever we say one moment, can change the next. whatever we believe one moment, can change the next. please bear with us, bear with each other, bear with yourself. it may sound crazy but this is the moment with which we have to deal, and this dealing will not be easy.

bear with each other. we could blow up over a minor point (or a major issue) one minute, and tomorrow feel very badly that we did or said what we did.

people may be trying to reach out and offer us help. and we may not respond in a timely manner. or we may not respond at all. we may not say a damn thing. just ignore everything. but this is part of the pattern of being traumatized. please bear with us. bear with each other.

ignore us when we lash out. don't be discouraged with each other. only steady day to day dialogue and community will help many of us over come our trauma. steady. day to day. dialogue and community.

it's taken a lot of energy to write this. i still have to do e-drum for today. i'm tired, and relatively speaking i haven't done much. but i'm going to keep going. i encourage each of us, each in our own way to keep going.

let us remember those who didn't make. embrace those who did. and keep on pushing.

more in a minute,

a luta continua,

kalamu  or

posted 5 September 2005

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



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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 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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Negro Digest / Black World

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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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