My emphasis is on sharing information and encouraging others to use

this technology.  Since January of 2001, I have been traveling around

the United States presenting the Neo-Griot concept

Books by Kalamu ya Salaam

The Magic of JuJu: An Appreciation of the Black Arts Movement  /   360: A Revolution of Black Poets

Everywhere Is Someplace Else: A Literary Anthology  /  From A Bend in the River: 100 New Orleans Poets

Our Music Is No Accident   /  What Is Life: Reclaiming the Black Blues Self

My Story My Song (CD)

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Writing with Text, Sound & Light

By Kalamu ya Salaam 

The griot is a West African storyteller/historian/musician. In traditional societies the griot’s status covered a spectrum of possibilities depending on the particular ethnic group. The griot ranged from an honored member of the king’s court to a marginalized commentator on the society.

The neo-griot concept, starts from the prospective of writers who are grounded in their particular community and who deal with both the history of their community and critical commentary on the contemporary conditions of their community. Additionally, the neo-griot employs the latest technology in their writing.

Indeed, the neo-griot concept is one of writing with text, sound and light. Writing with text includes using the internet and the latest developments in publishing, which include “pdf” formats and publishing on demand. Writing with sound produces audio by using desktop editing and the burning of cds as well as recent developments in radio production. Writing with light focuses on using mini-digital cameras and desktop computer editing for the production of videos for distribution as vhs tapes, on cd rom, and streaming on the internet. I currently teach radio production and digital video to high school students.

I direct a weekly writing workshop, Nommo Literary Society, which has been active since September of 1995. I moderate e-drum, a listserv of over 1500 subscribers worldwide that focuses on the interests of Black writers and diverse supporters of our literature. Additionally, I am a music and radio producer.

I host two weekly radio programs for WWOZ 90.7fm (and streaming on the internet at

I have produced commercial recordings for Rounder Records and All For One Records, featuring artists such as Ellis Marsalis, Germaine Bazzle, Kidd Jordan and others. I am the recipient of numerous awards for music production and writing including two ASCAP Deems Taylor Awards and two Silver Reel Awards from NFCB. The equipment we use for the digital video costs less than $4,000 total (Sony digital cameras and iMac DV computers).

My emphasis is on sharing information and encouraging others to use this technology. Since January of 2001, I have been traveling around the United States presenting the Neo-Griot concept at schools, community centers, conferences, and to writers groups, workshops, and seminars. My presentations include video shorts and audio cds produced by high school students and NOMMO members, plus a presentation of my own poetry.  (A schedule of presentations is included below.)

I am available to do presentations, workshops and residencies focusing on the neo-griot concept. The presentations range from one hour overviews with video examples to a one week residency in which I teach the use of listservs, audio production, digital video, along with intensive small group sessions in poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, scripting for video and writing for radio.

The fees range from $750 for a one hour presentation, $1000 for a combination two-hour workshop and one hour performance, to $5,000 for a week long residency that includes two public presentations in addition to neo-griot classes and availability for classroom appearances. The hosting institution is also responsible for air transportation and housing accommodations.

Video tapes and audio CD examples are available for review.

Kalamu ya Salaam Box 52723 New Orleans, LA 70152-2723

tel 504/581-2963 fax 504/581-5446


Recent Schedule of appearances:

January 2002 >one week residency, Lincoln High School, Dallas, Texas >workshops, South Dallas Cultural Center >WordBand performance, South Dallas Cultural Center >neo-griot video presentation, Sankofa books & video, Washington, DC >presentations & performances, Role Call Conference, Howard University >performance, Spirit House, Washington, DC

February 2002 >performance & poetry curator, Schomburg Center, New York City >Langston Hughes Centennial Conference/Festival, Univ. of Kansas, Lawrence >workshop, “Say It Loud” youth literacy program, Little Rock, Arkansas >presentation & performance, public library, Little Rock, Arkansas >presentation, New Orleans public library >workshop & performance, Emerson College, Boston >presentation, UCLA, Los Angeles

March 2002 >presentation and workshop, Booker T. Washington High School Writer’s Conference, Dallas, Texas >performance with Nommo Literary Society, Shreveport, Louisiana >presentation and workshop, Bates College, Lewiston, Maine

April 2002 >performance with the WordBand, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill >curated program and moderated panel, New Black Writers: The Next Wave, Schomburg Center, New York City


See also the following conference reports:

 gwendolyn brooks writers conference  kalamu in the carolinas

american studies association conference

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Schedule of Appearances in 2001

