5 Ways to be Geniuses Together: Celebrating Ja Jahannes

Quote by Ja A. Jahannes with art graphic by Postered Poetics and Aberjhani.
“Unless we learn” quote by Ja A. Jahannes (with art graphic by Postered Poetics)

One self-penned definition of the word genius is: a focused intensification of individual intelligence resulting in works of exemplary creativity, visionary leadership, or uncommon spiritual depth and beauty. This definition is perhaps a fitting one to describe much of the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Ja A. Jahannes, who was born August 25, 1942. in Baltimore, Maryland, and died in Savannah, Georgia, on July 5, 2015.

As recently as April 28, Jahannes (as he was known to many of his friends) had started a new blog in which he stated his intentions as follows:

“This is the beginning of me putting my thoughts, observations, queries, photos and insights in one place for present, current, and past generations (it could happen…time travel) to read and witness that I made some small, if not minuscule, contribution to Planet Sol-3.”

Unfortunately, battles with illness and the drive to continuously produce creative works did not leave much time or energy for the planned blog entries. That does not, however, mean there was or is anything at all “minuscule” about the contributions Jahannes managed to make to the world community before leaving it. Proof of that statement may be found in the announcement that his latest play, “Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly,” will be performed July 26, 2015, at the Jewish Educational Alliance in Savannah.

Indeed, anyone even vaguely acquainted with his name find themselves astonished when learning about his prodigious output as a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, an educator, minister, proud alumnus of Lincoln University (Pennsylvania), composer, playwright, poet, novelist, essayist, photographer, family man, community leader, publisher, and public intellectual.

Please enjoy the complete article by clicking here:
5 Ways to be geniuses together: Celebrating Ja Jahannes (part 1 of 3: the man) – National African-American Art | Examiner.com.

Red Summer: Text and meaning in Claude McKay’s “If We Must Die” (part 1 of 4)

The summer of 2015 marks the 96th anniversary of the publication of Harlem Renaissance poet Claude McKay’s masterful poem, “If We Must Die.” This essay is presented in commemoration of that literary milestone and in remembrance of the extraordinary Red Summer of 1919 that inspired it.

There were many good reasons to believe America had entered––or at least was about to enter––a golden era of post-racialism following the election of Barack Obama in 2008. Among them was the election of the country’s first African-American president itself, an increasingly diverse American population, and a sociopolitical landscape made more democratic (in appearance at least) by the various influences of technological innovation.

Unfortunately, none of those good noble reasons were able to withstand the onslaught of reality as the number of hate groups in the country began to increase almost immediately, even while the Black prison population and Black unemployment rates continued to do the same. In a word, the country was nowhere near “there” yet.

Red Summers of Yesterday and Today

The growing number of cities where protest demonstrations have occurred over the past few years in response to extreme uses of force by policemen against African Americans, and the very oppressive conditions under which many African Americans continue to live, is eerily similar to another riot-filled time in U.S. history. The period which might first come to mind for most people is the 1960s, a decade in which “race riots” flared up every other year in places such as Greensboro, N.C. (1960), Los Angeles (Watts), Calif. (1964), Detroit, Michigan (1967), and Baltimore (1968).

However, the historical moment which possibly resembles the current intense state of racial affairs the most is that of the period leading up to the Red Summer of 1919. As pointed out in Facts on File’s Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance:

To enjoy this complete article by Aberjhani with accompanying video please click below:

Red Summer: Text and meaning in Claude McKay’s “If We Must Die” (part 1 of 4) – National African-American Art | Examiner.com.

Citizens of Newark Honor City and Historian Clement Alexander Price

Newark's late great official city historian Dr. Clement A. Price standing in the Newark Public Library.
                      Clement Alexander Price (photo by Nick Romanenko and Rutgers Magazine)

The celebration held at Bethany Baptist Church in Newark, NJ, on November 14, 2014, honored the city itself as much as it did the life of historian Clement Alexander Price, who passed on November 5.

“Everything he touched he made better,” said fellow historian Lonnie Bunch.

