Category: Fiction

Langston Hughes Documentary, ‘I, too, Sing America: Langston Hughes Unfurled’ to Explore His Life & Work

Scholars and directors of I, too, Sing America: Langston Hughes Unfurled, Darren Canady, award-winning playwright, and Randal Maurice Jelks, award-winning Professor of American Studies and African and African American Studies at the University of Kansas, recently spoke with Black Perspectives about their forthcoming film, which is slated for a 2020 release.

“Our film project is built off the work that my colleague Maryemma Graham did back in 2002 at the University of Kansas (KU),” Canaday and Jelks said to Black Perspectives contributor and University of Kansas PhD candidate, Imani A. Wadud. “At the time, she organized the Langston Hughes Centennial Celebration, a conference that featured many distinguished writers, scholars, and actors, including Alice Walker, Danny Glover, and Farah Jasmine Griffin.”

“As a fellow Kansan, I’ve always believed that Hughes desperately loved everyday Black folks,” Canaday, Associate Professor of English at the University of Kansas, said when asked about how Hughes workmanship in relationship to the black public. “You see it time and again in his writing; who he spoke to and for, who he moved among during his everyday life. He loved regular Black folks. Sometimes we forget how revolutionary it still is to focus time and energy on the Black working class.”

Jelks added that I, Too, Sing America: Langston Hughes Unfurled is also ushered by music from hip-hop, blues and R&B.

Also, Black Perspectives contributor and PhD candidate at Brown University, N’Kosi Oates penned an excellent review of Wallace D Best’s Langston’s Salvation: American Religion and the Bard of Harlem, which examines how religion affected Hughes literary work.

Read both, Wadud’s and Oates articles over at Black Perspectives by clicking here and here, respectively.

Source: https://www.vibe.com/2018/06/langston-hughes-i-too-sing-america-langston-hughes-unfurled/

Idris Elba to Direct, Produce, and Star in “Hunchback of Notre Dame” Adaptation for Netflix

Idris Elba

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

Get ready to suspend all disbelief and witness true acting talent, for, according to hollywoodreporter.com, Idris Elba has signed on to star as the Hunchback of Notre Dame for Netflix.

Golden Globe winner Elba will also direct and produce Hunchback under his Green Door production company, and will also be producing original music for the feature, which is being described as a “sonic and musical experience.”

The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a 19th century gothic romance novel originally written by Victor Hugo in 1831, follows Quasimodo, a hunchback, who tragically falls in love with the gypsy Esmeralda. Hunchback has been adapted to film more than seven times over the years, most notably the 1956 version starring Anthony Quinn and Gina Lollabrigida, and the 1996 Disney animated adaptation voiced by Tom Hulce and Demi Moore.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is Elba’s latest foray into directing, having made his directorial debut this year with Sundance drama Yardie. He also created and will star and executive produce comedy Turn Up Charlie that was ordered straight-to-series by Netflix.

Michael Mitnick, the screenwriter of The Current War and The Giver, will write the modern day re-telling of the Victor Hugo classic. Fred Berger (La La Land) and Brian Kavanaugh-Jones (Midnight Special) will produce for Automatik, along with Elba and Green Door’s Ana Garanito.

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/

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/

Taylor Richardson, 14, Raises $17,000 To Help 1,000 Girls See “A Wrinkle In Time”

Credit: Getty Images

by J’na Jefferson via vibe.com

Taylor Richardson, a 14-year-old aspiring astronaut from Jacksonville, Fla., exceeded her goal of raising money to send 1,000 girls to see the upcoming film A Wrinkle In Time. As of press time, her GoFundMe page for the goal has raised $17,455 of her $15,000 goal.

“This campaign is so very important to me because it will give me the opportunity to change not only girls perception of STEM [science, technology, engineering, mathematics] and space exploration but boys as well,” explains Richardson in her original post about her goal.

A Wrinkle In Time stars Oprah Winfrey, Mindy Kaling and Reese Witherspoon, and is directed by Ava DuVernay. The story tells the tale of a young girl, her friend and her brother, who are transported through time and space to a new world to rescue the girl’s father, a scientist who is being held prisoner on another planet.

