Sunday, February 22, 2009

In Honor of Black History Month: African American Words

Words have power. Just even saying or announcing that this month, February, is the designated African American history month has the power to transform and transcend this bleak and short little month into one where the nation once again remembers the legacy and history of African American contributions (by coercion and by choice) to the United States.

I've written, before, about my conflicted feelings in recognizing or designating a single month (or week or day or time period) to a particular group. It smacks of tokenism; it is too brief a period (and really, esp. February--we picked the shortest month of the year to honor African Americans officially? C'mon!); it suggests that, somehow, we are off the hook from thinking about the history and experiences of various groups when it's NOT their month.

Yet, on the flip side, it is a chance for education to happen. It is a chance to take a time out and to recognize African Americans and their role in our society and culture.

So. While I'd like to think and hope that I do recognize the many contributions of African Americans during other days of the year, I do feel, as the blogger of MIXED RACE AMERICA and as an educator, that I should take a moment and acknowledge the power of African American culture, especially in an arena that I know best: words.

Here is a brief list of African American wordsmiths and their works whom I love and adore. Some of them will be familiar to you. Others may be less well known. And I'm not just talking about the printed page, as you'll note below a number of musicians are on my list:

*Anything by Toni Morrison but especially The Bluest Eye and Paradise

*Colson Whitehead's Apex Hides the Hurt

*Danzy Senna's Caucasia

*The poetry of Langston Hughes

*Stevie Wonder -- esp. my all-time favorite "Isn't She Lovely"

*Ralph Ellison's masterpiece Invisible Man

*The oratory of Martin Luther King Jr.

*Ella Fitzgerald -- esp. "Something's Gotta Give"

*Zora Neale Hurston and my favorite Their Eyes Were Watching God (all time favorite first line: "Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board" -- beautiful!)

*Malcom X and Alex Haley's The Autobiography of Malcolm X

*Michelle Cliff's poetry, particularly her collection If I Could Write This in Fire

*Michael Harper's "Dear John, Dear Coltrane"

*Marvin Gaye -- esp. "Got to Give It Up" (I just gotta groove when I hear this song--I must be quite a sight listening to this on my ipod and strutting through campus)

*The slam poet artist Saul Williams and his piece "Coded Language" (see for yourself):

Finally, I invite all of you to submit your own favorite African American artists in the comment thread and to take a moment in honor of African American history month and read/listen/experience an African American writer/poet/musician today.

1 comment:

APGifts said...


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(see ‘best answer’);_ylt=AtORF66bLNbNEjhIPDWC_6MjzKIX;_ylv=3?qid=20071031122504AArGj8B

(see ‘best answer’)