ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
I realized last night, arguing with my friend, that its hard for me to explain that
my entire lifes work so farmy life-long artistic projectis to record
the folkways, mores, speech, and lives of those descendants of African
slaves in Eatonton, Georgia. Thats my motherland.
Books by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
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Africa My Motherland (Not)
When I was growing up, my father [Lance Jeffers] referred to himself as African, before that became standard. This was a little strange to me, because my father was really light-skinned and sometimes, my dad would be mistaken for something other than a Black man. A Jewish guy with an Afro. An Italian guy. And once, when my father was in this store going off on the establishment for some real or imagined slight, the guy said to Daddy, Yall Greeks all always coming up in here starting trouble!
I dont know what hurt my fathers feelings more, that someone had insulted him in the store, or that they didnt know he was of African descent. Bless his heart. My sisters and I laughed behind our fathers back, because he wanted to be African so bad and he didnt even know how to be Black American in the first place. We, on the other hand, knew very well how to be really, really Black, because our mother came from sharecropper stock in Georgia and we had watched her and figured it out.
But Daddy? He came from those high-class, siddity light-skinned Negroes who had tried to lighten up the next generation by marrying other high-class, siddity Negroes. He talked proper, didnt know how to dancehe couldnt even clap on beatand he never got the Black Joke. In his defense, he did play a mean blues and jazz piano.
The open secret in his family was that my grandmother had married a dark-skinned man, Henry Nelson. He was my fathers father. Daddys parents only stayed married a hot minute, then divorced, and my fathers maternal grandfather demanded that my father be sent to him. Henry never even knew what happened; both he and my grandmother told the same story, so we assumed it was true.
My father always talked about Henry, his lovely dark skin, how good-looking he was. And it became clear to me, even as a child, that my father searched for what he thought was real Blackness because he was searching for the love of his childhood; whenever he talked about real Blackness, he always ended up talking about Africa. My father never traveled to Africa, but you could never guess that by his poems. He pined for Africa. He ached for it.
Im different from my father in a lot of ways, most noticeably in my feeling about the African continent. Dont get me wrong; I dont hate Africa. But I dont love Africa, either. I just think, its a big piece of land over across the water. There are good people there. There are bad people there, but thats not my home. And I dont understand why I have to constantly defend myself for holding that point of view.
One of my oldest friends in the world doesnt exactly make me defend my position; she just thinks I will change my mind. She keeps saying that once I cross that sea. Ill feel differently. And just yesterday, I had a huge blowout with a male friend because I was trying to explain that I just dont consider myself an African, but rather, someone of African descent who was now an American, and he told me my absence of love was unjustified. That I should love it.
I guess you can figure out how that went over.
I know Im sensitive; this has been going on for a while. Sometimes, I have even been criticized because of the way I looked, that Im lighter than some folks and have curly hair. And if I were darker and my hair was kinky instead of curly, they said, I would feel closer to Africa, the way Im supposed to, if I was really Black.
The joke to me, of course, is that my sisters and Ieven my so-called light-skinned sisterwere plenty dark enough for my fathers mother and stepfather. Too dark, in fact, for them to even try to keep a relationship going with their only grandchildren from their only son. Lets not talk about where all their money went when they died.
Sidebar: You know, somehow my curly hair and in-between skin color never gets me from being followed by the security guards at the mall. Go figure. But maybe I should turn around at that security guard breathing his Philly cheese steak he had for lunch on me and say, You know, you can trust me more than other Black folks. Dont you see my naturally curly hair? Now back away.
I do embrace my African heritage. Its just, I identify with the Africans who were sold, not the Africans who did the selling. And so, my heart follows those sold Africans where they wentand here is where they ended up and made a home.
I realized last night, arguing with my friend, that its hard for me to explain that my entire lifes work so farmy life-long artistic projectis to record the folkways, mores, speech, and lives of those descendants of African slaves in Eatonton, Georgia. Thats my motherland.
