Tuesday, November 22, 2016

America, who are we, and what are we going to tell the children?

Reposted from our friend Kevin Powell, originally posted over at Medium.

The answer is blowin’ in the wind.
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind

Well it’s like cranes in the sky
Sometimes I don’t wanna feel those metal clouds
Yeah, it’s like cranes in the sky
Sometimes I don’t wanna feel those metal clouds

MY SINGLE MOTHER RAISED ME TO VOTE and she raised me to think for myself. It makes sense, given where my mother and my entire family are from, the rural and impoverished Low Country of South Carolina, a mere 30 minutes across the mammoth Savannah River into Georgia. My mother was birthed by Jim Crow America — Whites-only signs here, Coloreds-only signs there, domestic terrorism against her and people who looked like her as real as the blood that knifed through their sugar-and-salt veins. And there was an understanding that White people, no matter what their class background, had power and privilege, and Black people, no matter what their class background, had nothing but themselves. It is not like my mother and I discussed the Civil Rights Movement or American history when I was growing up. We did not. We barely could afford food, there were no books save the Bible, and my mother never marched or rallied or outwardly protested anything. Indeed, there was both a fear and hatred of Whites, a fear and a hatred that intruded frequently, like the choking, I-can’t-breathe smoke from a deadly fire in our Jersey City ghetto. My mother did not quite know what to make of White Americans, and that bewilderment was transferred to me the way we teach children our cultural traditions. It was a defense pose, I know now, to protect ourselves from everlasting insult and injury. What my mother did do was share and repeat the tales about what she and her three sisters and brother and father and mother endured in their America — the brutality and violence of their poverty, and the disrespect and meanness of the Low Country White folks, including the ones who hired her and her sisters, from the time they were little girls, to be the help, in their homes, at their stores, and on their land picking cotton. She lived, she survived, and her education was interrupted before she got to high school. But what my mother did have was a resolve not to allow anything to defeat or destroy her. When I hear folks talk about the amazing strength of women, in America, on this planet, historically, the person I think of is my mother, the first leader, the first teacher, and the first feminist I ever met, regardless if she readily knows or associates with that word. We survived the policies of presidents like Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, and homes dominated by rats and roaches; we survived thieves and hustlers who could’ve climbed our fire escapes and busted through our kitchen windows or robbed us on the streets outside; we survived violence and neglect, and shady public schools and corrupt landlords; we survived heroin and crack epidemics that ripped apart other lives, and we survived my mother’s minimum-wage jobs and cuts to whatever little public assistance she could secure. It is astonishing to me, as the adult I am today, to think of how I sometimes earn for one speech more money than my mother made in any given year of supporting me from birth until I graduated from high school. We did not complain, we did not care, in actuality, who the president of the United States was, my mother and I, because we did what we had to do to maintain, and win. A win for us was my mother having a job. A win for us was the government cheese and other free food given to poor people in our time of need. A win for us was my getting excellent grades in school and believing my mother, when she said so, that an education was my one chance for a life better than hers. A win for us was our next dilapidated apartment building having fewer rats and fewer roaches and more consistent heat and hot water than the previous dwelling. A win for us was my mother never allowing any man to pimp her for food and shelter and sex. A win for us was my not getting murdered or imprisoned or addicted to drugs. Was it extremely hard and complex and tragic and depressing and hopeless? Oh yes. Did we want to give up? Oh yes. I remember well those days when my mother would both pray to God and acidly curse my father’s name for being a no-good man who had abandoned us completely. I remember well the days when my mother said to me, point blank, whenever I got into trouble at school or with the police, “I don’t think you gonna make it.” And I remember well the days when my mother announced, without pause, that she wished she had given me up for adoption, because her life would have been easier alone. This is the America I know, an America that soaked and hand-washed my mother’s soul with racism and sexism and classism before she had had a chance at a whole life for herself. There was no therapy. There was no social media or online petitions with which to vent. There were no healing circles or women’s groups or yoga classes or any of that. My mother had to suck it up, go it alone with child at her hip, have blind faith in a God she could neither see nor touch, and have a vision for my life since there was none for hers. I rarely saw my mother cry or show any emotion beyond raw anger, and I was the target of that raw anger on many occasions; this was my mother’s limited emotional vocabulary, her reality, and she had to keep going, based on what she knew, because the only other option was dying a slow death. Thus, she had to save her life, and she had to save my life, with tough love, with a rage vomited from an American dream not available for people like her. Perhaps this is why my mother drilled into me to vote, why she always used her voice for better housing for us, for a better school for me, why she would write, in the best use of the English language her eighth-grade education had afforded her, letters to politicians and other local leaders seeking help, an answer, anything. Somewhere inside her troubled mind my mother knew she, we, deserved better, that there had to be a better America, and a better world out there —

