Archive for November, 2012

Meeting the Challenge: Unplanned Single Parenthood

Posted in The Middle Passage by Publisher, Port Of Harlem Snippets on November 27th, 2012

By Gregory Bearstop as it was told by Latasha Alston 

“Get out! Go,” my mother yelled, as a blazing fire swept through our house within minutes. My 5-year-old brother was playing under his bed with a grill lighter when he set his mattress on fire. At 19-years-old, having been uprooted before and gazing at the smoldering skeletal remains of our home, I thought to myself, here we go again. 

Earlier in my life, when I was 9-years-old, my mother worked three jobs to keep a roof over our heads and food in our stomachs. My father was hardly around. When mom was at work, I took care of the household: bathing and feeding my two younger sisters who were then ages 4 and 7 (my brother wasn’t born yet). A few years later, my mother broke her ankle and had to stop working. As a result, we were evicted from our apartment and became homeless. Eventually, my sisters and I were separated. We went to live with various family members in the Washington metropolitan area. Living the hardship we suffered without the support of our father, I knew as a youngster that I always wanted to be independent. This experience also contributed to my growing mistrust of men.

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A New Generation Fighting Oppression: Facing Race Conference

Posted in Features by Publisher, Port Of Harlem Snippets on November 27th, 2012

By Wayne A. Young

Pulitzer Prize winner and MacArthur Fellow Junot Díaz opened his unconventional keynote speech for the 30th Facing Race conference in Baltimore by asking the audience for questions. He continued at the conference sponsored by the Applied Research Center by joking around and lacing his talk with profanity when one of the 1,400 participants asked, “Are you single?”

The creative writing professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and fiction editor at Boston Review continued to joke around and then pivoted to his first “serious” question that symbolized the conference’s focus: “What was my process in identifying my own system of oppression?”

Growing up as an economically-challenged Dominican-American male from a family with members of various shades of brown and black, he responded, “Noticing how clearly and naked privilege got distributed across gender and racial lines.” He continued that he began to notice that the darker family members got less praises for their beauty.

The cross-race and cross-cultural alliance that was decisive in the re-reelection of President Obama, “shocked the shit out of every one,” he said as he moved onto America politics. “Who knew if the coalition will hold, “he continued, nevertheless the Obama victory provided those seeking social justice a ray hope.

Yet, despite the progress, he says White supremacy remains. “Skin bleaching to gain racial capital remains the rage,” he explained. White supremacy wouldn’t miss a beat even if we sent all White people to the outer space, he continued. “White supremacy is the racial order in all of us,” he says. All the light skinned people and honorary Whites would simply step up to the plate, he said too much laughter.

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Meshell Ndegeocello Sings Nina Simone

Posted in Entertainment by Publisher, Port Of Harlem Snippets on November 13th, 2012

By Catherine Abrams

To Be Young Gifted and Black” is a beloved song by Nina Simone. It is also a track on Meshell Ndegeocello’s latest recording, Pour une ame souveraine (For a sovereign soul): A dedication to Nina Simone. With a career spanning almost 20 years, Ndegeocello is a singer, songwriter and musician revered for her skill as a bassist and her ability to mesmerize an audience. Young, gifted and Black is an apt description of Meshell Ndegeocello. 

For her 10th recording, Ndegeocello chose to honor music trailblazer and icon Nina Simone. Listening to Ms. Simone’s music and honoring her at the Schomberg’s Women in Jazz series in Harlem inspired Ndegeocello to do this recording. Recorded in less than two weeks, she hopes that this record will encourage listeners to learn more about Simone. Regarding Simone’s unique gift as a song stylist, Ndegeocello notes, “She is just an exceptional singer and arranger. She uses her voice to shade the story, not to employ the styling of the day.”

