ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
True black religion existed for the slave generations . . .church was the same as community
and was primarily congregational in worship, when all worshipers stood equal before the Lord
Death of the Black Church
Or, the Liberation of Black Female Religious
Conversation with Latorial and Jeannette
Latorial: I like this conversation Jeanette and Rudy. Jeanette, as a girl whos been in church all of my life, I can certainly agree with you there. The problem is . . . people on the outside think that many people on the inside and in the pews have “made it” and need to be reaching back to pull other brothers and sisters up. But the truth is as you have already stated it. Often times, we’re just people looking the part and standing tall in middle class America, and more often than not, we’re just as broken inside mentally, emotionally and spiritually as those who economically and otherwise need our help.
I just think that our history has damaged us to the core in many instances. It’s not an excuse, but the abuse left stains for black men and women that only God can erase. We’ve gotten so caught up in materialism and jobs and making it, that we’ve neglected the whole: “each one reach one” motto.
Many churches are doing the work of God for the poor and needy, and unfortunately, others are not. Keep dialoguing. It’s falling on hearing ears even when you think it’s not.
Jeannette: Latorial, thank you so much for the feedback. I sincerely appreciate it and your perspective. I have been in and out of the church (building) all of my life too. Now I find God in all kinds of places, colors and faces, and religious expressions different from my Baptist and Christian upbringing. What I have really learned about God has to do with love, intimacy and trust which were all my personal issues (because I was incredibly angry with Him/Her.) God is love. Intimacy and trust with God are possible. I have only recently learned this and I am no spring chicken.
When God gave me the idea to make the purple ribbons, it was a moment of deep intimacy and I had no idea how I would finance it or even what ribbon cost. It didn’t matter. Trust was not an issue…and I was right. He has provided. The purple ribbons are not my project. They are God’s project and I have no full idea of what He has in mind. (I think I have an inking, but no full knowledge.) I cannot fathom, but I trust God and the process. In Revolutionary Suicide, Newton says “revolution is not an action, but a process.”
I, YOU, WE are engaged in a process with these ribbons and it will be thrilling to see/feel how it evolves.
Latorial, you are so right. The churches are filled with aching, hurting people who have been abused (intergenerationally going back to the times of enslavement which fits into social work family systems theory just fine, the way I understand it) and are still abusing themselves individually and each other.
Our people are bone-weary and bleeding. Turning our pain back on ourselves (implosion) is an alternative to explosion. If our men explode on the job, they get fired, shot or lynched. So, who then will feed the children? I’ve heard brothers testimonies in church
about how/what they must endure in the work place. These church folks are also one step away from not having enough gas to get out of town and maxed out charge cards. They don’t have the energy or inclination to hold conversations with the drug dealers on the corner.
I know for sure that many teen age drug dealers would welcome conversation from the folks coming out of church (and ignoring them) but everyone is too weary to talk to them…rushing home to take care of their own problems. These young men know their lives are doomed, that they are oppressed and many are thirsty for an alternative, which according to the Christian church should be Jesus. Jesus was not too tired, busy or concerned with how to pay for his sandals to walk through neighborhoods.
Though I am a harsh critic of what I see in the black baptist church, I understand all of the pain that keeps folk “accepting oppression” as Rap Brown (?) stated. I did not come to this understanding until more recently when I began to develop more intimacies with people in the church.
Then I learned how badly they are hurting and yes, some churches are doing a good job, at least trying to embrace and put their arms about poor folks in concrete loving ways that will make a difference in their lives, like learning how to read, or teaching parenting/budgeting skills.
My frustrations are in part related to the fact that I am impatient, have not found such a church and in general need a lot of emotional space so I can think. In the past it has taken a while for me to “fit in” to most Baptist churches (except the one I grew up in Newport News which I seldom frequent.) However as I claim/prove(?) who I am, an artist, this may change. I find that we (folks of color) tend to love “artists,” if they are known. I would imagine that the people in Maya Angelou’s church adore her. I really don’t know.
Yes Rudy, psychologically, our people are imploding, that is, turning all of our pain/abuse back onto ourselves. I don’t think this has much to do with thinking with integrity and dignity. Integrity has to do with honesty and the honest truth for many is “I can just barely hold it together, so let me try and act a little dignified up in here (church) for a few hours.”
The alternative to implosion is explosion and that would bring out the SWAT teams or some such governmental force, would it not?
