Remembering Our Words: Urban Spectrum Salutes Exceptional Writers
By Iya Ta’Shia Asanti
Our words are sacred. They define our character, our history and our lives.
There was a time when oppression rendered us silent. Forbidden to read and write people of African descent used movement, music and dance to tell our stories. Our ancestors fought and died so that we would have the right to partake in the sacred word. In honor of Black History Month, the Urban Spectrum salutes the best of the best in Black literature through their annual National Black Book and Writer Awards.
The recipients of this year’s awards were nominated and selected by writers, editors, book publishers, book reviewers, book club leaders, and avid readers in the various categories for male and female writers. Submissions were taken through a grueling process and finally judged according to their relevancy to the empowerment and healing of the African American community, the quality and clarity of the writing and the originality of the work.
This year, the Urban Spectrum presents two new award categories. The Emerging Writer Awards are given to achievers in the literary arts who have made significant contributions to Black literature and publishing though they may not have been published by a mainstream publishing house. The Literary Shero/Hero awards are given to someone in the field of publishing whose professional work and/or literary accomplishments have created major visibility and opportunities for Black writers and journalists.
The Urban Spectrum is proud to once again salute the distinguished work of individuals whose achievements reflect dedication, hard work and determination. Please note that there were multiple submissions in each category. However, all submissions had to meet certain criteria for placement in a particular genre or category. The Urban Spectrum thanks all those who submitted their work for this year’s awards.
National Best Novel by an African born Writer
Sky-High Flames by Unoma Nguemo Azuah Winner
National Best Poetry Book (Female)
The Power Journal by Waset
Where the Apple Falls by Samiya Bashir
National Best Poetry Book
The Language of Saxophones (City Light Books) by Kamau Daaood
The Second Chapter: Acceptance by Shelton Jackson
National Best Novel by a Black Writer
Genevieve (Dutton by Eric Jerome Dickey
Am I My Sister’s Keeper (i-Universe) by S. Stephens
National Best Collection of Short Stories by a Black Writer
Stranger Than Fiction by Marcia Denrique Preudhomme
Walk Like a Man by Laurinda D. Brown
National Best Non-Fiction Book
(Memoir) Yellow Black-The First Twenty-one Years of a Poet’s Life (Third World Press) by Haki Madhubuti
National Best Non-fiction Anthology Edited by a Black Editor
Beyond Black Face-Africana Images in U.S. Media (Kendall Hunt Publishing) by Akil Houston-Winner
National Best Book on African Spirituality
Heeding the Ancestral Call-Iyanifa Ifalola Aboyade Omobola-Winner
Tradition & Transformation-Classical Writings on the Ifa/Yoruba Traditional Religion (Kanda Mukutu Books) Baba Koleoso Karade-Winner
National Best Erotic Fiction by a Black SGL Author
Walk Like a Man (CEI Books)-Laurinda D. Brown-Winner
National Best Fiction by a Black SGL Author
I Wrote This Song-Dayne Avery-Winner
Am I My Sister’s Keeper-S. Stephens-Winner
National Best Book of Poetry by a SGL Black Poet
Where the Apple Falls (Red Bone Press)-Samiya Bashir-Winner
The Second Chapter: Acceptance-Shelton Jackson-Winner
Honorable Mention of a Denver Writer
The Urban Spectrum gives Karen Degroot Carter an Honorable Mention for her book One Sister’s Song (Pearl Street Publishing) which addresses the issue of bi-racial love and facilitates cultural healing. Carter’s work reaches out to communities of color in a fashion that supports continued understanding and respect for diversity across barriers of culture, race, and gender.
Urban Spectrum Emerging Writer Award
These awards are given to young or emerging writers who’ve had significant publishing records but have not yet been published by a mainstream publishing house. The work of these recipients is highly inspirational to young writers and poets and serves as a role model to writers seeking a career in publishing.
Azaan Glover, widely published journalist and poet, former editor of GBF Magazine and contributing editor to SBC Magazine. Azaan Glover is a noted African American activist, feminist, and cultural educator. She is recognized for her unwavering commitment to creating environments for the empowerment of SGL Black women and African-Americans as a whole.
