NYU Professor and Novelist Zadie Smith to Receive Langston Hughes Medal for Writing

Zadie Smith (photo via lithub.com)

via jbhe.com

Zadie Smith, the acclaimed novelist who is a professor of creative writing at New York University, has been selected to received the Langston Hughes Medal from the City College of New York. The medal honors writers of poetry, drama, fiction, biographies, and critical essays from throughout the Black diaspora. Professor Smith will honored on November 16 at City College’s annual Langston Hughes Festival.

Previous winners of the Langston Hughes Medal include James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Walter Mosley, Gwendolyn Brooks, Octavia Butler, August Wilson, and Edwidge Danticat. Smith is the author of five novels including her latest work Swing Time (Penguin Books, 2016). She also published an essay collection Changing My Mind (Penguin Books, 2009) and writes frequently for the New Yorker magazine and the New York Review of Books.

A native of London, Professor Smith is a graduate of Kings College of the University of Cambridge. She joined the faculty at New York University in 2010.

Source: Zadie Smith of New York University to Receive the Langston Hughes Medal : The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education

ASU History Professor Matthew Delmont Wins Guggenheim Fellowship to Study African Americans’ Views on World War II

ASU Professor Matt Delmont (photo via twitter.com)

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Matthew Delmont, a professor of history and Director of the School of Historical, Philosophical & Religious Studies at Arizona State University, has received a Guggenheim Fellowship that will allow him to conduct research on how African American viewed World War II at the time the war was being waged.

“African-Americans rallied around something called the ‘double-victory campaign,’ which meant victory over fascism abroad and victory over racism at home,” Professor Delmont said. “There was a great amount of hope that by proving their patriotism, by proving their service to the country in World War II, things would be different once they got home. In a lot of cases, that didn’t happen.” Dr. Delmont will conduct interviews but he notes that “Black newspapers will be one of the main sources. They had war correspondents embedded in Europe and Asia, and they were dodging enemy fire to bring these stories to the communities in the U.S.”

Professor Delmont is the author of several books including Why Busing Failed: Race, Media, and the National Resistance to School Desegregation (University of California Press, 2016) and The Nicest Kids in Town: American Bandstand, Rock ‘n’ Roll, and the Struggle for Civil Rights in 1950s Philadelphia (University of California Press, 2012). The tentative title for the book that he hopes will come from this research is To Live Half American: African Americans at Home and Abroad During World War II.

Originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, Professor Delmont is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard University and earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in American studies at Brown University. He joined the faculty at Arizona State University in 2014 after teaching for six years at Scripps College in Claremont, California.

Source: Arizona State Historian Wins Fellowship to Study African Americans’ Views on World War II : The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education

CULTURE: Poet and Activist Nikki Giovanni featured on “On Being with Krista Tippett” Podcast

Nikki Giovanni (Image by Furious Flower Poetry Center / Flickr)

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Nikki Giovanni was a revolutionary poet of the Black Arts Movement that nourished civil rights. She had a famous dialogue with James Baldwin in Paris in 1971. As a professor at Virginia Tech, she brought beauty and courage by the way of poetry after the shooting there.

Today, she is a self-proclaimed space freak and a delighted elder — an adored voice to hip-hop artists and the new forms of social change this generation is creating.

Check out Ms. Giovanni’s On Being Podcast from August 24, 2017 by clicking below:

Source: Nikki Giovanni — Soul Food, Sex, and Space | On Being

University of Virginia Historian Andrew W. Kahrl Documents How Black-Owned Land Was Stolen

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Andrew W. Kahrl, an associate professor of history at the University of Virginia, who is affiliated with the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African American and African Studies at the university, is using local tax records to document the history of racial discrimination and residential segregation in the state. Dr. Kahrl is conducting research on how tax liens and tax sales became a tool used by predatory land speculators to acquire Black-owned land.

“Many of these places were legally stolen from Black people by private investors working in concert with local officials,” Dr. Kahrl found.Dr. Kahrl discovered that local officials assessed Black property owners at highly inflated rates in an effort to tax them off the land. “This practice was pervasive,” Dr. Kahrl said. “It was something that was taking place throughout the South and it is clear that it is discriminatory in nature. African-Americans were consistently taxed higher on their property than White homeowners and landowners in the same neighborhood.”

In some states, if the Black landowners missed a tax payment, a lien would be put on the property – and the lien or the property would eventually be sold at a tax sale, where speculators could purchase the debt, add legal fees to it and eventually seize the property for much less than it was worth. Dr. Kahrl is the author of The Land Was Ours: How Black Beaches Became White Wealth in the Coastal South (University of North Carolina Press, 2016).

Source: University of Virginia Historian Documents How Black-Owned Land Was Stolen : The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education

Octavia Spencer, LeBron James Team on Limited TV Series About Madam CJ Walker

LeBron James / Octavia Spencer (photos via variety.com)

by Justin Kroll via variety.com

NBA superstar LeBron James is continuing to make moves off the court. James’ production company, SpringHill Entertainment, is adding the first scripted drama to its growing slate. The project also boasts Oscar-winning talent: Octavia Spencer.

