Amiri Baraka on Def Jam Poetry. 

Dance communicates in a way that no other artform can… It has a unique ability to reach people viscerally, energetically and poetically in a way that is both primitive and sophisticated.
In a wonderful conversation with The Guardian, Antonia Grove, artistic director of the Grove Theater Company, echoes Hellen Keller’s moving exclamation upon experiencing dance for the first time and finding it to be “like the mind.” (via explore-blog)

A new study suggests a moderate daily exercise session can blunt the harmful effects of overeating and being inactive, which too many of us will be doing as the holidays approach.

A museum is an institution dedicated to creating connections … a meeting point between two arrows of time, the past and the future, and two arrows of complexity, greater and lesser, that originate at the point we call us, and now.

In other words, museums are the fourth dimension.

Joe Hanson offers a beautiful definition of what a museum is. Pair with Stephen Jay Gould, the greatest science writer of all time, on why the sparking of connections is the key to creativity.

Meanwhile, to the brilliant Neil deGrasse Tyson, a museum is a soundbite:

A soundbite is useful because it triggers interest in someone, who then goes and puts in the effort to learn more.  And that’s all a museum can really be.

(via explore-blog)

Hold On: A Survivor’s Mantra

My father ended his life at a time when I’d hope he’d reinvent it. He was just shy of his 43 birthday newly divorced and ready to leave harbored desires to leave his job to start a business of his own. He was a draftsman and a closet artist.

I was 22, with my own apartment in another city, opening a new chapter of my life as a freshly minted college grad. Daddy and I had turned a corner in our relationship. I had been resentful of him in my teens in simple terms because he didn’t spoil me in the ways that I thought fathers of daughters did or should. I famously complained that he’d sent me no more than $5.00 my first couple of years in college. I’d temporarily forgotten about years prior when I got everything I wrote on my Christmas wish list to him.

What I was really mad about was the lack of attention and sometimes acknowledgement I got. When he broke a color barrier becoming the first Black middle manager at Union Carbide, our local newspaper published a brief profile and his photo. He was in a second marriage to a woman who already had a son and gave him a daughter.  The article stated that he had two children, counting only them, not me. I assumed the mistake was made by the reporter. But, when I called Daddy to congratulate him and stated as such. When my Dad’s stuttered response included the words, “they wouldn’t understand,” I smelled something funky and it wasn’t coming from the newsprint.

I couldn’t stop speaking to my father, but from that day on for a couple of years I didn’t call him by name nor title. If he wasn’t looking at me and I needed his attention, I’d tap him on the shoulder or something. He got the message, even though I never uttered a word. And, he felt terrible. He was a man of few spoken words himself. But, he was a letter writer. When our relationship reached critical points, he’d often write my mom a letter, as I grew older and left home, he wrote me. Communicating in written words was one thing we always shared. And, one of the greatest compliments he ever gave me was that I wrote letters well.

He regretted many things, including his flaws as a father to me. He and my mother were kids who succumbed to their passion for each other, not a grown couple who planned and prepared for my conception. When my mom got pregnant, he signed up for a stint in the Air Force, not marriage. My mom, at 16, was forced to drop out of school. But, lucky for her and me, she was the baby of a big family, headed by two loving parents, who took care of her even as they let her know on a regular basis that having a child out of wedlock was not what good girls did. My father’s parents showed me and my mother love as well. We had wealth of family love. And needed every bit of it when despair drained my father’s will to live.

In the 33 years since, I have grieved and healed. I think of my father daily, remembering the good times more often than not: going to the movies, to the Smokey Mountains, to grandmother’s house for Sunday dinner. I remember his beauty, his laughter, the joy he got from sports, especially golf and the way like to provoke political arguments with me his idealist, radical hippy daughter.

But, I have my moments also, particular when I heard about the passing of Shakir Stewart, Erica Kennedy, and particularly Chris Lighty, when I hurt again and cry. I never met either of these people but I was aware of—and even inspired by—their work and know people who were close to them. Every circumstance is as individual as the people involved. There are facts to consider about these three people that I don’t know and things about my father I don’t have the space and time to write. But, I hurt to think that people such as my father, who were so accomplished and had so much more to give, may have given up on themselves and us.

Memory on a Saturday Night in Harlem

Memory in Harlem asked the question: What is memory?

A handful of dried fruits, nuts and dried njera which spark Marcus Samuelsson’s reflections on his Ethiopian, Swedish, and American origins where a parting of  ”Memory in Harlem” event, a program of the PEN World Voices Festival held at the Schomburg this evening and made me all the more hungry for a memoir of his to be published this year.

The food-as-memory provided by Samuelsson (chef/owner of the famed Red Rooster restuarant in Harlem) were dessert after a feast of literature served up by poets Sonia Sanchez and Tracy K. Smith and prose by Kharifa Rhodes-Pitts, Etgar Kerets, and Adam Mansbach.

Rhodes-Pitts and Sonia Sanchez magnified the significance of the venue by prefacing their readings with a story about the personal and historice meaning the Schomburg Center has for them. The passage from Harlem is Nowhere Rhodes-Pitts concerned an old photograph of a neighborhood street scene she pulled from the Center’s photo archive and a retired boxer who remained on the block where he was raised.

