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

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

Text and Meaning in Elemental the Power of Illuminated Love (part 2 of 3)

          Video cover image for the music and poem video “Angel of Better Days to Come.”

One example of ELEMENTAL, The Power of Illuminated Love’s principal themes would be the painting “Christ Listening to Stereo.” It depicts a youth on a bus in New York City. The image reveals how the youth is at once physically part of a larger setting while remaining, via his personal stereo, completely separate from it. Immersed in his interior pleasures, he claims a connection to the creative artist who made the music and who allows him to not only share in the expressed creative passion, but to utilize the same as a kind of soundtrack for his own anticipations, memories, desires, needs, or fears of the moment. 

Similar and yet very different scenes are frequently enacted in such public spaces as parks, malls, back yards, office buildings, clubs, and street corners. They all make the person part of a larger whole even while many individuals continue to exist primarily as isolated fragments of that whole. The following poem published in the book takes its title from the painting:

To continue reading the poem and full post by Aberjhani please click the link:
Text and Meaning in Elemental the Power of Illuminated Love (part 2 of 3) – National African-American Art | Examiner.com.

Text and Meaning in Elemental The Power of Illuminated Love (part 1 of 3)


Angles of Ascents Anthology featuring the works of contemporary poets. (Cover image features poets Nikki Giovanni and the late Amiri Baraka)

Success for the creatively-inclined individual can be defined in many ways. Certainly there are those who necessarily measure their triumphs in terms of monetary gains. There are others for whom success means the refinement of a process, participation in a unique endeavor, the achievement of a level of personal mastery, or the realization of a rare kind of vision. 

For some, it is all of the above. 

Upon agreeing to work with the artist Luther E. Vann on a book showcasing contemporary art, ekphrastic poems, and short essays in 1991, there was little reason to believe it would ever see publication much less gain recognition as a “success.” It was not the kind of work on which publishers preferred to take chances. Neither the artist nor this author at the time commanded such compelling presences in the marketplace as to make a victorious outcome likely or inevitable in 2008. Whether or not it would have moved the hearts of judges making and breaking aspiring entrepreneurs during Shark Tank Week is debatable. 

Please click the link to check out the full post by Aberjhani:
Text and Meaning in Elemental The Power of Illuminated Love (part 1 of 3) – National African-American Art | Examiner.com.

Text and Meaning in Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance (part 1 of 3) – National African-American Art | Examiner.com

 

10th anniversary digital graphic for Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance by Postered Poets based on original cover by Facts on Fact with art by Jacob Lawrence.

“The story of African Americans was crafted anew into a poignant commentary on individual and group progress under great pressure, a story that over time became one of the most compelling of American narratives.” ––Dr. Clement Alexander Price

September 2013 represents the landmark 10th anniversary of the publication of the groundbreaking Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance (Facts on File, 2003) co-authored by educator Sandra L. West and featuring a foreword by Dr. Clement Alexander Price, founder and director of the Institute on Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience at Rutgers University, Newark Campus, New Jersey. Almost seemingly as if in honor of that event, on August 29 President Barack Obama announced his intent to appoint Dr. Price to the position of Vice Chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

While the Harlem Renaissance has long been one of the most studied periods in African-American history, until the publication of Facts on File’s encyclopedia––the first such volume the subject–– most of the focus was on the literature, art, and music of the period. The encyclopedia expanded that focus by placing an equal degree of emphasis on the political and social aspects of the era, which blends seamlessly with the jazz age, modernism, and prohibition time-frame.

In Honor of Ancestors

Among the authors’ achievements with the title was the fact that it allowed them to pay tribute to a number of Harlem Renaissance icons who were still living when it was first published, but who have since passed on. These included the following:

  • Elizabeth Catlett (1915 – 2012) sculptor
  • Ernest Crichlow (1914- 2005) painter
  • Allan Rohan Crite (1910 – 2007) painter
  • Katherine Dunham (Kaye Dunn) (1909- 2006) dancer
  • Lena Horne (1917 – 2010) actress, singer
  • Fayard Nicholas (1914- 2006) dancer

The Harlem Renaissance itself, as Dr. Price notes in his foreword to Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, marked an extraordinary period of transformation (not wholly unlike that created by the current digital age) fueled largely by the sweeping forces of American and world history, as well as by what the great educator W.E.B. Du Bois referred to as “the talented tenth.” Like the current epoch, it incorporated society-changing technological innovations, major demographic shifts, and a number of political initiatives that tested the definition and application of democracy in the world:

“The coterie of talented blacks in the arts and culture, business, and intellectual life who helped to recast the image of black Americana was actually part of a larger stream of black urbanites whose lives were challenged by the legacies of slavery, its blunt realities found in the 20th-century, when many other ethnic groups in the nation moved forward,” Price notes. “Most blacks during the period lived on the margins of urban America, barred from the best employment, subject to daily racial slights and other manifestations of injustice and the society’s obsession with maintaining their social inferiority.”

The Renaissance as Counter-measure to Guerrilla Decontextualization

Despite the official end of slavery at the conclusion of the United States’ Civil War in 1865, varying degrees of widespread overt social and political oppression based solely on race lasted well into the latter part of the 20th century. A substantial part of what made such heinous practices possible was a form of guerrilla decontextualization that erased the actual histories and realities of people of African descent.

You can enjoy the full article by Aberjhani by clicking this link:
Text and Meaning in Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance (part 1 of 3) – National African-American Art | Examiner.com.