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for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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Our world is replete with violent acts day and night.  But since we must not give

in to violence, or live our lives in perennial dread of violence and other anti-social,

deviant behaviors, women and men in society must start from the home teaching  

their children the necessary ideals of love, justice, honesty and tolerance.  



Books by Rose Ure Mezu


Women in Chains: Abandonment in Love Relationships in the Fiction of Selected West African Writers (1994) / Songs of the Hearth (1993) /

Homage to My People (2004) / A History of Africana Women's Literature (2004)

 Black Nationalists: Reconsidering Du Bois, Garvey, Booker T. & Nkrumah (1999) Chinua Achebe: The Man and His Works (2006)

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Problem of Evil: Reflections on Aurora Massacre

A Dialogue between Daughter and Mother: Ure and Rose Mezu


20 July 2012


Daughter to Mother

I am still grappling with the events of today in Colorado. What a terrible thing to happen to innocent people who just wanted a night out for fun. What kind of a sick, depraved person would commit such an unthinkable crime. He has destroyed families, deprived parents, brothers, sisters, wives, husband, friends the company of the one they love most. Most of all, he has instilled fear in all of us and that is the worst of all. What should we do now? Not go to work? stop going to the grocery store ? No more movie theatres? Churches are not any safer! Is this insanity or just pure evil? I am not quite sure.

I am simply left with the thought that the world simply needs more love. There needs to be more positivity in the messages that we see on the news, at work, around us and in our hearts. It will not cure all the insane or purely evil people but a little bit of love could go a long way. We need to be more encouraging and uplifting to the people around us no matter how pathetic they may seem. We can't all go around wearing helmets, and bullet proofed vests and remain locked in our homes forever.

Tomorrow will be a new day and in a few weeks, life's banter will resume in full force. But those families destroyed by this attack will never be the same again. We have to seriously ask ourselves about the gun control laws in this control. A month ago, a patient walked into the examining room with a loaded gun on his waist. We were all terrified as we didn’t know why he was carrying a loaded gun. We proceeded to evacuate the entire building until the police arrived.

They simply had him check his gun in his car and return to the examination room. Apparently, in the state of PA, anyone can carry a loaded gun anywhere as long as they have a license. It’s perfectly legal. You will be surprised to know that the gun laws in your state are probably not any different. How many more incidents like this have to happen before our law makers, presidents and whoever is in charge takes notice? Civilians should not be allowed to carry guns.....That is my stance. I don't care if it is duck hunting, or bird hunting. Guns should remain in the possession of law enforcement.

Anyway, a little bit of love can go a long way in the deconstruction of this totally deranged and messed up generation! have a good day!


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Theater massacre suspect James Eagan Holmes appears in Colorado courtroom—M. Alex Johnson—23 July 2012—James Eagan Holmes appeared in court for the first time Monday after he was arrested last week in the deaths of 12 people in a mass shooting at a sold-out movie theater in Aurora, Colo.

Arapahoe County District Judge William Sylvester ordered Holmes, 24, held without bond, saying there was probable cause to continue the case. He told Holmes he was accused of having killed 12 people and wounded 58 others early Friday in a crowded theater that was showing the premiere of the new Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises." Twenty-one people remained in area hospitals Monday, 10 of them in critical condition. Two were released. . . .

Holmes told police that he had booby-trapped his apartment, and it took more than 24 hours for them to disarm the explosives he had left behind. They included dozens of softball-sized fireworks charges filled with explosive powder, all of them wired in a circle.

In the middle were two jars with a liquid and a small device with a flashing red light. With technicians now able to move freely about the unit, the investigation has picked up speed. . . .

Aurora police, assisted by technical experts from the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, were poring over the physical and documentary evidence. Meanwhile, investigators continued to interview associates of Holmes and at least 80 people who have called in tips. After having initially warned police about the trap in his apartment, Holmes stopped cooperating and was offering no help, police said.msnbc

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Mother to Daughter

…we should thank God for every hardship He permits us and the strength He gives us to endure them. Each trial is an opportunity to trust in God, to realize His power and His  movement within and around us…—St. Angela Merici

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I am simply left with the thought that the world simply needs more love. There needs to be more positivity in the messages that we see on the news, at work, around us and in our hearts. it will not    cure  all the insane or purely evil people but a little bit of love could go a long way. We need to be more  encouraging and uplifting to the people around us no matter how pathetic they may seem. We can't all   go around wearing helmets, and bullet-proofed vests and remain locked in our homes forever.—Ure


Ure, a thought-filled, heartfelt anguished outpouring of emotions—meditative—on the problem of evil which has been with us humans since the dawn of life.  Evil and evil people, i.e., persons who have allowed themselves to be possessed by the Evil One will always be part of our daily living.   People of God must learn to not only recognize evil, but how to navigate our world filled with pitfalls and things that can descend on them suddenly. 

But we already know that with God, there are no accidents, no probabilities.  Jesus once asked His hearers if the people who died with the collapse of the Tower of Siloam that killed eighteen (18) people (Luke, 13: 1-9)—like the Twin Towers of New York City—died because they were sinful.  Jesus' saying is so relevant even in our day—i..e., that even good and right-living people can still die without warning in terrorist acts such as this in Colorado, or in natural disasters, or have bad, evil things happen to them. 

