prominent african americans

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Venus and Serena Williams just made tennis history … again

  • Venus and Serena Williams are the oldest women to compete at the Australian Open for the Grand Slam final in the modern tennis era.
  • “This is probably the moment of our careers so far,” Serena Williams told reporters, according to CNN. “For me, I can definitely say for me.”
  • Venus Williams is 36, and Serena is 35, and together — over the course of two decades — they’ve changed the face of tennis by becoming two of the most prominent and dominant African-American athletes of all time. Read more

follow @the-movemnt

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On 7 June, 1998, in Texas, an African American man by the name of James Byrd Jr. accepted a ride from three white men - Lawrence Brewer, John King, and Shawn Berry. Instead of taking Byrd home, they inflicted unimaginable pain and suffering to the innocent man.

They took him to a secluded country road and beat him half to death - they broke 4 of his ribs, his jaw, his shin, his left orbital bone. They then knocked out the majority of his teeth and ruptured his testicles by hitting them with a wrench. They then removed his pants to cause the maximum damage and chained Byrd by the ankles and attached the other end to Berry’s car and drove three miles down the road. Byrd was fully conscious through this entire ordeal and managed to survive until his body swung out from behind the trunk while doing a sharp turn and his body struck a cement drainage culvert. This ripped off his head and right arm. The men then dumped his body outside a prominent African American cemetery. They were apprehended when authorities found the wrench in the middle of the road which was inscribed with Berry’s name. Not one of the men ever apologised for the brutal murder nor did they show an ounce of remorse or guilt.

Brewer was executed on 21 September, 2011. He was reported to say: “He was a godamn nigger and I hope his family never recovers. As far as any regrets, no. I have no regrets. No, I’d do it all over again, to tell you the truth.” Brewer was asked by a prison psychiatrist: “Why did you do it?” to which he replied “Go fuck yourself. I’m not afraid to be murdered for doing what’s right. That son of a bitch was a fucking black bastard, and he’s burning the fuck in Hell right now. God is white.”


King currently remains on Death Row while Berry was sentenced to life imprisonment.

The Black List by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders and Elvis Mitchell

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In The Black List, twenty-five prominent African-Americans of various professions, disciplines, and backgrounds offer their own

stories and insights on the struggles, triumphs, and joys of black life in America and, in the process, redefine “black list” for a new century.

As seen in original portraits by renowned photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders and in a series of incisive interviews conducted by award-winning journalist, critic, academic, and radio host Elvis Mitchell, this group exemplifies today’s most accomplished, determined African-Americans, whose lives and careers form a trail of inspiration and example for people of all races.

Spanning the arts, sports, politics, and business, the diverse accomplishments and lives of these remarkable individuals create a kaleidoscope of ideas and experiences, and provide the framework for a singular conver-sation about the influence of African-Americans on this country and on our world.

Anne Frank and Martin Luther King, Jr. were both born in the same year (1929).

Martin Luther King, Jr., was born January 18, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia.  When he turned 18, he entered ministry at the Baptist church. King was a prominent leader in the African American Civil Rights movement and assassinated in 1968 at the age of 39.  

Anne Frank was born June 12, 1929, in Frankfurt, Germany, and lived only 15 years, the last few spent hiding from the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Anne Frank became internationally famous when her diary was published by her father in 1947.

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December 6th 1865: 13th Amendment ratified

On this day in 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified by the states, formally banning slavery in the United States. Ratification does not require unanimous approval, and some states rejected the amendment; Mississippi only ratified the 13th Amendment in 2013, 148 years after the amendment’s passage. The 13th amendment marks the first of the three so-called ‘Reconstruction’ amendments, which secured civil and voting rights for African-Americans after the Civil War. The amendment was proposed by the Lincoln administration following the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation - which was a temporary war measure abolishing slavery in the Confederacy - to assert that the ban on slavery was to be permanent. Lincoln did not initially intend to free the slaves, and always prioritised saving the Union, but emancipation became intriscially tied to Union victory. This was due to the actions of slaves, who fled to Union lines and tried to enlist in the army. The Reconstruction period that followed the American Civil War was largely a contest over the implications of the 13th Amendment and the emancipation of four million slaves. Radicals in Congress pushed for equality of the law and opportunity, while white Southerners, with assistance from violent groups like the Ku Klux Klan, sought to maintain racial subordination and white supremacy. Reconstruction ultimately failed to truly implement freedom for African-Americans, and it was not until the Civil Rights Movement one hundred years later that America again tried to come to terms with the legacy of emancipation.

