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Monthly Archives: October 2014

REVIEW: “Dear White People” Ushers In New Talent, Gives Unflinching Look At “Black Faces In White Spaces”

When I arrived as an undergraduate at Kent State University, I participated in Kupita, a week-long orientation for students of color in which faculty and seasoned students tried to prepare us for what lay ahead: four years as the rare black and brown faces on campus. Those lessons stung in spots, massaged in others, and left us exhausted – rather like the new film, "Dear White People."  Set at the fictitious Ivy League school Winchester University, the debut movie of Justin Simien follows four main characters as they figure out what blackness means to them. Not to mention managing all the expectations accompanying that identity.  Viewers meet Troy Fairbanks (Brandon P. Bell), the All-American legacy who squashes his own aspirations to please his father, the dean of students. His... Read More →

New Report Details “The Making Of Ferguson”: How Governmental Policy Created A Racial Nightmare

Credit: Missouri History Museum, St. Louis When Atlantic Monthly correspondent Ta-Nehisi Coates' spoke in Cleveland in August about reparations, he touched only briefly on the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, in Ferguson, Mo., earlier that month. “All I want to see is some history of the housing there," he said. "We can begin with Mike Brown laying on the ground and folks rioting. But there’s just a whole host of questions behind that. How did his family get to live there? What are the conditions like? What’s going on there?” Researcher Richard Rothstein at the Economic Policy Institute has dug up some of the answers in his new report, "The Making of Ferguson: Public Policy at the Root of its Troubles." On Twitter, Coates called it the “best researched... Read More →

VIDEO: Ari Shavit Speaks At Cleveland City Club: “America Should Lead An Alliance Of Stabilizers”

Photo credit: Robert Muller The biggest laugh during Ari Shavit’s serious, passionate talk about the Middle East came at the end, when a questioner at the City Club of Cleveland asked the Israeli journalist about the Kurds. “Look,” Shavit said. “There are no good guys. There are no Canadians in the Middle East.  So you have two options: You opt out and say, ‘I’m a purist; I don’t touch it; it’s all contaminated.’ Or you say, ‘It’s a rough world out there, and promoting the lesser evil is doing the right thing.’" In “the world’s most unstable region,” Shavit insisted that the United States must stay in the game: “I think the distinction should be not between moderates and extremists but stabilizers and de-stabilizers. America should lead an alliance of... Read More →

Rita Dove Brings Focus To Literacy In Akron, Delivers Stunning Poetry To Inspire A New Generation

When former poet laureate Rita Dove graced the stage of the Akron Civic Theater October 16, she took a minute to give thanks to her hometown.  "It's wonderful to be back home," Dove told the crowd, adding that she was thankful for the opportunity to "give back what was given to me." The Anisfield-Wolf juror was the headliner for Project Learn of Summit County's annual "Night of Illumination," a fundraiser to improve literacy. The figures are sobering: an estimated 18 percent of the adult population in Summit County read at less than a fifth grade education. For more than 30 years, Project Learn has worked to improve literacy rates among adults, offering free classes and workshops. During the afternoon, Dove met with 30 students from these classes for an intense writing session. Two of... Read More →

New Photography Exhibit Provides Never-Before Look At Black Student Life In The 1960s

A preview of the photographs on display at the Kent State exhibit Toledo attorney Lafayette Tolliver, 65, estimates there were fewer than 300 black students on the campus of Kent State University during his four years a half-century ago. "We pretty much knew everyone there because that's how few of us there were," he said. "We were there, we did it, we graduated. It was quite an exhilarating time."  Interested parties can glimpse that mid-American black student experience in a new photography exhibit, "Coming of Age at Kent 1967-1971: A Pictorial of Black Student Life." Culled from Tolliver's personal collection, these images depict a pivotal time on college campuses, as black students at predominately white institutions began organizing for more resources, taking cues from the... Read More →

REVIEW: “Half Of A Yellow Sun” Adaptation Tackles A Violent History With A Emphasis On Humanity

A still shot from the film, Half of a Yellow Sun, starring Thandie Newton and Chiwetel Ejiofor Half of a Yellow Sun is now available on iTunes and other video streaming services.  by Lisa Nielson  The film adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel Half of a Yellow Sun is subtle and engrossing. Directed by Nigerian playwright Biyi Bandele, the film stars British actors Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton, supported by a strong ensemble cast of Nigerian and British actors. Half of a Yellow Sun received mixed reviews in the US and Europe, and was further overshadowed by Ejiofor’s critically acclaimed 12 Years a Slave. In an additional complication, the film was originally supposed to open in Nigeria shortly after its release in Europe and the US, however, the Nigerian Film... Read More →

VIDEO: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie On Becoming Black: “This Identity Was Weighted With Stereotypes”

"When you're not born in the U.S. and you're a person of African descent, in some ways identifying as black becomes a political choice," novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie told Tavis Smiley during a recent appearance on his PBS show. "I'm very happily black."  Adichie was on hand to discuss her most recent novel, Americanah, now available in paperback. A love story that spans three continents, Americanah is about many things—with race and immigration at the forefront.   "I wanted to write about a kind of immigration that is familiar to me," Adichie said. "When we hear about Africans emigrating, we think of people who have run away from burned villages and war and poverty. And that story is important to tell but it's not the story I know. I wanted to talk about the Africa I know... Read More →

REVIEW: Charles M. Blow’s “Fire Up In My Bones” Opens New Conversation On Masculinity

New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow opens his memoir, "Fire Up In My Bones," with a face full of tears. "I had never thought myself capable of killing," he wrote. "I was a twenty-year-old college student. But I was about to kill a man. My own cousin, Chester."   The murderous impulse is triggered by a brief, casual phone call from his older cousin, who molested Blow when he was a young boy. The brief event splits his life into two. "Trauma stays alive and stays with you," Blow, 44, told Mother Jones. "You relive it every day, so those scenes are incredibly fresh." Blow ultimately changed his mind and returned to his dorm, cleansed of the anger that he carried for more than a decade. That betrayal informed his perception of the world and his place in it. As a child, he took pains... Read More →

Zadie Smith Talks Creativity At CWRU: “I Much Prefer Writing At This Age Than When I Was 24.”

"Cleveland has always been incredibly nice to me," novelist Zadie Smith said as she took the podium at Case Western Reserve University. Her last visit to Northeast Ohio was back in 2006, when she was on hand to accept the Anisfield-Wolf prize for fiction for her third novel, On Beauty. This year, Smith was the first author to appear at Writers Center Stage, a literary series sponsored by the Cuyahoga County Public Library and Case Western Reserve University. Clad in a tan blazer and jeans, Smith began her talk, entitled, "Why Write? Creativity and Refusal." The title borrows from George Orwell's 1946 essay "Why I Write."  Smith, 38, told the audience that she appreciates the wisdom that comes with experience. "I much prefer writing at this age than when I was 24," she said. Her debut... Read More →
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