ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
I met the celebrated national prize-wining poet Miguel Barnet.
I was introduced to him by Nancy Morejon
Books on Cuba
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Enoch Pratt Librarian
A Conversation on Cuban Life & Culture
Rudy: You have been to Cuba three times within the last year and a half. Could you tell us briefly what is your love for Cuba that you have gone there so frequently?
Herbert: Actually my interest in Cuba goes back a number of years. I think I really became interested in Cuba in the 1970s when I had an opportunity to study Cuban literature and fell in love with the poetry of Nicolas Guillen. It has become much easier to travel to Cuba in recent years than previously. It was upon returning from a trip to Mexico that I learned of a library tour to Cuba to visit libraries throughout the Island that decided that I would finally visit Cuba.
Rudy: So your discovery of Irene Diggs and her dissertation occurred on this first visit?
Herbert: Yes. One of the things that I did to get funding for the trip from my library was to write a proposal to see if I could get a copy of the 1944 dissertation of Irene Diggs, which was written and researched at the University of Havana.
You know, Irene Diggs was a long-time associate of W.E.B. Du Bois and much later a professor of Anthropology and Sociology at Morgan State University. I was very fortunate in that I located her dissertation at the Jose Marti National Library and was granted permission to photocopy her monograph. This monograph is going to become a part of the Afro-American Collection of the Enoch Pratt free Library.
Rudy: So who in Cuba agreed to your photocopying Diggs’ dissertation?
Herbert: Eliades Acosta Matos, the director of the Jose Marti National Library, granted permission for the document to be photocopied.
Rudy: So did you meet or talk to anyone who was familiar with Diggs and the professor she studied with? What was his name?
Herbert: Unfortunately, I didn’t meet anyone who knew Irene Diggs and her studies at the University of Havana. However, her mentor and the subject of her dissertation, Fernando Ortiz was nationally and internationally known. Ortiz was known for his studies on Afro-Cuban culture and society. I met a number of people who knew him and his work.
Rudy: Were there other things of interest that you did and accomplished on this first trip to Cuba. You were there how long?
Herbert: Well, I also did a taping of a children’s librarian reading short stories. This taping will be used for Pratt’s Read A Story Aloud. This is an over-the-phone program in which children can call in and listen to a story being read. In this case they can call in and hear the story being read in Spanish. They are excerpts, not complete stories. I spent two weeks in Cuba on this first visit
Rudy: Did you see other cities than Havana on this first trip?
Herbert : Yes. I flew first into Varadero and from Varadero we went to Mantazas, Pinar del Rio, also Santa Clara, the restored city of Trinidad, and to Vinales. So much of what I did on the first trip was visiting the western part of the island. Because Cuba, the largest of the Caribbean islands, we could concentrate only on one part. Otherwise we would have to fly to another part of the island. We traveled these western cities by bus. We visited a number of libraries as well as other cultural institutions.
Rudy: Outside of Havana, what was the most interesting of these western cities and why?
Herbert: I like Mantanzas very much. I am partial to Mantanzas. It is the sister city of Baltimore and I am an executive board member of the Baltimore-Mantanzas Sister City Organization. There are a number of cultural exchanges planned for the coming year. In fact, we hope to bring a group of women drummers for the Rhythm festival this fall in Baltimore.
Rudy: What about the second trip, which occurred within a year of the first? How did that come about?
Herbert: As it turned out, this was also a library related trip. Imight add it is easier to go to Cuba with some of kind professional organization than otherwise. On this trip we visited the eastern part of the island. The cities of Holquin and Santiago de Cuba.
Rudy: What made this a memorable trip? Is this the trip you rode in the funny taxi?
Herbert: Oh you are referring to the Coco taxi. These are three wheelers used for local traffic. It is just like your normal taxi. Wherever I’d go, I’d used them. The Coco taxis are very common. They are like an open coco shell and I believe they use gas.
I was fortunate to meet and interview several poets in Santiago de Cuba. One was Jesus Cos Causse and Rene Lescay. Both of these names are Haitian names. There is a strong Jamaican and Haitian influence in Santiago.
Rudy: So what about these two poets? What did you discover. Are they known outside of Cuba, have they won national prizes. Are they young older. Tell us a bit about Causse and Lescay.
Herbert: Both of these poets are middle age. Cos Causse. (Cos is the father’s last name and Causse is the mother’s last name.) Cos Causse has written at least six or seen books. All of his books have music in them in some way, at least in the titles. Currently, I am studying one of his books, which is called Concierto de Jazz (Jazz Concert). I find some of the poems to be extraordinary. I hope to translate some into English, so others will be able to appreciate his work.
Lescay is not as well known and has not published as much as Cos Causse. But he too is an excellent poet and also a very good photographer. I have photos of Lescay. I think I also have a photo of Cos Causse. Rene has another last name but I can’t think of it at the moment.
Rudy: So how did these interviews come about? Will you be staying in communication with these two poets?
Herbert: Actually, I was introduced to Cos Causse by Raphael Canpana Ochoa, who is also an artist in Santiago. He was exhibiting in the hotel where I was staying and I mentioned that I had a magazine which had some translations of Cos Caussse poems in English and he mentioned that he was a friend of his and that he would introduce me to him. And that was my meeting of Cos Causse. In the process I met Lescay.
Rudy: Was there anything else of import that occurred on this second trip?
Herbert: I visited the museum called Casa del Caribe in Santiago de Cuba. This museum has different rooms devoted to the major Afro-Cuban religions in Cuba. I found it quite fascinating. These exhibits expose the transculturation of Catholicism and the African religions. Catholicism has been Africanized in Cuba or (what’s the word?) syncretized.
