Books by Walter Mosley
A Memoir Toward World Peace /
Life Out of Context /
Devil in A Blue Dress /
Fear of the Dark (audiobook )
Little Scarlet (An Easy Rawlins Novel) /
Cinamon Kiss (audiobook) /
This Year You Write Your Novel /
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A New Black Power
By Walter Mosley
Most black Americans have been Democrats for
at least the fifty-three years that I've been alive. What have
the Democrats done for us in all that time? We have the lowest
average income of any large racial group in the nation. We're
incarcerated at an alarmingly high rate. We are still segregated
and profiled, and have a very low representation at the top
echelons of the Democratic Party. We are the stalwarts, the
bulwark, the Old Faithful of the Democrats, and yet they have
not made our issues a high priority in a very long time.
Why should we be second-class members in the
most important political activities of our lives? Why shouldn't
the party we belong to think that our problems are the most
important in this land?
I'm not saying that we should become
Republicans. The Republicans don't care about us either. But at
least they don't pretend to be on our side. And you have
to admit that, of late, the Bush Administration has put black
faces into high-profile jobs that carry clout on the
international playing field. I don't have to like Colin Powell
or Condoleezza Rice to appreciate that once a black person has
been put into a position of power, the second time around is
much, much easier.
We are a racial minority in a country where
racism is a fact of life, a country that was founded on economic
and imperialist racism. Taking this into account and adding it
to the fact that our issues are regularly put on a back
burner, I believe that it is not out of order to send out a
call for the formation of an African-American interest group,
or maybe a political unit, that would bring our issues,
and others, to the forefront of American political discourse.
If we had our own political voting bloc
that paid attention to issues that reflect our needs in domestic
and international affairs, things would change for us. The first
thing is that many more of us would be likely to vote.
Imagine the interest young people would have if they felt we
were organizing based on our own interests: They could work for
a candidate who represented their issues; they could run for
And even though the party would be based
on the racial identity that has been shoved down our throats
since the first days we came here in chains, we wouldn't work
only for ourselves. We'd argue about medical care and Social
Security and the good jobs that are disappearing from this
nation like fleas off a dead dog's back.
America's corporations, CEOs and portfolio
managers don't have to worry about the euro and the devaluation
of the dollar. They belong to an international club. It doesn't
matter where the most recent SUV is being produced; what matters
is that my stockholders and I own a piece of the company that
makes and sells those cars.
It takes many companies working in unison to
make secure the wealth of American capitalism. Two of the
major-interest corporations that facilitate the needs of our
wealthiest citizens are the Republican and Democratic
(so-called) political parties. They exonerate their actions with
numbers of votes, but the wheels they run on are greased by
money, and lots of it.
If we took the vote into our own hands, we
wouldn't have to ask the Democrats for their support—we could
demand it. George W. Bush, or whoever takes his place, will send
for our representatives to come to his home to discuss his
plans. This is because they have not yet figured out how to
dispose of the vote in the American political system.
Imagine it. We could actually democratize
America by taking power away from the two-party system and
handing it over to the people. Other special parties would arise
splintering off from the centrist attendants of the rich once we
show them the way.
What I'm talking about here is the beginning
of an American Evolution, a movement that will create a
series of political interest groups that will transform our
two-party system into a kind of virtual parliament. We could
construct smaller political groups based on specific interests.
There could be Black Party Congress members from Watts,
Harlem, the Motor City and a dozen other inner-city bastions.
All we have to do is have a fair representation in the House of
Representatives to have an extraordinary impact on the wheels of
Farmers, women, the aged, angry young white
men and, for that matter, true Republicans might create their
own small parties/interest groups. These groups would not only
have direct representation in the House of Representatives but
would also begin to make deals with those people running for
senator and President, police chief and mayor.
It's past the time when we black Americans
can complain about how we are treated without ourselves trying
to take the reins of power. A Black Voting Bloc would be
a bold move. Some might say a radical move—too radical. But a
country that incarcerates people of color at an eight-to-one
ratio to whites played the race card way before Johnnie Cochran.
