Tag Archives: Literacy

The Case for Reparations: An Intellectual Autopsy

2THIS IS A MUST READ!

This is the exact article written by TA-NEHISI COATES a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle. I want to give proper credit, as I was unable to reblog this post. However, this is a very interesting read and has been viral. _________________________________________________

The best thing about writing a blog is the presence of a live and dynamic journal of one’s own thinking. Some portion of the reporter’s notebook is out there for you to scrutinize and think about as the longer article develops. For me, this current article—an argument in support of reparations—began four years ago when I opposed reparations. A lot has happened since then. I’ve read a lot, talked to a lot of people, and spent a lot of time in Chicago where the history, somehow, feels especially present.

I think I owe you a walk-through on how my thinking evolved. When I wrote opposing reparations I was about halfway through my deep-dive into the Civil War. I roughly understood then that the Civil War—the most lethal conflict in American history—boiled down to the right to raise an empire based on slaveholding and white supremacy. What had not yet clicked for me was precisely how essential enslavement was to America, that its foundational nature explained the Civil War’s body count.  The sheer value of enslaved African-Americans is just astounding. And looking at this recent piece by Chris Hayes, I’m wondering if my numbers are short (emphasis added):

In order to get a true sense of how much wealth the South held in bondage, it makes far more sense to look at slavery in terms of the percentage of total economic value it represented at the time. And by that metric, it was colossal. In 1860, slaves represented about 16 percent of the total household assets—that is, all the wealth—in the entire country, which in today’s terms is a stunning $10 trillion.

Ten trillion dollars is already a number much too large to comprehend, but remember that wealth was intensely geographically focused. According to calculations made by economic historian Gavin Wright, slaves represented nearly half the total wealth of the South on the eve of secession. “In 1860, slaves as property were worth more than all the banks, factories and railroads in the country put together,” civil war historian Eric Foner tells me. “Think what would happen if you liquidated the banks, factories and railroads with no compensation.”

As with any economic institution of that size, enslavement grew from simply a question of money to a question of societal, even theological, importance. I got that in 2011, from Jim McPherson (emphasis again added):

“The conflict between slavery and non-slavery is a conflict for life and death,” a South Carolina commissioner told Virginians in February 1861. “The South cannot exist without African slavery.” Mississippi’s commissioner to Maryland insisted that “slavery was ordained by God and sanctioned by humanity.” If slave states remained in a Union ruled by Lincoln and his party, “the safety of the rights of the South will be entirely gone.” If these warnings were not sufficient to frighten hesitating Southerners into secession, commissioners played the race card. A Mississippi commissioner told Georgians that Republicans intended not only to abolish slavery but also to “substitute in its stead their new theory of the universal equality of the black and white races.” Georgia’s commissioner to Virginia dutifully assured his listeners that if Southern states stayed in the Union, “we will have black governors, black legislatures, black juries, black everything.”

An Alabamian born in Kentucky tried to persuade his native state to secede by portraying Lincoln’s election as “nothing less than an open declaration of war” by Yankee fanatics who intended to force the “sons and daughters” of the South to associate “with free negroes upon terms of political and social equality,” thus “consigning her [the South’s] citizens to assassinations and her wives and daughters to pollution and violation to gratify the lust of half-civilized Africans…” This argument appealed as powerfully to nonslaveholders as to slaveholders. Whites of both classes considered the bondage of blacks to be the basis of liberty for whites. Slavery, they declared, elevated all whites to an equality of status by confining menial labor and caste subordination to blacks. “If slaves are freed,” maintained proslavery spokesmen, whites “will become menials. We will lose every right and liberty which belongs to the name of freemen.”

Enslavement is kind of a big deal—so much so that it is impossible to imagine America without it. At the time I was reading this I was thinking about an essay (which I eventually wrote) arguing against the idea of the Civil War as tragedy. My argument was that the Civil War was basically the spectacular end of a much longer war extending back into the 17th century—a war against black people, their families, institutions and their labor. We call the war “slavery.” John Locke helped me with that. This was all swirling in my head about the time I saw this article in the Times:

On Saturday, more than 15,000 students are expected to file into classrooms to take a grueling 95-question test for admission to New York City’s elite public high schools. (The exam on Sunday, for about 14,000 students, was postponed until Nov. 18 because of Hurricane Sandy.) No one will be surprised if Asian students, who make up 14 percent of the city’s public school students, once again win most of the seats, and if black and Hispanic students win few.

