Nobel laureate and Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author Toni Morrison, who wrote the acclaimed novels “Beloved,” ”Song of Solomon,” “The Bluest Eye,” “Jazz,” and “Sula” among other works, has passed away at age 88.
According to yahoo.com, publisher Alfred A. Knopf announced that Morrison died Monday night at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. Morrison’s family issued a statement through Knopf saying she died after a brief illness.
“Toni Morrison passed away peacefully last night surrounded by family and friends,” the family announced. “The consummate writer who treasured the written word, whether her own, her students or others, she read voraciously and was most at home when writing.”
“Her writing was not just beautiful but meaningful — a challenge to our conscience and a call to greater empathy,” Obama wrote Tuesday on his Facebook page. “She was as good a storyteller, as captivating, in person as she was on the page.”
“Narrative has never been merely entertainment for me,” she said in her Nobel lecture. “It is, I believe, one of the principal ways in which we absorb knowledge.”
The second of four children of a welder and a domestic worker, Morrison was born Chloe Ardelia Wofford in Lorain, Ohio, a steel town outside of Cleveland. She was encouraged by her parents to read and to think, and was unimpressed by the white kids in her community.
Recalling how she felt like an “aristocrat,” Morrison believed she was smarter and took it for granted she was wiser. She was an honors student in high school, and attended Howard University because she dreamed of life spent among black intellectuals.
Nancy Wilson, whose skilled and flexible approach to singing provided a key bridge between the sophisticated jazz-pop vocalists of the 1950s and the powerhouse pop-soul singers of the 1960s and ’70s, died on Thursday at her home in Pioneertown, Calif. She was 81.
Her death was confirmed by her manager, Devra Hall Levy, who said Ms. Wilson had been ill for some time; she gave no other details.
In a long and celebrated career, Ms. Wilson performed American standards, jazz ballads, Broadway show tunes, R&B torch songs and middle-of-the-road pop pieces, all delivered with a heightened sense of a song’s narrative.
“I have a gift for telling stories, making them seem larger than life,” she told The Los Angeles Times in 1993. “I love the vignette, the plays within the song.
Some of Ms. Wilson’s best-known recordings told tales of heartbreak, with attitude. A forerunner of the modern female empowerment singer, with the brassy inflections and biting inflections to fuel it, Ms. Wilson could infuse even the saddest song with a sense of strength.
In her canny signature piece from 1960, “Guess Who I Saw Today”(written by Murray Grand and Elisse Boyd), a woman baits her husband by dryly telling him a story in which he turns out to be the central villain. In her 1968 hit, “Face It Girl, It’s Over” (by Francis Stanton and Angelo Badale), Ms. Wilson first seems to throw cold water in the face of a deluded woman who fails to notice that her lover has lost interest in her. Only later does she reveal that she is the benighted woman scorned.
“Face It Girl,” an epic soul blowout, became one of Ms. Wilson’s biggest chart scores, making the Top 30 of Billboard’s pop chart and Top 15 on its R&B list.ing News
Her biggest hit came in 1964, when “(You Don’t Know) How Glad I Am”(Jimmy Williams and Larry Harrison), a rapturous R&B ballad delivered with panache, reached No. 11 on Billboard’s pop chart.
Three years later she became one of the few African-Americans of her day to host a TV program, the Emmy-winning “Nancy Wilson Show,” on NBC.
Ms. Wilson released more than 70 albums in a five-decade recording career. She won three Grammy Awards, one for best rhythm and blues recording for the 1964 album “How Glad I Am,” and two for best jazz vocal album, in 2005 and 2007. In 2004, she was honored as a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts. Nancy Wilson’s album “How Glad I Am,” from 1964, won a Grammy Award for best rhythm and blues recording.
For her lifelong work as an advocate of civil rights, which included participating in a Selma to Montgomery, Ala., protest march in 1965, she received an award from the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta in 1993 and an N.A.A.C.P. Hall of Fame Image Award in 1998.
In 2005, she was inducted into the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, also in Atlanta.
“As an artist then, taking such a political stand came with professional risks,” she told the blog Jazz Wax in 2010. “But it had to be done.”
