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Kalamu ya Salaam's information blog

 

January 13, 2017

January 13, 2017

 

 

 

ALONG THE OLD

UNDERGROUND RAILROAD,

ONE PHOTO AT A TIME

JEANINE MICHNA-BALES’S INCREDIBLE
NIGHTTIME IMAGES OF
THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD

 

 

By Allison Wright

 

This photo essay appears in the current issue of the Virginia Quarterly Review.

By 1860, nearly four million people were enslaved in the United States. For generations, tens of thousands had risked their lives to escape, and many did so using the system of people and places that came to be known as the Underground Railroad. The perilous journey comprised innumerable routes, undertaken mostly by adult men on their own, often without help and always under the threat of capture, especially after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Of those who did flee, many were caught and returned to slavery.

Much of what we know as the Underground Railroad today was a Northern institution. For all intents and purposes, it didn’t operate below the Mason–Dixon Line (which means that for the majority of slaves at the beginning of the Civil War, it was worthless, a nonentity).

Photographer Jeanine Michna-Bales grew up in the Midwest, north of the Ohio River, in what had been a Free State before the Civil War. As a child, she “often imagined what it must have been like to walk thousands of miles for the chance to be free.” In this project, Through Darkness to Light, she documents a path of roughly 1,400 miles, evoking “what the journey north to freedom would have looked like through the eyes of one individual.”

From the cotton plantations of Louisiana to the cypress swamps of Mississippi and the plains of Indiana all the way to Ontario, Canada, her images—shot at night to give the series “a sense of mystery and foreboding” as well as to reinforce the fact that traveling took place at night, under the cover of darkness—offer a glimpse of the geographical and psychological terrors one might have encountered along the way. Michna-Bales found the remote locations overwhelming in their vast strangeness, experiencing a cacophony of baffling noises: bullfrogs, coyotes, cicadas, even wind and water can sound unfamiliar at night, alone.

Like so many of the “freedoms” that were granted African Americans after the Emancipation Proclamation or with the passage of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, the promises slaves fleeing north sought were elusive, if not illusory. Even in the so-called Free States, true liberation remained out of reach. But that didn’t stop hundreds more, former slaves and free blacks alike (along with some whites), from pushing on toward freedom for their brothers and sisters.

–Allison Wright

Decision to LeaveMagnolia Plantation on the Cane River, Louisiana, 2013

 

Sunken TraceClaiborne County, Mississippi, 2015

Tracking the DeerSkirting the Osburn Stand, Mississippi, 2014

 

Cypress Swamp. Mississippi, 2014.

 

 

A Lesson in Astronomy. Southern Kentucky

 

 

The River JordanFirst view of a Free State, crossing the Ohio River to Indiana. 2014

Eagle Hollow from Hunter’s Bottom. Just across the Ohio River, Indiana, 2014.

Look for the Gray Barn Out BackJoshua Eliason Jr. barnyards and farmhouse, with a tunnel leading underneath the road to another station. Centerville, Indiana, 2013

On the Safest RouteJames and Rachel Sillivan Cabin; Pennville [formerly Camden], Indiana

Orange MoonAdams County, Indiana, 2014.

 

 

 

Within ReachCrossing the St. Clair River to Canada just south of Port Huron, Michigan, 2014

>via: http://lithub.com/along-the-old-underground-railroad-one-photo-at-a-time/

 

 

January 12, 2017

January 12, 2017

 

 

 

She changed the way

America saw black people

 

 

Self-Portrait of Ming Smith—Ming Smith

Self-Portrait of Ming Smith—Ming Smith

When Ming Smith was a teenager in 1960s Columbus, Ohio, her high-school counselor told the Detroit native to abandon her ambitions.

“He said, ‘All you’re going to do is be a domestic,’ ” the photographer, who now lives in Harlem, tells The Post. “ ‘Why waste going to college?’ ”

“Auntie Esther” by Ming Smith. Courtesy Ming Smith and Steven Kasher Gallery, New York

“Auntie Esther” by Ming Smith.—Courtesy Ming Smith and Steven Kasher Gallery, New York

Instead, Smith went to Howard University in DC, moved to New York City and became one of the foremost chroniclers of black life in the US and beyond. She’s now the subject of a major solo exhibition, opening Friday at the Steven Kasher Gallery in Chelsea with 75 photos on view spanning her 40-year career.

“I had a teacher who used to tell me, ‘Always be in the art,’ ” says Smith, whose impressionistic images capture the grit, poetry and vitality of communities from Coney Island to Senegal. “I photograph from my heart — it’s impulsive, but it’s constant.”

Smith, who declines to give her age but is in her 60s, fell in love with photography in kindergarten, when she borrowed her parents’ Brownie camera for her first day of school.

“I just took photos of my classmates,” Smith says, adding that she got the idea from her pharmacist father, who loved taking pictures of the family during special events. She found that photography allowed her to observe, and even communicate with, others while remaining a bit of an outsider.

“I was always very shy,” she says. “[Photography] was a way I could divert attention to another person.”

But people still noticed Smith. When she was in college, Muhammad Ali, who was giving a lecture at Howard, noticed the beautiful student hiding behind the scrum of photographers with her camera in hand.

“We would talk about the negative images that were out there representing American black people that weren’t being made by [blacks]. We wanted to change that.”

“He said, ‘You, come up here! Take my picture!’ ” Smith says. “I have no idea if it even came out. I just took it as fast as possible so I could get away.”

Smith graduated with a degree in microbiology, but when a friend told her she could make $100 an hour modeling in New York City, she high-tailed it to the West Village where, in between go-sees and catalog gigs, she fell in with a group of young black photographers who would go on to create the African-American collective Kamoinge.

