The Inkwell & Historically-Black Beaches

The Inkwell is a 1994 African American bildungsroman starring Larenz Tate and Jada Pinkett Smith. The Inkwell is about a young man who travels from his home in New York to a historically black beach called the Inkwell in Martha’s Vineyard to visit his family.

The Inkwell is a historically black beach where well-to-do Black families often go to vacation during the summer. Larenz Tate portrays Drew, an awkward, city-dwelling kid, who initially is not interested in visiting the Inkwell. However, after his cousin welcomes him into the fold and shows him around the island, he quickly develops an interest in a local island girl (Jada Pinkett Smith). In addition to falling in love, Drew must overcome mental obstacles that stem from a traumatic event that occurred back in New York.

Throughout the film, there is an underlying conflict between his parents and his family in Martha’s Vineyard. His family is middle class and his father is a former Black Panther. His family from the Inkwell is well-to-do and conservative.

The Inkwell is one of my favorite films. During the time of the pandemic, having a mental escape is important. Even if you can’t visit a beach because of the pandemic, you can at least watch a film about one.

 I love this film because it shows Black people living leisurely and in a classy way. While I feel that it’s important to show films about racism and enslavement (films like Harriet, 12 Years a Slave and Selma are important), I also feel it’s important to show Black people just living and relaxing in our lives too. Therefore, I love this film.

Another reason that I love this film is because it’s based on a real, historically Black beach in Oak Bluffs of Martha’s Vineyard. A great documentary about Oak Bluffs is A Place of Our Own.

There is an entire history of African Americans making the best of what they had during Jim Crow and segregation by creating businesses, vacation rentals and beautiful beaches where black people could congregate, relax and enjoy themselves without the burden of segregation.

Black families would come from far and wide to these beaches, pack their shoebox lunches and don their best swimwear and sun hats and spend the days and nights on the sandy beaches, just being.

African American Short Stories: Racial Justice, healing and escapism

A photo of Zora Neale Hurston From Carl Van Vechten Photographs collection of the Library of Congress.
From Carl Van Vechten Photographs collection of the Library of Congress.

May was national short story month. I was going to publish a short story that I wrote, but I decided against it because it wasn’t ready. Therefore, I am sharing some short story recommendations by African American authors. All of this work is very timely, given the current state of racial injustice that we are facing. If you feel like escaping from reality for a while or understanding the history of Black people in America and around the world a bit better or pondering about the future of Black people, I recommend these stories.

  • How Long Till’ Black Future Month by NK Jemisin: This is a collection of short stories about black life that is mostly set in the future. Some of the short stories seem to have a theme of climate change. I am currently trying to explore the science fiction genre more. I am reading Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. I recommend this book to anyone who wants a different take on African American literature. My 2020 book list mentioned this book.
  • What It Means When A Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah: This is a compilation of short stories about Black people. The theme of motherhood is prevalent throughout the book. My favorite short story in the book is called “Windfalls.” It’s somewhat comical, but sad at the same time. It involves a mother who is constantly looking for quick, easy, and sometimes manipulative ways to make money. She involves her daughter in many schemes. In the end, one of her schemes backfires.
  • Great Short Stories by African American Writers: This is a compilation of classic African American short stories by authors, such as Paul Laurence Dunbar, Jessie Fauset and Zora Neale Hurston

Robert Hayden: National Poetry Month

 

Robert Hayden via wikimedia. Link to license https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:3-23-12_RobertHayden.jpg

It’s the last day of April and April is #NationalPoetryMonth. So I wanted to share a poem by a poet that I just discovered, Robert Hayden.

