Category: Non-Fiction

Henrietta Lacks, Source of Famous HeLa Cells, to be Honored with Building at Johns Hopkins University

Henrietta Lacks (photo via nbcnews.com)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to the Associated Press, Johns Hopkins University and the family of Henrietta Lacks announced a new building on the school’s campus in East Baltimore will be named after the woman whose cells were taken without her consent and widely used in revolutionary cell research.

News outlets report the building will support programs promoting research and community engagement. Lacks died of cervical cancer in 1951 at the university where researchers soon discovered her cells reproduced indefinitely in test tubes.

For decades, it was not widely known that a black woman who was a patient at Hopkins was the unwitting source of the famous HeLa cells. It was only once Rebecca Skloot’s book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, was published in 2010 that Lacks’ story gained national attention. Oprah Winfrey subsequently produced and starred in a 2016 HBO biopic of Lacks’ life.

The announcement was part of the 9th Annual Henrietta Lacks Memorial Lecture, NBC 4 reports. Lacks’ granddaughter, Jeri Lacks, says the honor befits her grandmother’s role in advancing modern medicine.

Last year, the city of Baltimore designated October 4 as Henrietta Lacks Day to recognize the contributions of the woman behind the HeLa cells.

Michelle Obama Announces 10-City Book Tour for “Becoming”

by Tonya Pendleton via blackamericaweb.com

NEW YORK (AP) — Michelle Obama will visit 10 cities to promote her memoir “Becoming,” a tour featuring arenas and other performing centers to accommodate crowds far too big for any bookstore.

The former first lady will begin at the United Center in her native Chicago on Nov. 13, the book’s release date. She will finish at the American Airlines Center in Dallas on Dec. 17, Live Nation and the Crown Publishing Group announced Wednesday. In between, appearances will include Barclays Center in New York City, the Pepsi Center Arena in Denver and The Forum in Los Angeles.

Obama and former President Barack Obama each have been working on memoirs, for which they negotiated a multimillion dollar deal with Crown. No date has been set for his book, although it’s expected in 2019.

You will have to register via the link below between now and September 18, to buy tickets that go on sale on September 21st. VIP packages and Meet and Greet tickets will be available as well.

Tour Dates – Tickets available HERE. 

11/13 – Chicago, IL @ United Center

11/15 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Forum

11/17 – Washington, DC @ Capital One Arena

11/24 – Boston, MA @ TD Garden

11/29 – Philadelphia, PA @ Wells Fargo Center

12/1 – Brooklyn, NY @ Barclays Center

12/11 – Detroit, MI @ Little Caesars Arena

12/13 – Denver, CO @ Pepsi Center Arena

12/14 – San Jose, CA @ SAP Center

12/17 – Dallas, TX @ American Airlines Center

Source: https://blackamericaweb.com/2018/09/12/michelle-obama-announces-10-city-book-tour/

2018 American Book Awards Honor Cultural Diversity

This combination photo of book cover images shows “City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion, and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles, 1771-1965,” by Kelly Lytle Hernandez, from left, “The Dawn of Detroit: A Chronicle of Slavery and Freedom in the City of the Straits,” by Tiya Miles and “South of Pico: African American Artists in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s,” by Kellie Jones, which are among this year’s American Book Award winners for works reflecting the country’s diversity. (University of North Carolina Press, from left, The New Press and Duke University Press via AP)

via seattletimes.com

NEW YORK (AP) — Books on human caging, early Detroit and African-American culture in Los Angeles are among this year’s winners for works reflecting the country’s diversity.

The American Book Awards were announced Monday by the Before Columbus Foundation, founded in 1976 by author-poet Ishmael Reed.

Winners included Kelly Lytle Hernandez’s City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion, and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles, 1771-1965 and Kellie JonesSouth of Pico: African American Artists in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970sTiya Miles was cited for her history The Dawn of Detroit.

