Source: Walter McBride / Getty Jesse Williams’ recent BET Awards speech on Black liberation and racism woke up America and garnered new fans–including famed writer and activist Alice Walker. The Color Purple author inspired by the Grey’s Anatomy star, she wrote a powerful poem and posted it on her website. Here It Is addresses the…
Who is Jamaica Kincaid?
She’s humble. Very humble.
When asked about her writing process, Kincaid said it changes with every book: “I don’t really have a standard. I’m not really a professional anything, a professional teacher or a professional writer. I suppose I’m a professional breather of oxygen.”
She doesn’t like taking life too seriously.
“I’ve never thought of myself as having a profession because then I’d have to take life really seriously,” she said. “I hate taking life seriously, because there’s time enough for seriousness. What is death if not serious, and that seems to last forever.”
She saves her nice side for students.
When Henry Louis Gates Jr. asked Kincaid to teach at Harvard, where she’s taught since 1992, she said had “never really thought of doing it before” and didn’t feel particularly drawn to it.
However, she says she enjoys it: “It forces me to be kind and to be in a very present state of mind. Writing requires its opposite — it requires no kindness or consideration of others. It forces me to be a nice person.”
List of works from Wikipedia
Annie John (1985)
The Autobiography of My Mother (1995)
See Now Then (2013)
“Ovando” (1989), Conjunctions 14: 75-83
“The Finishing Line” (1990), New York Times Book Review 18
“Biography of a Dress” (1992), Grand Street 11: 92-100
“Song of Roland” (1993), The New Yorker 69: 94-98
“Xuela” (1994), The New Yorker, 70: 82-92
Short story collections
At the Bottom of the River (1983)
A Small Place (1988)
My Brother (1997)
Talk Stories (2001)
My Garden Book (2001)
Among Flowers: A Walk in the Himalayas (2005)
“Antigua Crossings: A Deep and Blue Passage on the Caribbean Sea“(1978) Rolling Stone: 48-50.
“Figures in the Distance” (1983)
“On Seeing England for the First Time” (1991), Transition Magazine 51: 32-40
“Out of Kenya” (1991) New York Times: A15, A19, with Ellen Pall
“Flowers of Evil: In the Garden” (1992) The New Yorker 68: 154-159
“A Fire by Ice” (1993) The New Yorker 69: 64-67
“Just Reading: In the Garden” (1993) The New Yorker 69: 51-55
“Alien Soil: In the Garden” (1993) The New Yorker 69: 47-52
“This Other Eden” (1993) The New Yorker 69: 69-73
“The Season Past: In the Garden” (1994) The New Yorker 70: 57-61
“In Roseau” (1995) The New Yorker 71: 92-99.
“In History” (1997), The Colors of Nature
My Favorite Plant: Writers and Gardeners on the Plants they Love (1998), Editor
Annie, Gwen, Lilly, Pam, and Tulip (1986)
Selwyn Cudjoe, “Jamaica Kincaid and the Modernist Project: An Interview,” Callaloo, 12 (Spring 1989): 396-411; reprinted in Caribbean Women Writers: Essays from the First International Conference, ed. Cudjoe (Wellesley, Mass.: Calaloux, 1990): 215-231.
Leslie Garis, “Through West Indian Eyes,” New York Times Magazine (7 October 1990): 42.
Donna Perry, “An Interview with Jamaica Kincaid,” in Reading Black, Reading Feminist: A Critical Anthology, edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr. (New York: Meridian, 1990): 492-510.
Kay Bonetti, “An Interview with Jamaica Kincaid,” Missouri Review, 15, No. 2 (1992): 124-142.
Allan Vorda, “I Come from a Place That’s Very Unreal: An Interview with Jamaica Kincaid,” in Face to Face: Interviews with Contemporary Novelists, ed. Vorda (Houston: Rice University Press, 1993): 77-105.
Moira Ferguson, “A Lot of Memory: An Interview with Jamaica Kincaid,” Kenyon Review, 16 (Winter 1994): 163-188.