And I admit it: my other reason for not loving Africa is that my mothers people carried slavery stories with them. My mothers Great-Great Grandmother Mandy Napier was six years old when Emancipation came. And her first memory was of her father being sold Down South to Mississippi. She never saw him again. Whenever my mother tells that story, and she tells it more and more often, its as if she is channeling Mandys pain, and carrying it inside her.
Some Black folks want to totally blame Europeans for why we got here, across the water, and scattered and abused. And surely, Europeans were extremely lowdown with the slavery machine. You have only to read Marcus Rediker’s The Slave Ship: A Human History to know the cruel torture young African men, women, teenagers and children suffered at the hands of European slave traders. But they had plenty help from Africans. Can we be real about that?
And yes, surely those Africans may not have known that they were dooming their fellow citizens to a nightmarish journey over the Middle Passage. At first.
And yes, African domestic slavery was different from slavery in the Americas, a milder form. But the international slave trade went on for over four hundred years, so you know, those Africans setting fire to villages and bashing in the brains of babies and elderly people, those uncles who sold their sisters children into slavery to resolve bad debtsthey had to know that Kunta Kinte and them werent ever coming back. They had to figure that out. They had to.
This sort of refusal to talk about Black or African culpability reminds me of the problems that go on in the Black community, and no matter what we are talking aboutrape of Black women and children, domestic violence, Black males killing other Black males, the drug trade in our community, misogyny in rap musicsomehow, we always end up blaming the White man for it. And the few voices of dissent, the ones who say, Hey, you know, we cant blame the White man for everything, those dissenters get called sell-out Uncle Toms.
Sidebar: I guess because Im a girl, I would get called a sell-out Aunt Thomasina.
My mothers people, and my fathers, too (no matter how light-skinned and siddity they were) were the descendants of those young kidnapped Africans who were sent into the hateful and painful unknown.
Those kids cobbled together a life. They survived. And they made it possible for me to be here, as a teacher, a poet and a writer, and as a human being who is trying to make my little corner of the world better. And while I harbor no hatred for Africa, I dont think I should be punished because I have no love either. Im just doing the best I can over here, where somebody brought me.
23 August 2010
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Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, Associate. Professor of English, is the author of three books of poetry, The Gospel of Barbecue (Kent State University, 2000), which won the 1999 Stan and Tom Wick Prize for Poetry and was the finalist for the 2001 Paterson Poetry, and Outlandish Blues,, was published by Wesleyan University Press in 2003. She has won the 2002 Julia Peterkin Award for Poetry, and awards from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund and the Rona Jaffe Foundation. Prof. Jeffers’ work recently has appeared in Black Issues Book Review, Black Warrior Review, Brilliant Corners: A Journal of Jazz and Literature, Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam (Crown, 2001), Callaloo, Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora (Warner/Aspect, 2000), Indiana Review, The Kenyon Review, The Massachusetts Review, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social and Political Black Literature and Art (Third World, 2002), and These Hands I Know: Writing About the African American Family (Sarabande 2002). Jeffers’ third book of poems is titled Red Clay Suite (2007).
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Well, I like what PhillisRemastered wrote. I think she was brave and honest. She wrote against the tide of what black intellectuals usually say publicly. Though similar it was a far cry from what Skip Gates wrote for the New York Times. So I sympathize greatly with what she wrote. It was clear and poignant.
Where I sympathize with her most is her literary focus. Namely, on those Africans who were forced across the Atlantic and forced into the industrialism and mercantilism of the West. Our journey, in that regard, is ongoing. The treachery of not only groups and tribes of Africans who found the trade lucrative unthinkingly, but it was how the West profited from our unrequited love and toil.
The great problem with this ever-going tragedy is the absolutes we become involved in, that we use in raising this history, in trying to come to grips with the creators. That was the problem with the argument of Skip Gates. That is the problem with the rhetoric of Kola Boof. With her it is difficult to take her seriously. We cannot realistically and with all honesty speak of all Africans, all Arabs, and all of the Diaspora. Miss Boof lacks sincere honesty, lacks sincere sympathy, lacks understanding. Her views are sadly laughable.