Last school year, of the 14,415 students enrolled in the eight specialized high schools that require a test for admissions, 8,549 were Asian. Because of the disparity, some have begun calling for an end to the policy of using the test as the sole basis of admission to the schools, and last month, civil rights groups filed a complaint with the federal government, contending that the policy discriminated against students, many of whom are black or Hispanic, who cannot afford the score-raising tutoring that other students can. The Shis, like other Asian families who spoke about the exam in interviews in the past month, did not deny engaging in extensive test preparation. To the contrary, they seemed to discuss their efforts with pride.

I was sort of horrified by this piece, because what the complaint seemed to be basically arguing for was punishing a group of people (Asian immigrants) who were working their asses off. It struck me that these were exactly the kind of people you want if you’re building a country. Even though I am arguing for reparations, I actually believe in a playing field—a level playing field, no doubt—but one with actual competition. It struck me as wrong to punish people for working really hard to succeed in that competition. This paragraph, in particular, got me:

Others take issue with the exam on philosophical grounds. “You shouldn’t have to prep Sunday to Sunday, to get into a good high school,” said Melissa Santana, a legal secretary whose daughter Dejanellie Falette has been prepping this fall for the exam. “That’s extreme.”

I was stewing reading this. It offended some of my latent nationalism—the basic sense that you want everyone on your “team” to go out there and fight. But as I thought about it I felt that there was something underneath the mother’s point. In fact there are people who don’t “have to prep Sunday to Sunday, to get into a good high school.” But they tend to live in neighborhoods that have historically excluded children with names like Dejanellie. Why is that? Housing policy. What are the roots of our housing policy? White supremacy. What are the roots of white supremacy in America? Justification for enslavement. A few days later I sent the following rambling memo to my editor, Scott Stossel:

Hey Scott. I have an essay that’s starting to brew in me that I’ve been thinking a lot about. Are you at all interested in a piece that makes the case for reparations? This is totally pie in the sky, but it’s my take on the Atlantic as a journal of “Big Ideas.” There’s this great piece in the Times a few weeks back about selective schools in New York and how Asian immigrants are dominating the process.

I found myself really compelled by a lot of the stories and actually in more sympathy with the Asians (now Asian-Americans) than with the blacks who were protesting. A lot of what they were saying reminded me of the sort of stuff my own parents said. And then something occurred to me. The reason why a lot of these black parents are upset is because the schools are basically credentialing machines for the corridors of power. By not going to a Stuyvesant you miss out on that corridor, so the thinking goes. And moreso the feeling is (though never explicitly said) that black people deserve special consideration, given our history in this country.

The result is that you have black parents basically lobbying for Asian-American kids to be punished because the country at large has never given much remedy for what it did to black people. I’ve thought the same before in reference to gentrification. The notion that DC should remain “black” has always struck me as really bizarre. Very little in America ever stays anything. Change is the nature of things. It only makes sense if you buy that black people are “owed” something. I.E. Since we never got anything for slavery, Jim Crow, red-lining, block-busting, segregation, housing and job discrimination, we at least deserve the stability of neighborhoods and cities we can call home.

I’m thinking about it with the Supreme Court set to dismantle Affirmative Action. Isn’t the “diversity” argument actually kind of weak? Isn’t the recompensation argument actually much more compelling? Except this was outlawed with Bakke. What I am thinking is right now, at this moment, American institutions (especially its schools) are being asked to answer for the fact that country lacked the courage to do the right thing. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision coming down, in the wake of (what looks like) a second Obama term, we could make a really strong case that now is the time renew a serious discussion about Reparations.

And we could move it beyond “Check in hand” discussion to something more sophisticated. Does this interest you? I actually could see us arguing that Obama has nothing to lose, and should explicitly support such a policy. He ain’t gonna do it. But we might–might–be able to make a good faith argument for it. Any interest?

All of this did not stick. (I don’t, for instance, think it would be a good idea for Obama to support reparations. That would actually be a horrible idea.) But by then I had it fully established in my head that we are asking other institutions to answer for something major in our history and culture. The final piece of this was the uptick in cultural pathology critiques extending from the White House on down. There is massive, overwhelming evidence for the proposition that white supremacy is the only thing wrong with black people.

There is significantly less evidence for the proposition that culture is a major part of what’s wrong with black people. But we don’t really talk about white supremacy. We talk about inequality, vestigial racism, and culture. Our conversation omits a major portion of the evidence. The final thing that happened was I became convinced that an unfortunate swath of  popular writers/pundits/intellectuals are deeply ignorant of American history. For the past two years, I’ve been lucky enough to directly interact with a number of historians, anthropologists, economists, and sociologists in the academy.

The debates I’ve encountered at Brandeis, Virginia Commonwealth, Yale, Northwestern, Rhodes, and Duke have been some of the most challenging and enlightening since I left Howard University. The difference in tenor between those conversations and the ones I have in the broader world, are disturbing. What is considered to be a “blue period” on this blog, is considered to be a survey course among academics. Which is not to say everyone, or even mostly everyone, agrees with me in the academy. It is to say that I’ve yet to engage a historian or sociologist who’s requested that I not be such a downer.