“For a mild-mannered man whose music was always easy on the ear, Nat King Cole managed to be a figure of considerable controversy during his 30 years as a professional musician. From the late ’40s to the mid-’60s, he was a massively successful pop singer who ranked with such contemporaries as Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, and Dean Martin. He shared with those peers a career that encompassed hit records, international touring, radio and television shows, and appearances in films. But unlike them, he had not emerged from a background as a band singer in the swing era. Instead, he had spent a decade as a celebrated jazz pianist, leading his own small group. Oddly, that was one source of controversy. For some reason, there seem to be more jazz critics than fans of traditional pop among music journalists, and Cole’s transition from jazz to pop during a period when jazz itself was becoming less popular was seen by them as a betrayal. At the same time, as a prominent African-American entertainer during an era of tumultuous change in social relations among the races in the U.S., he sometimes found himself out of favor with different warring sides. His efforts at integration, which included suing hotels that refused to admit him and moving into a previously all-white neighborhood in Los Angeles, earned the enmity of racists; once, he was even physically attacked on-stage in Alabama. But civil rights activists sometimes criticized him for not doing enough for the cause.

Such controversies do not obscure his real talent as a performer, however. The dismay of jazz fans at his abandonment of jazz must be measured against his accomplishments as a jazz musician. An heir of Earl Hines, whom he studied closely as a child in Chicago, Cole was an influence on such followers as Oscar Peterson. And his trio, emerging in the dying days of the swing era, helped lead the way in small-band jazz. The rage felt by jazz fans as he moved primarily to pop singing is not unlike the anger folk music fans felt when Bob Dylan turned to rock in the mid-’60s; in both cases, it was all the more acute because fans felt one of their leaders, not just another musician, was going over to the enemy. Less well remembered, however, are Cole’s accomplishments during and after the transition. His rich, husky voice and careful enunciation, and the warmth, intimacy, and good humor of his approach to singing, allowed him to succeed with both ballads and novelties such that he scored over 100 pop chart singles and more than two dozen chart albums over a period of 20 years, enough to rank him behind only Sinatra as the most successful pop singer of his generation.” By William Ruhlmann

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Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing kicks off with protests

  • Sen. Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing for attorney general got off to a rocky start Tuesday, with protesters dressed in KKK regalia standing up to try and disrupt the proceedings.
  • The two men — flanked by CodePink protesters — were immediately led out of the room by Capitol police officers. Read more

Donald Trump intends to trot out black people to defend Jeff Sessions at Senate hearings

  • The transition team’s strategy is to not just get Sessions through, but to get him through unscathed. 
  • “The transition team has spent weeks lining up prominent African-Americans to vouch for Sessions’ civil rights record, including Larry Thompson, a former deputy attorney general, and Theodore Jackson, a former special agent in charge of the FBI in Mobile, Alabama” (Politico)
  • They to portray Session as a “friend to African Americans” (Politico). Read more
The Mutant Problem

I know this strictly speaking isn’t Spider-Man related but I wanted to touch on it nevertheless…

See over the years a common criticism of the X-Men franchise has been how nonsensical it is for the denizens of the Marvel universe to treat mutants (like the X-Men) with prejudice whilst they are fine with other super powered characters such as the Fantastic Four.

Here is my attempt at resolving the issue.

Okay for starters not ALL the super powered beings of the Marvel universe are treated with open arms and not EVERYONE is prejudiced against mutants.

The Hulk and the Thing and even Spider-Man are treated with a certain amount of mistrust if nothing else; often they’re even seen as freaks.

If you think about it when the X-Men debuted in 1963 the Marvel universe was pretty sparsely populated. Spider-Man, the FF, the Avengers (i.e. Antman, Wasp, Hulk, Thor and Iron Man) and a few other characters were essentially it.

 Now the Hulk, the Thing and Spider-Man WERE treated with a certain amount of mistrust and fear, but many of the other characters were not (at least not to my knowledge).

Most of them though were either characters who didn’t have powers (like Iron Man), used some form of science to give them their powers (Ant Man) or had powers innate to them being something from beyond this Earth (i.e. Thor who is a literal God).

And apart from guys like that the FF and the Avengers frankly had really good public relations. The FF were the first super humans to really make the scene in ‘modern day’ Marvel New York and they built themselves up as celebrities. In fact in Mark Waid’s run on Fantastic Four in the 2000s he even has Reed Richards admit that he purposefully built the FF up as celebs in order to avoid them being treated as freaks. From the sheer novelty alone the FF would’ve been more accepted by the general public, to say nothing of the scientific contributions or thier public displays of heroism over the years.

