Category: Books

Spelman College Student Deanna Hayden Works to Raise Literacy Rates with “House of Knowledge” Project

by Robin White Goode via blackenterprise.com

It’s National Library Week, and at Spelman College a student is changing lives by improving a community’s literacy. Deanna Hayden, a junior Comparative Women’s Studies major, volunteers in an impoverished neighborhood in Atlanta, the West End community.

“I grew up in rural Mississippi,” Hayden said, “where there was an overwhelming lack of educational resources. When I started volunteering at Paul Laurence Dunbar Elementary School in the West End, I noticed parallels between the education system here and in Mississippi.”

BOOKS TRUMP POVERTY

Hayden relayed there are students with low reading scores, ironically in a school named after a literary giant. “I sat in on third-grade classes and could see that there is a need to improve their literacy,” she says.

Hayden had noticed that in wealthy communities there are what she calls “free libraries”—not library buildings from which books can be borrowed, but small, house-shaped structures full of books that can be taken for keeps, or added to. (Hayden was most likely referring to the Little Free Library book exchange.)

Regular reading is critical to raising literacy and reading levels, but book ownership also makes a huge difference. According to a 2014 study cited in a New York Times article, the number of books in a home is “the most important predictor of reading performance” after gross national product. “The greatest effect was seen in libraries of about 100 books, which resulted in approximately 1.5 extra years of grade-level reading performance.”

Astonishingly, a home library appears to matter more than the family budget. The Times article goes on: “… in the United States, with the size of libraries being equal, students coming from the top 10% of wealthiest families performed at just one extra grade level over students from the poorest 10%.”

THE HOUSE OF KNOWLEDGE

Spelman
(Courtesy of Spelman College)

Similar to both the Little Free Library and Barbershop Shops, which sets up books targeting black boys from age 4 to 8 in barbershops, the House of Knowledge is a literacy initiative that Hayden developed in response to the struggling readers she encountered.

There are now seven Houses of Knowledge throughout the West End community “in places frequented by children, such as churches, recreation centers, and doctor’s offices,” Hayden told me. Each holds 25 books targeting readers in kindergarten to eighth grade.

“Each House of Knowledge has its own theme,” Hayden says. “Some offer books on science and technology—others are all about black women.” Each box has a sponsor which is responsible for monitoring the box to make sure there is always a selection of books inside. The sponsor—organizations like the NAACP, the National Council of Negro Women, and others on the Spelman campus—determines what books will be offered.

Hayden, who graduates next year and plans to study public health and educational policy in graduate school, still has plans for the House of Knowledge project. “I’d like the kids to do surveys and quizzes on the books,” she says. “Eventually I’d like to develop an after school component as well.”

In the meantime, she’s also hoping for a grant that will make the program more sustainable.

To learn more, visit the House of Knowledge website.

Source: http://www.blackenterprise.com/spelman-student-raising-literacy-skills/

A New Generation of African-American-Owned Bookstores; Numbers No Longer in Decline

Mahogany Books opens in Washington D.C. (photo via publishersweekly.com)

by Alex Green via publishersweekly.com

When Troy Johnson began tracking the number of black-owned bookstores in the U.S. in 1999, there were more than 325. By 2014, that number had dwindled to 54, a decline of 83%.

“They were closing left and right, and the major ones were struggling,” said Johnson, who runs the African American Literature Book Club, an online book database. Today, Johnson estimates, there are at least 108 black-owned independent stores, a number of which have opened in the past six months, marking a substantial reversal. “Last year was the first year I added more stores to the list than I took away,” he noted.

The surge in black-owned indie bookstores is notable at a time when both bookselling and publishing are wrestling with issues of workforce diversity.

Ramunda and Derrick Young, wife-and-husband owners of the newly opened MahoganyBooks, looked for a physical location for years, but a wave of gentrification in Washington, D.C., left them with few promising options. That changed in early 2017, when they found a location in the Anacostia Arts Center, in the historically African-American neighborhood of Anacostia in Southeast D.C. Ramunda, a former general books manager of the Howard University Bookstore, said opening a store was a logical step toward diversifying the couple’s business after having run a books website serving predominately African-American readers for a decade.