“We would talk about the negative images that were out there representing American black people that weren’t being made by [blacks],” Smith says. “We wanted to change that.”

For example, Smith noticed she rarely saw black families being portrayed in the press, so she began snapping pictures of mothers and children, fathers and their babies, and siblings running, laughing and smiling.

“A lot of the people I’d photograph, they were struggling, but there was life there,” says Smith. “They were optimistic and full of love.”

She shot her pictures on the fly, letting them streak and blur and thus imbuing them with an intimate, dreamlike quality that straddled the line between documentary realism and impressionistic art. In 1978, she became the first African-American female photographer acquired by the Museum of Modern Art, which mistook the artist for a messenger when she went to drop off her portfolio.

“It was like winning the Academy Award, but no one knew about it,” she says of the honor. “I didn’t tell anyone for years.”

Almost four decades later, Smith has traveled all over the world for her art. She has experimented with collage and painted over her photographs. She’s taken portraits of some of the most iconic figures in modern culture, including Nina Simone and Grace Jones, the latter with whom she modeled in Paris in the early 1970s.

She’s also working on a book of her photography, wants to do a film about dance — her main passion after photography — and still carries her camera “24/7.”

“I just want to continue to express myself through my art,” she says. “That’s the beauty and the struggle of an artist: the work goes on and on and on.”

SUN RA

“I went to see him in this small club in New York, and I loved the way the light hit the silver fabric on his cape,” says Smith of her on-the-fly portrait of Afro-futurist musician Sun Ra. “He looks like he’s from outer space here. It really represents his music.”

“I went to see him in this small club in New York, and I loved the way the light hit the silver fabric on his cape,” says Smith of her on-the-fly portrait of Afro-futurist musician Sun Ra. “He looks like he’s from outer space here. It really represents his music.”

 

PRODIGAL SON

Smith captured this photo of a man passing by an exuberantly decorated storefront, which includes paintings of Oprah and Martin Luther King Jr., during one of her walks in Harlem.

“The way the light hit [the image of] Martin Luther King, it looked like the sun was passing by,” Smith says.

HARLEM

Smith still draws inspiration from Harlem. While shopping for a dress in a local store recently, Smith noticed the shopkeeper taking money out of the register to give to a customer.

“She told me, ‘He’s been in jail and is struggling to take care of his child so I just want to help him out.’ It was the same feeling you would see 40 years ago.”

 

>via: http://nypost.com/2017/01/12/she-changed-the-way-america-saw-black-people/

 

JAN. 16, 2017

JAN. 16, 2017

 

 

 

President Obama in the Oval Office on Friday during an interview with Michiko Kakutani, the chief book critic for The New York Times. Credit - Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Obama in the Oval Office on Friday during an interview with Michiko Kakutani, the chief book critic for The New York Times. Credit – Doug Mills/The New York Times

Michiko Kakutani, the chief book critic for The New York Times, interviewed President Obama about literature on Friday at the White House. Here are excerpts from the conversation, which have been edited and condensed. 

These books that you gave to your daughter Malia on the Kindle, what were they? Some of your favorites?

I think some of them were sort of the usual suspects, so “The Naked and the Dead” or “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” I think she hadn’t read yet.

Then there were some books I think that are not on everybody’s reading list these days, but I remembered as being interesting, like “The Golden Notebook” by Doris Lessing, for example. Or “The Woman Warrior,” by Maxine [Hong Kingston].

Part of what was interesting was me pulling back books that I thought were really powerful, but that might not surface when she goes to college.

Have you had a chance to discuss them with her?

I’ve had the chance to discuss some. And she’s interested in being a filmmaker, so storytelling is of great interest to her. She had just read “A Moveable Feast.” I hadn’t included that, and she was just captivated by the idea that Hemingway described his goal of writing one true thing every day.

What made you want to become a writer?

I loved reading when I was a kid, partly because I was traveling so much, and there were times where I’d be displaced, I’d be the outsider. When I first moved to Indonesia, I’m this big, dark-skinned kid that kind of stood out. And then when I moved back from Indonesia to Hawaii, I had the manners and habits probably of an Indonesian kid.

And so the idea of having these worlds that were portable, that were yours, that you could enter into, was appealing to me. And then I became a teenager and wasn’t reading that much other than what was assigned in school, and playing basketball and chasing girls, and imbibing things that weren’t very healthy.

I think all of us did.

Yeah. And then I think rediscovered writing and reading and thinking in my first or second year of college and used that as a way to rebuild myself, a process I write about in “Dreams From My Father.”

That period in New York, where you were intensely reading.

I was hermetic — it really is true. I had one plate, one towel, and I’d buy clothes from thrift shops. And I was very intense, and sort of humorless. But it reintroduced me to the power of words as a way to figure out who you are and what you think, and what you believe, and what’s important, and to sort through and interpret this swirl of events that is happening around you every minute.

And so even though by the time I graduated I knew I wanted to be involved in public policy, or I had these vague notions of organizing, the idea of continuing to write and tell stories as part of that was valuable to me. And so I would come home from work, and I would write in my journal or write a story or two.

The great thing was that it was useful in my organizing work. Because when I got there, the guy who had hired me said that the thing that brings people together to have the courage to take action on behalf of their lives is not just that they care about the same issue, it’s that they have shared stories. And he told me that if you learn how to listen to people’s stories and can find what’s sacred in other people’s stories, then you’ll be able to forge a relationship that lasts.

But my interest in public service and politics then merged with the idea of storytelling.

What were your short stories like?

It’s interesting, when I read them, a lot of them had to do with older people.

I think part of the reason was because I was working in communities with people who were significantly older than me. We were going into churches, and probably the average age of these folks was 55, 60. A lot of them had scratched and clawed their way into the middle class, but just barely. They were seeing the communities in which they had invested their hopes and dreams and raised their kids starting to decay — steel mills had closed, and there had been a lot of racial turnover in these communities. And so there was also this sense of loss and disappointment.