This process was not as linear as I’m making it out to be. But it all combined to make me feel that mainstream liberal discourse was getting it wrong. The relentless focus on explanations which are hard to quantify, while ignoring those which are not, the subsequent need to believe that America triumphs in the end, led me to believe that we were hiding something, that there was something about ourselves which were loath to say out in public. Perhaps the answer was somewhere else, out there on the ostensibly radical fringes, something dismissed by people who should know better. People like me.


“Just a Season”

A MUST READ!!! Just a Season is a luminous story into the life of a man who, in the midst of pain and loss, journeys back in time to reexamine all the important people, circumstances, and intellectual fervor that contributed to the richness of his life.

It is a must read novel that will cause you to see the world through new eyes. One reviewer said, “This is the stuff movies are made of… not since “Roots” have I read a story that so succinctly chronicles an African American story!” Another said, “Not since The Color Purple have I read a book that evoked such emotions…[more reviews below]

PRELUDE 

A season is a time characterized by a particular circumstance, suitable to an indefinite period of time associated with a divine phenomenon that some call life. One of the first things I learned in this life was that it is a journey. During this passage through time I have come to realize that there are milestones, mountains, and valleys that everyone will encounter. Today, I have to face a valley and it’s excruciating. It’s June 28th, a day that I once celebrated as a very special day. Now, it’s filled with sorrow. The reason this day is different from all others is because I have come to the cemetery at Friendly Church. 

Normally it’s hot and humid as summer begins, but not so today. It’s a cool gray day with the sky slightly overcast. I hear the echo of birds chirping from a distance. There is also a mist or a light fog hovering very near the ground that gives the aura of a mystical setting.  This is a place where many of my family members who have passed away rest for eternity.  Some have been resting here for over a hundred years. I have grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, a sister, and many friends here as well. The cemetery is in the most tranquil of places secluded from the rest of the world, very peaceful and beautiful, almost like being near the gateway of heaven.

My heart aches today because I have come here on what would have been my son’s birthday. This is a very hard thing for me to do as the natural order suggests it should be the other way around. Another difficulty is that this is the first time I will see his headstone that was put in place just a few days ago. Although I know what it should look like, it’s going to be hard to actually see it. It will indicate the finality of losing the dearest of all human beings.  It’s hard to imagine what the rest of my life will be like without my precious son.

As I pass Granddaddy’s gravesite, I stop to say hello. After a brief moment, I continue in the direction of my son’s resting place. As I get closer, I begin to receive a rush of emotion to the point that my movements slow as the sight comes into view. I can now see his name clearly and I whisper “God why did you take him?” I become numb as I finally arrive at his gravesite, overwhelmed with this never before known emotion. This is something I never thought I would ever have to do, but here I am!!!

Suddenly, the sky begins to clear somewhat, as I now feel the sun’s rays from above.  At this very moment, I receive an epiphany upon reading the dates inscribed on the stone.  1981 – 2001. What does this really mean? The beginning and the end, surely, but in the final analysis it is just a tiny little dash that represents the whole life of a person. I fall to my knees realizing the profound impact of that thought causing me to look to the heavens and wonder. If someone, for whatever reason, were to tell the story concealed within my dash.   What might they say?

Chapter One

The story begins in late November 1951 on a clear sunny Sunday afternoon. It was fairly cool for an autumn day and as it was the custom in the Reid family, everyone had gone to church early to give praise to the Lord. This was a special day for this family. It was a special day because of their anticipation of a new member into the family. So it was a great, great feeling of joy and excitement that filled their home. Ruth and Josie did not attend church this day, because Josie was overdue and expecting to give birth at anytime…

Praise for “Just a Season”

And the journey continues with “Legacy – A New Season”…

book 1

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Brownsville Series: The Black Mecca

This is another installment of the “Brownsville Series”, which is my way of resurrecting the memory of those areas designated for “Coloreds” during the era of segregation; you know across the tracks – the other side of town. But this place is fittingly proper as I will refer to it as the Black Mecca – Harlem USA or as some have referred to it as the “Capital of Black America”.

Harlem began as a European settlement established in July 1639 in what was then known as New Harlem. It was formalized in 1658, when the English took control of the colony changing the hamlets name to Harlem. At that time, it was merely a small agricultural town just outside of New York City. The name Harlem was a synonym for elegant living through a good part of the nineteenth century. For example, the estate of Alexander Hamilton was located in Harlem.

