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The Beautiful and the Damned: A review

The Beautiful and the Damned was a novel on my 2017 reading list. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and the Damned is a story about a young, well-to-do man who is grappling with finding his identity and purpose. Anthony Patch lives off the wealth of his grandfather and grows up in New York where he parties with socialites, drinks and falls in love with a beautiful woman named Gloria.  At first, it seems like Gloria and Anthony are a perfect couple. Gloria is beautiful, light-hearted and the envy of many girls in her social circle. She drinks in life and revels in her youth daily. Anthony is wealthy and has a world of opportunity at his feet. Yet, as time goes on, something happens that jeopardizes Anthony’s standing amongst New York’s well-to-do and elite and soon Gloria and Anthony begin to struggle to maintain their lifestyle and maintain their love for each other. The only thing that gives Anthony any purpose is his dream of writing.

Anthony grew up in a world of privilege and when his privilege begins to crumble and he struggles, he loses his footing and spirals down. Gloria is a woman, who was used to putting herself first, but when she marries Anthony, for the first time, she is forced to surrender to the reality that she may not always be able to put herself first. As a woman and a wife, Gloria has to grapple with the fact that not only does she have to take care of Anthony, but she must bear the consequences of his poor choices. Ultimately, Gloria is put into a subordinate position to her husband and her independent, free spirit withers with time.

Overall, it’s hard for me to completely like Anthony as a character. He seems over-privileged, entitled and sheltered. While Gloria comes off as vain, racist and superficial. Yet, it’s hard for me to completely dislike them as characters either. As life hits Anthony harder and harder, he is faced with the reality that for the first time in his life, he may have to try to earn his place in the world like everyone else. You almost feel sorry for him, as he fails constantly throughout the novel. Yet, part of me wants to slap him upside the head and tell him to get over himself, get a job just like everyone else, be a big boy and stop acting like he’s the center of the universe.  As for Gloria, at times I wanted to grab her by the shoulders, shake her and tell her to come off her high horse. She comes off vain, but as her relationship with Anthony deteriorates, you realize she is a woman in a society where women have few choices.

Overall, I did enjoy the novel. It was a departure from the books that I usually read. A major criticism of the book is that the few people of color and minorities are stereotypical, then again the book was written in 1922. I can see why people rave about Fitzgerald and so many of his works are considered classics.

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Anna Julie Cooper

Anna Julie Cooper was an African-American woman of humble beginnings. She was born in 1858, the daughter of an enslaved woman and a white man. As a child, she was able to study at Saint Augustine Normal school and Collegiate Institute where she was especially talented in math. Cooper was appalled when she learned that the male students in the school were given more encouragement to pursue the math courses that were needed to advance to higher level academia. As a  result, Cooper earned her B.S. and then her Master’s in mathematics from Oberlin College.

Cooper spent most of her life teaching. She taught math, Latin and science to students at M street high school in Washington, D.C. and later became Principal of M Street. She also spoke at various Black women’s club movements, which were clubs designed to help disenfranchised African-Americans, and she participated in the Pan African conference. Her perspective on racism and her desire to teach African-American youth college skills were in conflict with Booker T. Washington, who believed in training youth for vocational careers. When Cooper’s teaching contract was not renewed by the D.C. school board in 1905, she took time off and traveled to Paris, where she earned her doctorate and wrote a dissertation on slavery (Slavery and the French Revolutionists). When she returned to D.C. her license was renewed and she continued teaching at M Street until the 1930s. Throughout her life, she adopted and fostered several children. Cooper was briefly married for two years until her husband died. She lived to be 105 years old, dying in 1964.

 

Cooper was an accomplished, intelligent woman, who pioneered early Black women’s studies and served as a Principal of a school at a time when women, especially Black women, were expected to be subservient maids. We hear about Booker T. Washington and Dubois, but we seldom hear about Anna Julie Cooper. She overcame sexism and racism and ended her life with a doctorate. She wasn’t a superstar, she was married for two years only and she still impacted the lives of hundreds of Black children and adults.

source

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Do you think you could portray an antebellum enslaved person?

