Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Acquires James Baldwin Papers

Author and activist James Baldwin (photo via thegrio.com)

article via thegrio.com

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at The New York Public Library recently acquired James Baldwin’s personal archive. The archive includes 30 linear feet of letters and manuscripts, as well as drafts of essays, novels, and other works. It also includes galleys and screenplays with notes handwritten on them as well as photographs and other media forms documenting Baldwin’s life and creative output.

“We are more than excited to have James Baldwin return home to Harlem,” said Kevin Young, Director of the Schomburg Center of the new acquisition. “Baldwin’s amazing collection adds to our ever-growing holdings of writers, political figures, artists, and cultural icons across the African diaspora. With the current resurgence of interest in Baldwin’s works and words, and renovation of our own spaces from the main gallery to the Schomburg Shop, the timing couldn’t be better for Baldwin to join us at the Schomburg Center. As a writer myself, I am eager for students, scholars and other writers—I count myself among all three—to have the opportunity to see his profound writing process up close.”

Malcolm X, Lorraine Hansberry, and Maya Angelou all have collections at the Schomburg Center and Baldwin was their colleague. His papers not only complement theirs, but offer researchers a fascinating look at the Civil Rights and the Black Power movements, through the works of these seminal figures,” said Steven G. Fullwood, Associate Curator of the Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.

Source: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture acquires James Baldwin papers | theGrio

AALBC.com’s 50 Favorite African-American Authors of the 20th Century

(photo via aalbc.com)

article via aalbc.com

1,826 readers cast votes back in 2001 for their favorite African-American authors. Here we share the 50 authors who received the most votes ranked in the order of the total number of votes received.  Below are the top 15.  To see the rest, go to: http://aalbc.com/authors/top50authors.php?

# 1 — (6.24%) Toni Morrison # 2 — (5.42%) Zora Neale Hurston # 3 — (4.82%) Maya Angelou # 4 — (4.71%) J. California Cooper # 5 — (4.33%) Alice Walker # 6 — (3.94%) Langston Hughes # 7 — (3.72%) E. Lynn Harris # 8 — (3.56%) James Baldwin # 9 — (3.23%) Terry McMillan # 10 — (3.18%) Bebe Moore Campbell # 11 — (2.74%) Richard Wright # 12 — (2.57%) Walter Mosley # 13 — (2.52%) Eric Jerome Dickey # 14 — (2.41%) Sheneska Jackson # 15 — (2.19%) Octavia Butler —Copyright AALBC.com.

Source: AALBC.com’s 50 Favorite African-American Authors of the 20th Century

FEATURE: African Ancestry Co-Founder and University of Arizona Professor Rick Kittles Breaks New Ground in Genetics

Rick Kittles

UA researcher Rick Kittles is a national leader on health disparities and the role of genes and environment in disease. (Photo: Bob Demers/UANews)

article by Nick Prevenas via uanews.arizona.edu

Ever since he can remember, Rick Kittles always wanted to know where he came from.

Born in Sylvania, Georgia, and raised near Long Island, New York, a great deal of his academic interest was sparked by the desire to trace his ancestral lineage as far back as it could go. This proved to be exceedingly difficult, for a number of reasons.

“There simply wasn’t a strong database in place or any kind of access to information on African genetics,” Kittles said. “Records were either inaccurate or nonexistent, so there were a number of hurdles in place for African-Americans to try to figure out their ancestry.”

An aptitude for biology, coupled with a deep exploration of Alex Haley’s novel, “Roots,” led Kittles on a path that eventually would help thousands of people like him clear these hurdles. He is the director of the Division of Population Genetics at the University of Arizona, which he joined in July 2014.

Developing and implementing a comprehensive African genealogy database seemed daunting at first, but during his graduate studies at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences and, later, though his work at Howard University’s College of Medicine in the late 1990s, Kittles met the historians, archaeologists, anthropologists and fellow geneticists who could help turn this dream into a reality.

“I was looking at my own DNA profile, analyzing my Y-chromosome lineage, and I noticed my Nigerian lineage didn’t track with the other Y-chromosome samples from West Africa,” Kittles said.

Continue reading

Defying Expectations, Mayor Ras Baraka is Praised in All Corners of Newark

Mayor Ras Baraka of Newark speaking at Occupy the City, an anti-violence rally and march, in August. (Credit: Yana Paskova for The New York Times)

They had predicted that he would be anti-business and anti-police, that Mr. Baraka, the son of Newark’s most famous black radical, would return a city dogged by a history of riots and white flight to division and disarray.

