Tag: Library of Congress

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

Tracy K. Smith Named New U.S. Poet Laureate by Library of Congress

Tracy K. Smith (Photograph © Rachel Eliza Griffiths)

by Sophia Nguyen via harvardmagazine.com

Tracy K. Smith has been named the new U.S. Poet Laureate by the Library of Congress, succeeding Juan Felipe Herrera. While the role doesn’t carry many specific official duties, it has traditionally involved raising awareness of, and increasing access to, poetry. “I am excited about the kinds of social divides that poetry may be able not just to cross but to mend,” Smith said in an interview with the library.

“One of my favorite things in the world is to sit and talk quietly about the things poems cause me to notice and remember, the feelings they teach me to recognize, the deep curiosity about other people’s lives that they foster. I am excited about carrying this conversation beyond literary festivals and university classrooms, and finding ways that poems might genuinely bring together people who imagine they have nothing to say to one another.” Smith has authored four books of poetry, the most recent of which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2012. Her memoir Ordinary Light was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2015.

In later chapters, she describes going to Harvard (where she joined the Dark Room Collective) as her mother’s health began to fail. In poetry workshops, she writes, “I had discovered that sitting down with an idea and letting it unfold in words and sounds offered me not just pleasure but an indescribable comfort.” Her new collection, Wade in the Water, comes out next April.

To read full article, go to: Library of Congress names Harvard alumna Tracy K. Smith as new Poet Laureate | Harvard Magazine

How Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” Helped Bring Julie Dash’s Groundbreaking Film “Daughters of the Dust” Back to Theaters

"Daughters of the Dust" directed by Julie Dash (poster via Cohen Media Group)
Poster for re-release of “Daughters of the Dust” directed by Julie Dash (via Cohen Media Group)

article by Yohana Desta via vanityfair.com

In 1991, Julie Dash’s sumptuous film Daughters of the Dust” broke ground as the first movie directed by a black woman to get a wide theatrical release.  Since then, the gorgeous tone poem about a Gullah family in 1902 has continued to gather accolades. It was added to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2004, and recently served as a heavy inspiration for Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade.

Now, the film is being re-introduced to the mainstream in a splashy new way—the Cohen Media Group has created a rich 2K restoration that will be screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, then released in theaters again this November. (Watch the exclusive new trailer above to see the film restored in all its fresh, new glory, and scroll down to see the glossy new poster.)

Dash calls the new release “exciting.”“I never imagined it would be released again,” she says.  For the record, Dash is also a huge fan of Lemonade—and says that the visual album actually helped Daughters on the road to restoration. Read on to see her thoughts about Beyoncé, Hollywood, and whether she’d ever make a sequel to her classic film.

Vanity Fair: Were you paying attention at all to Lemonade, to the Beyoncé film?

Julie Dash: Yes. My phone blew up the night Lemonade came on and my Web site shut down . . . someone called me and said Daughters of the Dust is trending on Twitter. And I said, “No, it must be something else,” and they said, “No, it’s trending!” And I looked and it was, and it was so funny. It just tickled me to death. So I finally got a chance to see Lemonade and I was just very pleased. Lemonade is just—it breaks new ground. It’s a masterpiece.It’s a tone poem, a visual tone poem with various stories going on—vignettes. It’s just all visual, and it’s like yes.

To read full interview and see the “Daughters of the Dust” trailer, go to: How Beyoncé’s Lemonade Helped Bring a Groundbreaking Film Back to Thea | Vanity Fair

John Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme’ and The Supremes’ ‘Where Did Our Love Go?’ Join National Recording Registry

The Supremes (l) and John Coltrane (r)
The Supremes (l) and John Coltrane (r)

article by Andrew R. Chow via nytimes.com

John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” and The Supremes’ “Where Did Our Love Go,” are part of the incoming class added to the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress this year. The diverse crop of new inductees also includes the Vienna Philharmonic’s 1938 recording of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” and live coverage from Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game.