Sister Waset -author of the nationally acclaimed Power Journal is a frequent radio talk show guest on Harambee Radio Network, as well as a widely featured public speaker and activist on issues related to the empowerment of young Black women. Waset’s “in your face” style of poetry, prose, and essay writing has touched and transformed the lives of thousands.
Literary Hero/Shero Award
These coveted awards are given to professionals in the area of publishing or literature who have created major visibility for Black writers and journalists through their work or writing and has created sustaining outlets for literature written by writers of color.
Haki Madhubuti receives the Literary Hero Award for his distinguished and transformative work as a book publisher, writer, educator and activist. Madhubuti’s company, Third World Press, has published the writing of hundreds of this nation’s most distinguished African American writers. Madhubuti’s cultural and educational institutions, college programs, and writing conferences have created opportunities for higher education, cultural affirmation, and literary development. Madhubuti’s publication record includes 30 books and a lifelong dedication to supporting the work and lives of African American writers.
Stephanie Dakara Wynne receives the Literary Shero Award for her work as a longtime magazine publisher (GBF), filmmaker (more than 10 short independent films) and most recently as a radio network founder. Wynne’s cutting edge journalistic style and innovative work as a filmmaker has created visibility for pertinent issues impacting the Black community including racism, classism, and homophobia. Wynne’s nationally circulated magazine, GBF, has created an outlet for thousands of SGL Black writers to publish their writing, poetry, fiction, essays and articles.
Iyanifa Ifalola Aboyade Omobola’s receives the Literary Shero Award for her work as publisher and web master of the on-line magazine Oya n’soro at www.windwhispers.com. Through her internationally known web-zine, Omobola has published the writing of thousands of educators, cultural leaders, and best-selling writers. Her recently published book, Heeding the Ancestral Call, continues her legacy of providing information and wisdom that uplifts, heals and educates communities of African descent.
Best-selling author, Terry McMillan received the Literary Shero Award for her novel The Interruption of Everything (Viking) which highlights the rich experiences of women and families of African descent. McMillan is also recognized for her work as one of groundbreaking authors of ethnic fiction. McMillan has worked as an editor, writer and also as a film consultant for the screen adaptations of three of her novels, Waiting to Exhale, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, and Disappearing Acts. US salutes literary icon Terry McMillan.
Editor’s note: Iya Ta’Shia Asanti is an award-winning writer, poet, journalist and Senior Book Reviewer for the Urban Spectrum newspaper. She is also the founder and director of the Colorado Institute for Indigenous Cultural Studies. More about her work can be found at her web site www.sacreddoor.com
Book reviews by Kam Williams
Living Black History: How Reimagining the African-American Past Can Remake America’s Racial Future
by Manning Marable, Basic Books, Hardcover, $26.
266 pages, ISBN: 0-465-04389-5.
Since race itself is a fraudulent concept, devoid of scientific reality, racism can only be justified through the suppression of black counter-narratives that challenge society’s understanding about itself and its own past. Racism is perpetuated and reinforced by the historical logic of whiteness, which repeatedly presents whites as the primary actors in the important decisions that have influenced the course of human events.
There is considerable historical evidence that undermines the coherence
and legitimacy of that master narrative of American history. Why do the great masses of white Americans remain unmoved?
For them, the white past by its nature is remote from the present; the black reveals nothing but an abyss. This explains to a considerable extent why most white Americans refuse to question the meaning of whiteness, or to acknowledge that white racial identity is a social construction.
By contrast, for us, the past is not simply prologue; it is indelibly part of the fabric of our collective destiny. Indeed, this alternate understanding of history is the most important quality that makes African-Americans, as a people, different.
-- Sampled from Chapter One
How do you explain the fact that, in general, blacks and whites have such diametrically-opposed, basic attitudes about America? For instance, whites tend to feel so fervently patriotic about the country’s core myth as a shining model for liberty that they have no problem with a President intent on forcing this brand of democracy on resistant foreign cultures located halfway around the world.