Perhaps that’s why Jesus kept warning us to be ready for it is not when but how. When death comes—in what spiritual state are we when whatever happens?  We should therefore never be arrogantly disdainful, or have an inner smirk that it is not us who are—dead, or suffering, or kidnapped. At any moment, we too can share the same fate as these people for it is only a question of time before we too would go through our own brand of judgment.                                                                                                                                

But regarding the problem of Evil, here’s what I think—it comes about when there is  

1.   The absence of God, i.e., Optimum Good—compassion, mercy, forgiveness—in other words, when there is an absence of love—in our human heart and spirit soul.  Then, one can become evil—King Saul, once the spirit of God departed from him gave himself totally to evil  and in his greed, and mad jealous envy sought to kill David who had saved Israelites from Goliath and the Philistines;

2. It also depends on how much we open ourselves to Satanic possession through unbridled greed / lust for power, money, sex, excessive materialism, and the other enticing seductions with which we are daily bombarded on TV screens, Internet, Facebook, Blogs, books, Radios, etc. Then, one can then decide to steal, or maim in acts of terrorism.

3.      The gross inequality and ever-widening chasm between the Very rich and Powerful—(supposed masters of the Earth who actually should be Stewards of God's Earth) and the very poor, wretched and deprived.  The suffering poor, if ethically oriented and brought up with the knowledge of God as Optimum Good and celestial vision as the Goal of Life, will however be religious, spiritual, compassionate, loving and inclined to serve God through service to others—that is how we got the Mother Teresas and the St. Francis of this world, and the peaceful, law-abiding, people loving members of our communities.  

4.      Conversely, some others, undisciplined and amoral, angry and infuriated at being outside the margins of society, or at being deprived of what they perceive as their rightful chances, or fueled by sheer greed to get more, or to enact revenge because they feel cheated out of something, or people from smaller nations seeking to revenge what they consider an unjust domination, or exploitation by more powerful nations, or to enact revenge because they feel cheated out of something, or acting out some others still acting out of narrow motives like the fundamentalist groups of any Religion—Muslim, Christian, etc. or such as Nigeria's Boko Haram—these will out of  sheer greed and violence, and a pure love of evil,  kidnap whoever they consider more fortunate; or it could well be because some people are just maddened that they are not part of the select group of "the masters of the earth," and so will therefore do what Kiebold and Eric Harris did—the Columbine massacre, or  what Timothy McVeigh did in Oklahoma, or the Virginia Tech massacre man, or James Holmes  in Aurora, Colorado,  and all other such acts of terrorism—homegrown or international.  Our world is replete with unavoidable evil!

That is why in the present political dispensation here in the U.S., in Nigeria or elsewhere, it is imperative that there is ethical reasoning, good morality principle for the just sharing of God’s bounties of our Earth through provision of infrastructure—roads, water, energy, bridges, jobs, qualitative, affordable and accessible  healthcare,  plus even more urgently, a sensible taxation system that allows the Have-nots be a little more comfortable so as to prevent a more widening chasm between the too Rich and Powerful, and the small, helpless citizenry who could be angry enough, or helpless enough, or insane enough to promote acts of evil that will engulf us all. 

Merely saying to them—"Jealous! Jealous! Jealous!" will not remedy inequities, cannot assure citizens adequate social safety net because this age-old saying is a truism—A Hungry man is an Angry man! It is not godly to ignore the poor and deprived, and it is certainly not Christly – I did not come for rich and righteous , Jesus kept saying, I came for the poor, for it is the sick man who needs a physician.

We should take these injunctions seriously. Certainly, Mahatma Gandhi of India did, for he read the New Testament every day.  It was not Hinduism that inspired his Philosophy of Non-violence—it was Jesus' teaching in the New Testament.  Asked why he did not convert to Christianity since it so inspired him, he answered simply: “If I had ever met a practising Christian, I would have become one.”  That is a telling statement from a Hindu who practised the Jesus teaching to the letter. 

Also, in our social living, there has to be some humane, compassionate principle at play. And that’s why in the 2012 U.S. elections, there are two diametrically opposing ideologies from which one must choose—a very rugged Individualism of the Super Rich and their superPacs that is personalist, corporate with an inhumane face that cares little for the Environment, for regulatory laws reining in the excesses of banks and of Wall Street corporations, an ideology that seeks to slash, trim off, and close needed social services, and departments that employ teachers, policemen /women, fire-fighters, et cetera, versus a more Communalist philosophy which has a human(e) face because it cares for others besides Self (as in the early Christians), an ideology that puts in place sensible control laws regarding firearms, that provides social services and a safety net for the very old and infirm, the very young and the deprived, the marginalized and, ah yes, also the suffering, law-abiding immigrant even if illegal but still a human being who seeks a valid living. 

As Moses said pointedly to the Israelites:

If a stranger lives with you in your land, do not molest
him. You must count him as one of your own countrymen
and love him as yourself—for you were once
strangers yourselves in Egypt. I am Yahweh your God. (Leviticus 19: 32-34) .

Ah, yes, the Israelites were once strangers accepted, living, and growing prosperous in Egypt even rising to the highest rank in the land—Prince to the Pharaoh! And ah yes, everyone except the Native Americans was once an immigrant in the Americas—some forcibly! Indeed, I would think that in America, if the very rich conducted their businesses properly, and agreed to pay a fair share of the taxation on their bountiful profits, there would be jobs galore for anyone willing to work and to live here peacefully. 

It is a choice that has to be made by the U.S. of America, or  by Nigeria, or by any other country that seeks social justice and peace in its land.  In a just and humane society (see Thomas More’s Utopia - 1516), it might not be paradise on earth, but if there is sensible equitable governance, citizens can live tolerably peacefully without a daily morbid fear that any minute could be anyone’s last. And that is why everyone should not sit on fence but must exercise their God-given right to Vote—won on the seat, blood and tears of so many, many people.

