ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes

   

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He whose mind is enslaved to his bestial instincts is philosophically not superior

to the brute; he whose rational faculties ponder human affairs is a man;  and he

whose intellect is elevated to the consideration of divine realities is already a demigod

 

 

Sun Ra Music CDs

Space Is the Place  (1972)  /  Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy/Art Forms of Dimensions Tomorrow (1992)

Lanquidity (2000)  /  Angels & Demons at Play/The Nubians of Plutonia  (1956, 1993)  / The Magic City  (1965; 1993) 

 Super Sonic Jazz  (1956; 1992)  / Jazz in Silhouette: Music (1958, 1992)  / The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra, Vol. 1  (1965, 1999)

/ When Angels Speak of Love  (2000)  / Nuclear War  (1982, 2001)  /  Visits Planet Earth/Interstellar Low Ways (1956, 1992)

Sunrise in Different Dimensions  (1980, 2007)  / Atlantis (1967, 1993)

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New School Arkestra in Concert
With Sun Ra Alumni 

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The Cosmic-Myth Equations of Sun Ra

Excerpts by David A. Martinellim

 

In an earlier interview, when asked about his religion, Sun Ra responded "Actually it's not really a religion, but I guess it's the nearest word you'll come to it on the planet" (Townley 1973: 18). Although this doesn't seem like a very strong denunciation, it is apparent from the Primack and Corbett interviews where Sun Ra classified religion. Sun Ra is not a philosopher or a preacher; he characterizes himself as "a scientist, I deal with equations. You might say a spiritual scientist and also a cosmo musical scientist" (Rusch 1984: 66). Sun Ra's poem "A Blueprint/Declaration" describes the nature of these equations:

One part of an equation

Is a blueprint/declaration of the other part

Similar

Yet differentially not. . .

It is nothing

If it is all

Still there are different alls

The end is all

But all is everything

Yet if everything is all/the end

It denies the other side of the end

For some ends

Have many points leading to their respective selves

And there are/is each/their many points

Leading out from their

Respective selves

(Sun Ra 1985).

This poem describes his equations in a way that might not be immediately understandable. The first section describes a simple duality, which is then amplified into a more multi-leveled form in the second part of the poem. Many of Sun Ra's poems do not deal with concrete images, so readers perhaps must deal with the poems on another level of understanding. Sun Ra's poem "Cosmic Equation" describes the type of individual whom these equations are intended for:

Subtle living equations

Clear only to those

Whose wish is to be attuned

To the vibrations of the Outer Cosmic World

Subtle living equations

Of the outer realms

Dear only to those

Who wish fervently the greater life

(Sun Ra 1965).

    Sun Ra has described some of the sources of his equations. When asked "When did you first start formulating your philosophy?" Sun Ra answered, "Well, I didn't formulate it" (Townley 1973: 18). In his poem "Cosmic Equation", he describes how he received these equations:

Then another tomorrow

They never told me of

Came with the abruptness of a fiery dawn

And spoke of Cosmic Equations

(ibid.).

In another interview, he says that he ways taught his equations personally by a non-human being who taught him "all kinds of things about Jewish mysticism, Egyptian, everything." Sun Ra adds that the key to using and benefiting from this information is the ability to put it together and use it properly (Steingroot 1988: 50). In the film A Joyful Noise he says "I'm talking about equations that are in their books, books from way back in ancient Egypt and Greece and Rome" (Mugge 1980). In another interview he refers to a course he taught at the University of California:

The title of the course was somethin' like "The Black Man and the Cosmos". . .I always gave them books to refer them to see that side of the truth. Unknown books. I'm talking about equations, and I was talking about equations that the world has bypassed (Barber 1983: 31).

John Gilmore relates how he became acquainted with these equations (he uses the term "philosophy"):

It was a long time before I peeped where Sun Ra was at spiritually. . .I mean things like the Bible and hundreds and hundreds of books I've read because of being around Sun Ra (Sato 1987: 56).

Gilmore also provides a connection between Sun Ra and the Black Muslims:

At the time when I got introduced to his wisdom, he was printing his philosophy on these papers, a lot of which the Black Muslims embraced. They started putting it in their newspaper as their own thing (ibid.).