The Avengers were also an ‘official’ essentially government approved super hero team, which in the minds of the masses legitimised them and kind of conveyed the message that:

They are ‘alright’

Plus later on Captain America, the living legend of WWII joined their ranks and I’m sure a lot of people in the Marvel universe adopted the attitude that if they’re good enough for Captain America they’re good enough for them too.

But with the X-Men…they were masked individuals with very obvious super powers (not feats of technology) who came out of nowhere and disappeared just as suddenly. They were the unknown and a lot of people fear that.

Then you have all the mutants not just randomly appearing in public but manifesting entirely randomly and at alarming speeds all across the world, within the very homes of the citizens of the Marvel Universe. The idea that you or your family members (including your children) could just suddenly develop (potentially dangerous and uncontrollable) super powers is an incredibly frightening one.

If this makes any sense it’s kind of the distinction between being okay with super humans being ‘over there’, but not being okay with them being closer to home. This is besides the fear that the human race itself is at an obvious physical disadvantage compared to mutants or that mutants could essentially breed out humanity.

So how and why normal humans might fear mutants (however misguidedly) is not hard to understand.

Equally it is possible that this ‘lack of legitimacy’ that mutants have compared to the Avengers/FF is why so many people accept the latter but not the former. The FF arrived early on enough that they were embraced by the public and are beloved celebrities and the Avengers have government backing. Mutants though have none of these and could run around unchecked. This is probably why so many people were in favour of the various Mutant Registration acts, now that I think about it.

There is however another explanation we could use. 

So…basically people’s problems with the X-Men/Mutants in the Marvel universe is that it makes no sense for people to be prejudiced against them but be okay with non-mutant super heroes. 

That is the gist of people’s objections right? That it makes no sense and isn’t rational? 

Well here is the thing…its prejudice…Prejudice doesn’t   make sense. Prejudice isn’t  rational. 

Forget any political or sentimental beliefs you hold, from a purely logical (and even biological) point of view prejudice towards people of a certain skin colour or sexual orientation makes 0 sense. 

It makes 0 sense and yes has been hypocritical over the centuries. How many stories have we heard about people who are prejudiced still liking a certain black or gay or whatever celebrity or entertainer, or even just someone they know? Many people are/have been racist or homophobic, and yet they make ‘exceptions’ to their prejudice. They don’t like gay people but 

This  guy is alright

 They don’t like Asian people but

 You’re not like those other  ones!

 And this has gone on for literally centuries.

 Just look at European history.

White people in the North and South of England might have fought Civil Wars and displayed prejudice against one another, but they’re united in their racial prejudice against the French or Germans (who’re also white) and most of those predominantly white nations all agreed that, despite their racism to one another, they are all ‘superior’ to any given non-white person from Africa or Asia.

Or heck what about Nazi Germany? This is a period of time where a disturbing amount of people subscribed to the idea of there being a superior race made of tall, muscular, blonde haired and blue eyed Aryan folk. And that was an idea many put forward by their supreme ruler who was…a short, weedy dark haired guy…yeah…

Additionally in some countries where racism was practiced (and I believe still is in parts of the world) your standing as a citizen was measured upon just how dark or light your skin colour was. You could very obviously not be white, but if you were a black person with a comparatively paler complexion you were seen to be ‘better’ than other black people with darker skin tones.

A very sad example of this can actually be found in the biography of the prominent African American leader, Malcolm X.

According to his biography, his mother Louise married his father Earl Little partially because Earl had a very dark complexion, a trait Louise found attractive because she herself was ashamed of her own lighter skin complexion (I think because she was born out of a white man raping her mother, but don’t quote me on that).

Earl actually favoured his son Malcolm more than his other children precisely because Malcolm had the lightest skin complexion of all this children. Earl Little was someone who supported black pride and Pan-Africanism, which demonstrates a certain contradiction in his actions.

How could he have black pride but favour one of his children above the others because   his skin complexion was closer to a white person’s?

Well there are probably multiple explanations, but a pretty big one is that prejudice inherently makes no sense.

And in the case of mutants how hard is it to imagine that certain groups of people who have problems with mutants influence the government or the media and hard sell to the public the idea that ‘mutants are bad’ to the point where that idea takes root and is just commonly accepted general knowledge. Much like the assumption that back in the day Jewish people, or black people or Asian people were ‘inferior’ to white people?