Rudy: Topics like church and religion make me uneasy, and especially when one talks about individual beliefs and faith and how well they have been absorbed and lived. It gives me no pleasure at all in taking up the subject of how blacks actually live out their religion and how the Black Church actually operates in our lives. Of course, as black women, you probably are much more familiar with those intimate matters than I. I say that only because it is primarily black women who make the numbers in the Black Church. I am like most black men at odds with and outside the Black Church.
But the role of the black church in liberation struggle is a necessary topic. It needs more poignant reflective thought than it has been given in the last several decades. In my humble view the so-called black church is probably one of the most reactionary, perverse institutions within the black community, and have become more so since the deaths of Martin and Malcolm. There was hope when it retained its congregational, community, agrarian oriented aspects. As it manifests itself in urban centers in the South, North, elsewhere, they are harbors for sycophants, demagogues, and scoundrelsnow educated and trained in the best seminaries, thereafter loaded down with well-honed dogma.
They are more akin to ceos and censors than the poor prophet from Nazareth. So I am not surprised that the emotional ills derived from racial oppression are not getting healed and served there. These male religious leaders (primarily) are aligned with the status quo.
Their primary message is the gospel of success. Pyramid schemes thrive in these institutions. Let me remind you: institutions by nature are conservative. That for which they were created becomes secondary. Much of the energy and resources are spent on preserving the institution rather than the service it symbolically represents. That means the preachers and their clique gained more than any from church activity.
From my view black church authorities are the primary purveyors of the worst in black thought when it comes to moral, social, and political views. Du Bois didnt trust them. I have not trusted them since I was baptized. Most of them did not support King and the Civil Rights movement. That was why King had to create SCLC. The Black Baptist Convention and its leaders were a hotbed of reactionary acts and conservatism. But all these authorities received benefits from it. Most of them did not support the Black Consciousness Movement. But they all received benefits from those sacrifices.
The black church is dead and it has been dead for sometime. It was stillborn but it has been propped up as if it were a real living being. Thats the great deceit. This Great Lie has been propagated too long about the vitality and creativity of the Black Church. That notion only serves the interest of the preachers and their handlers. These fellows have to be brought down a peg or two, or even further. They are excellent functionaries. But as far as the social, moral, and political their voices are in reality very small and rather insignificant in that they are ventriloquists, rather than prophets of the Lord, liberators of the poor and the powerless.
Religion and church are sustained and fostered by the interrelated activities of the people on a daily basis. It is not in ritual. It is not in romanticization of institutions. It is not in glorifying he who created the largest edifice. It is not in whether your church is on radio or TV. It is not in the cut and quality of cloth you wear to church. It is not in how well the preacher speaks. Religion and church are not in any of these superficialities.
What is called the Black Church today is a collar and a chain around our necks. In the last several decades we have experienced atrophy in the development of black religion in America. That has resulted from an excess of black theologians and doctors of divinities. It is they who have driven a stake in its development, and purely for reasons of self aggrandizement and self promotion. They want the people totally dependent on them.
We must not only wake up, we must grow up. Each of us much be experts in our own religion. We must realize that real religion is a growing, living thing. Individuals acting as community create and sustain religion, not institutions. In this new world, we must be open to thoughts and ideas of all religions and philosophies of life, as we are in our literature, in our music, in our art. We must liberate religion and church from the priests. And in this, women have a great role to play.
That black women do not run the Black Church today is an extraordinary absurdity and sign of the oppressiveness of the Black Church and black religion. Black women need to free themselves from the church as it is now organized and find religious rapprochement with the men in their lives. This process will go a long way to reviving the spirits and women now in the Black Church.
There are many steps between “implosion” and “explosion.” We do not have to confine ourselves to negatives. There are many little steps one can take.
Jeannette: Rudy, your insights never cease to amaze me. “The black church is dead and has been for sometime.” I’d never thought of it in terms of being totally “dead.” I suppose I’ve been thinking that it’s in the process of dying. I think you are right. What exists now seems at best a sad shadow of the past…and for all the reasons you state.
Increasingly though, I see more black women assuming roles of preacher/priests. I don’t know if this will bring new life in any overall sense.
I agree that Black Women need to free themselves from the church as it is organized now and find religious rapprochement with the men in their lives. This is ideal. However it raises other issues. I suspect, though I could be wrong, that many black women are “bound” to the church because there are no men in their lives…
Yes, you are right, there are many small steps between implosion and explosion, just as there are between suicide and homicide. We do not have to think in negatives.
Part II. Martin, Malcolm, & Televangelists
Latorial: Jeanette, don’t get me wrong. The black church in the sense of how the whole US knew it years ago is gone, and I think it should if it means embracing sound doctrines for perilous times.