And so a bunch of the short stories I wrote had to do with that sense, that atmosphere. One story is about an old black pastor who seems to be about to lose his church, his lease is running out and he’s got this loyal woman deacon who is trying to buck him up. Another is about an elderly couple — a white couple in L.A., — and he’s like in advertising, wrote jingles. And he’s just retired and has gotten cranky. And his wife is trying to convince him that his life is not over.

So when I think back on what’s interesting to me, there is not a lot of Jack Kerouac, open-road, young kid on the make discovering stuff. It’s more melancholy and reflective.

Was writing partly a way to figure out your identity?

Yes, I think so. For me, particularly at that time, writing was the way I sorted through a lot of crosscurrents in my life — race, class, family. And I genuinely believe that it was part of the way in which I was able to integrate all these pieces of myself into something relatively whole.

People now remark on this notion of me being very cool, or composed. And what is true is that I generally have a pretty good sense of place and who I am, and what’s important to me. And I trace a lot of that back to that process of writing.

Has that continued to be so in the presidency?

Not as much as I would have liked. I just didn’t have time.

But you keep some form of a journal?

I’ve kept some, but not with the sort of discipline that I would have hoped for. The main writing that I’ve done during the presidency has been my speeches, the ones at least that were important to me.

How has the speechwriting and being at the center of history and dealing with crises affected you as a writer?

I’m not sure yet. I’ll have to see when I start writing the next book. Some of the craft of writing a good speech is identical to any other good writing: Is that word necessary? Is it the right word? Is there a rhythm to it that feels good? How does it sound aloud?

I actually think that one of the useful things about speechwriting is reminding yourself that the original words are spoken, and that there is a sound, a feel to words that, even if you’re reading silently, transmits itself.

So in that sense, I think there will be some consistency.

But this is part of why it was important to pick up the occasional novel during the presidency, because most of my reading every day was briefing books and memos and proposals. And so working that very analytical side of the brain all the time sometimes meant you lost track of not just the poetry of fiction, but also the depth of fiction.

Fiction was useful as a reminder of the truths under the surface of what we argue about every day and was a way of seeing and hearing the voices, the multitudes of this country.

Are there examples of specific novels or writers?

Well, the last novel I read was Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad.” And the reminder of the ways in which the pain of slavery transmits itself across generations, not just in overt ways, but how it changes minds and hearts.

It’s what you said in your farewell address about Atticus Finch, where you said people are so isolated in their little bubbles. Fiction can leap —

It bridges them. I struck up a friendship with [the novelist] Marilynne Robinson, who has become a good friend. And we’ve become sort of pen pals. I started reading her in Iowa, where “Gilead” and some of her best novels are set. And I loved her writing in part because I saw those people every day. And the interior life she was describing that connected them — the people I was shaking hands with and making speeches to — it connected them with my grandparents, who were from Kansas and ended up journeying all the way to Hawaii, but whose foundation had been set in a very similar setting.

And so I think that I found myself better able to imagine what’s going on in the lives of people throughout my presidency because of not just a specific novel but the act of reading fiction. It exercises those muscles, and I think that has been helpful.

And then there’s been the occasion where I just want to get out of my own head. [Laughter] Sometimes you read fiction just because you want to be someplace else.

What are some of those books?

It’s interesting, the stuff I read just to escape ends up being a mix of things — some science fiction. For a while, there was a three-volume science-fiction novel, the “Three-Body Problem” series —

Oh, Liu Cixin, who won the Hugo Award.

— which was just wildly imaginative, really interesting. It wasn’t so much sort of character studies as it was just this sweeping —

It’s really about the fate of the universe.

Exactly. The scope of it was immense. So that was fun to read, partly because my day-to-day problems with Congress seem fairly petty — not something to worry about. Aliens are about to invade. [Laughter]

There were books that would blend, I think, really good writing with thriller genres. I mean, I thought “Gone Girl” was a well-constructed, well-written book.

I loved that structure.

Yeah, and it was really well executed. And a similar structure, that I thought was a really powerful novel: “Fates and Furies,” by Lauren Groff.

I like those structures where you actually see different points of view.

Which I have to do for this job, too. [Laughter]

Have there been certain books that have been touchstones for you in these eight years?

I would say Shakespeare continues to be a touchstone. Like most teenagers in high school, when we were assigned, I don’t know, “The Tempest” or something, I thought, ‘My God, this is boring.’ And I took this wonderful Shakespeare class in college where I just started to read the tragedies and dig into them. And that, I think, is foundational for me in understanding how certain patterns repeat themselves and play themselves out between human beings.

Is that sort of comforting?

It gives me a sense of perspective. I think Toni Morrison’s writings — particularly “Song of Solomon” is a book I think of when I imagine people going through hardship. That it’s not just pain, but there’s joy and glory and mystery.

I think that there are writers who I don’t necessarily agree with in terms of their politics, but whose writings are sort of a baseline for how to think about certain things — V. S. Naipaul, for example. His “A Bend in the River,” which starts with the line, “The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.” And I always think about that line, and I think about his novels when I’m thinking about the hardness of the world sometimes, particularly in foreign policy, and I resist and fight against sometimes that very cynical, more realistic view of the world. And yet, there are times where it feels as if that may be true.

So in that sense, I’m using writing like that as a foil or something to debate against.

I’ve read that Lincoln loved Shakespeare his whole life, but when he was dealing with the Civil War, reading the history plays helped give him solace and perspective.

Lincoln’s own writings do that. He is a very fine writer.