Other recipients were Victor Lavalle for The Changeling: A Novel, Valeria Luiselli for Tell Me How It Ends, Tommy Pico for Nature Poem and Rena Priest for Patriarchy Blues.

Author-filmmaker Sequoyah Guess was given a lifetime achievement award. The poets-musicians Heroes are Gang Leaders were cited for oral literature and an Editor/Publisher Award was given to the late Charles F. Harris, who championed the works of Alice Walker, Nikki Giovanni and other black writers.

Source: https://www.seattletimes.com/entertainment/books/american-book-awards-honor-cultural-diversity/?

Octavia Spencer, LeBron James Limited Series About Madam C.J. Walker Lands at Netflix

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

by Debra Birnbaum via Variety.com

It’s official: Octavia Spencer and LeBron James’ limited series about entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker has landed at Netflix. The streaming outlet made the announcement at its Television Critics Assn. press tour session Sunday.

The project is executive produced by Spencer and James. Spencer will star in the eight-episode series, which is based on the book “On Our Own Ground” by A’Lelia Bundles, Walker’s great-great-granddaughter, who will also serve as a consultant.

The series will recount the untold story of how Walker, a black hair care pioneer and mogul, overcame hostile turn-of-the-century America, epic rivalries, tumultuous marriages and some trifling family to become America’s first black, self-made female millionaire.

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. Everything changed, though, 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.

“Black Nativity” directory Kasi Lemmons will direct the pilot and also executive produce, and Nicole Asher will write. Janine Sherman Barrois and Elle Johnson will also serve as executive producers, along with SpringHill’s Maverick Carter, and Zero Gravity’s Mark Holder and Christine Holder.

The Holders optioned the book from Bundles in early 2016, and Spencer pursued the part aggressively once she learned of it. With the Oscar winner attached, William Morris Endeavor Agency pitched the series to James as his production company’s entryway into prestige TV.

“It’s so exciting for all of us to keep building SpringHill, see it mature, and continue to find its voice. We are really focused on growing with authenticity and substance,” Carter said. “For us, this is totally about great stories and great partners. Partnering with Octavia to tell the story of Madam C.J. Walker is the ideal first project for SpringHill to take an important step into scripted drama.”

Source: https://variety.com/2018/tv/news/octavia-spencer-lebron-james-madam-cj-walker-netflix-limited-series-1202889368/

Missing Writings from “The Autobiography of Malcolm X”, Long a Mystery, are Sold to Schomburg Center in NY

Malcolm X in 1964. (Credit: Associated Press)

by Jennifer Schuessler via nytimes.com

For a quarter century, they have been the stuff of myth among scholars: three missing chapters from “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” reputedly cut from the manuscript after his assassination in 1965 because they were deemed too incendiary.

Their possible existence was first teased at in 1992, when a private collector at an estate sale scooped up material belonging to Alex Haley, Malcolm X’s collaborator on the book. Years later, one biographer was allowed a 15-minute look at some of the papers, but otherwise they have been mostly locked away, surrounded by a haze of cultivated mystery.

But now the unpublished material, or at least some of it, has suddenly emerged and was offered for sale Thursday at a Manhattan auction house, along with another artifact that scholars have never seen: the manuscript for the published book, which bears dense traces of Mr. Haley’s and Malcolm X’s complex negotiations over the finished text.

At the auction, an unpublished chapter called “The Negro” was picked up by the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture for $7,000. There were no offers on the manuscript for the published version, which had an opening minimum bid of $40,000.

But after some hushed conversations in side rooms, it was announced that the Schomburg — located on Malcolm X Boulevard in Harlem, and already home to a large collection of material that had been held by Malcolm X’s family — had acquired the manuscript for an undisclosed sum, along with nearly a dozen unpublished fragments that had also gone unsold.

“‘The Autobiography’ is one of the most important books of the 20th century,” Kevin Young, the director of the Schomburg, said after the auction. “To have the version with Malcolm X’s corrections, and to be able to see his thoughts taking shape, is incredibly powerful.”