So, Ure, take heart and do what good you must do, starting from your home with your children.  The closing lines of my 1994 lecture essay titled “Women, Culture, Religion and Society” which is undergoing a revision ends with these statements:

Our world is replete with violent acts day and night.  But since we must not give in to violence, or live our lives in perennial dread of violence and other anti-social, deviant behaviors, women and men in society must start from the home teaching  their children the necessary ideals of love, justice, honesty and tolerance.  So, this hope for more positive, human(e) / family values all begins with the woman embedded in a particular culture, who gives birth, who nurtures her children, who inculcates  right  religious,  social and moral principles to her children, in partnership with her  man.


20 July 2012

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Rose, we all are quite amazed by the recent mass murder in a Denver suburb. But I suspect most of us have become near inured to murder and bestial acts, especially since the 9/11 attacks in the United States, Iraq, and Afghanistan. And if that is not enough, we talk blithely about dropping a nuclear bomb on Iran, supposedly in defense of Israel.
And while all these bestial acts occur, we sit silently on the sidelines speaking of our love for our country and how much we respect our soldiers and their sacrifices. We have a president who on TV broadcasts boasts about murdering bin Laden and other persons in Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan, all to achieve political points.
My dear Rose, we devalue life here and everywhere. There is not one safe place in America or any continent in which profit and wealth are secondary to human welfare. We know this to be true but we shrink back into our comfort holes because we are afraid of our leaders, we are afraid of missing a meal, of losing a job, of losing status.
Are our own silence part of what we call Evil or the reign of Evil? Rather I suspect we court Evil, revel in it, boast of it, pay for it and go to the movies to cheer it on. I do not think such abstractions of Evil, like Bane, speak to the present issue of violence and genocide that are occurring globally, mostly paid by U.S. taxpayers to the tune of $700 billion a year and possibly climbing.
For me religion and the Church are not adequate responses. Speaking the truth in concrete terms of what is actually happening and making known the hypocrisy of our leaders must occur more broadly. The media reps cry crocodile tears about how precious and fragile life while supporting the flying of drones almost on every continent dropping bombs on men, women, children, indiscriminately. We send out CIA and mercenaries everywhere destabilizing governments we dislike like Libya, Syria, and more.
I thank God they have not yet come for me. I pray for solace and an awakening for those who have suffered losses of family and friends. I pray for peace and health and all things good for the peoples of the earth.

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I hear you and we all feel the same pain!  However, we must never despair but must continue doing the good which we know to do, and hope and pray for the best.  Thanks for a useful rejoinder.—Rose Ure Mezu

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Dear Rudy,
Your reply to Rose Mezu reminds me of the brief but heavy exchange you, Floyd Hayes, and I had about the issue of cosmic Evil a few years ago.  The ethical criminal about whom Floyd has written so well in "Richard Wright and the Dilemma of the Ethical Criminal: Can One Live Beyond Good and Evil" increasingly is not a single individual.  The ethical criminal comes to us now as so-called "religious causes" or as the blatant, immoral will for dominance pursued by nation-states.  You are right.  We ought not shrink. I champion prayer for peace, but I am also aware of how greatly I need to be a witness, beyond religion, who addresses the concrete as well as the abstract with regard to cosmic Evil. President Obama and world leaders East and West are ethical criminals. Thanks for hitting the target.

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Dear Rudy and Jerry,
I have read your discussion regarding Rose Mezu’s response to Ure Mezu, her daughter—all springing from the mass murders and shootings in Aurora, Colorado, that took place last Friday, July 20. Allow me to approach these exchanges by discussing briefly these three issues: (1) US civil/savage society; (2) the identity of mass murders; and (3) the problem of post-metaphysical evil. I do not wish to over-intellectualize these concerns, but I do want to clarify the conceptions for myself.
Perhaps I want or need to stand off stage and not identity with the dominant discourse and its articulators. Hence, I am calling for a more critical perspective. First, in my judgment, conventional modern political science in the USA is a historical and social science discourse located predominantly among highly educated white men, and produced by such men for each other. I am struck by the fact that modern white political and social theorists, who are forever discussing the ambiguous concept civil society—largely its framework of social institutions and structures of general laws and basic rights—but without any attention to the issue of civility or notion of civilization.

Rather, they seem to assume that the USA is a civil society. For me, the USA is, and has been historically, not a civil society, but a savage or barbaric society. White Americans do not represent today—nor did they represent historically—what it means to be civilized and how citizens should treat each other in a civilized manner (e.g., a code behavior based upon such values as respect, honesty, restraint, responsibility, etc.). These people have constituted the embodiment of greed, rape, lynching, racism, sexism, exploitation, and genocide.
Second, we know, or should know, that the USA actually is an uncivilized society conceived in the cauldron of savagery, violence, and brutality: annihilating wars against Native peoples, the trade and enslavement of captured Africans and their descendants, imperialism, rape, lynching, exploitation, and racism. Now, white Americans have tried to say otherwise, but we should know by now that the USA is based upon a culture of pretense!

Hence, the USA began as a nation dominated by white mass murder and murderers! We do ourselves a disservice by allowing whites to disavow or overlook the culture of violence they installed as the American way! The increasing occurrences of mass murders in the USA are a part of a historical tradition of mass killings by whites. Note that these recent mass killers generally have been young, white, males (with the exception of Virginia Tech), who have had an assortment of social difficulties.
Finally, how do we, how can we, think about the problem of contemporary evil within the orthodox theological understanding or framework of God? For if God is all powerful, all knowledgeable, all everything, how do we think in this moment of human disaster and destruction? First, must we look at these white mass murderers as individuals and their acts as “isolated incidents”? Second, should we exempt these white mass murderers from the responsibility for their evil acts by holding God responsible (i.e., God made them do what they did)? I want to argue for a post-metaphysical conception of God and evil. Perhaps we need the freedom to think God and evil without God, liberated from the weight of traditional formulations.