Rudy: Then there was just recently the Nicolas Guillen Centennial Conference. How did that happen and what made that important to attend?
Herbert: I attended this conference as a delegate of the Kwame Toure Institute and Library. Hundreds attended– Africans, Europeans , and Americans. This was a week-long conference which included a number of scholars who had studied the life and works of Guillen. there were scholars from all over the world who either gave papers or were in attendance at the conference.
From the United States there was Robert Marquez, who has translated into English several books by Nicolas Guillen. The Jamaican scholar Keith Ellis and the noted Mexican scholar Monica Mansur. These scholars were among many others who attended this the Guillen conference.
Rudy: So who headed your delegation?
Herbert: I don’t know whether that person wants to be known as the head. It is best to be said that the one who organized the delegation was Bob Brown, who is the executive director of the Kwame Toure Institute and Library. He used to be Kwame Toure’s secretary or personal assistant.
Rudy: So how did the conference go. Were there moments of excitement, disagreement, personal attacks?
Herbert: There were some extraordinary papers on various topics of Guillen’s life and works. I met the celebrated national prize-wining poet Miguel Barnet. I was introduced to him by Nancy Morejon, who is this years national prize for literature winner. She is Afro Cuban. Her book Where the Island Sleeps Like a Wing is an English translation of an earlier book. Morejon was also the person who opened the conference. She is a noted Guillen scholar. Guillen had been a mentor of Morejon.
A number of scholars were awarded plaques for their dedicated work on Guillen life and works. Among them were Keith Ellis, University of Toronto; Robert Marquez, Mount Holyoke College; Monica Mansour, National University of Mexico; Jerome Branch, U of Pittsburgh; including a number of Cuban scholars Nancy, such as Morojon. All papers were read in Spanish.
Pedro Perez Sarduy translated and read the poems of Muhammad Toure in Spanish
Rudy: You also met and talked to Pedro Perez Sarduy at the Nicolas Guillen conference. How did you find this Cuban poet? Is he living there in Cuba?
Herbert: I think Pedro Perez was visiting Cuba. I think he lives in London. I have read his work. He has written several informative anthologies on Afro-Cuban life and culture. He also has an interesting website–AfroCuba Web.
Rudy: You made some interesting book purchases on this trip?
Herbert: As a librarian, I am always in search of good books. I purchased the first Spanish translation of The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois. I picked up Santiago de Cuba: Teatro en la calle and In the Spirit of Wandering Teachers. The first is a pictorial book dealing with carnival in Cuba and the other is on the literacy campaign in the early 60s after the triumph of the Revolution.
Rudy: I understand that you also had some problems getting in and out of Cuba. You carried gifts for the people of Cuba?
Herbert: On behalf of the Matanzas Sister City Organization, I carried medical supplies to Cuba (ten to fifteen pounds)–a set of supplies for Havana and one for the city of Matanzas. I also acquired a scanner for one of the libraries. I was over the weight limits and had to pay a considerable fee.
Because of the materials I carried and possibly the flight I was on, It was very difficult getting into Cuba and getting out. I was exhausted by the time I got back to Baltimore.
Rudy: Do you plan on going back to Cuba any time soon or do you have other travels in mind?
Herbert: Well, tentatively, I am scheduled to do a workshop on telephone reference service at the annual conference of the Cuba Library Association. And I would also like the attend the International Book Fair, which will be held in Havana next year. Now I am on my way to attend a conference in Panama–The Afro-Latin-America Research Association
Rudy: Thanks. Your Cuba trips seemed to have been wonderful and rewarding experiences. I regret I am afraid of flying.
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Cuba is Love, Music, & Dance
Cuba is Africa in the Americas
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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
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By Jim Rasenberger
My telling of the Bay of Pigs thing will certainly not be the first. On the contrary, thousands of pages of official reports, journalism, memoir, and scholarship have been devoted to the invasion, including at least two exceptional books: Haynes Johnsons emotionally charged account published in 1964 and Peter Wydens deeply reported account from 1979. This book owes a debt to both of those, and to many others, as well as to thousands of pages of once-classified documents that have become available over the past fifteen years, thanks in part to the efforts of the National Security Archives, an organization affiliated with George Washington University that seeks to declassify and publish government files. These newer sources, including a CIA inspector generals report, written shortly after the invasion and hidden away in a vault for decades, and a once-secret CIA history compiled in the 1970s, add depth and clarity to our understanding of the event and of the men who planned it and took part in it. . . .
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By Michele Alexander
Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama’s political success and Oprah Winfrey’s financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today… than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don’t know the truth about mass incarcerationbut her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.Publishers Weekly
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By Michael Casey
Illustrated. 388 pages. Vintage Books. $15.95
Casey, Buenos Aires bureau chief for Dow Jones Newswires, tap dances across history and the globe to examine intellectual property and iconography through the lens of the famous image of Che Guevara captured by fashion photographer Alberto Korda. Some say that only the famous photograph of Marilyn Monroe, her skirt rising as she stands over a subway grate, has been more reproduced, writes Casey. The author does not neglect the relevant biographical details or history, but his focus is Che as a brand. He wants to understand why the Korda image remains so compelling to such a wide variety of people and how it continues to represent so many different (and differing) causes; he suggests that the power of Che, the brand, is in its ability to be anything to anyone. The book can feel like a disorderly amalgam of travelogue, visual criticism, biography and reportagefragments befitting a study of globalized culture. Readers interested in the impact of visual culture or in better understanding the elusiveness of intellectual property rights, particularly in a global marketplace, will find much food for thought. Publishers Weekly Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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update 8 November 2008