Blacks, on the other hand, believe that “the darkest aspects of American history” remain suppressed in favor of idealistic notions about a freedom which they have never enjoyed. As a result, blacks have never become fully American, since to do so one must internalize the legitimacy of the prevailing narrative about the nation as a colorblind land of opportunity.
This is thesis espoused by Dr. Manning Marable in Living Black History: How Reimagining the African-American Past Can Remake America’s Racial Future. Marable, a professor of history, political science and public policy at Columbia University, is a syndicated columnist and the prolific author of 19 books.
This genesis of this bold opus originated with a series of dissertations which he delivered as a visiting lecturer at Harvard. The treatise opens with its strength, first a chapter focusing on the distinctions between black and white perspectives of America, followed by another mapping out black political culture.
The balance of the book is encyclopedic in nature, and devotes equal space to a trio of pivotal figures in African-American history, namely, W.E.B. Du Bois, Malcolm X, and NAACP attorney Robert Lee Carter, one of the lawyers who won the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education case.
In essence, then, Living Black History is a two-part treatise. The former sounds a clarion call to legitimize the legacies and contributions of blacks negated by the mainstream point-of-view. And the latter sets out to do exactly that by recasting several slighted African-Americans as heroes equally, if not more deserving of the revered status ordinarily reserved for the Founding Fathers.
A savvy assault on the racist assumptions underpinning America’s psychic infrastructure.
Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing by Joy DeGruy Leary, Ph.D. , Foreword by Randall Robinson, Uptone Press Hardcover, $24.95, 246 pages, illus., ISBN: 978-0-9634011-2-0.
When African Americans accept the deprecating accounts and images portrayed by the media, literature, music, and the arts as a true mirror of themselves, we are actually allowing ourselves to be socialized by a racist society. Evidence of racist socialization can be readily seen when African American children limit their aspirations… It can be seen when we use the accumulation of material things as the measure of self-worth and success.
So, in spite of all our forbears who worked to survive and gain their freedom; in spite of the efforts of all those who fought for civil rights… we are continually being socialized by this society to undervalue ourselves, to undermine our own efforts and, ultimately, to hate ourselves. We are raising our children only to watch America tear them down.
Today, the legacy of slavery remains etched in our souls. Understanding the role our past plays in our present attitudes, outlooks, mindsets and circumstances is important if we are to free ourselves from the spiritual, mental and emotional shackles that bind us today, shackles that limit what we believe we can be, do and have. Understanding the Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome plays in our evolution may be the key that helps to set us on the path to well-being.
--Excerpted from Chapter 5, Slavery’s Children
You know an experience has been transformational when it repeatedly brings you to the brink of tears, and this is exactly what transpired while poring over the pages of Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing. For me, reading this sensitive exploration of the African American psyche was the emotional equivalent of an all-day session on a shrink’s couch, as I felt many pangs of recognition as layer after layer of deep-seated traumas were diagnosed and discussed, not as personal neuroses, but as the plausible, predictable, and shared response of many Blacks to the predicament of being raised in a racist society.
The author, Joy DeGruy Leary, Ph.D. is nothing short of brilliant in the way in which she approaches the subject, prodding you to place present-day behaviors in a proper historical context. Dr. Leary, a Professor of Social Work at Portland State University, draws on her 18 years of practical work in the field dedicated to mental health and cultural resilience. It is her contention that the subjugation of African Americans did not end with slavery and that freedom only meant the master’s whip was replaced by the illusion of equality and opportunity. This was witnessed in the Jim Crow laws, lynchings, de facto segregation, grandfather clauses, poll taxes, restrictive covenants, redlining, gentrification, and other assorted measures which arose to maintain the status quo. In reaction to the ongoing oppression, Black people developed an identifiable set of survival skills, some of which were self-destructive. And it is these harmful symptoms which Dr. Leary is interested in eliminating in order to put her people on the road to healing.