I’d put the Second Inaugural up against any piece of American writing — as good as anything. One of the great treats of being president is, in the Lincoln Bedroom, there’s a copy of the Gettysburg Address handwritten by him, one of five copies he did for charity. And there have been times in the evening when I’d just walk over, because it’s right next to my office, my home office, and I just read it.

And perspective is exactly what is wanted. At a time when events move so quickly and so much information is transmitted, the ability to slow down and get perspective, along with the ability to get in somebody else’s shoes — those two things have been invaluable to me. Whether they’ve made me a better president, I can’t say. But what I can say is that they have allowed me to sort of maintain my balance during the course of eight years, because this is a place that comes at you hard and fast and doesn’t let up.

Is there some poem or any writing or author that you would turn to, say, after the mass killings in Newtown, Conn., or during the financial crisis?

I think that during those periods, Lincoln’s writings, King’s writings, Gandhi’s writings, Mandela’s writings — I found those particularly helpful, because what you wanted was a sense of solidarity. During very difficult moments, this job can be very isolating. So sometimes you have to hop across history to find folks who have been similarly feeling isolated. Churchill’s a good writer. And I loved reading Teddy Roosevelt’s writing. He’s this big, outsize character.

Have you read a lot of presidential biographies? 

The biographies have been useful, because I do think that there’s a tendency, understandable, to think that whatever’s going on right now is uniquely disastrous or amazing or difficult. And it just serves you well to think about Roosevelt trying to navigate World War II or Lincoln trying to figure out whether he’s going to fire [George B.] McClellan when Rebel troops are 20, 30, 40 miles away.

I watched some of the civil-rights-movement documentary mini-series “Eyes on the Prize” after the election. 

It was useful.

You do see how far we’ve come, and in the space of my lifetime.

And that’s why seeing my daughters now picking up books that I read 30 years ago or 40 years ago is gratifying, because I want them to have perspective — not for purposes of complacency, but rather to give them confidence that people with a sense of determination and courage and pluck can reshape things. It’s empowering for them.

What books would you recommend at this moment in time, that captures this sense of turmoil?

I should probably ask you or some people who have had time to catch up on reading. I’ll confess that since the election, I’ve been busier than I expected. So one of the things I’m really looking forward to is to dig into a whole bunch of literature.

But one of the things I’m confident about is that, out of this moment, there are a whole bunch of writers, a lot of them young, who are probably writing the book I need to read. [Laughter] They’re ahead of me right now. And so in my post-presidency, in addition to training the next generation of leaders to work on issues like climate change or gun violence or criminal justice reform, my hope is to link them up with their peers who see fiction or nonfiction as an important part of that process.

When so much of our politics is trying to manage this clash of cultures brought about by globalization and technology and migration, the role of stories to unify — as opposed to divide, to engage rather than to marginalize — is more important than ever.

There’s something particular about quieting yourself and having a sustained stretch of time that is different from music or television or even the greatest movies.

And part of what we’re all having to deal with right now is just a lot of information overload and a lack of time to process things. So we make quick judgments and assign stereotypes to things, block certain things out, because our brain is just trying to get through the day.

We’re bombarded with information. Technology is moving so rapidly.

Look, I don’t worry about the survival of the novel. We’re a storytelling species.

I think that what one of the jobs of political leaders going forward is, is to tell a better story about what binds us together as a people. And America is unique in having to stitch together all these disparate elements — we’re not one race, we’re not one tribe, folks didn’t all arrive here at the same time.

What holds us together is an idea, and it’s a story about who we are and what’s important to us. And I want to make sure that we continue that.

I know you like Junot Díaz’s and Jhumpa Lahiri’s books, and they speak to immigration or the American Dream.

I think Lahiri’s books, I think Díaz’s books, do speak to a very particular contemporary immigration experience. But also this combination of — that I think is universal — longing for this better place, but also feeling displaced and looking backwards at the same time. I think in that sense, their novels are directly connected to a lot of American literature.

Some of the great books by Jewish authors like Philip Roth or Saul Bellow, they are steeped with this sense of being an outsider, longing to get in, not sure what you’re giving up — what you’re willing to give up and what you’re not willing to give up. So that particular aspect of American fiction I think is still of great relevance today.

 

>via: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/16/books/transcript-president-obama-on-what-books-mean-to-him.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Farts&action=click&contentCollection=arts&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=2&pgtype=sectionfront&_r=2

 

 

MAY 20, 2016

MAY 20, 2016

 

 

 

 

Meet The Doctor

Trying To Keep Abortion

Accessible & Safe

For Women

In The South

 

The legal right to a safe abortion is slowly disappearing in parts of
America. And it’s doctors like Willie Parker who are standing up to
defend the right for the women who need it.
“I do my work because,
as we make laws more restrictive and limit women to safe, confidential,
legal, respectful abortion care, it stands to reason that women will
pursue desperate measures,” Parker told Refinery29, which traveled
to meet the doctor and learn about his efforts to keep abortion safe
and accessible. 
As of 2011, the most recent year statistics are available,
89% of U.S. counties lacked abortion providers. A full 38% of women
of reproductive age lived in those counties at that time.

The average American county is now 59 miles from its nearest abortion
provider, according to The New York Times, and in some places,
women can travel even farther. In Texas, the passage of the controversial
abortion restriction bill, HB2 in 2013 — a bill that is currently being
challenged
 in the Supreme Court — left Texas with only 19 clinics. The
state previously had 41. A 2016 study in the American Journal of Public
Health found that it became dramatically harder to get an abortion for
those whose nearest clinics had closed, with these women traveling an
average of 170 miles round-trip to get to a clinic.
And on Thursday, in
the latest attack on abortion access, the Oklahoma Legislature passed
a bill
that would make any doctor providing abortion services in the
state guilty of a felony, subject to up to three years in prison. Gov. Mary
Fallin vetoed the law. 
All this means that the doctors who are left, are
providing the essential services — often at great personal and
professional risk — for women who desperately need them.