In 1893, the Harlem Monthly Magazine wrote, “it is evident to the most superficial observer that the centre of fashion, wealth, culture, and intelligence, must, in the near future, be found in the ancient and honorable village of Harlem.” Even then Harlem seemed ordained to be the center of cultural significance but it was not until the mass migration of blacks in 1904 that it began to flourish as a predominantly Black enclave. It was because of a real estate crash that caused worsening conditions for blacks throughout New York City. Prompting Philip Payton, owner of the Afro-American Realty Company, to almost single-handedly created the migration of blacks from their previous neighborhoods establishing Black Harlem or Uptown as it came to be known.

Then black churches began to move uptown. St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, for one, purchased a block of buildings on West 135th Street to rent to members of its congregation. Black Harlem has always been a religious community with over 400 churches of every faith becoming very influential because of their large congregations and wealth as a result of its extensive real estate holdings. However, many as do today, operated what is known as storefronts from an empty stores, building’s basements or converted brownstone townhouses.

At the same time, blacks were migrating to northern industrial cities fueled by their desire to leave behind the Jim Crow South seeking better jobs and education for their children. Jobs were abundant, and many blacks were able to obtain work because expanding industries recruited black laborers to fill new jobs as a result of the war effort. Another reason was to escape the culture of lynching and violence.

By 1920,, in a mere twenty years, Harlem became the center of a flowering black culture that became known as the Harlem Renaissance. This period witnessed the greatest collection of artistic production creating the sound and entertainment of the “Roaring Twenties”, but blacks were sometimes excluded from viewing what their peers were creating. Some jazz venues, including the famed Cotton Club, where Duke Ellington played, or Connie’s Inn were restricted to whites only, although some uptown clubs were integrated.

The most famous venue in Harlem and world renowned was the Apollo Theater that opened on 125th Street on January 26, 1934 in what was a burlesque house. Best known for its “Amateur Night at the Apollo” that continues to this very day. The Apollo was a proving ground, of sorts; if you could make it there you could make it anywhere. Every black performer or artist was ordained by its audience in one way or another. I don’t have enough space to list all of the greats that graced the Apollo stage. If they were successful, they played the Apollo Theater. Another famous spot was the Savoy Ballroom, on Lenox Avenue, was a renowned venue for swing dancing immortalized in a popular song of the era “Stompin’ at the Savoy”.

During the 1920’s and 1930’s, between Lenox and Seventh Avenues in central Harlem had over 125 entertainment places operating. Such as speakeasies, cellars, lounges, cafes, taverns, supper clubs, rib joints, theaters, dance halls, and bars and grills. Throughout the twentieth century, particularly during the “Harlem Renaissance”, Harlem served as the home and key inspiration to generations of novelists, poets, musicians, and actors. It was because of the city’s pace, the blend of their backgrounds, the difficulties associated with living in Harlem and their experiences that found expression in theater, fiction, and music, among other art forms.

Some of the luminaries produced by Harlem were Paul Robeson, Claude McKay, and Langston Hughes just to name a few. Though Harlem musicians and writers are particularly well remembered, the community has also hosted numerous actors and theater companies, including the New Heritage Repertory Theater, National Black Theater, Lafayette Players, Harlem Suitcase Theater, The Negro Playwrights, American Negro Theater, and the Rose McClendon Players. Arthur Mitchell, a former dancer with the New York City Ballet, established Dance Theatre of Harlem as a school and company for classical ballet and theater training in the late 1960’s.

Harlem is also home to notable contemporary artists such as the Harlem Boys Choir, a famous touring choir and education program for young boys, most of whom are black. There is also a Girls’ Choir of Harlem and both companies have toured both nationally and internationally. Harlem is also credited with the creation of Hip-Hop and many hip-hop dances associated with this genre. It is also known for producing Rappers such as Kurtis Blow and Hip Hop Mogul P. Diddy.

After the romantic era of the Harlem Renaissance, Harlem ceased to be home to the majority of NYC’s blacks and the character of the community changed in the years after the war, as middle-class blacks left for the outer boroughs and suburbs. With the increase in a poor population, it was also a time when the neighborhood began to deteriorate, and some of the storied traditions of the Harlem Renaissance were driven by poverty, crime, or other social ills. However, as of the writing Harlem is being resurrected, and its future is brighter. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

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An Unsung Voice Of Our Times

John Henrik Clarke was the most brilliant, profound, and empowering educators of our time. Dr. Clarke was a voracious reader, inspired by Richard Wright’s Black Boy. He has credited, Ms. Harris, his third grade teacher who convinced him that one-day he would be a writer. I found a little know fact about Dr. Clarke; as a youngster Clark caddied for Dwight Eisenhower and Omar Bradley “long before they became Generals or President,” Clarke would later recount in describing his upbringing in rural Alabama.