The contributions of over 800 African American women who sorted mail in a segregated unit during WWII were recognized last month in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, with a monument erected in their honor.
“No mail, no morale,” was the motto of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, the U.S. Army’s only all-African American and all-female unit during the Second World War.
Often referred to as the “Six-Triple-Eight,” the unit was made of up 824 enlisted and 31 officer women, who were originally from the Women’s Army Corps, Army Service Forces and Army Air Forces.
While many African American nurses served overseas in combat zones, WAC units remained separated and women of color were only allowed to serve overseas depending on the “needs of the Army.” The military faced pressure for African Americans WACs to serve in overseas components and eventually a request for 800 women to serve in the European Theatre was approved.
In 1945, warehouses and Red Cross workers in England became overwhelmed with a backlog of mail and packages addressed to U.S. service members. The hundreds of women who eventually made up the 6888th were selected to train for this exact mission.
Under the direction of Lt. Col Charity Edna Adams, the women traveled to Camp Shanks, New York after enduring boot camp, and eventually arriving in Birmingham, England, in 1945. Upon arrival to Europe, the women were welcome to a dimly lit and rat-infested warehouse with mail stacked to the ceilings.
Of the over 800 servicewomen, five were present at their monument dedication ceremony at Fort Leavenworth.
“Servicemen want their mail. That’s a morale booster,” Lena King told KCTV. Now 95-years-old, then Corporal King worked among other women in the warehouse identifying miswritten pieces of mail and ensuring the men fighting received letters from their loved ones.
By dividing their work in shifts that ran 365 days a week, the women processed an average of 65,000 pieces of mail per shift, clearing the previous six-month backlog of letters in just three months.
Designed by sculptor Eddie Dixon, the monument features all of the names of the women of the Six-Triple-Eight, a bust of Lt. Col Adams and iconic photos highlighting the unit’s mission.
The monument sits near a series of other historical tributes on Fort Leavenworth. From honoring the first African American West Point graduate to the first African American four-star general, this monument will be another addition highlighting the “firsts” of our nation’s history at war.
In 1972, a black cultural center in Berkeley, California, put out a call for artists to help create an exhibit themed around black heroes. One African American contemporary artist, Betye Saar, answered. She created an artwork from a “mammy” doll and armed it with a rifle.
According to Angela Davis, a Black Panther activist, the piece by Saar, titled “The Liberation of Aunt Jemima,” sparked the black women’s movement. Now, the artist’s legacy is going on view in New York with “Betye Saar: Keepin’ It Clean,” an exhibit opening on November 2nd at the New York Historical Society, featuring 24 artworks made between 1997 and 2017 from her continuing series incorporating washboards. The exhibit runs until May 27, 2019.
“Saar says that it’s about keeping everything clean, keeping politics clean, keeping your life clean, your actions clean,” said Wendy Ikemoto, the society’s associate curator of American art. “She wants America to clean up its act and a lot of her art has to do with this idea that we haven’t cleaned up our act.”
Saar, 92, was born in Los Angeles and turned to making political art after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. “After his assassination in 1968, her work became explicitly political,” said Ikemoto. “That’s when she started collecting these racist, Jim Crow figurines and incorporated them in her assemblages.”
Saar was part of the black arts movement, the cultural – often literary – arm of the black power movement of the 1960s and 1970s; she was also among so-called second wave feminists. But she still found herself at a crossroads. “The black arts movement was male-dominated and the feminist movement was white-dominated,” Ikemoto said. “Being at the intersection of both movements, she became one of the most prominent black female artists for presenting strong, recognized women who are fighting off the legacy of slavery. I think it did open doors for other artists to follow.”
This traveling exhibit, from the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles, shows Saar’s consistent message through her washboard series. “Many of her works tackle the broad issue of revisioning derogatory stereotypes to agents of change, historical change and power,” said Ikemoto. “Many artworks feature descendants of Aunt Jemima and mammy figures armed to face the racist histories of our nation.”
The exhibit includes “Extreme Times Call for Extreme Heroines,” a washboard piece Saar made in 2017 that features a mammy doll holding a pair of guns. The washboards are used in lieu of canvases and are loaded with symbolism.