This is not the place to decide who influenced whom. Suffice to say, there are several correspondences between Sun Ra's equations and Elijah Muhammad's writings, and these will be explored later in this chapter.

Sun Ra

    Sun Ra has often spoken about himself, in terms of his nature and his mission on this planet. (The role that music plays in this mission will be discussed later in this chapter). Sun Ra's name is also a statement about himself, and it is a name with many implications. Graham Lock has pointed out that "Sun Ra" is a rejection of a slave name (Herman Blount), and is a name taken from "the Sun God of ancient Egypt, one of the first and greatest of human civilizations, and an African civilization, a black civilization" (Lock 1988: 20). Lock also says that such a renaming of one's self in this context has a distinct political implication as well, and mentions Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali in connection with this. Elijah Muhammad, the leader who inspired Malcolm Little and Cassius Clay to drop their slave names in the process of attaining a new self-awareness and self-esteem, has written on the importance of one's name:

All nations of the earth are recognized by the name by which they are called. By stating one's name, one is able to associate an entire order of a particular civilization simply by name alone. . .It is only when we come to America and learn the names that our people are now going by that we discover that a whole nation of 20,000,000 black people are going by the names of white people. . .My poor blind, deaf, and dumb people are going by the wrong names and until you accept the truth of your true identity and accept the names of your people and nation we will never be respected becauseof  this alone. . .A good name is, indeed, better than gold  (Muhammad 1965: 54-55).

    The name "Sun Ra" can be divided into two parts, "Sun" and "Ra". Ra is the ancient Egyptian god of the sun, and his attributes will be discussed later in this chapter, on the section on ancient Egypt. The sun is a prominent symbol or deity in many myths and religious beliefs. Instead of attempting a comprehensive overview of sun-symbolism, I will focus on two interpretations of the sun, as outlined by Elijah Muhammad and Manly P. Hall.

    The flag of the Nation of Islam consists of a star and crescent against a red background. According to Elijah Muhammad, the star represents justice, the crescent (or moon) represents equality, and the sun (the red back-ground) represents freedom. Muhammad writes:

The significance of the SUN in our Flag is its Freedom of light, warmth, heat and life and vitamins of life. Allah (God) uses the SUN to condemn slavery. . .The fact that we are offered the SUN in our flag means that Allah (God) is offering to us the entire universe of man. For as the SUN covers all life and the whole of the nine spheres of planets that represent life--the SUN acts as a father and God over life in its work of giving light and dispelling darkness (Muhammad 1974: 4).

Manly P. Hall describes the sun as a symbol of the threefold nature of man. Hall writes that the ancient sages divided the sun into three parts:

the spiritual sun, the intellectual or soular sun, and the material sun. . .Man's nature was divided by the mystics into three distinct parts: spirit, soul, and body. His physical body was unfolded and vitalized by the material sun; his spiritual nature was illuminated by the spiritual sun; and his intellectual nature was redeemed by the true light of grace--the soular sun (Hall 1952: LI).

In addition, Hall notes that these three aspects, spiritual, soular, and material, correspond to the threefold nature of God as embodied by the Holy Trinity, relating to God the father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit respectively. Finally, when these three parts of the solar power in man are united, "they form the Divinity in man" (ibid.). This concept of Divinity in man has a parallel in ancient Egypt, and will be discussed later in this chapter.3

    Sun Ra has often been asked about his name, both in terms of what it means and how he came up with it. Most sources give Sun Ra's birth name as Herman or Sonny Blount. In one interview, Sun Ra denies that his given name was Sonny Blount (or Sonny Lee, another name that has been attributed to him), stating that "They be sayin' my name is Sonny Blount but that's not true. . .I got another name, but it's a secret name" (Primack 1978: 15). In another interview, Sun Ra states that his name "Sun Ra" was given to him by the creator. In the same interview, he describes how he derived the name Sun Ra from his given name Herman:

You've got this name "Herman" right there, but in the French language, it's spelled "Armand". . .If you bring it down to "Arman" and turn it backward, you've got "name Ra". . .If you turn it back, you've got "namreh." Reh is an old name of "Ra" (Steingroot 1988: 50).

