Happy Birthday, W.E.B. DuBois!

W.E.B. DuBois

Thank you to fabulous historian, Dr. Blair Kelley for reminding me that today is the birthday of W.E.B. DuBois! He was born on February 23 in 1868.

Sidebar: Please forgive me for posting so late in the day. In my defense, y’all, last night, I came down with Some Kind of The Yucky Ick. I’m aching from my fingertips to the soles of my feet.  But I still have five deadlines between now and next Tuesday, so send a Sister some good, energetic, healing mojo, please.

Anyway, I just LOVE me some William Edward Burghardt DuBois, y’all! I own both volumes of his biography, written by David Levering Lewis. He was a genius, an activist, and the Ultimate Race Man Extraordinaire. DuBois was the founder and secretary of the Niagara Movement and one of the founders of the NAACP. Not only that, most scholars agree that he is the father of modern African American studies, even though they didn’t call it that back then.

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W.E.B. DuBois in top hat. (I love this picture!)

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Click here to read a condensed biography of DuBois on Wikipedia.

His Harvard University dissertation, The Suppression of the African Slave-Trade to the United States of America, 1638-1870 , which was later published as a book, still stands as a major, germinal text on the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Click here to read the entire book for free online or download to Kindle.

Further, wherever you turn in African American Studies, you must encounter W.E.B. Dubois’s The Souls of Black Folk. Studying Social Work as it relates to Black folk? Have to read that book. Black politics? Gotta read it. And Black literature, Black psychology, Black history–even Black music. Here’s a link to read the entire text for free online:

But there are two texts by DuBois that I hold especially beloved. The first is his theory of Double Consciousness (contained in The Souls of Black Folk), which explains why Black folks have to remain both constantly aware of the dominant, European American culture and their own African American culture as well:

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It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.

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And then, there is “Criteria of Negro Art.” Like The Souls of Black Folk, I come back to it time and again to discover how I really feel about Black cultural and artistic production. DuBois states:

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Thus all Art is propaganda and ever must be, despite the wailing of the purists. I stand in utter shamelessness and say that whatever art I have for writing has been used always for propaganda for gaining the right of black folk to love and enjoy. I do not care a damn for any art that is not used for propaganda. But I do care when propaganda is confined to one side while the other is stripped and silent.

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Sometimes, I agree with him. And sometimes, I really, really don’t. I go back and forth, arguing with Dr. DuBois in my mind–as if I could tangle with him intellectually, when no one can! But I do read this essay at least once a year. (Click here to read it for free online, and be changed forever, okay?)

Like I said, W.E.B. DuBois was and is The Man. That’s why there’s even a DuBois Institute at Harvard University named after him. You can click here to read more about it.

So, Happy Birthday, Dr. DuBois! And thank you so much. You remain fabulous–and relevant– throughout these one hundred and forty-four years.

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Lucille Clifton: Spell/Woman/Poet

Anybody who knows even a little bit about me knows that Lucille Clifton is my absolute favorite poet in the world. That might have something to do with my loving her so much—as in present tense, even though she joined the ancestors two years ago today. She was my friend and my beloved mentor, a real gift to me in this world and, I believe, in the next.

But it’s one of those strange things. Do I love Miss Lucille (as I called her) so much because her poems were so good or are the poems so good because I love her so much? Or, would I have loved her anyway, even without the poems?

I don’t know and guess what?  The thought of living in a world where Lucille Clifton did not create poems for me to read is a frightening brain moment. So let’s move on before I linger there.

I celebrate Miss Lucille three times a year now. I celebrate her on February 13, the day she passed on to the ancestors who lived with her in her spirit and in her poems, and that is understandably a really sad day for me. But then, I celebrate her again on Mother’s Day, because she had six of her own children whom she adored and I considered her a second mother. And then, I celebrate her one more time on June 27, her birthday, which is seriously happy occasion, of course.

I just love to celebrate Miss Lucille—and celebrate with her!

Those who know her poetry know that I’m referencing one of her two most famous poems when I say “celebrate.” Here’s a link for those of you who don’t know that poem. Read it and–I hope–become deeper in your soul. There’s audio, too! 