If we could come together and see a way to put balance back in
the American political landscape, then we should do it.
Because if we do not lead we will be led. And
if those who have learned to despise, distrust and diminish us
are the leaders, then our path will lead even farther away from
our homes. We will wake up like strangers in our own beds. We,
and our children, will be walking in uncomfortable shoes to poor
jobs. We will be jeered on every corner, and every mirror we
come across will distort our image.
Just so that it doesn't seem that I'm giving
short shrift to this argument, let me try to explain why this
kind of "political party" will be different
from its interest-corporation counterparts. First, this kind of
group will be a political unit more than a party. This
unit should be patterned after interest groups that form around
specific necessities of our particular community. As I've
mentioned before, I would like to see many of these units
evolve, but for the moment let me address the Black Voting
What we need for this group is a short
list of demands that define our political aspirations at any
given point. These demands might change over time, but at any
given moment we should have no more than eight expectations of
the candidates or legislation we vote for. I am not positioning
myself as the leader or even as a central designer of this
group, but let me put forward a list of possible demands that
our unit might embrace:
(1) A commitment to revamping the legal
system and the penal system to make sure that citizens of
color are getting proper treatment and that all inmates are
given the utmost chance to rehabilitate and re-establish
themselves in society. (This rehabilitation will include
suffrage for all ex-convicts who have served their sentences.
(2) An expectation that there be equal
distribution of all public wealth and services among the
citizens, no matter their income, race or history.
(3) A demand that a true accounting for the impact
of slavery be compiled by all government bodies in authority
over records that give this information.
(4) A universal healthcare system.
(5) A retirement system that will
assure older Americans the ability to spend their later years in
relative comfort and security.
(6) A commitment to assemble a general
history of our nation in both its glory and its shame.
I left 7 and 8 blank because I think you
should fill these out. This is, after all, a communal effort
meant to bring our intelligences together. And if you don't feel
that you're an affiliate of the Black Voting Bloc, write your
own demands and see what kind of group you might attract. I
believe that any group concerned with the rights of Americans
will have at least half of these demands in common.
One last comment on the idealistic part of
All black people don't have to join right
off. If we can put together just 10 percent of the voting
black population, we will be wielding a great deal of power.
Others will join us if our political strategy works. In time we
might tip the scales against the rich and the ultra-rich. If we
do that we might very well make this a better world.
I know many of you will say that we don't
have the time to allow the United States to evolve politically.
Like many Americans, you believe that our nation faces urgent
problems that must be solved by the next election; and the
elections after that. My answer is, That is just what they want
you to think. Our so-called political parties want you to
believe that only they can save you when, really, they have no
intention of doing so.
The Democrats, the Republicans—they're in
business for themselves in this vast religion of capitalism.
They will never solve Americans' problems, not fully. We have to
strive against the system, change it, make it reflect our
inexpert visions of right and good. As long as you vote
Democratic, as long as you vote Republican, you will be assuring
that true democracy has no chance to exist. As long as we
believe in the fearmongers' light show, the world will suffer
under our misguided convictions.
There's no question that a Black Voting
Bloc would be a fine context for us and for people of the
black diaspora around the world. It would be a forum that would
express perceptions from the underbelly of the American
experience. That experience, I believe, would find resonance on
an international scale and help to bring our maverick nation
into concert with certain other countries that would like to get
along with us.
But how do we get our people to feel strongly
about political unity? What in our experience will bring us
together? Should we turn to a charismatic leader to guide us
safely through the minefield of fanaticism? I've been told so
many times that the problem in this world is that so-and-so died
too young. A couple of years ago I heard another public figure
say that it was because Robert Kennedy died that American
liberalism lost its way. What might Martin Luther King Jr. or
Malcolm X have achieved if assassins' bullets had not cut them
down in their prime?
If only we had leaders now like we did back
then, so many lament. It's hard for me to write these words
without a hint of sarcasm. Nostalgia belongs in the retirement
home. Any organization, movement or people who rely solely (or
even greatly) on a charismatic leader for their strength and
their motivation are in the most precarious position possible.