Awards and honors
1984 Morton Dauwen Zabel Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters for At the Bottom of the River
1984 Shortlisted for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for At the Bottom of the River 1984.
1985 Guggenheim Award for Fiction
1985 Finalist for the International Ritz Paris Hemingway Award for Annie John
1997 Shortlisted for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for The Autobiography of My Mother
1997 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for The Autobiography of My Mother
1999 Lannan Literary Award for Fiction
2000 Prix Femina Étranger for My Brother
2004 American Academy of Arts and Letters
2009 American Academy of Arts and Sciences
2010 Center for Fiction’s Clifton Fadiman Medal for Annie John
2011 Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Tufts University
2014 Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award for See Now Then
Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Award.
Huffington Post Blogger,
Lorde was shaping contemporary feminist and womanist thought well before her seminal 1984 book, Sister Outsider, a collection of speeches and essays unflinchingly depicting black lesbian women’s lives as interlocking oppressions — sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, and classism — and a clarion call for change and activism:
Among scholars and activists today, Lorde’s depiction of “hierarchies of oppression” is lauded as an important theory on intersectionality.
Shonda Rhimes is talented and bold in her woman hood. This may be why she has been able to produce such vibrant characters in her scripts. So does she have a right to be angry at the latest attack from New York Times critic, Alessandra Stanley? This has been the year for the #OYRchallenge. Our women, men, and children are coming out in force against racist stereotypes. The answer is so what if I am angry? I am human too or is that still in question? Alessandra Stanley, your green eyes are showing!
The Angry Black Woman is a racist trope used to deny black women their humanity. Black women aren’t allowed to be complicated — they’re just angry. Black women aren’t allowed to be upset or vulnerable — they’re just angry. Black women are not allowed justifiable reactions to the myriad of bullshit — racist, sexist and otherwise — that they face. Oh, you know those black ladies are just so angry all the time.
The OYR Challenge has been picked up from Alaska to Brazil, California to Luxembourg, by all peoples in all states of oppression. So what do they derive from these daily and minute to minute recreations of language, icons, and medium? POWER! #OYRchallenge
Changing Minds (changingminds.org) posts the six stages of personal power taken from Janet Hagberg‘s book, Real Power: Stages of Personal Power in Organizations. Interestingly enough, I researched this subject back in 1990, when I suffered a physical and debilitating race-based attack during my employment with a major corporation. I had relocated from a large city to a smaller enclave where African Americans had few prospects other than state employment and menial positions. It was a time of layoffs and transfers throughout the national private business environment. African American employees, as well as everyone else, of large businesses relocated in order to keep their positions or afford those unable to relocate the opportunity to remain employed.
There was a catch. Small cities with a tighter grip on designated white-only positions were not far from the lynching crowds depicted in photos of the old South. My first day on the job, four white co-workers surrounded me as I entered the office and told me to, “Go back where you come from. You are taking the job of a white man with a family.” Few African American professionals picture this happening in offices where their piers have middle-class incomes, boats in the water, private planes at the airport, etc. So yes, I took it as foolishness, until the threats against myself and my family became daily and my vehicle was struck on the way to work only to have my co-workers bluster when I able to arrive at the office that day; then cheered as I was taken to the hospital as my throat began to close. I found out a year later, at a company meeting, that the culprit was one of their associates from another company.
This fight went on for seven years, with me spending most of those seven years recuperating from the vehicle accident, subsequent surgeries for the resulting injuries (ruptured neck vertebra, torn rotator cuff, crushed carpal tunnel), and another physical attack in 1997. One rainy day in 1992, I met a man, almost a decade younger than myself, pacing the doorway of a local coffee shop. He looked wild-eyed, disheveled, but through this mess it was apparent he kept his body manicured, almost metro-sexual. I grabbed a coffee from inside and we both stood in the doorway, each glaring out into the deluge the weather had now become. It is not clear who spoke first, but as he proclaimed his wish to end his life, we began to share our stories. It turns out, we both were transplants. Him from a sub-company of my parent company. He was an architect. His chin jutted at the power of that statement. My chest also heaved in response. We empowered each other simply in recognizing our value beneath our brown-skins. We compared notes … no church, NAACP, community, or other non-profit response to the deadly employment race discrimination in the area. Check! No response from long-time residents unless you were a recovering drug addict, prostitute, alcoholic, or destitute. Check! We were on our own. Check! We had the power to live or die, depending on how much we empowered ourselves. Check!
