Writer and comedian Baratunde Rafiq Thurston thinks is fine for the cast of Hamilton to castigate Mike Pence personally, he thinks it’s fine for NFL players to politically protest on the job, but apparently Pence shouldn’t publicly walk out of a game if he doesn’t like the protest because it’s “flaunting his politics”.

I’m missing something here. Someone help me out.

Amiri Baraka and Maya Angelou

“Amiri Baraka was already the people’s poet when he answered to the name LeRoi Jones. We had a very famous photograph taken in 1991 by Chester Higgins, Jr. The photograph appeared in the New York Times. At the time the legend under said in effect, two of America’s great poets dancing a traditional African rite dance over the remains of Langston Hughes at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. I telephoned Amiri Baraka and said were you doing traditional African dance, he said, “No, I was doing the jitterbug.” I said I was doing the Texas hop and it became a Jet magazine centerpiece. Rest in peace my brother. I give condolences to everybody, because when a poet dies something hopeful in the national psyche disappears.”

- Maya Angelou, on the above photo after Baraka’s death earlier this year. (emphasis mine)

She was the best of us. THEY were the best of us.


(THX to Baratunde for the heads up.)


Given the kind of winter we have enjoyed in the Northeast, it’s hard to believe that spring will ever arrive. But LJ’s book review editors are an optimistic bunch, and we present to you our favorite titles of the upcoming publishing season . Happy reading!

Small surprises

When I attended New York Comic Con last year, I learned that S. & S. was launching sf and fantasy imprint SAGA Press. One of its first releases is Ken Liu’s The Grace of Kings (Apr.), the debut in a series called “The Dandelion Dynasty.” This tale of rebels-turned-friends-turned-rivals has already earned comparisons to George R. R. Martin’s best-selling “A Song of Ice and Fire” series. In Liu’s story, bandit Kuni Garu and son-of-a-duke Mata Zyndu unite to depose an emperor and subsequently clash as they rule rival factions. Fantasy lovers will relish the diversity of characters, while Liu’s writing (he has already won a Nebula, two Hugos, and a World Fantasy Award) is a bonus.

Fans of hit YouTube comedy series The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl will appreciate creator Issa Rae’s breezy and refreshing manifesto slash memoir, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl (37INK: Atria, Feb.). Rae channels Roxanne Gay’s Bad Feminist and Baratunde Thurston’s How To Be Black as she delivers wit on Precious (2009) and the “tragic black woman,” the number of black families on television in the 1990s (e.g., The Cosby Show, The French Prince of Bel-Air, Living Single, A Different World) versus today, (not) fitting in with her Senegalese family and private school frenemies, and much more. A self-described unicorn, Rae offers tips on answering strangers’ questions about black hair that make this a must-read for all of us awkward black girls.

I can’t believe it’s been ten years since Hurricane Katrina. In We’re Still Here Ya Bastards: How the People of New Orleans Rebuilt Their City (Public Affairs, Jun.), longtime resident ­Roberta Brandes Gratz (The Battle for Gotham) uses anecdotes and memoir to describe contemporary New Orleans in an era in which tragedies bring national interest for a short period of time before being summarily forgotten. Here, she reveals the current pulse of the city via interviews with dwellers of the Lower Ninth Ward and the French Quarter, among other neighborhoods. These stories might also interest those who attended the American Library Association annual conference in New Orleans in 2006 and 2011.

Recently, my colleague Barbara Hoffert told me about How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy (Viking, Jun.) by Steve Witt. We’re intrigued by this narrative, especially as “traditional” music sales have been declining and streaming services have been growing in popularity. (You may have heard that Taylor Swift’s recent album 1989 had the largest opening sales week for any album in the United States since 2002.) Witt’s story is told through the commentary of factory worker Dell Glover, who leaked thousands of compact discs from his manufacturing plant for almost a decade. We learn about the numerous participants in Glover’s scheme, some of whom came from the unlikeliest of places.

Lastly, I was surprised to find myself engrossed by Kevin Kruse’s One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America (Basic, Feb.; LJ 2/15/15; see starred review on p. 112), which describes the relationship between Christianity and capitalism (“In God We Trust”) and later piety and patriotism (“One Nation Under God”). Kruse addresses how corporations used clergymen in their PR war against Roosevelt’s New Deal and how evangelist Billy Graham helped Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon use religion as the “lowest-common denominator” to unite the public. I’ve yet to finish it, but I can already tell this will be an informative, insightful read.—­Stephanie Sendaula

#Repost @traceeellisross with @repostapp.
I learned so much doing #BlackFutureMonth on Twitter! Thanks so much to everyone who commented and shared! How wonderful to know people like the ones above are working to create an incredible destiny for us! #nolimits! Thank you @AdrianeJamison for working with me on this!!! @Chescaleigh

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Comedy changes the world by changing individuals from the inside out. Laughter causes a transformation in the person experiencing it. It loosens and opens us up. We let our guard down. We become vulnerable. Laughter helps expose who we really are, and when we’re being who we really are we can see the world in a more true light. We can accept truths that in a different package, we might deny. We can find common ground with people we would swear are our enemies. Comedy can help us see the world, not just as it is, but as it might be, and that can serve as a great motivator.

“Just over one year ago, I traded in my subway pass for Roxie, my pink Schwinn cruiser. She was given to me by my Dutch friend, Kirsten, who bought it off of a Brooklyn-based Haitian voodoo doctor whose colorblind son originally bought it thinking it was blue. One day I was riding through Brooklyn and a teenaged black boy yelled at me as I rode past, ‘Normally I would make fun of a dude riding a big pink bike, but your arms are so big, I don’t wanna mess with you.’”

Baratunde Thurston was photographed in New York City on June 27th. You can follow him on Twitter.


Kaysha’s interview by Baratunde in Paris. 07apr11

 Chillin’ @ Cafe Etienne Marcel with @baratunde and talking about social media, myspace, facebook, tumblr, twitter and how it changed music & media…


@baratunde speaks eloquently about his rage about Donald Trump’s and the Birthers racist vendetta against President Obama.
Baratunde Thurston Performs Frederick Douglass' "What to The Slave is The 4th of July?"
“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and to the future. To all inspiring motives, to noble deeds which can be gained from the past, we are welcome. But now is the time, the important time. Your fathers have lived, died, and have done their work, and have done much of it well. You live and must die, and you must do your work. You have no right to enjoy a child’s share in the labor of your fathers, unless your children are to be blest by your labors. You have no right to wear out and waste the hard-earned fame of your fathers to cover your indolence. Sydney Smith tells us that men seldom eulogize the wisdom and virtues of their fathers, but to excuse some folly or wickedness of their own. This truth is not a doubtful one. There are illustrations of it near and remote, ancient and modern. It was fashionable, hundreds of years ago, for the children of Jacob to boast, we have ‘Abraham to our father,’ when they had long lost Abraham’s faith and spirit. That people contented themselves under the shadow of Abraham’s great name, while they repudiated the deeds which made his name great. Need I remind you that a similar thing is being done all over this country to-day? Need I tell you that the Jews are not the only people who built the tombs of the prophets, and garnished the sepulchres of the righteous? Washington could not die till he had broken the chains of his slaves. Yet his monument is built up by the price of human blood, and the traders in the bodies and souls of men, shout - 'We have Washington to our father.’ Alas! that it should be so; yet so it is.

'The evil that men do, lives after them,
The good is oft-interred with their bones.’
'What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence?’”

Powerful, powerful stuff. Give it a listen. Its long, but worth it.