Friday, November 27, 2015

ICYMI: The Last Week in Black Writing and Culture (11/20-11/27)

KU graduate student Dion Simmons provided HBW with his take on the recent town hall meeting.  Stay tuned for Charlesia McKinney's take on race relations in the university next week!

Ta-Nehisi Coates, 2015 National Book Award winner for non-fiction, sat down with NPR to discuss issues of race and his writing process.

A half-century after its publication, Earnest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast has hit the French best seller list following the recent Paris attacks.

Rich Benjamin, author of Searching for Whitopia, talked about his 27,000 mile, 2 year journey through the fastest growing (and whitest) "utopias" in America, or what he calls "Whitopias."

The Washington Post named the ten best books of 2015.

The New York Times also released its list of 100 notable books of 2015.

Join Project HBW for a webinar with Sonia Sanchez on December 3rd. Click here to register and click here to find out more about the webinar series.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Graduate Student's Take on the University of Kansas's Town Hall Meeting on Diversity

Editor's note: Last week, Maryemma Graham wrote a piece, "The Huck Finn Syndrome," addressing the racial injustices across college campuses. The week prior, KU held a town hall meeting to talk through the racial problems that have persisted at the University of Kansas. KU's very own Dion Simmons was not only in attendance, but spoke out against and questioned these racial problems in front of the thousands of students, faculty, administrators, and concerned citizens in attendance. Dion Simmons and Charlesia McKinney have both agreed to provide us with their takes on the town hall meeting. McKinney also spoke out at the meeting and expressed concern not only as a student but a teacher. This two-part series will start with Dion Simmons's take on the town hall meeting; next week, Charlesia McKinney will speak about racial dynamics at KU. 

If the town hall meeting held at KU on November 11th were to be summed up into one word, I would choose the word “Enlightening.” The tension of not knowing what to expect loomed over the Kansas Union as hundreds of people funneled in, mostly silent and pensive. Greetings were even different. When asked how they were, many people responded with “we will see,” or something similar to that response. People entered carrying pain, frustration, anger, and outrage, and, for once, displayed these emotions outwardly and unapologetically. Students, undergraduate and graduate alike, along with faculty, staff, administration, members of the community, as well as members of the state government filled the auditorium, both seated, in standing room, and in the overflow room across the hall.

The University of Kansas chancellor, Bernadette Gray-Little, stood at the front and opened the meeting by saying that she would offer a brief statement and then would open the floor for questions and comments. Her brief statement included a concise summation of KU’s current multicultural, inclusion, and diversification efforts followed by the admission that “it is not enough.” She then asked that the audience offer as many solutions as possible. From the very first comments, the rhetoric and purpose of the conversation on “diversity” (as opposed to “anti-black racism”) was repeatedly challenged. Students then began to open and bare the pains they have felt at the hand of KU’s students, faculty, and administration. Tears were shed, voices were shaky, and the emotions carried into the room began to flow freely through the auditorium. Faculty laid bare their frustrations with their colleagues and their lack of commitment to the social environment created and the cultural knowledge given to KU’s students. The motives of the audience were even called into question by a few commenters who phrased themselves as justifiably “ANGRY!”

Friday, November 20, 2015

ICYMI: The Last Week in Black Writing (11/13-11/20)

Maryemma Graham wrote a piece addressing the racial tensions across college campuses - "The Huck Finn Syndrome."

The 66th Annual National Book Awards were announced in New York City this week. The winners included Adam Johnson in fiction, Ta-Nehisi Coates in nonfiction, Robin Coste Lewis in poetry, and Neal Shusterman in young people's literature.

Nicki Minaj recited Maya Angelou's poem "Still I Rise" at Shining a Light: A Concert for Progress on Race in America, a benefit concert geared to raise money to bring awareness to racial inequality in America.

Sara Crutcher wrote a children's book highlighting the importance of adopting black children. Crutcher was an adopted child who went on to have a successful career as an advertising executive. Her book, Heart Picked: Elizabeth’s Adoption Tale, calls attention to the racial disparity of black children in foster homes and seeks to educate children and parents on the adoption process.

Artist Leroy Campbell captures Gullah and Geechee culture in his new coffee table book, My Authentic Self.

"Has American Slavery Been Cut out of American Classrooms?" Your Black World discusses contemporary education and its treatment of the black past.

The Washington Post compiled a list of major book news for 2015. See what you missed!

See Malcolm X ask, "Who are you?"

In case you missed our fourth webinar of the semester with Jericho Brown, click here to see the video of the talk! Be sure to join us on December 1st for our webinar with Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie. Register for that webinar here. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Huck Finn Syndrome

On Saturday, November 7, I left the United States for a brief teaching stint in China. I left the U.S. in the midst of a raging controversy at nearby MIZZOU, one of the most recent universities to remind us of how little progress we have made in the war against racism in this country.

University of Missouri graduate student Jonathan Butler put his life on the line by beginning a hunger strike to draw attention to an inept and callous administration, pledging to continue until both the president and chancellor of MIZZOU resigned. Jonathans actions made me proud, and the MIZZOU football team made me even more proud. But I knew not to gloat too long, since eruptions continue to occur as a matter of routine.

When I heard about the negative incident at MIZZOU, frankly, I was filled with dreadthe same kind of dread Richard Wright describes in The Outsider. I left the U.S. with a heavy heart, knowing how important it was for me as an engaged scholar and activist to lend my support and voice whenever injustice raises its ugly head.  Like many of my colleagues, I cannot forget how I got to this part of the academy, and why excellence brings with it social, moral and ethical responsibilities.