MahoganyBooks opened in February and is the first bookstore in Anacostia in 20 years. The 500-sq.-ft. store has an adjacent events space for large readings. With tablets for readers to locate books online while they browse, the store fulfills the couple’s vision of “a bookstore 2.0,” Derrick said.

“Bookstore 2.0” is shorthand for the Youngs’ effort to integrate the physical store and the long-standing digital operation, creating independent sources of revenue that stand alone but point to one another. In-store technology points to the website, and the website now points to the physical store’s events. “We thought, if there were another big crazy economic downturn, how would we prepare ourselves so that we would have multiple streams of income?” Derrick said.

Opening the bookstore is also a homecoming. Derrick’s grandmother lived in Anacostia when he was a child, and he frequented the neighborhood’s black-owned bookstores. He later worked at the black-owned Karibu booksellers with Ramunda. Speaking about himself and Ramunda, he paid tribute to those earlier stores: “We were both kind of nurtured in that way. We both made an effort to be mentored and to understand the experience that readers want when they come into a bookstore.”

When forensic anthropology professor Christina Benton opened Janco Books in Las Vegas in October 2017, readers asked if she would model her store after Native Son, a neighborhood African-American specialty bookstore that closed in 2008. Benton expanded the store’s African-American section, but she said her interest is in catering to as broad a community as possible. “It’s a general bookstore owned by an African-American person,” she said. With a selection of new and used books, Janco caters most of all to families that homeschool in the area. “They buy the most, because they need to have the resources,” Benton said.

In Brooklyn’s rapidly gentrifying Crown Heights neighborhood, a general bookstore is as far from what Afro-Latina owner Kalima Desuze and her Caribbean husband, Ryan Cameron, wanted to open when they launched the Afro-feminist Cafe Con Libros in late December. Desuze, a retired U.S. Army JAG corps member with master’s degrees in social work and public administration, grew up in Prospect Place and credits her trajectory in life to reading feminist African and African-American authors.

“A lot of the reason why I opened up the store is because feminism has not always been the province of women of color,” Desuze said. “Part of my challenge as a black woman, calling my bookstore a feminist bookstore, is that some black women do not identify with the word feminism. But if they took the time to explore they would discover that they are already living it.”

To read more, go to: https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/76545-a-new-generation-of-african-american-owned-bookstores.html

Malachi Jones, 17, Wins Prestigious $10,000 Scholastic Art & Writing Award for 2018

Teen Wins Prestigious Writing Award That Stephen King, Capote, and Other Famous Writers Won
Malachi Jones (Charleston County School of the Arts Middle & High School)

Malachi Jones, the 17-year-old wunderkind who is heading to Columbia University this fall, has been awarded a Gold Medal Portfolio, the highest honor of the 2018 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards presented by the nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists & Writers.

The high school senior, who attends the Charleston County School of the Arts in Charleston, South Carolina, says he greeted the news, which he received by phone, with a “loud silence.”

“I felt like a siren was going off inside my head, but I was speechless,” Malachi is quoted as saying in a Charleston Chronicle article. “I had been submitting work to Scholastic since 7th grade, so it is insane to me to think an audience outside my family and peers wants to read and appreciate my work.”

The honor includes a scholarship of $10,000.

Malachi has joined a prestigious group of former youth winners, now all household names, including Truman Capote, Sylvia Plath, Joyce Carol Oates, and Stephen King, according to the Post and Courier website.

None of them, however, have grappled in their writing with the constraints of race in the arresting way Malachi has. According to the Post and Courier, Malachi has rejected the trope of the stereotypical black man and instead chosen to forge his own way of being black in the world.

The article states, “Jones’s award-winning work—a collection of lyric essays and free-verse poems—revolves around his experience as a black teenager struggling with and finally coming to terms with his identity.

“In a poem titled ‘Pantoum for my Mother,’ Jones writes, ‘Stripped of my blackness, / uprooted by judgement. / I was never dark enough for you / or for the ones who called me whitewashed.’

“It’s about the questions and judgment he endures from both his white and black peers for not fitting the stereotypical ‘formula of a black male.’”

According to the Poetry Foundation, a pantoum is a Malaysian verse form.