The problem of evil is a problem of human behavior. Humans need to take responsibility for the evils they commit! We need to develop the courage to declare whites as guilty of mass murders, for they have installed a culture of evil in the USA! This is not a discourse of essentialism, for I am not claiming that whites are by nature evil (i.e., just because they are white). I am arguing that we look at their historical and contemporary record. Honestly, I am disgusted by the manner in which many of today’s religious fanatics employ God in order to utter the vilest discourse or commit the most heinous crimes against humanity, particularly against Black humanity! Listen to the right-wing Tea Party Christian fascists, whether Michele Bachmann or Allen Watts!
We as Blacks are Americans, it is true, but we scarcely should identify with white Americans, who have conceived and constructed a US society that is uncivil and savage—a white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchy, as bell hooks has so perceptively declared.
As always,

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. . . we should thank God for every hardship He permits us and the strength He gives us to endure them. Each trial is an opportunity to trust in God, to realize His power and His movement within and around us.—St. Angela Merici

Dear Rudy,

I simply do not understand statements like the above.  Why is "trust in God" a virtue?   That is how you get declared a saint in the Catholic Church, for making statements like the above to cover up for the evil that man does in this world.  

I cannot imagine a God who would let Anne Frank die in a concentration camp in order to teach us to "trust in God."   

God may have had good reasons for allowing 9 million Negroes to die in the stinking holds of slave ships, but I cannot believe it was in order to teach us "trust in God."  That is a diabolical evil spirit; not a God. 

I don't think blind "trust" is a virtue, especially when we invoke the name of God.    

I consider that blasphemy. . . . That is not a God; that is a demon.  


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Dear Rudy,
My Brother, you really force me to think hard about this particular issue. I very much appreciate your observations. To be sure, we are NOT in serious disagreement here! I often think that I make some distinctions that may not be so important, but I don't think that I did so in my last correspondence. Recall that I feel the need to step away from the dominant rhetoric of this particular historical moment.

Here I am taking a lesson from Richard Wright's statement in The Outsider:

He sensed how Negroes had been made to live in but not of the land of their birth, how the injunctions of an alien Christianity and the strictures of white laws had evoked in them the very longings and desires that that religion and law had been designed to stifle (1991: 178, restored edition).

For me, US history indicates that whites have employed Christianity in order to justify the oppression and exploitation of Blacks and other non-white nationalities. Right-wing Christian whites and in recent years, Tea Party fascists, continue this practice.
Now, as for the theological politics and discourse of many Black public intellectuals, as well as the discourse and practice of too many Black churches, they have embraced Christianity and have performed that religion in a manner that embodies exactly what Wright claimed! Of course, we know that everyone in the rain gets wet; many Black minds literally have been colonized and captured by the very ideas that have been created to keep Blacks oppressed—politically, socially, economically, culturally, and intellectually.
I do claim that right-wing white racists have used Christianity to justify violence and brutality against Blacks and—more recently against Muslims—that far exceed the Black church’s retrograde political theological discourse and practice. Here I have in mind the Black church’s failure to deal compassionately with the issue of HIV/AIDS, or that institution’s stand against gays and lesbians and same-sex marriage. While these attitudes are abhorrent to many of us, they don’t rise to the culture of violence that whites established and maintain in the USA.
In the case of many Black public intellectuals, especially the ones you mention, or with respect to the Christian theological politics of Obama (domestically or internationally), we are witnesses to a crass political use of religion. Hence, I could not agree with you more!
So, while I do make a distinction between white and Black theological politics, I don’t fundamentally disagree with you.
As always,

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So, while I do make a distinction between white and Black theological politics, I don’t fundamentally disagree with you.Floyd

Floyd, yes I agree with you there are degrees of commitments to Evil. And far too many, with respect to public and ethical morality, right-wingers and left-wingers, moderates and independents among whites far tip the balance in the promotion of American Evil in the world. On the whole so-called minorities tag along in hope that there will ultimately be a correction. Of course, that is too often the manifestation of what is called faith: that there will be some kind of divine intervention when facing extraordinary daemonic power.

Maybe that theological narrative of being saved at the last moment by some Super Being from the barbarity of corporate power is all that can be embraced. But I think not. Though we allow that a clear majority of whites press and embrace an imperial globally-armed Evil, we must insist that there be a voice spoken loudly by the less powerful minority individuals on matters of war and peace. In such matters we cannot wait for the 2nd Coming. Our representatives must be called out to represent less malignant foreign and domestic policies with respect to the military and armed individuals, whether they are local, state or national representatives.

I by no means think that the core problem is armed individuals as in the case of the red-headed Joker in Aurora. Gun regulation is the popular position of MSNBC and other liberal spokespersons. Our "moral fragmentation" does not adequately challenge the norm. I agree with you and Chris Hedges that there is a "system of evil" that must be confronted and challenged, regardless whether the outcome is adequate. The growing income inequality, the lack of social mobility, and the greater and greater concentration of wealth and electoral power are all of a fabric in bringing forth foreign and domestic disasters. 

We are now in the midst of promoting regime change in Syria. 17,000 deaths have been reported. But they are being reported as the result of Assad  and his regime rather than violence that has been promoted by the West, primarily the United States, NATO and their Middle East surrogates and CIA operatives. Most Americans black and white stand behind these surreptitious military policies. It has already become a parcel for the campaign for Obama's re-election. Many out front politicians like Republican operatives (e.g., John McCain and Mitt Romney) actually want more blatant intervention into Syrian politics. Sovereignty declines more and more in U.S. geopolitics. We go where we will and how we will in shock and awe.