Those ideas didn’t come about just cos you know. I mean many children simply don’t make a big deal about people’s race or skin colour. That’s something that kind of develops due to outside influences as they grow older. Additionally in most respects prejudice doesn’t really exist in the animal kingdom at all. The breed or different colourings of dogs are meaningless to those animals. A bulldog, a Labrador and a Chihuahua don’t distinguish their own breed from one another, they just see one another as fellow canines.

In this way the complaints of fans or people who argue about nonsensical it is for there to be prejudice against mutants but not other super humans is kind of redundant and stupid.

They’re basically asking for prejudice to make sane and rational sense. Except prejudice by its very nature isn’t sane or rational, and it makes no sense whatsoever.

For these reasons the whole prejudice against mutants (as opposed to other super humans) is not really something to get hung up over.

And if nothing else mutants provide a good metaphor for examining the theme of prejudice. This not only provides fertile storytelling opportunities, but also is a genuinely important topic to discuss and understand.

So what I am trying to say guys is cut the X-Men a break guys.

Today In History We Honor Charles Hamilton Houston

‘Charles Hamilton Houston was a prominent African American lawyer, Dean of Howard University Law School, and NAACP Litigation Director who played a significant role in dismantling the Jim Crow laws, which earned him the title The Man Who Killed Jim Crow. He is also well known for having trained future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.’

(photo: Charles Hamilton Houston)

- CARTER Magazine

FBI monitored and critiqued African American writers for decades

A new book reveals the extent to which J Edgar Hoover’s bureau kept files on well-known black writers between 1919 and 1972

Newly declassified documents from the FBI reveal how the US federal agency under J Edgar Hoover monitored the activities of dozens of prominent African American writers for decades, devoting thousands of pages to detailing their activities and critiquing their work.

READ MORE

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July 2nd 1964: Civil Rights Act signed

On this day in 1964, US President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act. The 1954 Supreme Court ruling Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, which outlawed school segregation, had sparked a new and more direct phase of the struggle for racial equality in the United States. The Civil Rights Movement that followed involved defiance of discrimination in the United States, especially Jim Crow segregation in the South and restriction of black voting rights. The movement initially had little support from the federal government, who instead focused mainly on foreign Cold War policy. It was in 1963 that the violent resistance encountered by peaceful black protestors, including children, by whites in Birmingham, Alabama, led President John F. Kennedy to call for a civil rights bill. After his assassination Kennedy’s successor Johnson, who was a vocal supporter of civil rights, took charge of the fight for the bill. Facing opposition from conservative Democrats and Republicans, Johnson utilised his personal forceful nature (known as ‘The Johnson Treatment’), the power of the executive to provide incentives for congressional support, and the legacy of Kennedy to push the bill through Congress. The Civil Rights Act passed the House in February 1964 and the Senate in June, before it was signed into law in July by Johnson. Those present at the signing ceremony on July 2nd included prominent African-American leaders of the Civil Rights Movement such as Martin Luther King Jr. The Act focused on racial discrimination, banning segregation and unequal voter requirements. However it also included a prohibition on sex-based discrimination which fuelled the burgeoning feminist movement; though some claim it was added by a Virginia Democrat in an attempt to derail the passage of the act. The Civil Rights Act, along with the Voting Rights Act a year later, were the primary legislative achievements of the Civil Rights Movement, and remain the cornerstone of American civil rights legislation. 50 years on, it is a time for reflection on how far America has come since the days of Jim Crow segregation and black disenfranchisement, but also how much further is still left to go in the struggle for racial equality.

50 years ago today

Ellen Oh interviews new National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Gene Luen Yang at LOC

Ellen Oh @elloellenoh (author of Prophecy series and co-founder of WNDB) interviewed Gene Luen Yang, WNDB Advisory Board member and newly inducted National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, at the Library of Congress (Washington, DC, January 7, 2016).

Ellen – First burning question of the day, how did you react when you first heard you were the new Ambassador?

Gene – I was in a car. I was on a book tour. It was in October. I was touring for the first volume of Secret Coders which came out in September. Mark Seigel, my editor, calls me up and he tells me the news but also tells me I cannot tell anybody. So I’m in a car with an author escort and I just had to keep it inside. It still felt awesome, but I just had to keep it all inside. As soon as I could, I called my wife and I told her the news. And I was really excited, I was super excited. But honestly, I don’t think I realized the breadth and the scope of the program until [this week at the Library of Congress]. It’s just been shocking. It’s been crazy.

Ellen - Are you overwhelmed?