 

While induced abortion in a medical setting is significantly safer for a
woman than childbirth, the same can’t be said for the doctor providing
it. Between onerous and unnecessary regulation of clinics, harassment,
and vandalism, and even the risk of death, being an abortion provider
means living under threat.

Parker himself began providing abortions on June 1, 2009 — the day
after another abortion doctor, George Tiller, was murdered at his
church in Kansas
 in an act of domestic terrorism that preceded a
decrease in abortion access in the region. 
Parker’s experience has
shown him the secret behind the battle for reproductive rights.
Namely, that though the right to a safe, legal abortion is codified in
law, that’s only the beginning of the struggle. 
“The fight began with
the passage of Roe,” he said. “There hasn’t been a day where the
passage of Roe hasn’t been a strategy to be overturned.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that Oklahoma’s
governor vetoed the latest proposed abortion restrictions there.
 

>via: http://www.refinery29.com/2016/05/109959/willie-parker-abortion-mississippi-video?utm_source=tumblr.com&utm_medium=post&utm_campaign=end&utm_campaign=h2&utm_campaign=watch

 

 

 

16 JANUARY , 2017

16 JANUARY , 2017

 

 

 

 

Q&A: poet-psychiatrist

Femi Oyebode

on literature,

medical humanities

and the mind

 

 

Femi Oyebode is Professor of Psychiatry at the University of
Birmingham, UK, and the current author of Sim’s Symptoms
in the Mind
 (4th edition). His other books include Mindreadings:
literature and psychiatry
Madness at the Theatre. He has
published 6 volumes of poetry: Naked to your softness and
other dreams; Wednesday is a colour; Adagio for oblong
mirrors; Forest of transformations; Master of the leopard
hunt; 
andIndigo, camwood and mahogany red. Also, Selected
Poems
His research interests include clinical psychopathology,
medical humanities, the application of ethics to psychiatric
practice, and neuropsychological and neural correlates of
abnormal phenomena.

femi-oyebode

Tọ́pẹ́ Salaudeen-Adégòkè for Africa in Words: I must thank you, Prof, for talking with me, for sharing your time with me. I am tempted to begin this interview by asking you that over worn question whenever a medical practitioner doubles as a writer, as how medicine overlap with literature, and other such questions like how the two fields is managed by the interviewee. But I have read your book, Mindreadings: Literature and Psychiatry, which interestingly describes that. Nevertheless, for the reader’s sake, could you elaborate on the functionality of literature as a method of healing and especially what you have termed as ‘medical humanities’?

Femi Oyebode: It is well acknowledged that modern medicine is technologically driven. In practice this means that there is the risk that machines get in the way of the clinical encounter; a transaction that ought to be determined by humane interactions can be stripped of empathy and any true compassion. In addition, medical training by definition de-humanises the person, that is to say, objectifies the person and often also decomposes the person into organs. All this means that the clinical encounter is fraught with risks for the patient- their suffering, their real wishes, the hopes and aspirations can be lost within the modern clinical arena. This is where ‘medical humanities’ come in. This is an attempt to re-introduce subjectivity into an intensely objectifying area of work. What better tool can there be but the humanities, disciplines that challenge us to take seriously the subjectivity of another human being, that recognise that we negotiate meanings within a world of meaning that is co-created with others. I hope this sums why the ‘medical humanities’ and what the project intends to introduce to medicine and what the likely benefits are for patients.

Salaudeen-Adégòkè: Still on medical humanities. Your exilic isolation, though we’re still coming back to this, brooks suicidal expression in your poetry which prompts me to ask about the thematic preoccupation of suicide in African literature. It’s not really being thematised in contemporary African literature, I think, while I can remember Achebe’s Okonkwo’s suicide in Things Fall Apart and Elesin Oba’s suicide in Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman. The two are symbolic as cultural deaths but their meaning can also be stretched to the psychological planes of the characters. What does this mean for the sociological condition of a culture that refuses to examine itself?

oyebode-mindreadings

Oyebode: Chukwuemeka Ike’s Toads for Supper has suicide at the end. That was my first reading of suicide in Nigerian literature. But, my interest in these matters is almost entirely from the viewpoint of the person subjected to intolerable strain that death seems a better option. Our task as psychiatrists is to come to understand human abnormal behaviour – no behaviour is so alien, so perverse that we turn away from it. We are like Catholic priests who have to be able to listen to all human maladies, be able to comprehend it and at least give succour even when the acts are unspeakable. So you can see straightforwardly the dilemma of a psychiatrist – how to comprehend but not condone, how to maintain moral compass yet be human enough to listen to utmost perversity. Now this is exactly the role of the writer too. To work to understand and to make comprehensible the inner recesses of grievous corruption and I use the term corruption in its primordial sense- for something pure to be turned towards what is vile and disgusting to us. Our moral sensibility is cleverly annexed to our gustatory functions; what is morally corrupt is disgusting, it makes us want to vomit! This task of the writer is, like for the psychiatrist, profoundly disquieting and dangerous. I mean for the serious writer whose task is more than just to tell a palatable story.

Salaudeen-Adégòkè: Since delving into your poetic oeuvres I’ve been in awe, I must admit. It’s been utter pleasure reading your poetry. Your stylistics and diction are disciplined and enchanting as you straddle between the physical world and your metaphysical constructs. When you write, do you persistently feel this as a signature; how much is style important to you?

Oyebode: Writing is not, I believe, an activity that is other than impregnated with one’s fingerprint. What we call ‘voice’ is exactly that- a manner of speaking, of thinking, much like our stride pattern when we walk. So, the preoccupation with precision, with exactitude, with sonorous words, with brevity, with an aiming for that which is intangible but that still seeks expression- well all that is who I am, not consciously or by posturing or as a dramatic expression of self but intrinsically and deeply what I am. Style is essentially who we are.


