Category Archives: literature of colour

Racialicious Crush Of The Week: James Earl Hardy

By Andrea Plaid

James Earl Hardy. Photo Credit: Sylvester Q. Courtesy of the interviewee.

Award-winning author James Earl Hardy mentioned that quite a few people may have seen his best-selling book, B-boy Blues, outside of college classrooms–where it’s required reading in African American/multiculti lit and queer lit courses–and bookshelves: actor Isaiah Washington, who plays one half of a same-gender loving (SGL) couple in Spike Lee’s 1996 flick, Get On The Bus, is a holding a copy of it.

Lit-checked in a Spike Lee movie? Such is Hardy’s swag.

After the jump is the interview, in which Hardy talks about the “One Superstar Person Of Color At A Time” mindset in publishing, Black masculinity in pop culture, and his writing a one-person play about a man of color who’s a porn star and entrepreneur. (You read that right.) Hardy also talks about Washington’s career-ending homophobic remark, made a decade after his role in Get On The Bus.

Afro-Latin And The Negro Common: An Interview With Dr. Marco Polo Hernández-Cuevas

By Guest Contributor Lamont Lilly

The author (L) with Dr. Marco Polo Hernández-Cuevas. Courtesy of the author.

Marco Polo Hernández-Cuevas is the Interim Chair of the Department of Modern Foreign Languages at North Carolina Central University, where his interests lie in Transatlantic and Diaspora Studies. He is the author of five books, including The Africanization of Mexico from the Sixteenth Century Onward (2010) and Africa in Mexico: A Repudiated Heritage (2007). He is the founder and director of the Mexican Institute of Africana Studies. Read along as we discuss: Colonialism, Gaspar Yanga, Ivan Van Sertima and Mexico’s Little Black Sambo.

Lamont Lilly: Dr. Cuevas, as only the second individual I know to describe themselves as Afro-Mexican can you share some insight on the cultural connections that exist within such a powerful ethic mix? And why have figures such as Gaspar Yanga and Emiliano Zapata been omitted from history’s reference of heralded freedom fighters?

Statue of Gaspar Yanga in Veracruz, Mexico. Courtesy: Black Art Depot Today.

Marco Polo Hernández-Cuevas: Well, the reason you haven’t heard many refer to themselves as Afro-Mexican is because this is a relatively new term that was first coined by Eurocentric scholars like Melville Herskovits. It was Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán who coined it in 1945 in Mexico City, during the foundational meeting of the Institute for African American Studies. However, that doesn’t mean that a color consciousness didn’t exist in Mexico. Prior to that, we had a host of names such as “Casta,” “Chilango,” “Jarocho,” and “Boshito,” all terms that refer to the lack of blood cleanliness of non-white persons. That would explain why many people in Mexico do not identify themselves as Afro-Mexican. They refer to themselves as Casta, or any of the other names previously mentioned. Recently however, there’s been a movement in the South Pacific side of Mexico whereby Afro-Mexicans do not want to be called Afro-Mexican. They just want to be called Nĕgro — Black. It erases the science and intellectuality of such embedded complexities.
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Red Hook Summer: On Post-Soul Culture And Spike Lee Talkin’ Smack

By Guest Contributor Naomi Extra

What shocked me most while watching Red Hook Summer was its striking similarity to the films of Tyler Perry and T.D. Jakes whose work Lee has openly criticized. In fact, many reviewers have put the film right in line with Perry’s films by describing it as a church movie. Red Hook has been criticized as preachy, messy in narrative structure and development, and sensationalist. All are valid critiques. They also seem ironic in light of the ongoing beef between Perry and Lee, which was ignited when Lee referred to the films of Perry and the like as “coonery and buffoonery.” And of course, the media loves this sort of melodrama.

Jules Brown as Flik in Red Hook Summer. Courtesy: aceshowbiz.com

Spike Lee’s newest film takes place in the projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn, where Flik (Jules Brown), a teenage boy from Atlanta, goes to stay with his grandfather, Bishop Enoch Rouse (Clarke Peters) for the summer. Flik is a teenage Afro-Punk type: vegan, middle-class, afro-hawk, suburban speak. In contrast, Bishop Enoch is a Bible-thumping preacher and active member of his community. Amidst heavier themes of class, politics, religion, and generational difference, a budding romance between Flik and Chazz (Toni Lysaith) is also threaded through the film.