Robert Hayden was an African-American poet who was born in Michigan. He had a tumultuous childhood. He was raised by a foster family after his parents separated. The families frequently fought with each other and Hayden often suffered abuse. He was also farsighted and was unable to participate in recreational activities, such as sports and teams. He was not fully accepted by his peers, as a result. His difficult childhood and unique vision led to his interest in reading. He immersed himself in literature, particularly poetry. Later, he studied for a time at Detroit City College, then left early to participate in the Works Progress Administration Federal Writing Project. He married in 1940 to Erma Morris (she was a pianist and a poet). He continued his education at the University of Michigan. He later taught at Fisk University after pursuing his Master’s degree. He was the first Black American to have the position of Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. Today this position would be called a Poet Laureate. Hayden never fully embraced being a ‘black poet,’ and considered himself an American poet, but many of his writings focused on notable African-Americans like Malcolm X and other African Americans from his “native Paradise Valley.”  Learn more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Hayden

Those Winter Sundays by Robert Hayden:

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

Read more here: https://poets.org/poem/those-winter-sundays

I love this poem. I read it at night, and it reminds me of my father and all the hard work that he put into raising and caring for us. Although my father raised me, sometimes I feel like I don’t fully know him. There is always a mystery to our parents. We are used to seeing them as “mom” or “dad,” but they were young people once who had and have their separate lives.

This poem paints such a vivid image in my head. I can see the father in the kitchen early in the dark, damp, cold morning, warming his hands, perhaps drinking coffee and preparing to go out into a colder world to provide for a family. This poem speaks to a sense of loneliness even in the presence of others to me. There also is a sense of rage or resentment that permeates. I think it highlights the complexity of a relationship and how one can both hurt and love someone and be hurt and loved by someone. I think back to how Hayden had such a traumatic childhood and the latent anger and resentment that must have caused, I can feel it very strongly in this poem.

Florence Price & The Suffrage Movement for Women

It’s Women’s History Month. The month may almost be over, but there is still time to honor the women who made a difference and helped to make life better for women today.

  1.  The Suffrage movement for women: Suffragists or sometimes called suffragettes were groups of women who petitioned and advocated for women to have the right to vote, work and attend college. Some suffragists were more militant than others. According to some, the term suffragette was intended to be a pejorative, but was embraced by some women in the suffrage movement. Some famous women’s suffragists include Anna Julia Cooper, Ida Wells Barnett and Susan B. Anthony. The 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote, was passed in 1920.
  2. Florence Price was an African-American musician who is notable for being regarded as the first African-American female symphonic composer.

    A photo of Ida B. Wells, an African-American anti-lynching activist and women's suffrage activist. SourceE: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mary_Garrity_-_Ida_B._Wells-Barnett_-_Google_Art_Project_crop.jpg

Learn more about African-American women’s role in the Suffrage movement: https://www.wesleyan.edu/mlk/posters/suffrage.html#

 

updated: 3.29.20

My 2020 Book list

A photo of two books with a clock and flowers on a table.
Making time to read is so rewarding!

  1. Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King by Tavis Smiley with David Ritz- This is a nonfiction book, which covers the story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life 12 months prior to his assassination. Read more here.
  2. Lazaretto by Diane McKinney- Whetstone- This is a historical fiction novel that is set in Philadelphia in the post-civil war era. It tells the story of African Americans at the Lazaretto quarantine hospital, which is located on an island. When one of the black live-in staff is granted permission to marry, trouble occurs. Read more here.
  3. Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead– This is a novel about a young woman who is enslaved and struggles to fit in on the plantation. She eventually hatches a plan with another person to escape on the underground railroad, in the process she murders someone and now there is a bounty on her head. Read more here.
  4. Not Our Kind by Kitty Zeldis- This is a novel set in post-WWII New York City. It tells the story of one Jewish woman and another non-Jewish woman whose paths and worlds cross when one woman begins to tutor the other’s daughter. The Jewish woman must change her name to be able to navigate in their prejudiced world. Read more here.
  5. The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande- This is a memoir about emigrating from Mexico to the United States. Read more here.
  6. The Story Teller’s Secret by Sejal Badani – This is a novel about a woman who endures a miscarriage and struggles with her marriage. She travels to India and discovers secrets about her family and learns about her grandmother’s life during the British occupation. Read more here.
  7. Stolen: Five Free Boys Kidnapped into Slavery and Their Astonishing Odyssey Home by Richard Bell- This is a true story about some young African American boys who were free during the antebellum era but kidnapped into slavery. It is like the story 12 Years a Slave, but its focus is broader. This book chronicles the lesser-known reverse underground railroad, which saw many free-born or free African Americans kidnapped from the North and taken into slavery. Read more here.
  8. Code Girls– This is a true story about the American women who helped to decode messages and win WWII. Read more here.
  9. What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah- A collection of short works. In one story, a woman who wants to have a child simply creates one out of thin air. Read more here.
  10. Pudd’n Head Wilson by Mark Twain- A classic by Mark Twain, which tells the story of an enslaved woman who tries to shield her mixed-race baby from the horrors of slavery by switching him with the master’s white son. Read more here.
  11. Rose Madder by Stephen King- A horror story about a woman who must escape her abusive husband. Read more here.
  12. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskin- This is a classic novel set in 1832 that tells the story of two young women who are stepsisters. They must navigate Victorian society as they become women. Read more here.