I do not know what happened to that young man after our communion, but my life changed drastically. Acknowledging you are alone in a fight you are bent on winning is the first step to empowerment. So I researched power, and therefore empowered myself to, no matter what, always remember and increase my value. It is not an easy journey, but well worth it. So now I co-opt Hagberg’s six stages of power gathered from ‘Changing Minds’ for you to remember and utilize in your OYR Challenge. My favorite is ‘Power by Wisdom.’ I am sure you will find your own among the list.
We start from a position of powerlessness. When we join an organization we know nobody and are totally dependent on others for initial assistance in understanding how things work, how to influence others and how to get things done.
2. Power by association
Power by association is the power we gain by being able to utilize the power that others already have.
As we get to know people and gain their respect and trust, we may leverage their power, for example in asking them to ask others to do things or asking them for introductions. The secret of gaining associative power is hence in being able to create bonds and draw on relationships.
We can also join teams, clubs and form other associations and coalitions, thereby gaining the power of the group.
3. Power by achievement
Power by acquisition is that power which we gain through what we do and the persuasive evidence that others perceive in this.
Achievement leads to achievement. If we do well at work then we are given more important work and may also get promoted. The power we get from this multiplies, as people cede power to those who prove their ability, which then allows them to achieve further still.
4. Power by reflection
In a curious reversal of depending on others for power, we can gain power through internal reflection and realizing we have all personal power on which we can draw.
A person at this stage is competent and has sound integrity. They are widely respected and this strength draws others to them, on whose ability and power they may consequently depend. Paradoxically, as they let go of their ego, they gain more power.
5. Power by purpose
People at this stage are driven by their purpose. Their power comes from within. Their inner power is so much greater than the power of those around them, they can influence decisions of many others.
Great leaders show this purpose in stirring speeches and powerful and symbolic action. They succeed because they believe in a greater purpose beyond themselves. They are visionary and self-accepting, humble and spiritual.
6. Power by wisdom
Stage six people feel a deep connection to the greater universe. They may often spend time in solitude, connecting and reflecting. They may have been through great pain and crisis on more than one occasion, yet have used these events to learn and grow.
They have found contentment and live on an ‘even keel’. The purpose they work to is very high. The know and accept powerlessness and in doing so find ultimate power. They embrace paradox and do not need to take sides.
Changingminds.org #OYRchallenge Click the link to get started: OYR Challenge
The “Own Your Racist” Challenge #OYRchallenge
What is the OYR challenge?
African Americans have been at war – mentally, physically, economically, and socially ever since the first African was dragged from a slave ship onto the American shores. The volumes of histories (European and African American), movies, television series, news reports, studies, and other publications serve as qualitative evidence to support this claim. It has always been the strategy of Racist and their racist collaborators (African American pseudo-intellectuals) to present the resulting body count as isolated or individual incidents to be argued within the confines of the criminal justice system, race discussion forums, and/or the same models used to maintain White Supremacy. Truth-be-told, these systems have eroded and the people lax into comfort that the myth of Black powerlessness is firmly in place. They have secured the veil with a 21stcentury Bi-racial President of their choosing, replacing the Civil Rights icons. Every playbook must be revised. Our young are inundated with slave songs, yet no one drills them with the principals that created Black Wall Street and other past ultra-wealthy and sound communities. There are only so many times African American children can attend the funeral of a murdered/lynched family member, friend or neighbor, buried with Amazing Grace and “I Have A Dream,” before they stop listening.
21st century African American youths acknowledge that they are human and know that humans are fallible. In a 1992 televised panel discussion, The Issue is Race, Sister Souljah points to the need for Black empowerment and business. She also points out that every municipality has their game in place to crush African American businesses much more easily now than with the attack on Black Wall St. Crime in the African American community, the most readily used silencing cue in the racist toolbox, reflects that humanity and the substantive pressures placed on that humanity. Our young in 2014 Ferguson, MI reformed the messages of African American history that racist and African American collaborators use to teach them powerlessness. Yet, take a look at how school systems are now trying to formulate a methodology to discuss the current events in Ferguson and other cities. Why control the conversation? For the same reason our children in African American venues are taught slave songs instead of empowering verse? Our dialogue needs to be controlled to include silencing, powerless training. Some HBCU institutions provide tools to exude our power, along with that the history lesson. The intelligent heed the message, the fearful and mediocre cite statistics, the European face of government, and class conscious models of respectability politics to quell their cognitive dissonance. But that dissonance also creates race-collaborators. This is also human. Fear is human.
