You Gotta Read This: A Podcast w/ Booker T. Mattison on May 31@8pm EST

Booker T. Mattison

I told y’all I was going to try to keep things exciting with my podcasts—even if I didn’t keep the podcasts regular–and y’all know I don’t lie. I’m talking with novelist and filmmaker Booker T. Mattison this evening on Talkshoe.com; he’s got a new novel out called Snitch and it’s so fabulous.

I haven’t met Booker in person, but I did meet him over the internet when I sent out a totally random plea for someone to find me a copy of his wonderful short film, The Gilded Six Bits.  As anyone who has talked to me more than five minutes knows, Zora Neale Hurston (the author of  the short story “The Gilded Six Bits”) is my most favorite author in the whole wide world.

Well, I was unabashedly begging on the blog for someone to hook me up with Booker’s short film and guess what? Booker himself responded in the comments section of the blog post and sent me his film! (I almost fainted.) Oh, I can’t tell you how happy I was when I received that film in the mail. I watched it over and over.  It is such a wonderful film. I am not playing.

And then I found out that Booker T. was a novelist as well, and I thought, I have to conduct a podcast with this brother. So I decided to beg him again to do the podcast and he generously found the time for me!

So join me TODAY at 8pm Eastern time for a podcast with novelist and filmmaker Booker T. Mattison. You know it’s going to be sassy.

Here’s the link for the podcast on Talkshoe.com—click it at 8pm to listen live. As always, my podcasts with be archived both on  this blog and on Talkshoe.com, the host podcast website.

Or you can download all the podcasts, both present and past, on ITunes for free. Just click this link right now or go to the upper right of this page and click on “Podcast” and there’s an Itunes link on that page as well. It’s super easy!

Booker’s bio is below.

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Booker T. Mattison is an author and filmmaker who wrote the screenplay for and directed the film adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston’s classic story “The Gilded Six Bits,” which aired on Showtime. It starred Chad Coleman (“The Wire”), T’keyah Keymah (“That’s So Raven,” “Cosby,” “In Living Color”), Wendell Pierce (“Treme”,”The Wire,” “Ray”) and Novella Nelson (“The Antwon Fisher Story”). The Hollywood Reporter said of the film that, “Mattison’s direction and feel for her characters match up to Hurston’s sterling piece of fiction. The short is full of atmosphere and strongly developed characters.”

Mattison’s novel Snitch was published May 1, 2011. Publishers Weekly said that, “Author and filmmaker Mattison’s sophomore outing reads like its ready for screen adaptation… Mattison has a superb ear and his skills keep on growing.” His debut novel Unsigned Hype was published in June 2009 and is in its third printing. Producer Stephanie Allain Bray (“Hustle and Flow,” “Black Snake Moan” and the forthcoming “We the Peeples”) is attached to produce the film adaptation of both books.

Mattison received his Master of Fine Arts in film from New York University and his Bachelor of Science in mass communication from Norfolk State University.

Mattison has taught Literary Criticism at the College of New Rochelle in New York, film production at Brooklyn College and Advanced Directing, Screenwriting and Directing Actors at Regent University in Virginia.

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Black Folks’ Invention Number 1001: Memorial Day

Black Union Soldiers

Y’all know we Black folks love us some Memorial Day.  Back in the day, I had a friend—well, okay, me—who used to take off the Thursday before Memorial Day and party all weekend until Tuesday morning before I had to go back to work, and I really wasn’t commemorating anything. It embarrasses me, but I have to be honest: it was all about a party.

And though I’m a vegetarian now, I still get a little sad that not eating anything that had parents means I had to give up, like, actual meat. Which meant I couldn’t eat barbecue. But who knew that before I gave up eating dead things, I was partaking in African American history, gnawing all on those rib bones and trying not to get grease on my cute holiday outfit?

It turns out we Black folks invented the actual holiday of Memorial Day, and not just the holiday barbecue.

Today an Op-Ed about Memorial Day came out in The New York Times, written by David W. Blight, a professor at Yale University. Citing archival materials (and y’all know I love me some primary historical documents!) Dr. Blight dates the very first Memorial Day back to the actions of freed slaves in the year 1865.

Here’s an excerpt:

But for the earliest and most remarkable Memorial Day, we must return to where the war began. By the spring of 1865, after a long siege and prolonged bombardment, the beautiful port city of Charleston, S.C., lay in ruin and occupied by Union troops. Among the first soldiers to enter and march up Meeting Street singing liberation songs was the 21st United States Colored Infantry; their commander accepted the city’s official surrender.

Whites had largely abandoned the city, but thousands of blacks, mostly former slaves, had remained, and they conducted a series of commemorations to declare their sense of the meaning of the war.