Ebooks and Audiobooks

  1. The Soldier’s Wife by Margaret Leroy- This is a novel set during WWII on Guernsey Island (part of England). The young wife of a husband who is away must deal with the German soldiers who occupy the island and make sacrifices. However, things change when she falls for a German soldier. Read more here.
  2. The Wedding by Dorothy West- This is a novel by a Harlem Renaissance writer that is set in 1950s Martha’s Vineyard. It centers on the wedding of a young woman who breaks with tradition to marry a jazz musician, instead of a black man of bourgeoisie background. Read more here.
  3. Unforgivable Love by Sophfronia Scott- This is a novel about a man who is in love with a woman and in order to earn her love, he must seduce the woman’s young, virginal cousin. It is based on the French classic Les Liaisons Read more here.
  4. An American Marriage by  Tayari Jones – This is a novel about a Black couple who has their life ripped apart when someone is wrongly incarcerated. This is another emotionally difficult novel. Read more here.
  5. After the War Is Over by Jennifer Robson- This is a novel about the Great War and a love story. It is a sequel to a novel, Somewhere In France, which I read last year. See last year’s book list.

Bonus Books: The Water Dancer, Democracy Betrayed: The Wilmington Race Riot of 1898 and Its Legacy and Your House Will Pay

What I Read Last Year:

In 2019, I ventured into the wonderful world of audiobooks. I downloaded a free app from the library, and I purchased an Audible subscription. As a result, much of my reading was done via audiobook and only a few were read in print. This year, I am aiming to strike a balance and read more print books.

  • Boys in the Boat (print book): This was a wonderful story about some American boys (from working-class and humble backgrounds) who attended the 1936 Olympic Rowing race. I didn’t think I’d like this book, but this was probably one of the best books that I read this year. It was very uplifting.
  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SufEe-d4DN4
  • Persuasion (print book) by Jane Austen- This was a charming, classic love story about a woman who is betrothed to a man but breaks it off because some in her social circle do not feel he is suitable.  In the end, she must make the choice that is best for her. I love this era in history and I always imagine the beautiful clothes and dances. I got this book at the second-hand bookstore, purely by chance.
  • How Long Until Black Future Month (print book)- This is a collection of short stories about black life, many are set in the future. I enjoyed this book and felt that the stories were very timely given the current political climate, yet also timeless. I am not a big science fiction reader (except for Kindred by Octavia Butler), but I recommend this book to anyone who wants a different take on African-American literature.
  • A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II (print book)- This was a true story about a woman named Virginia Hall. Virginia was a woman of a gentile, wealthy background. She was also a woman with a disability and because of this, many people underestimated her. Yet, she proved them all wrong when she became a wartime spy.  Not only did she fight back against sexism, ableism, and assumptions about her capabilities, but she helped to turn the tide of World War II on the European front. I really enjoyed this book and I had the opportunity to meet the author. I found the ending quite sad, mainly because (like many women from her era), she did not get her due for all that she accomplished during her lifetime. Now with the publication of this book, her story is finally being told.  This book may be made into a movie soon.