Sun Ra's great-grandfather was named Alexander, which is another source of the name "Sun Ra":

"Alexander", "Zand-Ra." See, you've got this "Ra" right there. That's the "Sun Ra" right there, the "Zun Ra" (ibid.).

Sun Ra further says that as Herman he was named after a magician named Black Herman. Magic is another important part of Sun Ra's equations, and will be discussed later in this chapter.

Asked to define what his name means, Sun Ra answered "It's a name that has something to do with cosmology, and something to do with a connection with other planets. . .continuation of humanity and continuation of the universe" (Fiofori 1972a). A slightly different answer to this question is given in a later interview, where he says "Sun Ra is not a person, it's a business name. . .and my business is changin' the planet" (Corbett 1989: 28).

Before detailing in more depth how Sun Ra characterizes his mission, it is necessary to look into how Sun Ra characterizes himself. Attali has written

Gesualdo and Bach do not reflect a single ideological system any more than John Cage or Tangerine Dream. They are, and remain, witnesses of the impossible imprisonment of the visionary by power, totalitarian or otherwise (Attali 1985: 18).

Sun Ra can be considered as a visionary in this regard, and he has found several ways of describing the sort of imprisonment he feels as well as ways out of this imprisonment. Sun Ra has said repeatedly that he is not of this earth, and in analyzing why he feels this way one can interpret this kind of statement both metaphorically and literally. One way Sun Ra has characterized himself is as a member of an Angel Race. Sun Ra has described the characteristics of the Angel Race as follows:

The Angel race is somethin' dealin' on a celestial plane. . .the Angel race, the celestial beings, can conceive of Earth beings and also directly communicate with other types of beings. . .celestial beings see that they can't be chained by so-called depravity. Angels like their minds and spirits to take wings. . .They're artistically inclined(Primack 1978: 41).

This sounds similar to Manly P. Hall's description of a true philosopher:

He whose mind is enslaved to his bestial instincts is philosophically not superior to the brute; he whose rational faculties ponder human affairs is a man; and he whose intellect is elevated to the consideration of divine realities is already a demigod, for his being partakes of the luminosity with which his reason has brought him into proximity (Hall 1952: XIII).

Sun Ra has never stated that he is a god. In fact, he has said

I know I myself, would never want to be a god, or even like God, because God got all these human beings on this planet, and I most certainly wouldn't want to be responsible for, or even had the disgrace that I made them (Mugge 1980).

Sun Ra's views on humanity will be expanded upon later in this chapter. Regarding his birth, Sun Ra has said that "My home planet is Saturn" (Shore1980: 48) and that the specific day of his birth, or arrival on Earth is very controversial and therefore he doesn't want to talk about it:

I arrived on this planet on a very important day, it'sbeen pinpointed wisemen, astrologers as a very important date. I arrived at the exact moment a very controversial arrival, so that's the only reason I don't talk about it. . .it's the way the stars were set at thatmoment, in a position where a spiritual being can arrive right at that particular point (Rusch 1984: 65).

Sun Ra thus views himself as different, apart from humanity. Whereas Attali talks about musicians who are imprisoned by totalitarian power structures, Sun Ra feels that he is imprisoned by the human race and planet Earth, and that he is not free. He says "I see myself as P-H-R-E but not F-R-E-E. That's the name of the sun in ancient Egypt. I'm not really a person at all" (ibid.: 66) and "Some people are controlled by forces on other planets. I am, so I'm not really free" (Lyons 1983: 91). Sun Ra also views himself as a leader, and as such is restricted by the rules of humanity:

They talk about freedom. Can they give somebody freedom that's different? Can they tolerate other types of beings? They've got this government of the people, by the people and for the people. They didn't include me. I'm a leader, I'm not the people (Rusch 1984: 66).

 

Leaders are not included in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. . .so this government is one-sided, it's a government of the people, for the people, andby the people, and it has no place for leaders. That's the reason I don't consider myself as part of it, because it hasn't anything for me (Mugge 1980).  

 

I'd be more delighted if they said the government of the leaders, for the leaders, and by the leaders of the people, by the people, for the people, of the creator, for the creator, and by the creator (Steingroot 1988: 50).

