Countdown of 10 great moments in 2010 (part 7): Barack Obama and The National Urban League

Cover of "The State of the Black Union" published annually by the National Urban League

For the concluding installment in the hit article series please click below:
Countdown of 10 great moments in 2010 (part 7): Barack Obama and The NUL – National African-American Art |


Countdown of 10 Great Moments in 2010 (part 5): the dancer and the screenwriter – National African-American Art |

Author Sapphire and screenwriter/director Geoffrey Fletcher at the Academy Awards.

Catch up on the countdown to greatness by clicking this link:

Countdown of 10 Great Moments in 2010 (part 5): the dancer and the screenwriter – National African-American Art |

Countdown of 10 Great Moments in 2010 (part 4): Cultured Ladies, Political Gents

Celebrated author Ntozake Shange photo by Stephen Lovekin and Getty

Celebrated playwright Ntozake Shange. (photo by Stephen Lovekin)

To read the full article please click the following link:
Countdown of 10 Great Moments in 2010 (part 4): Cultured Ladies, Political Gents – National African-American Art |

Countdown of 10 Great Moments in African-American History Year 2010 (part 1)

Historian Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Historian Henry Louis Gates Jr.

The first decade of the 21st century ended in 2009 with concerns expressed worldwide over the state of the economy, and the second decade kicked off the same way in 2010. Historically, whatever challenging conditions have impacted upon Americans in general tends to hit African Americans twice as hard. This new series over the next five installments will count down from 10 to 1 some of most powerful moments of 2010 to shape, define, or impact the African-American experience-and thus the American experience overall as well-in a significant way.

As with the series last year, the list is likely to include some surprises, especially when it comes to who or what occupies the number one position.

Overview in Miniature

The national unemployment rate is only one example of how conditions in America tend to affect African Americans differently from the general population. Whereas the national unemployment has continued to hover at just below 10 percent throughout 2010, the rate for African Americans at this time has soared well over that figure to reach almost 17 percent.  Likewise, as frequently noted, African Americans make up almost half (some 800,000 plus) of the country’s prison population of 2.3 million people while comprising only 12 percent of the nation’s population. The numbers on high school drop outs and newly-reported cases of AIDS are equally dour.

As uncomfortable as it may be for many to acknowledge, the social and economic disparities that exist in the lives of many African Americans can be traced to racial factors and that observation does not represent an excuse but a reality. Nevertheless, struggle against seemingly insurmountable odds has been a hallmark of African-American existence since the days of slavery. Despite these odds and ongoing adverse conditions, African Americans have continued to contribute substantially to the culture, strength, and preservation of the United States as a whole. Likewise, as a group and as individuals, they have also continued to engage the challenges before them, break new ground, and often lead the way on the road from painful devastation to inspired recovery.

NEXT: The countdown begins with the dynamic couple at number 10

by Aberjhani

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Dimensions of Time and Creative Vision

Cover story on ELEMENTAL, the Power of Illuminated Loved  

Cover story on ELEMENTAL, the Power of Illuminated Loved

After receiving an invitation from Amazon to add an author’s note to the site’s product pages for my books, I accepted and found myself having quite a bit of fun looking back on the experiences of writing different books. The following reflections are on ELEMENTAL, the Power of Illuminated Love (which btw is on sale right now):

Dimensions of Time and Creative Vision

If we accept the description of painting as a form of language, then it should be said that Luther E. Vann began composing ELEMENTAL, the Power of Illuminated Love with the oldest images in the book, which date back to 1970 and 1972. My pen started the process of catching up with his brush strokes in 1991, when I attended an exhibit of his work at the Beach Institute in Savannah, Georgia, and almost immediately started scribbling descriptions of the images that seemed to glow, shout, and sing at me from the canvases.

A little later, a chance encounter with the artist himself led to discussions about the possibility of creating a book together, one in which my writings-poetry and essays-would strive to articulate the essence of the paintings. Visually, Luther’s work already spoke very powerfully for itself and I had doubts about being able to match in words what he so masterfully had already accomplished with painting and sculpture. How would I even begin such a formidable task?

The idea of such a book itself went all the way back to Bohemian Paris, if not further, when artists such as Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall joined in creative partnerships with poets like Guillaume Apollinaire and Blaise Cendrars.  Who was I to fail to live up to such a noble tradition without at least giving it all the best shots I could muster?

I started by first borrowing small prints of the artist’s work and studying them. It would be a mistake, I knew, to simply describe the images. So I meditated instead on the creative and spiritual energies that inspired the artist himself and led to the works’ composition. Then I took the pressure off myself by writing only when struck by an impulse to do so as opposed to sitting in front of a blank page and trying to force a flow of words that were not there. With that point settled, the poems then seemed to arrive of their own accord, dropping out of the night sky like message-bearing meteor showers or greeting me with entire stanzas as I woke up in the morning.