Monday, November 21, 2016

"A Tribute To Gwen..."

Reposted from our friends Julieanna Richardson and The HistoryMakers: The Nation's Largest African American Video Oral History Collection

I write with a heavy heart due to the passing of Gwen Ifill. Yesterday, I attended her moving memorial service in Washington, D.C. 
This is a tremendous loss for The HistoryMakers, as Gwen was the host of our An Evening With...Celebrity PBS-TV series and fundraiser. She was also our friend and ardent supporter. We owe our visibility and growth within the PBS family, and our acceptance to PBS viewers, to Gwen. In all respects, Gwen Ifill was our North Star. Her loss shook our very core. 
Our affiliation with Gwen began in 2005, when she helped launch us in the Washington, D.C. area with An Evening With Diahann Carroll. In fact, Diahann Carroll had been watching Gwen for years on TV and insisted that Gwen, and only Gwen, do her interview.  But she was not alone. Quincy JonesEartha KittSmokey RobinsonValerie SimpsonBerry GordyUrsula BurnsVernon Jordan and others would follow. In fact, we led our requests telling them that Gwen Ifill was our interviewer. After all, this was our signature fundraiser. 
Gwen expertly interviewed Quincy Jones on Thursday, September 27, 2007 at George Washington University's Jack Morton Auditorium. She and Quincy took the house down, aided by Herbie HancockJames IngramDallas AustinBobby McFerrinBeBe Winans, and Lesley Gore. Viewers got to see another, more fun loving side of Gwen. After all, she loved music. It was Gwen who hosted what would be Eartha Kitt's last performance and interview, on Saturday, September 20, 2008, at Northwestern University's Thorne Auditorium. Eartha Kitt passed away just a few months later on Christmas Day, when the song she made legendary was "Santa Baby!"
Gwen and Valerie Simpson had the audience crying and singing along just a month after Nick Ashford's passing in An Evening With Valerie Simpson in Honor Nick AshfordRay Chew and George Faison played critical roles. It was Gwen who would welcome the iconic Motown Founder Berry Gordy in an unforgettable evening, aided by Clarence AvantRay ChewSuzanne de PasseCharles Randolph WrightJanelle MonaeKEMValerie SimpsonValisia LeKaeBrandon Victor DixonJanie Bradford and the Motown family. It was Gwen who would take us into New York City with An Evening With Ursula Burns, and then again with An Evening With Vernon Jordan - still our largest fundraiser to date. 
Our productions were often complicated. Bad rehearsals and great performances have ruled the day. She would come in with her signature smile and ask if everything was OK. Often it was not, but she would make it so. Everyone talks about Gwen's smile. Of course, she had a great one. But it was her soul, her spirit, her strength of character that shined through. Genuine is who she is and always will be. 

