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26 October 2014

The Bottom Line on Toni Morrison's Papers: It's Her Choice

I debated whether or not I should post my opinion(s) to current controversy over Ms. Morrison's decision to house her papers at Princeton given that she was a student, teacher and actually began writing 'The Bluest Eye' at Howard University.  As with most of these self-inflicted dilemmas; I've decided to do so.

It further occurred to me if, indeed, the masses of black folks with more pressing concerns would really care.  This is all so academic and as one pundit indicated quite elitist.  However, we do live in the era of public intellectualism and an interest in literary works that spans across all socioeconomic lines. The internet, public radio/t.v. and cable have contributed to informing the public on a variety of subjects. Ms. Morrison has also presented and continues to appear (although less frequently of late) in a number of forums open to the public and I believe is more beloved by folks of many age groups, classes and ethnicities.  

Which is a lead-in to one of the links provided below on an open letter to Toni Morrison by 'Anti' filled with angst and questions surrounding her decision to leave her papers to Princeton, an institution she taught at for 17 years.  He states a good case and it is brilliantly written and one can actually feel the emotional and mental anguish of one whose sheroe and literary giant has taken a position that defies his perception of her 'being'.  We all do it at one time or another if we're honest with ourselves.

I've provided a link to a panel discussion led by Marc Lamont Hill with Dr. Eddie Glaude, Jr., Dr. Greg Carr and Dr. Susana Morris and the young man, Anti-Intellect who wrote the letter to Ms. Morrison questioning her choice. The pros and cons offered by this esteemed panel on her decision to do so are legitimate and reveals this double consciousness {W.E.B. DuBois construct} that many black scholars/writers  wrestle with when it comes to leaving their papers to or teaching at institutions of higher learning. The question of Howard or other Historically Black Colleges and Universities' limited resources, solvency and frankly ability to 'bid' or house these important papers lend to the complexity of the issue. 

There are two of a number of examples that come to mind in regard to the complexity of these matters.  I recently addressed on my side bar an article on Alain Locke, Father of the Harlem Renaissance, Chair of Philosophy at Howard and Rhodes Scholar's cremains interred 60 years after his death in the Congressional  Cemetery, September 13, 2014 .  The remains had been stored in the archive area of  Howard University and it was a small group of black scholars who decided it was way overdue to bury them with a historical marker.  Fisk University, at one time, was trying to sell valuable paintings due to financial woes and many of them were damaged due to neglect.  The concern is would Howard be in a position to take care of her papers and will they be readily accessible to others or forgotten in the archives.  To further add to the angst, there are rumors/examples given of moldy or lost papers in boxes stored in a number of HBCUs.  Ouch....I know...uncomfortable but it's a refrain I've read on other sites or heard as indicated on the link to the videotaped panel discussion. 

With that said, I think highly of Toni Morrison and as I've asserted many times that it was her novel 'Song of Solomon' one of her earlier works  that re-inspired my interest in fiction.  I  favored non-fiction at that time, i.e., social,  political and biographical works. Many of her books line my personal library and some of them are also non-fiction.  She is a true scholar, yet, celebrates the full breath of the black experience in this country and offers no apologies when she's challenged on the perceived balkanization of her body of work. There was an interview that I remember in which she was asked why the majority of her narratives are about the black experience and this is not a direct quote but the essence of one of her remarks was, would this person ask a white author why does he/she just write about white people.  The latter would be taken for granted.

There is one aspect at the core of this public debate that I've been guilty of with the history of coming from the black radical tradition. That is a tendency to want to claim...yes...I said claim our heroes/sheroes and people of color from all walks of life who do great things that enhance humanity which also includes our institutions.  I'm sure the marginalization and at times omission of our individual/group accomplishments over the decades lend to this phenomena.  We are now in an era  where indeed "many things are true at once" for we have Generation X, Generation Y which includes the Millennials & Gen Next who stressed individualism over group identity for surely we are beyond color and racial politics.  Then there are many Baby Boomers (my group) who are witnessing a recycling or continuation of many of the injustices and hardships of the past within different contexts at times with facets of revisionism and some that are virtually the same.  The caveat being that this is not absolute which Anti's letter makes clear, yet, there is a pattern that would lead one to make this observation.  It's also a speculation and a recurring idea for me and certainly a case for consideration.

In closing, I must admit that I would have savored stating that Ms. Morrison bequeathed her papers to Howard University notwithstanding the unknown realities that influenced her decision to give them to the institution she taught at for many years. During a written conversation with my eldest daughter, who is a published poet and adjunct professor; it became clear that there were positions we shared and others that were debated.  She cited that:

   "It's SO complicated and there are so many variables.
I do think it's highly unfair to somehow insinuate 
her decision is an indicator of racial allegiance or 
pride. She's always come from a position of strength
and knowing her worth. " 

It would be interesting if Ms. Morrison responds to Anti's letter and if she doesn't; I wouldn't be surprised for she's stood solid in her truths over the years and those of us who love and respect her being and literary genius...should just DEAL with it!!
 An Open Letter to Toni Morrison by Anti-Intellect
Do Tony Morrison's Papers Belong at Princeton or Howard? {Video Panel Discussion}

26 September 2014

The Disheartening and Ennobling Paradox of Grief

'And ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation'
~ The Prophet ~

A few of my posts have been tributes and remembrances of public figures/celebrities from the political, literary and  entertainment fields as well as the  tragic and unexpected deaths of young people by rogue cops or misguided gang members. There have, also, been those who've chosen to discontinue this journey by reasons only God and they knew at that time.  With the exception of the tributes to my parents; most of these posts have been about folks whom I didn't know personally but respected and admired for their talents and humanitarian endeavors.   