So, after initially expressing the notion that the dysfunction found in African Americans is nothing to be ashamed of, she exhibits all the care and concern of a doting parent in discussing the introspective path to rebuilding one’s self-esteem. Easier said than done, this involves many steps, perhaps the most difficult being a long, hard look in the mirror to know oneself. For only after confronting and exorcising some societal demons, will one be well enough to interrelate with one’s community from a fresh perspective, as a tender person, fully-informed, considerate and uncompromisingly honest.
Required reading, or should I say therapy, for every African American.
How to Think Big… when you’re small by Dante Lee, Ligatt Publishing, Paperback, $12.95, 132 pages, illus., ISBN: 09745611-6-9.
I am not a genius. I am not a prodigy or sensation or phenomenon. I am just like you. At the age of 19, I founded my first company. After graduating from college, I never applied for a job because I already had one. I was the CEO of my own company.
By my third year, my company was generating over $400,000 in annual revenue. Plus, we were doing business with several billion-dollar companies including Coca-Cola, BET, NASCAR, Verizon, Marriott, Heineken and McDonald’s.
Many people expect complicated answers when they ask me how I was able to do it at such a young age. Really though, I have nothing but simple answers, outlined in what I call the ’24 Keys to Success in Life and in Business.’
I challenge you to apply these keys to success to your life and business. It doesn’t matter how small you are, you CAN achieve your goals.
-- Excerpted from the Introduction
Though most might refer to Dante Lee as a “brainiac” or a “wunderkind,” the modest media mogul prefers to play down his phenomenal success. At only 24 years of age, this brilliant businessman sits atop Diversity City Media, the umbrella organization dedicated to the dissemination of African American oriented news, public relations, marketing, networking, and wire services via several popular web sites, including BlackNews.com and BlackPR.com.
But because Mr. Lee is convinced that anyone can emulate him and achieve their goals, he has decided to share both his secrets and his philosophy in a handy self-help guide entitled, How to Think Big… when you’re small. Half inspirational pep-talk, half practical work book, this invaluable text contains plenty of sage advice from a young man undeniably wise beyond his years.
For instance, in section with the heading, “Don’t Worry about Legalities,” he suggests that, in starting a business, one ought to delay incorporating, applying for trademarks or other attorney-involving costs until after you are already making money. I happen to have an MBA and a law degree, and agree heartily with this opinion, because unnecessarily incurred legal entanglements can be such a terrible impediment to getting a start-up going.
How to Think Big is basically broken down into 24 Keys to Success in Life and in Business, as Dante refers them. A chapter is devoted to each “Key,” with a dozen of them focusing on “Life” issues, while the other dozen deal with “Business” concerns.
The subjects range from common sense, such as “Stop Procrastinating” and “Don’t Quit,” to the very insightful, like “Attend Conferences” and “Treat a Business Card Like Gold.” The author clearly knows that it will ultimately be up to his individual readers to do the work necessary to turn any great idea into a thriving business. This is why he asks some very telling questions (What are some things in your life that you can work on? How and when will you make these changes?), and then provides the blank space for immediate answers to them, since there’s no time like the present.
In his best seller, How to Get Rich, Donald Trump never really got around to the nuts-and-bolts of his supposed subject-matter. For this reason, I say that the Average Joe has a far better chance of making a million by following Dante Lee’s step-by-step formula as delineated in the most worthwhile How to Think Big.
Play Piano/Keyboard by Ear in 7 Days by Desmond Anthony Valu Muzik, Paperback, $19.99, 20 pages, illus.
This is not a bible. It is intended instead to be a companion to the keyboard enthusiast while at the keyboard. I have been in the music business since 1974 and I have seen most of the widely-known piano/keyboard tutors on the market. Very few, if any of them progress without the requirement to have even a basic knowledge of the theory of music. The concepts in this book are in other books on the market, but I have never seen any other single book with all the concepts here to take you from start to finish without needing to know the theory of music.
-- Excerpted from the Foreword
Have you loved music but never learned to play anything except the radio? Well, you might like to try Play Piano/Keyboard by Ear in 7 Days. According to its author, Desmond Anthony, his self-help guide will have you learning melodies, harmonizing, comping, and play chord accompaniments in both major and minor keys, and all in just a week.