As a collection of 14 songs famously recorded by Simone, Pour includes collaborations with Cody Chestnutt, Lizz Wright, Sinead O’Connor, Toshi Reagon and Valerie June. Ndegeocello has said about Simone, “She wanted success, was pressured to make hits, but her own sound was still irrepressible. She had things to say, she protested. She was a loud, proud, Black, female voice during a time when Black female voices were not encouraged to make themselves heard.” A strong argument could be made that neither Simone nor Ndegeocello bent to industry expectations, producing “radio-friendly music,” “Black music” or music meant for sale to the masses.

Raised in Washington, DC and schooled at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Ndegeocello honed her musical skills on the DC go-go circuit performing with bands like Rare Essence and Prophecy. She released her debut record, Plantation Lullabies, in 1993, featuring the hit, “If That’s Your Boyfriend (He Wasn’t Last Night).” In 1996, Ndegeocello had a #1 dance hit covering Bill Withers’ “Who is He and What is He to You?” A critically acclaimed musician, many film soundtracks feature her music, like Love Jones and Soul Men, and she is frequently requested by her fellow musicians for collaborations. I asked Ndegeocello how she decides what projects to accept? “I try to be open to all things, but timing plays a big part. There are some things I simply want or don’t want to do and there are other projects that just fit or don’t fit. I like to be making music all the time.”

Currently on tour promoting Pour, the 10-time Grammy nominated artist recently performed at DC’s Howard Theater and shared her insights on several musical subjects that reflect her thoughtful nature. When she was growing up, the Howard was not well cared for, she says, and it means something to her that it has now been reclaimed and restored. When I asked who she would never miss in concert - - she replied Miles Davis. Recalling the “Bring Back the Funk” event on the National Mall in DC with George Clinton, she added, “I sure do not feel that he has been properly recognized. He is an incredible creator. Being onstage with him was a great honor and I wish he received more acclaim for his lyricism. I would not call myself a Funkateer, but I am one of the Children of Production.” And about the King of Pop, Michael Jackson - - “I met him once backstage at an awards show, but it was very brief. But even for just that second, he made me happy.” 

Congratulations Mr. President!

Posted in Headline News by Publisher, Port Of Harlem Snippets on November 6th, 2012

Decision 2012: America’s Historic Quest for Freedom, Justice, Equality and Equity

Will this be an America where no matter who you are, no matter what you look like, no matter where you come from, no matter who you love, you can pursue your own happiness and you can make it here in America if you try?
- President Barack Obama
44th U.S. President

(Reconstruction III era)

When I ran away from slavery, it was for myself; when I advocated emancipation, it was for my people; but when I stood up for the rights of women, self was out of the question, and I found a little nobility in the act.
- Frederick Douglass
(Civil War-Reconstruction I era)

I repose in this quiet and secluded spot, not from any natural preference for solitude, but finding other cemeteries limited as to race, by charter rules, I have chosen this that I might illustrate in my death the principles which I advocated through a long life, equality of man before his Creator.
- Thaddeus Stevens
(Civil War-Reconstruction I era)

All my life I’ve been sick and tired. Now I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.
- Fannie Lou Hamer
(American Civil Rights era)

Hands that once picked cotton can now pick presidents.
- Jesse Jackson
(Reconstruction II era)

I don’t measure America by its achievement, but by its potential.
- Shirley Chisholm
(Reconstruction II era)

Until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
(American Civil Rights era)

American Tapestry: The Story of the Black, White and Multiracial Ancestors of Michelle Obama

Posted in Entertainment by Publisher, Port Of Harlem Snippets on November 1st, 2012

By Ida Jones, PhD

First Lady Michelle Obama gave an impassioned speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention (DNC). The most resonant chord was about family. She stated “Barack and I were both raised by families that did not have much in the way of money but who had given us something far more valuable: their unconditional love, their unflinching sacrifice and the chance to go places they never imagined for themselves.”

In the new book American Tapestry: The Story of the Black, White and Multiracial Ancestors of Michelle Obama (Amistad Press, $27.00), Rachel Swarns presents genealogical data that document the remarkable multi-racial heritage of Mrs. Obama. There are Whites and Blacks and enslaved men and women, all who contributed to the lives of Fraser Robinson, her father and Marian Shields, her mother.

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