The 2015 Bid for Power and History in Savannah (Georgia, USA) – Bright Skylark Literary Productions

There’s a lot at stake when it comes to casting a vote for the mayor of Georgia’s first city. Candidates not only stand to make history but to shape it some very powerful ways. (photo of Edna B. Jackson courtesy of Diva Magazine)

Journalist Patricia C. Stumb, in a 1999 Connect Savannah news magazine story titled “Peace, love & blessings…,” wrote of how I “found worldly consciousness in the heart of [my] hometown.” Her observation was surprisingly precise because during that period while living in Savannah, Georgia, I had indeed become more aware of my hometown on the global scale of things. I had also become more cognizant of myself as an author whose influences and inspirations tended often to derive from regions far beyond it.

However, expanded consciousness or not, there was no such thing as overlooking the profound thematic shift that occurred in the city’s history when Floyd Adams became its first African-American mayor in 1996. That event prompted the composition of these lines:

By way of an African wind
a letter came today.
It was not scribbled over
Hallmark fantasies or
popcultural postcards;
it was engraved on sweat-dyed scrolls
manufactured by centuries
of anguish, struggle, determination.
––from the poem A Letter Came Today (I Made My Boy Out of Poetry)

The thematic transition grew even more powerful in 2003 with the election of Otis Johnson as mayor of the city and in 2011 when Edna Branch Jackson won the office. Up until this point, too much of the story of African Americans in Savannah had been one of a people continuously oppressed and suppressed by history itself. Different industries (such as film) and individuals benefited economically from that history but Blacks native to the city have rarely done so to any significant degree.

The Re-Historicization of a Narrative

The elections of Adams, Johnson, and Jackson created a thematic evolution that has helped the city prepare for even more dramatic and culturally inclusive demographic shifts already in progress. Call it the re-historicization of a narrative that dates back at least to late 1800s Reconstruction.

Please enjoy the complete essay at this link: Source: The 2015 Bid for Power and History in Savannah (Georgia, USA) – Bright Skylark Literary Productions

When the Lyrical Muse Sings the Creative Pen Dances – Bright Skylark Literary Productions

If you’re a regular reader of my national African-American cultural arts column, you may have noticed that I have not been posting articles as frequently as I once did. The reason is simple enough. Having reached a certain point in the research for my current book-in-progress (at least one of them anyway) I had to reduce as many additional writing obligations as possible to fully concentrate on completion of the work.

For me, this is the part of authorship when the lyrical muse sings and the creative pen dances. The greater bulk of the more rigid tasks of verification and documentation have been satisfied, and imagination may be allowed to take over the processes of narrative construction. The resulting musical flow of image and language stamp the work with its own unique identity. And its own self-defined meanings destined to merge with different readers’ interpretations of the same.

The Writer and the Times

I started the national African-American cultural arts column on July 13, 2009, with a story about the debut of Johnny and Me, Savannah author Miriam K. Center’s play based on her friendship with the late 4-time Academy Award-winning composer Johnny Mercer. That was followed by a profile of acclaimed artist Jerome Meadows.

The next month, August, saw the launch of the controversial series on the trial (and eventual execution) of Troy Anthony Davis, convicted for the murder of Savannah policeman Mark Allen MacPhail.  Not writing about Davis’s trial, to my mind, would have been a case of gross negligence. Doing so was one early indication of what readers would discover over the next few years: basically, I found it impossible to restrict myself (as asked to do) to the subject of “the arts” as pertaining to African Americans.

Please check out the full post by clicking here: When the Lyrical Muse Sings the Creative Pen Dances – Bright Skylark Literary Productions

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.

Selma Revisited: from Violent Racism to Reflective Compassion (part 1)

3 Producers of the film
Left to right, Producers of the Golen Globe Award-nominated film Selma:
Dede Gardner, Oprah Winfrey, and director Ava DuVernay. (photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for AFI)

 The movie Selma, directed and executive produced by Ava DuVernay, opened on Christmas Day 2014 and rang in the New Year 2015 with domestic sales estimated at $1, 204,000 according to Box Office Mojo. Whereas there have been any number of films about the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. produced for television, Selma is the first major feature film on the great civil rights leader made for theatrical release.

The movie’s box office performance at the beginning of the year placed it at number 23 on Fandango’s list of “Top Box Office Movies,” and it currently stands at number 22. Both positions place it far behind “The Hobbit: the Battle of the Five Armies” ruling at the time at number 1, and “Unbroken” at number 2.

However, Selma played during the first week of its release in only 19 select theaters. It is set to screen nation-wide on January 9, just in time for the 86th anniversary of Dr. King’s birth on January 15. In honor of the fact that the movie would not have been made without the definitive role played by the people of Selma, Alabama, in the past as well as in the present, Paramount Studios announced that residents will be allowed to view it for free until the end of January.

