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As a merchant seaman in the Jim Crow South, he wrote, he persuaded a white prostitute

to sleep with him because, he told her, he was really Puerto Rican, not black.

He then enjoyed stunning her by telling her she had just slept with a black man.

He returned home while his mother was dying in a poor people’s ward at Metropolitan

Hospital and resumed his old ways—selling and using drugs and robbing people



Books by Louis Reyes Rivera

Who Pays The Cost (1978) / This One For You (1983) / Scattered Scripture

 Bum Rush the Page (co-editor) / The Bandana Republic (co-editor)

Sancocho: A Book of Nuyorican Poetry by Shaggy Flores (edited by Louis Reyes Rivera)

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Books and Recordings by Piri Thomas

Down These Mean Streets / Savior Savior Hold My Hand / Seven Long Times / Stories from El Barrio

Sounds of the Streets /No Mo' Barrio Blues).

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On the Passing of Piri Thomas

By Louis Reyes Rivera


Novelist Piri Thomas made his transition last month, Monday, October 17, in his home in El Cerrito, California, after succumbing to pneumonia. Born in Harlem Hospital on September 30, 1928, of a Puerto Rican mother and Cuban father, Piri grew up in East Harlem, with experiences that served as the substance for his bestselling memoir, Down These Mean Streets (1967). He later wrote two other novels, Savior Savior Hold My Hand and Seven Long Times, several plays (The Golden Streets and Ole Ole Oy Vey), short stories (Stories from El Barrio), and two CDs of poetry and music (Sounds of the Streets and No Mo' Barrio Blues).

The subject of three films, including Every Child is Born a Poet, Piri, along with Pedro Juan Soto (Spiks, 1956), Jaime Carrero (Neo-Rican Jetliner and Other Poems, 1958, Jesús Colón (A Puerto Rican in New York, 1961), was viewed as among the lead writers whose works served as cornerstones for what became known as a Nuyorican Literary Movement. Piri’s writing career began in the mid-1950s, while he was serving time in prison. According to Piri, one day, a fellow prisoner hollered out that someone had written a book about him and passed him a copy of John Oliver Killens Youngblood (Piri’s prison nickname. In short, the novel inspired him so much that he decided he, too, could write about his life. After leaving prison, he returned to New York and sought out Killens, who, in turn, invited him to join the Harlem Writers Guild, over which workshop Killens presided as chair.

With such a mix of established and budding writers as Maya Angelou, Mari Evans, Irving Burgie, Lonnie Elder III, John Henrik Clarke, Lofton Mitchell, Rosa Guy, Louise Merriwether, Sarah E. Wright, et al, critiquing his work, Piri was able to hone and complete the memoir that would help set an initial street-hip tone to what eventually manifested as Nuyorican Poetics. Not so much that he taught or mentored the likes of Miguel Algarin, Jose Angel Figueroa, Pedro Pietri, Americo Casiano, Sandra Maria Esteves, Jesus Papoleto Melendez, Luz Maria Umpierre, et albut that his work, coming when it did, in fact, affirmed their own possibilities as they too dared to pick up both pen and paper to assert that full range of their inner selveslike it lay! 

He is survived by his wife, Suzie Dod Thomas, of El Cerrito, CA, nine children, and nine grandchildren. The family requests that, in lieu of gifts and flowers, interested parties may send tax deductible donations (payable to Social Justice, earmarked for the Piri Thomas Fund) may be made in his name and sent to: Piri Thomas Memorial Fund, c/o Social Justice/Global Options, PO Box 40601, San Francisco, CA 94140. Email sentiments may be sent to Memorials are now in initial planning stages for New York, the Bay Area, and Orlando. Piri Thomas’ web site can be accessed at

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Piri Thomas (September 30, 1928 – October 17, 2011) was a writer and poet whose autobiography Down These Mean Streets became a best-seller. Thomas (birth name: Juan Pedro Tomas) was born to a Puerto Rican mother and Cuban father. His childhood neighborhood in the Spanish Harlem section of New York City was riddled with crime and violence. According to Thomas, children were expected to be gang members at a young age, and Thomas was no exception. Thomas was also exposed to racial discrimination because of the color of his skin and because he was Hispanic.