What I am suggesting is that too many of us are pragmatic shields for American global evils. And as long as that is the case, such horrors will be mirrored at home in instances like Virginia Tech, Columbine, and Aurora. You may recall we have had this dialogue previously on Cosmic Evil and the Dilemma of the Ethical Criminal, in which I place Nathaniel Turner and his circumstances. Do these dialogues, these verbal challenges make a difference? Moyers asked the same question of Chris Hedges, to which Hedges responds, I do what I must do. It is the nature of faith.

So we are pressed, you and I, to cry out in the wilderness, Hell No! we want follow you into Hell!


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I don't see any change in the way religion's been used since the beginning of organized religion to justify anything people with and without political-economic etc. want to do. People do horrible things to each other and go to church on Sunday believing in spite of everything they know, that asking for forgiveness for sin is all it takes. As for politicspolitics is a dirty business, it's always been about power and anyone who doesn't 'play' the game as written--don't last long.

I've never expected anyone serious about becoming the President of this capitalist country to make helping the poor a main goal of his or her campaign, much as I'd like to be different—it would be the kiss of death. The majority of people in the country who vote don't really give a fuck about the poor, if they did--there'd be a lot less poor folks. Too many people believe (in their deep ignorance) that poor people are poor because they 'did something' or 'didn't do something.' In other words, it's their fault. On the flip, the 1% who own damn everything China don't are believed to have done something those who 'want' to be where they are 'want' to do so they can have more money than God too.

Blessed to have lived through a time when Black folks (a lot of us anyway) believed that due to struggle and sacrifice and demanding our rightswe would overcome somedaySome time (today) I look around me and wonder: What the fuck was I thinking?

On the other hand, 'not' resisting, 'not' speaking out, 'not' writing about this (always important), 'not' creating art is 'not' an option. I may not be on the side of the so-called 'winner' but I always want to be on the side of the people.


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The blinding light of cosmic evil is hurting my eyes.—Jerry

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Rudy,  I hear you—what you said about your work with the E-Journal and the need for more encouragement.  Also, I like what you did with the discussion on the problems of evil

Going through it again, I could feel the anguish and near despair of so many people.  When Wilson writes:  "Why is ‘trust in God’ a virtue. . . . I cannot imagine a God who would let Anne Frank die in a concentration camp in order to teach us to ‘trust in God’.  God may have had good reasons for allowing 9 million Negroes to die in the stinking holds of slave ships, but I cannot believe it was in order to teach us ‘trust in God’.  That is a diabolical evil spirit; not a God. ... That is not a God; that is a demon. . . ."

I felt the near-despair coming from those words.  God, if we believe in One, did not deprive any human being(s) of the freedom to think and / or act as they see fit, or understand. Each of us is endowed with human will—the freedom to act.  And sometimes, these acts by men and women—internal and global terrorists, by peoples of nations—the West, East, etc. bring terrible sufferings and other calamities on the innocent. God did not ask these people to do the evil when they exercised their human freedom to speak or act. And Jesus—God—as man succumbed to acts of violence caused by evil.  Yet, God is good, and also the Good and that good also pervades our universe. 

And so, "Why is "trust in God" a virtue?" It is our "trust" or belief in that Optimum Good that makes us not give into despair but strive to be the best-version-of-ourselves, that caused people like William Wilberforce, Harriet Beecher Stowe, William Lloyd Garrison, Abraham Lincoln to write, fight against slavery, for instance. "Trust," or belief in God or, in Optimum Good does not mean passivity, or inaction.  The corollary to my earlier anecdote about Mahatma Gandhi is that Gandhi was inspired to  interpret Jesus' teaching "to turn the other cheek"—not as a call to passive inaction but as a call to non-violent, positive action against the evil colonial domination and exploitation, even while continuing undeterred on the path of personal / national good and conviction. And we know how that turned out in India.

Therefore, God does not cause evil, or do evil, but rather encourages us to "trust" in doing the good we can do when faced with incomprehensible and unavoidable evil perpetrated by people who choose to exercise their will negatively. That call to "trust" in Good is a call to optimism that in the final analysis, good will triumph over evil.  And so, every moment, we all are faced with two radically opposed choices—to do good, or to do evil, to follow the good path or to follow the path of violence, torture, greed, injustice, or what have you.

It is the same belief—trust in the Good—that impels me to live my life the best way I how to, and to do whatever good I can even in the face of injustice by people or nations, et cetera.  I suspect that belief is what inspires you to continue exposing evil and advocating the good in the best way you know to do so—with ChickenBones.

Finally, Rudy, we must never throw up our hands, declaim and give in to despair but must always be engaged in positive actions that bring optimal good to wherever we are and make us the best-version-of who we are.  Trust in God is optimism in the  lastingness and ultimate triumph of Good. This is my rejoinder to that discussion. Thanks.—Rose Ure Mezu, Friday 3 August 2012

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Satanic Prostitutes/Poetry/Demonic Pimps—Today would have been James Baldwin’s 88th birthday, and we should celebrate the fact with sweetness and light and the gentle moral irony that informed Baldwin’s writings.   I am feeling anything but genteel today.  My thoughts are informed by David Walker rather than Baldwin, by indignation rather than civility. 