Richardson was recently named a member of Teen Vogue’s Class of 2017 21 under 21 for girls who are changing the world. The self-proclaimed “STEMinist” recently attended the publication’s first ever Teen Vogue Summit in Los Angeles, and also spoke on the panel of TEDxFSCJ [Florida State College at Jacksonville] Salon: Rediscovering Space. Last year, Richardson raised money to have 1,000 girls see the science film, Hidden Figures.

“This campaign [“Send 1,000 Girls To Wrinkle In Time”] means a lot to me because it shows a female protagonist in a science fiction film,” she wrote in her most recent update. “Girls will know that the possibility of going into space, exploring other planets, being rocket scientists, engineers, mathematicians and astronauts for them is not that it is limited but limitless!”

A Wrinkle in Time is based on the 1962 science fiction novel by Madeleine L’Engle.

Source: https://www.vibe.com/2018/02/a-wrinkle-in-time-gofundme/

Author Jacqueline Woodson Named National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by the Library of Congress

Author Jacqueline Woodson, whose professional accolades include a National Book Award (Brown Girl Dreaming), four Newbery Honors (Brown Girl DreamingAfter Tupac and D Foster, Feathers and Show Way) and a stint as the Young People’s Poet Laureate, has been named the sixth National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, for 2018–2019. Her appointment will become official at an inauguration ceremony on Tuesday, January 9 at the Library of Congress, presided over by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. And Woodson will accept the proverbial torch, passed from author-illustrator Gene Luen Yang, who has just completed his two-year term as Ambassador and played a key role in recruiting her.

The National Ambassador for Young People program is sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, the Children’s Book Council, and CBC’s charitable arm, Every Child a Reader. The Librarian of Congress selects the Ambassador based on the recommendations of an independent committee comprised of various children’s literature experts including educators, librarians, and booksellers. Among the criteria for the Ambassador post are: contributions to young people’s literature, the ability to relate to kids and teens, and dedication to fostering literacy in all forms.

In a statement, Hayden shared her enthusiasm for Woodson’s selection. “We are delighted that Jacqueline Woodson has agreed to be the new National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature,” she said. “I have admired Jacqueline Woodson’s work for years, especially her dedication to children and young-adult literature. The Library of Congress looks forward to Jacqueline’s tenure of encouraging young readers to embrace reading as a means to improve the world.”

Woodson says she never saw herself as Ambassador. In fact, she had contacted Yang, a friend, about a year ago to put forward the name of someone else (who she declines to name) she thought would be a great choice. “I had called Gene to put a name in the hat,” she said from her Brooklyn home during a telephone interview. “He told me, ‘Well, we have someone else in mind.’ I figured he was blowing me off.” And even when talk of the honor came up in passing, years ago, Woodson wasn’t sure she would ever be a good fit. “Earlier on, when the position was first starting to get some traction, and Jon Scieszka was the Ambassador,” she recalled, “people were asking me if I would ever do it, and I said, ‘Heck, no! There’s no way I could do that.’” She was busy with her writing and had just welcomed a new baby at that time. Over time, “I kind of had the sense that I had put the kibosh on it,” she added.

But more recently, Yang called and asked if Woodson would consider taking on the appointment. She continued to champion another author (“someone younger!” she joked), but Yang persisted. “He went through all the ways in which he thought I would bring something to the Ambassadorship that was needed at this time,” Woodson said. “I thought about it, I talked to my partner about it, and I was still a bit reluctant. But then Gene said that Dr. Hayden was really into me taking this position. And I love Dr. Hayden.” Woodson explained that one of the rules in her life has always been, “When it comes to Enoch Pratt Library [Hayden’s former library, in Baltimore], I can never say no to them. I did my first reading there way back when Last Summer with Maizon came out, and I have loved everyone there. I thought, OK, if Carla Hayden is asking me to do this, I’m not saying no to it.” On a more philosophical note, she continued, “I think you are often called to do the work you’re not quite ready to do, or willing to do. And for me that’s a sign that I need to push through and do the work that’s needed.”

Woodson has chosen the phrase “Reading = Hope x Change,” as her platform as Ambassador. “I definitely believe that reading can change us and shape us in so many ways, and through it we can be exposed to people and places and ideas that we might not otherwise come across or confront in real life,” she said. “A platform about the importance of reading and having conversations across the lines of books is really important to me.”

