Thursday, March 29, 2012
EVENT ALERT: NYC March 29 Thru April 1 - Camp Obama & The 11th Annual Natinal Black Writers Workshop -Be There
By Gloria Dulan-Wilson
You know how we do in New York City: There is an activity going on somewhere every second of every hour of the day in the city that really never ever sleeps. I am only presenting three of the more than 3000 that is going on this week end. But if you think I made a mistake and got the dates backwards, believe me, I didn't. President Barack Obama comes first. And this Obama Boot Camp is a key event to participate in. I would rather they have to turn people away because too many showed up; or to have to schedule and additional workshop, than to not have enough people involved. We are responsible for making sure each and every one of us turn out. We lost the mayoral election in 2010 because only 20% of Brooklyn showed up. Can't have any more days like that. So this is the most important event of the weekend, bar none.
No offense to my other brothers and sisters, because all of our programs have relevance to us as a people, individually and collectively. But somehow we have to make it out business to be at that OBAMA BOOTCAMP because we cannot assume we know everything we need to know to defeat the Republicans and effect a victory.
DATE: Saturday,March 31, 2012:
WHAT: CAMP OBAMA - Brooklyn's own Get Out The Vote For Obama Boot Camp
WHEN: 12:00 Until
WHERE: 790 McDonough Ave. @ Saratoga Ave.
WHO: Presented by District Leader,and 2012 Delegate to the Democratic National Convention Robert Cornegy, in conjunction with VIDA (Vann Guard Independent Democrats Association) and OBAMA FOR AMERICA 2012 COMMITTEE.
This is one of the best Get Out the Vote (GOTV) training camps ever and is organized to help us help President Obama be re-elected. It's free and open to Brooklyn residents and those who wish to work in President Obama's campaign. The Republicans have shown us that they have absolutely no regard or respect for Americans - whether they are Black or white; and even less respect for the best president this country has ever had, Barack Hussein Obama. Take the time to learn the strategies that the Obama Team has put together so that we in Brooklyn are at our most effective level ever.
CONTACT: Robert Cornegy 347-385-8074.
DATE: Thursday, March 29, 2012
WHAT: PREVIEW SCREENING & LIVE EVENT
Woman Thou Art Loosed!: On the 7th Day
WHERE: Museum of Moving Image, 36-01 35 Avenue, Astoria, NY 11106
WHEN: 7:00 p.m.
WHO: AAWIC: AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN IN CINEMA
Featuring Director Neema Barnette!
The second film in Pastor TD Jake’s inspiring Woman Thou Art Loosed! series, On the 7th Day, is a gripping thriller and family drama filmed in New Orleans. You just gotta see it for yourself.
11TH ANNUAL NATIONAL BLACK WRITER'S WORKSHOP
Info and detailed schedule on our Registration page.
NOTE: Book signings will take place in the President’s Conference Center after each reading, panel and discussion.
DAY ONE: Thursday, March 29, 2012
9:30 a.m. – noon
Elementary School Program
Presented by Just Us Books
Founders Auditorium (Bedford Building)
1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
High School Program
Abiodun Oyewole of The Last Poets, Tony Medina, and other poets.
Founders Auditorium (Bedford Building)
10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Middle School Workshop: Session 1
Workshop coordinated by Gregory Walker
Location: Mary S. Pinkett Lecture Hall, Room S122
Student Services Building (S Building)
10 a.m. – 12 p.m>
High School Workshop: Session 2
Workshop PEN American Center
Location: Room(s): TBD
Presentation of Papers
10:00 a.m. – 3:45 p.m - Ongoing
Location: Edison O. Jackson Auditorium
Academic Complex Building (AB 1)
Faculty, independent researchers, and students present papers
that examine the representation of history and memory in
the works of one of the following honorees:
Ishmael Reed, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Nikki Giovanni,
as well as the late John Oliver Killens.
4:00 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Elders Writing Workshop
Elders Writers Workshop Presentation
LocationFounders Auditorium, Medgar Evers College
6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m
Off-Site Event Free and Open to the Public
NBWC Poetry Café with Host: Tai Allen
Location: Brooklyn Public Library
10 Grand Army Plaza
Featuring poets Aracelis Girmay, Tony Medina, Patricia Smith, among others
DAY TWO:Friday, March 30, 2012
Films Celebrating Activism in Black Literature
11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Continuous
11:15 a.m: The Life and Times of Little Jimmy B
Director: Alison McDonald
11:35 a.m: I Leave My Colors Everywhere
Directors: Tami Ravid Producer: Julia de Boer
1:10 p.m.: Sonia Sanchez: Shake Loose Memories
Directors: Jamal Joseph, Rachel Watanabe-Batton
Producers: Voza Rivers, Jamal Joseph, and Rachel Watanabe-Batton
Featuring performances of her works by Amiri Baraka, Oscar Brown Jr., T.C. Carson, and Toshi Reagon.
Location: Founders Auditorium
2:15 p.m.: Panel Discussion and Q & A: History of Activism in Black literature
Panelists: Poets Sonia Sanchez, Ekere Tallie, filmmaker Alison McDonald, and author/filmmaker Jamal Joseph; Maitefa Angaza, African Voices moderator
4:30 p.m.– 5:15 p.m.
Readings, Panels and Roundtable Discussions
Poetry Reading with Haki Madubuti, Founder Third World Press and Tyehimba Jess
Founders Auditorium, Medgar Evers College
5:30 p.m. – 6:45 p.m
"By Any Means Necessary, Malcolm X: Real, Not Reinvented” Roundtable
Herb Boyd, Ron Daniels, Diane D. Turner, Michael Simanga, and Regina Jennings discuss By Any Means Necessary—Malcolm X: Real, Not Reinvented, Critical Conversations on Manning Marable's Biography of Malcolm X edited by Herb Boyd, Ron Daniels, Maulana Karenga, and Haki Madhubuti.
Moderator: Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad/Director Schomberg Library
7:30 p.m – 9 p.m.
Official Conference Opening
Mistress of Ceremonies, Terrie M. Williams
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Honoree and Featured Speaker
Location: Founders Auditorium
Free and Open to the Public
(Registration/sign–in will be required for this event)
9:30 p.m. – 11:30 p.m.
2012 NBWC Jazz Concert at For My Sweet
Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium
Location: 1103 Fulton Street; Brooklyn, NY 11238
Jazz concert w/ Victor Brown, Bilal Sunni Ali, Larry McDonald, and Danny Bowens, former members of the late Gil Scott-Heron’s bands Midnight Band and Amnesia Express, along with special guests.
