The Story of Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Starting this month, I will be a regular contributor at Black Perspectives, the blog for the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS). My first post for the year is “The Story of Black Colleges and Universities,” a review of the new documentary Tell Them We Are Rising, which premiers nationally February 19 on PBS. There will be a Twitter chat on the night of the broadcast under the hashtag #HBCURising. Follow @HBCURising on Twitter for more details. And make sure to subscribe to Black Perspectives and follow AAIHS to see all the excellent public scholarship that AAIHS is producing.

 

Dark Reflections Redux

 

Back in 2007 I reviewed Samuel R. Delany’s Dark Reflections for the GC Advocate. Dark Reflections went out of print later that year when it’s publisher, Carroll & Graf, was acquired by another company and then dissolved, which turns out to be an oddly relevant development for a novel about the precarious nature of publishing and the writing life. Thankfully, Dover Books has released an updated and revised edition of Dark Reflections in 2016.  I decided to write about this new version of the novel from the perspective of race and literary awards for The New Inquiry.

if you haven’t seen it, I also recommend Matthew Cheney’s extensive review essay on Dark Reflections in LA Review of Books.

2016: Year That Trembled and Reel’d Beneath Me

View from the Brooklyn Bridge, 10/26/16

View from the Brooklyn Bridge, 10/26/16

 

Year that trembled and reel’d beneath me!
Your summer wind was warm enough, yet the air I breathed
froze me,
A thick gloom fell through the sunshine and darken’d me,
Must I change my triumphant songs? said I to myself,
Must I indeed learn to chant the cold dirges of the baffled?
And sullen hymns of defeat?

-Walt Whitman

 

By the end of this year “2016” became an Internet meme unto itself. The perception is that this year had an unusually high number of high-profile deaths. Probably not. If there’s anything unusual about this year maybe it’s the increased volume of communication networks that have facilitated collective mourning over celebrity deaths.

Nevertheless, there were some sudden, unexpected losses that felt shocking and unusual, particularly the loss of pop culture icons like David Bowie and Prince, stars who seemed like they had plenty of years left, but then suddenly were gone.

Personally, the death of Prince hit me hard. I was sitting in my school’s library when I saw the breaking news on my phone. I skipped an unnecessary meeting that afternoon and headed home.  I couldn’t imagine sitting in a room talking about bureaucracy after seeing that.  I didn’t want to be around people, didn’t want to be forced into any conversations about it.

Much closer to home, I lost one of my graduate school mentors in August just a few months after having lost another at the end of 2015.

Then November 8 happened. And my country, which I always knew had a substantial amount of headass in it, decided to go full Idiocracy on us.

The massacre at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub earlier in the summer was a personal breaking point for me.  The aftermath of that tragedy made me decide to purge my Facebook list of some people from my past who really weren’t adding much to my life now.

No, that decision was not about living an “echo chamber.” Their rancid-ass opinions about me and my friends are very well represented in many other places, and always have been for my entire life.  I’m public on other platforms, and if these people really care what I have to say (yeah, right) they can find me there.  I decided I’m no longer willing to give such people access to me and my personal space.

I didn’t do much posting here on the blog, and didn’t write as many articles this year as I would have liked.  I decided to forego some short-term writing to focus on long-term projects, including my book and a couple of longer articles that are now in process. I’m hoping that gamble will pay off with more opportunities in 2017.

I have some new pieces in the works coming out early in the new year.  One of the first that should appear is an article about W. E. B. Du Bois and his fiction writing.  I’m interested in Du Bois’s depiction of black education as a critical part of resistance against white supremacy.  We find ourselves in a challenging moment politically now, but black writers and artists have been here before, working through crisis, and now it’s our turn to do the same.

So I can’t say I’m heading into 2017 with a whole lot of hope that we will all survive this madness that was unleashed this fall, but I’m confident that the ancestors have already given us the tools we need for the work that lies ahead.

I want to thank all of you who have kept up with my sporadic writing here over the years.  Sadly, because of spammers and trolls, I’ve decided I’d better moderate posts here before things get out of hand, but if you’ve got a serious comment I’m more than happy to engage.  From talking to people over the past few months I do realize there are some folks out there who read my meager scribblings regularly, and I appreciate that. And for some reason, from my blog stats, there appears to be a burst of interest in Sutton Griggs’s Imperium in Imperio. That novel is part of the book project I’m working on, so hopefully I can add more to that conversation in the new year.

To all of you out there, Happy New Year, and may we all find the strength and courage we need to face the challenges ahead in 2017.