When Baldwin screwed up enough courage to confront the horrors of the Atlanta Child Murders, he was only able to behold cosmic evil through a glass darkly.  Walker, on the other hand, saw cosmic evil up close. He  saw cosmic evil kidnap  people, champion ignorance and wretchedness, rape and dehumanize women and men, slash and brand skin, dislocate children from their parents, and dissolve human spirits as effectively as certain acids dissolve flesh.

Having a privileged view of cosmic evil’s progress in American life and  letters, I must follow Walker and save my soul.

Poetry in America was far from a state of bliss in the early years of the 21st century, but it was possible to believe that a Walt Whitmanesque evolution was in progress with avatars of Emily Dickinson crispening and critiquing the boundaries and margins of growth.  Anti-democratic snobs and democratic clowns, lamb-like conservatives, ferocious liberals, the filthy rich and the dirt poor, ordained thugs and wannabe saints, and gothic unnameables—virtually all registers of sound and sense and nonsense were being published and read, performed and heard. Poetry was poetry was poetry.  Credit Robert Pinsky for doing much to nurture such a progressive atmosphere.

Suddenly in 2011, defecation hit the air-conditioning.  Cosmic evil tore off its Gucci and Calvin Klein underwear, exposed its androgynous genitals and opened the doors of the brothel of high-ground criticism.  Suddenly, the satanic prostitutes and demonic pimps began advertising their wares in some elitist and high-brow venues.

What had happened?  Nothing vulgar, reprehensible or lurid.  Rita Dove, a former U.S. Poet Laureate had edited The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry. But for the poetry pimps and prostitutes, Dove had not edited an anthology.  She had committed the unpardonable sin of broadcasting that the dreadful hegemony that enslaved the American poetic imagination was dead. The devotees of race-inflected hegemony made haste to teach her and the masses of people who favored the Whitmanesque evolution that the power of cosmic evil should prevail.

I am far too indignant to call names and kick the private parts of the pimps and prostitutes who have made such a critical and unpatriotic spectacle, such a public black mass/masque.  I am too angry in knowing the children of the Devil have prepared a cesspool before me in the presence of the enemies of genuine poetry.  It is not in anyone’s best interest that I should try to be a serial killer of the American whorehouse nightmare, that antithesis of Whitman’s dream of inclusion.

The people for whom I write are intelligent. They do not possess race-blind, castrated mentalities.  They think.

To them I suggest the following:

Read “A Dialogic Forum on Cosmic Evil as it Becomes Manifest in our Global Realities

Read Helen Vendler’s “Are These the Poems to Remember?,” New York Review of Books, November 24, 2011

Read Rita Dove’s “Defending An Anthology,” New York Review of Books, December 22, 2011 [Vendler’s single sentence reply (page 99) is more than precious: “I have written the review and I stand by it.”

Read Jericho Brown’s interview with Rita Dove

Read Honorée Fannone Jeffers, “The Subjective Briar Patch: Contemporary American Poetry, Virginia Quarterly Review, Spring 2012

Read Honorée Fannone Jeffers, “The Blues: A Craft Manifesto,” Kenyon Review, Summer 2012 at

Read Marjorie Perloff’s  “Poetry on the Brink: Reinventing the Lyric,” Boston Review, May/June 2012                               

Read Project on the History of Black Writing and Lectures in ChinaJerry, 3 August 2012 

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Photo left: Attending a reception for Edith and Osbert Sitwell (seated at center) are, clockwise from top right, W.H. Auden, Elizabeth Bishop, Marianne Moore, Delmore Schwartz, Randall Jarrell, Charles Henri Ford, William Rose Benet, Stephen Spender, Marya Zaturenska, Horace Gregory, Tennessee Williams, Richard Eberhart, Gore Vidal, and Jose Garcia Villa, Gotham Book Mart, New York City, November 9, 1948

Photo right: Wallace Stevens and William Faulkner after each received a National Book Award, New York City, 1955

Amiri Baraka, New York City, 1966

Jericho Brown’s interview with Rita Dove

Jericho:  I want to go back in time just a bit and ask you about your conception of what a book of poetry is and what you notice yourself doing consistently each time you create one. Sonata Mulattica, your most recent volume, seems to me a series of poems that are the result of several viable answers to a single query. Some earlier books you’ve written, on the other hand, read much more in the way of “collections” of poetry bound by your own sense of juxtaposition and trajectory. Can you speak to any of this? How many poems do you have before you know you're in the world of a book rather than a section of a book? What comes first for you as a poet, the poems individually or the book idea that leads to poems?  

Rita:  The poems always come first; I've never planned out a book before writing the first poem. Even with the books that have a definable frameThomas and Beulah, Mother Love, Sonata MulatticaI was blindsided by their construction. I had already published a sequence of six poems about my grandfather before realizing that I had an entire marriage to explore, both Thomas's and Beulah's viewpoints. Mother Love began with three poems in tribute to Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus, and the fact that my daughter was approaching adolescence; Persephone's story lured me deeper and deeper until, when I finally came up for air, I was surrounded by sonnets. When I stumbled upon George Bridgetower, I started looking into his story simply because I was fascinated by the astounding fact of his existence. I had no desire to write another sequence; I didn't want to be pigeonholed, so I fought the impulse of taking the story toward poetry for a long time. 