DAY THREE:Saturday, March 31, 2012
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Professional Development Workshop for Teachers
Walking the Distance of Your Vision:
Requires $25 registration fee
Quraysh Ali Lansana,
10:00a.m. - 6:00 p.m. Continous
Panels and Roundtable Discussions
Master of Ceremonies Leroy Baylor
10:00 a.m. – 11:30 p.m.; Moderator: Jose Torres-Padilla
Defining “Urban,” “Street,” and “Hip-Hop” Literature
Panelists: Karen Hunter, Joan Morgan, Shaun Neblett, and Sofia Quintero>
11:45 a.m. – 1:15 p.m. Moderator: Jeffery Renard Allen
Migration and Cultural Memory in the Literature of Black Writers
Panelists: Opal Palmer Adisa, Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond, Uche Nduka, and Kadija (George) Sesay.
2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Moderator:Esther Armah.
Books, Media, and Culture: A Conversation with Tavis Smiley
3:45 p.m. – 5:15 p.m. Moderator: Obery M. Hendricks
The Impact of Popular Culture on Politics in the Literature of Black Writers
Panelists: William Jelani Cobb, Keli Goff, Anthony Grooms, Lita Hooper, Michael Simanga, and the Rev. Conrad Tillard
2012 NBWC Reading Series
12:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m.
Location: Academic Complex Building (AB1)
Room L-11, First Floor, 1638 Bedford Ave. Brooklyn, NY 11225
6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Tribute and Awards Program
Honoring the achievements and works of Ishmael Reed,Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Nikki Giovanni, and Dr. Howard Dodson.
This Program is Free and Open to the Public
(Registration/sign–in will be required for this event)
Mistress of Ceremonies, Cheryl Wills
The program will also feature Keorapetse Kgositsile - South Africa’s National Poet Laureate
2012 NBWC Honorees
Ishmael Reed – John Oliver Killens Lifetime Achievement Award
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o – W. E. B. Du Bois Award
Nikki Giovanni – Gwendolyn Brooks Award
Dr. Howard Dodson – Ida B. Wells Institutional Leadership Award
Location: Founders Auditorium, 1650 Bedford Ave.
National Black Writers Conference
AB1 Bldg. 2nd Floor
Medgar Evers College
1638 Bedford Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11225
Must be paid in advance. Find out how on our Registration page. Tickets will be available in the Registration Area until capacity is reached or until 7:30 PM. Payment will not be accepted at the door.
Parking is available in the Bedford lot on a “first come first serve” basis. Gain vehicle access via Montgomery St.
Street parking is available, do so at your own discretion.
DAY FOUR: Sunday, April 1, 2012
Session 1 - 10:00 a.m.-11:15 a.m.
Fiction: Tiphanie Yanique, Novelist
Poetry: Opal Palmer Adisa, Poet
Book Reviews: Darryl Pinckney, NYRB
Session 2 - 11:30 a.m. –12:45 p.m.
Dramatic Writing: P. J. Gibson, Playwright
Creative Nonfiction: Kadija George
Book Proposals: Regina Brooks, Serendipity Literary Agency
Panels and Roundtable Discussions
Master of Ceremonies, Patrick Oliver
11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Black Writers and Ecoliterature: Stories, Essays, and Poetry Shaped by the Natural Environment
Panelists: Sarah M. Broom, Camille Dungy, Nnedi Okorafor, and Patricia Smith
Moderator: Gillian Royes
12:45 p.m.–2:15 p.m: Moderator: Grace Aneiza Ali
The Role of Social Media: Black Writers Take Literature to the Web
Panelists: Angela Dodson, Joel Dreyfuss, Troy Johnson, Montague Kobbe, Akoto Ofori-Atta, and Laura Pegram
3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Being Sold or Selling Ourselves: Black Writers and the Marketplace
Panelists: Regina Brooks, JLove Calderon, Linda A. Duggins, Lisa C. Moore, Johnny Temple, and Cheryl Woodruff
Whichever event you choose to participate in, just remember, Obama first.
Stay Blessed &
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
By Gloria Dulan-Wilson (c)
When it comes to fashion, no one can make an outfit come alive like a Black woman. No matter what her skin tone, her stature – tall and slinky, short and curvy, or a combination – tall and curvy, short and slinky, we make colors pop and bring out the beauty in the lines and styles.
In watching stars walk the famed Red Carpet at the 2012 Academy Awards, it was hard to find a design that I could resonate to. There were some interesting designs, to say the least, but nothing really earth shaking or memorable. I felt I had to compliment them by default. You know: “Well it's not as bad as the last one;” or “What were they thinking when they did that one?” In some cases they wore the dresses; in other, the dresses wore them.
It's rather sad to see Black women trying to relate to a design that has absolutely nothing to do with their physique, skin tone, sense of fun, or culture. Most of the designers don't factor in our curves, or the full (voluptuous) bodies we tend to have. And, for the most part, pastels do little to nothing for our rich skin tones - we, the children of the Sun and the Rainbow.
Perhaps this is what lead Elaine Baskin-Bey, an ebony-toned native New Yorker, to embark on a career in the fashion industry. The lack of representation of quality Africentric designs in the show rooms, on stage, television and more importantly, on men and women of color, inspired her to embark on a career in couture. She started early on at the High School of Fashion Industries. So it was clear that fashion was neither an after thought, or a fall back position, but a passion from her childhood.
Of course, one does not just “become” a fashion designer. The flair is born in you (or it isn't), and is revealed as you mature. It's like a calling. It's the vision you see when you watch someone crossing the street, when, in your mind's eye you find yourself dressing them in eye-catching colors, or flowing robes, or elegant Afro suits. It's the kind of vision that Elaine weaves into every garment she designs.
Of course, the training at Fashion Industries played a great role in helping Elaine hone her talents, but she most certainly already had a naescent eye for design, color, and a flair for the dramatic. Whatever that catalyst was that first drew it out of her, Diva Designer Elaine Baskin-Bey, who is now celebrating over 30 years in haute couture, is finally opening the doors to her secrets for those who are likewise looking to make their mark in the world of style, beauty, sophistication and adventure.
But, I'm writing about Elaine, not just because this is Women's History Month - and she certainly is a Black woman who has made history on so many levels - but because I've crossed paths with her so many times and didn't know it. And I'm pretty sure there are many of you who have had the same experience. I had seen her work early on in Essence Magazine, and was totally blown away by the lines. When Essence -By-Mail featured beautiful Africentric attire in their catalogue, I had ordered one or two outfits, with absolutely no idea that she was the genius behind the design. Like so many of us who were looking for clothes that reflected who we are, I would see her designs, say “wow,” and proceed to place an order.