Woodson says she will use her message to address something she has been noticing. “Young people are getting labeled ‘reluctant reader,’ or ‘advanced reader,’ and the labels in front of their names begin to try to tell them who they are,” she lamented. “I would like to see less of that and more of just kids who read.” What they read shouldn’t matter and how they read it shouldn’t matter, she said, “just so long as they can have conversations and have a deep understanding of and a deep love for what they’re reading.”

One of Woodson’s foremost goals as Ambassador is to reach young people in areas of the country that are traditionally underserved. “My family and I are going to the opening of the Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice [acknowledging victims of lynchings] in Alabama this spring. I’m going to stay and try to visit some schools in Alabama and Mississippi in some of the places where they don’t get to meet writers or ambassadors every day,” she said. Additionally, she says she’s looking forward to going into juvenile detention centers and other places “where the underserved can begin to tell their stories.”

Though she’s not exactly sure how kids will relate to her in a new role, she’s excited to find out. “The thing that always brings me the greatest joy is meeting the young people,” she said. “I’m always surprised when a kid’s in awe of me as an author—I think ‘I’m just Jacqueline Woodson and I wrote a few books.’ But they’ve been studying you so long and you walk into the classroom and you’re like this superstar to them. Then you work yourself back to connecting to them so that they see you as a human being and they see themselves as young people who can do what you do. In this position it’s the same. I would love for young people to see themselves as national ambassadors of many things, today and always.” She cites the example of her own family. “I always tell my kids when we go to other countries, ‘You are ambassadors for this family. When you walk out there people are going to have ideas about this family, and how you represent yourself is going to make a difference in how they think.’ ”

The opportunity to talk about reading is another high point she’s anticipating. “I am excited for the young people’s reactions and the interactions that we’ll have around literature, and really talking about reading,” she said. “In the past mostly I’ve talked about my books and my writing process. Now I can talk much more about my reading process and the reading process, and the conversations that can be had where there isn’t a right or wrong. Did you infer from the book? Who cares? I want to know what you loved about the book and what made you mad and I want you guys to agree and disagree and have real true conversations and make amazing text-to-life connections about the book.”

Asked if there’s anything that might be scary or daunting about her new position, Woodson is reflective. “It is a very scary time to be alive,” she said. “And given that, I think of [poet and activist] Audre Lorde saying ‘we can sit in our safe corners mute as bottles and we will still be no less afraid.’ I do believe this is all I have—my words, I have the words that I write down, I have the words that I speak out, I have the words that I take into classrooms.” Woodson says she accepts that there will be hatred in general, and hatred online questioning why she would be chosen as Ambassador. “Risk of backlash and people not being kind, but that’s been the risk my whole life,” she said. “It’s not going to keep me from what I’ve been called to do.”

To read more, go to: https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-industry-news/article/75729-jacqueline-woodson-named-national-ambassador-for-young-people-s-literature.html

John Legend to Produce Jason Reynolds’ Best-Selling Novel ‘Long Way Down’ for Universal Pictures

Author Jason Reynolds (top); Producer John Legend (bottom) [Images via Kia Chennelle/Simon and Schuster; Owen Kolasinski/BFA/Rex/Shutterstock]
by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to Variety.com, Universal Pictures has optioned the rights to Jason Reynolds best-selling young adult novel “Long Way Down,” which was also a National Book Award finalist. John Legend‘s Get Lifted Film Co. and Michael De Luca‘s Michael De Luca Productions have signed on to produce the film.

Reynolds’ book has an unusual premise – the whole story takes place in 60 seconds, as a young man struggles to decide whether or not he’s going to murder the person who killed his brother.  Additionally, the book is written in free verse and is set in an elevator.

Although Legend is best known for his work as a singer and songwriter, but he has also racked up some major film credits, appearing in the likes of “La La Land” and “Soul Men,” and has produced the television series “Underground.” Legend also shared an Academy Award with rapper Common for best original song in 2015 for writing “Glory” from the film “Selma.”