To be honest, all that’s happened to the black church is that it has become more liberated, more educated and more spiritual. In a sense, a long time ago, all we had was the mold that white folks set for us. We became Baptists because they were baptists. We became methodists or episcopals because that’s what we saw.
I’m glad that we have learned how to move beyond denomination and see the real picture of salvation and accountability. Of the two churches that I came up in back home, they both have been liberated in a sense, one for the better and the other for the worse. I still think that it all boils down to leadership.
We cannot move forward without the traditions on which we were founded. But we also cannot move forward and progress as real Christians if we don’t adopt new ways to carry out the word of God.
I am comfortable in just about any church, and I really don’t care what the name or denomination is. My soul mission in seeking a church home for my family is that it has a leader with true salvation, revelation and a heart for bringing everyone else closer to God. Different churches have to adopt different things to make that work. You have to keep in mind the locations and environments that a lot of pastors are confronted with.
For the first time in my life I joined a nondenominational church because it was where God wanted me to be at that time in my life. Does it mean I’ve turned my back on my baptist roots. No. I am who I am, and all of my history makes me stronger and makes me great.
I liked the fact that this new church I had joined would not allow members to serve on ministries or auxiliaries if they drank or smoke. Not that those are the only two sins in the world, but this church had a sense of accountability, from the pastor on down. I liked the fact that if you shunned your leadership, you were removed from leadership. We talk about preachers all of the time, and in today’s church, many of the ministry servants and leaders go on to become pastors. How can you become a great leader if you cannot follow. That’s a great piece of advice for us all in any arena.
In my daily living, I strive hard to be all that I can in every environment: my home, my community, church and the workplace. I honestly don’t think there’s going to be a black church in heaven, and while we needed one in America, I think that the day should come when we don’t need a “black” church per se.
We’ve come a long way. We have a long way to go, but I think that those of us who find the means to worship beyond the color line and love beyond the color line . . . I think that’s wonderful. I will be the first to admit, that although I’ve been in nondenominational churches of mixed races like TD Jakes’ or Creflo Dollars or Rev. Price or Eddic Long . . . those churches are still quite black. The majority of the membership is black, over 80-90% in just about every case. It’s still a black church promoting black awareness, black history and black empowerment. Others have joined in, and that’s the beauty of it. So, in that sense do I say that the black church is disappearing, and in this sense, we have not lost a thing.
I have thought of becoming a minister often. Who knows? One day it may happen. My life is truly a ministry in many ways.
My mother-in-law is an ordained preacher, and she faces many challenges as a woman, but yes, like Harriett Tubman, we get up even when our own men knock us down. It’s a God calling, not a worldly calling.
Jeannette: Dear Latorial, Thanks for sharing your perceptions and experiences. At this point (and age) in my life I don’t necessarily feel the need for a church “leader.” I may enjoy a minister’s interpretation of scripture, but I will challenge it if I do not agree. This has often been the case in the last 20 years (without difficulty because the black male ministers I challenged were professors of theology, open to and not threatened by debate.)
My dream (after dialoguing with Rudy) was about the need for fellowship.” In addition to listening to another person’s interpretation of scripture, what the “organized body of believers” gives me is a sense of extended family. This is peculiar to my life and circumstances. So going to the church building to be with others meets a basic need that doesn’t have a lot to do with God, except that it gives one the opportunity to deal with interpersonal relationshipswhich may sometimes be difficult. (Do I really want to turn the other cheek or just smack that person?)
For me, “closeness” to God may come sitting in silence with or without the Quakers, by a stream listening to water running over rocks, on a mountain singing to or with the wind or in conversation with a borderline psychotic who is homeless. I don’t think God necessarily has anything to do with the “church.” We go to church out of habit, tradition and personal need.
I think each person has to come to know God for herself. Thus far, I have concluded that God mainly holds me accountable for love of my fellow earthlings.
God’s essence becomes manifest in the world when I relate lovingly to those who differ from me, that is in terms of religion, race, creed, color, class, socio-economic status, sexual preference, handicapping conditions, age, etc., etc. I may be a reflection of God if I choose. God is love. Oppression transgresses love. Oppression is sin.
Latorial: Jeanette, I think that in the end, we’ll all have something right and something wrong when it comes to God. Over the years, we’ve been lost to form, fashion and interpretation, and it’s sad. We’re so busy trying to put God in a jar in this world, and I don’t think anyone really understands that He cannot be contained. He’s bigger than any of us can ever imagine. He transcends time, denomination, race and gender.