Political leaders such as Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker (D–N.J.) expressed similar observations about the great educator following his death. So did members of the community at Rutgers University where he taught, fellow associates on President Barack Obama’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, administrators at the Smithsonian Institute, and those at the National Endowment for the Humanities.

A Prodigiously Productive Life

Dr. Price’s exhaustive list of accomplishments includes co-founding (with the late Giles R. Wright) the Marion Thompson Wright Lecture Series in 1981, taking on the directorship of the Rutgers Institute on Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience, chairing the New Jersey State Council on the Arts from 1980 to 1983, and authoring some four books on different aspects of American and African-culture, including Freedom Not Far Distant: A Documentary History of Afro-Americans in New Jersey (1980).

Despite his own demanding schedule and prodigious output, as various speakers at his funeral service attested, Price somehow made time to accommodate requests from those who needed some fragment of his genius to lend weightier substance and dignity to their specific projects. Along those lines, he contributed a foreword to Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance (Facts on File), and an essay to the book Small Towns, Black Lives: African American Communities in Southern New Jersey (Noyes Museum of Art), both published in 2003. On behalf of the citizens of his beloved Newark, he accepted the title of City Historian near the beginning of 2014.

In an official entry into the U.S. Senate record, Sen. Booker noted Price’s capacity for giving to others as well as his dedication to Newark:

“…He served not only as our leading historian, but as a powerful spiritual force in our state’s largest city. He was invested in Newark, and – ever generous with his time – was known to arrange tours for visitors that highlighted not only the city’s rich history, but its considerable promise. Clem always recognized the vital truth that charting a brighter course for the future requires a comprehensive understanding of the past.”

NEXT: Citizens of Newark honor city and historian Clement Alexander Price part 2

by Aberjhani
author of ELEMENTAL The Power of Illuminated Love
Founder of Creative Thinkers International

Reflections on Ode to the Good Black Boots that Served My Soul So Well (poem) by Aberjhani

“But why exactly were these shoes so important to Vincent? Why had he carried them with him for so long, beaten and worn as they were?” – Ken Wilber, from the essay A Pair of Worn Shoes (“A Pair of Shoes” painting by Vincent Van Gogh from Southern Review.org)

The story and intent behind my poem, Ode to the Good Black Boots that Served My Soul So Well, is not extremely different from the story and likely intent behind Vincent Van Gogh’s painting, A Pair of Shoes (see image above). In philosopher Ken Wilber’s book, The Eye of the Spirit – An Integral Vision of a World Gone Slightly Mad, the author retells a story first shared by the painter Paul Gauguin (1848–1903) about a pair of “enormous worn out misshapen shoes” painted by his friend Vincent.

The now-iconic Van Gogh (1853–1890) created the image after serving as a caregiver for 40 days and nights to a miner who had been so badly burned that doctors gave him up for dead. Vincent Van Gogh could not accept that prognosis. He had not gone to the mines to paint but had traveled there in well-made boots as a young pastor intent on ministering to whoever might have need of him. 

After laboring with love to nurse the man back to some degree of health, the scars that remained on the miner’s brow and face looked to Van Gogh like scars from a crown made of thorns.

Please enjoy the full post by clicking here:
Reflections on Ode to the Good Black Boots that Served My Soul So Well (poem) by Aberjhani on AuthorsDen.

Dancing with Genius, Dancing with Madness (in Honor of Jalaluddin Rumi)

                                                           (Rumi Visions II CD cover art by  Marvin Mattelson)

I think of Genius and Madness as being very much like a twin brother and sister.  And it doesn’t really matter which one we call the brother, or which we describe as the sister, for one simple reason.  Within the universe of the extraordinary, those qualities we designate to human concepts of gender are often shared, exchanged, or even completely obliterated. Because of this mixture of traits, these twins called Genius and Madness often appear to be the same thing.

