Monday, November 30, 2015

Black Poetry After the Black Arts Movement Presents: Webinars with Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie and Sonia Sanchez

Please join Project HBW TOMORROW as we have a conversation with Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie in our 6th webinar of the semester! On Thursday, December 3rd Project HBW will talk with Sonia Sanchez.

Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie is the author of two books of poetry, Dear Continuum: Letters to a Poet Crafting Liberation and Karma’s Footsteps, and is also the Poetry Editor of African Voices, a literary magazine. Her work focuses on women, race, ancestry, violence and the healing power of art, has been published in North American Review, WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly, Black Renaissance Noire, VIDA, Crab Orchard Review, BOMB, Paris/Atlantic,and Listen Up!, and has been the subject of a short film, I Leave My Colors Everywhere. She was a runner-up in the 2014 Missouri Review Soundbooth audio poetry contest and is the recipient of a Queens Council of the Arts grant for her research on herbalists of the African Diaspora. Her work “Strut,” a collaboration with her husband, photographer Dominique Sindayiganza, deals with body-image, self-acceptance, and the role of capitalism in women’s issues about their appearances. She has taught at the City University of New York, York College and Medgar Evers College.

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015
2:00 PM EST / 1:00 PM CST / 12:00 PM MST / 11:00 AM PST
This webinar will be moderated by Tara Betts, NEH Summer Scholar.

A central figure in the Black Arts Movement, Sonia Sanchez has authored sixteen books of poetry and plays, including Morning Haiku; Shake Loose My Skin: New and Selected Poems; Does Your House Have Lions?; I’ve Been a Woman: New and Selected Poems; A Blues Book for Blue Black Magical Women; Love Poems; We a BaddDDD People; and Homecoming. She received an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation for Homegirls and Handgrenades. Other awards and honors include the Robert Creeley Award, the Frost Medal, the Community Service Award from the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, the Lucretia Mott Award, the Outstanding Arts Award from the Pennsylvania Coalition of 100 Black Women, the Peace and Freedom Award from Women International League for Peace and Freedom, the Pennsylvania Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Humanities, a National Endowment for the Arts Award, and a Pew Fellowship in the Arts. Sanchez has read and lectured in the United States and around the world. She was the first Presidential Fellow at Temple University, where she began teaching in 1977, and held the Laura Carnell Chair in English there until her retirement in 1999.

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

2:00 PM EST / 1:00 PM CST / 12:00 PM MST / 11:00 AM PST

This webinar will be moderated by Professor Evie Shockley.

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.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Black Poetry after the Black Arts Movement Presents: Webinars with Jericho Brown and jessica Care moore

Please join Project HBW this week for our fourth and fifth webinars of the semester! Tune in as we talk with Jericho Brown and jessica Care moore.

The webinar with Jericho Brown will be moderated by NEH Summer Scholar Claire Schwartz and will take place on
Tuesday, November 17th, 2015

3:00 PM EST / 2:00 PM CST / 1:00 PM MST / 12:00 PM PST

The webinar with jessica Care moore will be moderated by NEH Summer Scholar Derik Smith and will take place on 
Thursday, November 19th, 2015
5:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM CST / 3:00 PM MST / 2:00 PM PST

Click here for a comprehensive list of past and future webinars, and to see videos of the talks. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

ICYMI: The Last Week in Black Writing and Culture (11/6-11/13)

Almost 60 years after the Mongomery bus boycott of 1955, public buses in Montgomery, Alabama continue to be a discriminatory space.

Allen Toussaint, legendary pianist from New Orleans, passed away this week at the age of 77.

Sofia Quintero gave praise to Walter Dean Myers for teaching her how to write for marginalized groups in her books, or, in her words, "how to stop writing white."

Barnes and Noble highlighted the twentieth anniversary of the death of Nigerian writer and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa. Saro-Wiwa was an outspoken critic of what he saw as internal corruption in the government which was taking advantage of the oil-rich Niger delta. The three suggested books, The Looting Machine, The Bright Continent, and Americanah, address this corruption.

Professor Emerita Barbara Herrnstein Smith asked, "What was 'close reading'"? Smith examines the role of close reading in Anglo literature over the course of the past century compared with its current role in the discourses of the digital humanities.
The National Book Award finalists in young people's literature were released this week!

See our recap of Johanna Drucker's talk on the status of the digital humanities

The webinar series continues this week with Jericho Brown and jessica Care moore. Click here for more information on the webinars! In case you missed this week's webinar with Nikky Finney, click here for a video of the conversation.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Project on the History of Black Writing Presents: A Webinar with Nikky Finney

Please join Project HBW as we talk with poet Nikky Finney on Wednesday, November 11th in our third webinar of the semester!

Nikky Finney has published poetry, fiction and an anthology. Her books include The World is Round (2003), Heartwood (1997), Rice (1995), On Wings Made of Gauze (1985), and the edited collection, The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South (2007). In 2011, her fourth book of poetry, Head Off & Split, won the National Book Award. In 2013, Northwestern University Press published hardback editions of three of Finney’s books in a special limited box set, titled Sweet Box of Words. A founding member of the Affrilachian Poets, she is also on the faculty of Cave Canem. Additional awards include a PEN America Open Book Award and the Benjamin Franklin Award for Poetry. After a long tenure at the University of Kentucky, where she was the Provost’s Distinguished Service Professor of English, she returned to her native South Carolina to become The John H. Bennett, Jr. Chair in Southern Letters and Literature. A child of activists, Finney came of age during the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Arts Movement and had an early career as a photographer.

On September 6, 2012, Finney visited the University of Kansas and gave a talk, "Making Poetry in Our Anthropocene Age." We are happy to welcome Finney back, if only through a digital medium. 