“The washboard becomes her frame for the art, it’s the star,” said Ikemoto. “It’s the structure of black labor and she is moving it from a space of invisibility to highlight it. She is also using this humble object of hard labor to subvert notions of fine art.”
Each washboard is like a puzzle to be decoded, filled with small details that reference American history. There are Black Panther fists, references to police brutality and phrases from the Harlem renaissance poet Langston Hughes.
There are also references to Memphis, the city where King was assassinated, and to the Congolese slaves who were killed under the Congo Free State. Some washboards include phrases such as “national racism”.
“It’s as if Saar is suggesting how racism is so entrenched in our nation that it has become a national brand,” said Ikemoto. “She takes something that is a sign of oppression and violence, something pejorative and derogatory, and transforms it into something revolutionary.”
Not all of the artworks are on washboards, however. One piece from 1997, “We Was Mostly ’Bout Survival,” is on an ironing board, emblazoned with an image of a British slave ship.
“I think this exhibition is essential right now,” said Ikemoto. “I hope it encourages dialogue about history and our nation today, the racial relations and problems we still need to confront in the 21st century.”
According to vanityfair.com, legendary actor Cicely Tyson is finally getting an Oscar. The 93-year-old, who was nominated for an Academy Award once before in 1973 for her performance in Sounder, has been announced as one of the recipients of this year’s Honorary Oscars. She’ll be recognized alongside publicist Marvin Levy and composer Lalo Schifrin. In addition, producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall will be given the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award. The Governors Awards will take place on November 18.
“Choosing the honorees for its awards each year is the happiest of all the Board of Governors’ work,” Academy President John Bailey said in a statement. “And this year, its selection of five iconic artists was made with universal acclaim by the Academy’s 54 spirited governors.”
Tyson, the sole performer among the honorees, has been working in film and television since her career kicked off over six decades ago in 1957, quickly breaking boundaries with performances in projects such as The River Niger, A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ But A Sandwich, Fried Green Tomatoes, The Help, the acclaimed miniseries Roots, and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman—a TV movie that would go on to inspire an aspiring thespian named Viola Davis. Davis and Tyson would later work together on How to Get Away with Murder. The awards Tyson has won already run the gamut: a Tony, multiple Emmys, and even a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Like the rest of her fellow awardees, this will be the first Oscar for Tyson.
Tyson was last seen publicly at the funeral of Aretha Franklin, where she performed a spoken wordadaptation of the Paul Laurence Dunbar poem “When Malindy Sings” called “When Aretha Sings.” To see it, click below:
Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, pianist and educator George Walker has died at the age of 96. Walker’s death was announced to NPR by one of his family members, Karen Schaefer, who said he died Thursday at Mountainside Hospital in Montclair, N.J. after a fall.
Walker’s music was firmly rooted in the modern classical tradition, but also drew from African-American spirituals and jazz. His nearly 100 compositions range broadly, from intricately orchestrated symphonic works and concertos to intimate songs and solo piano pieces.
“His music is always characterized by a great sense of dignity, which is how he always comported himself,” says composer Jeffrey Mumford, who, as a music professor at Lorain County Community College in Ohio, uses examples of Walker’s music in his classes. “His style evolved over the years; his earlier works, some written while still a student, embodied an impressive clarity and elegance.”
Walker was a trailblazing man of “firsts,” and not just because of the Pulitzer. In the year 1945 alone, he was the first African-American pianist to play a recital at New York’s Town Hall, the first black instrumentalist to play solo with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the first black graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.
The following year, Walker wrote his first string quartet. In 1990, he revised the second movement into a new piece, Lyric for Strings, which has become his most often-performed work.
In 1996, Walker broke new ground again when he became the first African-American composer to win a Pulitzer Prize for music. Lilacs for voice and orchestra, set to a text by Walt Whitman, is a moving meditation on the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
Lyft is getting some help to get people in underserved communities to the polls this fall. The ride-sharing company says it’s working with community groups to offer free and reduced-price rides on November 6, the date of the midterm elections.
To increase encourage voter turnout, Lyft will offer free rides to people in underserved communities that day by working with Voto Latino, the Urban League and the National Federation of the Blind.
