Lost in Language and Sound by Ntozake Shange

image courtesy of Essence.com

Ntozake Shange, feminist author of the critically acclaimed choreopoem for colored girls who’ve considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf, as well as numerous poetry collections and novels (most recently the 600-page Some Sing, Some Cry, co-written with her sister Ifa Bayeza), gets personal, political and lyrical in her latest work, Lost in Language and Sound: A Memoir of Coming to the Arts. The previously unpublished essays and poems ground the author’s love of language in a world of sound and movement, one shaped by her jazz- and poetry-enthusiast parents and by the melodious accents that were the soundtracks of the New Jersey and St. Louis neighborhoods she grew up in.

Continue Reading @ Ms.Blog

Why I’m Not Looking Forward to The Help

The British cover of Stockett’s novel

By Jennifer Williams | Ms. Blog

I picked up a copy of Kathryn Stockett’s bestselling novel The Help at an airport bookstore. I figured the four-hour flight to Texas would be enough time to absorb 544 plot-driven pages, and reading the novel during one of my frequent trips south seemed appropriate. For some readers, The Help calls up memories of being nurtured and cared for by black women who might have been more like mothers to them than their own white birth mothers. The story conjures for me, however, the labor–and, at times, humiliation–those domestic workers endured.

True, some of those black women also no doubt felt genuine affection for the white families they worked for. But the dictates of race and class strained those emotional ties. Black women entrusted with the care of white households and children were often still forced to enter back doors and use separate facilities. Like it or not, this vexed dynamic of interracial intimacy and dehumanization is one of the founding stories of our nation.

Continue Reading @ Ms.

Black Woman Redefined

Lynn Neary interviews Sophia Nelson | Talk of the Nation

On the surface, it might appear that many black women have achieved the American dream; they’re excelling in politics, business, media and academia.

But Sophia Nelson, a political commentator and author of Black Woman Redefined: Dispelling Myths and Discovering Fulfillment in the Age of Michelle Obama, says that despite these women’s having achieved a level of success that their mothers could only dream of, their accomplishments aren’t being reflected in popular American culture.

Continue Reading and Listen to the Interview @ NPR

The Central Park Jogger Case Revisited

By Maggie Nelson | The New York Times

In the wake of the 1989 rape and near-fatal beating of a 28-year-old white woman named Trisha Meili (known to many as the Central Park jogger), and after the arrests, confessions and eventual convictions of one Latino and four African-­American teenagers for the crime, the media relentlessly asked: How did this happen? In her slim but ambitious book, “The Central Park Five: A Chronicle of a City Wilding,” Sarah Burns tackles this same question, but with a changed referent. “This,” rather than signifying a horrific gang rape in New York City’s bucolic backyard, here signifies a preventable miscarriage of justice that put five Harlem teenagers behind bars for a crime they didn’t commit. Each of the boys — Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Korey Wise and Raymond Santana Jr. — served between 7 and 13 years. Their convictions were vacated in 2002 by the New York State Supreme Court, after a confession and DNA analysis linked a serial rapist, Matias Reyes, to the crime.

Continue Reading @ The New York Times

What Were the Women Doing?

Carla L. Peterson | New York Times

When my great-grand-aunt Maritcha Lyons recalled in her memoir that the backroom of James McCune Smith’s store served as a “rallying centre” for public-minded black New Yorkers, she was quite specific about those who came and went. Smith’s room, she wrote advisedly, was “visited daily by men, young and old.” It was these men, she continued, who constituted the “constructive force that molded public sentiment which had much to do in bringing about a more favorable state of things affecting the colored people of the State.”

Why were women not among those who visited Smith’s backroom?

Continue Reading @ The New York Times