Thomas was involved with drugs, gang warfare and crime, and spent six years in prison as a consequence. While in prison, Thomas reflected on the teachings of his mother and father. He came to realize that a person is not born a criminal. Consequently he developed a conviction that he should use all of his street and prison know-how to reach at-risk youth, and to help them avoid a life of crime. In 1967, Thomas received funds from the Rabinowitz Foundation to write and publish his best-selling autobiography Down These Mean Streets. The book describes his struggle for survival as a Puerto Rican/Cuban born and raised in the barrios of New York. It has been in print for over 43 years. His other works include Savior, Savior Hold My Hand; Seven Long Times; and Stories from El Barrio.

Thomas was influential in the Nuyorican Movement and worked on a book titled A Matter of Dignity. He also worked on an educational film titled Dialogue with Society. Thomas traveled around the U.S., Central America and Europe, giving lectures and conducting workshops in colleges and universities. He was the subject of the film Every Child is Born a Poet: The Life and Work of Piri Thomas, by Jonathan Robinson, which featured a soundtrack by Kip Hanrahan. On October 17, 2011, Thomas died from pneumonia at his home in El Cerrito, California. He is survived by his wife Suzie Dod Thomas, six children, and three stepchildren.—Wikipedia

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Louis Reyes Rivera, award-winning poet/essayist, has been a mainstay in cultural activism for well over thirty years. Often referred to as the “Janitor of History,” he has taught literature and history since 1969. A recognized scholar on African American and Caribbean history and literature, Rivera also creates poetry and essays viewed by many as a bridge between African American and Latino communities.

Rivera has assisted in the publication of well over 200 books, including Great Black Russian: A Novel on the Life and Times of Alexander Pushkin (Wayne State Univ. Pr., 1989) by John Oliver Killens, Addison Gayle; Portraits of the Puerto Rican Experience (IPRUS, 1984) by Adál Alberto Maldonado. In the past few years, Rivera has edited: Sancocho: A Book of Nuyorican Poetry (Dark Souls, 2001), by Shaggy Flores, who follows in the tradition of Arturo Schomburg and Rivera; The Nubian Gallery: A Poetry Anthology (Blacfax Publications, 2001), an exciting collection of provocative and memorable poems by talented African-Americans writers; and Bum Rush The Page: A Def Poetry Jam (Crown Publishers, 2001), edited with Tony Medina, an anthology that places emphasis on the poem and its subject matter, not the poet, which makes for a remarkably democratic anthology. Rivera is also an editor of the long-awaited The Bandana Republic (Soft Skull Press, 2006), edited with Bruce George. Compiled by two former street gang members, The Bandana Republic is a literary first—an anthology that speaks from the standpoint of past and present gang members; a collection of poetry and prose that reflects the creative and intellectual sides of those who come from the undercurrent of urban centers.—Phatitude  See also Rivera Bio

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Piri Thomas Spanish Harlem Author, Dies at 83—Joseph Beger—19 October 2011—The 1967 memoir, Down These Mean Streets, was a best seller and eventually a staple on high school and college reading lists. . . .The memoir, a best seller and eventually a staple on high school and college reading lists, appeared as Americans seemed to be awakening to the rough cultures that poverty and racism were breeding in cities. A new literary genre had cropped up to explore those conditions, in books like “Manchild in the Promised Land,” by Claude Brown, and “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.”

Down These Mean Streets joined that list. The memoir, Mr. Thomas wrote on his Web site, had “exploded out of my guts in an outpouring of long suppressed hurts and angers that had boiled over into an ice-cold rage.” The novelist Daniel Stern, reviewing the book in The New York Times, called it “another stanza in the passionate poem of color and color-hatred being written today.”

In the memoir, Mr. Thomas described how he was brought up as the only dark-skinned child among seven children, the son of a Puerto Rican mother, Dolores Montañez, and a Cuban father, Juan Tomás de la Cruz. His dark skin, Mr. Thomas recalled, made him feel like an outlier in his own family and neighborhood, where he was taunted about this looks. Even his father, he felt, preferred his lighter-skinned children.