Gene - A little bit. [laughs] But I’m also really excited. I think it definitely presents a bunch of different opportunities for me. I’m an author. I’m passionate about books. So to get to talk about books in general is awesome.

Ellen - Yes, and you have this terrific platform. Can you talk a little bit more about it?

Gene - Sure, so every national ambassador has a platform. I had a discussion with the folks at First Second Books and the Children’s Book Council and what came  out of that discussion was the platform of “Reading Without Walls.” What we mean by that is we want kids to explore the world through reading and we want them to explore it in 3 very specific ways. One is to read books about people who do not look or live like them. Two is to read books about topics that they might find intimidating. And my own pet project for this area is to get kids to read about STEM topics - to read about science, technology, engineering and math. Third is to get kids to read stories in different formats. So if you are a kid that only reads novels with only words I want them to try a graphic novel. And the exact opposite, if you’re a kid that only reads graphic novels I want them to try a prose novel.

Ellen - How busy is your schedule this first year, do you know yet?

Gene- You know, I travel a lot already. I do maybe 2 trips every month. I’m not anticipating having to travel more this year. Because I was comparing my travel schedule with Kate’s (DiCamillo) and hers was a lot less. [laughs] But I think what the difference is that normally I travel a lot to talk about my own books. Now a lot of these programs that I already have scheduled will be folded into the ambassadorship so I won’t just be talking about my books, I’m going to be talking about reading in general.

Ellen – Here’s a specific WNDB question. When did you first see yourself represented in the pages of a book or comic?

Gene – I think it slowly happened for me as I got older. I think I first learned to call myself an Asian American in college.

Ellen - Me too.

Gene - That was really the first time I explicitly thought about my cultural heritage. And I was able to make sense of a lot of the uncomfortable situations I’ve been in when I was a little bit younger. But early on in comics, one of the things about comics that’s awesome is that you do have these characters that are covered from head to toe, like Spiderman. And when you’re reading Spiderman and he’s going through those actions, you can kind of imagine yourself underneath that suit. And even beyond that, X-Men has always been like this bastion of diversity in the superhero world. In the X-Men there were a number of prominent Asian and Asian American characters. There was Jubilee, who really felt like someone I would have known when I was in high school. She’s just written that way. She’s a Chinese American, grew up in La Jolla. Has the mutant power of firing fireworks out of her hands. Nobody I knew did that part, but everything else about her felt like someone I would have known. And there was Sunfire, who was a Japanese national and then Psylocke who did not start out life as an Asian American. But she was kidnapped by ninjas and given an Asian body so I kind of count her. [laughs]

But there were characters of Asian descent in comics and it did mean something to see them. I remember when Milestone Comics, Milestone Media, came out. It was a company that came out in the early 90s. It was headed up by Denys Cowan and Dwayne McDuffie who were two really prominent African American comic book creators. And it was a company founded on the idea of diverse comics. They wanted to create diverse superheroes. I think they were hugely influential, both on the comic book industry and to me as a comic book fan.

Ellen - Building on that, what about kids of color being able to see themselves as superheroes? We’ve seen a black spiderman and we’ve seen all the negative reactions to changing up classically white characters who are recast as POC. How important is this and the conversation that is happening right now about it?

Gene – I think America is diversifying, right? We are changing as a culture and we want to see our stories change as well. So that conversation is happening not just in superhero comics but in comics in general and in stories in general. In books, in movies and television. There’s this widening conversation about diversity. I think for kids, I think its important because there is something affirming about seeing your own experience reflected in the stories that you read. There’s a certain sense of validation that you are not alone when you read something like that. For superheroes specifically, I think superheroes are such an American genre. They’re created from America and [historically] superheroes came up just as America came into its own as a world power. Superheroes came into their own as popular mythology. And because they’re so American, I think when people of color, when minority groups in general, see themselves reflected in this genre it’s almost like an affirmation. Regardless of who you are or where you are from, you can be an American. You can be just as American as anybody else.

Ellen - I totally agree. I’m just as excited when I see a Black superhero as when I see an Asian one.

Gene – Yes!

Ellen - It does feel like anytime you see some kind of diversity it raises all people of color, all of us up.

Gene – It makes anybody who feels like an outsider realize “I don’t always have to be an outsider.” I definitely felt that way too. Like with Milestone Media, their most prominent characters were African American. My favorite of their characters was a guy named Static, Static Shock. And he’s a kid who has electricity power. He had a trashcan lid that he could turn into, it was almost like a surf board that could fly through the air. I found it awesome. He was an African American character. But I felt like the fact that he existed said something about the changing nature of that genre.