Then, on the momentous occasion of the Library of Congress becoming the permanent repository of The HistoryMakers Collection, we turned the tables on her, with her friend and fellow journalist Michele Norris interviewing her in An Evening With Gwen Ifill. In recent days, many have thanked us for this interview. Gwen's last interview for us was with Sheila Johnson in 2015. She was to have interviewed Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for us in An Evening With Eric Holder on October 15, 2016, but her health would not permit.
In our archives, we have a 4 hour life oral history interview of Gwen. Below are her answers to our beginning People Magazine-ish questions:
RICHARDSON: What is your favorite food?
GWEN IFILL:  Gravy (laughs).  You can put gravy on anything. It's great. 
RICHARDSON:  Favorite color?
RICHARDSON:  Favorite time of year?
GWEN IFILL:  I love the spring.
RICHARDSON:  Favorite place to vacation?
GWEN IFILL:  Anywhere in the Caribbean.
We always end the interview with a legacy question.  Here is Gwen's response: 
"I don't think much about legacy because I guess I'm not there yet.  I would like for another generation of young black women to look at me and say, "Oh, I can do that." I would like for young black men to look at me and say, "Oh, I can do that."  I would like for young white girls to look at me and say, "Oh, I can do that,"...Not because they're color blind, but because color is just part of the thing that informs them about who I am.  I want people to understand that journalism is not just about being a personality.  It's not about opinion.  It's about informing in a way that enhances.  And so much of what passes for journalism does not enhance our experience. If you are asking the right questions, listening for the right answers and maintaining a constant high level of curiosity, it will always lead you to the next question. Then, you can be an excellent journalist, a chronicler of our times.  And the thing about journalism is it leaves a record.  And the record becomes your legacy.  So if I can do that with honor, and I can do that with respect, and I can leave a generation of young people who say, "I can do that too". That's a perfectly fine legacy for me. 
How prescient these words by someone who was an excellent journalist, a chronicler of our times and who left an unparalleled record
For all of you who have supported us over the years, served on our production crew, been in our audiences or watched her on TV - you know that she lived her legacy.  
I would always introduce Gwen for our An Evening With... programs. It was a tradition that both of us cherished. I remember her soft and firm hold of my hand...our embrace, right before she would step into the light of the stage for yet another interview.  She was the face of our organization. Last Monday, she stepped into the light forever
See you on the other side!
We love you Gwen Ifill. 
May you forever rest in peace. 

-Julieanna L. Richardson
Founder & Executive Director

Friday, November 18, 2016

KU Contingent at the Opening Night of RACHEL

RACHEL by Angelina Grimke
Directed by KU’s

Angelina Grimke’s anti-lynching play RACHEL is one of the first plays written by an African American woman to be produced for the stage. It tells the story of Rachel Loving, a hopeful young woman coming of age who imagines a life helping others and raising a family. Rachel’s life is never the same after she discovers the devastating effects of racism on the children she cares for and the truth about the deaths of her late father and brother. Directed by Dr. Hodges Persley, Associate Professor in the Department of Theatre, members of the HBW extended family supported and attended opening night. Some thoughts:

An incredibly intense performance of Angelina Weld Grimke's 1916 play RACHEL. 100 years later, it speaks powerfully to the ideals of #blacklivesmatter. Very timely. Kudos to director Nicole Hodges Persley. - Giselle Anatol

A powerful contemplation of black motherhood and the various kinds of violence enacted on black children. - Ayesha Hardison

RACHEL is little known yet timeless classic. Its “disappearance” is a telling reminder of how long we have been race and gender work and how great the resistance continues to be. Thanks to the NAACP for producing it in 1916 and to Nicole Hodges Persley for returning it to us in 2016. - Maryemma Graham

Catch RACHEL directed by Dr. Nicole Hodges Persley at the KC MeltingPot Theatre (located at the Just Off Broadway Theatre 3051 Penn Valley Drive. Kansas City, MO 64108).

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Trump Election: When Black and White Bleed Red (Part I)

The Project on the History of Black Writing is committed to academic excellence and social responsibility. We welcome and encourage informed analysis and commentary.

[By: C. Liegh McInnis]

I vote for two simple reasons.  One, like many Afro-Mississippians, my father was arrested in the 1960s for registering to vote. When there was no more room in the jails, they were held at the state fairgrounds. Two, moments like Trump's election give me more ammunition to force us to reconsider Black Nationalism. 