He described the bravado, or “machismo,” that he affected on the streets. Protecting his “rep” led him to “waste” people who insulted him, he wrote. He sniffed “horse”— heroin—even though he knew the consequences. “The world of street belonged to the kid alone,” he wrote. “There he could earn his own rights, prestige, his good-o stick of living. It was like being a knight of old, like being 10 feet tall.” As a merchant seaman in the Jim Crow South, he wrote, he persuaded a white prostitute to sleep with him because, he told her, he was really Puerto Rican, not black. He then enjoyed stunning her by telling her she had just slept with a black man.

He returned home while his mother was dying in a poor people’s ward at Metropolitan Hospital and resumed his old ways—selling and using drugs and robbing people. In one holdup he wounded a police officer and landed in prison for seven years, a harrowing time he vividly evoked. It was in prison that he finished high school and began thinking about writing. He found, he wrote, that words could be used as bullets or butterflies. He called writing “the Flow.”—Yahoo

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If in the Moment Of Passing

                                   By Piri Thomas

If in the moment of passing of an eternity,
I could have the interfaced essence,
The power of looking back at me,
I would say it truly as I would for the world--
Let me be free.

I know that the blood that pounds and pulses its way

through my veins,
Does not alter the course toward the star that not only I,
But all can aim for.
It is a beauty that we all can reach.
It is a beauty that we all can teach.

Given unto each one, what do we truly own, except that

which we truly are,
And what we can choose, be it a rainbow, a star,
Or the agony of a past of present scars.
I am not a poet who makes things unreal,
I am a poet who makes one feel the strength that is

in our people.
Human beings upon the face of this beautiful earth,
Who must know their dignity, their honor, no matter their

No matter their creed--from the moment of their birth.
Born of earth and universe. Punto.

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Sermon from the Ghettos

                                By Piri Thomas

I speak for myself
as my mind rushes back into time
when I held in my hands
a beauty that was truly mine.

I was a child
running through dark ghetto streets
letting the sea of hatred and bigotry
wash over me.
I was too young to know.
But Momma filled my eyes
with the wondrous city,
where there was pity,
and all its pearly gates.
And oh, yeah, all the beautiful wisdoms
that flow from up there.

Hey, world, sit not in churches
and bend your knees in prayer.
And mouth not the words of Christ
of peace on earth and goodwill to all
if you know in your hearts that
you are truly lying, lying.
Oh, America, hey, world!
Do not spread a table with good food and comfort,
such as never seen by the children of your fellow human-beings,

Don't buy toys for your children bought at the price
of other children sacrificed,
Build not your golden gardens
on the blood of children crucified,
Oh America, hey world,
For while you are smiling and living well,
black children, brown children, red children,
yellow children, white children, multi-colored children,
children, children, children,
because of your hypocrisy,
because of greed
are dying, physically,
mentally, spiritually,
and secretly in broad daylight,
broad daylight.

A child out of twilight
Flying towards sunlight.
Born anew at each A.M.
Like a child out of twilight
Flying towards sunlight
Born anew at each A.M.

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Down These Mean Streets

By Piri Thomas)

Thirtieth-Anniversary Edition


.......Thirty years ago in 1967, Alfred-A. Knopf published my first book,  Down These Mean Streets. It has been in print since that time and is now considered a classic of its kind. When Vintage Books decided to put out a thirtieth-anniversary edition of  Down These Mean Streets, and I was asked if I would care to write an afterword for the special edition, I was more than glad.

.......Writing  Down These Mean Streets was a soul-searing experience for me, in which I forced myself to go back into time to see the sees, do the dos, hear the hears, and feel the feelings over and over and over again, at times feeling certain past traumatic experiences seven times stronger.  Down These Mean Streets exploded out of me in an outpouring of suppressed hurts and angers that had boiled over into an ice-cold rage.

.......Many of us who lived through those desperate years known as the Great Depression of the 1930s struggled to survive the hardships of life in the ghettos of our barrio parts of town, where the invasions of hot- and cold-running cockroaches and king-sized rats always seemed to come from other apartments but never from your own. There was always the pain from the pressure of fear brought about by racism: although many black and brown lives were snuffed out at the end of a rope, any means would do, including baseball bats.

.......We all went through the exploitation that came from greed and listened to politicians wearing smiles on their faces that were wasted because they did not match what was in their hearts, making promises that never came to be.