He moved to Harlem and committed himself to a lifelong pursuit of factual knowledge about the history of his people and creative application of that knowledge. Over the years, Clarke became both a major historian and a man of letters. His literary accomplishments including over two hundred short stories written with “The Boy Who Painted Christ Black” is his best known.

Dr. Clarke edited numerous literary and historical anthologies including American Negro Short Stories (1966), an anthology which included nineteenth century writing from writers such as Paul Laurence Dunbar and Charles Waddell Chestnut, and continued up through the early sixties with writers such as LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka) and William Melvin Kelley. This is one of the classic collections of Black fiction.

Reflective of his commitment to his adopted home, Clarke also edited Harlem, A Community in Transition and Harlem, U.S.A. Never one to shy away from the difficult or the controversial, Clarke edited anthologies on Malcolm X and a major collection of essays decrying William Styron’s “portrait” of Nat Turner as a conflicted individual who had a love/hate platonic and sexually-fantasized relationship with Whites. In both cases, Clarke’s work was in defense of the dignity and pride of his beloved Black community rather than an attack on Whites.

What is significant is that Clarke did the necessary and tedious organizing work to bring these volumes into existence. Thereby offer an alternative outlook from the dominant mainstream views on Malcolm X and Nat Turner, both of whom were often characterized as militant hate mongers. What I found to be interesting was that Clarke’s work was never simply focused on investigating history as the past, he also was proactively involved with history in the making.

As a historian Clarke also edited a book on Marcus Garvey and edited Africa, Lost and Found (with Richard Moore and Keith Baird) and African People at the Crossroads, two seminal historical works widely used in History and African American Studies disciplines on college and university campuses. Through the United Nations he published monographs on Paul Robeson and W.E.B. DuBois. As an activist-historian he produced the monograph Christopher Columbus and the African Holocaust. His most recently published book was Who Betrayed the African Revolution?

In the form of edited books, monographs, major essays and book introductions, John Henrik Clarke produced well over forty major historical and literary documents. Rarely, if ever, has one man delivered so much quality and inspiring literature. Moreover, John Henrik Clarke was also an inquisitive student who became a master teacher.

During his early years in Harlem, Clarke made the most of the rare opportunities to be mentored by many of the great 20th century Black historians and bibliophile. Clarke studied under and learned from men such as Arthur Schomburg, William Leo Hansberry, John G. Jackson, Paul Robeson, Willis Huggins and Charles Seiffert, all of whom, sometimes quietly behind the scenes and other times publicly in the national and international spotlight, were significant movers and shakers, theoreticians and shapers of Black intellectual and social life in the 20th century.

John Henrik Clarke is in many ways exemplary of the American ethos of a self-made man. Indicative of this characteristic is the fact that Clarke changed his given name of John Henry Clark to reflect his aspirations. In an obituary he penned for himself shortly before his death, John Henrik Clarke noted “little black Alabama boys were not fully licensed to imagine themselves as conduits of social and political change. …they called me ‘bubba’ and because I had the mind to do so, I decided to add the ‘e’ to the family name ‘Clark’ and change the spelling of ‘Henry’ to ‘Henrik,’ after the Scandinavian rebel playwright, Henrik Ibsen.”

Body and soul, John Henrik Clarke was a true champion of Black people. He bequeathed us a magnificent legacy of accomplishment and inspiration borne out of the earnest commitment of one irrepressible young man to make a difference in the daily and historical lives of his people. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

Viva, John Henrik Clarke!
Resource: Black College Online

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That Literary Lady

yb1

Yolanda M. Johnson-Bryant, also known as That Literary Lady, is an author, freelance writer, public speaker and consultant. Yolanda became a published author in 2004, with her debut novel “My Daughter’s Keeper.” She followed up with her sophomore novel in 2005 with “Circumstances.” In 2012 she released “Revelations” and is pegged to release “27 Flagship Cove” in January 2013.

Yolanda began writing at an early age. She wrote poetry as a child and wrote lyrics to songs performed by her high school girl band. She knew this writing thing was more than just a hobby when, in 1999, she entered a short story contest sponsored by Playboy Magazine and Fastweb.com. Yolanda won the first place prize of $1500. From there she started her first manuscript and nearly a dozen story lines were created.

After sending letters to agents and getting a rejection letter from one agent and no response at all from another, Yolanda set out to learn everything she could about the publishing and literary industry and decided to self-publish her work. After experiencing various growing pangs in the industry, she decided to be a resource and help other writers and authors who sought to self-publish. She consults writers in the processes of self-publishing, marketing, social media and entrepreneurship.