To get you through this challenge, we need to revisit and establish in our lives how we accommodate, participate, and sometimes instigate our own demise. Here is the catch, if your town has no industry that will support your degree as well as your Africanism, there are always government positions available. And those who become a part of the machine (thinking they can make change from within), soon become THE MACHINE, despite their good intentions. Get over them … but do not give them a pass. Racist tactics are methodical complete with literature and verbal cues that African Americans are trained to absorb and respond to appropriately. Within this context, we must not forget that on an individual level, racist are confident that whatever their mistakes, there is a cue (crazy toolbox) to combat African American claims to racist attack and the victim will disregard their rights within that transaction. Add an insecure, incompetent collaborator and you have a cocktail for a now seemingly powerless victim.
I want to give you an example of using your power effectively within this context. The necessary back story is that in our region, African Americans rarely challenge the most minute situations, so racist have an exceptional comfort zone (no visible support for Trayvon Martin in public view). As the city fell into economic decline, the mayor initiated a campaign to bring a specific immigrant ethnicity to the area from New York City (I will not name the specific population; it is not about them) to purchase property and strengthen the communities. The specific ethnicity bought into the American slovenly African American stereotype for their benefit, and similar to Rwandan (Hutu/Tutsi) conflict, they assumed a position in our communities as a buffer and caste between the racist White population and the African American community. This actually occurred right after the 1994 Rwandan genocide and subsequent literature highlighting the European strategy that set the immigrant against the indigenous population (Mamdani, 2001)
While in college, I cashed my student loan checks at a local branch of the University’s banking institution, as I had done many semester previously. I approached the teller window, and handed her the check, along with my driver’s photo ID. The teller, immigrant woman, scowled at ID, turned it over, scowled again, then asked for a second form of ID. I then gave her my University photo ID bearing the same name and insignia as on the check. Her reaction was the same as with my driver’s license. She sighed and continued to scowl, leaning on her elbow on the counter, with no movement to either decline or process my transaction. I then grew impatient and asked for the bank manager. The teller was aghast. Apparently, she felt a stool in the bank afforded her power that I had no right to challenge. I reiterated, “I have no more to say to you. It is obvious that you are not familiar with US identifications and should not hold this position. Please call the manager.” When the bank manager arrived, I informed her of the teller’s inability to read legal documents and that such deficiencies should have been addressed at her job interview. Furthermore, her behaviors may open the bank up to future lawsuits and other damages. The red-faced bank manager “shoved” the teller aside and promptly completed my transaction. By the way, said teller is now working at McDonalds. A brightly smiling young black male has taken her place on the stool.
So here is your challenge. There are two parts.
Part I: At least once per day, approach your racial encounters with power. Inner power. Victories, no matter how small, are the key to this challenge – no hubris, retaliations, pettiness, or abuses exude power or is the aim of this challenge (put away your crazy toolbox; not needed here). This can only be done if you follow principles that we ourselves will create during this adventure. There are a few listed to get you started.
- We are human.
- In our humanity, we fail, but as humans we are resilient and rise stronger.
- Remember, racist gain their power in OUR acceptance of dehumanizing media, literature, slurs, and behaviors on their part.
- We must know the laws and devices used to counter those laws that work in our benefit, during ANY transaction.
- We must examine, in any situation, where and how we must exude our power effectively, and when racist malaise will cause them to empower YOU.
- Recognize oppressive methodology, no matter who attempts it – these 4 indicators may help: Insult, Deny, Threaten, and Attack (these are all a part of the verbal cues). Find them in yourself first, and then you will recognize these tactics in others.
- Act with a sound, still mind. If you become flustered, BREATHE, SING, or whatever you have to do to get back on track. It may seem crazy to the offender or allow them to feel momentarily “uber” empowered, but the whopper you will deliver will soon change that.
- Most importantly, never, ever take your failure to control any situation as defeat. Remember, you were trained how to be powerless (regardless of how much Black literature you read or education). Regroup and fortify yourself for the next encounter, and you will recognize more of them as you learn to live as a citizen, instead of props in someone else’s theater.
Part II: You MUST develop your own strategies through these contacts and expand on these few lines with posts using the hashtag, #OYRchallenge. Your stories are important as they energize those too weak to accept this challenge. Start with the meager crumbs I have put before you and together we will create a banquet.