Sun Ra's talk of being a leader and an Angel can be taken as an egocentric view of himself versus humanity. However, note that Sun Ra has said that he is not free, but is controlled by forces from other planets. Also, long time Arkestra member James Jackson has commented on the characteristics of a good leader as follows:

The one that made the best leader was the one that did the most outlandish thing or the thing that was not normal, or the thing that wasn't common. They went to new frontiers, or they did something that no one else thought to do. . .Sun Ra is, to me, a natural leader (Mugge 1980).

Sun Ra's poems "Of Kindred Folks" and "The Differences" address Sun Ra in relation to others. In "Of Kindred Folks" Sun Ra writes of trying to find others like him, using trees as a metaphor for himself and these others. The trees he seeks neither dwarf or are dwarfed by him, and are attuned to he "Whose leaves rustle with music to the soft accompaniment of the winds" (Sun Ra 1985). The poem "The Differences" approaches this feeling of otherness from another angle:

Sometimes in my amazing ignorance

others see me only as they care to see

i am to them as they think

according to the standard i should not be

and that is the difference between i and them

(ibid.).

Sun Ra has also characterized this situation in a matter-of-fact way, stating "It's hard for a man to really give proper respect to anyone who says they're an angel or someone who says they're from other dimensions" (Steingroot 1988: 47).

Sun Ra, then, views himself as different, and this difference has obligated him to change humanity, a mission which he reluctantly accepts. His mission concerns "the destiny of humanity and what I possibly could do to help" and he feels that "I should always be doing what I was supposed to do on this planet, regardless of whether the planet responded or not" (Fiofori 1970a: 16). This mission is to help mankind, who "has failed spiritually, educationally, governmentally" and he is "right here as a bridge for them to get help" (Mugge 1980). Sun Ra sees that the way for humanity to improve itself is "to recognize the myth and become part of my mythocracy, instead of their theocracies and their democracies and the other -ocracies they got, they can become of a magic myth, the magic touch of the mythocracy" (ibid.).

    Sun Ra recognizes that this is a difficult task. He has said that "What I'm doing is something that a lot of people have tried to do, but they have met defeat from humanity" (Townley 1973: 18). In more bitter words, he describes other reasons for his reluctance in accepting this task:

I never wanted to be part of planet Earth, and I did everything not to be a part of it. I never wanted their money or their fame, and anything I do for this planet is because the Creator of the universe is making me do it. . .If I can get out of enlightening this planet, I'll do so with the greatest of pleasure, and let them stay in their darkness, cruelty, hatred, ignorance, and the other things they got in their  houses of deceit (Litweiler 1984: 144).

In fact, in one interview Sun Ra declares that

I did never want to be successful. I want to be the only thing I could be without anybody stopping me in America--that is, to be a total failure (Rusch 1984: 71).

Sun Ra's mission can be seen as an enormous undertaking, and in spite of resistance from people and his self-professed failure, he continues. Sun Ra views his music as the method whereby he will help humanity . . .

Source: Ethnomusic

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Sun Ra's recording career as a bandleader began in Chicago, in the early 1950s.

The first period of the 1950s was when his music evolved from big-band swing into the outer-space-themed "cosmic jazz" for which he was best known. Music critics and jazz historians say some of his best work was recorded during this period. Sun Ra's music in this era was often tightly arranged, and sometimes reminiscent of Duke Ellington's, Count Basie's, or other important swing music ensembles. There were, however, touches of the exotic and hints of the experimentalism that would dominate his later music.

Even from his earliest recordings, Sun Ra's band was centered around three talented saxophonists: Marshall Allen, John Gilmore and Pat Patrick. Each would devote over forty years to Sun Ra's bands.