The manuscripts were included in a sale of African-American historical artifacts by Guernsey’s auction house. The sale also included an item that had attracted considerable media interest in recent years: a Detroit house associated with Rosa Parks that had been bought by an artist, disassembled and shipped to Germany, then shipped back again for sale. (The house, which had a minimum price of $1 million, received no bids.)

But it was the appearance, with little advance fanfare, of the Malcolm X material that caused a stir among scholars, some of whom expressed alarm before the auction that manuscripts that had been locked away by one private collector might disappear into the hands of another.

The manuscript and unpublished pages were sold to settle debts as part of a bankruptcy case. (Credit: Jeenah Moon for The New York Times)

Komozi Woodard, a professor of history at Sarah Lawrence College who is writing a book about the final year of Malcolm X’s life, said he was “shocked” when he learned about the auction earlier this week. “If we’re trying to figure out where Malcolm would have taken us, some of those papers have clues to that puzzle,” he said.

Since Malcolm X’s assassination there have been battles over the meaning of his life, in particular its tumultuous last year, when he broke with the Nation of Islam, traveled to the Middle East and renounced his philosophy of racial separatism.

There have been equally fierce battles over his literary remains. Papers removed from his family’s home by one of his daughters and later seized by owners of a storage facility were nearly auctioned in 2002, before scholars and family members organized an effort to have the collection placed intact at the Schomburg Center.

Dr. Rene Shingles 1st African American Woman Inducted into National Athletic Trainers Hall of Fame

Rene Shingles (Photo Courtesy of National Athletic Trainers’ Association)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

Dr. René Revis Shingles made history this month when she became the first African American Woman inducted into the National Athletic Trainers’ Association prestigious Hall of Fame – an honor that to date has been bestowed on only 317 of the association’s 45,000 members. Dr. Shingles – a long-time professor at Central Michigan University – became one of the first African American women to become certified as an athletic trainer in 1987.  The Hall of Fame is the highest honor an athletic trainer can receive and recognizes individuals who exemplify the mission of NATA through significant lasting contributions that enhance the quality of health care provided by athletic trainers.

“While I may be the first, my goal is to ensure that I am not the last. Being an athletic trainer is about providing the highest quality of care to our patients and a tireless dedication to learning, growing and serving. That is what has been bestowed to me by my mentors, and what I hope to continue to contribute to the generations that follow,” said Shingles.

At Central Michigan University, more than 650 students have graduated under her Shingle’s tutelage. She co-authored the first book on cultural competence in athletic training and is considered a national expert on diversity and inclusion in the profession. In 1987, Shingles became the thirteenth African American woman to become a certified athletic trainer. Over the years, she has volunteered in numerous capacities with NATA, the Board of Certification for athletic training and the NATA Research & Education Foundation. For more than 20 years, Shingles has volunteered on the medical staff for the Special Olympics Michigan State Summer Games. In 1996, she was selected by the U.S. Olympic Committee as an athletic trainer for the Olympic Games in Atlanta and marched in the opening ceremonies with Team USA.

Shingles is also a founding member of the NATA Ethnic Diversity Advisory Committee (EDAC), established in 1991 as an advisory committee to the NATA board of directors, to identify and address issues relevant to the ethnically diverse populations as well as members of the profession. Shingles currently serves as a mentor both professional and personally to advance the next generation of athletic trainers. She is also a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

“We champion the outstanding contributions Dr. Shingles has made – and continues to make – to the profession of athletic training, as well as her commitment and passion for the profession,” says NATA President Tory Lindley, MA, ATC. “The NATA Hall of Fame recognizes the best among the best in our profession, and Dr. Shingles is truly deserving of this award,” said Lindley.

About NATA: National Athletic Trainers’ Association – Health Care for Life & Sport
Athletic trainers are health care professionals who specialize in the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries and sport-related illnesses. They prevent and treat chronic musculoskeletal injuries from sports, physical and occupational activity, and provide immediate care for acute injuries. Athletic trainers offer a continuum of care that is unparalleled in health care. The National Athletic Trainers’ Association represents and supports 45,000 members of the athletic training profession. Visit www.nata.org.