Though Desmond himself is a classically-trained teacher, his method is designed to dispense with the burden of having to learn to read music and practice scales. Does it work? Quite frankly, I don’t know. But I did ask a professional musician to assess it, who gave it his seal of approval after perusing it for five minutes.
Still, if you truly want to master any instrument, the recommended approach remains the orthodox course of study which includes lessons, learning to read music, and practice, practice, practice. However, if you just want to have fun, Play Piano/Keyboard by Ear in 7 Days represents a cheap and painless way to develop a basic ability to play piano without embarrassing yourself.
Creating Black Americans African American History and Its Meanings, 1619 to the Present
By Nell Irvin Painter, Oxford University Press, 480 pages, illus., Hardcover, $35, ISBN: 0-19-513755-8.
Over the course of more than two centuries, Black American artists have represented their history- scrupulously, meaningfully, and brilliantly. Their efforts represent a beautiful example of African American historical agency, which makes Black people historical actors, not passive victims of history…
The work of Black artists contradicts demeaning conventional images of Black people and puts Black people’s conception of themselves at the core of African American history. Whereas U.S. culture has depicted Black people as ugly and worthless, Black artists dwell on the beauty and value of Black people…
Virtually all the images in Creating Black Americans are by African Americans. By conscious design, negative stereotypes do not appear. Although negative images still appear in American culture, I do not reinforce humiliating, insulting depictions of African Americans; better that my readers discover a rich new body of images produced by Black people themselves.
-- Excerpted from the Preface
While I have studied straight history books and perused plenty of art books, I don’t remember ever coming across a comprehensive text which attempted to illustrate history exclusively with fine art. And I’ve certainly never seen such a tome devoted exclusively to African Americana. Fortunately, this novel idea did come to Nell Irvin Painter, and that vision inspired her to execute the elegant Creating Black Americans: African American History and Its Meanings, 1619 to the Present.
Painter, Professor of American History at Princeton University, and former director of the School’s Black Studies program, has successfully come up with a unique way of matching meaningful, magnificent paintings, sculptures, and photographs with her stirring yet scholarly account chronicling all the traumas, tragedies and triumphs of Black people here over the generations, from the inception of slavery through The Declaration of Independence, The Civil War, Emancipation, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, The Harlem Renaissance, The Depression, World War II, the Civil Rights, and Black Power Movements, and right up to today’s Hip-Hop Generation.
The book incorporates works from around 100 noted African American artists, ranging from the readily recognizable Romare Bearden and Jacob Lawrence to the relatively obscure though no less deserving, such as Joshua Johnston, a freedman who painted over 80 portraits in Baltimore between 1795 and 1825. Though Creating Black Americans may be worthwhile for the art history lesson alone, as it includes brief bios of each contributor, what makes it most valuable is its refreshing restatement of the Black centuries-long struggle to survive from the perspective of the exploited.
In much the same way that Gospel music stirs one’s soul, the passion of these endlessly inventive artists helps set the record straight about the Black experience in a profound way which mere words could never do. The pictures then combine with enlightening entries which repeatedly turn the conventional wisdom on its head, such as the often unchallenged notion that slaves were docile. We learn that at least 25 revolts occurred in America even before the patriots embarked on their own American Revolution.
In 1712, Africans and Native Americans joined forces for a bloody revolt in New York City, while another major rebellion transpired in South Carolina in 1739. After observing whites gaining their independence from England, Denmark Vesey led an 1800 rebellion of over a 1000 slaves in Virginia.
Enriching on several levels, Creating Black Americans is a masterpiece because it offers a deeper understanding of all the painful suffering and adversity endured by a proud and determined people while simultaneously bearing witness to a cultural legacy equally rich with strength, hope and faith.
Hung: A Meditation on the Measure of Black Men in America by Scott Poulson-Bryant, Doubleday, 224 pages, Hardcover, $22.95, ISBN: 0-385-51002-0.