Let me say at the outset what I believe we learned from and what was affirmed by the election.  Based on the white response to Donald Trump’s call to White Nationalism, the votes of white women and minorities, and the ongoing debate over whether an African-American community exists, the 2016 Presidential election indicates that everyone has a collective plan for self-preservation except African Americans.  As such, the issues that plague African Americans, including poorly funded education, poverty, and self-inflicted and state-sanctioned violence, will only be exacerbated by a Presidency, Senate, and House that are all painted in flaming, if not Confederate, red.

It seems acceptable for whites to promote White Nationalism while African Americans are demonized for promoting Black Nationalism.  “Make America Great Again” is really a clarion call for what we now refer to as the "alt right," especially those who identify as Christian, who seek to reclaim a country that’s been taken from them by the . . . should we say. . . colored folks and gays.  They are the 70%, those whites without a college education who voted for Trump. 

Unfortunately for Hillary Clinton, at the heart of this "white-lash," as Van Jones called it, was the failure of NAFTA, which enabled greedy business owners to move their companies from America to Mexico, taking thousands of jobs with them.  NAFTA didn’t make any sense to me in 1994, and it still doesn’t.  Of course, then President Bill Clinton’s reasoning was that eliminating the tariffs between Mexico and Canada would create lower prices in American stores.  It is inconceivable to me that no one in the room raised the question, “Yes, but, if all the jobs leave, how will anyone be able to afford to pay the lower prices?” 

An America where a majority of the citizens could earn a living wage without having to attend college is no more.   Forty years ago, people—mostly white but some blacks—could cross a high school graduation stage and secure a factory job that paid them enough to support their families.  To be sure, a vast majority of whites without college degrees suffered at the hands of NAFTA as did a good number of African Americans.  But African Americans, for the most part, seem to realize that it was people like Trump who took advantage of NAFTA. Would it have made sense then to reward Trump with the U. S. Presidency since he lead the parade of jobs leaving the country?  Anyone wondering why so many people supported Bernie Sanders would want to look to NAFTA as a prime reason.  Though I did not vote for Sanders, I believe he was right that neither Trump nor Clinton would/could do much about the loss of jobs in America: both candidates are tied to Wall Street/the corporate regime.  It is almost impossible for one to destroy the thing to which one is tied without destroying oneself. 

At the core of this white-lash were working class whites in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.  Also called the “Reagan Democrats,” this white majority, angered by the dramatic societal  shifts they believe have disadvantaged them, vote as a solid bloc in an effort to reclaim the country they believe they have lost.  Thus, White Nationalism is literally the trump card to be played, though most Blacks cower at the thought of Black Nationalism.  Maybe more of us should read—not just listen to—The Last Poet’s “Niggers Are Scared of Revolution.” The white majority sees no fear. Didn’t someone say, “Give me liberty or give me death?”  Must white liberty always be earned on the back of black death? 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Book Review – The Storied South: Voices of Writers and Artists, William Ferris

[By Jerry Ward, Jr.]

Ferris, William. The Storied South: Voices of Writers and Artists. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013.  $ 35.00  ISBN  978-1-4696-0754-2

Fred Hobson suggested in Tell About the South: The Southern Rage to Explain (1983) that Southerners have, or may be possessed by, a compulsion to explain, to apologize for, to defend, or to celebrate the history of a region which non-Southerners "have long been fascinated with…as spectacle, as land of extremes in the most innocent part of America in one respect and the guiltiest in another…."(9).  Hobson's speculation cuts both ways.  While many Southerners do have a gift for drawling in ways that fascinate, a significant number of them can be as taciturn as stereotyped New Englanders.  Hobson's hyperbole confirmed the very oddity he intended to place in an objective perspective regarding habits.  He exercised due diligence in borrowing his main title from William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! (1936) as he explored selected works by people who were neither novelists nor scholars.  He also used predictable Southern diligence in excluding black writers  (notably Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison) on the grounds that "it would be impossible to do them justice" (13) in the scope of his study.  Thus, Hobson self-fashioned himself as a quintessential Southern apologist.