Reynolds’ novels include “All American Boy” and “As Brave as You.” De Luca is the former president of New Line Cinema as well as an Oscar-nominated producer whose credits include the “Fifty Shades” trilogy, “The Social Network,” and “Moneyball.”

Tracee Ellis Ross Guest Hosts “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”, Schools Men On Sexual Harassment With Children’s Book, ‘The Handsy Man’ (VIDEO)

by Nicole Hyatt, eurweb.com via blackamericaweb.com

While taking over hosting duties for “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” on Tuesday, Tracee Ellis Ross used the platform to speak out about the current wave of sexual harassment allegations surrounding Hollywood.

“I wrote a book,” she said, introducing a bit about “The Handsy Man,” her new children’s book that breaks down the issue of sexual harassment so that grown men can understand.

“It’s kind of like a children’s book for men that is going to make it really simple and bring it back to the basics,” she said before opening the cover and reading a passage.

“There is a guy, with 10 long fingers/ creepy glares and hugs that linger./ If you’re a woman, you’re not a fan./ I speak, of course, of The Handsy Man,” she read.

Ross went on to read all the things that “Handsy Man” may not do. “You may not compliment my butt. You may not call me ‘ho’ or ‘slut.’ And even if you’re stoned or drunk, do not expose me to your junk,” Ross read, showing a drawing of “Handsy Man” exposing himself to a woman.

Other passages included instructions to not “grab my boobs while I’m asleep,” an apparent reference to the photograph of Sen. Al Franken groping a sleeping Leeann Tweeden’s breasts, and one final message: “I’ll say it clearly, nice and slow. If she doesn’t consent — the answer is NO.”

Watch the video below:

Source: https://blackamericaweb.com/2017/12/06/tracee-ellis-ross-schools-men-on-sexual-harassment-with-childrens-book/

Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison Honored by Princeton University with Dedication of Morrison Hall

Photo: Princeton University
Author and Professor Toni Morrison at Morrison Hall dedication (Photo: Princeton University)

via blavity.com

Princeton University showed respect and honor to author Toni Morrison by dedicating Morrison Hall on Friday, Nov. 17. Morrison – who in 1993 became the first African American to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature – is the Emeritus Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Humanities at the university. The building dedication took place after Morrison’s keynote address at the Princeton and Slavery Project Symposium.

“This is a very, very special, beautiful occasion for me,” Morrison said.

During the opening fort he dedication ceremony, Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber emphasized the importance of Morrison Hall, referring to it as a “181-year-old building that is the home and the heart of the undergraduate college at Princeton University.” Previously, Morrison Hall was called West College, and inside, students can find the Office of the Dean of the College. On Nov. 14, a portrait of Morrison created by Paul Wyse was hung in the building.

“How fitting that the first building named through this process will now honor a teacher, an artist and a scholar who not only has graced our campus with the highest imaginable levels of achievement and distinction, but who has herself spoken eloquently about the significance of names on the Princeton campus,” Eisgruber said, referring to an address Morrison delivered in 1996 at Princeton’s 250th convocation, titled “The Place of the Idea; the Idea of the Place.”

Other speakers at the ceremony included Morrison’s close friend Ruth Simmons, president of Prairie View A&M University and her former student MacKenzie Bezos who graduated from Princeton in 1992 and is now an author. In 2016, the university trustees approved naming and dedicating one of the institution’s most prominent buildings after Morrison. Simmons helped recruit Morrison to Princeton when Simmons was acting director of the Center for African American Studies. In her remarks, Simmons said, “It doesn’t take much for Toni to get a swelled head; this is going to take it over the top.”

Morrison joined the Princeton University faculty as a literature and creative writing professor in 1989. She transferred to emeritus status in 2006. According to the Princeton, the Sula writer played a major role in expanding the university’s commitments to the creative and performing arts and to African American Studies. In 1994, Morrison founded the Princeton Atelier, which brings together undergraduate students in interdisciplinary collaborations with acclaimed artists. Morrison’s papers, which were already a part of the university library’s permanent collection since 2014, became available to students, faculty and worldwide scholars in 2016 for research purposes.

To read full article, go to: https://blavity.com/princeton-university-honors-nobel-laureate-toni-morrison-by-dedicating-morrison-hall

The Good Things Black People Do, Give and Receive All Over The World
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