"Cut off the head and the body will
fall," their enemies murmur. This is a way to let those
enemies dissolve your context. Just put all your belief in one
leader, and sooner or later you will be lost.
Some might say that I should end this section
with those words. This may be true, but I think they open the
door to other considerations. We do need leadership. We have to
have people who will make decisions and blaze trails; people who
will stand up to warmongers and moneylenders; people who might
create context, illuminate the darkness with an electronic
billboard; people who could organize our vote.
I could spend a lot of time and space here
criticizing our current leaders. But what would be the purpose?
These leaders, no matter how much they have lost their way, are
not our enemies. If I follow a man or woman who is leading me
astray, then I have to accept my own culpability and blindness.
"Didn't you see the millions dying in
Africa while your leaders argued about the references and jokes
in the movie Barbershop?" someone in a later year may ask.
And how will we answer? If we don't lie we might say, "I
knew what was happening, but I didn't know how to act. I felt
powerless and helpless and so I did nothing."
The truth hurts. We all know that. But if we
can see that we need leadership and that we don't have the
leadership we need, then we might begin to question why. I
believe a vacuum in our leadership has been caused by a natural
conservatism in the black community that echoes the smug
confidence of America in general. This conservatism harbors a
deep dread of our young people.
This problem has to be approached by using a
two-tiered process. First, we (the elders) have to realize how
we exclude young people from taking leadership roles in our
community. Why do we celebrate the blues but denigrate hip-hop?
Why don't we distinguish between the major thinkers among our
youth and the thugs? What are the young people telling us
when they talk about bitches and ho's, motherfuckers and niggahs
and bling? These are questions we shouldn't gloss over. We bear
the responsibility for the lost generations of our people.
Even if we see their actions as self-defeating and self-hating,
we have to take responsibility for having allowed this situation
On the other hand, why do we get so upset
when young men and women of African descent also want to
identify with their other racial sides? Are we afraid that
they're trying to abandon us? Do we want to hold them back so
that they don't have a broader and more sophisticated view of
their identities? Don't we know that this is their world and it
is our job to support them while they gain a solid footing?
These are only the first few questions we
should ask, and answer. And as we respond we should edit out all
cynicism and derogatory notions from our voices and words. These
young people are our only hope. We have to liberate them
where we can, decriminalize them when necessary, detoxify them
if possible—but most important we have to hear what they're
telling us and make way for their leadership.
And to the youth I say, You have to take the
reins. You have to realize that many members of the older
generation have gotten what they wanted out of the Struggle.
They aren't worried about the problems of America's urban youth;
at least not enough to, once again, charge the ramparts and put
what they have on the line. Revolutions (both violent and
nonviolent) are manned by the young. Older people have
retirement accounts and diseases to support, weak constitutions
and a justified fear of imprisonment. We have fallen to the rear
of the column. You, the urban youth of America, must lead us.
If you, the youth, do not forgive us for
fumbling, our race will be very far behind in the twenty-first
century. And if we lose, the world suffers because most of
America is on the wrong road already.
America has carried the notion of property
and power to such an intensely negative degree that we have very
little room left for humanity and art in our hearts. We work
long hours, eat bad food, close our eyes to the atrocities
committed in our name and spend almost everything we make on the
drugs that keep us from succumbing to the emptiness of our
spiritual lives. We gobble down antidepressants, sleeping pills,
martinis, sitcoms and pornography in a desperate attempt to keep
balance in this soulless limbo.
In a world where poetry is a contest at
best and a competition at worst, where the importance of a
painting is gauged by the price it can be sold for—we are to
be counted among the lost. And so when I say that we need
leaders and that those leaders must come from our youth, it is
no idle statement. We need our young people because without
their dreams to guide us we will have only cable TV and grain
alcohol for succor.
Nation (February 27, 2006)DemocracyNow
* * *
Walter Mosley on Writing
I didn’t start off writing
detective novels. The first thing I wrote was Gone Fishin’, which is
Easy Rawlins and Mouse, but it wasn’t a detective novel. I sent it out,
and everybody said to me, "Well, it’s good writing, but who’s going to
read this?" And I go, "What do you mean?" Said, "Well, you know, white
people don’t read about black people. Black women don’t like black men.