Sonia Sanchez shared her memory of Jean Blackwell Hutson, Chief librarian at the Schomburg accepted and mentored her as a young woman facing the harsh rejections that the young, gifted and black so often faced decades ago—and now. And of course, she read, this time from Does Your House Have Lions? poems that explore her relationship with the brother and her father.

Tracy K. Smith, a recipient of a Pulitzer Prize, read from the winning collection Life on Mars, about the stars above as intimately as she does the love of her father. Etgar Keret, an Israeli writer of fiction and Adam Mansbach brought the funny. Mansbach is wickedly talented and funny. He is of course the author of the wildly successful fable on parenting, Go the F*** to Sleep, a book that has eclipsed every other work of writing he’s ever published. But, it shouldn’t. A white guy who can write so authentically in the voice of a young man of color in a story  about time travel deserves our serious attention. Memory for Keret charts a new path on how to get to heaven and why some of us go in the first place. He’s the author of The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God: And Other Stories.

"Understanding Egypt" and Ourselves

“Understanding Egypt” was the academic sounding title of a PEN World Voices event last Thursday, but the vibrant discussion between Egyptian journalist Mona Layaway and Lebanese writer Ilias Khoury, moderated by Palestinian Israeli Rula Jebreal was a update of the dramatic change unfolding in Egypt, an African nation also acknowledged as the “most populous country in the Arab World and most influential from a cultural perspective in and outside the region.

We watched, intrigued and excited, a year and half ago as so-called “stable” political system, came tumbling down. Ordinary people pulled Umbra, an ally of the U.S. down, not another leader. This was “not a coup, but a revolution.” This was a movement, much like our black struggles and anti-war movements in the 60s and 70s here.  Maybe evolution though is the better word for what is happening in Egypt, given that military rule in there had been in place since 1952.

As the revolution continues, we’ve seen less and less of it on our news channels they, we, have turned the Presidential contest, our own economy, etc. But, we might be wise to continue to keep an eye on Egypt. Maybe we can learn some things to help us to better understand ourselves. Or, at the very least be reminded of what we already know.

But, we “need to talk to more than one person,” the panel agreed. Our leaders tend to want to focus on one group who they deem has the greatest chance to dominate and secure the American agenda. Consequently, we miss what is really going on the ground that drive and revolution and could take the country to a place of greater justice and stability. We also miss that revolution is a protracted process where there are set backs and advances that can add up to success. You don’t always have to win the day to change the times.

The intellectuals and academics “must be humble,” said Khoury, “and learn from young people.” They tend to want the movement to “slow down until we create theory.” The revolutionary rather says “they need to catch up” to the young people and, among other things, recognize women and other “multiple identities” heretofore “suffocated” by the pre-revolutionary status quo. People are now saying, for example, “I’m Egyptian and Nubian.”

Mona Eltahaway pointed out that positions the Christian coalition in the U.S. take toward women look a lot that the Islamist of Egypt. Both intend to take away and deny women rights. “Freedom of women,” Eltahaway said, is a measure of “the freedom of society” as a whole.

Khoury believes though that the Islamist, the conservatives in Egypt “will fail because they have to align politically.” But, alignment, compromise, collaboration is what governments, particularly democratic governments must do. Stems that have no bend, break.

We’re not only preparing for a big election, Egypt is as well—May 23/24. And one of the weaknesses of the revolution was been that “the youth were not organized to play a part in parliamentary elections.” Will they be prepared by May 23/24th? Will we be prepared in November?

Writings, Books and films in English by the Panelist:

Miral: a novel and a film by Rula Jebreal (www.rulajebreal.net)

Gate of the Sun: a novel by Ilias Khoury, translated by Humphrey Davis (author of 11 novels)

Monaeltahaway.com/blog

Editor, cultural worker, author (Up South and Speak, So You Can Speak again), I am a Vice President/Senior Editor for Atria Books, a division of Simon and Schuster. A publishing person for more than 25 years, I’ve worked with Shirley Sherrod, James Meredith, Common aka Rashid Lynn, T. D. Jakes, Amy Hill Hearth, Sheila Weller, Blair Underwood, Tananarive Due, Steven Barnes, Reyna Grande, Lorene Cary, Toure and many more. I’m founder/creative director of Up South, Inc. a presenting organization devoted to the art of storytelling. Malaika Adero on Facebook, MalaikaAdero/Twitter.

Editor, cultural worker, author (Up South and Speak, So You Can Speak again), I am a Vice President/Senior Editor for Atria Books, a division of Simon and Schuster. A publishing person for more than 25 years, I’ve worked with Shirley Sherrod, James Meredith, Common aka Rashid Lynn, T. D. Jakes, Amy Hill Hearth, Sheila Weller, Blair Underwood, Tananarive Due, Steven Barnes, Reyna Grande, Lorene Cary, Toure and many more. I’m founder/creative director of Up South, Inc. a presenting organization devoted to the art of storytelling. Malaika Adero on Facebook, MalaikaAdero/Twitter.