The alternative to this challenge is this – continue doing what you are doing expecting different results. Hence, buy a scooter to carry your crazy toolbox. It will only get heavier.
Mahmood Mamdani. When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001.
Chimamanda Adichie codes her novels with respect for a Nigerian culture that as an African American I can only describe as NOT of American Black or White daydreams and NOT of European influence. As entrapped African Americans, we want to know more, hear, see, feel, and smell more throughout her works. It is tasty. We feel at home or we puzzle as to how we can reach that lever that will transform us into what we once were, with all of the positive human imperfections and pensive dramas. The novel, Purple Hibiscus was my first read and her first novel. It still is my favorite audio book for driving through busy cities. Adiche’s second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, erased the flat European images of bloated-bellied brown babies. Their skin ashed and packed with dirt. Their mouths unseemly for feeding. I shudder, at the recall of “Oh-my-Gods” coming from pink twisted American pouty mouths at Biafran charity events and fundraisers. African Americans leaving slums with sweaty pictures of disgraced Biafran war-type photos headed to the airport with dreams of how they are going to save Africa; hoping behind swelled chests and jaws that Africa would save them. Through her work, they disappeared. I was left with a new history and a new vision of the people that birthed me.
So in love and excitement, I dove into “The Thing Around Your Neck,” Adiche’s collection of short stories and her third book. It sits on my table and never makes it to the cluttered shelf. There is always one more time, one more story to read over and over again.
I haven’t read her third novel as yet, Americanah, because that is an experience I will save for this cold winter when the snow is so deep that all is quiet, except snow plows breaking across my New York street. It is just that serious.
Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice — and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.
Read this interview conducted by Sagar Jethani of PolicyMic with noble author, Ismael Reed. Reed expounds on the history of the Republican party and Obama’s place on the 21st Century stage.
Sagar Jethani: The Senate voted this month against universal background checks for gun purchases, a move the president described as “shameful.” What dynamics come in to play when the nation’s first African-American president calls for new restrictions on guns?
Ismael Reed: Go read The Turner Diaries, which is about how a white nationalist regime takes over the country. Timothy McVeigh read it. The guy who shot those police officers in Pittsburgh read it. The guy who attacked residents of a Jewish nursing home in Los Angeles read it. That’s their Bible. It says that blacks and Jews will take their guns, and that this would open up their homes to invasion by the underclass black male. I mean, they put it up there plain! Go take a look at Robert Crumb’s When the Niggers Take Over America.
Maya Wiley, Founder and President of the Center for Social Inclusion, introduces implicit racial bias to explain why the law is not equipped to deliver justice in the case involving George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin. And she points the way forward so that all of us, esp. our young men of color, can walk the streets feeling safe.
- Preacher Delivers Shocking Allegations On Trayvon Martin (endstandyourground.wordpress.com)
- Iran Demands Justice for Trayvon Martin (theroot.com)
- Watch: President Obama Addresses George Zimmerman Verdict: ‘Trayvon Could’ve Been Me’ (mediaite.com)
China Achebe, the Nigerian author and towering man of letters whose internationally acclaimed fiction sought to revive African literature and rewrite the story of the continent that had long been told by Western voices, died on Thursday in Boston. He was 82.
- Renowned Nigerian Novelist Chinua Achebe Dead At 82 (hiphopwired.com)
- Prof Chinua Achebe is dead (vanguardngr.com)
- Chinua Achebe, African Literary Titan, Dies at 82 (corpr.wordpress.com)
- RIP: Literary Icon Chinua Achebe Dies At 82 – Things Has Fallen Apart (joisaysblog.wordpress.com)
- Things have fallen apart as the Nigerian Author ‘Chinua Achebe’ Dies at 82 (weknowtoo.wordpress.com)
- Nigerian Author Chinua Achebe Dead (amandapayneblog.wordpress.com)
The sprawling novel about an African family dispersed throughout the world has also taken Ms. Selasi around the world. She did a prepublication tour last year, which introduced her to booksellers in this country and in the U.K., and is about to embark on a 10-city U.S. tour, followed by stops in England, Germany and the Netherlands, for “phase one” of the rollout. The book is being published in 14 countries besides the U.S., and phase two will include a visit to Italy in September. The tours are somewhat unusual for a first-time author and a signal that her publisher, Penguin Press, is committed to making her a literary star.
- African novels to look out for (guardian.co.uk)