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"He was deeply African, with African values and paradigms, which guided his poetry, drama and teaching,"

said Africana studies . . . chair Joseph K. Adjaye. "His teaching and philosophy held that Africana studies

is a distinct discipline with its own methodology and pedagogy.

 

 

Robert Lee "Rob" Penny

(August 6, 1941-March 16, 2003)

Prized Playwright, Poet, Professor, and  Pan-Africanist activist

 

By Peter Hart

 

 

Robert Lee "Rob" Penny, playwright-in-residence of the Kuntu Repertory Theatre and a founder with August Wilson of the Kuntu Writers Workshop, died March 17, 2003, following a heart attack at his home in the Hill District. He was 62.

An associate professor of Africana studies who served as department chair from 1978 to 1984 [University of Pittsburgh], Penny combined the talents of a poet, dramatist, teacher and social activist.

Colleagues described Penny as profoundly committed to his African roots and a person who inspired others in the classroom, in workshops and in the street.

"He was deeply African, with African values and paradigms, which guided his poetry, drama and teaching," said Africana studies department chair Joseph K. Adjaye. "His teaching and philosophy held that Africana studies is a distinct discipline with its own methodology and pedagogy. He was committed to the idea that knowledge in the classroom has little meaning without its enhancing of black life. His tragic passing is a big loss to the department, the University and the black community."

Dennis Brutus, emeritus professor of Africana studies, said, "As a teacher, Rob was a person who inspired his students. He was always encouraging and helpful. As a poet myself, I can say he also was a fine poet, in the black poetic tradition, who inspired others to write, especially through the Kuntu Writers Workshop. And he was a man who was an inspiration to young people in terms of his activism and community activities. [His death] is a great loss to the community."

Penny was a prolific writer whose works included more than 300 poems and 30 plays. His plays were produced in New York, Chicago, Tucson and other national venues, as well as locally by Kuntu Repertory Theatre, which was founded in 1974 by Vernell A. Lillie, associate professor of Africana studies.

His works explore the African American cultural experience, especially in working-class Pittsburgh, where his plays invariably were set.

Born in Opelika, Ala., Penny was raised from a young age in Pittsburgh's Hill District. A self-styled Afrocentric artist, Penny was mostly self-taught. He was heavily influenced by famed playwright and American social critic Amiri Baraka, whose work Penny researched.

In 1968, he and fellow Pittsburgh playwright August Wilson co-founded the Black Horizon Theatre here, which staged performances until the mid-1970s. In 1976, he and Wilson co-founded the Kuntu Writers Workshop, which Penny coordinated until his death.

Jack Daniel, vice provost for Academic Affairs and dean of students, said Penny was in the first cohort of faculty Daniel hired in 1969 when he was chair of the then-Department of Black Studies. "In terms of his professionalism, he was as close as someone can get to being an unrecognized genius. He appeared to be a simple man, but was actually quite complex," Daniel said. "As a person, with his theatrical influence, he was genuinely in touch with the human side of all of us. He was thought-provoking, forever challenging, dedicated, sincere and warm, with a kind of stick-to-itiveness -- someone who always kept his eye on the prize."

Daniel said his somewhat ironic nickname for Penny was Oba, the Yoruban term for king. "He was the last person in the world that would have accepted such a title, but one of the most deserving of it."

Penny's last play, "Difficult Days Ahead in a Blaze," will be staged by Kuntu Repertory Theatre May 22 - June 7.

He is survived by his wife Betty; three sons, Johnny of the Hill District, Robert Lee Jr. of Duquesne and Kadumu of the North Side; two brothers, Roy Lee of Homestead and John D. of Atlanta; two sisters, Betty Jean and Ann, both of Homestead; 12 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

Visitation will held today, March 20, 7 - 9 p.m. at White Memorial Chapel, Point Breeze, and March 21, 10 a.m. - 9 p.m. at St. Benedict the Moor Catholic Church, Hill District. A mass will be celebrated March 22 at 11 a.m. at St. Benedict.

The Penny family requests that memorial donations go to the Rob Penny Memorial Student Assistant Fund, CAS Development Office, 928 Cathedral of Learning; attn: James Sismour.

A memorial service for Penny will be held April 10 at 2 p.m. in Heinz Chapel.

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

Fiction

#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

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

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

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

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter

Non-fiction

#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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The Last Holiday: A Memoir

By Gil Scott Heron

Shortly after we republished The Vulture and The Nigger Factory, Gil started to tell me about The Last Holiday, an account he was writing of a multi-city tour that he ended up doing with Stevie Wonder in late 1980 and early 1981. Originally Bob Marley was meant to be playing the tour that Stevie Wonder had conceived as a way of trying to force legislation to make Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday. At the time, Marley was dying of cancer, so Gil was asked to do the first six dates. He ended up doing all 41. And Dr King's birthday ended up becoming a national holiday ("The Last Holiday because America can't afford to have another national holiday"), but Gil always felt that Stevie never got the recognition he deserved and that his story needed to be told. The first chapters of this book were given to me in New York when Gil was living in the Chelsea Hotel. Among the pages was a chapter called Deadline that recounts the night they played Oakland, California, 8 December; it was also the night that John Lennon was murdered. Gil uses Lennon's violent end as a brilliant parallel to Dr King's assassination and as a biting commentary on the constraints that sometimes lead to newspapers getting things wrong. —Jamie Byng, Guardian / Gil_reads_"Deadline" (audio)

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 4 March 2012

 

 

 

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Related files: Brentin Mock Remembrance  Peter Hart Remembrance  Kuntu Writers Workshop  Frances Wilson Remembrance