I'm also writing this for my sisters (and brothers) who try to fit in those eurocentric clothes and find that the hems hike up in the back, or it doesn't zip up just right, or it bunches up in certain parts of our anatomy, because we are definitely much more apt to be amply endowed. We either have to buy extra big, extra wide, or just stuff our way in. Elaine Baskin-Bey's clothes were designed with us in mind. And, no, I'm not talking about "fat" clothes - but clothes that caressed our anatomy, and flowed in ways that accentuated the positive, and made even the negative look unique. From business attire to casual, to elegant evening wear, she had us covered!
I'm also writing this article for the younger generation who are caught between eurocentric clothes and the street clothes that don't really complement us, or reflect who we really are, and the wealth of our cultural heritage. And, no, low hanging pants, plunging necklines, raggedy jeans, or hoodies, are not reflective our rich cultural heritage, which is straight from Africa, with a mix of positive aspects of all of these factors.
The fact is that the highly touted fashion industry is overrun with fashions locked in "eurocentric" styles, some of which have borrowed heavily from Afrocentric themes, but most of which ignored us completely. But generally speaking there is little to no credit or recognition accorded African American designers.
However, no where in the realm of “fashion” are the Black innovative fashion designers (whom many of us wear, especially here in New York City), either consistently, or prominently, mentioned. What you see, instead, is some derivative of Afrocentricity, played out on emaciated models, who tend to walk as though they suffer from some sort of physical impediment - coupled with a bad attitude – as personified by the horror make-up and the “screw-you” look on their faces as they assault the runway. This concept of fashion, along with the anorexic uber-thin, unrealistically tall models, has dominated the fashion industry for the past few years.
When Elaine Baskin-Bey emerged from the hallowed halls of Fashion Institute in the 70's, her next step was up. And she wouldn't have had it any other way. When you meet her, you are immediately struck by her can do attitude; and that sense of pride, coupled with an air of gracious elegance, that engages you. While she is definitely one to act on her concepts, she is neither pushy or frenetic. She exudes creativity, but in an assured manner that says, 'be cool, I know what I'm doing, and you're going to love the results'. A big difference from the over the top atmosphere you generally encounter in the fashion industry.
Elaine was one of the first Black designers to “cross over” early on into the world of Haute Couture. In fact, the first fashion house she worked in was located on the toney East side on Fifth Avenue, with “king of the bias cut,” designer Charles Kliebacker at the Park Royal Hotel. He took a total departure from the de riguer fashion lines and cut everything on the bias; draping fabrics in elegant style so that they accentuated the body in wonderful ways. Elaine was one of his premiere designers, though just fresh out of school.
Following that experience, she had the great good fortune to work with Italian-born fashion iconoclast, Giorgio Di Sant Angelo, whose departure from the staid and stodgy designs to embrace the natural influences of American Indian, Asian, and East Indian cultures, through the use of stretch and chiffon fabrics to bring about flowing lines and vibrant colors, meshed perfectly with her own natural Afrocentric proclivities.
From there, she moved on to Khadija Designs in Greenwich Village on West 8th Street, where she designed grand African attire for such artists as Miles Davis, Roberta Flack, Melba Moore, Eartha Kitt, Kathy Sharpton, Les McCann, and Freddie Hubbard among others. Using such textiles as Kente cloth, Ashoki, and other African fabrics; mixing leathers with wools and feathers, Fashions by Elaine Baskin-Bey were considered the epitome of Afrocentric sophistication on the East Coast. The flowing lines, the elegantly designed crowns which gave a rather regal quality to any attire, were the hallmark of the day, and could be seen gracing the heads some of the most famous artists, as well as African Americans eager to express their consciousness through fashion. And her hat designs were (are) to die for! More like crowns, they adorn, compliment, and make an unmistakable statement.
Elaine Baskin-Bey, whose skin tone is deep, dark chocolate brown, knows full well what it's like to design for Black celebrity artists. She's dressed the best of them. Stevie Wonder, Mabel King, Marvin Gaye, Stephanie Mills, Rick James' Mary Jane Girls, X-Clan, Popa Wu of Wu Tang Clan, Jim Brown, among a great many others.
She captured history by becoming one of the first fashion designers to partner with Avon, who featured her unique line of Crowns and Collars for Afrocentric women. Her designs appeared in Essence Magazine, Ebony, Jet, and other leading publications of the day. The beautifully coifed models wore custom designed crowns and matching collars of African fabrics, trimmed with her signature Soutasche, an innovation that graces most of her work. The Soutasche motif, which is a delicate line of chording that outlines the contour of a collar, cuff or head piece, is unique to Ms. Baskin-Bey and has emblazoned practically every one of her designs.
“I never know what shape it's going to be until I complete it,” she said enthusiastically, in a recent conversation about her vast body of work and accomplishments. And indeed it was a conversation. One can conduct an interview with Elaine, but to get the real essence of who this woman truly is, one has to really sit down and "conversate."
There is little she has not seen, done, or been in the fashion industry. She is what one means when they accord the title of being “blessed and highly favored,” because her life path is just that. Others, of course, might call it “luck” but too many signs point to the fact that “luck,” meaning happenstance, had very little to do with how her steps were ordered.
When she made her sojourn from New York to California, she was just going out there to explore her options of expanding the outlet for her unique fashion design. At the time she knew no one; but just “happened” to meet Mabel King, the great actress who played Evilene in the movie production of “The Wiz.” King befriended her and introduced her to the who's who in Black entertainment – the icons of the day in Hollywood. Through her she met and subsequently designed stage outfits and wardrobes for Michael Jackson and his family, vocalist Ruth Brown, producer Quincy Jones, the great Sammy Davis Jr.
Elaine took California by storm and designed grand African attire for artists and performers, as well as for every day wear for conscientious Black men and women who wanted to display their Afrocentricity via their clothing.
Looking back on it, she credits Mabel King with her success: “You know, I had never met her before. I really didn't know anyone in California. Someone said I might have an opportunity to do some work, so I went. When I met Mabel, she was so nice. She allowed me to work out of her garage until I got my own set up. She didn't have to do that. I met so many great people because of her.”
This connection spawned contacts and contracts the likes of which one doesn't just walk into. But then, there is a dynamic magnetism about Elaine Baskin-Bey, born of her love for fashion; for her innate ability to not only think, but to step outside the box; to envision a new way, try a new concept; coupled with a genuine interest in, and a warm personal regard for the people she's interfacing with, which makes people like her.
She has designed for the top pop music artists of the day, including Stevie Wonder, the late Eartha Kitt, Rick James, Miles Davis, Roberta Flack, Marvin Gaye, Cab Calloway, among others.
Along the way, she paved the way and opened the gates to business success in fashion design for other Black women – particularly actresses - on both the East and West Coasts. She designed clothing for TV shows such as The Jeffersons, and Easy Rider "The Jimmy Winkfield Story" for PBS Television.