They both have a tendency to blur the lines of what we call norms, or established reality.  They both, when we study that grand tapestry known as history and modern-day society, tend to stand out in much bolder relief than other figures. Neither Genius nor Madness ever look upon the world as a finished product. Both tend to view it as a kind of work in progress subject to their peculiarly mesmerizing influence.

Nevertheless: despite their similarities we are talking about twins with pronounced and distinct characteristics. If they at moments appear identical, in the end there’s rarely any difficulty telling them apart. For we recognize True Genius and True Madness most accurately by their legacies. Madness has a fondness for leaving the world filled with confusion and atrocity: such as the assassination of humanitarian leaders; the systematic rape and oppression of women and children; or the deliberate destruction of social and individual harmony. Genius, on the other hand, prefers to reserve its passions for clarity and the joys of intellectual possibility. It bestows upon the world such gifts as the angelic compositions of a Mozart; the enabling spiritual vision of a Martin Luther King, Jr.; the creative brilliance of a Leonardo da Vinci; or the Nobel-winning literary excellence of a Toni Morrison.

To check out the full post by Aberjhani please click the link:
Dancing with Genius, Dancing with Madness in Honor of Rumi article by Aberjhani on AuthorsDen.

Maya Angelou, Elliot Rodger, and Getting the Work Done (part 2) – Bright Skylark Literary Productions

New book release: Journey through the Power of the Rainbow, Quotations from a Life Made Out of Poetry, by Aberjhani

“Death wins nothing here,
gnawing wings that amputate––
then spread, lift up, fly.”
–from Journey through the Power of the Rainbow,
Quotations from a Life Made Out of Poetry (Aberjhani)

 Continued from PART 1

Rodger told himself in particular that “women rejected” him and therefore deserved punishment while knowing nothing about these anonymous women’s personal realities. And most damning of all, the mental model on which he relied convinced him that destroying life was the only way to conquer life. The possibility that he might discover joy and live peacefully outside his extremely narrow conceptions seems to have never occurred to him.

I had undertaken the completion of Journey through the Power of the Rainbow in the first place partly to help individuals, in general, construct healthier perspectives for looking at and dealing with existence as we know it in the 21st century. Rodger’s deadly rampage was a vicious reminder––not that anybody required one with the civil disruptions in Ukraine and Syria still disturbing the collective peace–– that humanity itself still needs to “get the work done” when it comes to dismantling belief in violence as a solution to disagreements or disappointments.

For the full post by Aberjhani please click the link:
Maya Angelou, Elliot Rodger, and Getting the Work Done (part 2) – Bright Skylark Literary Productions
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Gifts of the Poets: Eugene B. Redmond and Coleman Barks (part 1)

 

Cover of

Cover of Visible Man: The Life of Henry Dumas by Jeffrey B. Leak

Among the greatest gifts that poets bestow upon each other’s lives are those of identity and validation. It is often through the mirror of words, meaning, and soul created by one poet that another begins to recognize the true significance of his or her nature. It is also, sometimes, by virtue of the labors of one poet that the stylized reverberations of another is amplified and takes its rightful place within the larger chorus of such voices.

When considering the last scenario, the following are but two notable examples: the first is that of author, editor, and photographer Eugene Redmond, whose efforts to preserve the literary legacy of poet and fiction writer Henry Dumas made it possible for many to enjoy Dumas’ formidable works after he was shot to death in 1968. The second is Coleman Barks, the well-known educator and author whose translated interpretations of the life and work of Jalalludin Rumi have placed Rumi’s name among the most famous either living or dead.

 

Eugene B. Redmond

Redmond has authored some seven volumes of poetry, most of which were published from 1969 to 1974 during the Black Arts Movement. He has edited many more and in 1976 was named Poet Laureate of East St. Louis, Illinois. His numerous awards and distinctions include a Pushcart Prize, a National Endowment for the Humanities Grant, an American Book Award in 1993 for The Eye in the Ceiling: Selected Poems, and the St. Louis American Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

 

Please click the link to enjoy the full article by Aberjhani: Gifts of the poets: Eugene B. Redmond and Coleman Barks (part 1) – National African-American Art | Examiner.com.