Having an educational background in computer sciences and information technology, Yolanda has also been fascinated with the evolution and advances of technology and social media venues. She always strives to be on the cutting edge of technology and social promotion.

Yolanda often offers consultation, workshops and classes advocating both youth and adult literacy. Through her company, Literary Wonders! and Literary Wonders Kids!, she conducts scholarship and anthology projects and considers herself a valuable resource to the literary and publishing communities.

Yolanda gives workshops and classes in the community to promote literacy and entrepreneurship. She has participated with such organizations as the Greensboro Public Library, Christians in the Marketplace, The Nussbaum Center of Entrepreneurship and Women’s Entrepreneurship Learning and Leading, (W.E.L.L.). She currently volunteers with Junior Achievement, the Volunteer Center of Greensboro and is a mentor for The Women’s Resource Center’s New Choices Program.

Yolanda is the Area 42 Governor for North Carolina District 37, Division E Toastmasters. She serves as Vice President of Education for Speakerpreneur Toastmasters, is a current and charter member of MprovMasters Toastmasters and is the Assistant Division Governor of PR for Division E Toastmasters.

Connect with Yolanda on these social networks:

Facebook Fan Pages – https://www.facebook.com/YolandaJohnsonBryant, https://www.facebook.com/ThatLiteraryLady
Twitter – @ymjauthor, @thtliterarylady
Blog: http://lwtheauthorshideaway.blogspot.com/
Podcast/Radio Show – http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/on-the-air-with-that-literary/id498160831

Websites:
www.yolandamjohnson.com
www.thatliterarylady.com
www.bryantconsultingonline.com
www.lwmediagroup.com
www.literarywonders.com
www.literarywonderskids.com
www.sweetheartsofthetriad.rr.com

Author Interview

Would you like to introduce yourself to readers?

Hello all! I am Yolanda M. Johnson-Bryant, also known as that Literary Lady. I’m originally from Denver, Colorado but currently live in the Piedmont Triad area of North Carolina with my wonderful husband. I am the author of several books, the latest being Revelations. I am currently working on a few titles due out in 2013. I am a freelance writer and columnist. I am also the host of “On the Air With That Literary Lady” which is podcasted on iTunes. I am the mother of two grown children and three beautiful grandchildren.

What is your current or most recent project?

I have several projects in the works. I recently created Sweethearts of the Triad, an organization that recognizes women entrepreneurs and community servers. We will be having our first annual Sweetheart of the Year Luncheon in December. I am working on 27 Flagship Cove, my first novel in the Tommie Lane Christian Thriller Series; Someone to Watch Over Me, my first teen book and the first book in my That Literary Lady Knows Series, that will address everything from public speaking to publishing, to social media.

What are you planning to write next?

I will continue with my Tommie Lane Christian Thriller Series, the That Literary Lady Knows Series, and a novel about domestic violence. In addition, readers have told me they’d like to see more of Renee Matthews, so I will be penning that at the end of 2013.

Are you a member of a writers group? Have you attended writing courses or seminars? Have these been helpful to you?

Currently, I a member of several online writing groups. I have weaned off most of my offline writing groups due to my busy schedule. I attend writing workshop on a regular as well as conduct them. I find that some are helpful, while others aren’t helpful. That isn’t to say they are not helpful to someone that is less experienced.

Have you other interests outside of writing? What do you do with your spare time?

I know this is an oxymoron for a writer to say, but I also love to read. In addition, I love to spend time with my husband, talking trash about sports—he’s a Broncos fan and I’m a Cowboys fan. I love interior decorating, so I’m always doing something around the house. I also do a lot of community work.

What’s the most useful ‘how to’ advice you’ve encountered?

Being a business owner, my writing often takes a backseat to my clients. With that being said, the most useful advice, not necessarily how-to, came from my husband recently. He said, “Babe, you’re always helping everyone else. You’ve helped people that were less experienced than you, now they have more books out than you. You need to take some time to do you.” And, this is so true. It’s okay to help others, but not at the risk of losing your dream.

Tell us a little about your book(s).

Circumstances – Renee Matthews is desperately searching for inner peace and her rightful place in life. She is daunted by a mentally abusive, self-proclaimed spiritual mother—Barbara Jean Jackson—who keeps her torn between her personal insecurities and her desire to love and to be loved.

She succumbs to fear as she turns down the proposal of long-time friend, Charlie Thatcher, in fear of his racist mother. Trying to reclaim her life, Renee falls in love with Stuart Humphries, a man she met over the Internet. Within Stuart’s past, lies a secret that even he has yet to learn while within Renee’s past, a secret lies in wait for its resurrection, with hopes of destroying everyone, including Renee.