And at a time when it appeared that interest in Black fashion on the West Coast was disappearing, she returned to New York and the Brooklyn neighborhood she loved, and reestablished her ties with the high fashion realm of New York. Subsequently, Elaine's garments have been featured on Live With Regis and Kathy Lee, the Phil Donahue Show,The Cosby Show, The McCreary Report; as well as on the CD jacket cover for Roberta Flack (and all of her present Promotional Work).
Without missing a beat, Elaine embarked on another level of fashion design most of us would have never considered: That of designing choir robes and coordinated garment bags. Elaine Baskin Bey is currently the leader in the realm of designing gospel robes, collars, and garment bags for churches and professional gospel choirs throughout the US She has inculcated her unique brand of Afrocentricity, with her distinctive insignia – the Soutasche, which now serves as her trademark signature on all her designs.
Those of you who follow the Gospel Fest concerts, or are fans of our local church choirs may have recognized her design on such groups as sister Bettye Forbes' Ebony Ecumenical Ensemble (Riverside Church), Phyllis Jubert’s – WWRL “Gospel Coral Singers”, Morningside Church of Harlem, Mt. Vernon's Missionary Baptist Church, St. Lukes Lutheran Church of Brooklyn, and the Lafayette Church of God, to mention just a few. The signature reversible collars and tunics with an Africentric pattern on one side and a solid color on the other, have been worn proudly on tours, as well as at their church services.
A trail blazer in the corporate realm, as well, Elaine has produced fashion for the corporate world, including McDonald's corporation; and is responsible for their Afrocentric uniform design that has been worn by employees across the nation. Kudos to her for her work with Revlon, Avon, "Black Radiance, "Pavion” and Le Mac Cosmetics. She can also take credit for the design of Wyandanch Security Guard Uniforms. But, closer to home, the design of the Bedford -Stuyesant (Bed-Stuy) Restoration "Tent Enclosure Project,” which resulted in an elegant draped tent that surrounded the entire perimeter of the courtyard; and the "Museum of African Art" design.
There is practically nothing that this Diva of Design puts her mind to that doesn't turn out beautifully. She continues to amaze. So this is a kudo to the Elaine Baskin-Bey, Diva of Design who dared to take a giant step, and create an avenue of her own for other Black fashion designers to follow. Kudos as well as to all the other sisters who have had the good sense to follow her and transform the fashion world for us into a realm of elegant Afrocentricity. To all the sisters (and brothers) who want to follow in their footsteps and add to the realm of beautiful Black fashions - Thank you, because you really do make us look good. I am looking forward to the day when a commentator on the red carpet asks a Black actress the inevitable question "who are you wearing" and she responds "Elaine Baskin-Bey!"
Stay Blessed &
PS: But of course, we don't have to wait for that eventuality, we can start now,set our own EBB Trend. GDW
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
By Gloria Dulan-Wilson
And we're Back!
It's Aries time! Yaaay!
Aries in the house - oh yeah! Celebrate good times - come on!
I am so stoked to be here on this crazy, mixed up ball of dirt we all call earth, and "I still standing"! (you should really listen to Israel Houghton and New Breed do that song, or the Lakewood Choir - they're fantastic).
And I admit I really had a tough 2011 - glad I won't see that one again.
I am definitely looking to a much better, brighter, happier, healthier, powerful, loving, successful, prosperous 2012, 2013 2014, 2014 through 2045. No more lack, loss, limitation.
As a rule, I absolutely love birthdays - mine especially, but everybody else's as well. If we don't celebrate ourselves, why should anyone else want to?
Gotta love you 'cause God didn't make no junk. So, I will be celebrating me during the rest of March, starting this very second, right on through and up to Taurus - April 22 (?).
I've also come to the realization and understanding that I have the great good fortune to be blessed with some of the most beautiful friends in the world. I have had an opportunity to witness that over and over. I am saying right here and right now: Thanks for being my friends, and I truly hope I can reciprocate whenever you need me, as well.
To my Oklahoma Homies - we've been friends from Kindergarten through today - that's truly special and most amazing. Wow!
For my family, especially my Mom, Ruby Love Dulan, wow! I have to make sure that I'm keeping up with the gene pool, because my mother, now age 89, is one remarkable lady. And to my brothers Warner and Sylvester and sister Brenda - I love you each and all.
For the Love of my Life - thank you for being kool, crazy, wise, sentimental, fun, talented, spiritual, Tall, Dark & Chocolate, concerned, creative, smart, generous, music, knowledgeable and the consummate night owl.
Of course to my own little set of Africa/Jamaica-Baysha-manians, Kira, Rais & Adiya you are each precious, special and smart to me. Thanks for being my kids - and thanks for the beautiful grands Jahzara, Akili, Hugh 5, Jaden and Kijani, as well.
Now I know the weather has changed the vernal equinox from March 21, to March 20; but we Aries who were born before a certain period, still recognize the original. So as far as I am concerned, my birthday is still on the First Day of Spring.
Time to break out the bright colors and light shoes, and let the sun shine in.
You keep me writing and trying to get it right for all of us. We are beautiful Black people on a major journey. We've got so many talents, skills, abilities that we are blessed with that we can pool and consolidate, and create our own fabulous planet. I am so glad I'm Black (and Indian). Nothing against the rest of the homo sapiens, we each have our own set of God's given gifts. But we seem to have the transformative power, when we really apply it, to make worlds, bring energy, heat, light and elegance to the scene. And I love that.
I am open and receptive to all the good there is manifesting right here and right now. And play for all of you are a part of it.
It's my birthday. I'm going to find a huge chunk of German Sweet Chocolate Cake and enjoy it.
Stay Blessed &
PS: In lieu of cards and gifts, money is preferred!
Muy Gracias; Arigato, Thanks, GDW
Thursday, March 15, 2012
FORECLOSURE PREVENTION ALERT: NACA comes to Brooklyn, March 24 - Tell A Friend and Be There -The Home You Save May Be Your Own
by Gloria Dulan-Wilson
I am forwarding NACA Flyers "Save The Dream Workshop" to your attention. Please email, or print and distribute - share - with your constituents, neighbors, friends, associates, acquaintances, neighbors, etc. It will be held at the Bedford-Stuyvesant Multi Services Center, 1958 Fulton Street, Auditorium, Saturday, March 24, from 10:00 to 12:00. Doors open at 9:30AM. (copy and paste into your browser):
Brooklyn has the highest number of lis pendens (pre-foreclosure notices), and the highest number of foreclosures of the five boroughs. Queens has the second highest number. Recently 1600 homes received such notifications, and many of these families are now sitting on a ticking timebomb. Likewise those brothers and sisters living in Long Island and Westchester are also facing similar threats.
