Hello Everyone! It seems time is flying by, yet some days it seems to stand still as we anticipate when our lives will be back to normal as we catch glimpses of hope navigating through this pandemic. Hope everyone is safe and well!
Some of you may know that I started writing and posting to my blog when I participated in Blogbattle. Through the Blogbattle community I was introduced to different genres from the other writers. I would leave comments like I could NEVER write a historical fiction, or a western. Well that prompted a challenge from our host Rachael, she challenged me to write a western. I didn’t do it right away, but I eventually did it, and actually enjoyed it. Though I still stood on the belief that I couldn’t do a historical or period piece. Well low and behold, the Blogbattle guidelines were revamped and a not…
Genre: Middle Grades/Explore the World/Difficult Discussions/Africa
1.99 at time of posting!
We are the young people,
We will not be broken!
We demand freedom
“Away with slavery
In our land of Africa!”
For almost fifty years apartheid forced the young people of South Africa to live apart as Blacks, Whites, Indians, and “Coloreds.” This unique and dramatic collection of stories — by native South African and Carnegie Medalist Beverley Naidoo — is about young people’s choices in a beautiful country made ugly by injustice.
Each story is set in a different decade during the last half of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, and features fictional characters caught up in very real events. Included is a Timeline Across Apartheid, which recounts some of the restrictive laws passed during this era, the events leading up to South Africa’s first free democratic elections, and the establishment of a new “rainbow government” that leads the country today.
Fat Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday. It is also known as Mardi Gras Day or Shrove Day. It is a day when people eat all they want of everything and anything they want as the following day is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of a long fasting period for Christians. In addition to fasting, Christians also give up something special that they enjoy. So, Fat Tuesday is a celebration and the opportunity to enjoy that favorite food or snack that you give up for the long Lenten season.
Nowhere on the planet is Fat Tuesday celebrated more than on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. The day is celebrated with festivities and parades and of course much food and drink. While in New Orleans, a big tradition is in wearing Mardi Gras beads and giving them to others. And tradition requires that if a guy gives a girl some beads, she has to do something for him… this can be just loads of fun…
Did You Know? On Bourbon street in New Orleans, store owners coat poles and columns with Vaseline to keep wild and rowdy revelers from climbing them (and perhaps falling).
In addition to being called Mardi Gras Day and Fat Tuesday, it is also called Fastnacht Day. Pennsylvania Dutch country, and other areas with large German populations, refer to it as Fastnacht Day.
Last week, I was exchanging comments with James about Sugar, Sugar by The Archies. I’d posted a youtube video and the lyrics for a #SongLyricSunday music challenge in mid-December. For those not in the know… or not born yet, Sugar, Sugar was the number one song in the country September 20 through October 11 in 1969, and subsequently, the Billboard Top 100 Song of the Year (RIAA).
Needless to say, we heard it…a LOT! No one thought it odd that a song sang by fictional cartoon characters ruled the airwaves and won the year. The song’s co-author, Andy Kim, would go on to record, Rock Me Gently, a number one hit in 1974.
It got me to thinking—what else were we listening to in 1969?
I was the ripe old age of nine in 1969, with three older siblings and an extensive music collection. (Vinyl 45s were 69¢!) I pulled out paper and pen and listed the songs I could remember. The mister even added a few… and we didn’t even touch the surface. Giving up, we turned to Google… and ended up building a new playlist!
Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with the news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863.
The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.
Later attempts to explain this two and a half year delay in the receipt of this important news have yielded several versions that have been handed down through the years. Often told is the story of a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the news of freedom. Another is that the news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations. And still, another, is that federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. All of which or neither of these versions could be true.
Certainly, for some, President Lincoln’s authority over the rebellious states was in question For whatever the reasons, conditions in Texas remained status quo well beyond what was statutory.
General Order Number 3
One of General Granger’s first orders of business was to read to the people of Texas, General Order Number 3 which began most significantly with:
“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”
The reactions to this profound news ranged from pure shock to immediate jubilation. While many lingered to learn of this new employer to employee relationship, many left before these offers were completely off the lips of their former ‘masters’ – attesting to the varying conditions on the plantations and the realization of freedom. Even with nowhere to go, many felt that leaving the plantation would be their first grasp of freedom.
North was a logical destination and for many, it represented true freedom, while the desire to reach family members in neighboring states drove the some into Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. Settling into these new areas as free men and women brought on new realities and the challenges of establishing a heretofore non-existent status for black people in America.
Recounting the memories of that great day in June of 1865 and its festivities would serve as motivation as well as a release from the growing pressures encountered in their new territory. The celebration of June 19th was coined “Juneteenth” and grew with more participation from descendants.
The Juneteenth celebration was a time for reassuring each other, for praying and for gathering remaining family members. Juneteenth continued to be highly revered in Texas decades later, with many former slaves and descendants making an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston on this date.
Octavia Estelle Butler often referred to as the “grand dame of science fiction,” was born in Pasadena, California on June 22, 1947. She lost her father at a young age and was raised by her mother. To support the family, her mother worked as a maid.