Audio Books:

  1. Phillipa Gregory Books- I have developed a love for Phillipa Gregory’s historical novels, which focus on the Cousin’s War in England (the white rose vs. red rose) and the Tudor era of England. I am learning a lot from these novels and I’ve been looking up all the historical characters in the process. My favorite in the series is the King’s Curse. Some of the novels have very sad and historically true endings. Some of these novels also demonstrate how few rights women had during this era and the difficult choices that they had to make. Many women were treated as spoils of war and often during this era, marriages were arranged for the purpose of political alliance, not love. I’ve listened to the following so far:
    1. The White Queen
    2. The Kingmaker’s Daughter
    3. The White Princess
    4. The King’s Curse
    5. The Constant Princess
    6. Three Sisters, Three Queens
    7. The Boleyn Inheritance
    8. The Last Tudor
  2. The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead- I listened to this novel on my library app. This was an emotionally difficult book to read, but very well done.
  3. When the Men Were Gone by Marjorie Herrera Lewis- this was a darling, uplifting book about a woman who must overcome sexism during WWII to do a job that she is qualified for and loves.
  4. Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen by Sarah Bird– I really enjoyed this book, it is based on a true story about a Black woman who is formerly enslaved. She passes herself off as a man to become a soldier. This was one of my favorite books this year.
  5. The Light Between Oceans- I enjoyed this book. It is a story about a couple who struggles to conceive a child, but when they find a seemingly abandoned baby and pass her off as their own, their lives seem to be changing for the better. Yet, their secret catches up with them. This novel was made into a movie, starring Michael Fassbender. I saw the film, but I enjoyed the novel more.
  6. The Age of Light- This is a novel that spans the time period from the 1920s to WWII in Europe. It’s about a female photographer and is loosely based on the life of Lee Miller. I enjoyed this book as well and for some reason, the ending left me feeling a bit sad and nostalgic. It made me feel like I was longing for something that I missed during my youth. I would almost say this book was a bildungsroman.
  7. Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams- I loved this book. It’s about a young woman who comes to an island, falls in love and must contend with a crime that occurred in the past. It sounds simple, but it is so entertaining and romantic.
  8. Deep Work- A nonfiction book by Cal Newport about working intentionally and accomplishing goals in a very distracting world. A very helpful book.
  9. Digital Minimalism: A nonfiction book by Cal Newport about the value of incorporating digital products into your life in a mindful and intentional way. This is a very helpful book that has inspired me. This book gives you practical tips for modifying your screen time and digital use to have a more fulfilling life.
  10. The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport- This is a nonfiction book that tells the story of the Russian Romanov princesses who were murdered. If you’re curious about the Romanov family or have ever seen the cartoon movie about Anastasia, the youngest Romanov princess, this book is for you.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gZrYyi-XRQ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life for African Americans in the Roaring Twenties

Here we are in the 20s again, not the roaring 20s, but the 2020s. Have you ever wondered how life was different for African Americans in the 1920s?

If you were an African-American in the 1920s, you might have ridden on the back of the bus and in the colored car of the train, but you also might have danced to the Charleston, listened to poets like Langston Hughes in Harlem or heard Bessie Smith sing at a Speakeasy.

Three African American Harlem Women Dressed in the 1920s fashion. Photo credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Three_Harlem_Women,_ca._1925.png

The 1920s:

  1. Politics:
    • Jim Crow laws kept African Americans segregated from other Americans. These laws were largely enforced throughout the south and in some border states, such as Maryland and even in some western states. Learn more here and here.
    • The 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote was passed on August 18, 1920. African American men technically were given the right to vote through the 15th amendment, but, both black men and black women were routinely denied the right to vote throughout the south through policies that were designed to suppress the black vote. The KKK and other racial terror groups sometimes threatened African Americans who tried to register to vote.
    • In 1927, advocates argued against a policy in Texas, which aimed to keep African Americans from voting in the primary elections. This case became known as Nixon v. Herndon and was struck down by the supreme court.
    • Even though Black women, like Ida Wells, had demonstrated leadership in the suffrage movement, many African American women did not benefit from the passage of the 19th amendment in the same way as white women. Learn more here.A map of the great migration patterns of African Americans from 1910 to 1940 and 1940 to 1970. The map shows city populations in the North increasing during this time. Photo credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1c/GreatMigration1910to1970-UrbanPopulation.png
    • The Great Migration: After WWI, African Americans faced an upsurge in racial violence and terror. Many African American WWI veterans faced harassment and, in some cases, lynch mobs. This violence spurred many African Americans to begin to move to the Northern states where they could escape the Jim Crow segregationist policies of the south and begin life anew. This time period from 1920 to 1940 became known as the First Wave of the Great Migration. Learn more here.
    • African Americans and white allies advocated for an end to the lynching in the south and in 1922, the US House of Representatives passed an anti-lynching bill, but the bill failed in the senate. President Harding condemned the lynching of African Americans in the south in 1920. Learn more here.
    • In 1923, a Senator from Mississippi worked with the United Daughters of the Confederacy to commission a statue of a black “Mammy,” figure which would sit on the National Mall. While African Americans were dying in the South from lynching mobs, the fictional Mammy was being promoted in Washington, DC. Thankfully, this statue did not come to fruition.
  • Food and Drink: African American cuisine is influenced by Western and Central African, American and European cuisine. African American cuisine is often referred to as soul food. Foods such as beans, yams, poultry, black-eyed peas, fish and seafood, greens, seasonings, peanuts, and seeds were commonly eaten in western and central African cultures.
    • During the middle passage, some African Americans brought their culinary traditions with them and some even snuck seeds or beans (like black-eyed peas) aboard the slave ships. African American dishes like gumbo and black-eyed peas originate in western and central African cuisine. During the 1920s when African Americans traveled to the North, they often brought their traditional southern foods with them on their journey. These dishes, which had largely been consumed in the south became more widespread. Learn more here and here.
  • Prohibition: During the 1920s, alcohol was illegal. Like many other Americans, African Americans attended speakeasies, dances, and clubs that secretly sold alcohol. In cities like Harlem, speakeasies often included entertainment from African American jazz artists, dancers, and poets. Learn more here and here.
  • Entertainers

Bessie Smith

Ma Rainey

Josephine Baker

Louis Armstrong

Paul Robeson

African American Flappers

  1. Culture:
  • Carter G Woodson publicized the first Negro History week in 1926. This was a precursor to Black History Month.
  • Quicksand, which tells the story of a mixed-race Black woman was published by Nella Larsen.
  • In 1926, Langston Hughes’s book of poetry, The Weary Blues was published.
  • The Charleston music and dance was popularized by the African American composer James P Johnson and often played in the clubs of Harlem and speakeasies across the country.
  • “Shuffle Along,” which was created by Eubie Blake and Noble Sissy was shown on Broadway in 1921.
  • The movie “Hallelujah,” starring Nina Mae Mckinney debuted.

The real miracle of the 1920s was that despite the terror that African Americans faced, they continued to build a culture through the arts, culinary traditions and to advance justice for everyone. Learn more about African Americans in the 1920s here and here.

More References:

Hair Love

This is an adorable short film that won an Oscar for Best animated short. It is about a little Black girl whose father must learn to style her hair. The little girl and father use a video channel, created by the mother of the little girl, to create hairstyles. This is a great film that teaches self-love and promotes family values. It is especially poignant for little black girls who grow up in a world where often, their beauty and natural hair are maligned. However, it is also important for little black boys and children of all races. Recently, a Black boy was suspended for wearing his locks to school. Films like these are very important for changing the narrative about natural hair. It is important the children and adults are taught to respect all people and not to stigmatize those who have different skin colors or hair textures. I think this film should be shown to all children in school.

Hair Love-

Your Guide to Hosting a Mueller Report Reading Party

Banquet table with juice, cookies and snacks.