Salaudeen-Adégòkè: 
From Wednesday is a Colour, the hostility, racial discrimination and prejudice immigrants face is expressed in this volume which makes me conclude you write to question out aloud. I would like to quote few lines from this book now: ‘i voted without delight and was able without tension, /my neighbours were fond of me, /this was england after a decade’. You speak of your acculturation by naturalisation. Do you now feel welcomed in England after many years? And do you think time has really worn racism out, especially when migration was one of the influences of the outcome the Brexit referendum?

oyebode-selected-poems

Oyebode: I am not sure that I am writing about ‘racism’ in that poem but I am comfortable with that reading. No, consciously I was writing about a particular kind of lassitude that Europe engenders, a self-satisfaction, a reluctance to take anything seriously, an evenness of living that acts as if wars, suffering, dying, poverty are not taking place elsewhere. But of course it is only an apparent calm – hence my approach was to caricature in order to reveal it. Most English people I think read it as a mild criticism of a settled culture, and will wear a wry smile when they read it, exactly as I describe it in the poem. Now, for the question of identity- that’s a serious question that has long and complex answer(s). We are entering a new world where identity is going to be very fluid, very fragile, and I am I think, in that vanguard. In a way all Africans are in this category. I speak Yoruba and English, I write in English, I practise medicine in English, I switch cultural identity depending what I am trying to talk about and I am visibly foreign in the UK but colleagues are often surprised when I refer to being Nigerian. One of the strangest facts is that in my specialist area of research, there are only maybe a dozen people in the world interested in the subject and I am regarded not as an African psychopathologist but rather as a British psychopathologist. You can see that these matters are far from settled. The world, it is a-changing!

Salaudeen-Adégòkè: In Adagio for Oblong Mirror, your sensitivity to spectra of colours is obvious, sometimes warm and other times lacklustre. I know this must be informed by your training in the field of psychiatry, I have read sparingly into it one time. Do you consider colours as an approach to understanding ourselves and environs, especially in connexion to these philosophical concepts ‘colour realism’ and ‘colour fictionalism’?

Oyebode: There is no theory involved at all. It was a period when I was obsessed with colours, their variety, their gradual but definite change from one to the other, and the absence of any true line of clarification. Also how the words that describe colours themselves take on the beauty of the perceived colour, an interesting phenomenon. It was also a period when I became convinced that in order to force myself to look outside and see the world properly rather than being introspective, seeing colour and shape in the objective world would help and it did. I took up drawing and painting for a very brief period as part of this project. What is interesting for me is that the hidden creative processes are implicit rather than explicit in the poems.

Salaudeen-Adégòkè: Forest of Transformation puts one in mind of the geographical and cultural history of Benin city, her civilisation and spiritual migration. I remember watching a documentary on BBC, The Lost Kingdom some time ago about this same explanation. Here you become an historian in retrospect wanting to tell his history himself. Was it a way of setting aright your cultural root?

Oyebode: I don’t believe that literature is interested in that kind of authenticity. It is a different kind of truth I was after, for which the historical periods and the differing personae were an excuse to explore. I was also at that time interested in a particular kind of rhythm – one that seemed to go on forever – and for that I listened to Miles Davies and tried to capture his tone and his spirit. So, in Gaha, I was interested in despotism not merely in Gaha but as a symbol of Babaginda, and later Abacha. In Master of the Leopard Hunt my interest switched to the inner life of an unnamed Benin sculptor – the master of the leopard hunt – whose style is recognised by art historians but sadly he is anonymous.

Salaudeen-Adégòkè: All your poetry volumes are sold out, even on Amazon, except two volumes. Are there any plans making them readily available again? And I am aware you are having a poetry manuscript ready for publication. Is it at a stage where you can talk about it?

Oyebode: All there is to say is that I continue to write. The themes haven’t changed significantly. I am not sure about the language – there is perhaps even more economy. I am working on the 6th edition of my textbook on psychopathology; the manuscript is due at the publishers in September 2017. When that’s done, I intend to turn to poetry but I also have in mind at least two other books and it very much depends on how things are towards the end of this year.

Salaudeen-Adégòkè: Finally, on literary criticism, especially in this contemporary generation, I can remember when we met in Nigeria recently you expressed pessimism about this, dubbing the present day criticism as ‘mere praise’. Are there anything more you wish to say that we can learn of your view?

Oyebode: My intention was not to be uncharitable about contemporary critical studies, merely to draw attention to the risk of undue praise – it is as damaging to the writer as it is to the critic’s reputation. The life of the mind, if I might use such a grandiloquent expression, is serious business. This includes the business of creative writing, of criticism and of course of academic life. It ought to be conducted conscientiously and that requires discipline and commitment.

Salaudeen-Adégòkè: Again, thanks for having this conversation with me. It’s been a pleasure.

1page-divider
The Favourite Son of Africa is the pseudonym of Tọ́pẹ́ Salaudeen-Adégòkè. He is an editor, literary critic and poet from Ibadan, Nigeria. Tọ́pẹ́ is the co-publisher of Fortunate Traveller, a travel journal. Also, he is the administrator of the Kofi Awoonor Memorial Library in Ibadan. He writes for Wawa Book Review, Abuja, and FilmsandCinemas, Lagos. He enjoys travelling and cooking. He is presently experimenting with poetic forms, including mathematical poetry, but does not know when his debut poetry collection will be ready. @LiteraryGansta is his alter ego on Twitter.