In truth, most Arabs, most Africans, most of the Diaspora were not involved in the trade and do not give this ancient history a second thought. It is only a few of us who are self indulgent. So real love and real hate is not even a real issue between us, among us about Africa and its traders and its despots.
But I think we have to be BIG about all of this. Africa cannot be ignored. African cannot be abandoned intellectually. Africa needs us. We need Africa. All of humanity is dependent on her well being for our well being. We must prepare our children to settle in Africa, to return to the home of their forefathers and foremothers.
I have been listening to Bob Marley, that most famous and most talented and most visionary of blacks born in the Americas, listening to “Exodus” and “Africa Unite.” I am exceedingly moved by his music and his words. I know nevertheless that most of Africa is not ready to receive us and we of the Americas have not properly prepared ourselves for a return to Africa.
We need those who are most educated, most skilled to settle on the continent among the peoples of Africa. The Africans themselves must prepare themselves politically and educationally to welcome such people of the Americas. We have much to contribute in raising ourselves up spiritually and economically.
Like Kalamu ya Salaam, the one who I think has written best personally and politically about Africa, I am confident that Pan Africanism is not dead and indeed it is the wave of our Future. But we must be guided by mind more than the heart. That is, we must prepare diligently our children for the future that must come for the benefit of us all.
You have said all I have to say. AFRICA UNITE, at home and abroad!
Loving Africa madly, Rudy
From 1956, when Williams became the chief minister of Trinidad and Tobago, to 1970, when the Black Power-inspired February Revolution brought his administration face to face with a younger generation intellectually indebted to his revolutionary thought, Williams was at the center of most of the conflicts and challenges that defined the region. He was most aggressive in advocating the creation of a West Indies federation to help the region assert itself in international political and economic arenas. Looking at the ideas of Williams as well as those of his Caribbean and African peers, Palmer demonstrates how the development of the modern Caribbean was inextricably intertwined with the evolution of a regional anticolonial consciousness.
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Bob Marley was a Jamaican singer-songwriter and musician. He was the lead singer, songwriter and guitarist for the ska, rocksteady and reggae bands The Wailers (19641974) and Bob Marley & the Wailers (19741981). Marley remains the most widely known and revered performer of reggae music, and is credited for helping spread both Jamaican music and the Rastafari movement (of which he was a committed member), to a worldwide audience.
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By Bob Marley Exodus! Movement of Jah people! oh-oh-oh, yea-eah! Well uh, oh. let me tell you this:
Men and people will fight ya down (tell me why!) When ya see Jah light. (ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!) Let me tell you if you’re not wrong; (then, why? ) Everything is all right. So we gonna walkAll right!through de roads of creation: We the generation (tell me why!) Trod through great tribulationtrod through great tribulation. Exodus! All right! Movement of Jah people! Oh, yeah! o-oo, yeah! All right! Exodus! Movement of Jah people! oh, yeah! Yeah-yeah-yeah, well! Open your eyes and look within. Are you satisfied with the life you’re living? uh! We know where we’re going, uh! We know where we’re from. We’re leaving Babylon, We’re going to our father’s land.
One, Two, Three, Four Exodus! Movement of Jah people! oh, yeah! Movement of Jah people!send us another Brother Moses! Movement of Jah people!from across the Red Sea! Movement of Jah people!send us another Brother Moses! Movement of Jah people!from across the Red Sea! Movement of Jah people! Exodus! All right! oo-oo-ooh! oo-ooh! Movement of Jah people! oh, yeah! Exodus! Exodus! All right! Exodus! now, now, now, now! Exodus! Exodus! oh, yea-ea-ea-ea-ea-ea-eah! Exodus! Exodus! All right! Exodus! uh-uh-uh-uh!
One, Two, Three, Four Move! Move! Move! Move! Move! Move! Open your eyes and look within. Are you satisfied with the life you’re living? We know where we’re going; We know where we’re from. We’re leaving Babylon, yall! We’re going to our father’s land. Exodus! All right! Movement of Jah people! Exodus! Movement of Jah people! Movement of Jah people! Movement of Jah people! Movement of Jah people! Movement of Jah people!