.......In prison, I did my best to keep love alive in me by tuning in to the love that my mother, Dolores Montañez Tomas, had instilled in my heart as a child. I would remember when she lay dying in the poor people's ward in Metropolitan Hospital and I was by her side. She was thirty-six years old and I was her firstborn, her negrito. At night in my cell, from time to time, I would nourish my soul from her love, reliving past warm memories. I believe love is the barrio's greatest strength. The proof is on the faces of the children who, against heavy odds, can still smile with amazing grace as they struggle to survive and rise above the mean streets.

.......I wrote about the conditions of life in the barrio back then, but in spite of books like  Down These Mean Streets, Manchild in the Promised Land, and The Wretched of the Earth, alas, the same conditions still exist for the poor today. In fact, they are worsening, with increased cutbacks of vital programs ‹which up to now had given some of the poor a fighting chance ‹while at the same time national weapons production climbs. Further, with higher unemployment and more cutbacks planned, with high-quality education already out of reach for most poor children, and with the fast-growing number of homeless who come in all colors, our streets have turned into battlegrounds in the Crack Wars. The toll rises as our young people kill each other as well as the innocent in drive-by shootings.

.......Violence roams the streets of America as well as the streets of the world. Today our prisons are bulging with inmates, most of them doing time for drugs. When I was in prison some fortyseven years ago, 85 percent of the inmates were white, while 15 percent were black and brown. I visit prisons from time to time and know that now 15 percent of the inmates are white and 85 percent of the inmates are the blacks and browns.

.......Racism is a most sad and terrible part of America's history. We know for a fact that since the Reconstruction days following the Civil War, racists in white hoods or dressed otherwise have worked very hard to return things to their version of the good ol' plantation days.

.......Children of the poor are not fools, and many are of the mind that, on the whole, society really does not give a crap about them. So when we hear society expressing that "the children are our future," many of us ask, "Whose children and whose future?" The young are full of concern about the growing numbers of hate crimes, church burnings, and racist riots in prisons that are bursting at the seams. As far as I'm concerned, a quality education is the best way to rise above the ghettos and escape out of the trap of poverty‹that is, unless one hits the bull's-eye by winning the lottery.

.......The truth is, when the economy goes into a slump, Americans of all colors fall into worse living conditions. These bad living conditions are not the fault of other colors, so let's quit looking for scapegoats; sadly, the real culprit is, and has always been, a breed named greed. What else can it be, except greed, when it's a known fact that 2 percent of the population receive 98 percent of the wealth? This inequality certainly has to affect the welfare and education of the children of the other 98 percent of the population, who are forced to get by with a measly 2 percent share of the national wealth. Besides, who created their wealth in the first place?

.......There are multitudes who have died fighting throughout history for all kinds of causes. But I've yet to hear of a worldwide cause in the name of the children of the earth. Children are not stupid, they are all born with innate intelligence and the spirit of discernment. I believe every child is born a poet and every poet is born a child. I believe that every child is 360 degrees of the circle of creativity. I believe that every child is born of earth and universe, so how can any child be considered unimportant and dehumanized, relegated to being a minority, a "less than?"

.......Skin color is not a sign of intelligence, no more than it is a sign of stupidity. That is an erroneous theory taught by those who entertain racist views such as those found in The Bell Curve. Children become what they are taught or not taught; children become what they learn or don't learn. We humans are similar to each other, but like fingerprints and cultures, not quite the same, so viva la diferencia and let's get to know one another, born of respect. Hopefully, this will lead us to caring and then sharing with the children of the world.

.......John Kennedy once quipped, "Who said life was fair?" I'd like to say, "So let's make life fair. Let America set a beautiful new standard of caring, not only for our own children, but for all the children of the world."

.......You may ask, "Where do we start?" As a writer, I am concerned with words, names. And names applied to human beings have great importance, since names can be positive or negative, bullets or butterflies. When I was a young muchacho back in those barrio days, I would hear brothers and sisters call each other names like, "Hey, nigger" or "Hey, spic!" I didn't care for those terms back then and I still don't care for them today. When I was a kid running down dark ghetto streets, there was a saying from which I learned wisdom. "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me." The first part about "stones breaking my bones" is right, but the part about "words will never harm me" is bullshit!! Words can harm a child when they are negative, like "nigger" or "spic" or "minority." Why should we repeat the indignity by referring to each other with contemptuous racist terms? We must learn words can be bullets or butterflies, we must learn to say what we mean and mean what we say. For if we are what we eat, we are what we think, so let's not mug each other with racism and hatred, which are not the sole domain of one color.

