Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Ella Baker biography by Ransby is insightful

Enjoying Barbara Ransby's biography of civil rights activist, Ella Baker--Ella Baker & the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision (The University of North Carolina Press, 2003)

Barbara Ransby's analysis of the conditions that shaped Ella Baker's formative years during the early decades of the 20th century in rural North Carolina is compelling reading--Baker's family members were landowners which afforded them economic stability (her maternal grandfather Mitchell Ross owned land); they practiced charitable activities that a measure of financial security allowed them to act upon and that reflected their Christian values (Mitchell Ross was also an influential preacher); the overall adherence to mutual aid practiced by the community of Christian men and women who were Baker's neighbors, underscored their dedication to uplift the disadvantaged tenant farmer class of Black people, and especially impressive to me is Ransby's explanation of the tradition of mutual aid  that the Black Baptist women auxiliaries performed in Baker's northeastern region of North Carolina (and presumably throughout the South), providing food and childcare, assisting the sick, sharing farming equipment and labor, when necessary.

These conditions were a foundation upon which Baker's later organizing and advocacy for social justice were built; Ransby says:

"[Baker] eventually adopted the notion that the more privileged, educated, and articulate members of the African American community were not only duty-bound to come to the aid of their less fortunate brothers and sisters, but also had to humble themselves in order to create the social space necessary for the more oppressed people in the community to speak and act on their own behalf. Ella Baker built on, but moved beyond, the religious teachings of her youth.  The values of charitable giving, sacrifice, and communalism that she internalized as a child became a part of her more secular world view as an adult. She ultimately identified with the plight of the poor and the working class, not as a gesture of Christian charity, but as an act of political solidarity. The choices she made over the course of her life distanced her from her relatively advantaged class background and merged her own consciousness and material self-interest with the concerns of the have-nots. In economic terms, she 'eked out an existence' most of her adult life" (44-45).

Sunday, August 11, 2013

End of summer reads and beyond in 2013

Currently reading Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision by Barbara Ransby (has stimulated my interest in the helping tradition practiced by Black Baptist women in North Carolina); On Ethnography by Shirley Brice Heath (absorbing methods of ethnographic study); First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America's First Black Public High School  by Alison Stewart (of imminent appeal to my interest in Black educators, schools and curriculum). End of summer reading list includes a first read of African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850-1920 by Rosalyn Terborg-Penn and these re-reads: Beloved by Toni Morrison; The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man by James Weldon Johnson, and later in the year, a recurring read of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Samuel Langhorne Clemens. And you?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

We have waited too long for our freedom - Nelson Mandela's speech on his release from prison

South African President Nelson Mandela challenged and helped to set in motion the dismantling of the dehumanizing system of apartheid through his unwavering devotion to liberation for Black people. His life is an example of the impact that one determined soul can make on world events, whether waiting as he did for 27 years imprisoned or stepping into freedom and onto the world stage before a worldwide audience on February 11, 1990.

Text of Nelson Mandela's speech: "We have waited too long for our freedom" http://www.blackpast.org/?q=1990-nelson-mandela-we-have-waited-too-long-our-freedom

AbcNews report, Feb. 11, 1990:

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Vital vanguard, wonderful warriors: Marcus Books and Black Classic Press

Marcus Books, the legendary Black book store that for more than 50 years has been the intellectual heart of African American life in the Fillmore district in San Francisco, is facing a forced eviction -- or may have already been evicted -- as announced in a San Francisco Examiner article, "Marcus Books on the brink of closure"  (June 9).

The Victorian residence at 1712 Fillmore St. that Marcus has occupied for years was purchased, and the new owners had an eviction notice issued to the store with a deadline to leave by the end of this week.

I haven't found an update on any action taken following the eviction deadline this week: Color of Change had a petition soliciting support for the Marcus Books at http://colorofchange.org/blog/2013/jun/17/action-help-save-oldest-black-bookstore/.

Stay tuned, or please share an update if you know what's going on now.

Even as the disheartening news of Marcus Books' crisis circulates, there is uplifting news about another Black book business that is surviving, even thriving.

An article in Publishers Weekly recently announced that Black Classic Press founded by publisher Paul Coates in Baltimore is celebrating its 35th anniversary with a series of events that included a book signing by Walter Mosley.

Congrats to you, Paul, and Black Classic Press on your 35th anniversary!

Academic institutions, k-12 and higher education institutions, do not adequately integrate narratives that highlight the presence and influence of people of African descent in Western culture and in world history. Black authors, Black publishers and Black book store owners are the vital vanguard, the wonderful warriors, who arm the community with knowledge that affirms our humanity and debunks myths and lies about our history.   

The longevity that Marcus Books and Black Classic Press have accrued in the struggle is quantifiable and worthy of honor, but the real achievement of both institutions is their success in fostering self-realization and self-determination among Black people, and the impact of that achievement is immeasurable.