The registry adds 25 recordings — deemed significant to American history and culture — each year. The field this year includes pop, (Billy Joel’s “Piano Man”), classic R&B (“Where Did Our Love Go,” The Impressions’ “People Get Ready”), field recordings (W.H. Stepp’s “Bonaparte’s Retreat,” captured by Alan and Elizabeth Lomax in 1937) and comedy (George Carlin’s “Class Clown”). Joining these performers is Secretary of State George C. Marshall proposing what became known as the Marshall Plan to aid Europe after World War II.

The National Recording Registry now totals 450 recordings, the library said. A full list can be found at www.loc.gov.

To read original article, go to: http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/03/23/john-coltranes-a-love-supreme-and-billy-joels-piano-man-join-national-recording-registry/?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0

America’s 1st Slavery Museum Shifts the Focus from Masters to Slaves

Dr. Ibrahima Seck points toward a marble Wall of Honor, where the names of 350 enslaved people at Whitney Plantation have been engraved. (All photos by Michael Patrick Welch via Vice.com)

When you arrive at Whitney Plantation in Wallace, Louisiana, you’re given an enslaved person’s image and story to wear for the day. Mine was Ann Hawthorne, who was 85 years old when the Library of Congress’s Federal Writer’s Project recorded her personal story of growing up enslaved on the Whitney Plantation, one of many plantations along the Mississippi’s winding River Road. Each story is printed on a laminated card that you wear around your neck—a physical manifestation of the history of slavery; a reminder that real people lived here, died here.

Billed as America’s first-ever museum dedicated exclusively to American slavery, Whitney Plantation sits amid acres of sugar cane that, on the late afternoon of my visit, swayed in a wild wind from a passing tropical depression. The plantation’s swampy land lay heavy with ankle-deep water and hummed with voracious mosquitos. A long row of black and white umbrellas leaned against the visitors’ center and gift shop so that those who had paid $22 a head to tour the grounds were not made uncomfortable by the day’s fine, cool mist of rain.

As I waited for my tour guide, a black woman with long braids led a tour group past a white church, where statues of a young Ann Hawthorne and a dozen other enslaved children seemed to stare directly at—or, really, into—the visitors, who watched a video featuring their testimony.

The entire museum is similar: You walk the same pathways that victims of chattel slavery walked, you listen to their stories in their own words, you see and hear the pieces of history that aren’t printed in textbooks or told on other plantation tours. You won’t find much information on the wealthy slaveowners on this plantation. Instead, Whitney presents slavery through the stories of those who experienced it.

The museum’s creation is owed in part to Dr. Ibrahima Seck, a tall, dark man with a florid African accent, who built the museum along with Whitney’s owner, white New Orleans attorney John Cummings. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of the Antebellum South, and it’s clear that everyone working at Whitney regards him as a living exhibit.

“According to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Database, 60 percent of the people in Louisiana came from Senegambia, my area of Africa,” Dr. Seck told me. “So there are very strong ties here from my home.”

Seck had agreed to give me a private tour, so we climbed into his golf cart and drove past a small, rusty jail. Through its cage bars, we could see the slave masters’ 220-year-old “Big House” in the distance.

“This jail wasn’t on this plantation,” said Dr. Seck, driving faster now so the mosquitos wouldn’t catch up. “It was found in Gonzales, Louisiana, buried in the mud. At the slave markets in New Orleans, this is where the slaves were locked up before being sold.”

There is no fiction here. There is nothing you can deny here. — Dr. Ibrahima Seck

Past seven small cypress wood cabins, which at one time slept dozens of slaves apiece, Seck stopped the cart at the marble Wall of Honor, which displays the names of over 350 people who were once enslaved at Whitney, plus how much each sold for and why. Seck, who originally gleaned all this information from documents found on the property, pointed out enslaved people who were deemed less valuable: a one-armed driver, a mentally-disabled woman, an old man with a hernia. Their prices were lower, but their fate was the same.

“Mentally-disabled or old slaves might be assigned to watch the master’s toddlers or something,” Dr. Seck said. “They sold for less, but were never retired. You worked till you died.”