By 1952, his "cosmic philosophy" was developed, and Blount had legally changed his name to "Le Sony'r Ra." One observer has argued that this change was similar to the way "Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali ... [dropped] their slave names in the process of attaining a new self-awareness and self-esteem." [3]

Sun Ra formed an independent label in the mid-50s (along with his business partner Alton Abraham), generally known as Saturn, though (as with the Arkestra) there were several variants upon the name. Though it initially focused on 45s by Sun Ra and other artists related to him, they did issue two albums during the 1950s through the label: Super-Sonic Jazz (1956) and Jazz In Silhouette (1958). Producer Tom Wilson was actually the first to release a Sun Ra album, through his independent label Transition Records in 1956, entitled Sun Song (Delmark Records, a Chicago-based label, reissued the album following the label's demise).

It was during the late 1950s that Sun Ra and his band began wearing the outlandish, Egyptian-styled or science fiction-themed costumes and headdresses for which they would become known.

Notable Sun Ra albums from the 1950s include Sun Ra Visits Planet Earth, Interstellar Low Ways, Super-Sonic Jazz, We Travel The Spaceways, The Nubians Of Plutonia and Jazz In Silhouette (among many others).

Source: Wikipedia

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The Differences


Sometimes in the amazing ignorance
I hear things and see things
I never knew I saw and heard before
Sometimes in the ignorance
I feel the meaning
Invincible invisible wisdom,
And I commune with intuitive instinct
With the force that made life be
And since it made life be
It is greater than life
And since it let extinction be
It is greater than extinction.
I commune with feelings more than
prayer
For there is nothing else to ask for
That companionship is
And it is superior to any other is.
Sometimes in my amazing ignorance
Others see me only as they care to see
I am to them as they think
According the standard I should not be
And that is the difference between I and them
Because I see them as they are to is
And not the seeming isness of the was.

Sun Ra

TEXT FROM A 1989 PRESS KIT BY A&M RECORDS

From its inception, the Arkestra's music was infused with Sun Ra's unique philosophy, an unexpected hybrid of space-age science fiction and ancient Egyptian cosmo religious trappings. This philosophy gained a visual manifestation in the colorful robes, mock-metallic capes, and space headgear worn by the band (it's the only jazz orchestra that brings a tailor on tour), and in a stage presentation that usually features several dancers, a number of group chants ("We travel the spaceways/From planet to planet"), and at least one instance of the entire band juking its way, single-file, through the audience.

In 1960, Sun Ra moved his earthbound base of operations to New York, then in 1968 settled in Philadelphia. In both cities, as in Chicago, the band lived and worked as a sort of collective, with the hard-core nucleus sharing living quarters with the leader and assuming the role of cosmo-friends to the master. Throughout the 60's Sun Ra continued to record for his own deliberately poorly distributed Saturn Records label, and also on various European labels, while touring widely and continuing to spread the fame of his live performances. In recent years Sun Ra has steadily returned to the music of the near past - the standards and jazz classics he grew up with - although it is all filtered through his delighfully off center perspective.

In an interview with Jazziz magazine, Sun Ra recalled, "They really thought I was some kind of kook with all my talk about outer space and the planets. I'm still talking about it, but governments are spending billions of dollars to go to Venus, Mars, and other planets, so it's no longer kooky to talk about space". For Sun Ra, though, it has never been a matter of mere oddness. When he talks of his Saturnian origins, of observing the planets and travelling the spaceways, and of "going into space", it is really a lavishly elaborated metaphor, or so it seems to those who are not aware of the spiritual side of things. Sun Ra's music transcends earthbound limitations by riding the flights of imagination, and his message is that all of us are free to ride those flights with him if we have the precision and discipline to do so.

Source: ElraRecords

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The New School Sun Ra Arkestra in Concert!

The New School University will showcase a unique take on the Sun Ra phenomenon with two concerts that feature New School students standing in as the Sun Ra Arkestra. Under the direction of Sun Ra veteran Ahmed Abdullah, the student Arkestra will have its debut on Thursday, April 24, at Up Over Jazz Cafe, in Brooklyn, followed by a Spring Recital concert at the University on Monday, May 5.

"These two concerts represent a milestone in the legacy of Sun Ra," says Mr. Abdullah, a highly respected trumpeter and bandleader in his own right. "This ensemble class, now in its second year, will clearly demonstrate the genius of Sun Ra. He always said that he intended to create a music for the 21st Century, an interplanetary music designed to awaken musicians and audiences alike to their unlimited potential. Given the opportunity to study both the music and philosophy of Sun Ra, the New School students have created their own unique ensemble sound. They are the second group of students I have worked with to accomplish this, and their performance will astound you," Mr. Abdullah added.