Revelations – In Circumstances, Renee Matthews left behind the painful memories of Denver and her mother, Barbara Jean, for promises of happiness in San Diego. With a prominent position at one of the country’s largest securities firm, Renee has found financial security, self-acceptance, friendship, and love with Stuart Humphries—this is until Barbara Jean interrupts her wedding with a bombshell of a secret that will change everyone’s life forever.

Now, the tables have turned. Barbara Jean has fallen ill, and the only person she can count on is her daughter. In spite of all Barbara Jean has done to destroy Renee, she is at her mother’s side. Being ill doesn’t change Barbara Jean’s feelings for her daughter and Renee soon finds out why it is that her mother despises her so much.

The more time Renee spends in Denver with her ailing mother and her family, the more family secrets are revealed. Renee wonders if she will survive the revelations that make up her world, or if her mother will ultimately destroy her.

27 Flagship Cove – Detective Tommie Lane is a veteran of the Greensboro Police Department and following in her father’s footsteps. A serial killer is on the loose and he’s targeting prominent Christian women and leaving a trail all the way from Denver to Greensboro. Det. Lane and her crew must catch the killer before she becomes one of the “Holy Roller” killer’s victims.

What genre do you consider yourself?

I hate putting myself in a box because you’ll never know which direction I’ll come from, but if I absolutely had to put myself in a category, it would simply be women’s issues. Everything I write is geared towards women, whether it is a fiction title, a non-fiction title or a business title, but it can be utilized by all.

Why do you write? Is it something you’ve always done, or always wanted to do? Or is it something that you started fairly recently?

I write because it enables me to express myself and be creative. In the interim, I am able to help others. God has given me many revelations and things to write about, not to mention, my life is full of great material. If I could do nothing else, I would write. If I didn’t get paid for it, I’d still write. Writing is who and what I am.

Where can we purchase your books?

My books can be purchased on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and on my websites: www.yolandamjohnson.com, www.thatliterarylady.com.

For other outlets, just “Google me!”

http://johntwills.com


The One And Only

lenaLena Horne, the electrifying beauty and uncompromising performer, shattered racial boundaries by changing the way Hollywood presented black women for six-decades through a singing career on stage, television and in films.

She is best described in her own words saying “my identity was clear because I no longer have to be a ‘credit,’ I don’t have to be a ‘symbol’ to anybody. I don’t have to be a ‘first’ to anybody. I don’t have to be an imitation of a white woman that Hollywood sort of hoped I’d become. I’m me, and I’m like nobody else.”

Lena Mary Calhoun Horne was born June 30, 1917, in Brooklyn, N.Y. Her father was a civil servant and gambler who largely abandoned the family. Her mother, an actress, was largely absent from Ms. Horne’s early life because of work on the black theater circuit. Shifted at first among friends and relatives, Ms. Horne was raised mostly by her maternal grandmother, a stern social worker and suffragette in Bedford-Stuyvesant; then a middle-class Brooklyn neighborhood. Ms. Horne said she was influenced by her grandmother’s “polite ferocity.”

She was the first black woman to sign a meaningful long-term contract with a major studio, a contract that said she would never have to play a maid. This single act transformed the image of the African American woman in Hollywood. As film historian Donald Bogle said, “Movies are a powerful medium and always depicted African American women before Lena Horne as hefty, mammy-like maids who were ditzy and giggling… Lena Horne becomes the first one the studios begin to look at differently… Really just by being there, being composed and onscreen with her dignity intact paved the way for a new day” for black actresses.

Her reputation in Hollywood rested on a handful of classic musical films. Among the best were two all-black musicals from 1943: “Cabin in the Sky,” as a small-town temptress who pursues Eddie “Rochester” Anderson; and “Stormy Weather,” in which she played a career-obsessed singer opposite Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. She shared billing with hugely famous white entertainers such as Gene Kelly, Lucille Ball, Mickey Rooney and Red Skelton but was segregated onscreen so producers could clip out her singing when the movies ran in the South.

Metro Goldwyn Mayer studios featured Ms. Horne in movies and advertisements as glamorously as white beauties including Hedy Lamarr, Rita Hayworth and Betty Grable. James Gavin, who has written a biography of Ms. Horne, said: “Given the horrible restrictions of the time, MGM bent over backward to do everything they could. After MGM, she was an international star, and that made her later career possible, made her a superstar.”

Ms. Horne appeared on television and at major concerts halls in New York, London and Paris. She starred on Broadway twice, and her 1981 revue, “Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music,” set the standard for the one-person musical show, reviewers said. The performance also netted her a special Tony Award and two Grammy Awards. She was formidable and the first black cabaret star for white society.