FEATURE: Aaron Maybin, NFL Linebacker Turned Art Teacher and Activist, Gives Back to Kids in Baltimore

Maybin, talks to students at “Gallery Night,” an end of year art showcase at Matthew A. Henson Elementary School. (MARY F. CALVERT FOR ESPN)

via theundefeated.com

Aaron Maybin was an All-America linebacker at Penn State University and was drafted 11th overall by the Buffalo Bills in 2009. He played four seasons in the NFL for the Bills and New York Jets before retiring in 2014. He has since turned full-time to his art, chronicling his hometown’s challenges with poverty and crime through painting, photography and poetry, and he works as a teacher in Baltimore schools. Last winter, he became the outspoken face of outrage after many of Baltimore schools went without heat during extreme cold. He was written a book, Art Activism, which chronicles Maybin’s journey.

Here, as told to ESPN’s Kevin Van Valkenburg, Maybin tells about his path from a life of football to working on behalf of kids from his neighborhood, how he connects with students and why he doesn’t see himself as a hero.


When I was younger, football gave me an identity.

Growing up in communities like the one I grew up in, West Baltimore, you’re always fighting for your identity. From the time you’re born until you’re grown, you’re literally inundated with stories of how your safety is always in jeopardy and how everybody – from your parents to people in the community to folks at your church – is just so hell-bent and focused on keeping you safe.

So many of us in those neighborhoods are so angry, so furious, at everything. At the world. I lost my mother at 6 years old. I was mad at God. I was mad at my family. I was mad at everything. In those kinds of environments, especially for young kids of color, people look to attach themselves to something greater.

I had been an artist my whole life, but when I was younger, it was not cool for you to just be like, “Yeah I’m an artist. I make things.” Football was the first thing I did and I excelled at to the level where I gained acceptance and admiration from everybody that saw me do my thing. It was like an outlet.

Football was the first space that I was afforded where you’re not penalized for your anger. You’re celebrated for it. You knock somebody out of a game and people give you praise. They know you as this guy not to be messed with, to be respected and celebrated.

It wasn’t until I got older that I didn’t want my identity to be tied to a game anymore.

I can look at football now with a certain amount of nostalgia and not be too heavily tied to it, because at the end of the day, I stopped being tied to the game.

It was probably around college at Penn State that I realized there’s something wrong with how we were being conditioned as athletes. Even as great a coach as Joe Paterno was, he had some deep-seated issues that were rooted in race and patriarchy and bigotry that reared their heads in how we were handled as players and as men.

The idea that we couldn’t have facial hair, for example. If it was past like a five o’clock shadow, then you would get penalized. If you had locks or an Afro or something like that, he would be like, “You’ve got to do something with that.” Guys would get it braided or twisted, but as soon as he would see it, he would be like, “Cut it.” If you look at people like myself, LaVar Arrington, Jared Odrick, NaVorro Bowman, basically every black player who went to Penn State, you see them leave and go through an almost Rastafarian physical transformation where we all grow our beards out. We all either get our hair in locks or twists or cornrows.

College years are very pivotal years, right? Throughout the same time that you’re just starting to learn about your blackness or where you fit in the larger society, you’re starting to learn about historical context of your roots. You have somebody who you look at and revere as your leader who tells you that there’s something wrong with you. That there’s something unacceptable about the natural things that make you who you are, that there’s something wrong with your person.

I didn’t realize how problematic it was back then. I was young. I didn’t really understand how deep those things went and where they were coming from. I just knew that those were the guidelines that I had to abide by. We’ve got to ask ourselves why a lot more.

Continue reading “FEATURE: Aaron Maybin, NFL Linebacker Turned Art Teacher and Activist, Gives Back to Kids in Baltimore”

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/

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/