- Created on 15 November 2013
In this Oct. 2, 2013 file photo, Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., addresses the audience during an award ceremony for the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal at Harvard University, in Cambridge, Mass. (AP Photo / Steven Senne, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -- For the debut Bartlett's anthology of black quotations, editor Retha Powers wanted to capture the personal, the political and the artistic.
"When you think about black history, you think about touch points like slavery, colonialism, apartheid," Powers says. "Those are heavy and difficult topics. But there also lives being led and poetry being created and plays being written. I wanted to be able to show all of that, the will to create a culture and a life."
"Bartlett's Familiar Black Quotations," which has just been published, has the most comprehensive of subtitles: "5,000 Years of Literature, Lyrics, Poems, Passages, Phrases, and Proverbs from Voices Around the World." It reaches back to ancient times and oral cultures and continues right up to rap, Malcolm Gladwell and President Barack Obama.
In a foreword for the new book, the author and critic Henry Louis Gates Jr. notes that compilations of black quotations date back to the 19th century and that the "field has proliferated with a marvelous array of titles." But, he adds, none of the reference works compares with "the scope of Retha Powers' collection."
The 764-page book includes lyrics by Robert Johnson, Smokey Robinson and Jay Z; the humor of Richard Pryor, Chris Rock and Eddie Murphy; the oratory of the Revs. Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesse Jackson; and prose and poetry from Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou. Gates himself gets a few citations.
Powers says the idea for the new Bartlett's began about seven years ago. She was executive editor of the Quality Paperback Book Club and was having lunch with Little, Brown and Co. editor Deborah Baker (who has since left the company). They were discussing upcoming books when Baker mentioned that a volume of black quotations was planned and wondered if Powers had suggestions for who could put it together.
"I wanted to say 'Me!' but felt it wasn't quite appropriate to put myself forward," Powers explains. "Some days later she called me and said, 'I know I asked if you knew anyone, but would you want to do it?' And I jumped at the chance."
Obama's section cover 10 pages and features excerpts from his memoir "Dreams from My Father"; his campaign slogan "Yes, we can!"; his celebrated keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention; and highlights from his two inaugural addresses. Powers includes problematic moments, too, whether the "God damn America" sermon by Obama's longtime pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright or Obama's observation during a fundraiser speech that some people struggling economically "cling to guns or religion."
"I definitely wanted to stay in the Bartlett's tradition of capturing what has been the most impactful, and sometimes there are those warts everybody has," Powers says.
Not all of the entries originate with blacks. The anthology features 40 pages of Biblical passages, which Powers says were important to include because they "were a really important tool toward imagining a life outside of slavery." The Bartlett's book also honors the tradition of improvisation, such as lyrics Otis Redding added for his 1966 cover of "Try a Little Tenderness," written in the 1930s by a trio of British/Tin Pan Alley composers - Jimmy Campbell, Reg Connelly and Harry M. Woods.
"It was a signature song for Redding. He didn't write it, but we wanted to include his riff on it," Powers explained, noting that she included the "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" tagline worked in by Aretha Franklin for her cover of Redding's "Respect."
The new Bartlett's compiles statesmen (Nelson Mandela) and tyrants (Idi Amin), radicals (Malcolm X) and conservatives (Clarence Thomas), scholars (John Hope Franklin) and slaves (Nat Turner). There are boasts (Muhammad Ali's catchphrase "I am the greatest"), protests (Tracy Chapman: "Why are the missiles called peacekeepers?"), jokes (Dave Chappelle: "Every black is bilingual. We speak street vernacular and job interview") and pleas (Rodney King: "Can we all get along?").
"It was extremely important to me to capture a range of experiences and emotions," Powers says. "We look to quotations to distill life as it exists in total and that includes what it was and how it feels."
- Created on 15 November 2013
I’ve learned from my friends who are single mothers that they face a lot of criticism and personal questions. When I think back, I’ve been guilty of “feeling bad” for single mothers too or celebrating them like they’re heroes. Let’s avoid more awkward moments in the line at the grocery store when you notice a single mother. Keep your mind on the delicious meal at your next big family gathering, instead of asking your niece with three kids when she’s going to “find a father” for her kids and get married. Here are some things you should never say to a single mother regarding parenting, their child’s father and whether marriage is in her future.
There seems to be as assumption that a single mother did something to drive her child’s father away. Strangers and family members ask invasive questions like:
“Why isn’t their father around?”
“Why did you break up?”
“Why didn’t you want to get married?”
I cringed just writing that. Can you imagine what it’s like being asked to explain a painful breakup to someone? If a single mother wants to talk about a past relationship, let her initiate the conversation. Don’t pry. It’s none of your business.
Yes, it’s important for children to have a close relationship with their father. Just because a couple isn’t married, don’t assume their child is losing out. Plenty of unmarried parents are co-parenting well and sharing custody of their children.
Single mothers of little girls told me they’re often asked, ““Don’t you worry they’ll have Daddy issues when they are older?” Ugh. That question is based on the assumption that little girls who don’t live with their fathers will have issues. Single mothers don’t want to hear your sad forecast for their children’s lives because their parents aren’t married.
“Do you get child support?” is another common question single mothers are asked. It’s uncomfortable to answer especially when it’s asked in front of their children. It insinuates that a “good father” pays child support and a “bad father” doesn’t. Financial support is important, but it’s not the only piece of a puzzle to raising a child.
