5 Eye-opening Books about Slavery in Savannah (part 1)

Georgia Historical Society marker citing
Georgia Historical Society marker citing “The Weeping Time,” a.k.a. the “Largest Slave Sale in Georgia History” held in Savannah.
(photo courtesy of Waymark)

Two of the most acclaimed movies of the past decade, 12 Years a Slave and Django Unchained, have focused on the degradation, inhumanity, and absurdity associated with slavery as it was once practiced in the United States. Those who are surprised by this film genre’s ability to continue to command the attention of audiences around the world might want to consider the fact that various forms of forced servitude are very real in 2015.

In addition, just as the year 2011 marked the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War, 2015 commemorates the sesquicentennial of the war’s end. It is therefore also the official end of slavery in the United States and reason enough for movies that remind viewers why so many fought against it then and why so many, acknowledged or not, are doing so now. For all intended purposes, the precise date of the end of the Civil War was April 9, 1865, when General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in Virginia. Some, however, maintain it did not end until Confederal Gen. Edmund K. Smith’s concession on June 2, 1865.

A Functional Metaphor

Slavery as it was known in the past serves as a functional metaphor for the human trafficking that remains to be corrected in the present. Current estimates provided by the Walk Free Foundation place the estimated number of people enslaved across the globe at 35.8 million. The foundation has drawn some heat regarding the accuracy of this figure and how they derived at it. In its own defense, the organization’s website states the following:

“Measuring modern slavery is a very difficult undertaking due to the hidden nature of this crime. Surveys represent the most accurate method for estimating the numbers of people living in modern slavery…. Data from a total of 19 countries were obtained from random sample surveys, including the seven Gallup survey countries.”

Criticisms of methodological precision to the side, even the fact that organization members dispute an exact number of millions of people enslaved in modern-day times is something so incredulous that many prefer to pretend there are no real numbers at all.

For the TedTalks photography video on modern-day slavery and to read the complete essay by Aberjhani please click this link:
5 Eye-opening books about slavery in Savannah (part 1 of 2) – 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.

Savannah Community Marks 100th Anniversary of Group’s Legacy of Knowledge

Cultural arts advocate Dessie Baker and librarian Mark Darby at Carnegie Branch Library historical marker dedication in Savannah, Georgian Nov 13, 2014.

Cultural arts advocate Dessie Baker and librarian Mark Darby discuss new historical marker for the 100-year-old Carnegie Branch Library in Savannah, Georgia. (photograph by Aberjhani)

 

Among those assembled on the lawn beside the majestic front steps of the library, located at 537 East Henry Street, were: Senator Lester G. Jackson (D-Savannah and Chatham County), cultural arts advocate Dessie Baker, librarian Mark Darby, author and composer Ja A. Jahannes, historian Charles Lwanga Hoskins, Library Board of Trustees Chairman Dr. Daniel Brantley, Georgia Historical Society Executive Director Todd Groce, founder descendant Ursuline Dickey, Dixon Park Neighborhood representative Helen Washington, Library Foundation Director Lester B. Johnson III, the library’s current branch manager Adriene Tillman, and many others.

In his remarks on the historical significance of the library, Sen. Jackson noted that one of the reasons his father first moved their family many years ago from Statesboro to Savannah was to gain access to the library. They settled in a house only two blocks away: “He said son, this neighborhood will be an investment in your future. It has a library… Every Saturday morning before I could go out to play, I had to visit this structure…”

Sen. Jackson added the following:

“A hundred years ago, 11 men got together and invested in this community’s future by gathering books. And that’s what this marker here stands for today, an investment those men made in the future of not only young people but everyone. It gave them access to knowledge, it gave them access to history, but most importantly it gave them access to the world… where they could come read books, where they could come collect books, where they could come to understand what was [happening] in the world. And that knowledge is still needed today.”

To read the full article by Aberjhani please click this link:

Savannah community marks 100th anniversary of group’s legacy of knowledge – National African-American Art | Examiner.com.