Spencer is attached to star in the limited series about entrepreneur and social activist Madam C.J. Walker’s life, with James executive producing along with his company’s co-founder, Maverick Carter. Sources tell Variety that Netflix is interested in the series and is the likely destination. The steaming service had no comment on their involvement in the project.

Nicole Asher is on board to write and co-exec produce and “Black Nativity” helmer Kasi Lemmons will direct the pilot and also executive produce. The series is based on the book “On Her Own Ground” by A’Lelia Bundles, Walker’s great-great-granddaughter, who will also serve as a consultant on the series.

Walker, the daughter of slaves, was orphaned at age seven, married at 14, and widowed at 20. She spent two decades laboring as a washerwoman, earning $1.50 a week. However, everything changed following Walker’s discovery of a revolutionary hair care formula for black women. By the time she died in 1919, she had built a beauty empire from the ground up, amassing wealth unprecedented among black women. She counted W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington among her friends.

Zero Gravity Management’s Mark Holder and Christine Holder optioned the book from Bundles in early 2016. Spencer got wind of the project and aggressively pursued the part. Once word spread that Spencer was attached, WME, who reps both Spencer and James, pitched the series to James as his production company’s entryway into the prestige genre.

SpringHill president Jamal Henderson brought the project to Carter’s attention and the two moved quickly to land the property. With Nicole Asher set to write, Spencer starring, and James and Springhill on board as producers, the package was presented to potential buyers, with Netflix acting fast and the favorite to land the series. “I am really proud of this project and that SpringHill will be partnering with Octavia to tell this important story,” James said. “Every American should all know the story of Madam C.J. Walker. She was an innovator, entrepreneur, social activist, and total game changer whose story has been left out of the history books. I hope this project lives up to her legacy with a story that will educate and inspire.”

To read full article, go to: Octavia Spencer, LeBron James Team on TV Series About Madam CJ Walker | Variety

Hugo Awards 2017: NK Jemisin Wins Best Novel for 2nd Year in a Row

Hugo Award-Winning Author NK Jemisin (photo via theguardian.com)

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A year after NK Jemisin became the first black person to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel, the African American author has landed the prestigious science fiction prize for the second year running.

Jemisin was announced as the winner of the best novel Hugo at Worldcon in Helsinki, Finland on Friday. She took the prize, which is voted for by fans, for The Obelisk Gate, the follow-up to her Hugo award-winning novel The Fifth Season. The series is set in a world that is constantly threatened by seismic activity, and where the mutants who can control the environment are oppressed by humans.

The New York Times called Jemisin’s writing in the series “intricate and extraordinary”. Hugos administrator Nicholas Whyte said that 3,319 people voted in this year’s award, the third-highest vote total ever and the highest participation in the Hugos for a Worldcon outside the US or UK. “There’s been a very high level of genuine engagement and thoughtful participation,” said Whyte. “People can read into that what they like.”

To read more, go to: Hugo awards 2017: NK Jemisin wins best novel for second year in a row | Books | The Guardian

‘Black Panther,’ ‘Black Lightning,’ ‘Luke Cage’ Highlight Rise of Black Superheroes

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by Daniel Holloway via variety.com

Diversity is on the uptick in comics-inspired TV and film. When “Luke Cage” exec producer Cheo Hodari Coker declared at his show’s San Diego Comic-Con panel last year, “The world is ready for a bulletproof black man,” the crowd erupted in cheers. So did the internet. “Right before I said it, I knew what I was feeling,” Coker later told Variety. “I had said variations of it during the day. It was coming from an emotional place, but I didn’t think it was going to reverberate the way that it did. But I’m glad that it did.”

The “Luke Cage” panel came in July on the heels of widespread protests sparked by the killings of unarmed black men by white police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota. When the show premiered in September, it became the first live-action series about a black superhero since 1994’s “MANTIS.” Now it’s getting some company. Next season the CW will premiere “Black Lightning,” based on the DC Comics superhero. And next year Marvel will debut “Black Panther,” the studio’s first feature with a black hero in the lead.

Social, political and business trends have converged to put black superheroes at the centers of burgeoning television and film franchises after years of being relegated to supporting status. Dan Evans, VP of creative affairs at DC Entertainment, cites the emergence of black superheroes on-screen as part of a larger trend in television and film. “There’s so many examples now, from ‘24’ to ‘The Fast and the Furious’ to ‘Creed,’” says Evans, whose office door features an oversize image of Cyborg, the black teen hero who will play a key role in the upcoming “Justice League” movie. “We’ve seen again and again that if you tell a good story with these characters, people will come.”

In superhero comics, the first appeals to underserved minority audiences came with the debuts of Black Panther (1966), Luke Cage (1972), Black Lightning (1977) and others. “These black superheroes emerge parallel to the changes in American race relations in the late 1960s with the emergence of the Black Power movement,” says Adilifu Nama, author of “Super Black: American Pop Culture and Black Superheroes.” The movement’s push for equality and representation rippled through popular culture. “It wouldn’t be very sensible to think that these demands for diversity would only be in the realm of lunch counters and bus transportation.”

To read full article, go to: ‘Black Panther,’ ‘Luke Cage’ Highlight Rise of Black Superheroes | Variety