I, now, find myself again addressing personal grief with the transition of my niece, Thema  from complications associated with  Myasthenia gravis disease which is incurable.  She was valiant for a number of years in fighting this disorder and one never got the impression that she felt sorry for her predicament.  It was a debilitating process and she became weaker towards the end and worried about leaving her young children without their mother. Although, I didn't see her the past couple of years; I kept up with her on social media and was in a prayerful mode for an extended period.  It was my hope that she would again experience a period when the symptoms were less dramatic with a more acceptable level of functioning. 

As we grieve her passing; she inspired us with how she became more philosophic and caring for others as well as her children under the most trying circumstances.  Thus the feelings of sadness and despair as I think about the family's loss, yet, empowered by how honorably she handled this adversity.  A role model...if you will....on facing and living with a chronic medical condition and a daunting prognosis for many stricken by this disease.  

There will be a celebration of her life (35 years) Sunday, September 28th and there will be songs of praise and recollections of the good times and what she meant to others, however, I can't help but think of a quote on grief by the late Maya Angelou. It was her response to the age old question; 'Death where is thy sting'?  She asserts that "It is here in my heart and mind and memories". 

Dear Thema, May God Bless and keep your soul.

13 August 2014

Editorial: Michael Brown and Anti-Black Violence

 I'm keenly aware of what I wrote in my July 12th post about spiritual nourishment/renewal and creating more of a  balance that focuses on the best instincts and behaviors of humanity.  Although the intent is still there, I find it necessary  to share this  editorial on the Feminist Wire site regarding the recent murder of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, by a 'rogue' police officer.  It is well written and  speaks to this expanding and ongoing  assault on our unarmed black youth and adults across this country by law enforcement.  It is what it is and a feel good story isn't going to work for me at this point.  I remain hopeful.

12 July 2014

'The Road Less Traveled' For Contemplation & Spiritual Renewal

I'm taking time off to do some serious introspection for fear that with all the turmoil and strife we're facing on the domestic front and globally; I may be losing my center. Beyond the 'silver lining' in those dark clouds; how about just the former.  Most people worry about their destiny and what fate holds for them only to realize that "a person often meets his (her) destiny on the road he (she) took to avoid it" ~ J. de la Fontaine. It can be a  painful process when confronting not only your personal issues but having the audacity to comment on the shortcomings of others with very few solutions. say the least.

Of late, I've noticed most of my posts have been on the daunting events of the day and not enough commentary on those events or people who bring out the best of humanity.   I plan to return in August with a more balanced view of those issues and daily occurrences one encounters on the road less traveled as well as those with massive traffic jams. Have a wonderful summer and remember we must nourish the spirit as well as the body...that's what I'll be doing.!

06 July 2014

Brief Commentary and link to Margaret Kimberley's interview on "The Problem with Bring Back our Girls".

Photo Credit:  AFP
Margaret Kimberley's website, Freedom Rider has a link to an audio and transcript of an interview titled: "The Problem with Bring Back our Girls"  via Anne Garrison @ KPFA.  I understand Ms. Kimberley's ideology about U.S. interventions in the affairs of countries in Africa, however, my concern is more in line with the innocent young ladies who were kidnapped by Boko Haram.  There is footage of the leader, Abubakar Shekau, currently  reported as deceased; cavalierly speaking of selling the girls into slavery and that the Quran supports this practice. There was the slaughter of innocent people in villages that they pillaged and removal of other young women from their homes.   Frankly, I would like to see more of the focus on the atrocities of the Nigerian elite, the Boko Haram and those ideologues who spend too much time defending those who participate in genocidal behaviors towards their own people based on religious and political sentiments.  Whatever, the indirect and direct causes of why people choose to murder and kidnap innocent people; it doesn't deserve our support or rationales.  The end doesn't always justify the means and while we're questioning the intentions of the U.S. on this matter; there should be an outcry and disdain for the behaviors of the Nigerian government and Boko Haram.  I'm sure the mothers of those young ladies want their daughters home by any means necessary.  I tend to agree more with their plight.

02 July 2014

Black People and the Haunting Duplicity of July 4th

  This is an article I wrote last July 4th and it deserves in my opinion, re-posting each year.  There are many of us who still have ambivalent feelings about this holiday. The cyclic nature of our citizenship being challenged requires a re-visiting of the past and what got us to this day.  SCOTUS's dismantling of the voting rights act, proliferation of voter suppression, increase in the number of white supremacist groups re-framed with the same dynamics of the past and the continuing struggle of other marginalized groups demand our full attention and activism.  The rights of women are being threatened now and efforts to again devise laws and policy regarding the limitation of their first class citizenship and empowerment have emerged in a rather daunting manner. At the onset of any revolution the cadre is always considered to be renegades and troublemakers, however, they are a necessary component when people rise up against tyranny and oppression.
 I should also mention that Crispus Attucks, a man of color and escaped slave was one of the first to die in the Revolutionary War.  He was referred to as a 'thug' by John Adams, however, history has proven him to be one of the "true patriots" who began the rebellion against the tyranny of Britain.

I've also, briefly, acknowledged the struggle of women of color and what many of our heroines did to gain and guarantee the rights of ALL of our citizens!