And here some other great Miss Lucille extras:

A biography of her on the Poetry Foundation website.

“Homage to my hips”, her other most famous poem. All sisters with glorious, big booties need to read this poem at least once a year.

Here’s a podcast I did almost two years ago with a circle of Black women to celebrate Miss Lucille’s birthday. This is a special podcast, including Miss Lucille’s firstborn child, Sidney, and National Book Award winner Nikki Finney. (When you click the link, go to “Episode 8” to begin listening!)

And here’s a wonderful video of Miss Lucille and Quincy Troupe, one of the great poets of the Black Arts Movement, and just a Down By Law Cool Brother as well.

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Lucille Clifton with Quincy Troupe, Conversation, 21 May 1996 from Lannan Foundation on Vimeo.

.Enjoy! And celebrate. Miss Lucille is up in Heaven poeming with the ancestors and having a good old time with her husband, Mr. Fred, and two of her children who passed before her.

And she’s eating hot dogs, which she absolutely loved. And I just know she is looking very cute in a really colorful blouse, because she sure could wear an outfit. I miss her so much, still, but I hope if I’m good down here, I’ll be able to join her one day in Heaven. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, for real.

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This Is For the Lover In You: Lots of FREE Black Literary Swag!

Booker T. Washington

Not only is February Black History Month/Afropalooza, it also contains Valentine’s Day, the favorite day for people who love to cuddle and kiss and guess who else? People who like to read. And there is no easier and greater way to get next to your favorite Black Library Girl (or Guy) on Valentine’s Day than to get her a book.

Sidebar: Jewelry counts, too, I will not lie. No, money can’t buy you real love, but you can sure put some on layaway with a reasonably priced gift from Tiffany’s.

But guess what? If you don’t have large or even medium-sized money, being smart gets you plenty of cool points with a smart woman. And a smart man will know I love books because in order for me to want a man romantically, he’s got to love books, too.

Call me classist or whatever you want to call me, just don’t call me if you don’t like to read.  Assume that I don’t have a telephone—landline or mobile– if you are not literate.

I don’t care how fine you are. You gets no you-know-what round these parts if you don’t read books. And Dr. Seuss does not count, okay, so get yourself out of the children’s section of the bookstore, because not only do you need to step up your literacy game, you’re looking a little creepy reading Hop on Pop unless you’ve got a toddler attached to your hip.  I’m trying to tell you what I know.

Anyway, I’m about to hook you up with some FREE Black History Month literary swag to please your nerdy sweetie! Here’s how.

Many nerds nowadays (of any complexion or background) own a reading device, like a Kindle, Nook, or a combo Tablet/RD like an Ipad. You can sneak and download these books (below) for your sweetie on her RD yourself. If not, just get up early the morning of Valentine’s Day and send your sweetie an email with all the links (below). Then he or she can download it all in under five minutes. It’s so easy!

Below are some of the links to get some of my favorite classic Black books.

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Amazon Kindle

The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs

Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington

The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man by James Weldon Johnson

Iola Leroy Shadows Lifted by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

The Narrative of Sojouner Truth

Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom; or the escape of William and Ellen Craft from Slavery by Ellen Craft

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Ibook/IPad

Collected Articles of Frederick Douglass

The Complete Poems of Paul Lawrence Dunbar 

Fifty Years and Other Poems by James Weldon Johnson

Mule Bone by Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes

Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral  By Phillis Wheatley

The Red Record: Tabulated Statistics and Alleged Causes of Lynching in the United States by Ida B. Wells Barnett

Our Nig, or Sketches From the Life of a Free Black by Harriet Wilson

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Barnes and Noble Nook

An African Treasury by Langston Hughes

Plum Bun: A Novel Without a Moral by Jessie Fauset

Harlem Shadows by Claude McKay

Religious Experience and Journal of Mrs. Jarena Lee

Meditations From the Pen of Mrs. Maria Stewart

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And just as a little extra something, here’s one of my favorite songs from back in the day by Shalamar. This is the best song, ever. This is on my Personal Love Mixtape, y’all.