Continue reading “America’s 1st Slavery Museum Shifts the Focus from Masters to Slaves”

R.I.P. Singer/Songwriter and R&B Legend Ben E. King

Ben E King
Ben E King received an award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2012 (Photo via bbc.com)

R&B and soul singer Ben E. King, best known for the classic song “Stand By Me,” has died at the age of 76.  The singer died on Thursday, his publicist Phil Brown told BBC News.

King started his career in the late 1950s with The Drifters, singing hits including “There Goes My Baby” and “Save The Last Dance For Me.”  After going solo, he hit the U.S. top five with “Stand By Me” in 1961.  It returned to the charts in the 1980s, including a three-week spell at number one in the U.K. following its use in the film of the same name directed by Rob Reiner.

King’s other hits included “Spanish Harlem,” “Amor,” “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)” and “Supernatural Thing – Part I.”

Fellow musician Gary U.S. Bonds wrote on Facebook that King was “one of the sweetest, gentlest and gifted souls that I have had the privilege of knowing and calling my friend for more than 50 years”.

He wrote: “I can tell you that Ben E. will be missed more than words can say. Our sincere condolences go out to Betty and the entire family.

“Thank you Ben E. for your friendship and the wonderful legacy you leave behind.”

Actor Jerry O’Connell, who played Vern in the film “Stand By Me” alongside River Phoenix and Corey Feldmantweeted: “You know you are good when John Lennon covers your song. Ben E. King was a wonderful and immensely talented man.”

Born Benjamin Earl Nelson, he initially joined a doo-wop group called The Five Crowns, who became The Drifters after that group’s manager fired the band’s previous members.  He co-wrote and sang on the band’s single “There Goes My Baby,” which reached number two in the U.S. in 1959.

But the group members were paid just $100 per week by their manager and, after a request for a pay rise was turned down, the singer decided to go it alone. In the process, he adopted the surname King.

His first solo hit was “Spanish Harlem” in 1961, which was followed by “Stand By Me.”

Continue reading “R.I.P. Singer/Songwriter and R&B Legend Ben E. King”

Lauryn Hill’s Grammy-Winning Album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” to Be Entered Into the Library of Congress

Lauryn Hill
Lauryn Hill poses with the five Grammy Awards she won for The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill at the 41st annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles Feb. 24, 1999. (VINCE BUCCI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Each year, the Library of Congress selects 25 recordings to add to its archive. This year, Lauryn Hill’s record-breaking album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, will be included in the 25.

According to the Library of Congress press release, among requirements for inclusion in the archive are that the recordings be “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” and be at least 10 years old. The Library of Congress gave a lengthy explanation as to why it chose Hill’s debut album:

“Lauryn Hill’s debut solo record, following the breakup of the Fugees, is a work of honesty in which Hill explores her feelings on topics that included the deep wonder of pregnancy, the pitfalls of modern relationships and the experience of the sacred. The album effortlessly fuses soul, rhythm and blues, rap and reggae. Hill’s vocal range, smooth clear highs and vibrato are stunning. The rapping is rhythmically compelling while always retaining, and frequently exploiting, the natural cadences of conversational speech. Standout guest performances include Carlos Santana’s soulful acoustic guitar solo on ‘Zion,’ and duets with Mary J. Blige and D’Angelo on ‘I Used to Love Him’ and ‘Nothing Even Matters,’ respectively.”

Hill’s album joins an eclectic list, which includes Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me,” Sly and the Family Stone’s Stand album, and even a Sesame Street platinum-hits album.

Check out the full list of inductees below:

1. Vernacular Wax Cylinder Recordings at University of California, Santa Barbara Library (c.1890-1910)

2. The Benjamin Ives Gilman Collection, recorded at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition at Chicago (1893)

3. “The Boys of the Lough”/ “The Humours of Ennistymon” (single)—Michael Coleman (1922)
Continue reading “Lauryn Hill’s Grammy-Winning Album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” to Be Entered Into the Library of Congress”