Lyft is also teaming up with Vote.org, Nonprofit Vote, TurboVote and others to give away 50% off promo codes to riders. Riders can get help finding their polling location through the Lyft app.
The company plans to remind riders about voter registration deadlines, give drivers voter registration handouts and offer in-office voter registration to its employees. Lyft will provide online voter information through partner organizations When We All Vote and National Voter Registration Day and encourage people to participate in early voting.
Lyft says it’s doing this because over “15 million people were registered but didn’t vote in 2016 because of transportation issues.”
Why turnout in some communities is so low
Elections are held on a work day, when time often equals money — especially if you get paid by the hour. And having a car or paying extra for public transportation to get to the polls can just add to that expense.
Being ‘”too busy” or encountering “transportation problems” were the reasons 28% of people making less than $20,000 did not vote in the 2012 presidential election, according to the U.S. Census.
Perhaps the biggest change to the electoral process in the last few years is the proliferation of Voter ID laws, which many states put in place to prevent fraud. Since 2008, 17 states have enacted laws requiring citizens to prove who they are at the polls, according to the National Conference of State Legislators. The cost of getting an ID is a hurdle for some people.
Not only do low-income people potentially lose pay when they vote, but some have to wait longer, too. The Presidential Commission on Election Administration found that 10 million people waited in line for more than 30 minutes to vote during previous presidential election cycles.
Voting rights activists in Georgia say they will launch a petition drive in an effort to collect enough signatures of registered voters to block a proposal to close more than two-thirds of polling precincts in a predominantly black county ahead of this fall’s general election.
The plan to shutter the voting sites in Randolph County, a rural community about 2½ hours south of Atlanta, has been drawn dozens of local residents and progressive groups to two public hearings in recent days. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a formal protest with the county’s board of elections.
Brian Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state, which oversees elections operations throughout the state, has issued a statement urging Randolph County officials to “abandon this effort.” Kemp also is the Republican nominee in one of the country’s most-watched gubernatorial contests. The Democratic nominee, Stacey Abrams, a former state legislator, is seeking to become the nation’s first black female governor.
The two-member county election board – a third member stepped down recently – has scheduled a vote for Friday on the proposal to shutter seven of the county’s nine polling places, citing problems including facilities in disrepair or inaccessible to persons with disabilities. But some activists are suspicious of the board’s motives, noting that Randolph County is 60 percent black and many residents have low incomes. The county, which covers 431 square miles, has no public transportation system.
All nine of the polling places were used for the May primaries and less than a month ago for statewide run-offs, in which Kemp, helped by an endorsement from President Donald Trump, beat Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle for the GOP nomination.
Local news outlets reported heated discussions at meetings on Thursday and Friday, with residents and activists alleging the move was aimed at suppressing turnout in the county, in which more than 55 percent of the voters are black and have backed Democratic candidates in statewide elections.
County officials and a consultant hired by local officials said the closures were necessary because the sites were not compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act and there was not time to fix them before the Nov. 6 general election. They also suggested that affected residents could vote by absentee ballot.
“You don’t solve problems of accessibility for people with disabilities by reducing access for people without disabilities,” said Andrea Young, executive director of the Georgia ACLU, which wrote a letter to the board stating that the closures would be a violation of the Voting Rights Act because it would have a negative effect on African-American voters. The group noted that African-Americans make up more than 96 percent of the voters at one of the polling places slated for closure.
Unsure if the board will be persuaded by the arguments for keeping the polling places open, some activists will try to stop the plan by using a state law that forbids the closure of voting sites if 20 percent of the registered voters in the affected precinct object to the change. The county currently has just over 4,000 registered voters.
Nse Ufot, executive director of the New Georgia Project, a voter registration and education group, said activists will begin collecting signatures Sunday, spreading the word at morning church services.
“We want to see to it that the hundreds of students we registered at Andrew College and the people we’ve registered in Randolph are able to exercise their sacred, fundamental right to vote,” Ufot said. The goal is to submit the petition before the board’s scheduled Friday vote.
A similar petition drive overturned a decision two years ago by elections officials in Macon-Bibb County to relocate a polling place from a school to the sheriff’s office.