Thirty-three years later, it is instructive to contrast Tell About the South with William Ferris's The Storied South: Voices of Writers and Artists (2013), which incorporates self-fashioning with minimal apology.  Ferris acknowledges that Hobson and many other of his University of North Carolina colleagues gave him encouragement in every step of writing this book, a worthy companion to his earlier Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues (2009).  One might argue that Hobson's work was a prelude to Ferris's explaining increasingly complex functions of narrative in the South.  Less an overt apologist than Hobson, Ferris tells us about his own "intellectual and artistic growth through friendships with" seven writers, five scholars, two musicians, three photographers, and nine painters.  Ferris relies primarily on interviews to create a species of oral history.  The absence of question and answer markers, however, foregrounds shared authority in the making of historical explanation.  By exercising his autobiographical voice in prefaces for the stories the writers and artists tell, Ferris demonstrates that subjective artistry can enliven scholarship which focuses on difference in a region of the United States.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Inspiring Productivity of C. Liegh McInnis

HBW Board Member and blog contributor, Howard Rambsy, describes his initial encounters with C. Liegh McInnis who exemplifies the "art of possible." Jump over to the Cultural Front blog to read more about "The Inspiring Productivity of C. Liegh McInnis" and his creations over the years.

Image courtesy of Mississippi Public Broadcasting

Interested in more C. Liegh McInnis?

Monday, November 7, 2016

ICYMI: The Last Week in Black Writing and Culture (11/1 - 11/6)

Mychal Denzel Smith, author of Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: A Young Black Man's Education (2016), is back with a “Black Boy Literary Survival Kit.” Smith recounts an early mentoring experience and how Black literature continues to shape the “experience one has with racism in America.” Emphasizing the importance of Black women and male writers, Smith challenges us to continue questioning and redefining the literary cannon.

Jason Reynolds has won the Kirkus Prize for young readers' literature with his latest release As Brave as You (2016). Here’s the Kirkus Review.

We can’t get enough of the National Museum of African American History and Culture and apparently neither can anyone else. Described as the “best, most difficult problem” to have, the NMAAHC is experiencing “dwell time” of up to six hours, when the average in most museums is 45 minutes to two hours. If you’re lucky enough to get in, make sure you clear your schedule for the day and wear comfortable shoes.

Little Atoms sat down with author Paul Beatty for a new interview right before he won the 2016 Man Booker Prize.

The New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books list is out. Carole Boston Weatherford for Freedom in Congo Square (2016), Jabari Asim for Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis (2016), and The Princess and the Warrior: A Tale of Two Volcanoes (2016), written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh are recognized.

Friday, November 4, 2016

ICYMI: October 2016 in Black Writing and Culture

Barry Jenkins' critically acclaimed new film Moonlight was released on the 21st. Based on the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, Jenkins takes viewers on an intimate look into the life of a young Black male growing up in Miami and unraveling his identity and sexuality. Moonlight is generating Oscar buzz and garnering praise from film and cultural critics alike. Checkout ongoing coverage from NPR here and here, Essence and the New York Times. Here's the trailer. 

Ava DuVernay, director of Selma and Oprah's newest BFF, recently released 13th, a Netflix original documentary that explores race in the American criminal justice system. Powerful and infuriating, 13th is a must-see.

Brit Bennet's debut novel The Mothers, released earlier this month, takes readers on a complex tale of womanhood, friendship, and heartbreak. Bennet is already garnering recognition from writers like Jacqueline Woodson and Angela Flournoy, with a few comparisons to Ta-Nehisi Coates. Years in the making, Bennett wrote The Mothers while completing degrees at Stanford and Michigan. She is definitely one to watch. Ben East and Alexandra Alter review the new novel. 

We're still hype over Luke Cage, the first "woke Black superhero show," and hope you are too! Here's a Luke Cage syllabus.

Truevine: Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother’s Quest- A True Story of the Jim Crow South is a new book covering the lives of Willie and George Muse, African-American albino brothers kidnapped as children and forced to be sideshow acts in the circus. Beth Macy spent over two decades gathering stories about the brothers, the fight their mother launched to stop their exploitation, and their lives post-Jim Crow. Here's the NYT review.