As a songstress her repertoire consisted of sophisticated ballads of Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Frank Loesser and Billy Strayhorn. She loved the music but also said she liked surprising the white audience who expected black entertainers to sing hot jazz or blues and dance wildly. In her singing, Ms. Horne showed great range and could convincingly shift between jazz, blues and cabaret ballads. New Yorker jazz writer Whitney Balliett praised her “sense of dynamics that allowed her to whisper and wheedle and shout.”

In 1963, Ms. Horne appeared at the civil rights March on Washington with Harry Belafonte and Dick Gregory and was part of a group, which included authors James Baldwin and Lorraine Hansberry that met with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to urge a more active approach to desegregation.

Ms. Horne also used her celebrity to rally front-line civil rights activists in the South and was a fundraiser for civil right groups including the NAACP and the National Council of Negro Women. After the triumph of her 1981 Broadway show, she led an increasingly isolated life in her Manhattan apartment.

Over my lifetime I have seen and known giants who have illuminated the world. No star has shined brighter than “The Horne”. Ms. Horne as you take your rest among the ghost of the greats now belong to the ages. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

http://johntwills.com


Racism Is Alive

racimHave you asked yourself “What is Racism?” Webster says it is a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities, and racial differences that produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. This does not adequately explain or represent the reality of what we’re witnessing in today’s political and social environments. I believe racism is a misunderstood psychology, and yes there is a psychology to racism, which causes the confusion in the minds of many.

Today we see that racial prejudice or discrimination, which is a prejudicial outlook, action, or treatment is somehow believed to be directed toward people of the dominate race that they’re calling reverse discrimination. Yet, those same people enjoy the wealth built on the backs of those who were truly discriminated against as a result of racism. Case in point, every so many years the Voting Rights Act must be reauthorized so African Americans can have the right to vote. Shouldn’t it be permanent as the founding documents claim that “All men are created equal”!

The legacy of dependency, apathy, and entrenchment of the American social order from the beginning provides clear evidence of its diabolical intent to bankrupt the souls of African Americans based on an ideology of supremacy. We are the descendents of stolen souls who bear the burden of a system that perpetrated, in the name of God, the greatest crime known to man. Hence, from the beginning, people of African descent were intended to be a nation of people living within a nation without a nationality.

~ “Law and Order” music plays ~

I read an article, “When Racists Speak Their Unspoken Truths” by Anthony Asadullah Samad, Ph.D., who made a statement that speaks loudly to this issue. “It’s what racists claimed for 235 years that American society is about rights (mainly theirs, everybody else’s can be stepped on) and not about race. It’s why racists wore hoods and sheets in public, and why their powerful societies that controlled political and economic affairs were always secret. The less you know about what they think, the less you can respond to how they think, even though the social, political and economic outcomes will tell you what they think.” It seems that those who claim racism, or not, are active participants in the continuance of this ideology and (in their minds) think they are now subjected to it.

I think we should understand the sub-text of what we are seeing today, at least from a power and political perspective. Let look at, for example, the strategic effort to marginalize a black President, which is consistent with the Republican Party’s objective of marginalizing the Democratic Party because of its large minority support. Now just like back in the days of segregation, its staunchest supporters were Southerners, Mid-Westerners and poor whites, and those people of that mindset didn’t vote for President Obama anyway. They are probably in a state of shock because much of the country overcame their racial insensibilities to elect a black President in the first place. We see how far and deep racism is within certain elements of society as a result.

African American’s, and other minorities, must understand that many blacks still bear the scars of a despicable history and the untreated wounds of our forefather’s bondage. As you have traveled with me though my chronicles, my purpose is to simply offer explanations causing people to look at and understand the root cause of the asymptomatic behaviors, and that this is the result of conditioning by a system that never viewed us as equal.

This intolerance or behavior was never unlearned and have been passed down from generation to generation. Over my relatively short lifetime, I have been referred to as Colored, Negro, Afro-American, Black, African American, and worst. All were polite terms assigned to make known that people who of color were not American citizens. Remember the statement in the country’s blueprint that says clearly “3/5 a man” and did not mention women at all.

The concept of African Americans being slaves, physically or mentally, is as old as the nation itself, designed to deprive a people of its culture and knowledge through sustained policies of control. To include the age old practice, that has been very effective, “divide and conquer” because this form of thinking has one purpose; the system is designed to protect the system. Therefore, when you look at the facts of what we have experienced and what they imply relating to this new phenomenon is as far apart as the vastness of the universe.

As tenacious beings, we must understand that there is no such thing as an inferior mind unless you listen to the untruth. To overcome these indignities we must realize that education is the single most important ingredient necessary to neutralize the forces that breed poverty and despair. So I say it’s time for an awakening, if for no other reason than to honor those who sacrificed so much in order that we could live life in abundance. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

http://johntwills.com


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