As far as the books (which are more or less loosely-grouped collections) are concerned, my process is more of an interior push and shove: I resist the impulse to think of the book until the manuscript has accumulated a heft that becomes overwhelming. Poems are sketched out and filed, allowed to exist on their own for a while, find their way back on my desk, and so on. I write in fragments, so I will have many poems languishing in severely fragmented states for months. Revisions can range from adding a word in one draft, a line in another, cutting a stanza in a third. On a good night, I may work on up to seven poems, each in a different stage toward completion. These drafts are stored in colored folders; finished poems go into a black spring-back binder.) Gradually, certain poems beg to be together. It's like I can feel them searching for their tribe. When the specific gravity of certain poems becomes too much to bear, I start spreading poems them out on the floor. I walk among them, I talk to them: "Where do you want to be? Why are you sitting out there all alone -- too good to fraternize, or are you shy, do you need someone to hold your hand?" I sing to them, listen for answers. It can get pretty crazy; I make sure no one sees me doing this, not even my husband.

Jericho:  Could you discuss how you came to edit The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry? What was your initial response when asked to do this? Had you ever had the idea to take on this type of an endeavor? How did you manage and balance the work of reading and compiling? Were there poems or poets you “discovered” in the process? Were there poems or poets you found yourself appreciating less or more than you had in the past? How was this different in excitement, anxiety, and actual logistics than editing an edition of The Best American Poetry? Do you think you would ever do such a thing again? 

Rita:  Editing an edition of Best American Poetry [2000] was a lateral enterprise: One year's worth of poetry, no need to probe for trends, trajectories, project the future... A year doesn't yield a viable test group. So to choose the best poems of a single yearbesides the obvious strain of so much reading, the requisite decisions, indecisions and reconsiderationswas no big deal. Also, another huge difference: Since the choices were taken from magazine publications rather than books, there were no reprint permissions problems to speak of.

But the Penguin folks wanted the entire century. One hundred years of poetry that had been in books with a copyright between 1900 and 2000! This was a very big deal indeed. So why did I agree to do it? Call me crazyand I have called myself that many times during the past four yearsbut I felt the urge to give something back to the literary community. Was that naive? Very! And yet when Elda Rotor, director of Penguin Classics, asked me to consider her offer, the entire poetic trajectory of the century flashed before me. I kid you not it was eerie. Of course, not every point on the arc was clear -- there were plenty of foggy spots, even some downright black-outsbut the general outline presented itself in one flash. Yes, in my mind the twentieth century had its own distinct identity, with contours made more defined by the end of an entire millennium.

The detective in me was aroused, the desire to investigate more deeply. But the main reason was that I would have an excuseno, the dutyto reread all those extraordinary poems I had encountered in my life, plus discover important poems I might have missed for one reason or another. I would have an excuse to set aside the demands of daily lifeall for the sake of poems that I loved, admired, even those I had pushed back against, poems whose message I might loathe and yet found powerful in their approach to language, to human expression. I would have an excuse to learn and indulge. At that point, at the beginning of my journey through the American century of poetry, I did not yet have to dwell on the hard practicalitiesthat I would have to make difficult decisions, to offer myself up to multi-faceted attacks, to be second-guessed and ridiculed by nay-sayers spurred by their own nefarious agendas. 

The journey took about four years. I approached it as I often approach writing poetry: I opened myself to the century's many pushes and shoves, I read voraciously, indiscriminately at firstgimme some Frost, ah, there's dear Bishop, mmm Crane needs to be in the mix, of course, and Dunbar, and Cullen, and and and... . Reading the letters of one poet might pique my interest in another, and so on. In time, patterns began to emergedifferent camps, surprising entanglements, confusing juxtapositions -- these patterns quite often resisted easy assignment to one group or another.

Would I do it again? Hell, no! But I'm glad I did it this one time.bestamericanpoetry

Rita Dove, writing "from poem to poem."

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The Fourth World Multiculturalism as Antidote to Global Violence

By Rose Ure Mezu

Chinua Achebe: The Man and His Works (2006)  

Of St. Augustine, the African Restless Heart, and Search for Peace

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



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#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
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#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 Anthology by Sidney Molare

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#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

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#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

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#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Mother Love: Poems

By Rita Dove

Calling upon the ancient Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone, Mother Love examines the love between mother and daughter, two tumblers locked in an eternal somersault: each mother a daughter, each daughter a potential mother. In settings as various as a patio in Arizona, the bistros and boulevards of Paris, the sun-drenched pyramids of Mexico—and directly from the Greek myth itself—Rita Dove explores this relationship and the dilemma of letting go.

This volume shows Dove—Pulitzer Prize winner, novelist, and 1993-95 U.S. Poet Laureate—at the height of her poetic powers.—Publishers Weekly

Mother Love is an unsparing book. . . . Rita Dove's laser glance exposes and cauterizes its subjects in new and disturbing ways.—Helen Vendler - The New Yorker

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Sonata Mulattica: Poems

By Rita Dove

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

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The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry

By Rita Dove

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

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Book of Sins

By Nidaa Khoury

Khoury's poetry is fired by belief in the human and the spiritual at a time when many of us feel unreal and often spiritually hollow.—Yair Huri, Ben-Gurion University 

Written in water and ink, in between the shed blood. Nidaa Khoury's poems take us to the bosom of an ancient woman  . . . an archetype revived. The secret she whispers is 'smaller than words.'—Karin Karakasli, author, Turkey

Nidaa Khoury was born in Fassouta, Upper Galilee, in 1959. Khoury is the author of seven books published in Arabic and several other languages, including The Barefoot River, which appeared in Arabic and Hebrew and The Bitter Crown, censored in Jordan. The Palestinian poet is studied in Israeli universities and widely reviewed by the Arab press. The founder of the Association of Survival, an NGO for minorities in Israel, Khoury has participated in over 30 international literary and human rights conferences and festivals. Khoury is the subject of the award-winning film, Nidaa Through Silence.

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Life on Mars

By Tracy K. Smith

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

The Body’s Question (2003) was her first published collection. Smith said Life on Mars, published by small Minnesota press Graywolf, was inspired in part by her father, who was an engineer on the Hubble space telescope and died in 2008.