Butler credited the struggles of her working-class mother as an important influence on her writing. Because Butler’s mother received little formal education herself, she made sure that young Butler was given the opportunity to learn by bringing her reading materials that her white employers threw away, from magazines to advanced books. She also encouraged Butler to write. She bought her daughter her first typewriter when she was ten years old, and, seeing her hard at work on a story, casually remarked that maybe one day she could become a writer, causing Butler to realize that it was possible to make a living as an author. A decade later, Mrs. Butler would pay more than a month’s rent to have an agent review her daughter’s work. She also provided Butler with the money she had been saving for dental work to pay for Butler’s scholarship so she could attend the Clarion Science Fiction Writers Workshop, where Butler sold her first two stories.
Butler began reading science fiction at a young age, but quickly became disenchanted by the genre’s unimaginative portrayal of ethnicity and class as well as by its lack of noteworthy female protagonists. She then set to correct those gaps by, “choosing to write self-consciously as an African-American woman marked by a particular history” —what Butler termed as “writing myself in”. Butler’s stories, therefore, are usually written from the perspective of a marginalized black woman whose difference from the dominant agents increases her potential for reconfiguring the future of her society.
In 1979, Butler had a career breakthrough with Kindred. The novel tells the story of an African-American woman who travels back in time to save a white slave owner—her own ancestor. In part, Butler drew some inspiration from her mother’s work. “I didn’t like seeing her go through back doors,” she once said, according to The New York Times. “If my mother hadn’t put up with all those humiliations, I wouldn’t have eaten very well or lived very comfortably. So I wanted to write a novel that would make others feel the history: the pain and fear that black people have had to live through in order to endure.”
Publishers and critics have labeled Butler’s work as science fiction. While Butler enjoyed the genre deeply, calling it “potentially the freest genre in existence”, she resisted being branded a genre writer. Many critics have pointed out that her narratives have drawn attention to people from varied ethnic and cultural backgrounds. She claimed to have three loyal audiences: black readers, science-fiction fans, and feminists.
In an interview by Randall Kenan, Butler admits that she writes science fiction because she does not want her work to be labeled or used as a marketing tool. She wants the readers to be genuinely interested in her work and the story she provides, but at the same time, she fears that people will not read her work because of the “science fiction” label that they have.
Charlie Rose interviewed Octavia Butler soon after she received the award of a MacArthur Fellowship and asked, “What then is central to what you want to say about race?” Butler’s response was, “Do I want to say something central about race? Aside from, ‘Hey we’re here!’?” This points to an essential claim for Butler that the world of science fiction is a world of possibilities, and although race is an innate element, it is embedded in the narrative, not forced upon it.
For some writers, science fiction serves as means to delve into fantasy. But for Butler, it largely served as a vehicle to address issues facing humanity. It was this passionate interest in the human experience that imbued her work with a certain depth and complexity.
In the mid-1980s, Butler began to receive critical recognition for her work. She won the 1984 Best Short Story Hugo Award for Speech Sounds. That same year, the novelette Bloodchild won a Nebula Award and later a Hugo as well.
In the late 1980s, Butler published her Xenogenesis trilogy—Dawn (1987), Adulthood Rites (1988) and Imago (1989). This series of books explores issues of genetics and race. To ensure their mutual survival, humans reproduce with aliens known as the Oankali. Butler received much praise for this trilogy. She went on to write the two-installment Parable series—Parable of the Sower (1993) and Parable of the Talents (1998).
In 1995, Butler received a “genius” grant from the MacArthur Foundation—becoming the first science-fiction writer to do so—which allowed her to buy a house for her mother and herself.
Octavia was a perfectionist with her work and spent several years grappling with writer’s block. Her efforts were hampered by her ill health and the medications she took. After starting and discarding numerous projects, Butler wrote her last novel Fledgling (2005), which was an innovative take on the concept of vampires and family structures, the latter being one of her works’ prevailing themes.
On February 24, 2006, Octavia E. Butler died at her Seattle home. She was 58 years old. With her death, the literary world lost one of its great storytellers. She is remembered, as Gregory Hampton wrote in Callaloo, as a writer of “stories that blurred the lines of distinction between reality and fantasy.” And through her work, “she revealed universal truths.”
(From Wikipedia, Biography.com, and the Internet.)
Remembering Congresswoman Barbara Jordan on the 81st anniversary of her birth.
Barbara Jordan was a lawyer, educator, a leader of the Civil Rights Movement and an American politician – the first African-American congresswoman to come from the deep South and the first woman ever elected to the Texas Senate (1966). The scholar who stirred the nation with her Churchillian denunciations of the Watergate abuses is best remembered for her defense of the Constitution during the impeachment hearings of President Richard Nixon in 1974. Jordan’s reputation as a national leader was heightened by her involvement in the House Judiciary Committee and the hearings that resulted in the impeachment of President Richard Nixon. However, Jordan’s political career spans several decades and includes service in the Texas Senate, the House of Representatives and as a presidential and gubernatorial adviser. Jordan’s career demonstrated her commitment to fairness and to legislation that protects the underserved and underrepresented populations of the United States.