 

>via: https://africainwords.com/2017/01/16/qa-poet-psychiatrist-femi-oyebode-on-literature-medical-humanities-and-the-mind/#more-14803

 

 

2017 DÍAZ-AYALA LIBRARY

TRAVEL GRANTS

travel grant

The Cuban Research Institute (CRI) at Florida International University reminds scholars and graduate students that the 2017 Díaz-Ayala Library Travel Grants are available and applications are being accepted for research in special collections related to Cuba and Cuban Americans until March 1, 2017 [see 2017 Application Form].

Description: Every year, the Cuban Research Institute (CRI), the Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center, and Florida International University Libraries offer the Díaz-Ayala Library Travel Grants to study the special collections related to Cuba and Cuban Americans. These awards are offered in honor of Cristóbal Díaz-Ayala, the prominent music collector and independent scholar who donated his Cuban and Latin American Popular Music Collection to FIU in 2001. The grants provide scholars and graduate students the opportunity to conduct research on Cuba and its diaspora at the FIU Green Library, thereby expanding access to the library’s unique holdings and enhancing its value as a national resource.

CRI, LACC, and FIU Libraries offer research stipends of up to $2,000 each to offset the costs of a minimum one-week stay in Miami to use the collections. Scholars in the humanities and the social sciences whose work will be enhanced by using the resources of the collections are encouraged to apply. Priority is given to scholars who are not previous recipients of the award. Due to our fiscal year, at least one award recipient is required to complete his/her travel by mid-May. Two of the awards are given to U.S.-based scholars or graduate students, in accordance with the requirements of the U.S. Department of Education Title VI Grant. Those residing in other countries are encouraged to apply for the remaining grant.

As a condition of the award, recipients give one lunchtime lecture at FIU for faculty and students on their recent research, and following their travel, submit a one-page single-spaced summary of their work with the collections, and make recommendations on how the collections may be improved or enhanced. Any publications resulting from research conducted at FIU during the grant period should acknowledge the Cuban Research Institute, the Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center, FIU Libraries, and the U.S. Department of Education Title VI Grant for their support.

The Díaz-Ayala Cuban and Latin American Popular Music Collection is the most extensive publicly available collection of Cuban music in the United States. Its approximately 150,000 items span the history of popular Cuban and other Latin musics. Originally valued at nearly one million dollars, the collection features 45,000 LPs; 15,000 78 rpms; 4,500 cassettes containing interviews with composers and musicians, radio programs, music, and other materials; 5,000 pieces of sheet music; 3,000 books; and thousands of CDs, photographs, videocassettes, and paper files. Among the collection’s rarest items are early recordings made in prerevolutionary Cuba.

A portion of the collection can be searched online here. However, the vast majority of items are only searchable and accessible in person. Supplementing the Díaz-Ayala Music Collection is an excellent and varied collection of Cuban materials and electronic resources available at the FIU Libraries. For more information on the Díaz-Ayala Music Collection and other collections, and to determine if your research project will be enhanced by the Díaz-Ayala Music Collection, please contact the Sound & Image Resources Department at FIU Libraries.

For grant guidelines, applications and instructions, please visit the CRI website at:

https://cri.fiu.edu/programs/library-travel-grants/

>via: https://repeatingislands.com/2017/01/03/2017-diaz-ayala-library-travel-grants/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

center for fiction

Apply to the 2017

NYC Emerging Writers Program!

 

This program is generously funded by a grant from the Jerome Foundation, matched by additional funds from individuals. We will be selecting nine writers in 2017 and during the one-year fellowship period grantees will receive:

 

  • • A grant of $5,000
  • • The option to engage in a mentorship with a selected freelance editor
  • • The opportunity to meet with agents who represent new writers
  • • A Center for Fiction membership that includes borrowing privileges for our collection of new fiction and fiction-related titles
  • • Free admission to all Center events for one year, including tickets to our First Novel Fete and benefit dinner as space allows
  • • 30% discount on tuition at select writing workshops at the Center
  • • Two public readings as part of our annual program of events and inclusion in an anthology distributed to industry professionals
  • • A professional headshot with a photographer for personal publicity use 

 

Criteria 

Applicants must be current residents of one of the five boroughs, and must remain in New York City for the entire year of the fellowship. Students in degree-granting programs are not eligible to apply, even if the focus of study is not directly related to writing. This program supports emerging writers whose work shows promise of excellence. Applicants can be of any age, but must be in the early stages of their careers as fiction writers and will not have had the support needed to achieve major recognition for their work. We define “emerging writer” as someone who has not yet had a novel or short story collection published by either a major or independent publisher and who is also not currently under contract to a publisher for a work of fiction. Eligible applicants may have had stories or novel excerpts published in magazines, literary journals or online, but this is not a requirement. If at any point during the judging process an applicant signs a contract for publication or accepts an offer to study in a degree-granting program, he or she must alert us immediately to have the application pulled from consideration.

 

Application Guidelines

Applications are due via our online Submission Manager by 11pm on February 15, 2017. Please follow these instructions carefully as incomplete applications will not be read.

 

Please submit a fiction writing sample, not to exceed 7,500 words, submitted as a double-spaced Word document or pdf through our Submission Manager. The submission must include page numbers. The writing sample may be either a novel excerpt or a complete short story (Multiple stories/excerpts in one submission are acceptable as long as the total word count does not exceed 7,500. If submitting multiple pieces for your sample, please combine them into one attachment). Please do not include any personal or identifying information on your writing sample.

 

Once you have received an email confirmation of your sample submission, email a PDF or jpeg scan showing proof of residency and a one-page resume to sara@centerforfiction.orgA New York driver’s license or non-driver’s ID card is the preferred proof of residency. A PDF of a current utility bill may also be used to show residency. If you are a full-time resident of New York City, but do not have any of these items, please e-mail sara@centerforfiction.org to discuss other proof of residency that may be provided.

