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The poet invents heroic moments where the pale black ancestor stands up
on behalf of the race. The poet imagines Great-Uncle Paul
in cool, sagey groves counting rings in redwood trunks . . .

 

 

Stimulus Bill to Support Artists and Writers

Poems are just as important as cars

John Cavanagh, James Early, Barbara Ehrenreich, E. Ethelbert Miller, Marcus Raskin, Anas Shallal, and Melissa Tuckey

 

Stimulus: One Percent for the Imagination

 

 

Elizabeth Alexander

OBAMA JOY! Alexander Returns to the City!

Elizabeth Alexander has been selected by Obama to read a poem on the great day of January 20th. This is an honor for a wonderful human being. Lady Alexander is a gifted poet and critic. She is a mentor to a new generation of African American poets. I always felt her family was the First Family of Washington D.C. Her mother and father are two gems.

Elizabeth Alexander

I like to say your

name because it sounds

like an era or period

in time when kingdoms

were won . . .

E. Ethelbert Miller (from Whispers, Secrets & Promises)

WashingtonPost: Inaugural Poet Selected  / Poet Chosen for Inauguration  / Selection Provides Civil Rights Symmetry

The Intersection of Poetry and Politics

 *   *   *   *   *

Elizabeth Alexander, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, 1992, is Professor of African American Studies and effective July 1, 2009, Chair of the African American Studies Department (on leave Spring 2009). She is the author of four books of poems, The Venus Hottentot (1990), Body of Life (1996), Antebellum Dream Book (2001), and American Sublime (2005), which was one of the American Library Association’s 25 Notable Books of the Year as well as one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. Her collection of essays on African American literature, painting, and popular culture, The Black Interior, was published in 2004. Her verse play, "Diva Studies," was produced at the Yale School of Drama in May 1996.

Alexander has taught at the University of Chicago, where she won the Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, New York University’s Graduate Creative Writing Program, and Smith College, where she was Grace Hazard Conkling Poet-in-Residence, first director of the Poetry Center at Smith College, and member of the founding editorial collective for the feminist journal Meridians. Professor Alexander is an inaugural recipient of the Alphonse Fletcher, Sr. Fellowship for work that “contributes to improving race relations in American society and furthers the broad social goals of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954.” She teaches courses on African American poetry, drama, and 20th century literature, as well as the survey introduction to African American Studies. You can read a selection of Alexander's poems on her web site.

 *   *   *   *   *

Review of The Black Interior

Alexander, the author of three indelible poetry collections, including Antebellum Dream Book (2001), now shares the aesthetic and intellectual wellspring from which her poems arise in a fresh and penetrating inquiry into African American creativity, or what she calls the "black interior." An exhilaratingly precise and mind-expanding essayist and critic, Alexander writes with striking insight about the poetry of Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Michael Harper; the black arts movement; the paintings of Romare Bearden and Kerry James Marshall; and the films of Denzel Washington. In each finely structured essay, she shrewdly assesses the historical and social context within which black artists work and how "public and communal pressures" to create art that is of service to the black community "dramatically affect the choices" black artists make. Erudite, witty, and profound, Alexander also celebrates the influence of Jet magazine and considers the terrible fates and legacies of Emmett Till and Rodney King. This original and electrifying collection greatly enriches and extends understanding of African American culture and its essential role in American culture as a whole.

—Donna Seaman, Booklist

"Elizabeth Alexander is one of the brightest stars in our literary sky . . . a superb, invaluable commentator on the American scene."—Arnold Rampersad

 

 

 

 *   *   *   *   *

Race

                                    By Elizabeth Alexander

 

Sometimes I think about Great-Uncle Paul who left Tuskeegee,
Alabama to become a forester in Oregon and in so doing
became fundamentally white for the rest of his life, except
when he travelled without his white wife to visit his siblings —
now in New York, now in Harlem, USA — just as pale-skinned,
as straight-haired, as blue-eyed as Paul, and black. Paul never told anyone
he was white, he just didn’t say that he was black, and who could imagine,
an Oregon forester in 1930 as anything other than white?
The siblings in Harlem each morning ensured
no one confused them for anything other than what they were, black.
They were black! Brown-skinned spouses reduced confusion.
Many others have told, and not told, this tale.
When Paul came East alone he was as they were, their brother.