DuVernay has already won the Los Angeles Film Critics Association New Generation Award for the film and it has earned 4 African-American Film Critics Association Awards. It has also received 4 Golden Globe Award Nominations. In addition to DuVernay, the line-up of producers includes Hollywood heavyweights Brad Pitt and Oprah Winfrey, who also performs in a supporting role as Annie Lee Cooper. Paul Webb provided the screenplay and among the exceptional cast that brings it to life are David Oyelowo (as Martin Luther King Jr.), Carmen Ejogo (as Coretta Scott King), Cuba Gooding Jr., Giovanni Ribisi, Common, Tim Roth, and Allesandro Nivola.

Technology and the Struggle for Human Rights

The story of the historic march from Selma to Montgomery is now a well-known one for many important reasons. It is obviously vital for the place it holds in the story of African-Americans’ ongoing struggle for social and political equality in the United States, as it is for the place it occupies in America’s attempts in general to refine its practice of the concept of democracy. In addition, it dramatically demonstrates the role which the evolution of technology has played in struggles for human rights in the modern era.

For the full article by Aberjhani please click this link:
Selma revisited: from violent racism to reflective compassion (part 1 of 5) – National African-American Art | Examiner.com.

‘Tis the Season for the Magic of Poetry: Black Gold | Aberjhani Author-Poet-Literary-Consultant | LinkedIn

'Tis the Season for the Magic of Poetry: Black Gold | Aberjhani Author-Poet-Literary-Consultant | LinkedIn
Cover of new anthology: Black Gold, edited by Ja A. Jahannes.

When contemplating such issues as the current protests against the trend of white policemen killing unarmed black men (or boys in the case of 12-year-old Tamir Rice) and the unceasing escalation of war and terrorism across the globe, some might consider poetry an insignificant subject to address as the year 2015 approaches. Others, however, might contend that just like black lives in the past, present, and future–– poetry matters, enough in fact to be placed among Big Ideas 2015 .

One important reason poetry matters is because it often helps to expand humanity’s capacity for putting brutal and sublime experiences alike into usable, meaningful, contexts. What may be the oldest known Christmas poem, A Visit from Saint Nicholas (often referred to as “Twas the Night Before Christmas”) was first published anonymously on December 23, 1823, and later attributed to Clement Clark Moore. The year was a relatively peaceful one compared to the year before and that which followed. The poem, then, in addition to celebrating the holiday spirit of giving, could have been the poet’s way of affirming grace in a world too often overrun by grief.

Black Gold

The forthcoming poetry anthology entitled Black Gold, edited by playwright and composer Ja A. Jahannes, is not a collection of holiday verse. But it does offer a powerful counterbalance to the current mainstream images documenting what it does or does not mean to be a person of African or Latin descent in these still-early years of the 21st century.

With its mixture of multigenerational, gender inclusive, and intercontinental voices, Black Gold in some ways accomplishes through poetry what various government, educational, and community institutions have not. That is to say it successfully replicates the principle of unity, or Umoja, which many celebrate on the first day of Kwanzaa (December) and then generally ignore throughout the rest of the year. This should not be taken to mean the poets presented in the book are without their own brand of diversity.

To check out the full post with video and quotes please click the link:

‘Tis the Season for the Magic of Poetry: Black Gold | Aberjhani Author-Poet-Literary-Consultant | LinkedIn.

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

Let’s Fix It: 7 Steps to Help Replace Legislated Fear with Informed Compassion | Aberjhani Author-Poet-Literary-Consultant | LinkedIn

Protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, hold large banner containing the many names of individuals known to have been killed in confrontations with police. (Photo: Reuters)

Protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, hold large banner containing the many names of individuals known to have been killed in confrontations with police. (Photo: Reuters)

More than half the states in America (currently 33) have laws which allow one individual to take the life of another and get away with it simply by saying he or she feared the person represented an immediate danger to his or her life. That argument in recent years has been used in a number of high-profile cases where exactly who posed a danger to whom was not at all clear.

Nevertheless, in the end it has been an African American (usually unarmed) who lost his or her life to a White American (usually armed––in the case of Trayvon Martin’s death George Zimmerman’s biracial background is duly noted), creating an apparent trend. Even mainstream media with its upbeat pop culture delivery has found it impossible to ignore the increase in that trend and consequently joined the ranks of those shouting it is time to #FixIt.

In this particular case, fixing it means correcting the tendency to give fear authority over one’s actions when encountering those perceived of as “different.” Also, in this particular case, it means not exploding like a suicide bomber in the face of inevitable change and opting instead to invest in informed compassion toward one’s fellow human beings.

An Ominous Iceberg

Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Kajieme Powell only a few miles from the same location, Renisha McBride just outside Detroit, Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, Jordan Davis in Jacksonville, and Eric Garner in New York are but a fraction of the tip of a very ominous iceberg.

For the full article with list of recommendations please click the link:
Let’s Fix It: 7 Steps to Help Replace Legislated Fear with Informed Compassion | Aberjhani Author-Poet-Literary-Consultant | LinkedIn.