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Decent People Action Alert: Troy Davis

I’m not someone who wholeheartedly agrees with the death penalty, but honestly, I’m not someone who rules it out either. When I do agree with the death penalty in those rare cases, it has to be because someone did something truly, truly horrific, and that horrific act must be proven beyond doubt.

Troy Davis (from The Color of Change website)

Lately, though, those rare cases are getting rarer for me, as I read the history of the death penalty in this country over the last nearly four hundred years, when people were put to death for social transgressions that did not involve taking a life at all, but rather for being the “wrong” race or daring to challenge the power of the state. Certainly some of those folks who have been executed were guilty of murder, but history shows us that the death penalty has been applied overwhelmingly in this country because of class and race bias and not in the service of justice.

Today, I saw a link on Facebook from The Color of Change about a man named Troy Davis, and I’m embarrassed to say, I almost scrolled past it. But when I stopped and read, I’m glad I did. Y’all know I’m from Georgia, and so, the case of Troy Davis hits literally close to home. Here is The Color of Change webpage for him.

If you want to read in depth about Troy Davis’s case, click this link for articles on him on Amnesty International’s website.

There have been several cases in the past few years of Black men who were convicted and sentenced to death based upon eyewitness testimony, only to have DNA evidence exonerate those men. Some of these Brothers have spent at least a decade on death row before getting out. That is indeed horrible, but they are the lucky ones, because we African Americans all know the history, the true stories of other Black men who were put to death for crimes they didn’t commit. In Georgia, as in all the Deep South states, these kinds of stories are all too frequent.

Given the current crisis facing the Black community in regards to the prison industrial complex and the rush to imprison Black men–and to make them work as free labor, in some cases–we definitely need to know absolutely that a murder has been committed before a state takes the drastic step of executing a human being.

I don’t sign a lot of things–I’m pretty skeptical–but I want y’all to know that I signed my name to the Color of Change petition to stay the execution of Troy Davis. I am asking everyone who reads this blog not only to sign the petition, but to spread the word about this situation immediately. Time is of the essence.

If we can get the news out about somebody’s latest rap video and get it a million hits on You Tube, surely we can move the news of this man through the internet grapevine to save his life–at least until all the facts of the case are in. Click on this link, please, to sign the Color of Change petition for Troy Davis.

Whether or not you believe in the death penalty—and I’m positive some of y’all do believe, and trust me, I’m not trying to judge if you do—ask yourself this: if this man Troy Davis was your brother or father—or you—wouldn’t you want there to be no doubt at all before an execution took place?

Thank y’all for reading.

Love,

Honorée

Most Black Folks I Know Don't Like Snow–So Click on This

Tuesday was Brother Langston Hughes’s Birthday and the first day of Black History Month–my FAVORITE month of the year.

But I feel like remixing the first line from Hughe’s’ “Mother to Son”: “Well, y’all, I’ll tell you, life for me HAS been a crystal stair–it’s covered in ice and I slipped and fell down on it!”

I was all geared up to go to the AWP Conference, but then, we got a major snow storm on the prairie on Monday night.  I was all ready to go, despite the weather. Yesterday, I spent an hour shoveling off my driveway, only to find out that the roads were declared officially hazardous by the state highway department. So, I had to cancel my plans and not go to AWP.

And I had to admit that although being a Radical Black Feminist is 90% fabulous, the other 10% sucks. So roughly 328 days a year are great. But 37 days a year aren’t– those are the days that I must perform manual labor that I would want a man to do. Only that man is snowed in as well–at his own house. Without me. In his own bed. Without me. You know where this is leading, so let me move on.

Y’all, I was so swole. First, I had all my cute outfits picked out, and I had lost five whole pounds. And I was going to blow dry my hair so everyone could see how long it had grown.  I thought I was going to be able to showcase my Sassy Trifecta and “stunt” at AWP.

Alas, that was not to be the case.