Ellen – So what is your Dream Project?

Gene - I feel like I’ve kind of gotten to do a lot of my dream projects already. American Born Chinese was a dream project of mine. Secret Coders was something that I thought about for a really long time. Boxers and Saints as well was kind of a dream project. So it’s been kind of awesome. The next dream project – well I want to do something that is non-fiction, and that’s actually what I’m working on right now. I followed a high school basketball team for a season and I’m going to be doing a book about them.

Ellen - And that was challenging for you because it was something beyond your walls?

Gene – Yeah, because I was not an athlete, I was not a sports fan growing up. The way I got interested in basketball was partly through reading. I read this book called Outside the Paint by Kathleen Yep, who is in some way related to Lawrence Yep. Anyways, that book and a bunch of other books pointed to the fact that basketball overlapped with culture. And that’s what really intrigued me. Basketball historically has been this place where outsider cultures have worked out there own dramas.  It’s been really interesting to learn about the history of basketball.

Ellen – Time for a writing question. What are your must haves when you’re working?

Gene – Coffee is really really important. Which is probably not a good thing. Yeah and I do a lot of my writing at Panera. Actually, Kwame Alexander mentioned the same thing and I was like YES! [laughs]

Ellen - That’s so funny. I don’t go to Panera, I end up at Starbucks.

Gene – It’s cause they have great wi-fi. Really wonderful wi-fi there.

Ellen – Now an Avatar question. If you were an Avatar character, what would you be?

Gene – I’d be an Earthbender. Yeah, I would definitely be an Earthbender.

Ellen – I want to be Korra… Okay what is your favorite fan moment?

Gene - My favorite moment. I’ve had children of immigrants regardless of where their parents came from, come up and tell me that my books resonated with them. And that means a lot. That means the world to me.

Ellen - Last question. This is a hard one. What do you want to be remembered for as the National Ambassador?

Gene – Oh my gosh! I don’t know. I don’t know if I can answer that one! Okay, I’ll tell you. So the two things I want to promote are figuring out how to get kids to read outside their walls, to read without walls. And the second thing is to figure out how to promote reading through technology. If I could do a good job on those two things, I’ll leave happy.

Ellen – Thank you, Gene, and congratulations!

CONGRATS, Gene! 

HERStory Matters: Poet Margaret Danner was born on January 12, 1915.

Margaret Esse Danner came of age in Chicago during the Great Migration. Sources place her birth in Pryorsburg, Kentucky,  although she adamantly claimed Chicago as her birthplace. In eighth grade, she won first prize in a school contest for “The Violin,” a poem describing Stradivarius and Guarnerius violins.

Danner’s college education included courses at Loyola University, Northwestern University, YMCA College, and the newly founded Roosevelt College. Perhaps equally significant was her education in the African-American cultural community of Chicago’s South Side, which in the 1930s and 1940s harbored grassroots cultural institutions and informal circles devoted to politics, education, art and literature and often tied to the Communist Popular Front. Although Danner stayed detached from Communism and would eventually oppose all radical politics, she participated in various South Side groups, including Inez Cunningham Stark’s poetry workshop at the South Side Community Art Center, along with Gwendolyn Brooks and Margaret Goss Burroughs.

In 1946, Danner founded Art Associates to gather and promote Chicago’s black writers and poets. She counted as friends the poet and critic Edward Bland, as well as Hoyt Fuller, who would head the revived Negro Digest (later Black World) beginning in 1951.

Danner attracted mentors outside the South Side, including the poets Paul Eagle and Karl Shapiro. She also struck up a correspondence with Langston Hughes that would continue until his death.

Poems such as “Etta Moten’s Attic” and “Africa, Drifting Through Me Sings” demonstrate Danner’s growing passion for black African arts, cultures and peoples in the 1940s and 1950s. She looked to National Geographic magazines, anthropology books and American museums for information and images. Danner framed many of her poems around encounters with African art objects. She wrote in 1968, “I believe (and have tried for many years to do something positive about this conviction) that the Black should be awakened to his vast beauty.”

Danner joined the staff of Poetry: A Magazine of Verse as an editorial assistant in 1951 and in 1956 became the first African American to serve as a Poetry assistant editor. “Far From Africa: Four Poems,” which would become one of Danner’s most anthologized works, appeared in Poetry in 1951 and earned her a John Hay Whitney Fellowship for a trip to Africa, which she delayed until 1966.