The place: Providence, Rhode Island. The time, Spring 1986, my sophomore year in college… I’m a little new to this, this meeting a strange girl and getting some. I’m also new to sex with white girls.
We’re done, and we’re lying there, she reaches down and says, “I thought you’d be bigger than you are, because you’re Black.” I didn’t know what to say to her. I felt this sudden explosion of self-doubt partly because I didn’t measure up to expectations.
This was the beginning of an education for me, an education in the twisted ways in which race and sex rage through American culture. Through all the lessons I’d learned up to then, there had never been an intersection of race and sex before I’d lain down with the white chick in Providence.
Somehow, I figured out that even if I didn’t have the huge Black penis of her fantasy, it was more a matter of its color than its size. The discovery that I could be affected by someone else’s devotion to culturally prescribed mythology--this was my sexual revolution. It was everything I’d gone to college for.
-- Excerpted from Chapter 1
Does size matter? What about if you’re Black? Does it matter more? This is the issue intimately explored in Hung by Scott Poulson-Bryant, a founder of Vibe Magazine and frequent contributor to such publications as Essence, Spin, Rolling Stone and The New York Times.
Though this Brown University alum went on to make a name for himself as a nationally-known music maven, he has long harbored an interest in understanding the roots of America’s deep-seated fixation with Black endowment. Surprisingly, he asserts that the obsession is primarily a male concern, ”Because, for so many men, it’s the very definition of not only who they are, but why and where they are… Men measure. Bigger is better.”
As proof, in a revealing chapter entitled “Hip-Hop Hooray,” he likens gangsta videos to porn movies but with a glaring difference. For he contends that one reason for all the misogyny in the music has to do with the rise in 1992 of what he refers to as the “Homo Thug.” Apparently, gay gangstas won’t come out of the closet for fear of alienating their fan base, given their ultra-macho personae.
Hung does mix in some historical evidence of the development of the Black man as stud stereotype, but this tome is essentially comprised of anecdotal evidence accumulated to support the author’s contention that Black male identity is all wrapped up in the myth of their sexual superiority. Despite sharing some of the steamy details of his own straight and gay encounters, along with the opinions of some sisters and his relatives, and of his conquests and other assorted acquaintances, the sex-obsessed Scott ultimately only convinced me that his interactions with the world are substantially defined by proof of genital prowess.
Unfortunately, Hung relies far too heavily on hearsay, innuendo, pseudonyms attributed to uncorroborated showbiz sources, pro athletes, and other sources to be taken at face value. Still, it’s an entertaining enough read, if not convincing that brothers have been both blessed and cursed by leveraging the double-edge sword which suggests that size determines destiny.
Osama Bin Laden: America’s Enemy in His Own Words, by Randall B. Hamud, J.D., Nadeem Publishing, 428 pages, Paperback, $17.95, ISBN: 0-9770935-0-6.
In the Western media, and especially the United States, the demonization of Osama bin Laden has been complete. Almost without exception, he is depicted as a maniacal terrorist who hates freedom and kills for the sake of killing. This is a lot of nonsense.
I have compiled 20 of what I believe to be Mr. bin Laden’s most important statements over a 10-year period between 1994 and 2004. They have been translated into understandable English. For the first time, Americans will be able to study the real Osama bin Laden in his own words.
They will clearly understand his thoughts, his grievances, and his goals, why 9/11 came as no surprise… and how best to adopt strategies to win the war on terrorism before it morphs into a global holy war.
-- Excerpted from the Introduction
How much do you know about Osama bin Laden? Many conveniently forget that in the Eighties, as a key American ally, he was funneled hundreds of millions of dollars by the CIA. That was back when he was still considered a freedom fighter as a leader of the mujahadeen, during its resistance of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Since 9/11, no one has bothered to engage in intellectual discussions about bin Laden anymore, instead he has simply been dismissed as a nut. This, despite the fact that his stature has only increased as his radical ideology becomes more widely embraced in the Muslim world.
Similarly, Adolf Hitler was never taken seriously as a charismatic political figure until it was too late, even though he had written Mein Kampf, a book detailing exactly what he planned to do and why. And while many saw his master race theories as silly claptrap, the German people went for it hook, line, and sinker.