I was also alarmed to learn that the Black population of Brooklyn has been significantly and drastically reduced from 85% in 2006 to 55% within in the last 6 years!!! This is no accident. This is an assault. We are being driven out through the largest land grab ever!!! And those who try to rationalize it and couch it in any other terms are really deluding themselves and us in the process.
While the measures that President Obama has enacted will be helpful to many families, the capacity to completely restructure mortgages so that they are affordable, and no longer toxic is still an absolute necessity, and many home owners, or banks, don't have the capacity. Additionally, on the other hand, many banks are still not cooperative in providing the comprehensive assistance in good faith to make sure the negotiations are handled equitably and in a timely manner.
What ever the case - we have to stop the madness, or become part of a self fulfilling prophecy!
NACA - the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America - has been restructuring mortgages, saving homes from foreclosures, negotiating with banks in the behalf of oppressed homeowners for nearly 25 years. The service is free. The counselors are well trained and available to help in every possible way.
NACA is also a national organization, so if you're reading this and live outside of New York City, but need immediate help, you can come to the workshop and receive assistance as well.
It's a mandatory 2 hours in order to qualify for the comprehensive free counseling services. So arrive at 10:00 and be prepared to remain until 12:00. Spouses must come together in order to receive counseling.
Also Note that this is a prelude to the upcoming comprehensive 5 day HOME SAVE Marathon that NACA will be holding at the Javits Center in from April 24th 30th. Those who attend this workshop will be placed on priority in working with the more than 80 banks that will be present, because all of your documentation will have been gathered ahead of time. Additionally, if there are those who attend the upcoming March 24 seminar, who are interested in providing volunteer service during the New York Homesave Marathon, you will be awarded two hours of unbroken priority time with the counselors and banks in restructuring your mortgages.
NACA is reaching out to all the elected officials in the five boroughs to come together in providing a facility for a NACA headquarters. New York, the financial capital of the world, is under siege. Not only are the homes being auctioned off to creditors right under their very noses, without their knowledge or notification; but with so many discouraged, even with the programs that both President Obama and NACA have put forward to rectify these problems, many have become so discouraged and beaten down, they no longer have the fight within them to reverse these problems. And, yes, in many instances, there are those foreclosures that have been proven to be specious and unscrupulous, and may be reversed with the appropriate forensic information. In order to make that happen, however, it is necessary to work with locally, city, state and national officials. Or New York will no longer belong to or be for New Yorkers.
Please make copies of these flyers and hand them out at your City Council person, assembly member, State Senator, Congressman or woman; Clergy, churches, super markets, clubs, community centers, your union affiliations, fraternity and sorority affiliations, to your friends, family, neighbors, acquaintances, even enemies.
This is no time for shame, face saving, or emotional basket cases. This is a time for action. This is a time to take control of your life and your home. You deserve a decent affordable home in the land of the brave, the home of the free. That's the President's stand, and it's NACA's stand as well.
You can go on line and register at www.naca.com
Make it your business to be there to be helped on Saturday, March 24, 2012, at 10:00 at the Bedford Stuyvesant Multi Services Center, 1958 Fulton Ave., at Ralph - A Train to Ralph Ave. Stop; # 25 Bus to Ralph Ave; #47 Bus to Ralph Ave and Fulton.
STAY BLESSED &
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
By Gloria Dulan-Wilson
Last Tuesday when I received the tragic news of Congressman Donald Payne's death, I felt as if I a cement mixer dumped a pile of wet concrete onto me. There was this sudden lack of oxygen, and the feeling of being crushed. I just couldn't wrap my mind around it. Don Payne can't be dead! I was stunned, and in so much angst that I started crying every time I broached the subject.
My frenzied thoughts immediately went to: what is the world going to do, or be, with out Don Payne???
More to the point, what is Newark, NJ going to be/do without Don Payne to champion their concerns.
Even more frightening is what is Africa going to do without her greatest advocate to convene the wonderful panel discussions and action groups to address life and death issues without Don Payne there to make sure it's done and done correctly??
And what are Black people and the Congressional Black Caucus going to be/do now this great, but genteel iconic brother has made his official transition to the ancestors????
As I'm writing this, I wonder if the latter two, Newark and Africa fully grasp the seriousness of the situation. This is not just some elected official who has died in office; this is not just some nice Black man who did some good and has gone on to his reward. This is Donald Payne – the first and only (yes "ONLY" – by the way, what's up with that?) Black man ever elected to Congress from New Jersey. Not only was he the first and the only, he was one of a hand full of elected officials were elected to Congress with a mandate; kept his promises, did more and better than what he originally promised; and continued to up the ante as he progressed. His 23 years in Congress were devoted to his constituents, his fellow congressmen and women, and Africa.
Perhaps the pain of losing Don Payne hasn't really set in for you, but it has for me. And I'm sure his staff and supporters are beginning to feel the pain as well. Where do you find a man like that? To whom will the baton be passed? And who is going to make sure it is passed into the right hands, and not to some self serving miscreant who will reverse all the good he's accomplished (and those who watched Clarence Thomas “replace” Thurgood Marshall know exactly what I mean).
It's time for a wake up call! The alarm should have gone off by now, but just in case it hasn't, let me also say that we have a very narrow window for grief. We have to honor this great man by making sure all the citizens who are part of his constituency are really on guard against being handed someone who is more glory than guts. It takes ethics, pride, courage, intelligence, savvy, as well as dedication, discipline and integrity to be a Don Payne clone. And yes, I'm raising the bar very high, as so should all of Jersey - especially Newark's 10th Congressional District. You've had the best, you cannot afford, nor should you settle for less. You MUST NOT settle for less than the best. Also, if I didn't say it already, I'm saying it now - register to vote, there will be an election for his seat - don't get caught napping.
The sad thing about the media coverage of Don Payne's passing is the penchant for sound bites and brevity. It seems we have the attention span of a gnat! We can't be given too much information, because we can't handle it. We need to change that. This brother has a body of accomplishments that should be emblazoned on buildings and monuments; inscribed in neon and written in lights, as on the marquee of a theatre - from Newark to DC to Africa and beyond.
He is the stuff legends and bio's are made of. He is the example we should want our sons and daughters to follow. What's kind of sad is that, while we know everything about Whitney Houston and Don Cornelius all the way to their last breath, we don't get the same coverage for Don Payne. They were each wonderful icons in their own right. They brought a great deal of pleasure and entertainment to the American public; they blazed trails, took risks - hence they have a fan base that will continue to revere and immortalize them.