Danner moved to Detroit in 1959 to join that city’s vibrant community of black writers and artists. She quickly became a part of the “Detroit Group,” which included writers such as Danner, Dudley Randall, Oliver LaGrone, Woodie King, Jr., James Thompson and Naomi Long Madgett. In 1962, Danner was named a poet-in-residence at Wayne State University. That same year, Danner talked a local Baptist pastor into lending her an empty parish house to found a cultural center for black writers, artists and musicians.

Boone House became the artistic home of the Detroit group from 1962 to 1964 and hosted visitors such as Robert Hayden, Owen Dodson, Fuller and Hughes, who provided crucial support and publicity for several Boone House writers. The Boone House group also benefited from the attention of Rosey Pool, who included Danner and four other Detroit writers in her 1962 anthology “Beyond the Blues.” At Boone House, Danner and Randall collaborated on “Poem Counterpoem” (1966)—the first book out of Randall’s Broadside Press, an important independent black publisher till in operation today.

It was during her time in Detroit that Danner joined the Baha’i faith, which she shared with Robert Hayden. From 1964 to 1966, she was a touring poet sponsored by the Baha’i Teaching Committee.

In 1966, Danner took her long-desired trip to Africa through the John Hay Whitney Fellowship to join prominent African-American cultural figures at the First World Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar, Senegal. The poem “At Home in Dakar” (also published as “At Home in Africa”) recalls this trip.

In the mid-1960s, Danner participated in conferences and readings with younger poets and generally supported the new literary generation. During terms as poet-in-residence at Virginia Union University in Richmond and LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis, both historically black institutions, Danner continued her lifelong dedication to young people and edited two anthologies of students’ verse.

In the late 1960s and 1970s, Danner published her third and fourth volumes of poetry, “Iron Lace” (1968) and “The Down of a Thistle: Selected Poems, Prose Poems, and Songs” (1976). Her work continued to draw upon African (as well as Western) art, flora and fauna, relationships with her fellow poets and scenes from urban life. Several of her poems addressed or discussed her grandson, Sterling Washington, Jr., whom she called “Muffin,” and who seemed to represent an African-American future.

Margaret Esse Danner died on January 1, 1984, in Chicago. Her papers are held by the University of Chicago library.

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July 27th 1963: Garrett Morgan dies

On this day in 1963 the prominent African-American inventor Garrett Morgan died in Cleveland aged 86. Born in Kentucky in 1877 the seventh of eleven children and with only an elementary school education, Morgan went on to develop patents for several inventions. His patents included: a new sewing machine (his first job was as a sewing-machine mechanic); an improved traffic signal (he was the first black man in Cleveland to own a car); a hair-strengthening product; and a breathing device. His model of a breathing device, initially meant to help firefighters, went on to be used as the basis for gas masks in World War One. The hair-strengthening product he invented allowed him to start a business which sold these products to African-Americans - the G.A Morgan Hair Refining Company - which had great financial success. However, Morgan faced considerable racial prejudice throughout his career. Some refused to purchase his devices, which led Morgan to hire a white actor to pose as ‘the inventor’ when showcasing some of his inventions. After his heroism during the Cleveland Tunnel Explosion, when Morgan and his brother put on breathing devices and helped save some of the trapped workers, people realised he was African-American and sales of his products dropped. However after his patent of the traffic signal, which he sold to General Electric for $40,000 and provided the basis for the modern signal, he was honoured and respected by many in the business community. Garrett Morgan, who tirelessly supported the African-American community and whose inventions and personal heroism improved countless lives, died on July 27th 1963 in Cleveland.

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The growing solidarity between #BlackLivesMatter and Palestinian activists

From The Washington Post

The video above, published on YouTube on Wednesday, features dozens of #BlackLivesMatter and Palestinian activists delivering a joint message. “When I see them, I see us,” the video’s narrators intone.

These include prominent African American celebrities and thinkers, such as Danny Glover, Lauryn Hill, Alice Walker, Angela Davis and Cornel West. They are accompanied by well-known Palestinian activists and writers. Over the course of a couple of minutes, they unite their perceived struggles through photos, slogans and a shared story of state oppression.

They talk of black youths killed by police and Palestinian children bombed by Israeli warplanes.