January 2001 >Hayti Heritage Center, Durham, North Carolina >Zora Neale Hurston Festival, Orlando/Eatonville, Florida

February 2001 >Pomona College, Claremont, California Technology, Race & Culture Conference >World Beat Center, San Diego, California >University of California, San Bernardino >Mills College, Oakland, California >University of California, Berkeley >New Orleans Public Library, Louisiana >University of Utah, Salt Lake City >Utah Community College, Salt Lake City >Southern Utah University, Cedar City >YMCA Writer’s Voice Series, Detroit, Michigan

March 2001 >National Federation of Community Broadcasters Conference, San Francisco, California (Accompanied students who made presentations)

April 2001 >Kings and Queens of Black Consciousness Festival, Oakland, California >University of California, Sacramento (with Fred Ho) >CLA Conference, New Orleans, Louisiana >Etheridge Knight Poetry Festival, Indianapolis, Indiana >International Hip Hop Conference, University of Wisconsin, Madison >Race and Digital Space Conference, MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts

May 2001 >Residency, London, England >Calabash Festival, Kingston/Treasure Bay, Jamaica

June 2001 >curator/presenter, Schomburg Library (New York city) 75th Anniversary Program

July 2001 >instructor, annual Black Writer’s Retreat (upstate New York) >Guild Complex poetry & music series, Chicago, Illinois

August 2001 >Armstrong Centennial Festival & Conference, New Orleans, Louisiana

September 2001 >Louisiana Folklife Festival, Monroe, Louisiana

October 2001 >Gwen Brooks Writers Conference, Chicago, Illinois & inducted into the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent

November 2001 >African-American Griot Conference/Festival, University of Missouri-Columbia

December 2001 >Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan >Detroit Public Library >William Faulkner Conference & Festival, New Orleans, Louisiana >Neo-Griot Screening and Reading with Nommo Literary Society, New Orleans Public Library

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Audio: My Story, My Song (Featuring blues guitarist Walter Wolfman Washington)

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It’s The Middle Class Stupid!

By James Carville and Stan Greenberg

It’s the Middle Class, Stupid! confirms what we have all suspected: Washington and Wall Street have really screwed things up for the average American. Work has been devalued. Education costs are out of sight. Effort and ambition have never been so scantily rewarded. Political guru James Carville and pollster extraordinaire Stan Greenberg argue that our political parties must admit their failures and the electorate must reclaim its voice, because taking on the wealthy and the privileged is not class warfare—it is a matter of survival. Told in the alternating voices of these two top political strategists, It’s the Middle Class, Stupid! provides eye-opening and provocative arguments on where our government—including the White House—has gone wrong, and what voters can do about it.

Controversial and outspoken, authoritative and shrewd, It’s the Middle Class, Stupid! is destined to make waves during the 2012 presidential campaign, and will set the agenda for legislative battles and political dust-ups during the next administration.

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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 perception


a 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 spirits


who alternately terrify and inspire him


all 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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Faces At The Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism

By Derrick Bell

In nine grim metaphorical sketches, Bell, the black former Harvard law professor who made headlines recently for his one-man protest against the school’s hiring policies, hammers home his controversial theme that white racism is a permanent, indestructible component of our society. Bell’s fantasies are often dire and apocalyptic: a new Atlantis rises from the ocean depths, sparking a mass emigration of blacks; white resistance to affirmative action softens following an explosion that kills Harvard’s president and all of the school’s black professors; intergalactic space invaders promise the U.S. President that they will clean up the environment and deliver tons of gold, but in exchange, the bartering aliens take all African Americans back to their planet. Other pieces deal with black-white romance, a taxi ride through Harlem and job discrimination.

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The Persistence of the Color Line

Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency

By Randall Kennedy

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

The finest chapter in The Persistence of the Color Line is so resonant, and so personal, it could nearly be the basis for a book of its own. That chapter is titled “Reverend Wright and My Father: Reflections on Blacks and Patriotism.”  Recalling some of the criticisms of America’s past made by Mr. Obama’s former pastor, Mr. Kennedy writes with feeling about his own father, who put each of his three of his children through Princeton but who “never forgave American society for its racist mistreatment of him and those whom he most loved.”

His father distrusted the police, who had frequently called him “boy,” and rejected patriotism. Mr. Kennedy’s father “relished Muhammad Ali’s quip that the Vietcong had never called him ‘nigger.’ ” The author places his father, and Mr. Wright, in sympathetic historical light.

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

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

She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion


update 10 July 2012