.......My father Juan, also known as Johnny, once gave me some advice in the art of survival, saying, "Listen, hijo, sometimes you don't look where you're going and you stumble into trouble. You must learn how to spot danger by learning to smell the ca-ca at least twenty miles away, for remember, son; that mierda not only walks on two feet, but it comes in all colors." I moved to exercise my powers of being able to smell ca-ca twenty miles away and to recognize the difference between ca-ca and flowers, when my father stopped me. "Por favor, son, before you start out to smell other people's ca-ca, smell your own first, otherwise you'll get so used to smelling everyone else's, you might forget you have quite a bit of your own." Punto! (How's that for barrio wisdom from Papi, and as for Mami, she'd say, among other things, "Negrito, tell me who you walk with and I'll tell you who you are." Punto!)

.......I would be very happy if we were all to enter a wonderful new era, where the children of earth, and not weapons of war, are considered the top priority. I have been told that what I'm looking for is utopia. So, vaya!!, so what is wrong with that? Imagine, our world in unity, pooling creativity and technology in order to heal the earth of the horrors inflicted on her in the name of greed. Look at the huge amounts of deadly toxic waste buried where children live and animals graze. Look at the poisons dumped in our waters. Wouldn't it be great to live in a world where peace and justice were a foregone conclusion and calamities were only natural and not man-made?

.......In writing  Down These Mean Streets, it was my hope that exposure of such conditions in the ghetto would have led to their improvement. But, thirty years later, the sad truth is that people caught in the ghettoes have not made much progress, and in fact, have moved backwards in many respects--the social safety net is much weaker now. Unfortunately, it's the same old Mean Streets, only worse.

.......I was taught that justice wears a blindfold, so as not to be able to distinguish between the colors, and thus makes everyone equal in the eyes of the law. I propose we remove the blindfold from the eyes of Lady Justice, so for the first time she can really see what's happening and check out where the truth lies and the lies hide. That would be a start.

.......Viva the children of all the colors! Punto!

Piri Thomas
January 1997

Source: Cheverote

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I loved to read as a kid. The reason I loved to read was because I was introduced by a very caring teacher to a very caring librarian on 110th Street in my Barrio. She allowed me to take out two books and I would go to the fire escape and turn my blanket into a hammock and I'd just sit back reading. I'd read whatever I found. I loved adventure stories, I loved science fiction or traveling to other universes. I loved the energies of Jack London and the white wolf and fang, everything, the feelings. Actually, I didn't have a whole lot of time to read until I went to prison, where I found out that I could create a world in my mind that would take me away from all that if I really tuned myself to books and my imagination. One night, a brother whose nickname was Young Blood knocked on my prison cell. He knocked very low and I said "Aha" and he said "Tommy, Tommy, they wrote a book with my name on it, Young Blood, you know, and, man, I want you to read it. It's by a brother man, a black brother." At that time, we were calling each other black. And he handed me the book through the bars and it was called Youngblood by John Oliver Killens. He was an attorney who was also a very fine writer, a beautiful black human being. I read the book; it had been read by so many people that the pages were like onion skin. When I finished reading it, Young Blood asked, "what'd you think of it, Tommy?" and I said "Man, it was really dynamite, you live it, the whole feeling." And I added "Young Blood, you want to know something?" and he said "yeah" and I said, "I could write too." And he smiled at me and he said "yeah I know you can, Tommy" and that's when I began to write what would one day be known as  Down These Mean Streets. At that time, it was entitled Home Sweet Harlem.—Piri Thomas “Race and Mercy: A Conversation with Piri Thomas” llan Stavans

posted 13 November 2011 

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A Tribute to Piri Thomas

Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture

May 23rd, 6:00 pm

Sponsored by Hostos Community College, and produced and directed by the noted poet and author, José Angel Figueroa and co-produced by Elba Cabrera, this special evening will feature performances of Mr. Thomas’ poetry, as well as works by a broad range of artists, friends, and people that he influenced. The ‘cast’ includes Amiri Baraka, Miriam Colon Valle, Modesto Lacen, Tato Laviera, and Hilda Rivera-Pantojas & Danza Fiesta, and his wife Suzie Dod Thomas, among others. Also included in the program will be a remembrance of Louis Reyes Rivera, another brilliant poet whose voice was stilled earlier this year.