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Becoming American Under Fire

Irish Americans, African Americans, and the Politics of Citizenship

During the Civil War Era

By Christian G. Samito

In Becoming American under Fire, Christian G. Samito provides a rich account of how African American and Irish American soldiers influenced the modern vision of national citizenship that developed during the Civil War era. By bearing arms for the Union, African Americans and Irish Americans exhibited their loyalty to the United States and their capacity to act as citizens; they strengthened their American identity in the process. . . . For African American soldiers, proving manhood in combat was only one aspect to their quest for acceptance as citizens. As Samito reveals, by participating in courts-martial and protesting against unequal treatment, African Americans gained access to legal and political processes from which they had previously been excluded. The experience of African Americans in the military helped shape a postwar political movement that successfully called for rights and protections regardless of race.   For Love of Liberty

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Captain of the Planter: The Story of Robert Smalls

By Dorothy Sterling

Dorothy Sterling’s biography of Robert Smalls is Captain of the Planter: The Story of Robert Smalls (Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1958). In most history books, the contributions of Negroes during the Civil War and Reconstructions are ignored. Robert Smalls was one of the heroes who is rarely mentioned. He was a Negro slave who stole a ship from the Confederates, served on it with the Union Army with distinction, and finally served several terms in Congress.

All this was accomplished against the handicaps first of slavery, then of the prejudice of the Union Army, and finally of the Jim Crow laws, which eventually conquered him. Besides its value in contradicting the history book insinuation that the Negro was incapable of political enterprise and that the South was right in imposing Jim Crow laws, Captain of the Planter is an exciting adventure story. Captain Smalls’ escape from slavery and his battle exploits make interesting reading, and the style is fast moving.—Barbara Dodds

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Yvette’s cookbook is a 2011 bestseller

GREAT BAY, St. Martin (July 31, 2011)—It’s official. It’s a bestseller! From Yvette’s Kitchen To Your Table – A Treasury of St. Martin’s Traditional & Contemporary Cuisine by Yvette Hyman has sold out, according to House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP). In a record seven weeks after its June 2011 release here, less than 80 copies of the cookbook are left in bookstores and with the author’s family representatives charged with distribution, said Jacqueline Sample, HNP president. The decision on whether to reprint a new batch of From Yvette’s Kitchen  … lies with the family of the late award-winning chef, said the publisher.“We are very thankful to the people of St. Martin for embracing Yvette’s cookbook. The visitors to our island also bought many copies of this beautifully designed book of the nation’s cuisine,” said Sample.From Yvette’s Kitchen  is made up of 13 chapters, including Appetizers, Soups, Poultry, Fish and Shellfish, Meat, Salads, Dumplings, Rice and Fungi, Breads, and Desserts.

The 312-page full color book includes recipes for Souse, the ever-popular Johnny cake, and Conch Yvette’s. Lamb stew, coconut tart, guavaberry, and soursop drink are also among the over 200 recipes à la Yvette in this Treasury of St. Martin’s Traditional & Contemporary Cuisine, said Sample.“We hope that this cookbook’s success also adds to the indicator of the performance and importance of books published in the Caribbean,” said Sample.The other HNP book that sold out in such a short time was the 1989 poetry collection Golden Voices of S’maatin. That first title by Ruby Bute had sold out in about three months and has since been reprinted, said Sample. Lasana Sekou Poetry

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Aké: The Years of Childhood

By Wole Soyinka

Aké: The Years of Childhood is a memoir of stunning beauty, humor, and perceptiona lyrical account of one boy's attempt to grasp the often irrational and hypocritical world of adults that equally repels and seduces him. Soyinka elevates brief anecdotes into history lessons, conversations into morality plays, memories into awakenings. Various cultures, religions, and languages mingled freely in the Aké of his youth, fostering endless contradictions and personalized hybrids, particularly when it comes to religion. Christian teachings, the wisdom of the ogboni, or ruling elders, and the power of ancestral spiritswho alternately terrify and inspire himall carried equal metaphysical weight. Surrounded by such a collage, he notes that "God had a habit of either not answering one's prayers at all, or answering them in a way that was not straightforward." In writing from a child's perspective, Soyinka expresses youthful idealism and unfiltered honesty while escaping the adult snares of cynicism and intolerance. His stinging indictment of colonialism takes on added power owing to the elegance of his attack.

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My First Coup d'Etat

And Other True Stories from the Lost Decades of Africa

By John Dramani Mahama

Though the colonies of sub-Saharan Africa began to claim independence in the late 1950s and ’60s, autocratic and capricious leadership soon caused initial hope to fade, and Africa descended into its “lost decades,” a period of stagnation and despondency from which much of the continent has yet to recover. Mahama, vice president of the Republic of Ghana, grew up alongside his nascent country and experienced this roller-coaster of fortunes. In this memoir, Mahama, the son of a member of parliament, recounts how affairs of state became real in his young mind on the day in 1966 when no one came to collect him from boarding school—the government had been overthrown, his father arrested, and his house confiscated.

In fluid, unpretentious style, Mahama unspools Ghana’s recent history via entertaining and enlightening personal anecdotes: spying on his uncle impersonating a deity in order to cajole offerings of soup from the villagers hints at the power of religion; discussions with his schoolmates about confronting a bully form the nucleus of his political awakening. As he writes: “The key to Africa’s survival has always been . . . in the story of its people, the paradoxical simplicity and complexity of our lives.” The book draws to a close as the author’s professional life begins.Publishers Weekly

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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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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

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