In 1976, Barbara Jordan became the first woman and first African American to give the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention. In 1979, she retired from her career as a public servant and returned to Texas as a full professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas. Although retired, she remained heavily involved in politics. She spoke out against the Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork in 1987 and in 1992, she was asked to be keynote speaker again at the Democratic National Convention.
First diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in the early 1970’s, the disease would be responsible for Barbara Jordan’s declining health. On January 17, 1996, she died of complications from pneumonia. Jordan lay in state at the Lyndon B. Johnson Library on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin for a public goodbye. Her papers are housed at the Barbara Jordan Archives at her alma mater, Texas Southern University.
Baldwin’s novels and plays fictionalize fundamental personal questions and dilemmas amid complex social and psychological pressures thwarting the equitable integration not only of black people but also of gay and bisexual men while depicting some internalized obstacles to such individuals’ quests for acceptance. Such dynamics are prominent in Baldwin’s second novel, Giovanni’s Room, written in 1956, well before the gay liberation movement.
Baldwin was born after his mother, Emma Berdis Jones, left his biological father because of his drug abuse and moved to Harlem, New York City. There, she married a preacher, David Baldwin. The family was very poor.
Baldwin spent much time caring for his several younger brothers and sisters. At the age of 10, he was teased and abused by two New York police officers, an instance of racist harassment by the NYPD that he would experience again as a teenager and document in his essays. His adoptive father, whom Baldwin in essays called simply his father, appears to have treated him—by comparison with his siblings—with great harshness.
His stepfather died of tuberculosis in summer of 1943 just before Baldwin turned 19. The day of the funeral was Baldwin’s 19th birthday, the day his father’s last child was born, and the day of the Harlem Riot of 1943, which was portrayed at the beginning of his essay “Notes of a Native Son”. The quest to answer or explain family and social rejection—and attain a sense of selfhood, both coherent and benevolent—became a consistent theme in Baldwin’s writing.
During his teenage years in Harlem and Greenwich Village, Baldwin started to realize that he was gay. In 1948, he walked into a restaurant where he knew he would not be served. When the waitress explained that black people were not served at the establishment, Baldwin threw a glass of water at her, shattering the mirror behind the bar. As a result of being disillusioned by American prejudice against blacks and gays, he left the United States at the age of 24 and settled in Paris, France. His flight was not just a desire to distance himself from American prejudice, but to see himself and his writing beyond an African-American context. Baldwin did not want to be read as “merely a Negro; or, even, merely a Negro writer”. Also, he left the United States desiring to come to terms with his sexual ambivalence and flee the hopelessness that many young African-American men like himself succumbed to in New York.
In Paris, Baldwin was soon involved in the cultural radicalism of the Left Bank. His work started to be published in literary anthologies, notably Zero, which was edited by his friend Themistocles Hoetis and which had already published essays by Richard Wright.
He lived in France for most of his later life. He would also spend some time in Switzerland and Turkey. During his life and after it, Baldwin would be seen not only as an influential African-American writer but also as an influential exile writer, particularly because of his numerous experiences outside the United States and the impact of these experiences on Baldwin’s life and his writing.
Maya Angelou called Baldwin her “friend and brother”, and credited him for “setting the stage” for her 1969 autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Baldwin was made a Commandeur de la Légion d’Honneur by the French government in 1986.
Baldwin was also a close friend of Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison. Upon his death, Morrison wrote a eulogy for Baldwin that appeared in The New York Times. In the eulogy, entitled “Life in His Language,” Morrison credits Baldwin as being her literary inspiration and the person who showed her the true potential of writing. She writes,
“You knew, didn’t you, how I needed your language and the mind that formed it? How I relied on your fierce courage to tame wildernesses for me? How strengthened I was by the certainty that came from knowing you would never hurt me? You knew, didn’t you, how I loved your love? You knew. This then is no calamity. No. This is jubilee. ‘Our crown,’ you said, ‘has already been bought and paid for. All we have to do,’ you said, ‘is wear it.'”
Early on December 1, 1987, Baldwin died from stomach cancer in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France. He was buried at the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, near New York City.
In 1992, Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, established the James Baldwin Scholars program, an urban outreach initiative, in honor of Baldwin, who taught at Hampshire in the early 1980s.
In 2005, the USPS created a first-class postage stamp dedicated to Baldwin, which featured him on the front, with a short biography on the back of the peeling paper.
In 2012 James Baldwin was inducted into the Legacy Walk, an outdoor public display that celebrates LGBT history and people.
In 2014 128th Street, between Fifth and Madison Avenues, was named “James Baldwin Place” to celebrate the 90th anniversary of Baldwin’s birth. He lived in the neighborhood and attended P.S. 24.