And black men don’t read. So who’s going to read your book?" And so, you
know, I accepted it. A lot of people, their first book, don’t get
So I went back, and I wrote another
book about Easy and Mouse, but this time it was a mystery. And everybody
was like, "Wow! That’s great! A black detective!" One guy actually said,
"But, you know, there already is a black detective." And I said, "Well,
you know, there’s a whole bunch of white detectives." And he goes, "I
don’t see what you mean by that." But that worked.
And then it worked in ways that I
didn’t expect, because everybody reads mysteries, and they don’t care
who the detective is. They care about the mystery itself. And then a
world gets revealed throughout that. You know, that starts with Sherlock
Holmes. You know, he kind of reveals the whole empire through those
short stories. And so, I just said, "Wow! This is really great. This is
working. I’m getting all kinds of people to read this book." And, you
know, and that’s really wonderful. . . .Well, you know, I’ve always been
really bad in school. I can’t study anything I’m not interested in, or
that I don’t—I can’t see a direct reason for studying it. And that was
always a really bad thing. I always tell people that, you know, if
you—well, if you come to, like, a young black woman and she’s going to
be a writer, she’ll say—you’ll say, "Who influenced her?" And she’ll
say, "Well, Phillis Wheatley and Zora Neale Hurston and Alice Walker and
Toni Morrison and Edwidge Danticat and Zadie Smith." She’ll say names to
you that will make you put her in higher esteem. You know, you’re going
to be like Toni Morrison.
The truth is, you learn how to read
when you’re a kid. Who influenced you was Nancy Drew, right? If you read
Beloved at the age of eight, you would either kill yourself or your
mother, right? You know, I mean, you’d say, "Mom, I read this book, and
I don’t buy it. You know, so one of us has to go." I mean, that’s what
you would say. You have to be an adult. But when you learn how to read,
you’re a child. You love literature. It’s real. You really experience
it. Your imagination is the most powerful it will ever be. You’re closer
to your unconscious than you will ever again be. So you read these
things that are not great literature, as E.M. Forster talks about in his
book about writing. But you take the things that you love, and you make
them into something.
So, like I’m really influenced by
the stories my father told about his childhood. I’m very influenced by
comic books: Jack Kirby and Stan Lee and Marvel Comics really kind of
structured my life. Later on, you know, I read Gabriel García Márquez
and Albert Camus and André Malraux, and they influenced me. But the big
thing was, you know, the Fantastic 4 when I was a kid.—
* * *
* * *
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
* * *
Sex at the Margins
Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry
By Laura María Agustín
This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London
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The Warmth of Other Suns
The Epic Story of America's Great
By Isabel Wilkerson
Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, a
sharecropper's wife, left Mississippi
for Milwaukee in 1937, after her cousin
was falsely accused of stealing a white
man's turkeys and was almost beaten to
death. In 1945, George Swanson Starling,
a citrus picker, fled Florida for Harlem
after learning of the grove owners'
plans to give him a "necktie party" (a
lynching). Robert Joseph Pershing Foster
made his trek from Louisiana to
California in 1953, embittered by "the
absurdity that he was doing surgery for
the United States Army and couldn't
operate in his own home town." Anchored
to these three stories is Pulitzer
Prize–winning journalist Wilkerson's
magnificent, extensively researched
study of the "great migration," the
exodus of six million black Southerners
out of the terror of Jim Crow to an
"uncertain existence" in the North and
Midwest. Wilkerson deftly incorporates
sociological and historical studies into
the novelistic narratives of Gladney,
Starling, and Pershing settling in new
lands, building anew, and often finding
that they have not left racism behind.
The drama, poignancy, and romance of a
classic immigrant saga pervade this
book, hold the reader in its grasp, and
resonate long after the reading is done.
* * *
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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Negro Digest /
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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
* * *
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)
update 17 April 2012