A year later, Mr. Baraka is showering attention on black and Latino neighborhoods, as he promised he would. But he is also winning praise from largely white leaders of the city’s businesses and institutions downtown. He struggles with crime — all mayors here do — but he has also championed both the Black Lives Matter movement and the police, winning praise for trying to ease their shared suspicion.

The radical now looks more like a radical pragmatist.

Newark is still stubbornly two cities: gleaming new glass towers downtown, block after block of abandoned plots and relentless poverty in its outer wards, with five killings within 36 hours this month. But for all the expectations that Mr. Baraka would divide the city, those on both sides of the spectrum say that he has so far managed to do what his predecessors could not: make both Newarks feel as if he is their mayor.

The mayor at an awards ceremony for the Newark Fire Department. (Credit: Bryan Thomas for The New York Times)

Development plans are reaching into long-ignored neighborhoods. Projects stalled for years are moving forward, and new industries are taking root: a vertical farm, an incubator space and an investment fund for technology start-ups.

Mr. Baraka closed a $93 million hole in the city budget without layoffs. In June, Gov. Chris Christie agreed to start returning the schools to local control — something the governor had denied Cory A. Booker, Mr. Baraka’s more polished predecessor. The governor had rejected Mr. Baraka’s bid for control a year ago, deeming him “kind of hostile.”

“He’s like the local boy who grew up and said, ‘I need to fix my city.’ How do you not get inspired by that? How do you not root for a guy like that?” said Joseph M. Taylor, the chief executive of Panasonic Corporation of North America, which was lured to Newark by Mr. Booker. “I didn’t think anybody could top Cory Booker, but if anybody can, it’s Mayor Baraka.”

Not everyone is on board. Some local politicians, even those who support Mr. Baraka, say the positive reception partly reflects the low expectations set during a nasty election last spring, in which outside groups spent at least $5 million trying to defeat him. They say the talent pool at City Hall is shallow, and that Mr. Baraka has surrounded himself with friends and family members — in particular, his brother, Amiri Baraka Jr., who serves as his chief of staff — who engage in a kind of street politics that have dragged Mr. Baraka into distracting feuds.

Attendees at Occupy the City, an anti-violence march. The mayor has enlisted the help of residents in trying to curb crime. (Credit: Yana Paskova for The New York Times)

The candidate Mr. Baraka defeated, Shavar Jeffries, continues to criticize the mayor’s inability to stanch crime, dismissing Mr. Baraka’s anti-violence rallies as empty gimmicks. And presuming Mr. Baraka can complete the return of schools to local control, they remain some of the nation’s most troubled and low-performing.

Continue reading

Maya Angelou Honored with Forever Stamp

(File: Image)On Monday, Feb. 23, the United States Postal Service announced that writer, actress and poet Maya Angelou will be honored with a Forever Stamp.

Though Angelou died last year at the age of 86, she remains an icon and inspiration because of her life of advocacy and her countless contributions to society. Her memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, is one of her most acclaimed works. It tells the story of her life in the Jim Crow South.

The Postal Service plans to preview the stamp and provide details on the date and location of the first day of issue ceremony at a later time. Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan stated, “Maya Angelou inspired our nation through a life of advocacy and through her many contributions to the written and spoken word. Her wide-ranging achievements as a playwright, poet, memoirist, educator, and advocate for justice and equality enhanced our culture.”

Check out her top 10 works here.

article by Christie Leondis via blackenterprise.com

Rapper Common Writes Moving Tribute to Dr. Maya Angelou

Common and Maya Angelou

The rapper remembers the poet who inspired him to write—and later became his friend. 

Since I was 5 years old I have loved reading good writing. I would read anything that my mother or the teachers I loved gave me. In the 2nd grade I came across an author named Maya Angelou and her poem Still I Rise, this incredible piece of art that I somehow knew came from her soul and touched my soul. A piece of art that I somehow knew would change and improve my life. It was through this writer that I gained the inspiration to be somebody in life and to be heard.

I didn’t know that it would be through hip hop and the gift of rap that I would open myself up and become a writer and MC. Through writing I would get the opportunity to travel and see the world—London, Sydney, Johannesburg, Osaka—and it was writing that brought me one October evening to a charity event in New York where we were blessed to have as our luminary for the night, Dr. Maya Angelou. Having her as our guest was a fluke of Divine Order and a true example of Ask and You shall receive.