The poet invents heroic moments where the pale black ancestor stands up
on behalf of the race. The poet imagines Great-Uncle Paul
in cool, sagey groves counting rings in redwood trunks,
imagines pencil markings in a ledger book, classifications,
imagines a sidelong look from an ivory spouse who is learning
her husband’s caesuras. She can see silent spaces
but not what they signify, graphite markings in a forester’s code.

Many others have told, and not told, this tale.
The one time Great-Uncle Paul brought his wife to New York
he asked his siblings not to bring their spouses,
and that is where the story ends: ivory siblings who would not
see their brother without their tell-tale spouses.
What a strange thing is “race,” and family, stranger still.
Here a poem tells a story, a story about race.

posted 26 December 2006 

  *   *   *   *   *

Responses

Dear Friends:

It is indeed wondrous that Barack Obama's Inaugural Program has highlighted poet Elizabeth Alexander, not only because she is a much neglected excellent black poet (note some of her poetry books are either out of print or not well available) but also because there has been neglect of poetry in educational institutions and libraries and other public spaces.  So "Number Four" and "Number 11" (see below in ISP letter) are indeed of great necessity, especially to change the cultural tenor of the nation. Poets and writers create community and in these dire times a sense of community is a necessity. Moreover, poets and writers create capital from the ground up. Not only poets and writers but also storytellers are necessary with their emphasis on our folk histories and their highlighting and updating our mythologies..

4. Arts Education; Educational institutions, especially public school systems in low-income and under served communities, would hire artists and writers. Funds would be made available for artist and writer-in-residence positions.

11. Libraries: We should support library infrastructure and provide writer and artist-in-residence programs for our libraries, especially those in low-income communities. Our nation's libraries are public treasures and many have been closed in recent years. Money is needed to keep our libraries open and alive.

The IPS letter below asks us to look back to what was achieved in the 1930s WPA. I became familiar with The Federal Writers program through my work with the Marcus Christian Papers at the University of New Orleans Archives. I partially retell that story in My Archival Experience. That work included at study of Marcus Christian (poems, letters, and diary notes), including his relationship with Sterling Brown who was head of the Negro Division of the Federal Writer's program. The WPA did not only field work in folklore, and wrote not only histories of blacks in Louisiana, Illinois,Virginia, and in other states, but also published Guide Books, as that of Washington, DC, which along with the federal highway programs, stimulated tourism in the United States, and thus wealth.

I greatly encourage writers and artists to send the IPS letter below to Congressman John Conyers (D-MI).Rudy

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Call for Special Program

ATTENTION ALL POETS AND ARTISTS. PLEASE SUPPORT THIS DOCUMENT.

WRITE TO CONGRESSMAN CONYERS TODAY!

December 16, 2008


To: Congressman John Conyers (D-MI)

From: John Cavanagh, James Early, Barbara Ehrenreich, E. Ethelbert Miller, Marcus Raskin, Anas Shallal, and Melissa Tuckey

RE: Call for Special Program to support artists and writers in Stimulus Bill

As you well recall, one of the most creative parts of the New Deal were programs to help artists and writers. Thousands were helped with relatively small outlays of funds, and the nation’s artistic heritage was greatly enhanced. The same argument should be made today.

We urge you to recommend that one percent of the stimulus plan be spent on arts and culture ($6 billion if the final package is $600 billion), building on the Federal Art Project and the Federal Writers Project of the New Deal. We offer eleven ideas on how the money could be spent below. We also support ideas that link different parts of the stimulus package; for example, the new schools that will be built could be adorned with new murals and sculptures.

Here is some background, followed by ideas on how the funds could be spent.