“These polling place closures are part of a stark pattern that we are seeing across Georgia whereby officials are working to make it harder for African Americans and other minorities to vote,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “The more communities mobilize to turn out the vote, the harsher the voter suppression efforts undertaken by officials. We are prepared to use every tool in our arsenal to ensure that African American voters are able to have meaningful access to the polls this election cycle.”
The former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan, has died at the age of 80 after a short illness, his family and foundation announced on Saturday.
The Ghanaian was the seventh secretary general and served for two terms between 1997 and 2006. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his humanitarian work jointly with the UN as an organisation in 2001.
He died in hospital in Bern, Switzerland in the early hours of Saturday with his wife, Nane, and three children Ama, Kojo and Nina, by his side. He had retired to Geneva and later lived in a Swiss village.
Annan’s foundation issued a statement on his Twitter account on Saturday that described him as a “global statesman and deeply committed internationalist who fought throughout his life for a fairer and more peaceful world.”
It is with immense sadness that the Annan family and the Kofi Annan Foundation announce that Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Laureate, passed away peacefully on Saturday 18th August after a short illness… pic.twitter.com/42nGOxmcPZ
The statement added that Annan, who succeeded Boutros Boutros-Ghali as UN leader, was a “son of Ghana and felt a special responsibility towards Africa”.
The current UN secretary general, António Guterres, whom Annan appointed to lead its refugee agency, said: “In many ways, Kofi Annan was the United Nations. He rose through the ranks to lead the organisation into the new millennium with matchless dignity and determination.”
The former UK prime minister Tony Blair said on Twitter that he was shocked and distressed by Annan’s death. “He was a good friend whom I saw only weeks ago. Kofi Annan was a great diplomat, a true statesman and a wonderful colleague who was widely respected and will be greatly missed. My deepest sympathy go to Nane and his family,” he said.
“Kofi was a strong and inspiring presence to us all, and The Elders would not be where it is today without his leadership. Throughout his life, Kofi worked unceasingly to improve the lives of millions of people around the world,” she said.
Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s secretary general, said the world had lost a great leader: “Kofi’s dedication and drive for a more peaceful and just world, his lifelong championing of human rights, and the dignity and grace with which he led will be sorely missed in a world which needs these characteristics more than ever.”
A Marine credited with saving the lives of countless members of his company during one of the bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War will receive the Medal of Honor, thanks to the efforts of a congresswoman and a group of Marines who witnessed his heroics.
Retired Sgt. Maj. John Canley, who lives in the coastal community of Oxnard, California, will receive the nation’s highest military honor. An official announcement from the White House is expected once a date for the presentation is confirmed. Canley initially received the Navy Cross, as well as two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart, for his actions overseas.
According to his Navy Cross citation, Canley — then a gunnery sergeant with 1st Battalion, 1st Marines — displayed extraordinary leadership and selflessness during the Battle of Hue in early 1968.
After his company’s commander was seriously wounded, Canley sprang into action and immediately took control of his fellow Marines. Over the course of the weeklong siege, Canley successfully neutralized enemy combatants and brought injured Marines to safety, despite sustaining several shrapnel injuries. “Gunnery Sergeant Canley lent words of encouragement to his men,” the citation reads. “And [he] exhorted them to greater efforts as they drove the enemy from its fortified emplacement.”
John Ligato, one of the Marines who fought alongside Canley in Vietnam, called him “totally fearless.” “You followed him because he was a true leader — something you need in life-and-death situations.”
Canley’s road to the Medal of Honor was a long one, requiring the intervention of several dedicated Marines and Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Calif. Ligato and his fellow 1st Battalion Marines spent nearly 15 years pushing for Canley to be recognized with the honor, only to see the effort met with more than 10 rejections.
“There were times I gave up,” Ligato told military.com. “But the irony is he’s one of the most deserved Medal of Honor recipients ever in the history of our country.”
In 2014, one of the Marines reached out to Brownley, who represents Canley’s district, and it was with her help that the Department of Defense offered to review the recommendation to upgrade Canley’s Navy Cross.
“Sergeant Major Canley truly exemplifies the kind of courage and bravery for which this honor is awarded,” Brownley said in a written statement. “He is a true American hero and a shining example of the kind of gallantry and humility that makes our Armed Forces the best military in the world.”