Creative work has a way of unfolding in one dimension of time while everyday life progresses in another. My fateful beginning on ELEMENTAL evolved into a journey that took all of some seventeen years. While ELEMENTAL continued to grow and mature at its own pace, my first three books were completed and published. Periodicals on a national level, like ESSENCE Magazine, as well as those on more regional levels, like the Savannah Literary Journal, began to publish poems from the work in progress. Likewise, Vann continued to produce award-winning paintings which eventually made their way into the book as well.

The most phenomenal part of the journey came when members of the community banded together to champion the publication of the book and in May 2008, almost seventeen years to the day from the first time I saw Vann’s exhibit, actually made it happen.  What follows is an excerpt from a letter (first published in Connect Savannah, January 2, 2008) that I wrote to thank the people of Savannah for their support of the celebrated work:

…This is, after all, the same city that gave the world such stellar talents as poet Conrad Aiken, rapper and actor Big Boi, photographer Jack Leigh, author James Alan McPherson, lyricist Johnny Mercer, author Flannery O’Connor, actress Diana Scarwid, and many other gifted men and women.

At a time when war and various forms of violent discontent are so much a part of our daily consciousness, I believe it crucial to engage creative alternatives. This is not to say that ELEMENTAL is nothing more than an aesthetic indulgence to appease the sensibilities of two artists. It is in a fact a work that speaks very much to the heart and soul of our times: to the need for global political agendas that anchor humanity in peace rather than ensure its demise with war; and to the power of individuals to persist in exercising love in a world where people no longer seem certain of love’s meaning or value.

We are as grateful as we are honored for the support being provided. We hope that in time the book comes to represent more than just the achievement of one creative team, but a collective contribution towards the triumph of art and a spirit of community devoted to [celebrations of] life over the chaos and intolerance that so often ends in life’s tragic destruction.


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Biographer reveals source of magic behind author’s success (Part 1)

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, The Early Years by Ilan Stavans

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, The Early Years by Ilan Stavans

After rumors of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s sensitive health issues began to circulate around the Internet several years ago, readers worldwide began to fear the great Nobel Laureate (1982) had written and published his final books. Videos posted on YouTube featured a “farewell note” reportedly written by him and many acknowledged their respect for the man and his accomplishments. That fear proved groundless with the recent publication of a collection of speeches by Garcia Marquez titled I Didn’t Come to Give a Speech, and announcement that he was putting the finishing touches on a brand new novel called We’ll Meet in August.

How does a contemporary author reach that point where reading audiences throughout the global village wait with eager anticipation for whatever work he or she produces next?  Unlike J.K. Rowling or Stephen King, Garcia Marquez has not had the benefit of seeing one novel after another transformed into a self-perpetuating movie franchise.

Nevertheless, his place in twentieth and twenty-first century literature is one that is now assured by the aforementioned Nobel Prize, the existence of more than 1,400 works published in some 53 languages, and representation via more than 158,000 library holdings. He has also enjoyed the distinction of seeing two of his books featured as a selection of Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club: One Hundred Years of Solitude in 2004 and Love in the Time of Cholera in 2007. The latter was, like works by Rowling and King, granted the honor of being made into a movie.

In Gabriel Garcia Marquez, The Early Years, author Ilan Stavans provides an illuminating portrait of the cultural and historical conditions that gave birth to one of the most popular authors on the world literary stage. The book is not so much a painstakingly detailed biography of Garcia Marquez but more like a highly entertaining survey of the places, people, and moments that combined to nourish and evolve the author’s considerable talent.

Or, as Stavans himself put it, “My interest is at once in Garcia Marquez’s personal travels and in the historical backdrop against which that traveling unfolded.”

The Life Lived and the Tale Told

On the morning of March 6, 1927, Garcia Marquez was born in Aracataca, a small town on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. The date is important because it marks a time of tremendous change for the town and its citizens as advances in travel and agriculture made Aracataca more subject to exchanges with the rest of the modernized world. There’s not much along these line Stavans can tell us which has not already been well documented. Garcia Marquez himself did, after all, share a great deal in his own autobiography, Living to Tell the Tale, the first of a projected three volumes.

What Stavans does provide is a brilliant perspective that places the author in a succession of contexts framed by definitive moments. In regard to Aracataca specifically, he widens the angle (so to speak) in such a way that we see both how the town gave birth to the writer and how the writer in turn helped bring new economic life to the town. He also takes us inside the “wide constellation of females” that watched over Garcia Marquez in his childhood and later inspired the creation of some of his most memorable characters.

Stavans allows us to witness Garcia Marquez’s intense love affair with reading, the romantic-comedy courtship that led to a celebrated marriage, the author’s adulthood apprenticeship as a journalist and script writer, and the progression of events that led to the composition of his most championed masterwork: One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Please Click for: Part 2 Evolution of a modern literary classic

by Aberjhani

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