To read more: http://www.blackenterprise.com/17-year-old-wins-prestigious-writing-honor-10k-scholarship/

Jacqueline Woodson Wins $608,000 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, World’s Largest Children’s Literature Prize

Author Jacqueline Woodson (Juna F. Nagle / HarperCollins)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to latimes.com, acclaimed author Jacqueline Woodson, who won a National Book Award for “Brown Girl Dreaming,” just won the 2018 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award on Tuesday. The award comes with a prize of $608,000, which is funded by the government of Sweden. Publishers Weekly reports that Woodson is the 18th person or organization to win the prize, which is considered one of the most prestigious children’s literary awards in the world.

The Lindgren Award, named after the Swedish creator of Pippi Longstocking,” caps a list of many honors Woodson has won over her career. In addition to her National Book Award, the author has won the Coretta Scott King Award twice and a Newbery Award four times.

In January, the Library of Congress named Woodson the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. Although Woodson has written two adult novels, “Autobiography of a Family Photo” and “Another Brooklyn,” most of her published work has been for middle-grade readers and young adults.

Scholars Lorna Goodison, John Keene, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi and Suzan-Lori Parks to Receive $165,000 Windham-Campbell Prizes From Yale University

via jbhe.com

Lorna G (photo via tallawahmagazine.com)

The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University has announced the eight winners of this year’s Windham-Campbell Prizes in the fields of fiction, nonfiction, drama, and poetry. Each winner will receive a $165,000 prize at an international literary festival at Yale in September.

Four of the eight winners of this year Windham-Campbell Prizes are Black. Three have ties to academic institutions in the United States.

Lorna Goodison, a winner of a poetry prize, is a professor emerita at the University of Michigan, where she served as the Lemuel A. Johnson Professor of English and African and Afro-American studies. She currently serves as poet laureate of the nation of Jamaica. Professor Goodison has published 13 collections of poetry including Supplying Salt and Light (McClelland & Stewart, 2013).

John Keenes (photo via vice.com)

John Keene, a professor of English at Rutgers University-Newark is the recipient of a Windham-Campbell Prize in the fiction category. He is the author of the short story collection Counternarratives (New Directions, 2015) and the novel Annotations (New Directions, 1995). Professor Keene received a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and a master of fine arts degree from New York University.

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi (photo via lareviewofbooks.com)

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, a native of Uganda who now lives in England, won a prize in the fiction category. Her debut novel Kintu (Transit Books, 2014) tells the parallel stories of the fall of a cursed bloodline—the titular Kintu clan—and the rise of modern Uganda. Dr. Makumbi earned a Ph.D. in African literature from Lancaster University in England. She has taught creative writing at several universities in the United Kingdom.

Suzan-Lori Parks

Suzan-Lori Parks won an award in the drama category. She is a professor of creative writing at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. Parks is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. She is a former MacArthur Foundation “Genius Award” winner. Professor Parks was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for her play “Topdog/Underdog.” In addition to her plays, Parks is the author of the novel Getting Mother’s Body (2003).

Source: https://www.jbhe.com/2018/03/four-black-scholars-to-receive-165000-windham-campbell-prizes-from-yale-university/

Ava DuVernay to Direct DC’s Superhero Epic ‘New Gods’

Ava DuVernay (photo via Variety.com)

by Dave McNary via Variety.com

Ava DuVernay is stepping into the superhero universe. The filmmaker has come on board to direct “New Gods” at Warner Bros. as part of the studio’s DC Extended Universe. “New Gods,” based on the DC Comics series of the same name, is aimed at creating a new universe of properties for the studio. Created and designed by Jack Kirby, the comic was first released in 1971.

The movie marks the second major superhero tentpole directed by a woman, following another DC property: Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman.”

DuVernay directed Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” becoming the first woman of color in Hollywood to helm a live-action film with a production budget of $100 million. The time-travel fantasy has grossed $42.2 million in its first six days in North America.

The New Gods are natives of the twin planets of New Genesis and Apokolips. New Genesis is an idyllic planet ruled by the Highfather, while Apokolips is a dystopia filled with machinery and fire pits ruled by the tyrant Darkseid. New Genesis and Apokolips call themselves gods, living outside of normal time and space in a realm known as the Fourth World.