The webinar will take place on
Wednesday, November 11th, 2015
3:00 PM EST / 2:00 PM CST / 1:00 PM MST / 12:00 PM PST

It will be moderated by Monifa Love Assante, NEH Summer Scholar.


This webinar is one in a series put on by the Project on the History of Black Writing and sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Upcoming webinars will include Jericho Brown, jessica Care moore, Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie, Sonia Sanchez, and Nathaniel Mackey. Click here for a comprehensive list of writers and dates. If you weren't able to attend past webinars and would like to see what you missed, click here to listen to our talk with Kwame Dawes and here to listen in as we talk with Sharan Strange.

Members of the general public and students of all levels are invited to join us!

Friday, November 6, 2015

ICYMI: The Last Week in Black Writing and Culture (10/30-11/6)

Meredith Wiggins wrote a review of HBW staff member Crystal Bradshaw's new book, Eliza: A Generational Journey

Journalist Nina Martyris wrote about the rise in big candy and its racist past. Martyris argued that because of rations during WWI, many soldiers returned with a sweet tooth. Similarly, prohibition led to a substitution of once vice (alcohol) for another (candy). Like most other facets of society, racial lines were created in the advertisement and distribution of candy, creating what historian April Merleaux calls the "Jim Crow candy hierarchy."

Earnest Owens of the Huffington Post critiqued Spike Lee's latest movie Chiraq, arguing that he "should have done the right thing." Owens took issue with the inaccuracy in which Lee portrayed race and sex in the film. In Lee's most famous film, Do the Right Thing, Owens argues that Lee didn't ignore the impact that racism has on black bodies as he did in Chiraq.

Last month, filmmaker Quentin Tarintino made headlines by becoming a recognizable face in the protest against police brutality. Police unions such as the LAPD have called for a boycott of Tarintino's film after he called cops "murderers." He clarified that not all cops are murderers - "I have to call the murdered the murdered, and I have to call the murderers the murderers!"

The University of Virginia is hosting a forum on engaging race, entitled "Black Girls Matter."

Clinton Yates of The Guardian wrote about how racial profiling hasn't gone away, it has only gone digital.

Please tune in to HBW's third webinar featuring Nikky Finney on Wednesday, November 11 at 2 p.m. Follow this link to register!  Click here for information on the webinars and to see others coming up.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

“Comin’ onta Kansas”: Place in Crystal Bradshaw’s Eliza: A Generational Journey

                                              Photo Credit: Will Cunningham

Crystal reading from the Eliza manuscript in June 2015
[by Meredith Wiggins]

In African American writing, the South often exists as a place of both danger and beauty, the North as a place of both alienation and promise. One body of African American literature that explores the dynamics of place is that concerning African Americans’ movement west to Kansas, Oklahoma and Colorado as part of the Exoduster Movement of the 1870s. This migration—the first large-scale migration of African Americans after the Civil War—occurred as a result of growing racist violence in the post-Reconstruction South. Following historian and author Nell Irvin Painter’s lead, Bradshaw changes the dominant South/North paradigm in black literature. Painter is the author of Exodusters: Black Migration to Kansas after Reconstruction (1977), the first full-length scholarly study of the Exoduster movement. In literature, the most famous Exoduster novel is undoubtedly Toni Morrison’s Paradise (1997), but there are other excellent takes on the topic, as well, such as Gabriel’s Story (2001), by David Anthony Durham.

To these, we can now add another: Eliza: A Generational Journey, a beautifully written short novel by HBW staff member and novelist Crystal Bradshaw.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A Recap of Johanna Drucker's "Digital Humanities: A Status Report With Questions"

On Thursday, October 29th, Johanna Drucker, the Breslauer Professor of Bibliographical Studies at UCLA, gave a provocative presentation, "Digital Humanities: A Status Report With Questions." The large, diverse crowd, including majors ranging from English to computer science, along with faculty and staff from an assortment of CLAS fields, not only demonstrates the breadth of DH but also the success of collaborative ventures like this one, sponsored by the Hall Center for the Humanities, EGARC, and the Institute for Digital Research in the Humanities.

In her presentation, Drucker provided a detailed outline of the rise of DH, from its early origins to its current state. Put simply, this evolution includes a shift from using automated systems to reproduce content to using automation to think critically and produce content. Despite the advances in DH, Drucker argued that it has "not changed the way we think." It has increased our capacity to do our work, but, according to Drucker, the kinds of foundational changes in our understanding of language that have been identified with deconstruction, post-colonialism, and queer theory, for example, we do not see with DH. This is not to devalue the importance of making the cultural record accessible and expanding our work with cultural artifacts.

However, the increased accessibility of the cultural record must be approached with caution. Image visualization, for examples, cannot be taken as definitive, because the processing of the data stream is so highly dependent on the inputs that may not be substantial or accurate enough to produce a faithful representation of the topic. This geospatial turn, highly popular within DH studies today, offers numerous examples of a practice that Drucker finds suspect: mass generalizations based on limited data available. Orbis does exactly this. The data does have value, however, if viewed as a set of social interactions, serving as a point of departure for research. We must see "Data," Drucker argued, "as a cultural construct."

Perhaps Dr. Drucker's largest and most compelling claim is that the Digital Humanities is not, nor should it be, a field in its own right. To treat DH as a field would distance ourselves from the subject matter and focus more on the associated methodologies, undermining its epistemological function. This is equivalent to making typewriting its own field. DH, like typewriting, is a tool that should be used across various disciplines. In this way, DH offers the best opportunity for being absorbed by these various disciplines and for bringing true interdisciplinarity to our work. These kinds of healthy suspicions give us all good reason to pause in our uncritical acceptance of DH.

[by Matthew Broussard]