But Don Payne, who made major decisions, voted on legislations that impacted the very core of the lives of people = foreign and domestic, does not get the recognition he deserves. I want to hear sound bites every fifteen minutes from his key speeches on every TV and radio statiion. I want to see videos of his tours of Africa, of him chairing the panels on Africa at the CBC, or education or health programs he's sponsored mentioned on the TV stations - at least throughout the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
I expect to see Donald Payne memorabilia - a color photo, his official seal. Let Oprah Winfrey interview his family about the Pain of losing Don Payne. I expect to see/hear Don Payne imitated (in a positive way) and Don Payne moments re-enacted in school plays, spoken word and on stage. If we're going to become a fan, let's be a fan of someone who was there for us. Our priorities are upside down and backwards.
Time for a paradigm shift. Time to write definitive How-To Books on how to be an exemplary congressman, using him as the example. Give it to everyone of those currently in office, or seeking to be, regardless of whether they're Black or White! Yes, he was that good! It's time others learn to do what works from a master.
Some of his accomplishments among many are as follows:
1. Don Payne was a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, where he served as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health and as a member of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere and the Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight.
Every year at the annually held Congressional Black Caucus, Congressman Payne would convene leaders and experts from Africa, who were actively engaged in African affairs, progress, education and technology, for a series of roundtable discussions for and about Africa. The event usually took the better part of 5 hours, with leaders sitting alongside educators, decision makers, investors, etc., coming up with workable solutions to the most pressing problems on the Continent.
Payne personally set up video streaming between the Roundtable and other African countries so that those who could not travel to the US could still participate in the conversation. He made it his business to personally go to Africa each year and investigate issues that seemed to factionalize countries, with the view toward a peaceful positive solution. He took his mission seriously, following in the foot steps of the late, great Mickey Leland to forge even greater footsteps of his own.
He escorted President Obama and the First Lady on a tour of Ghana. Each and every year, Don Payne, along with members of his staff would personally visit key African countries to learn first hand what their problems and concerns were; and to offer real workable solutions. He as also been instrumental in assisting families needing political asylum safe harbor here in the US.
2. He served on the board of directors of the National Endowment for Democracy, TransAfrica, Discovery Channel Global Education Fund, the Congressional Award Foundation, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Newark, the Newark Day Center, the Fighting Back Initiative and the Newark YMCA. As an educator, Payne was hands on in most of his endeavors, as opposed to just being a figurehead or a prestigious name on the letterhead. You could count on his input, feedback, support and presence.
3.Served as Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. Many say that that was one of the best Caucus events ever. Attention to details and the concerns of the participants as well as the Caucus Members were the priority of his staff. For the uninitiated, The Congressional Black Caucus takes place every year in Washington DC, and has done so for 40 years. It is an event which brings Black elected officials, businesses, community based organizations, locally and nationally elected officials, as well as constituents and supporters to collectively discuss and address the issues and concerns facing Black Americans, with a view towards setting an Agenda for the most pressing issues to be focused on in the future.
4. Don Payne supported Bill 1106, The Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, is a bill passed by the House that would allow bankruptcy judges to restructure mortgages on family homes to make them more affordable. Judicial modification is already possible in bankruptcy for loans covering luxury yachts and the vacation homes of the wealthy. If the terms of those sorts of loans can be restructured during bankruptcy proceedings, then why shouldn't the mortgages on the homes they live in be similarly protected? H.R. 1106 includes a number of protections against mortgage fraud and limits coverage to those who have made good-faith efforts to stay current on their mortgage payments. This sort of policy would be beneficial to bankers as much as to homeowners, maximizing the likelihood that home loans will be repaid rather than abandoned and restoring stability to the U.S. housing market. A YES vote is cast in the direction of fairness. A NO vote preserves renegotiation for yachts and luxury villas but denies it to everyday Americans just trying to get by.
5. As a leading advocate of education, he was instrumental in the passage of key legislation, including the Goals 2000 initiative to improve elementary and secondary schools; the School-to-Work Opportunities Act; the National Service Act and the Student Loan Bill.
6. He was re-elected to Congress 11 times, with the highest mandate for any candidate for a Congressional seat.
7. He was one of the few congressmen who, when you placed a call to him, spoke with you personally, or returned your can if he was unavailable at the time. He was highly visible, and part of the community scene on a regular basis.
8. He took a strong, decisive stand in leading the debate against the invasion of Iraq after 9/11.
9. Essential to the structure of the Constitution is the concept of the balance of powers between the three branches of government. That balance was disturbed in November of 2001, when George W. Bush issued Executive Order No. 13233, which undermined the law by declaring that sitting presidents, former presidents, and even the heirs of former presidents, would have the power to deny the release of public White House records. It meant Congress and the Judicial Branch could not check the power of the White House without knowledge of the Executive apparatus that the White House has put into place. Bush executive order interfered with the system of government oversight and review the Constitution had originally put into place. The Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2009, H.R. 35 was passed with Congressman Payne's help and support; and ended Bush's interference by specifically counteracting Executive Order No. 13233.
10. While Don Payne's first two runs for Congress ended in defeat; on the third try, he defeated his candidate by one of the widest margins ever.
11. He was always mild mannered, soft spoken, but incisive and direct. He was a stickler for details, and making sure that his constituents were totally informed about situations, concerns and circumstances. It was clear that he loved what he did, loved his district, and enjoyed that same love in return.
12. Those of you in the construction industry would be especially gratified call Don Payne hero, because he voted against the Mack Amendment to H.R. 1262 on March 12, 2009. If it had passed, it would have slapped aside the usual rule that require federally-funded projects to pay construction workers at least the prevailing wage of the area in compensation for their labor. That prevailing wage standard is not high to begin with, at poverty-level compensation in many places. But for 140 members of the House of Representatives, poverty-level pay for wasn’t low enough. In the middle of the worst economic recession in over a generation, those who voted for the Mack Amendment acted to slash the wages of working-class Americans. They tried to push construction workers’ wages further down at the historical moment when their economic security was at its lowest. Rep. Payne has acted progressively by voting NO, against this regressive measure, sending a clear signal to the opposition that he stood on the side of his constituents when it came to wages and employment.
Now, if it sounds like I'm taking Don Payne's transition personally, I am. And I reserve the right to do so. I had the honor of covering those African Roundtables for at least 10 years. I still have a great deal of the information provided by Congressman Payne's office. During the time I resided in Jersey City, Don Payne was my congressman (yes, another one of those gerrymandering fiascos, that actually linked Jersey City, Newark and Eliabeth together - but this one worked in my favor). He was always dapper, smiling, friendly – but under that you knew he had something serious he was contemplating. The report said he was 77 years old at his transition, but most would put Don Payne in his late fifties to mid-sixties. He maintained a youthful look about him.