I just discovered this web series called “Ask  a Slave,” it satirizes some of the interactions that an actress (who portrayed an enslaved woman at Mount Vernon plantation) has had with visitors. I never really wondered what it must be like to portray an enslaved person and then have to deal with potentially stupid and ignorant questions/remarks from people.

It’s very telling though that the series is based off real interactions the actress had with museum patrons. The sad thing is some of the comments and questions that she satirizes, I’ve heard said before too.

 

Check it out:

 

Related post: https://abagond.wordpress.com/2013/10/17/notes-towards-a-black-history-of-george-washington/

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What Living Without Running Water Taught Me

Superdome_shelter via creative commons

This week I had no running water for four days. I never realized how delicate life could be without water. Simple tasks, like taking a drink, bathing and washing dishes became exceedingly difficult.

I coped the first few days by purchasing bottled water (which thankfully I could do), trying to perfect the art of a sponge bath and doing my darndest to ignore the dirty dishes and smell of filth that filled the house. By the fourth day, I couldn’t hold it in any longer and I finally snapped.

The reality is, I had it easy. As my mother said, think about the people in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, who endured weeks and months without water or electricity.  I definitely feel especially sensitive now to people who don’t have access to water and many people around the world don’t, whether in crisis or not.

The first lesson I learned from this situation was to not take water for granted, the second was to help those who don’t have the privilege of being able to buy water when they have no running water, so I donated to the Fund for the Virgin Islands. Honestly, that’s not enough, I could and should be doing more to help others. I’m ashamed that when I watched the trauma and emergency unfold in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico , I didn’t do more to help. I regret it so much.

The third lesson I learned was the importance of being prepared. If I had known how to purify water, take a sponge bath, build an outhouse and wash dishes the old-fashioned way, my few days without water would have been more bearable.

There are many communities of people who devote their spare time to preparing for emergency or crisis. Not just firemen or police officers, but everyday, normal people who learn survival skills, build shelters and “go bags.” They are called “preppers.” Everyone should be prepared for an emergency, whatever your color is. However, being an African-American, you especially need to be prepared, not just for an apocalypse, zombie-invasion or the end times, I’m talking about things like Hurricanes, floods, and water scarcity. Think about Hurricane Katrina. Think about how countless people were left to fend for themselves for weeks, while the government did little to nothing. Think about what happened in Flint, Michigan with the foul water.

The reality is, if a major crisis goes down, the poor, Black people and other people of color are most vulnerable.

Recently, a false alarm in Hawaii, which said that a missile attack was imminent, sent people into a panic.

The false alarm in Hawaii shouldn’t be taken lightly. In this climate, in this political time, you never know what may happen. Would you be ready to grab a bag and head for shelter? Take the necessary precautions to be prepared.

At the bare minimum, put together a “grab and go” bag. In case you need to evacuate, make sure you have a plan, enough water, food, a light source, blankets, maps, emergency contacts, first aid kit, non-electric radio, utility tools, pen, and paper.

My survival goals are to:

  1. Learn to purify water
  2. Build a get-out-of-dodge bag
  3. Learn to grow my own food
  4. Learn to bathe and clean without running water

We, especially as people-of-color, unfortunately, cannot always rely on the government to protect us, if an emergency occurs. Take the necessary steps to protect yourself.

Here is a website for Black preppers, check it out. 

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Elizabeth Johnson Harris: Who Was She?

Her name is Elizabeth Johnson Harris. * She wasn’t a well-known woman, like Ida Wells Barnett or Rosa Parks. She was just an average woman, who kept a record of her life, as an African-American in the 19th century. She was a poet, journalist and a mother. She came into the world in 1867,  in Augusta, Georgia. She was the daughter of formerly enslaved people and for a time, she lived with her Grandparents, who had also been enslaved. In many ways, she was an average African-American woman of the 19th century.

What I find fascinating about Harris is that she kept a memoir, 85 pages of memories and perspectives about her life. She wrote about seemingly normal things, like going to school, caring for her family, and she also recorded her perspective on race in her time.