The Miracle That Was Gullah Artist Allen Fireall: Poem and Remembrance

 

What would you call it if you heard about an artist who had been declared legally blind and whose heart had lost the greater percentage of its strength but whom somehow continued to produce masterful paintings in brilliantly-colored detail? The word miracle may not be too extreme at all and it certainly should not be ruled out in the case of Gullah artist Allen Franklin Fireall, who passed away in Savannah, Georgia, on March 31, 2014.

Fireall described himself as an “artist historian” who dedicated his talents to preserving the culture and history of his people. In that sense, his work might be described as historical realism. The images he produced support that assessment in bold hues depicting scenes from African-American island and rural life in the Southeast.

Populating his canvases were: men hoeing row crops, women and men working beside each other harvesting collard greens, people gathered at a lake or river to be baptized, couples enjoying leisurely strolls on the beach, solitary brides in rowboats on their way to get married, fishermen making and casting nets, women sewing quilts, and men in barber shops playing checkers.

In his earlier stronger days, Fireall produced 10 to 15 medium and large-sized canvases every month. They found their way into collections across the globe through outlets in downtown Savannah and festivals and exhibitions throughout the Low Country. They were sometimes lyrically humorous and at other times poignantly sad. What made them miraculous in either case during his final years was that he continued to produce work at all after diabetes robbed him of his sight and a failing heart withered his strength.

Please enjoy the full article by Aberjhani by clicking this link:
The miracle that was Gullah artist Allen Fireall: Poem and remembrance – National African-American Art | Examiner.com
.

Savannah Talks Troy Anthony Davis No. 12: U.S. Supreme Court Denies Appeal

Troy Anthony Davis (photo by AP and Savannah News Press) 

Troy Anthony Davis (photo by AP and Savannah News Press)

Having attempted to obtain his freedom for more than twenty years, Georgia death-row inmate Troy Anthony Davis may have lost his final chance when on March 28, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it would neither review Davis’s requested appeal itself nor order the Federal Appeals Court in Atlanta to do so.

Davis and supporters have been battling for his freedom since he was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1989 murder of off-duty police officer Mark Allen MacPhail in Savannah. He has been scheduled to be put to death three times but each time obtained a stay of execution pending further investigation into his case. Davis had long contended that a review of new evidence would establish his innocence, and when seven out of nine witnesses recanted their testimonies against him, it appeared the legal tide might eventually turn in his favor.

However, although the Supreme Court did order an evidentiary hearing held for Davis last summer, Judge William T. Moore ruled in the hearing that revised statements and the proposed new evidence were not sufficient to confirm Davis’s innocence. He publicly chided Davis’s defense team for their handling of the case even as he himself acknowledged that as yet some doubt did remain regarding the likelihood of Davis’s guilt.

“Passing the Buck”

While Davis’s family and supporters have understandably been fighting for his release, the family members of slain Officer MacPhail have expressed their belief that Davis is guilty and have rallied for his execution.

Upon hearing the news of the Supreme Court’s most recent decision, Davis’s sister Martina Davis-Correia told news reporters, “It’s troubling, it’s upsetting, it’s like everyone wants to pass the buck and no one wants to address the real issue of actual innocence.”

That “passed buck” now sits in the hands of the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, a five-member board known to almost never postpone executions.

At this point, Georgia state officials are basically free to move ahead with Davis’s execution. Ironically enough, earlier in March federal regulators seized the state’s supply of the drug sodium thiopental, which is one of the key drugs used to administer lethal injections. Doubts have been raised about how the state obtained its supply of the drug and consequently all executions in Georgia have been placed on hold.

Despite the current outlook, Davis-Correia, who has been waging her own personal battle against cancer, has vowed on behalf of her brother “to continue to fight.”

This is the twelfth installment of Aberjhani’s Savannah Talks Troy Anthony Davis Series.  For part one, please click here . To make sure you catch future installments, please sign up for a free subscription.

by Aberjhani

Continue the discussion on redroom.com

Events, Books Highlight Author Flannery O’Connor’s Legacy (part 1)

The ever-mesmerizing Flannery O’Connor. (photo by Getty Images)

 

As close to a million or more people pour into Savannah, Georgia, for the March 17 St. Patrick’s Day Parade and associated festivities a number of them will also take time to visit the childhood home of America’s iconic author, Flannery O’Connor, at 207 E. Charlton Street near Lafayette Square.