It is for this reason, that we might want to examine the ideas of Osama Bin Laden, however offensive they might be. And we have Randall B. Hamud, an Arab-American attorney, to thank for Osama Bin Laden: America’s Enemy in His Own Words. Laid out chronologically, this revealing text puts its subject in proper perspective by allowing him to make his case against the United States.
For instance, on Dec. 27, 2001, he indicted the invasion of Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11 as a Christian Crusade against Islam, alleging, “Even if the U.S. had irrefutable evidence that the perpetrators were Europeans, for example, the I.R.A., they would have pursued other avenues to resolves the matter.” It’s hard to disagree with his logic, here, for I’ve asked if there was no suspicion of every Irishman after the Oklahoma City bombing masterminded by Timothy McVeigh, why the sudden distrust of Arabs based on the behavior of a few from Saudi Arabia?
Where I parted ways with bin Laden, however, is when he subsequently piggybacks his self-righteous religious dogma onto his original persuasive argument, mixing in Islam with general complaints about America. Leaving the question of whether it is wise to give Osama such a platform to others, suffice to say that this book convinced me that he is not merely a lunatic who hates freedom.
For, as uncompromisingly expressed in his own words, bin Laden makes clear that his problems with United States have their basis primarily in its support of Israel, its exploitation of Middle East oil and its stationing of military forces in the region. Thus, it only make sense to conclude that to the extent that a billion Muslims buy into his controversial credo, America is in store for a long hard slog in Iraq and anywhere else it decides to implement the Bush doctrine of unilateralism against the so-called Axis of Evil.
Sundown Towns, A Hidden Dimension of American Racism by James W. Loewen, The New Press, 576 pages, illustrated, Hardcover, $29.95, ISBN: 1-56584-887-X.
Beginning in about 1890 and continuing until 1968, white Americans established thousands of towns across the United States for whites only. A “sundown town” is any organized jurisdiction that, for decades, was all-white on purpose. Many towns drove out their Black populations, then posted sundown signs. Other towns passed ordinances barring African Americans after dark or prohibiting them from owning or renting property.
All this residential exclusion is bad for our nation. In fact, residential segregation is one reason race continues to be such a problem in America. The ghetto isn’t the problem. Exclusion is the problem. The elite sundown suburb is the problem.
As soon as we realize that the problem in America is white supremacy, rather than Black existence or Black inferiority, then it becomes clear that sundown towns and suburbs are an intensification of the problem, not a solution to it. So long as racial inequality is encoded in where one can live, the United States will face continuing racial tension, if not overt conflict.
-- Excerpted from the Introduction
Over the years, I have frequently encountered roadblocks while attempting to rent or purchase a home. I wish I had a dime for every time a realtor informed me over the phone that a house or apartment was available, only to turn around and suddenly say that the place had just been taken when they saw that I was Black.
I have heard similar stories of frustration from many other African American friends, such as a very successful Brooklyn restaurateur who was repeatedly blocked every time he tried to relocate his business to a more upscale location. I even have a friend who works in real estate who told me he had found it impossible to buy in a certain town, despite a willingness to meet the asking price.
Now the racist roots of this persistent phenomenon have been exposed by James W. Loewen in Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism. Loewen, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Vermont, is also the author of a couple of other eye-opening treatises, namely, Lies My Teacher Told Me and Lies Across America.
Painstakingly researched, extensively annotated and illustrated with damning photographic evidence, the book effectively proves that for most of the 20th Century, thousands of communities all across the country designated themselves as “White Only.” This meant that Blacks, and often Asians, Native Americans and Jews as well, were routinely denied any opportunity to live in these exclusionary municipalities.
The inhospitable inhabitants of these locales relied on some combination of discrimination, harassment, arson and riots, sometimes escalating to outright lynching to enforce ordinances which mandated a state-sanctioned, lily-white society. These so-called Sundown Towns got their nocturnal nickname from the intimidating signs posted at the city limits which warned, “[N-word], Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on You [Here].”