The Works Progress Administration was created in 1935 with the purpose of bringing jobs to those who had become unemployed or underemployed during the Great Depression. Since artists and writers were also hit by the economic hard times, two divisions of the WPA were assigned the task of creating suitable jobs for such people -- jobs that would not only take advantage of these individuals' talents, but would also serve to enrich America's cultural heritage and embellish public spaces. The grouping of the largest of these programs is collectively known as the Federal Project Number One. Included in this collective were the Federal Writers’ Project, the Historical Records Survey, the Federal Theatre Project, the Federal Music Project, and the Federal Art Project. All of these programs were divisions of the Works Progress Administration. Out of the approximately $4.8 billion allocated to the Works Progress Administration, Congress permitted $27 million to fund the Federal Project Number One projects.

The Federal Art Project, along with several other WPA-backed programs, created well over 5,000 jobs for American artists. These artists created over 2,500 murals, over 17,700 sculptures, 108,000 paintings, and 240,000 prints. The project's legacy still lives on, since it supported artists like Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky, and many other abstract expressionists whose work helped shift the most dynamic center of the art world to shift from its traditional location in Europe to where it now resides, in the largest cities of the United States.

The Federal Writers' Project created over 6,600 jobs for writers, editors, researchers, and many others who exemplified a given level of literary expertise. Established on July 27, 1935 by President Roosevelt, the Federal Writers' Project (FWP) operated under journalist and theatrical producer Henry Alsberg, and later John D. Newsome, compiling local histories, oral histories, ethnographies, children's books and other works.

These writers created over 1,200 books and pamphlets, and they produced some of the first U.S. guides for states, major cities, and roadways. In addition, the FWP was responsible for recording folklore, oral histories, and, most notably, the 2,300 plus first-person accounts of slavery that now exist as a collection in the Library of Congress. As with the Federal Art Project, the FWP's contributions to American literature were both significant and long-lasting, giving authors like Saul Bellow, Zora Neale Hurston, John Steinbeck, Sterling Brown, and many others the opportunity to continue their work in a time of difficult economic circumstances.

Here are some of the ways the funds could be used:

1. NEA and NEH: Increase funding for the NEA and NEH. Increase the staff at both agencies. Maintain many of the new NEA projects started by Dana Gioia, for example: The Big Read and Operation Homecoming.

2. Archives: Support the preservation of literary archives across the country. Many collections need to interface with modern technology; staff needs to be hired at various institutions. We don't want to lose our past.

3. A Secretary-level post for Culture/Arts: We support the idea of Bill Ivey, former NEA Chair under Clinton, and head of the arts/culture Obama Transition Team for a Secretary level post for Culture/Arts; indeed, the United States and Germany are the only wealthy nations without a Minister or Secretary of Culture. Ivey’s initiative involves the refocus and revitalization of the extant Committee on the Arts and the Humanities http://www.pcah.gov, which could be a better interim and/or long-term mechanism for new arts and culture policies.

4. Arts Education; Educational institutions, especially public school systems in low-income and under served communities, would hire artists and writers. Funds would be made available for artist and writer-in-residence positions.

5. Arts in Public Spaces: Support for the arts in public places; especially parks, metro stations, airports, etc. Every major city and community should have access to concert series and readings in their major parks, especially in times of economic hardship.

6. Workplace: Funds to bring poets and writers into the workplace. Build literacy by enlivening the reading public. Contemporary writers would bring their work to the people. Readings could be held around noon at workplaces.

7. Document history: Document U.S. literary and cultural history on a city, state and national level. This would be similar to the old WPA program. Interview major writers and painters. It could be done by doing a series of films.

8. American Artists Overseas: Money should be set aside to send American artists overseas for 3-6 month periods, with an emphasis on countries where the United States has been at odds. They would serve as cultural ambassadors and give lectures and performances. They would also collaborate with artists of the host country to produce cultural events.

9. Fellowships/Scholarships awarded to working/low income individuals who wish to enroll in creative writing programs. Many older people wish to return to school to pursue the arts but have no money for tuition.

10. Black colleges: Money should be set aside to develop creative writing programs at historical black colleges. No creative writing program exists at any black college. This would create teaching jobs for many African American authors.