Finally, he transcends literal interpretation. His Word is spiritual. We often read the scripture that GOD is able to do “abundantly and exceedingly” more than we could ever imagine, yet we continue to imagine Him doing simple things in life like blessing us with “things.” That’s not God! God is not simple. Life is. We think it’s complicated, but really it’s not. It can be reduced to good and evil, love and hate.
Yet we keep trying to reduce it to black and white. We’ve been living in the wrong dimension. God can’t be contained in 4 walls, but I do believe that where 2 or 3 are gathered in His name, He’ll show up in a mighty wind. But He can also show up in each of us individually where ever we are . . . in our minds, bodies and souls. All we have to do is let Him in.
Jeannette: Latorial, Where two or three are gathered…these dialogues, with Rudy as moderator, are a Mighty, Mighty Wind. God is in the midst of us. Amen
Rudy: We have been talking pass one another. I see the death of the black church as a tragedy. You think that the old black church of the spirituals has been supplanted by a church that is rather new and marvelouswith such ilk as TD Jakes’ or Creflo Dollars or Rev. Price or Eddie Long. They have spawned a whole new generation of scoundrels, demagogues, and sycophants. It is such as these who propagate todays gospel of success. These are the televangelists who place exaggerated emphasis on what they call salvation, which in actuality is an exaggerated concern for individual welfare at the expense of community.
My sense of black religious history is at great odds with yours. True black religion existed for the slave generations, those who left us the so-called sorrow songs, which included Im a Soldier in the Army of the Lord. In that dynamic era, church was the same as community, and was primarily congregational in worship, when all worshipers stood equal before the Lord. As soon as the first nail was hammered to build the first black church, black religion was in its death throes. As nearest as I can reckon the date of the death of the black church is the year 1870, when the former slaves began to build the first buildings for denominational worship and began to be led by seminary trained preachers.
Since those days the perversion of the black church has only worsened. As preachers and pastors have become more seminary-trained they have resurrected only gaudy shadows of that which was murdered over a century ago when the armies of the Lord liberated his people. Black Christian leaders continually lead black congregants back into the slavery of Egypt and the status quo of American politics, which is racist at its core.
Today, we celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King when so little or no sense of what Martin King achieved religiously and theologically. We have not studied his work. As soon as he was in the ground, the dead ghostly black church was again brought out of the closet, to continue the spiritual ventriloquism of yesteryear. King’s religious and theological significance is that he tried to revive that religion which was handed down by our Christian slave ancestors, but which was soon abandoned when the Negro was declared free and free to organize religiously.
King knew clearly the distinction between salvation and liberation.
King strove to bring forth again that religion of liberation. There was too much minutiae of doctrine and dogma, in which people were devalued and set beyond salvation because they were outside of the church smoking, shooting crap, listening to blues and drinking. For he understood the church had lost its relevance. Martin’s appeal was to those who didnt have the right clothes, the right shoes and hats, and the right manners to satisfy those better donned, better shod, and exceedingly sophisticated and much more skilled in concealing their sinning and shiftiness. Today, of these we have an abundance.
In order to liberate the black church, King searched and studied the best in modern philosophy and non-christian religions, like Hinduism and Buddhism. Black religion was thus re-infused with a social and theological vitality lost in 1870 and what emerged was a new sense of us as a people with a social mission and vision. This renewed religious vitality was cut off at the knees with Kings death, and also that of Malcolms. Black religion, that of the church and the mosque, lapsed back into its previous moribund state.
The black church cannot be liberated, unless it returns to its former democratic community-oriented congregational structure. This liberation can only be accomplished by an excellent liberal arts education, one informed by scientific study, and by a study and sympathy for other religious traditions including those of the Amerindians, Asians, and Africans. Its liberation cannot be achieved until the seminary handed down doctrines and dogmas that divide us are perceived as not worthy of our struggle and mission as a people. Leaders cannot accomplish this for us. In the 21st century this is what we must do for ourselves for the salvation of us all, and especially of the poor.
created 17 October 2005
* * * * *
Pragmatism and the Challenges of Post-Soul PoliticsJohn Dewey once said that every generation has to accomplish democracy for itself, because social justice is something that cannot be handed down from one person to another: it has to be worked out in terms of the needs, problems, and conditions of the present moment and its distinct challenges. Black politics have grown increasingly stagnant and even ineffectual because of their basis in the sufferings and indignities of the past instead of the real-life obstacles of the present moment. Poor health, alarming rates of imprisonment, drugs, and the advanced concentration of poverty in our nations cities warrant a form of political engagement that steps out of the shadows of the black freedom struggles of the 1960s and rises to the complexities of the 21st century with more innovative thinking, a greater emphasis on responsibility and personal accountability, and a fuller embrace of education and participatory democracy. Eddie Glaude, Jr./ NewRacialStudies
* * * * *
Other Responses by Edward J. Blum (Sympathy, Frustration and Reform), Ronald B. Neal (RIP: The Myth of the Black Church), William D. Hart (The Afterlife of the Black Church), Jonathan L. Walton (“The Black Church Aint Dead! (But Maybe It Should Be?)”), Anthea Butler (“Saying Its Dead Doesnt Kill It”), and Josef Sorett (’This is the Air I Breathe’: Unpacking Post-Black Church Proclamations”).
