Thursday, October 27, 2011

Contemporary Toasts By Black Women in Music

[By Alysha Griffin]

The space for women to enter into Hip Hop is a small one. However, once through, female singers and emcees have held their own against the objectifying and misogynistic nature of Hip Hop culture. Although few have entered on the Hip Hop stage, many have established their lyrical dominance and street credibility. For this, HBW salutes contemporary, female “toast masters.”

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Toasts, Black Women, and Hip Hop

[By Alysha Griffin]

The canon of African American literature overflows with stories of Stagolees, Shines, and Signifying Monkeys. These antiheroic figures in African American culture created the paradigm for the poetic form known as the toast. Derived from black folklore, toasts are narratives in which a character overcomes a sequence of events. In doing so, they illustrate their extraordinary physical and lyrical abilities. Usually told by male personas, they function to attest to one’s street credibility and physical abilities.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Exploring the Tight Bond between Music and Poetry

[By Cindy Lyles]

Whether found in Amiri Baraka mimicking piano chords in “In Walked Bud” or in quoting the 1970s Hit “Be Thankful for What You’ve Got (Diamond in the Back)” like Allison Joseph does in “Thirty Lines about the Fro,” music has a home in poetry. Melodic tunes tend to set the mood and evoke just the right feeling the poet needs to convey a story. The previous two examples and so many more exemplify this idea, but just as music enhances poetry, so too does the artistry of poetry add to music. Such is the case with rapper Kanye West’s “Never Let Me Down.”

Monday, October 24, 2011

Musical Influences on Black Writing

[By Kenton Rambsy]

Music serves as a backdrop for black writing and informs character interactions, novel settings, reader responses to novels, short stories, and poetry. For instance, consider James Weldon Johnson’s the Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man and how issues of black identity were related to ragtime.

In his novel, music takes center stage as the events unfold throughout the novel and the story’s protagonist comes to a greater awareness of his identity. The unnamed narrator is a child musical prodigy that excels in his piano playing abilities.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Report of Black Literary Suite: New York Edition

[By Kenton Rambsy]

On, Thursday, October 6, 2011, The Project on the History of Black Writing (HBW) presented showing of selections from the “100 Novels” project in the Memorial Union, Governor’s Room. Black Literary Suite: New York Edition was the third public exhibit sponsored by the HBW. This is a walk-through, multimedia exhibit, allowed visitors to use MP3 players to listen to commentaries and view displays related to the period.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Call to War: The Cancer Journals

Phillis h. Rambsy is an attorney and educator. In addition to her work in the fields of law and education, Phillis also studies, writes, and speaks about theological issues as well as issues concerning health and wellness. Phillis is powerfully committed to encouraging individuals to attain lives that are spiritually, physically, and mentally healthy.

Kevine Reeves--s.m.i.l.e.

HBW Guest Blogger Kevin Reeves, in his blog post, reminds our readers of the importance of young writers having models. Reeves writes, “Young writers need models. Early in my apprenticeship my predecessors fed me greatly.”

With his debut novel, s.m.i.l.e., Reeves seeks to “add to America’s cross-cultural storytelling tradition, which was fortified by those who inspired me, those storytellers in literature and in Hip Hop.”

Colson Whitehead, zombies, and afrofuturism

[By Howard Rambsy II]

Colson Whitehead’s previous novel The Intuitionist and John Henry Days lent themselves to afrofuturist examinations. In particular, the novels covered issues about the intersections between race and mechanical technologies.