- Created on 14 November 2013
Jesse Owens (pictured) wowed the world when he shattered Olympic records by winning four track and field gold medals in the 1936 Summer Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany. Now one of the gold medals have been placed on the auction block, raising concerns from the International Olympic Committee because, according to the organization, it is "a part of a world heritage," reports the Los Angeles Times.
Owens, who passed away in 1980, reportedly gifted one of the gold medals to his longtime friend and legendary tap dancer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. The medal, which had been in the possession of Robinson's widow, Elaine Plaines, is now being put up for auction by SCP Auctions of Laguna Niguel.
Dan Inler, vice president of SCP, defends his move to auction the invaluable piece of history whom many argue should be in a museum, told the L.A. Times, "We reached out to the family of Jesse Owens as soon as we were first contacted about the medal," Inler contends. "Out of unmitigated respect it was imperative to us and to our consignor that they be immediately informed of the decision."
IOC President Thomas Bach, however, feels that the medal's significance is more than just an Olympic win. He told the Associated Press, that the medal is "a part of world heritage" that has "an importance far beyond the sporting achievements of Jesse Owens. To put this up for an auction is, for me, a very difficult decision [to accept]."
Owens achieved his wins during Adolph Hitler's rule over Nazi Germany. After Owens stupefied the event's spectators with his skills, Hitler shook the hands of all of the Olympic winners except for Owens; Hitler wouldn't shake Owens' hands because he felt the Black man was inferior to Whites.
Even worse, President Franklin D. Roosevelt never sent Owens a congratulatory telegram or an invite to the White House after his tremendous display at the Summer Olympics. Since 1936 was a presidential election year, Roosevelt was afraid he'd lose the Southern votes if he paid any attention to Owens.
The medal that will be auctioned off is one of four whose whereabouts are known.
Experts predict that the auction of the coveted medal could fetch as much as $1 million, and a portion of it will go to charity. Meanwhile, Imler is keeping hope alive that the medal will wind up in what he feels should be its rightful place.
Imler told the L.A. Times, "Whether this medal is purchased by a private individual or an institution, SCP Auctions and our consignor share in the feeling that the ideal place for Jesse Owens' gold medal is on display in a museum, where it can be shared with the public and perpetuate Owens' inspiring legacy."
- Created on 12 November 2013
JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- Nelson Mandela's family is no stranger to the public eye -its successes and trials have been aired for decades in films, books and the news media.
Granddaughter Zoleka Mandela's story, perhaps, is the one that no one saw coming. The 33-year-old launched a book in South Africa Tuesday, "When Hope Whispers," that recounts her family's involvement in the fight against South Africa's white minority regime, her struggles with alcohol and drug addiction, the loss of two of her children and her fight against breast cancer.
The book's publication comes as Nelson Mandela, 95, is in critical but stable condition, under intensive medical care at his Johannesburg home, after being discharged in September from a lengthy hospitalization.
"There's a social responsibility, I can't run away from, and instead I feel I embrace it," Zoleka told The Associated Press about being a Mandela. "One of the things I learned so much about my grandparents is that you always have the power in you to make a difference in somebody else's life despite your own challenges, and I think that's what I'm trying to do."
Through her detailed accounts, Zoleka said she hopes to inspire women going through chemotherapy, addicts looking for silver linings and parents struggling with the loss of their children.
Zoleka's childhood was anything but ordinary.
"By the time I was born, on 9 April 1980, my mother (Zindzi Mandela) knew how to strip and assemble an AK-47 in exactly thirty-eight seconds. She was twenty years old, trained in guerrilla warfare and already a full-fledged member of Umkhonto we Sizwe (the armed wing of the African National Congress)," says the book's opening line, describing her mother's participation in violent struggle against apartheid.
Before she was a year old, her grandmother, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, had already smuggled her into Robben Island prison so her grandfather could see her. Zoleka recounts a story told by her mother and grandmother of a time they said she helped her grandmother by hiding a hand grenade in her school bag, where police didn't look, though she still saw her grandmother arrested.
Her childhood brashness turned to teen rebellion when she abused alcohol and drugs. She writes of hiding drugs in her bra, smoking marijuana, drinking too much alcohol, doing lines of cocaine daily and the relationships that fueled her drug use and the suicidal thoughts that haunted her.
The book reveals that Zoleka was hospitalized after a suicide attempt in June 2010 when her 13-year-old daughter Zenani died in a car crash on the way back from a concert that opened the World Cup soccer tournament.
"I hadn't seen my daughter for 10 days before her passing, and I hadn't because I chose to use drugs. That's obviously a reminder that I chose my addiction over my kids and I have to live with that for the rest of my life," she said with a heavy sigh, her large brown eyes cast downward.
"I'm sincerely hoping that it's seen as a cautionary tale to a lot of other parents," she said. "I got myself clean, but it doesn't bring her back."
She lost another child days after he was born prematurely in 2011. Zoleka has one son, Zwelami, 10.
Following successful rehab, Zoleka now glows in sobriety.
The book also recounts her battle with breast cancer - she had a bilateral mastectomy and underwent chemotherapy.
"For me, what hurt me the most was I was losing my breasts. And my breasts was my connection to my kids," she said.
She finished her chemo early in 2013 and said she wrote the book and will release video journals to encourage cancer survivors.
"My childhood wasn't normal, my childhood wasn't sheltered," she said. "I've had these challenges in my life, these unbearable circumstances that have happened in my life and I'm using my own life experience to help somebody else that is struggling on their journey."