The question is, could Red Hook be Spike talking more smack, mocking the immensely popular church films of Tyler Perry and the like? I wouldn’t put it past him. When recently asked about the ongoing feud, Lee responded with a request: “No more Tyler Perry questions please” and later “peace and love, leave it at that.” And although he doesn’t speak of Perry directly, in a radio interview, Lee describes the film’s inception as a conversation between him and writer James Mc Bride. The two were discussing what they “felt was a sorry state of African American cinema.” With this film, Lee seems to have found a way to squash the beef and have the last word.

Mild SPOILER ALERT under the cut.
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Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Joy Harjo

By Andrea Plaid

Joy Harjo. Courtesy: keeperofstories.blogspot.com

 

Reading that wordsmith/musician/teacher Joy Harjo’s memoir just dropped brought back that crush with capital-L life I had in my undergrad days : all dewy-new to the adult world, pretty effin’ cocky about what I thought I already knew and wanting to gooble up more ideas from new books and new people, and seeing middle age as sunset-colored horizon meeting the ocean, all lovely and over there.

Harjo was one of the writers in my 4-year degree days who, if you didn’t read her, you knew of her because her name and/or the titles of her writing dropped from almost every Women’s Studies major’s mouth, cropped up in anthologies by feminist writers of color, and compiled by professors in (what the folks at my university) called their “Kinko’s books.” (“Kinko’s books” were copies of individual articles, poems, essays, analyses, etc. college profs compiled and constructed with bookbinding famously associated with mega-copy shop Kinko’s, now known as FedEx Office. The compilations have been since ruled to infringe on authors’ intellectual property.)

Now that I over here in the beginnings of my middle age–realizing that I don’t know everything and being pretty OK with that, still trying to navigate Life’s waters,  and seeing my youth as storm-clouds of not-so-lovely and quite happy that it’s back there–I revisited Harjo’s most famous work, “She Had Some Horses.” Her poem does what quite a bit of literature does well: it navigates life with you, sometimes as compass, sometimes as lodestar, sometimes as anchor. An excerpt after the jump; the rest of the poem is here.

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‘Ain’t Is A Real Word’: The Rise Of The MelaNated Writers Collective [Culturelicious]

Members of the MelaNated Writers Collective. Courtesy: Kristina F. Robinson

By Guest Contributor Kristina K. Robinson

In the few years preceding my acceptance into a Master of Fine Arts program in Creative Writing, I had been a Katrina refugee, had a baby, grieved the death of his father and more. I had a thick skin and a lot to say. I couldn’t think of a better time to dedicate myself to my writing. I felt prepared to be critiqued. I was self-aware and detached from taking criticism of my work personally. I had done this as an undergraduate; it was all constructive; I was ready.

A friend of mine from college, already waist-deep in an MFA program in New York, warned me …

“I was fine, till the day this guy said my work was didactic and particularly concerned with victimhood. I cried afterwards. They are going to get you,” she said.

We laughed and I waited for my turn.

It came. A rare poem of mine that features dialect, received the royal treatment from a professor. She decided to take command of the workshop by asking if anyone would like to discuss the dialect. I was aware of the consequences of writing a poem filled with dialect for a majority-white audience. I was prepared for all the most critical things I thought I would hear.

I was ready to listen to people debate whether or not it is acceptable to write something that is hard for white people to understand. I was ready to hear that a person who spoke that way wasn’t someone they imagined would have high-brow ideas or spend time meditating the on the meaning of life. I was even prepared to hear someone say that dialect didn’t belong in poetry.

I was not prepared to hear this:

“I’m going to go out on a limb,” the professor began, “and say that I found the dialect phony, and therefore I didn’t believe the rest of the poem. The dialect isn’t even consistent, sometimes this speaker says gon’, sometimes she says gonna’…didn’t buy it.”

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Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Son Of Baldwin’s Robert Jones, Jr.

By Andrea Plaid

I fell in love with the pithy brilliance of Robert Jones, Jr.  (pictured below) the 21st-century way: online.

Courtesy: Robert Jones, Jr.

I guess that’s what happens when you grab the mic with the moniker Son of Baldwin.