11. Libraries: We should support library infrastructure and provide writer and artist-in-residence programs for our libraries, especially those in low-income communities. Our nation's libraries are public treasures and many have been closed in recent years. Money is needed to keep our libraries open and alive.

http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/snhtml
http://www.senate.gov/reference/resources/pdf/WPAStateGuides.pdf
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WPA_Federal_Writers%27_Project
http://www.harwich.edu/depts/history/HHJ/fedart.html

Please share this information with other artists and writers. This document was drafted by members of IPS www.ips-dc.org

*   *   *   *   *

The first inaugural poet, Robert Frost, recited “The Gift Outright” for John F. Kennedy in 1961.

*   *   *   *   *

The poet and author Maya Angelou wrote “On the Pulse of Morning” for Mr. Clinton’s first inauguration, in 1993.

 

On the Pulse of Morning

                                    By Maya Angelou
 

A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Marked the mastodon.

The dinosaur, who left dry tokens
Of their sojourn here
On our planet floor,
Any broad alarm of their hastening doom
Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.

But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
But seek no haven in my shadow.

I will give you no more hiding place down here.

You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness,
Have lain too long
Face down in ignorance.

Your mouths spilling words
Armed for slaughter.

The Rock cries out today, you may stand on me,
But do not hide your face.

Across the wall of the world,
A River sings a beautiful song,
Come rest here by my side.

Each of you a bordered country,
Delicate and strangely made proud,
Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.

Your armed struggles for profit
Have left collars of waste upon
My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.

Yet, today I call you to my riverside,
If you will study war no more. Come,

Clad in peace and I will sing the songs
The Creator gave to me when I and the
Tree and the stone were one.

Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your
Brow and when you yet knew you still
Knew nothing.

The River sings and sings on.

There is a true yearning to respond to
The singing River and the wise Rock.

So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew
The African and Native American, the Sioux,
The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek
The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh,
The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher.
They hear. They all hear
The speaking of the Tree.

Today, the first and last of every Tree
Speaks to humankind. Come to me, here beside the River.

Plant yourself beside me, here beside the River.

Each of you, descendant of some passed
On traveller, has been paid for.

You, who gave me my first name, you
Pawnee, Apache and Seneca, you
Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, then
Forced on bloody feet, left me to the employment of
Other seekersdesperate for gain,
Starving for gold.

You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Scot . . .
You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, bought
Sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare
Praying for a dream.

Here, root yourselves beside me.

I am the Tree planted by the River,
Which will not be moved.

I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree
I am yoursyour Passages have been paid.

Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.

History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, and if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.

Lift up your eyes upon
The day breaking for you.

Give birth again
To the dream.

Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands.

Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts
Each new hour holds new chances
For new beginnings.

Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
To brutishness.

The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out upon me, the
Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.

No less to Midas than the mendicant.

No less to you now than the mastodon then.

Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes, into
Your brother's face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning.

         Inaugural Poem—20 January 1993

*   *   *   *   *

The Intersection of Poetry and Politics—[Robert] Frost was the first poet to read at a presidential inauguration, and there have been only two others in the almost five decades since: Maya Angelou, at Bill Clinton’s first inauguration in 1993, and Miller Williams, at Mr. Clinton’s second, in 1997. (Some would include, with an asterisk, James Dickey, who composed a poem that he read at Jimmy Carter’s inaugural gala but not at the inauguration itself.) Now America is about to meet its fourth inaugural poet, a 46-year-old Yale professor named Elizabeth Alexander.

Thus far America’s inaugural poems have been a mixed, motley bunch. Frost’s “Dedication” was stiff and dutiful. (Another sample rhyme: “Heroic deeds were done./Elizabeth the First and England won.”) Ms. Angelou’s “On the Pulse of Morning” was touchy-feely, multi-culti and crammed with shout-outs:

So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew
The African, the Native American, the Sioux,
The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek,
The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh,
The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
The Privileged, the Homeless, the Teacher.

Miller Williams seemed to get it about right. His inaugural poem, “Of History and Hope,” was dignified, with a weather-beaten resonance. It began:

We have memorized America,
how it was born and who we have been and where.
In ceremonies and silence we say the words,
telling the stories, singing the old songs.