Just eight days after St. Patrick’s Day, celebrations of a different order will take place when O’Connor fans mark what would have been the author’s 86th birthday on March 25. Those who immediately conjure images of southern “library geeks” with their noses pressed inside an open book when considering fans of her work might be surprised to note the Georgia College and State University website list the following among some of the author’s biggest fans: “Bruce Springsteen, Bono, The Coen Brothers, Conan O’Brien and Lucinda Williams are contemporary examples of people affected by her long legacy.”

Acknowledgement of that legacy over the next few months will take on many forms, including a short fiction competition, a conference, and the release of a new novel based on O’Connor’s life in Milledgeville, Georgia.


In the Mode of Flannery O’Connor

Hosted by the University of Georgia Press, the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction was established almost three decades ago. It is presented annually for a collection of short fiction in the mode of O’Connor. Entries for this year’s competition will be accepted throughout the month of April until May 31.

To date, some fifty short story collections have been published through the competition, which has also been credited with generating renewed interest in the genre. Past winners have included Mary Hood for How Far She Went, Peter LaSalle for Tell Borges If You See Him, and Nancy Zafris for The People I Know. Zafris has also been appointed the new series editor for the competition. For more details and information on submitting manuscripts click this link: Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction

The Conference at the Farm

The Flannery O’Connor Conference will be held from April 13-April 16 at the author’s alma mater, the Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, and also at Andalusia, the farm where she lived. The conference’s theme is “Startling Figures: A Celebration of the Legacy of Flannery O’Connor” and will feature talents from different creative disciplines, such as musicians, artists, writers, scholars, and artists, all of whom at one time or another have been inspired by the author’s work.

Among the more famous headliners slated to attend the conference is author and editor E.L. Doctorow, who will participate in an interview as well as present a reading In addition, musician Dave Perkins and Friends will perform a tribute concert on April 16.

A Good Hard Look

Usually when a publisher speaks of “resurrecting” an author who has passed away, they are referring to the re-publication of the author’s catalogue or the publication of a newly discovered book by them. In this case, O’Connor will undergo a literary resurrection with the July publication of A Good Hark Look (Penguin Press). The surprise here for those not already aware of the title is that it is not a scholarly study or biography but a novel by Ann Napolitano, author of Within Arm’s Reach.

Writing in her blog, Napolitano revealed that “The idea of a ‘well-lived life’ is a central theme of my novel, A Good Hard Look.” She further added: “It’s difficult for me to write about Flannery O’Connor [in the blog] because she’s lived in my head for the last seven years as a character in my novel… I wrote endless drafts of my novel and in particular, hundreds of drafts of her scenes, because I wanted the book to be worthy of her.”

Such concern makes a lot of sense when considering the high esteem in which O’Connor is held almost universally. Even so, if the five- and four-star ratings awarded Napolitano’s book by advance-copy readers on the Goodreads website are any indication, she may very well have accomplished her goal.

Please click to read: Events, Books Highlight Flannery O’Connor’s Legacy (part 2) Her Life and Times

by Aberjhani

Continue the discussion on redroom.com

Regarding Rituals, Elegies, and This New Year 2011

New Literary Savannah Magazine 

New Literary Savannah Magazine

I run my fingers over her keyboard and suddenly it all starts up
With a tinkling sound the music begins, then speeds up more and more
…”
–Reinaldo Arenas, The Parade Ends

Depending on its assigned purpose and on how it is carried out– as in not designed to create havoc or manifest malice in the life of another– a ritual can be a very good thing. It can reinforce commitment to a life-empowering philosophy, provide the courage needed to take a major step in your life, or reaffirm one’s individual sense of self-worth and integrity.