I’ve toyed with the idea of dressing up in my AWP outfits and walking around my house, but I’m afraid that might lead me to some strange mental health places, so I’m just in sweatpants–but I am wearing full make-up as a compromise.

So anyway, here are some sassy links to help you–ok, ME–make it through being snowed in:

Nikky Finney’s new book of poetry Head Off And Split is coming out this week! If you don’t know about this wonderful Sister-poet, you should! Here is her website link so that you can find out about her and her essential work.

Sidebar: One of the reasons I’m so upset about not being at the AWP Conference is that I was supposed to see Miss Nikky read at an off-site reading at Howard University. As we speak, though, my Ace Boon Poet-Friend Tony Medina has called me on Skype on his laptop during Nikky’s reading, put it on full volume and I am listening to Miss Nikky RIGHT NOW!

My good friend Heidi Durrow’s first novel, The Girl Who Fell From The Sky has made The New York Times Bestseller’s List!  I did Heidi’s first interview the month that her book came out, last year.  Here’s the podcast of that interview. And here’s the original review of her book–mind you, this is a first book, so that’s an achievement in and of itself–in The New York Times Book Review.

I’ve done a Guest Edited Poetry Feature on ConnotationsPress.online! I know I shouldn’t blow my own horn– but Toot-Toot and Beep-Beep!:-) All the poets I’ve chosen are wonderful. Some of them you have heard me mention before on this blog, like Randall Horton and Remica L. Bingham, but others are brand new, like Ron Davis, the co-editor of Mythium.

You know that last fall, I set it off by talking about the issues with Black women in the Black poetry community. Well, the fabulous woman’s writers website Vidaweb.org has compiled the gendered numbers of writers published in the most well-known literary magazines in the country–and by “gendered,” I mean, how many women were published and how many men were published in those magazines.

Yes, it will blow your mind. But what will–or should–blow your mind as well is that they because they don’t split those numbers into racial categories, you know that most, if not not, of those women that are published in those magazines are White women. So not only are the numbers of “women” appalling, but the numbers of “women of color” are, well, abysmal.

And finally, Certified Dime Piece Desiree Rogers has taken over the position as CEO of Ebony and Jet Magazines. Y’all will remember that Desiree Rogers is the former Social Secretary of the Obama White House, and left under a sort of cloud. I still don’t understand why, because I just love Desiree. Maybe because she is just unabashed about being beautiful, brilliant, and always dressed in fabulous outfits. Maybe it’s that Desiree is over fifty years old and still looks thirty. She is reportedly a descendant of the Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau of New Orleans, and I believe it y’all, because you gotta know roots to look as good as Desiree does at her age. I love Sisters Who Stunt And Don’t Give a What.

I’m hoping that Desiree can turn Ebony around, because what would Black America be without Ebony? For those of us of a certain age, Ebony, and its younger sibling, Jet were part of our childhood. But both could be tacky as you-know-what, and those of us who grew up with Ebony and Jet knew that as well.

The vintage, completely sexist “Are Black Women Stealing Black Men’s Jobs?” articles in Ebony. The typos and the cheesy layouts–we knew that, too. The pictures of dead people IN THEIR CASKETS in Jet— Lord Have Mercy.

But then there was Ebony Fashion Fair, the fashion show AND the make-up! (Fashion Fair was the first make-up I ever used. The foundation base in the pink compact would not come off all day, y’all.) And the list of Black folks on TV every week in Jet! And the fact that, every week, every one of us thirty million Black folks read the both of these magazines!

The poet Elizabeth Alexander has an essay about these two magazines in her book, The Black Interior. (You can order this book by clicking this link, and if you order it, you will not be sorry. Elizabeth is just as superlative as a prose writer as she is a poet.) In the essay, Elizabeth talks about how these magazines joined us Black folks as a community. It made it possible for us to walk into a room with a complete stranger, and if he or she was Black, we had at least one thing in common. So I surely hope that Desiree saves the Ebony and Jet day.

Ok, I’m off to drink my gazillionith cup of hot tea for the day! I’m pretending that it’s keeping me calm and centered.

Remember to keep the heat on, y’all.