“For a mild-mannered man whose music was always easy on the ear, Nat King Cole managed to be a figure of considerable controversy during his 30 years as a professional musician. From the late ’40s to the mid-’60s, he was a massively successful pop singer who ranked with such contemporaries as Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, and Dean Martin. He shared with those peers a career that encompassed hit records, international touring, radio and television shows, and appearances in films. But unlike them, he had not emerged from a background as a band singer in the swing era. Instead, he had spent a decade as a celebrated jazz pianist, leading his own small group. Oddly, that was one source of controversy. For some reason, there seem to be more jazz critics than fans of traditional pop among music journalists, and Cole’s transition from jazz to pop during a period when jazz itself was becoming less popular was seen by them as a betrayal. At the same time, as a prominent African-American entertainer during an era of tumultuous change in social relations among the races in the U.S., he sometimes found himself out of favor with different warring sides. His efforts at integration, which included suing hotels that refused to admit him and moving into a previously all-white neighborhood in Los Angeles, earned the enmity of racists; once, he was even physically attacked on-stage in Alabama. But civil rights activists sometimes criticized him for not doing enough for the cause.

Such controversies do not obscure his real talent as a performer, however. The dismay of jazz fans at his abandonment of jazz must be measured against his accomplishments as a jazz musician. An heir of Earl Hines, whom he studied closely as a child in Chicago, Cole was an influence on such followers as Oscar Peterson. And his trio, emerging in the dying days of the swing era, helped lead the way in small-band jazz. The rage felt by jazz fans as he moved primarily to pop singing is not unlike the anger folk music fans felt when Bob Dylan turned to rock in the mid-’60s; in both cases, it was all the more acute because fans felt one of their leaders, not just another musician, was going over to the enemy. Less well remembered, however, are Cole’s accomplishments during and after the transition. His rich, husky voice and careful enunciation, and the warmth, intimacy, and good humor of his approach to singing, allowed him to succeed with both ballads and novelties such that he scored over 100 pop chart singles and more than two dozen chart albums over a period of 20 years, enough to rank him behind only Sinatra as the most successful pop singer of his generation.” By William Ruhlmann

washingtonpost.com
PBS anchor Gwen Ifill, one of the most prominent African American panelists and moderators in broadcast news, has died at 61
Ifill, the anchor of PBS’s “Washington Week,” wrote for some of the country’s premier newspapers — including The Washington Post and the New York Times — before transitioning to broadcast journalism. She began her reporting career in the late 1970s, assertively carving a niche for herself as a political journalist at a time when black […]
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Oh, so you say you want to watch the Dancing Dolls show you how it’s done on the new Lifetime show, ‘Bring It’? 

Well, make sure you watch this video first. The Dancing Dolls are a prominent African-American drill/majorette dance group that originates from Jackson, Mississippi. This video will give you at least a SENSE of what to expect. Lots of hairography, sass, and fierce moves from beautiful young ladies and girls ranging in age from 10-17 (for the main Dancing Dolls group) and 5-10 (for the younger group, Baby Dancing Dolls). 

viscouscouplings  asked:

Totally agree with the U.S. Centrism post. I feel so disconnected from the social activism on this website and while I do support all issues that are addressed I feel a bit iffy? I mean I'm a Nigerian living in Nigeria and when I see these posts of "This is the Africa they don't show you" or "African culture" and just general problematic Afrocentrism I'm so scared to speak up because there are no prominent African voices to stop American ignorance and derailment. 😔

Please don’t be afraid to speak up. I know that there are a few people on here who’ll try to speak over you or shut you up but never let them. I know your pain, I might be an African living abroad but I lived im my country for years (and plan to go home after uni) and I hate it when people try to tell me about it and I especially hate it when people try to push western dynamics onto us and start attacking us when we refuse it.

There’s a big problem with Afrocentrism and it needs to be discussed, its always presenting a distorted view of the continent and homogenising us and we shouldn’t tolerate it. Bloggers like godgazi (is that correct?) are constantly spreading false information about different African cultures and societies. A lot of Afrocentrics will spread lies and the most popular one being that modern Egyptians aren’t real Egyptians, they keep spreading that bullshit even though DNA evidence shows that modern Egyptians are descendants of Ancient Egyptians. They love to erase North African identities.

I’m not saying that I hate Afrocentrics but the majority I’ve met and interacted with online are very ignorant and don’t want want to change and its very hard to support them. The whole idea that Afrocentrism talks about things from an “African point of view” is a lie because they’re constantly applying western concepts to us and most of them don’t take time to learn about ours. They don’t take time to learn about how we identify for example how some Africans living in the continent don’t identify as African because that identify was giving to most of by Europeans. We had our own identities before Europeans and we still use them.

Please always speak up if you ever see something wrong tell them don’t let them spreading misinformation 😃