A favorite ritual of many writers is to engage in a small-or sometimes large–celebration in honor of the publication of one of their works. He or she might splurge on the gift of a brand new designer pen, allow themselves a taste of decadence in the form of a thick slice of six-layered Tuxedo Truffle Mousse Cake, or just take the afternoon off to quietly wallow in the triumph of the moment.

I happen to be such a writer and at present I am observing gratitude for the current publication of my work in two different periodicals. The new Literary Savannah magazine published my poem “All Night in Savannah the Wind Wrote Poetry,” and Connect Savannah weekly news magazine published a personal essay with a poem under the title A Poem for a Poet.  If the circumstances were different the simultaneous publication of these works might have been taken as permission to indulge in laziness for a day or two, or at the very least to step outside the self-imposed box of everyday routine and take a chance on discovering, if not creating, something new under our ever-faithful sun.

My usual ritual, however, fell apart this time around before it could get started. The instinct to celebrate the publication of either of my works was short circuited because each is a kind of elegy composed to commemorate lives lost unexpectedly. Some were lost to the community-shattering violence that exploded out of an unhinged mind. One of them was lost to “natural causes” at the age of forty, in that last season of youth in which so many re-evaluate the nature of the road traveled thus far in their life and prepare anew for whatever journey remains ahead.

The poem “All Night in Savannah the Wind Wrote Poetry” was first written in response to the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre. At the time, it felt rewardingly powerful to raise my voice on behalf of those no longer able to raise their own. The problem this time around was that the poem had already done its elegiac duty in regard to Virginia Tech, and like a soldier surprised by back-to-back deployments to Iraq and then Afghanistan, suddenly found itself bearing witness to the murder of a little girl born on September 11, 2001, a federal judge, and four other unsuspecting innocents. Serving as acknowledgment for more than one soul-numbing tragedy had not been the plan–it just happened that way because history had insisted on repeating itself in an extremely heartbreaking dystopic manner in Tucson, Arizona, at the very beginning of this New Year 2011.

The original title for my double-genre piece in Connect Savannah was Clinton D. Powell and Savannah’s Eternal Literary Flame. The poem was titled separately A Poem is a Clinton D. Powell. For their purposes, the editors wisely shortened the title for the combined pieces to A Poem for a Poet and honored the subject by placing the poem and essay directly across from Editor-in-chief Jim Morekis’ weekly editorial. When I picked up a copy of the paper and saw it, I thought, Wow, you would have liked this Clinton. And then: I’m glad I autographed that book and sent it to you while you were still in the hospital but now I’m sorry I didn’t bring it to you myself because I really believed we were going to get together a little later and talk about it and this year’s poetry festival and damn, how could I have been so wrong? I really really believed…  But now this elegy and essay will have to do.

Coming to terms with such realizations have a way of rearranging priorities and redefining rituals meant to function as celebrations. I’ve had to tweak my perspective and remind myself that in this new 21st-century world of international terrorism, war, and homegrown madness, private intentions often collide with public realities in very disturbing ways. The real problem, I concluded, may have been that my celebration had gotten underway long before I became aware of it. I was late, so to speak, for my own party.

As delicious an experience as eating a thick slice of six-layered Tuxedo Truffle Mousse Cake may be, it suddenly seemed that perhaps the better ritual and the more important celebration had started the moment I recognized lives other than my own were worth honoring with a collage of words earnestly dedicated to their memory as opposed to simply ignoring them because our fates had been different.

What the late author Reinaldo Arenas called “that incessant tap-tap” of the keyboard had provided the music to which my life danced in some semblance of harmony with that of others’ simply by laboring to affirm the value of our shared humanity.  With the search for the right words and tone to communicate the most brutally beautiful truth, even the most silent anxious breath became a masterful song for the way it sang life into existence from one determined moment to the next. This ritual of writing was a very good thing in and of itself because it allowed me, and helped others, to confront the devastating agonies of being in this world while simultaneously confirming its possibilities for the extraordinary joy that some call ecstasy. Perhaps just reaching that moment and claiming it was the best celebration of all.

by Aberjhani

Continue the discussion on redroom.com