While, historically speaking, he was the first Black man ever elected to Congress from New Jersey, I originally met him before he was elected to Congress, after Sharpe James was first elected mayor of Newark, in 1985. I have always found Congressman Payne to be highly principled. He was the kind of person you could reach out and touch when you needed help, information, support. A brother you could depend on. He never got too important to take time and talk with “regular” folks. Don Payne didn't hide behind titles or accolades. He was totally involved in working with and for his constituents, and enjoyed being with them as well. So that in and of itself made him somewhat of a hero and an icon.
An educator, he always made sure that you were clear on what he was trying to convey, so he was always heavy on the documentation. His staff especially had to have it together, because he didn't accept half measures. He believed in research and results; was an excellent communicator, and when you left his roundtable or his office, you left loaded down with tons of info.
When I say we have lost a giant among men, I'm not only speaking of a Congressional seat – of which we should and must be totally concerned – I am also speaking in terms of a good Black man who took principled stands and backed them up. I totally admired Don Payne, and his brother William (former member of the New Jersey State Assembly), who together, fostered programs that were distinctively supportive of African, African American and Afrocentric culture -- like the Amistad Legislation which makes it mandatory to teach Black History in all the New Jersey Schools (which means a course in Congressman Donald M. Payne 101 should be forthcoming immediately).
To my brothers and sisters in New Jersey, pain of losing Don Payne can only be remedied by making sure that you fill that void with someone who walks the walk and talks the talk. If you don't have a criteria for a Congressman, I suggest you seriously sit down and look at Donald Payne's track record, and make it the standard bearer for anyone coming behind him.
And need I say it? I guess I have to, because sometimes we assume, and you know what happens when you assume: Make sure that the person you select and ELECT to follow Don Payne is Black!!
There! I said it! That's the 800 pound gorilla in the room. Some of you would have alluded to it; some of you would have skirted around it. Some of you would have tried to be politically correct. But I need only point to your neighbor, Jersey City, who lost their first (maybe only???) Black mayor, Glenn D. Cunningham via a tragic “heart attack.” They couldn't quite seem to get it together to elect another Black mayor. They played grudge games, and divide and conquer; In the end they're back to the margins – a cautionary tale for those of you who want to talk “diversity.” When you've had caviar, there is absolutely no reason to go for sardines; or worse yet, rotten fish.
To the rest of my readers who are reading this blog, take some time out and email a note of condolence to your friends in Newark, Jersey City and Elizabeth – the 10 Congressional District (at least it was when I lived there; who knows what the latest census may have done to change this). Hit them up on Facebook and Twitter and let them know how sympathetic you feel toward their plight. At the same time, tell them to make sure they are registered to vote, because they are going to have to all turn out to make sure the Congressional Seat Don Payne held down for 23 years continues to stand for them.
Just as you watched and followed every little thing that happened before during and after Whitney Houston's home going (by the way Don Payne was her congressman), you must now give that same attention, concern, love, and support to another great one who has made his transition to the ancestors, but in so doing left a wealth of accomplishments, and a legacy to be followed and fulfilled.
My condolences to his brother William “Bill” Payne, his family, staff, co-workers, fellow congress members, and the entire state of New Jersey, and the 10th Congressional District in Newark. My profound condolences to all the Brothers and sisters in Africa as well as throughout the Dispora, for losing your best friend - the most dedicated supporters you've ever had.
To our new Ancestor Donald M. Payne: We know you're up there with some of the greats – Thurgood Marshall, Jomo Kenyatta, Kwame Nkrumah, Namde Azikewe, Stokely Carmichael, John Garang, Ron Brown, Carolyn Hamilton, Rosa Parks, Shirley Chisolm, Ossie Davis, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Parren Mitchell, among others. That's gotta be some pantheon. I know you're watching over and guiding us as we persevere in making the impossible real. Thanks for showing us the way.
With gratitude for the years of service, hard work and dedication you've given us all,
Stay Blessed &
NOTE: Congressman Donald Payne's Homegoing services will be held at Metropolitan Baptist Church on Wednesday, March 14, at 11:00 AM
149 Springfield, Ave, Newark New Jersey
His body lies in state at the Essex County Courthouse on Martin Luther King Drive in Newark, NJ
Gloria Dulan-Wilson is available for speaking engagements: Black History, African History, Foreclosure Prevention, Home Ownership, Education, etc., Contact her via email@example.com
Friday, March 9, 2012
By Gloria Dulan-Wilson
This past week has been a heavy one for me. I lost three friends in four days, and I'm still reeling from the impact. And in the midst of my own angst, I am keenly aware of how much pain their own families and loved ones must be enduring at this moment. It's never easy saying good bye to someone you love, so I am taking this time to express my condolences to the families of these great friends, and to let them know that we, in the Black community, wish them comfort during these very difficult times.
My friend and soror, Brooklyn Assemblywoman Annette M. Robinson has suffered the loss of her eldest daughter, Dawn Alicia Robinson, on Sunday, March 5. Dawn was like a little sister to me in many ways. She was always sweet, comical. She spoke her mind, and had a keen eye for character. She had her mother's and brothers' backs whenever they needed anything done. I used to call her "the hostess with the most-ess" because she reigned over the barbecue and the cook outs at the Robinson family gatherings.
It's not easy writing about the passing of someone so vibrant and energetic as Dawn. We are all totally stunned by this sudden departure, without warning. It's even more difficult to see a mother as devoted and loving as Annette Robinson cope with the loss of her child. My love and condolences go out to her and the family. The comfort may be that Dawn went to keep her beloved father, Bill Robinson, company ahead of the rest of the family.
Dawn Alicia Robinson's homegoing services will be held at Bridge Street AME Church, 277 Stuyvesant Ave, at 5:00 PM. Flowers and cards, and well wishes may be sent to
Hon. Annette M. Robinson &Family;
178 Bainbridge Street,
Brooklyn, New York 11216
I am also devastated to report that our friend and brother Louis Reyes Rivera has also joined the ancestors, having made his transition on Friday, March 2. The great poet, writer, historian, educator, activist was a familiar figure throughout the Diaspora, but especially in Brooklyn, Harlem, and everywhere anything of significance in Black literature and thought was taking place.
Louis Reyes Rivera devoted his lifetime to unabashedly writing about Black and latino culture. He taught writing classes at the famed Sistas Place in Brooklyn, but was world known and loved for his love of our culture.
Louis Reyes Rivera and his lovely wife Barbara have been personal friends and associates of mine for nearly 30 years; and it's perhaps the most difficult thing to write about the passing of a friend when the wound is still so fresh. I know we all share this pain, because we all loved him for his clarity, his dedication, for the essence of what it meant to be proud to be who you are 24/7. That was Louis Reyes Rivera.