Half a dozen “New Gods” series have been published following the original. The most recent, “The New 52,” was issued in 2011.

DuVernay also directed the Oscar-nominated documentary “13th” and the civil-rights drama “Selma.” She is the creator and executive producer of the OWN series “Queen Sugar.”

“New Gods” would be a major addition to the DC Extended Universe, which Warner Bros. launched in 2013 to take advantage of the massive DC library and compete with Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe. The DCEU launched with 2013’s “Man of Steel,” followed by “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” “Suicide Squad,” “Wonder Woman,” and “Justice League,” which was the lowest grosser of the five titles, with $657.9 million worldwide.

“Aquaman,” starring Jason Momoa, is the next title in the DC Extended Universe, set for release on Dec. 21. The studio is also moving ahead with a “Wonder Woman” sequel with Gal Gadot and director Jenkins returning. The pic hits theaters on Nov. 1, 2019.

In the wake of the box office under-performance of “Justice League,” Warner Bros. is re-organizing the DC film operations by promoting Walter Hamada to president of DC-based film production in an effort to exert more quality control over its big-screen efforts. Toby Emmerich, who was promoted in 2016 to president and chief content officer at Warner Bros., worked with Hamada at New Line, which he ran before moving over to the main studio.

To read more: http://variety.com/2018/film/news/ava-duvernay-superhero-movie-new-gods-dc-1202725043/

New ‘Wakanda Forever’ Comic Book Series to Introduce the Dora Milaje to Rest of Marvel Universe

Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER..L to R: Ayo (Florence Kasumba) and Okoye (Danai Gurira)..Ph: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2018

via thegrio.com

The Dora Milaje and their black girl magic are being turned into a comic book series thanks to the enormous success of the Black Panther movie. Now we’ll get a deeper look into the lives of the fierce women warriors holding things down in the world of Wakanda.

According to the Hollywood ReporterMarvel Entertainment has enlisted the help of Nigerian award winning writer Nnedi Okorafor to pen the tale of the all-female bodyguard who are the backbone of Wakanda and ferocious protectors of King T’Challa. Okorafor looks forward to bringing the story to life.

“I’m super excited about writing this storyline. Powerful disciplined African women with futuristic spears who faced their shortcomings and changed a nation? Oh heck yeah, I’m so there,” Okorafor told Vogue, which initially broke the news of the new series. “Fans of the Dora Milaje can look forward to seeing them out in the world beyond T’Challa and the Wakandan throne’s shadow. They’ll get to see the Dora Milaje come into their own, while teaming up with the unexpected.”

Okorafora says the storyline will center around the Dora Milaje’s life outside of the Wakanda Kingdom. Can you imagine the kiss-ass ladies kicking it in Manhattan? The story will venture  outside of Wakanda when a threat born in the African nation ends up surfacing in the New York City borough.

If you watched Black Panther then you were likely captivated by the strength and overall badass-ness of the all-women Wakandan army, Dora Milaje. What you may not know is that the five-women crew–led by Danai Gurira‘s character Okoye–is actually based on a real tribe of fighters known as the Dahomey Amazons.

There will be three stand-alone issues on newstatnds and in comic book stores: Wakanda Forever: Amazing Spider-Man, illustrated by Alberto Jimenez AlbuerquerqueWakanda Forever: X-Men and Wakanda Forever: Avengers.

The publisher, editor Will Moss said in a statement, “We’re lucky to have Nnedi on board for this — she’s an incredible novelist, and her recent Black Panther: Long Live the King digital series proved that she’s a great comic book writer too. She’s come up with a crazy-tough problem for the Dora Milaje to solve — but if anyone can, it’s these crazy-tough women.”

Source: https://thegrio.com/2018/03/17/wakanda-forever-introduces-the-dora-milaje-to-the-rest-of-the-marvel-universe/

Jerrod Carmichael to Adapt Dapper Dan’s Upcoming Memoir for Sony Pictures

Jerrod Carmichael (left), Dapper Dan (Courtesy of NBCUniversal; Jon Wes)

by Mia Galuppo via hollywoodreporter.com

The life of Dapper Dan — the godfather of hip-hop fashion, who dressed everyone from LL Cool J to Jay Z — is coming to the big screen.