An excerpt:

Mamma and Papa would often come to see me and bring me nice little things of various sorts. They would often ask if I wanted to go to their home and live with them where I would see more pretty and lovelier things in the city. But no, I was always proud to see them come and hated to see them go. But I had grown so attached and devoted to the older folks that there was nothing to attract my attention from them.

When I was six years old, they started me out to school and although my Grandfather had been a slave, yet he managed to learn to spell and read and from this he taught me of the little that he knew, which gave me a precious start

read more

This entry about learning to read from her grandfather dispels the myth that African-American culture does not value education or learning. What does it say when one of the first things a formerly enslaved person does is learn to read and write, then pass that lesson onto their grandchild? Despite all the brokenness, despite the terror that her grandfather would have endured during slavery, he still desired to learn. He understood the value of education and in teaching his granddaughter, gave her an invaluable and healing gift. When you’re educated, you can tell your own stories and narratives and you can free your mind and spirit.

Harris lived during a time when history was often told from a white male perspective. Yet, Harris’ memoir speaks of history from the perspective of an average, African-American woman. In this respect, her memoir is a form of resistance to an oppressive time period. Harris writes of some of the most normal aspects of 19th-century life and transforms what might be taken for granted or regarded as mundane today into elaborate and significant facets of life. In telling her story, she resisted the common notion that Black people have no history, no collective story or connection to the past, no reverence for our ancestors or where we come from. So many of us have had our history re-written or ripped away, but when we tell our own story, we’re countering the historical re-write narrative that says we have no history.

It’s important to understand that every woman has a story and so many Black women, especially in the 19th century haven’t had their stories told.

Think about the women and people in your lives, are they famous? Some of the most interesting people aren’t famous, but they still have stories worthy of being shared. Think about your own story. Who will tell the story of African-Americans in the 21st century? What’s different and what’s the same for African-Americans 150 years later?

Source:

Elizabeth Johnson Harris Memoir, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Related:

Sarah Rector, an African-American girl, who came from an enslaved family background, but became the richest little Black girl in the United States. 

 

*I have read excerpts from her memoir and this is my impression based off of those excerpts. I aspire to read the memoir in entirety.

 

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Remember the Sexual Assault Survivors Who’ve Been Silenced…

Last night at the Golden Globe awards, sexual assault and harassment was a theme.
Women wore black to express their solidarity with the women who endured sexual assault, harassment, and injustice. The #metoo movement was prevalent.
 Oprah gave a speech:
I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue. They’re the women whose names we’ll never know. They are domestic workers and farm workers. They are working in factories and they work in restaurants and they’re in academia, engineering, medicine, and science. They’re part of the world of tech and politics and business. They’re our athletes in the Olympics and they’re our soldiers in the military.
Oprah broke tradition when she mentioned Ms. Taylor. No, not Taylor Swift. The late Ms. Recy Taylor, an African-American woman who was gang-raped by six white Men in Alabama in 1944. Jim Crow customs made Black women unrapeable, so Taylor was never allowed to be a rape victim. The six white men were never arrested or charged. Taylor’s Story wasn’t unique. While black men were lynched for looking at a white woman, Black women’s bodies were violated by white men routinely. Many African-Americans carry this legacy of sexual assault and injustice in our blood.
Taylor died without justice, but at least she didn’t die in silence. Her story was told and that matters. Let’s remember that sexual assault happens to all women, not only white celebrities. This is not to minimize the pain of those white celebrities, I feel for them and I also feel for those who were forgotten and made invisible. Remember Indigenous Women, who are assaulted at a disproportionate rate and should have been in Oprah’s speech. Remember trafficking survivors and remember the women who are exploited through prostitution and pornography (I no longer accept the term sex work).  Remember the poor women and working-class women. Remember and tell their stories, feel the same outrage for them as is felt for these celebrities.
Related Post: https://blacknotwhitedippedinchocolate.wordpress.com/2011/05/09/black-women-history-the-dark-end-of-the-street-book-trailer/