His body will lay in state at the Bell Funeral Home for viewing on Sunday, March 11, 2012 from 12:00 until 5:00PM; 536 Sterling Place, Brooklyn, NY USA. Homegoing Services will be held at Bell Funeral Home, Monday, March 12; there will be a repast at Sistas Place - 460 Nostrand Ave, later that afternoon, following the burial ceremonies.
A memorial poetry jam was held in his honor at the Brooklyn Museum, Thursday, March 8; co-hosted by Danny Simmons and Jessica Care-Moore. Some of the whose who in the hierarchy of Black performance poetry were in attendance, including Abiodun and Omar of the Last Poets, brother Ras Baraka, Liza Jessie Peterson, Kevin Powell, Willie Perdomo, Mariposa, among so many others, came out to pay tribute to this wonderful icon. Each in his or her own way imparted what they had learned from their long association with Louis Reyes Rivera, and his impact on their expression is awesome indeed. Which means that his spirit will live on in every spoken word, poem, performance piece - what a blessing!
Initially, I indicated at the beginning that there were three friends who had passed that had really knocked me for a loop. This third friend, Congressman Donald M. Payne, had been someone I had had the pleasure of knowing for over 25 years. And, like his family, friends, associates, and Co-members of the Congressional Black Caucus, I had the wind knocked out of me with the announcement of his death. Friend, he was; a true leader, devoted to his community, his constituents, to Black people the world over, especially in Africa. Don Payne took his role on the committee for Africa so to heart that he has been responsible for saving the lives of countless refugees who would otherwise have long perished had it not been for Don Payne.
I had the great good pleasure of being in his congressional district during the time I lived in Jersey City. He was one of the few elected officials that would personally return your phone call if you had an issue. Not only have we lost a great man in Congress, but Newark has lost a real leader - the first Black man to be elected to Congress from New Jersey. Not pompous, or distant - totally hands on. I have now relived mentally moments when we conversed about the educational disparities in the US and the mirror of the same problems in Africa.
Africa has lost one of its greatest advocates. They should, like us, be in mourning. At this point, his homegoing services are set for Wednesday, March 14, in Newark, NJ. Time and place have yet to be announced as of this writing.
As I always say, when my friends make their transition to the next plane of action, it must be because God the Living Spirit Almighty has determined that their work here is completed and they are needed elsewhere. However, that does not make it any less painful.
I can only say that I am so happy that I had the privilege and pleasure of knowing each one of these wonderful people and they accorded me the privilege of calling them "friend." I will miss them; but there are so many wonderful things I can reflect back on that likewise let me know they have made an indelible imprint on my heart and soul.
STAY BLESSED &
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
By Gloria Dulan-Wilson
You will pardon the rather somber tone of this post, but I've -we - the Black and Puerto Rican Community - have had a death in the family, and I'm having a very difficult time processing it. You may have heard about it – I'm sure my screams could be heard as far north as the Canadian Border, and clear up to Heaven - when the news of our dear brother Louis Reyes Rivera flashed across my computer screen.
Funny thing about modern technology – it has no way of breaking things to you gently; no way of having you sit down and take a deep breath so that you have some means of absorbing the shock. No, our computerized communication can be rather blunt, abrupt, in your face with bad news. And this, to me, was indeed, bad news.
Now, I know my metaphysical, philosophical friends are going to say that Louis isn't dead – his spirit is still with us. True that – but small comfort, when I'm walking through Brooklyn, or at a Jazz Concert, or at the Harlem Book Fair, or one of the many thousands of places we were likely to run across each other, and he's not there to say hi! To give me an overview; to tell me of his latest activity, or his writer's workshop (which, unfortunately I never attended. All those years of broken promises to do so – too late now).
I could go into Louis' bio, but Google, Black Fax, BlackList.net, and so many others have done more than ample jobs of doing so. In fact, I highly recommend you read all about his prodigious career, even if you think you already know everything about him. Because with Louis Reyes Rivera, you could never really know everything. That brother was always growing, evolving, creating, initiating. It was impossible to say you knew the definitive Louis Reyes Rivera – but the Rivera you knew was definitely always joined, heart and soul with his culture, his people, and his quest bring the truth through, dispel the lies, and teach others to do likewise vis a vis their writing, speaking and action.
Being a history buff, myself, I always admired the way he could cut through the propaganda and distortions, using his creativity and is poetic sensibilities in a way that the message was embedded indelibly on your mind. He truly deserved every accolade he received, and a great many more that may have passed him over under some mistaken motive to be politically correct.
It has been said that Louis Reyes Rivera was a giant in Black literature second only unto Amiri Baraka. I say those two giants, contemporaries who have dedicated their lives and their work to Black people are leaders in their own right, and can easily share equal billing. Their contributions complement each other.
I loved and admired the rare times Louis, his wife Barbara and I spent together, whether listening to some jazz great, such as Pharoah Sanders when he made his triumphant return to Brooklyn; or at the Black Writers Workshop at Medgar Evers, or at the Schomburg Library in Harlem, or just out and about. We always managed to laugh, joke, poke fun at the establishment, and maintain our ongoing mutual admiration society. For the most part, though, we kept it light hearted and up beat, not allowing the meanstream to permeate our friendship.
Poet that he was/is even his name had rhythm and rolled off the tongue with ease: Lou-is rey-yes ree-ver-ah – it was such a fun name to say, particularly when you said it with soul and sassiness. I used to tease him and tell him that he should put it to music.
His famous dad-in-law, the great John Oliver Killens, had been writer in residence at Lincoln University when I was a student, still green and wet behind the years. I always felt like I was in a privileged space at LU because these wonderful ensamples of Black greatness would come and spend time with us.
It was actually Mr. Killens who introduced me and, possibly, the rest of the world to Louis Reyes Rivera. It was almost like he was anointed from the beginning. When you got Killens' blessing, you must be something special indeed – and truly Louis was more than special. It could also have been the fact that at the time Louis was also aspiring to marry his daughter, Barbara; but beyond that, those two men, icons of Black literature, had formed a bond that lasted well beyond Killens' passing.
It is also a testament to the depth of Louis' and Barbara's capacity to love that their marriage succeeded where others have failed miserably, only to be ended by his untimely transition to the realm of the ancestors.
My condolences to Barbara and the family, and to the extended family at Sistah Place, the Jazzoets, the conscious (and unconscious) Black community – we've lost a major voice in the community. But thank goodness for the prodigious body of work that is his legacy. We can tap in to that genius at any time and clarify our consciousnesses. We have to say "thank you" to Louis Reyes Rivera for caring enough to make it happen over and over again.
I'm not saying good bye, though. It's like they say: “the song has ended, but the melody lingers on...”
Louis Reyes Rivera's legacy to us will last a lifetime.
Stay Blessed &