Everyone's favorite "awkward" Black girl Issa Rae is back with a major HBO deal and a new series Insecure

Directors Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack recently premiered Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise. Running just under two hours, this documentary takes a long look at the incredible life of Maya Angelou, exploring her youth, relationships, and most importantly, her works. You will surely enjoy the many celebrity features throughout the documentary, but Hercules and Whack's in-depth exploration of Angelou's friendships with figures like Malcolm X and James Baldwin are an added bonus.

Faith Ringgold turned 86! She recently sat down with NPR to read from her award-winning 1991 children’s book Tar Beach.

The 2016 National Book Award Finalists have been announced.

Librarian Jamillah Gabriel is launching a Black literature subscription service. Each month subscribers will receive a specially curated box that includes a new book and other items relevant to Black culture. We'll post more information about the launch date when it becomes available.

Painter Kerry James Marshall is being celebrated at the Met Breuer—an extension of the renowned Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, with his newest exhibit Mastry. From the exhibition overview: encompassing nearly 80 works—including 72 paintings—that span the artist's remarkable 35-year career, Mastry reveals Marshall's practice to be one that synthesizes a wide range of pictorial traditions to counter stereotypical representations of black people in society and reassert the place of the black figure within the canon of Western painting.

In Memoriam: Thomas Mikal Ford
#RIPTommy #Martin

Thursday, October 13, 2016

TODAY: Kevin Young @ KU

The Department of American Studies Presents
The 2016 Bill Tuttle Distinguished Lecture

Uninhabited : Race, Reading, and the Archives
Kevin Young

Thursday, October 13th 3:30pm
Woodruff Auditorium, Kansas Union

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

HBW Fall Open House this Friday

Please join us for our Fall Open House!

Stop in this Friday between 10am - 1pm to chat with current staff members, browse our novel collection, and learn more about our great initiatives for the year!

Monday, October 10, 2016

HBW Supports: Recognizing Today as Indigenous Peoples Day

Together we call upon the University of Kansas to recognize today as Indigenous Peoples Day. With its origins in the 1977 International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americans, Indigenous Peoples Day recognizes the valuable contributions made by Indigenous peoples. Such recognition is especially appropriate at KU, where the University highly regards its relationship with Indigenous students, staff, faculty, and Haskell Indian Nations University.

Recognition of October 10, 2016 as Indigenous Peoples Day is also consistent with recommendations made by other groups on campus. In the April 27, 2016 Report of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory Group submitted to Chancellor Gray-Little and then acting Provost Sara Rosen, it was recommended that the University “[r]ecognize Indigenous People’s Day in honor of Native American contributions to the community.” Further, on October 3, 2016, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Working Group issued a statement on recent protests and institutional change. In relevant part, the statement states:

Further, in accordance with the commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and as specified in the DEI report from law year, we require the University recognize this coming Monday (10/10) as Indigenous People’s Day. This requirement is only a start to move forward on the recommendations laid out last year, including strengthening the relationship with Haskell Indian Nations University and enhancing KU’s commitment to Indigenous Studies and our Indigenous and First Nations communities at the University.

The City of Lawrence declared October 12, 2015 Indigenous Peoples Day. The City’s declaration is consistent with those of numerous other cities and states, which have all decided to recognize the crucial contributions of Indigenous peoples.

Accordingly, we call on the University to honor its commitment to Indigenous peoples by recognizing October 10, 2016 as Indigenous Peoples Day.


First Nations Student Association
Indigenous Studies Program
KU Tribal Law and Government Center
Native American Faculty and Staff Council
Center for American Indian Community Health, University of Kansas Medical Center
KU Department of American Studies
KU Black Law Students Association
KU Student Senate
KU Project on the History of Black Writing

Monday, October 3, 2016

ICYMI: The Last Week in Black Writing and Culture (9/24 - 9/30)

KU welcomed Jabari Asim, author and editor-in-chief of The Crisis magazine, to campus as the fall keynote lecture for the Common Book program.

Professor Kinitra D. Brooks at the University of Texas at San Antonio has created an English course around Beyoncé’s Lemonade. Using the “theoretical, historical and literary frameworks of black feminism,” Dr. Brooks will take students through the Lemonade album to consider “new theories about race and gender in popular culture.”