 

Please note that we do not wish to receive application cover lettersInstead, please include your mailing address and phone number in the email with your proof of residency and resume attachments. Please do not include any other information unless absolutely necessary, such as questions or comments relating to your eligibility or the submission process. All career and other professional information should be provided only in your resume.

 

Apply through our Submission Manager!  

>via: http://centerforfiction.org/forwriters/grants-and-awards/

 

 

 

 

National Call for Applications

The 2017-2018 competition is open.

jwj portrait

The James Weldon Johnson Institute of Emory University invites applications for its Visiting Fellows Program. Supported by a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Johnson Institute offers five fellowships per year.

  • Visiting Fellowships for Post-Doctoral and Advanced Scholars: Three (3) fellowships for both junior and senior scholars and their career equivalents. Candidates must hold a Ph.D. by the start of the fellowship period in August 2017. Fellows will each teach one course in the spring semester. 
  • Visiting Fellowships for Pre-Doctoral Scholars: Two (2) fellowships for doctoral dissertation completion. Dissertation Fellows are not required to teach courses.

We welcome applications from scholars in the humanities. We are interested in research projects across the spectrum of the humanities that examine the origins, evolution, impact and legacy of race, difference, and the modern quest for civil and human rights. We also support research projects that examine race and ethnicity and its points of intersection with other identities and movements addressing differences along gender, class, religious, or sexual lines. Visiting Fellows will be in residence at Emory for the academic year 2017-2018.  

Post-Doctoral and Advanced Scholars

Dissertation Completion Program 

The James Weldon Johnson Institute of Emory University invites applications for its Visiting Fellowship for Pre-Doctoral Scholars. Supported by a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Visiting Fellows Program provides two fellowships for pre-doctoral scholars in the humanities who are approaching their final year towards completion of the Ph.D. degree.

We are interested in supporting the completion of dissertation projects across the spectrum of the humanities that examine the origins, evolution, impact and legacy of race, difference, and the modern quest for civil and human rights. We also support research projects that examine race and ethnicity and its points of intersection with other identities and movements addressing differences along gender, class, religious, or sexual lines.

Visiting Fellows will be in residence at Emory’s Johnson Institute for the academic year 2017-2018. 

Eligibility

  • U.S. citizenship or permanent resident status as of the application deadline.
  • Candidacy status and good standing in a U.S.-accredited Ph.D. program.

Award

  • $25,000 stipend
  • $3,000 additional allotment for research and conference travel expenses
  • Period of Residency: one academic year (September 1 – May 31)

Application Deadline

  • February 7, 2017
Application Checklist
  • Cover Letter
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Research Proposal
  • Three recommendation letters
Questions?Contact kali.amen@emory.edu

Application Instructions

Applications must be submitted via the Emory University Careers Site by the application deadline. The job requisition number for the fellowship (Visiting Fellow II – Dissertation Completion Fellowship) is 66350BR. 

To complete the application, you will need to create a candidate profile and submit: a Letter of Interest, Curriculum Vitae, and Research Proposal (1,000 words). Documentation should be uploaded as attachments when prompted within the online hiring system. Request three confidential letters of recommendations to be sent on your behalf directly to the JWJI Visiting Fellowship Selection Committee at applications.jwji@emory.edu. One letter must be from the dissertation chair and attest to the candidate’s likelihood of degree completion in calendar year 2018. Only electronic references will be reviewed.

Direct Application Link: https://sjobs.brassring.com/TGnewUI/Search/home/HomeWithPreLoad?PageType=JobDetails&partnerid=25066&siteid=5449&areq=66350br

 

 

Pre-Doctoral Scholars

Dissertation Completion Program 

The James Weldon Johnson Institute of Emory University invites applications for its Visiting Fellowship for Pre-Doctoral Scholars. Supported by a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Visiting Fellows Program provides two fellowships for pre-doctoral scholars in the humanities who are approaching their final year towards completion of the Ph.D. degree.

We are interested in supporting the completion of dissertation projects across the spectrum of the humanities that examine the origins, evolution, impact and legacy of race, difference, and the modern quest for civil and human rights. We also support research projects that examine race and ethnicity and its points of intersection with other identities and movements addressing differences along gender, class, religious, or sexual lines.

Visiting Fellows will be in residence at Emory’s Johnson Institute for the academic year 2017-2018. 

Eligibility

  • U.S. citizenship or permanent resident status as of the application deadline.
  • Candidacy status and good standing in a U.S.-accredited Ph.D. program.

Award

  • $25,000 stipend
  • $3,000 additional allotment for research and conference travel expenses
  • Period of Residency: one academic year (September 1 – May 31)

Application Deadline

  • February 7, 2017
Application Checklist
  • Cover Letter
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Research Proposal
  • Three recommendation letters
Questions?Contact kali.amen@emory.edu

Application Instructions

Applications must be submitted via the Emory University Careers Site by the application deadline. The job requisition number for the fellowship (Visiting Fellow II – Dissertation Completion Fellowship) is 66350BR. 

To complete the application, you will need to create a candidate profile and submit: a Letter of Interest, Curriculum Vitae, and Research Proposal (1,000 words). Documentation should be uploaded as attachments when prompted within the online hiring system. Request three confidential letters of recommendations to be sent on your behalf directly to the JWJI Visiting Fellowship Selection Committee at applications.jwji@emory.edu. One letter must be from the dissertation chair and attest to the candidate’s likelihood of degree completion in calendar year 2018. Only electronic references will be reviewed.

Direct Application Link: https://sjobs.brassring.com/TGnewUI/Search/home/HomeWithPreLoad?PageType=JobDetails&partnerid=25066&siteid=5449&areq=66350br

 

>via: http://jamesweldonjohnson.emory.edu/home/fellowship/apply.html