* * * * *
Is the Black Church Dead?Debate Flares Among African-American ChristiansBy David GibsonThe Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose birthday the nation commemorates on Monday, was a product of the black church, and the black church has arguably done as much as any Christian community to inspire the soul and culture of modern American society. It has supplied the prophetic language that has driven the nation’s ongoing reconciliation with the original sin of slavery, and it helped form the character of Barack Obama, the nation’s first African-American president and an orator with the delivery of a black preacher.
Yet New Birth Missionary Baptistwith 25,000 members who generously bankroll high-living pastors and high-tech servicesis also emblematic of what many in the African-American community see as a profound crisis in black Christianity, or even the “death” of the black church. One objection is that this prominent Georgia megachurch preaches a money-centered “prosperity gospel” that traditional African-American clergy consider a betrayal of their faith’s legacy of sacrifice and social justice. This focus on personal financial gain represents a kind of cultural conservatism that is spreading among black churches, critics say, and signals a concern for the success of each individual congregation rather than the national community.
In addition, New Birth’s charismatic leader, Bishop Eddie Long, is under intense scrutiny for allegations that he used his position as a spiritual counselor to coerce at least four men into sexual relationships while they were teens, giving them cars and cash in return.
Long and his representatives have denied the charges, saying only that Longwho said he takes pride in being called “Daddy” by the congregantswas just serving as a mentor to the teenagers and did not engage in sex with them. Long, who is 57 and married (and an opponent of gay rights) freely admits that he is “not perfect.” But he is also not about to step aside from his pulpit, and, more importantly, his congregation has rallied to his side. “Of course we support him,” a congregant who gave his name only as Roger said after a nearly three-hour service of rollicking music and praise for Long, and insistent appeals for donationsappeals that were repeatedly answered as thousands streamed up to the pulpit to lay wads of cash in a growing pile on the stage.
* * * * *
Jeannette Drake, a licensed clinical social worker, specializes in Dream and Expressive work in group settings. She has conducted individual and group sessions with adults, adolescents and children in schools, colleges, hospitals, prisons, churches, shelters, and art galleries as case worker, counselor, psychotherapist, teacher, tutor, and writer.
Her writings have been published in Honey Hush! An Anthology of African American Writer’s Humor, Callaloo: A Journal of African American Arts & Letters, The Southern Review, New Virginia Review, The Book of Hope & The World Healing Books, The Sun: A Magazine of Ideas, Richmond Free Press, Coloring Book: An Eclectic Anthology of Fiction and Poetry by Multicultural Writers, DisabilityWorld, a bilingual international web-zine and other journals and magazines.
She has performed as a gospel soloist, acted in James Baldwin’s The Amen Corner and leads a monthly book discussion and creative writing group at her church. Her visual art has been exhibited at Richmond City Hall, the Carillon at Byrd Park and the Richmond Public Library (July 1-August 3, 2005). A graduate of Hampton University and Virginia Commonwealth University, she lives in Richmond.
By Jeannette Drake
Journey Within: A Healing Playbook is a fun tool for anyone interested in personal growth, learning how to be more creative or gaining a deeper insight into The Divine. Section One includes 13 original color abstracts that invite the viewer to intentionally go on a playful, inner journey. An optional guide of play instructions is included.
In Section Two the author’s spiritual autobiography provides an inspirational explanation for each drawing.
This Book Is for Someone You Love!
* * * * *
For July 1st through August 31st 2011
#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
* * * * *
By Charles C. Mann
Im a big fan of Charles Manns previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. Its exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that its anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, Im proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, globalized entity.
Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple. We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.
* * * * *
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 Americas past made by Mr. Obamas 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. Kennedys father relished Muhammad Alis quip that the Vietcong had never called him nigger. The author places his father, and Mr. Wright, in sympathetic historical light.
* * * * *
From The World and Africa, 1965
* * * * *
* * * * *
If you like this page consider making a donation
online through PayPal
* * * * *
Browse all issues
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
update 9 April 2010