The booking at Up Over Jazz Cafe is part of the ongoing 24/7 Jazz Brooklyn festival now taking place, and one of forty venues offering concerts throughout April. Located in Brooklyn's Park Slope area, at 351 Flatbush Avenue (near Seventh Ave.), Up Over Jazz Cafe has been a steady fixture in the Central Brooklyn Jazz Festival for the past four years, which annual event eventually gave rise to a borough-wide fest. The April 24 debut, featuring poet Louis Reyes Rivera, will offer one show only, beginning at 9:30pm.

Having cut its teeth at a reputable Jazz club, the student Arkestra will be joined by two other Sun Ra alumni, bandleaders Craig Harris and Vincent Chancey, that will augment its Manhattan premiere on Monday, May 5. Part of the New School University's Spring Recital, this second concert takes place at Tishman Auditorium, located at 66 West 12th Street (bet. 5th and 6th avenues), beginning at 7pm.

The addition of Sun Ra alumni French hornist Vincent Chancey and trombonist Craig Harris, along with trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah, represents an exciting reunion of the Arkestra's brass section on Cosmos and Live at Montreux, two classic mid-1970's Sun Ra recordings.

Both the April 24 and May 5 concerts features the music, poetry and lyrics of Sun Ra as well as several rarely heard compositions by the late great composer with new arrangements by Salim Washington and Ahmed Abdullah. Award winning poet Louis Reyes Rivera has rewritten some of Sun Ra's original poems for the occasion.

Sun Ra, one of the true geniuses of the twentieth century, is a person whose life is still shrouded in mystery. He spoke of himself as an Agent of the Creator, an Angelic Being just visiting Earth from his home planet Saturn, arriving in Birmingham, Alabama on May 22, 1914, and departing from Birmingham on Memorial Day in 1993. During his earthly sojourn, he created an intriguing repertoire of music that has hallmarked the history of Jazz, linking spirituality, politics, science fiction, music, family, numerology, astrology, and business acumen into one gigantic concept. The net result is a legacy of nearly 200 records released, an ensemble of musicians that has played together for over forty years, traveled four continents, and earning numerous awards, with countless articles and several books written about Sun Ra. The music itself has earned an international following that crosses all boundaries and that has only increased since his departure.

Admission for the April 24 concert at Up Over Jazz Cafe is $10.00, and $5.00 for those with student IDs. For more information, call (718) 398-5413.

Admission for the May 5 performance at Tishman Auditorium is $10.00; the Tishman box office is open Monday thru Thursday from 1-to-8pm, and on Friday until 7pm. For ticket information, call (212) 229-5488.

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DVD Performances

Space Is The Place (, 1974, 2003)  /   Live in Oakland  (2006) / The Magic Sun (2005)  /  A Joyful Noise  (1980, 1999)

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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

*   *   *   *   *

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 Persistence of the Color Line

Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency

By Randall Kennedy

Among the best things about The Persistence of the Color Line is watching Mr. Kennedy hash through the positions about Mr. Obama staked out by black commentators on the left and right, from Stanley Crouch and Cornel West to Juan Williams and Tavis Smiley. He can be pointed. Noting the way Mr. Smiley consistently “voiced skepticism regarding whether blacks should back Obama” . . .

The finest chapter in The Persistence of the Color Line is so resonant, and so personal, it could nearly be the basis for a book of its own. That chapter is titled “Reverend Wright and My Father: Reflections on Blacks and Patriotism.”  Recalling some of the criticisms of America’s past made by Mr. Obama’s former pastor, Mr. Kennedy writes with feeling about his own father, who put each of his three of his children through Princeton but who “never forgave American society for its racist mistreatment of him and those whom he most loved.”  His father distrusted the police, who had frequently called him “boy,” and rejected patriotism. Mr. Kennedy’s father “relished Muhammad Ali’s quip that the Vietcong had never called him ‘nigger.’ ” The author places his father, and Mr. Wright, in sympathetic historical light.

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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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