*   *   *   *   *

What the world will hear at Mr. Obama’s inauguration is the work of a woman whose verse makes a sharply different kind of music from that of any of the inaugural poets who have preceded her. The principal obsessions in her four books of verse — race and history, love and family — are played out in poems that can buzz with an electric and angular ellipticity, as in “Emancipation,” printed here in its entirety:

Corncob constellation,
oyster shell, drawstring pouch, dry bones.
Gris gris in the rafters.
Hoodoo in the sleeping nook.
Mojo in Linda Brent’s crawlspace.
Nineteenth century corncob cosmogram
set on the dirt floor, beneath the slant roof,
left intact the afternoon
that someone came and told those slaves
“We’re free.”

At other times her voice is calm and plain-spoken, as in this snippet from the poem “Smile”:

When I see a black man smiling
like that, nodding and smiling
with both hands visible, mouthing
“Yes, Officer,” across the street,
I think of my father, who taught us
the words “cooperate,” “officer,”
to memorize badge numbers,
who has seen black men shot at
from behind in the warm months north.

*   *   *   *   *

She is going about making a poem for Mr. Obama, she said, by casting an eye back. “I have read the previous inaugural poems, as well as many others,” she said. “The ones that appeal to me have a sense of focus and a kind of gravitas, an ability to appeal to larger issues without getting corny.” One thing Ms. Alexander wants to do, she said, is speak clearly but artfully. “I don’t want the poem to talk down to some imagined audience,” she said. Among the poets she has been reading for guidance are Virgil, W. H. Auden, Ted Hughes, Seamus Heaney and Gwendolyn Brooks. . . .

If there is anything critics and readers get wrong about her poetry, and that of her African-American contemporaries, it is that they “focus on content but forget about form and craft,” Ms. Alexander said. “And to a certain extent that’s O.K. I’m happy if people find something of interest contained in my poems. But they are not just documentaries. It’s been a problem through the ages. African-American poetry has been read sociologically.”

Ms. Alexander is not overly nervous, she said, about performing her inaugural poem. She enjoys reading her work. “By the time you are reading a poem, the real work has been done,” she said. “If I ever get nervous before getting up to read, I look at the poem and say: ‘You’re done. All I have to do is let you out.’ ”

The poetry world will be listening intently. “After eight years of mangled and manipulated language, and the palpable effects of that in the real world, it seems like any gesture toward clarity of expression and dignity of life is welcome,” Christian Wiman, the editor of Poetry magazine, said in an e-mail message.

“In a way, the poem itself is not the point,” Mr. Wiman added. “I would guess that a president-elect decides to have an inaugural poem in the first place not in the hope of commissioning some eternal work of art, but in order to acknowledge that there is an intimate, inevitable connection between a culture’s language and its political life. That Obama wants to make such a gesture seems to me a pure good — for poetry, yes, but also for the country.” NYTimes

*   *   *   *   *

The 5th Inning by E. Ethelbert Miller

The 5th Inning is poet and literary activist E. Ethelbert Miller's second memoir. Coming after Fathering Words: The Making of An African American Writer (published in 2000), this book finds Miller returning to baseball, the game of his youth, in order to find the metaphor that will provide the measurement of his life. Almost 60, he ponders whether his life can now be entered into the official record books as a success or failure.

The 5th Inning is one man's examination of personal relationships, depression, love and loss. This is a story of the individual alone on the pitching mound or in the batters box. It's a box score filled with remembrance. It's a combination of baseball and the blues.

To see a clip of Ethelbert reading The 5th Inning click here: http://www.eethelbertmiller.com/etube

*   *   *   *   *

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

*   *   *   *   *

Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

*   *   *   *   *

Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London

*   *   *   *   *

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

Browse all issues


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Enjoy!

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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

*   *   *   *   *

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 24 February 2012

 

 

 

Home  E Ethelbert Miller Table

Related file:  A Discussion of The Gift Outright   Elizabeth Alexander: Praise song for the day