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Monthly Archives: June 2013

What HBCUs Need To Survive

by Chris Stevens As a proud product of a Historically Black University (Delaware State, Class of 2007), I’ve watched with nervous eyes in recent months as 125-year-old St. Paul’s College in Lawrenceville, Va., prepares to close June 30 after years of struggling to stay afloat financially. Howard University, according a board of trustee member, is in danger of the same fate. The impact of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) is undeniable. A recent study in the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education reported: One in five African-American college graduates earned their degrees at HBCUS. Black colleges graduated nearly all black students (90 percent) who earned bachelor's degrees in STEM fields between 2006 and 2010. Black colleges produce half of all black public... Read More →

REVIEW: Sonia Sotomayor Bares Her Soul In “My Beloved World”

One of my close friends, Shanelle Smith, shoved a thick book in my hands as we met for lunch. "You have to read this." It was upside down; I flipped it over. U.S. Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor beamed from the cover. "It's very good," Shanelle said, tapping the cover of My Beloved World  for emphasis. "It's my Lean In." Back in March, Shanelle and I had talked at length about Sheryl Sandberg's "call to action" for working women as part of our informal book club. The child of two auto factory workers, my friend was turned off by Sandberg's "middle class to riches" story, peeved that Sandberg had never met some of the barriers that low-income working mothers encounter. (Sandberg's "working mom confession " that her child had lice while on a private jet evoked zero sympathy.) Most... Read More →

Spanish-Language Books Finding A Tough Road To Bookshelves

On July 2, Atria Books will publish eight versions of a new autobiography, “Unbreakable: My Story, My Way,” by Jenni Rivera, the Mexican American star who sold more than 15 million albums in a career cut short in a fatal plane crash last December. “Unbreakable” will come out in English and Mexican Spanish—which Rivera sang and spoke fluently—and in hardcover, paperback and digital formats. The publisher will also print two special editions with extra photographs—an idea from Walmart, which committed to accepting 17,000 copies to sell, said Judith Curr, Atria’s publisher and founder. Curr told an audience in Manhattan at Book Expo America that Atria is “one of many rooms where a different community can be heard.” Founded 11 years ago, her upstart imprint enjoyed a... Read More →

Natasha Trethewey’s Bringing Poetry To The Masses

A 2009 National Endowment for the Arts study found that only 8 percent of adults read any poetry in the previous year.  Children do better. The Poetry Foundation discovered that the main reasons adults take a pass is loss of interest, lack of time, lack of access, and the perception that poetry is difficult and irrelevant.  ©Joel Benjamin U.S. poet laureate Natasha Trethewey, recently appointed to her second term, is working to welcome more adults to the party. "We can’t know what poem is going to be the poem that brings someone to poetry, comforts them in times of grief, tragedy, and loss, or celebrates with them in times of joy and triumph,” she told the Los Angeles Review of Books last year. “But it is our job — as poets, as teachers, as the poet laureate — to try... Read More →

“Can I Touch Your Hair?” NYC Exhibit Lets Passerby Explore Black Women’s Tresses

As an African-American woman, I've had strangers grab and rake their fingers through my hair (without my permission) on more than one occasion. They seem amazed at my soft curls and ask me questions about my hair care regime. Once, when I was flying, my Afro puff on top of my head seemed to require a very thorough pat-down by TSA agents. The woman who checked my hair for weapons remarked, "It's so full! Wow." These encounters illustrate the reality for many black women—what grows out of your scalp (and how) is always more than "just" hair, as exemplified in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s new novel, “Americanah.” On the Huffington Post, Antonia Opiah, founder of the site Un-Ruly.com, shared her thoughts on strangers' requests to touch her hair, sharing one noteworthy incident that... Read More →

Congressman John Lewis Publishes Graphic Novel Of Civil Rights Movement

“Some of you may be asking: ‘Hey, John Lewis, why are you trying to write a comic book?’” said the legendary civil rights leader, smiling at the incongruity of this development for an audience at Book Expo America, the annual publishing trade show in Manhattan. John Lewis was 17 when he met Rosa Parks; 18 when he joined forces with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Five years later, he was one of the “big six,” an architect of the historic Civil Rights March on Washington in August 1963.  Standing at the Lincoln memorial, Lewis spoke sixth and King spoke tenth, stamping the day with his immortal “I Have a Dream.”  Of all those who addressed the throng a half century ago, Lewis is the only one left. Now, at 73, he has become the first member of the U.S. Congress to... Read More →

Lorraine Hansberry Biopic In Development

Films on Princess Diana, Steve Jobs, and Jimi Hendrix should make 2013 a rich year for biopics. An intriguing new one just has been announced: a movie on the life of Lorriane Hansberry, playwright, author, and activist. The big question is who will play Lorraine? According to Shadow and Act, Taye Hansberry, Lorraine's grand niece, has been cast. She will also help write the screenplay. Jaleel White (from Family Matters) will play James Baldwin, one of Lorraine's close friends. Production begins in the fall.  Lorraine (left) and her grand niece, Taye Hansberry Lorraine's most-known work, A Raisin in the Sun, was inspired by her family's attempts to integrate a Chicago neighborhood. Unmarred by violent attacks against them and a court order to move, her family stood its ground. Their... Read More →
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