Move! Move! Move! Move! Move! Move! Move! Jah come to break downpression, Rule equality. Wipe away transgression. Set the captives free! Exodus! All right, all right! Movement of Jah people! oh, yeah! Exodus! Movement of Jah people! oh, now, now, now, now! Movement of Jah people! Movement of Jah people! Movement of Jah people! Movement of Jah people! Movement of Jah people! Movement of Jah people! Move! Move! Move! Move! Move! Move! uh-uh-uh-uh! Movement of Jah people! Move! Movement of Jah people! Move! Movement of Jah people)! Move! Movement of Jah people! Movement of Jah people! Movement of Jah people)! Movement of Jah people)! Movement of Jah people! Movement of Jah people! Movement of Jah people!
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Directed by Stephanie Black
In 2005, to celebrate what would have been Bob Marleys 60th birthday, his widow, Rita Marley, and several of Marleys offspring staged a gala concert in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in celebration of the iconic reggae singers commitment to African unity. In addition to the concert, a week of Unicef-sponsored workshops, discussions and debates took place, in which delegates such as actor and human-rights activist Danny Glover and controversial Jamaican politician Dudley Thompson contemplated what it means to be an African descendant outside Africa. Young people from all over the continent also gathered to discuss their own roles in Africas future. Africa Unite: A Celebration of Bob Marleys Vision is Stephanie Blacks documentary of the event. Black has already given us the hard-hitting Life and Debt, which explores the destructive impact of the IMF and the World Bank in Jamaica, and H-2 Worker, which exposed the unbelievably exploitative situation facing Jamaican sugarcane cutters in Florida. In Africa Unite, she makes efforts to keep a political-activist focus intact, which is difficult, because much of the movie is devoted to bland concert footage. But the films most heartening bits come in testimony from the young Africans who will themselves make up Africas next generation of leaders. Also captivating is the sub-plot provided by Bongo Tawney, a poor, elder Rasta who travels to Ethiopia for the first time and who is visibly moved by what he encounters there. On the downside, the film is generally disjointed. It is sometimes difficult to get a sense of how the events unfolded, and of the exact significance of each segment, as there is so much concert footage interspersed. The concert footage itself does not translate particularly well to the small screen; you probably had to be there to understand the magnitude of the concert, which lasted 12 hours and drew over 350,000 people. And no disrespect to Marleys children, but every time Ive seen them live, I wish they would leave their fathers work alone and concentrate on their own talents. But needless to say, as this concert was in celebration of Daddys birthday, every one of the Marley boys presents a classic number from the 70s, and for some reason, each feels the need to remain on stage for the entirety of his siblings performances, which only adds to the dragging sense of what features here. The bonus concert footage fares little better than that on the main DVD, though a duet by Rita and Marleys mother is kind of sweet. In contrast, there are illuminating, though brief, interviews with Rita Marley and several of Bobs sons, giving some context to the proceedings in terms of their own views on Africa in general and Ethiopia in particular. In summary, although its hardly essential viewing overall, Marley fans will probably find something of interest.
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By Bob Marley
Africa, Unite ‘Cause we’re moving right out of Babylon And we’re going to our father’s land How good and how pleasant it would be Before GOD and man, yeah To see the unification of all Africans, yeah As it’s been said already let it be done, yeah We are the children of the Rastaman We are the children of the Higher Man Africa, unite ’cause the children wanna come home Africa, unite ’cause we’re moving right out of Babylon And we’re grooving to our father’s land How good and how pleasant it would be Before GOD and man To see the unification of all Rastaman, yeah As it’s been said already let it be done I tell you who we are under the sun We are the children of the Rastaman We are the children of the Higher Man So, Africa, unite, Africa, unite Unite for the benefit of your people Unite for it’s later than you think Unite for the benefit of your children Unite for it’s later than you think Africa awaits its creators, Africa awaiting its creators Africa, you’re my forefather cornerstone Unite for the Africans abroad, unite for the Africans a yard Africa, Unite
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When I Know the Power of My Black Hands By Lance Jeffers I do not know the power of my hand, I do not know the power of my black hand. I sit slumped in the conviction that I am powerless, tolerate ceilings that make me bend. My godly mind stoops, my ambition is crippled; I do not know the power of my hand. I see my children stunted, my young men slaughtered, I do not know the mighty power of my hand. I see the power over my life and death in another man’s hands, and sometimes I shake my woolly head and wonder: Lord have mercy. What would it be like . . . to be free? But when I know the mighty power of my black hand I will snatch my freedom from the tyrant’s mouth, know the first taste of freedom on my eager tongue, sing the miracle of freedom with all the force of my lungs, christen my black land with exuberant creation, stand independent in the hall of nations, root submission and dependence from the soil of my soul and pitch the monument of slavery from my back when I know the mighty power of my hand!