Zone One corresponds to afrofuturism, but rather than mechanical technologies, Whitehead's "zombie" novel might be categorized as speculative fiction. The book reveals Whitehead delving into a popular genre that has nonetheless been rarely explored by major black authors of "literary" or "serious" fiction.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Top 10 list for Colson Whitehead’s The Intuitionist

[By Howard Rambsy II]

Every year that I've assigned Colson Whitehead’s The Intuitionist, folks in the classes who have some initial difficulties with the book want to know what made me choose it. For some reason, I typically stumble through answers. Over the years, I’ve developed a list to that addresses their questions. I think. Perhaps. Maybe.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Coverage of.... Zone One By Colson Whitehead

[Compiled by Howard Rambsy II]

Here’s a sketch of the coverage of Zone One by Colson Whitehead. The pre-publication attention that the work has received has been remarkable.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Colson Whitehead & the Upper Floors

[By Howard Rambsy II]

“Literary reputations may not always rise and fall as predictably as elevators,” noted Gary Krist toward the end of a February 7, 1999 review of The Intuitionist. “But if there's any justice in the world of fiction, Colson Whitehead's should be heading toward the upper floors.”

Perhaps there’s some justice, because Whitehead has risen to those upper floors. It’s necessary of course to qualify with “some” justice, because for every novelist that has ascended those upper floors, many stayed put on the ground levels or mid-levels despite their talents. A large number of novelists—African American and otherwise—could attest to how unjust the world of fiction can be.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Colson Whitehead, Zone One, and Publishing History

[By Howard Rambsy II]

Next Tuesday, October 18, will mark the release of Colson Whitehead’s novel Zone One. His previous four novels and one work of creative non-fiction, The Colossus of New York have helped make him one of our leading literary figures. Whitehead has distinguished himself as a really inventive writer, and with this upcoming “zombie” novel, he seems to further stretch the boundaries of the kinds of topics that a prominent African American novelist might address.

As far as novels by African American writers go, Zone One has received an extraordinary amount of pre-publication buzz. Harper’s, GQ, Esquire, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, Vogue, and Publishers Weekly are some of the publications that have already provided coverage and thus publicity for Whitehead’s book.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Afrofuturism & the Expression-Scriber; or why Amiri Baraka thinks a typewriter is corny

[By Howard Rambsy, II]

Some years ago when I began participating in Alondra Nelson’s “afrofuturism” online forum and as I worked to gain a clearer understanding of AF as a framework, I started looking out for works that I had previously overlooked or under-studied concerning technological ideas and speculative narratives.  No doubt one of my greatest finds or re-discoveries was Amiri Baraka’s essay “Technology & Ethos,” which appeared in Amistad 2 (1971) edited by Charles F. Harris and John A. Williams.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Katherine Dunham’s Use of Technology and Dance

[By Danielle Hall]

Some of what I have found most fascinating while researching Katherine Dunham as an intellectual involve examining the ways in which she used technology (film and musical recording devices) and her dance technique to advance the knowledge and studies of black people and Diasporan cultures throughout the world.

Dance, then, functioned as a form of “Diaspora literacy” (as coined by VèVè Clark) for Dunham in that she communicated ideas about black identity and self-determination to her audience world-wide. Thus, her work within and beyond black communities, covering many artistic forms of expression such as music, dance, drama, film, theatre, and writing, demonstrates many different modes of black creativity and expression in America.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Break It Down: Ask Your Mama--Excerpt from “Horn of Plenty”

“Break It Down” is an HBW Literary Blog initiative that strives to offer critical interpretations of song lyrics, excerpts from novels, and poems.

This week, Blog Contributor Alysha Griffin has analyzed an excerpt from Langston Hughes's Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz. She continues her conversation from yesterday as she looks at an excerpt from "Horn of Plenty."

Monday, October 3, 2011

Ask Your Mama: Langston Hughes and Afrofuturism

[By Alysha Griffin]

My best friends and I used to be fond of playing the dozens—particularly, exchanging “yo’ mama” jokes. Too young to realize how problematic this was from a historical angle, we realized that this was probably something we should avoid only when the battles ended with a fist fight and/or punishment from someone’s angry mother- my best friends were also my first cousins. Needless to say, one of Langston Hughes’s works that I most appreciate is his book length poem, Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz  (AYM)(1961).