The  redacted Mueller Report has been available to the public for some time. You can even listen to it for free on Amazon Audible. It’s also available in print.  However, it is roughly 400 pages long. If you listen to it in audio format, its about 19 hours.

Reading through a legal document can be difficult, so why not make it more fun by throwing a little read-a-thon or listen-a-thon? It is important that public be educated and aware of what is going on in the country, so why not bring your family and friends together to participate in this very fun and educational party opportunity?

How to Host a Mueller Report Read/Listen-A-Thon:

  1. Think about the format that you want to use. Do you want people to take turns reading from the actual report or would you prefer listening to audio? Will you need speakers, will you project the content onto a screen? Once you decide on the format, you can obtain the version that you want.
  2. Choose a location. Will this be hosted at your home or another venue?
  3.  Create a timeline for the event. When will it start, when will it end? How many breaks will you have? When will people eat?
  4. Decorate to liven up the atmosphere. You could choose a theme that speaks to you, it could be a black and gold theme, a red, white and blue theme, a Watergate theme, whatever you like.
  5.  Decide who to invite and then send invitations. This is a wonderful opportunity for an intimate gathering of friends and family to join together and read or listen to the report. You might send a formal evite or simply text or call people.
  6.  Plan your menu. For a 19 hour read-a-thon, it is crucial that you have plenty of food and beverages available, as well as activities that people can engage in during downtime or if they wish to take a break from the reading or listening.
  7.  Plan your activities. It’s good to have relaxing activities to accompany the read-a-thon. This may mean adult coloring or painting stations, crafting stations or maker stations. This is also a wonderful opportunity for group craft activities, like a quilting bee or knitting circle. Imagine a group gathered around a tray of tea and cookies, listening to the Mueller Report and quilting. Very picturesque, no?
  8. Have space for people to rest. When you are hosting an all night party or read-a-thon, guests will need a place  to rest. It might help to prepare a guest room or spaces for people to sleep.
  9. Provide notepads and pens. Be sure to provide paper and writing tools for those who wish to take notes throughout the reading.
  10. After the reading,  consider whether or not you’d like to host a follow-up discussion where your guests can discuss and ask questions about the report or simply call it a night.
  11.  Sit back, chill and educate yourself.                                                                                                                               Helpful Tips: 
    • Keep the restroom tidy. Be sure that the powder room is tidy and stocked with all necessary supplies, like toilet paper, hand soap,  and clean towels.
    •  Make sure guests remain safe. If drinking is involved, remind guests to drink responsibly or arrange transportation home, if necessary.
    • Be sure to ask guests for any special dietary considerations prior to planning your menu.
    • Be sure that you have plenty of water and beverages. You may want to have coffee, tea, water and light snacks throughout the event. You might offer a nice DIY Happy Hour in the evening, for those who are over 21. You can get as fancy as you want with the food. You might like to organize a potluck and have people bring dishes or you might like to arrange for food delivery or carry out.
    • Allow for frequent breaks. When creating your read-a-thon schedule, be sure that you’ve built in opportunities for breaks.

Sample Mueller Report Party Overview:

Guests Arrive: 6 AM-  sausage, egg breakfast casserole, croissants and muffins and fruit-infused water, orange juice, coffee and tea.

-Begin reading/activities-

9 AM- Snack break with fruits, cheese, nuts, granola

12 PM- Lunch al fresco, grilled chicken, shrimp kebabs, fruit salad, grilled vegetables, lamb burgers, potato salad, crab cakes

3 PM- Afternoon Tea break with tea, scones with cream/jam, tea cakes, cupcakes, deviled eggs and other light refreshments

6 PM – Dinner with roast beef, grilled chicken, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and other dishes

9 PM-  DIY cocktail bar with fruits, nuts, cakes and other desserts

12 AM- Midnight Snack with popcorn, candy and fruit cup with whipped cream

3AM- Light snacks/conclude reading and goodie bags for guests

Note: Resting space, activities and light snacks available throughout

Activities: Adult painting, coloring and crafting