To read the rest of the article, click on this link. (But first, put the pig meat down because you don’t want to get sauce on your keyboard.)

And after you do that, think about talking to one of the old folks in your family who served in the military. Ask him (or her) to tell you the story before the story dies when he (or she) does.  These stories are important and shouldn’t be lost, but so frequently, by the time we remember to ask the elders certain questions, it’s too late.

I really regret never asking my father about his time as an army lieutenant during World War II, but a few years ago, I was talking to my mother’s brother Thed about his tour in Vietnam and I gotta tell you, I don’t think I heard my Uncle Thed get so animated ever in my whole life as he did telling that story. (Uncle Thed is one laid back, super-cool brother.)

In many communities of color, the service (despite all its issues) was the one place African American men could ascend to success and have some dignity at the same time. I’m anti-war, but I am not anti-Soldier, anti-Sailor or anti-Marine. I have too many Black men in my family who served and in a dignified way, including my father, my uncle Thed who retired as a Chief Petty Officer from the Navy, and my father’s great-grandfather Charles Flippin who was a Private on the Union side during the Civil War.

So Happy Memorial Day, Y’all. We deserve those ribs, don’t you think?

"You Gotta Read This": A Podcast w/Tayari Jones On May 17 @ 8pm EST

Tayari Jones

As the song says, “It’s been a long time” since I had a regular “You Gotta Read This” podcast. Forgive me, y’all, please. It’s been a crazy, busy time since last June (when I had my last podcast) and things don’t look like they will calm down anytime soon.  I’m working like a rented government mule, y’all, and that ain’t no joke.

So I decided instead of having a regular podcast every month, I would just try to make sure that the podcasts I did have every now and again were fabulous and memorable.

And in order to (re)start this podcast party off right, I’m coming back strong with the award-winning novelist Tayari Jones! That’s right. Tomorrow evening at 8pm Eastern Time, I will be talking with Tayari about her just published third book, Silver Sparrow. Click this link to listen to us tomorrow.

You know you don’t want to miss this one. Y’all, this book is so extra good and fabulous. I read it a couple of month of ago in only one night–an accomplishment for me, since I’m usually reading five or six books at a time, and so I only read a bit from each one every day.

I cheated on my other books that night with Silver Sparrow and I was just blown away. It’s not only a seriously good read, it is both a book that is well written and that serious readers will love (read: literary), but one that you can recommend to your girlfriends or family members who might not have picked up a book in a long while (read: not boring, not in the least.)

So join me tomorrow at 8pm Eastern Standard Time for my podcast with novelist Tayari Jones! We are going to have a great time, just gabbing away, and y’all know how I do. We’ll be talking about some things you won’t get in the “regular” interviews.

Here’s the link for the podcast on Talkshoe.com–click it at 8pm. As always, the podcasts will be archived both on this blog and on Talkshoe.com, the host podcast site.

Or you can download all of my podcasts (past and future) for free–yes free— on ITunes, so you can put them on your Ipod and go. What could be better? The podcasts will be available on ITunes the day after the podcast happends, and y’all know me–I will remind you about that.

Here’s Tayari’s very sassy bio (below):

Tayari Jones was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia where she spent most of her childhood with the exception of the one year she and her family spent in Nigeria, West Africa. Her first novel, Leaving Atlanta, is a coming of age story set during the city’s infamous child murders of 1979-81. Jones herself was in the fifth grade when thirty African American children were murdered from the neighborhoods near her home and school.

Leaving Atlanta received many awards and accolades including the Hurston/Wright Award for Debut Fiction. It was named “Novel of the Year” by Atlanta Magazine and “Best Southern Novel of the Year,” by Creative Loafing Atlanta. The Atlanta Journal Constitution and The Washington Post both listed it as one of the best of 2002.

Her second novel, The Untelling, published in 2005, is the story of a family struggling to overcome the aftermath of a fatal car accident. Upon the publication of The Untelling, Essence magazine called Jones, “a writer to watch.” The Atlanta Journal Constitution proclaims Jones to be “one of the best writers of her generation.”

Silver Sparrow, her third novel has just been published by Algonquin Books.  The Village Voice wrote that “Tayari Jones is fast defining black midle class Atlanta the way that Cheever did for Westchester.”  The American Booksellers chose Silver Sparrow and the #1 Indie Next pick for June 2011.

Tayari Jones is a graduate of Spelman College, The University of Iowa, and Arizona State University. Currently, she is an Associate Professor in the MFA program at Rutgers-Newark University. She was named as the 2008 Collins Fellow by the United States Artists Foundation.  She will spend the 2011-12 academic year at Harvard University as a Radcliffe Institute Fellow, researching her fourth novel.