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#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
#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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Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis
Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America.
This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as “the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field ‘cut their teeth’.”
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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 Mammys behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own familys 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.
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By Marcus Rediker
In this groundbreaking work, historian and scholar Rediker considers the relationships between the slave ship captain and his crew, between the sailors and the slaves, and among the captives themselves as they endured the violent, terror-filled and often deadly journey between the coasts of Africa and America. While he makes fresh use of those who left their mark in written records (Olaudah Equiano, James Field Stanfield, John Newton), Rediker is remarkably attentive to the experiences of the enslaved women, from whom we have no written accounts, and of the common seaman, who he says was a victim of the slave trade . . . and a victimizer. Regarding these vessels as a strange and potent combination of war machine, mobile prison, and factory, Rediker expands the scholarship on how the ships not only delivered millions of people to slavery, [but] prepared them for it. He engages readers in maritime detail (how ships were made, how crews were fed) and renders the archival (letters, logs and legal hearings) accessible. Painful as this powerful book often is, Rediker does not lose sight of the humanity of even the most egregious participants, from African traders to English merchants. Publishers Weekly
Marcus Rediker is professor of maritime history at the University of Pittsburgh and the author of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (1987), The Many-Headed Hydra (2000), and Villains of All Nations (2005), books that explore seafaring, piracy, and the origins of globalization. In The Slave Ship, Rediker combines exhaustive research with an astute and highly readable synthesis of the material, balancing documentary snapshots with an ear for gripping narrative. Critics compare the impact of Redikers history, unique for its ship-deck perspective, to similarly compelling fictional accounts of slavery in Toni Morrisons Beloved and Charles Johnsons Middle Passage. Even scholars who have written on the subject defer to Redikers vast knowledge of the subject. Bottom line: The Slave Ship is sure to become a classic of its subject.
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By Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
Jeffers derives her form and jaunty, deal-with-it attitude from the blues, an American tradition that beats back despair with wit, élan, and grace. Artfully distilled, Jeffers’ musical and forthright lyrics cut to the chase in their depictions of self-destructive love, treacherous family life, and sexual passion turned oppressive or violent. She calls on her mentors, soulful musicians such as Dinah Washington, James Brown, John Coltrane, and Aretha Franklin, for guidance, then, sustained by their voices, segues into vivid imaginings of the inner lives of biblical figures such as Sarah, Hagar, and Lot’s wife; a man about to be lynched; and a former slave bravely attending college. And whether she’s singing the “battered blues” or critiquing Hollywood’s depiction of slavery, Jeffers is questioning the nature and presence of God. Booklist
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By Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
In her third book of poems, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers expresses her familiarity with the actual and imaginary spaces that the American South occupies in our cultural lexicon. Her two earlier books of poetry, The Gospel of Barbecue and Outlandish Blues, use the blues poetic to explore notions of history and trauma. Now, in Red Clay Suite, Jeffers approaches the southern landscape as utopia and dystopiaa crossroads of race, gender, and blood. These poems signal the ending movement of her crossroads blues and complete the last four bars of a blues song, resting on the final, and essential, note of resolution and reconciliation.
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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 acceptor at least endurethe 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 books 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 Bodys 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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From The World and Africa, 1965
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posted 30 August 2010