The program itself is designed to reflect his love, not just of words, but of the rainbow-hued people of the urban communities who inspired him. There will be a screening of the documentary film Every Child is Born a Poet: The Life and Work of Piri Thomas directed by Jonathan Meyer Robinson, and a special presentation from the digital archives of master photographer, George Malave. Each individual performance piece, be it dance, poetry, essay, or personal recollection, will be staged to celebrate the way that he lovingly embraced language as force of nature. One that he wielded with care because of his deep and abiding respect for its power.

Piri Thomas burst onto the scene in 1967 with his memoir Down These Mean Streets. The book’s brutally honest depiction of life as a young Black Puerto Rican growing up in El Barrio was arguably the first to acknowledge the experiences of Latinos in urban America. His follow up books Savior Savior Hold My Hand, and Seven Long Times, and helped established him in the literary scene, but his passion for words led him beyond simple autobiographical narrative and into poetry. And this is where his profound influence is still found to this day. 

A photographic exhibition “Constructing the Legacy of Piri Thomas” will be on display  courtesy  of  Centro Library and Archives, Center for Puerto Rican Studies at  Hunter College.

A Tribute to the Life and Times and Works of Piri Thomas at the Hostos Center for the Arts and Culture promises to be an incredible evening filled with laughter and tears of joy that come from the depths of the soul. Come and see for yourself.  As Piri would say “CHEVEROTE, PUNTO!”

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Piri gave the keynote speech at a CLA conf.; I believe it was the one in Baltimore, and I think I met Louis many years ago. They were both wonderful writers and decent human beings. I taught Down These Mean Streets in several classes, and included an excerpt in Erotique.

Thanks for publishing the info about the event in honor of Piri, which I'll pass on to Sandra María. I've never met her, but I wrote a very long analysis of her poetry, after presenting a paper on her at CLA. Since then, we've communicated and she sends me these announcements.—Miriam, 23 May 2012

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



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Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World

By Michael Lewis

Mr. Lewis sets off in these pages to give the reader a guided tour through some of the disparate places hard hit by the fiscal tsunami of 2008, like Greece, Iceland and Ireland, tracing how very different people for very different reasons gorged on the cheap credit available in the prelude to that disaster. The book—based on articles Mr. Lewis wrote for Vanity Fair magazine—is a companion piece of sorts to The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, his bestselling 2010 book about the fiscal crisis. Like that earlier book its focus is narrow. It doesn’t aspire to provide a broad overview of the debt crisis but instead hands the reader a small but sparkling prism by which to view the problem, this time from a global perspective.At times Mr. Lewis can sound a lot like Evelyn Waugh: shrewd, observant and savagely judgmental, dispensing crude generalizations about other countries, even as he pokes fun at himself as a disaster tourist. Mr. Lewis’s ability to find people who can see what is obvious to others only in retrospect or who somehow embody something larger going on in the financial world is uncanny. .—New York Times

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Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President

By Ron Suskind

A new book offering an insider's account of the White House's response to the financial crisis says that U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner ignored an order from President Barack Obama calling for reconstruction of major banks. According to Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Suskind, the incident is just one of several in which Obama struggled with a divided group of advisers, some of whom he didn't initially consider for their high-profile roles. Suskind interviewed more than 200 people, including Obama, Geithner and other top officials . . . The book states Geithner and the Treasury Department ignored a March 2009 order to consider dissolving banking giant Citigroup while continuing stress tests on banks, which were burdened with toxic mortgage assets. . . .Suskind states that Obama accepts the blame for mismanagement in his administration while noting that restructuring the financial system was complicated and could have resulted in deeper financial harm. . . . In a February 2011 interview with Suskind, Obama acknowledges another ongoing criticism—that he is too focused on policy and not on telling a larger story, one the public could relate to. —Gopusa

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. WashingtonPost

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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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update 22 May 2012




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