What had happened was the poet we booked to perform dropped out last minute so my mother said, “I’m gonna try to get in touch with Dr. Maya Angelou.” I said, “Ma, are you crazy? Maya Angelou? How do you think we’re gonna get one of the greatest beings that ever graced this earth last minute? She doesn’t know who Common is.”

Well, to this day I don’t know if she had ever heard of Common before the call was made but somehow through God’s thread she said she would like to meet with me before she decided if she would do the event. So here I am headed to Harlem to meet her at her apartment, just got my hair cut, heart beating, I walk into her beautiful space that smelled like integrity, art, generosity, love, hope, inspiration, honesty, and home. We would sit for two and a half hours talking about writing, my daughter, San Francisco, and Tupac. And oh yeah, Paul Robeson.

The next night she did her thing at the event and embraced me as a young writer-artist, an important voice in hip hop and even flirted with me. Now that really made me feel special. She and I would go on to build a bond that not only would have us spreading love at events in Harlem, Chicago, and D.C., but I would be blessed to go visit her at her home in Winston-Salem, N.C., and celebrate several birthdays with her where we had great times and I got to know her lovely family. It was always an honor to be in her presence and though she did feel like my mother, my grandma, and my friend. I would always Thank God for being there with her.

Every experience was unique, but every time I saw her I learned something about myself and about life, about humanity, about progress. And I was always reminded how we are true reflections of God, how much Light we do have, how great and dynamic Black Women are and how far Integrity, Self Love and Self Respect can take you. I don’t know if my words—or any words—can truly describe the experience of being in the atmosphere of Dr. Maya Angelou, someone you know is sent from the Creator to Give the World A Voice it has never heard, a brightness it has never witnessed, an energy that is Greatness, Divinity and Awakening all wrapped into one.

We would sit for two and a half hours talking about writing, my daughter, San Francisco, and Tupac. And oh yeah, Paul Robeson.

I awoke on May 28, 2014, ready for a powerful day of filming and to do some great work. I was stepping out of a van when I received the news that Dr. Angelou had made her transition and as I moved I felt like my soul was standing still. I hadn’t digested or processed it as I continued to go about the day. Of course I stopped and said a prayer but it wasn’t until the director of our film, Ava DuVernay, said, “We all know what has happened this morning and This Queen is one of the reasons why we can do this film and we will honor her and carry her with us as we proceed forward.” Right then I was able to let loose and cry and release some of the natural pain of losing someone you love and someone so great. And though I’m still in the process I also recognize that she will never be lost and how much we all have gained by having her touch this earth.

God gave us an Angel and we got to witness that Angel for a beautiful time of life. And though that Angel has returned to her maker, Her Work, Her Spirit, Her Words—aw man, Her Words—Her passion, Her heart, Her Love, Her Greatness, Her Royalty, Her Strength, Her Wisdom, Her Divinity, Her Angel will always be here with us. For my daughter’s daughters, your daughter’s daughters, and forever more. Love you, Dr. Maya Angelou.

Love, Common

article via thedailybeast.com

R.I.P. Acclaimed Author and Activist, Dr. Maya Angelou

best-Maya-Angelou-Quotes-sayings-wise-people

Maya Angelou, acclaimed author, poet, professor and civil rights activist, has died at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She was 86.  Angelou was found by her caretaker this morning, Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines confirmed.

Angelou was set to be honored with the “Beacon of Life Award” at the 2014 Major League Baseball Beacon Award Luncheon on May 30 in Houston, but recently cancelled due to  health problems.  She is survived by her son, author Gus Johnson.

Angelou had a prolific career, published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning more than fifty years. She received dozens of awards and over thirty honorary doctoral degrees. Angelou is best known for her series of seven autobiographies, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), tells of her life up to the age of seventeen, and brought her international recognition and acclaim.

She became a poet and writer after a series of occupations as a young adult, including fry cook, night-club dancer and performer, castmember of the opera Porgy and Bess, coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and journalist in Egypt and Ghana during the days of decolonization. She has also been an actor, writer, director, and producer of plays, movies, and public television programs.

Since 1982, she has taught at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she holds the first lifetime Reynolds Professorship of American Studies. She was active in the Civil Rights movement, and worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Since the 1990s she made around eighty appearances a year on the lecture circuit, something she continued into her eighties. In 1993, Angelou recited her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration, the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961.

In 2011, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama.  To learn more about her life and career, click here.

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson@lakinhutcherson