Like his spiritual dad, novelist/essayist/critic/poet/activist James Baldwin, Jones brings the love, the pain, the rage, and the joy of being Black of 21st-century USA through his specific lens of a queer Black man born and reared in New York City. But Jones doesn’t regurgiate Baldwin like hip platitudes: it’s as if Jones sprung, Athena-like, from Baldwin’s head and reshaped Baldwin then-prescient ideas about the contours and everyday workings of racism, sexism, homophobia, and classism (among other -isms and -phobias) for this era.

I’m not the only one who feels all like this about the guy: when I told both Latoya and Arturo, they were all like, “We love Son of Baldwin! Good choice!!” (And, according to the stats on Son of Baldwin’s Facebook page and Twitter, about 6,400 of us thinks he’s pretty choice.)

So, with my questions quivering in my virtual hand–and trying really hard to control my squee–I approached this week’s Crush.

Tell me about your background: where you were born, what neighborhood did you grow up in, what were your family and neighbors like, schooling, etc.

I was born in Manhattan, but raised in Brooklyn, NY–where I have spent the majority of my life (outside of an excursion to Charlotte, NC, from 1998–2002). I come from a family that is Southern Baptist on my father’s side (by way of Savannah, GA) and Nation of Islam on my mother side (by way of New York City).

I grew up mostly in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn in the Marlboro Housing Projects, so, as you would imagine, I know oppression QUITE intimately. I was first called a nigger, in 1977, when I was six years old. I was hanging out with friends, four or five blocks away, when Yusef Hawkins was murdered in my neighborhood in 1989.

It’s weird to think about it now, but I was chased home from school every day by white boys who hated that I went to “their schools.” And once I reached home, I was taunted and abused by black boys (and girls) who perceived me as “soft.” So I was forced to be “hard” simply as a reaction to the amount of cruelty I was experiencing. I have a few fond memories of childhood, but most of them are tainted by some form of terrorism. Nevertheless, during the most ferocious of those years, I discovered reading as a means of escape and that quickly led to writing. I think I wrote my first short story when I was 12.

I’m a bit of a late bloomer in regard to my college education. I didn’t commit to obtaining my undergraduate and graduate degrees until I was in my 30s. I received both my B.F.A. in creative writing and M.F.A. in fiction from Brooklyn College. For the latter, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Cunningham was my mentor.

Why do you love James Baldwin so much?

I am consistently floored by James Baldwin’s intelligence, honesty, and prescience.  I can’t help but admire and want to emulate that painfully rare kind of brilliance. I discovered Baldwin later than most—during my first semester of undergrad. I fell in love with him immediately after reading his last essay, “Here Be Dragons.” Then I hunted for the rest of his work. It’s remarkable that Baldwin’s work continues to reveal things to me, some things I find joyous and some things I find disturbing. No matter what, though: It’s always enlightening. I wish I had the opportunity to have met him before he died.

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An Interview With Former USA National Poetry Series Winner Adrian Matejka [Culturelicious]

By Guest Contributor Jorge Antonio Vallejos, cross-posted from Black Coffee Poet

Adrian Matejka is the author of The Devil’s Garden (Alice James Books, 2003), Mixology (Penguin USA, 2009), and The Big Smoke (Penguin USA, forthcoming in 2013).

His work has appeared or is forthcoming in American Poetry ReviewPloughshares, and Poetry among other journals and anthologies. You can find him at www.adrianmatejka.com or on Twitter.

BCP: Why poetry?

AM: I first tried to write poetry in a lame attempt to impress a girl, but my appreciation for language came before that. I wanted to be an emcee when I was younger. Fortunately, for everyone, I figured out pretty quickly that I couldn’t spit rhymes and moved on to the next thing.

A few years after I gave up the mic, I discovered some poets who value sound and percussiveness the same way emcees do. First, Langston Hughes and Etheridge Knight. Then later, Gil Scott-Heron and Yusef Komunyakaa. Through these incredible poets, it became clear that poetry is an art that allows both music and communication. Once I figured that out, I never wanted to do anything else.

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Announcement: 2012 Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival Now Accepting Submissions

By Arturo R. García

The Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival contacted us with the heads-up: the submission period has opened for this year’s event, scheduled to run June 16-17 at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.

There is no submission fee for entries sent before Feb. 15, but entries submitted between Feb. 16 and March 15 must be accompanied by a $50 fee. We’ve got information on each category, and links to the required submissions forms, under the cut.
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