Sony is developing a biopic based on Dapper Dan’s upcoming memoir (due out in 2019 via Random House), which will be adapted by Jerrod Carmichael. Set in Harlem, the feature is described as a “high-stakes coming-of-age story.”

Carmichael, who is best known as the creator and star of the NBC critical darling The Carmichael Show, will also produce alongside Josh Bratman of Immersive Pictures. Dapper Dan and Jelani Day, his son and brand manager, are set to executive produce.

Daniel “Dapper Dan” Day is a streetwear pioneer that outfitted some of the biggest New York City-based stars of the ’80s and ’90s out of his iconic store on 125th Street in Harlem. His clientele included Eric B. & Rakim, Salt-N-Pepa, P. Diddy, Mike Tyson, Aaliyah and Floyd Mayweather.

His style of remixing high-end logos from the likes of Gucci and Louis Vuitton into his designs led to litigation that eventually prompted the closure of his store. Over two decades later, in September of last year, Dapper Dan struck a partnership with Gucci to relaunch his exclusive Harlem atelier that includes a Dapper Dan x Gucci capsule that will be available along with the fall 2018 collection.

To read more: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/dapper-dan-biopic-works-sony-jerrod-carmichael-1092914

CUNY Professor Patricia Smith Wins the $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award

Patricia Smith is the 2018 winner of the $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for her collection “Incendiary Art: Poems.” (Photo by Rachel Eliza Griffiths)

via jbhe.com

Patricia Smith, who teaches in the English department at the College of Staten Island of the City University of New York System, has been selected to receive the 2018 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. The award, which comes with a $100,000 prize, is given annually by Claremont Graduate University in California to a poet who “is past the very beginning but not yet reached the pinnacle of his or her career.” The $100,000 prize is the largest in the world for a single volume of poetry.

Professor Smith was honored for her poetry collection Incendiary Art: Poems (Northwestern University Press, 2017), which explores tragedy and grief in black communities across America. It is her eighth published poetry collection.

Professor Smith was a finalist for the Neustadt Prize, a two-time winner of the Pushcart Prize, and a four-time individual champion of the National Poetry Slam, the most successful poet in the competition’s history.

Smith will receive the award April 19 at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. The award is one of the largest annual monetary prizes given to a single book of poetry by a mid-career poet, according the Kingsley Tufts website. The award was established at Claremont in 1993 by Kate Tufts to honor her husband, an executive in Los Angeles-area shipyards who also wrote and published poetry.

Source: https://www.jbhe.com/2018/02/patricia-smith-wins-the-100000-kingsley-tufts-poetry-award/

Richard T. Greener, 1st Black Faculty Member of University of South Carolina, is Honored with Bronze Statue on Campus

Richard T. Greener (image via harvardmagazine.com)

via jbhe.com

Recently the University of South Carolina unveiled a nine-foot statue of Richard T. Greener on campus. The bronze statue, located between the library and the student health center, honors the first Black faculty member at the university.

In 1870 Richard T. Greener became the first African American graduate of Harvard University. He taught high school in Philadelphia and Washington before joining the faculty at the University of South Carolina in 1873, which for a brief period during Reconstruction admitted Black students. Greener also studied law at the university while teaching philosophy, Latin, and Greek. After Blacks were purged from the University of South Carolina at the end of Reconstruction, Greener worked at the U.S. Treasury Department and taught at the Howard University School of Law.

Katherine Reynolds Chaddock, a retired professor of education at the University of South Carolina, said that Greener “accomplished some worthwhile things at the university in the few years it was open during Reconstruction. He acquired scholarship money for poor students and established a preparatory program for freshmen. He even went to Howard University to recruit South Carolina students who had enrolled there, inviting them to return to their own state for a college education at the now-integrated university.”

Professor Chaddock is the author of a biography about Greener, Uncompromising Activist: Richard Greener, First Black Graduate of Harvard College (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017).

Source: https://www.jbhe.com/2018/02/university-of-south-carolina-honors-its-first-black-faculty-member/