Luke Cage the web television series based on the Marvel comic superhero has debuted on Netflix… and crashed the site on the first day. CNN and NPR caught up with showrunner Cheo Coker to talk superheroes and hip-hop.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture opened its doors to the public last Saturday. 100 years in the making, the idea of the museum was first proposed in 1915 by Black veterans calling for a memorial dedicated to men who’d fought in America’s wars. As with all Smithsonian museums, entry is free but you need to reserve timed passes. Slots are sold out throughout 2016, but passes for January – March 2017 are now available.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Original Research: Dr. Candice A. Pitts

In July 2015 the Project on the History of Black Writing welcomed 25 National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Scholars to the University of Kansas. For two weeks, scholars immersed themselves in Black Poetry after the Black Arts Movement institute, one feature of the larger fifteen-month program funded by the NEH that responds to the resurgence of interest in contemporary poetry, its expanded production and wide circulation. Candice A. Pitts, an Assistant Professor of English at Albany State University and one of our Black Poetry summer scholars, has recently published “Belize — A Nation (Still) in the Making: Erasures and Marginalisation in the Framing of the ‘Land of the Free’.”

Head over to Wasafiri to check it out.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Remembering Joyce Carol Thomas (May 25, 1938 - August 13, 2016)

[By Dominique Waller]

Image courtesy of Balkin Buddies
The African-American Literature community has lost another treasure. On August 13, 2016 Joyce Carol Thomas died in Stanford, California. The award winning children’s author, poet, and playwright’s passing was confirmed by her sister Flora Krasnovsky, stating that Thomas contracted cirrhosis of the liver from a blood transfusion.

Thomas wrote primarily adult plays and poetry before her first young-adult novel Marked by Fire was published in 1982, and adapted into a gospel musical under the name of Abyssinia in 1987. The novel went on to win the National Book Award for children’s fiction the next year. Her first picture book, The Blacker the Berry (2008), received Coretta Scott King Honors, an award she received previously for I Have Heard of a Land (1998) along with an IRA/CBC Teachers’ Choice Award. Living in Ponca City, Oklahoma as child she drew from her own life experience. In 1998, Thomas told the African American Review that her works were dedicated to showing young readers a versions of black life that was seldom shown in books. She believed these stories deserved being told.

Along with leaving behind her literary legacy, Mrs. Thomas leaves behind daughter Monica Pecot, sons Gregory and Michael Withers and Roy T Thomas III, along with seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. 

You can read more extensively on Mrs. Thomas’ life and legacy here.

Dominique Waller is a sophomore in Biology at the University of Kansas and HBW staff member. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

HBW Supports: March for Standing Rock

HBW supports the First Nation Student Association (FNSA) and their march in support of Standing Rock on 9/30/16 at 4pm. The march will go from Constant Park to 411 E. 9th Street.

From FNSA:
There will be a tobacco prayer, round dance, drums, and other activities after the march. We are also selling t-shirts as well. Natives and non-natives alike will be partaking in this march so everyone is invited! Also, we are having a winter drive as well. Any firewood, coats, shoes, canned foods, heaters, canvases, blankets, etc that you would like to donate, we have a donation box set up at the Office of Multicultural Affairs. We will take the donated items up to Standing Rock over fall break. 

It’s Banned Books Week! Celebrating the Freedom to Read

Here at HBW we celebrate banned and challenged books, and the right to read every day! Please check out this list of resources we have compiled about banned books, especially those written by authors of color and those that center on characters of color.

"Books by People of Color Are Disproportionately Likely to Be Banned

"Why Diverse Books are Commonly Banned"

HBW Staff Member Dominique Waller
checks out Banned author Alice Walker
"What the List of Most Banned Books Says About Our Society’s Fears"

"Closing the Diversity Gap in Young Adult Literature"

"11 Banned Books by Women to Read Right Now"

"24 Most Controversial Books of All Time"

"Banned Books That Shaped America"

"KU Libraries partner for Banned Book Week event"

HBW Staff Member Anthony Boyton
and Banned authors Maya Angelou