Kalamu ya Salaam's information blog


photo by Alex Lear

photo by Alex Lear




Ruby Dee Eyes

/the 9 march 1996 ruby dee tribute

at umbc organized by acklyn lynch/


the room went dark &, as we tried to guess what to expect, the program

         opened with a snatch of ruby in the jackie robinson story projected

         on a screen at the rear of the stage


there she was, a very young quiet fire bright eyed ruby ready to face

         whatever the morrow may bring


jackie says he’s about to head south for training camp & he’s sure there’s

         gonna be trouble, so maybe they ought to get married after he gets



ruby doesn’t skip a heartbeat, “let the trouble come”


you know black women have been saying that for centuries




                  if we

                  can be












my redness







my deep


                  will warm you


during this winter

         of our



& scene after scene was shown in between speeches & poems, following &

         before dramatic sequences & musical interludes, ahead of & behind

         the presentation of plaques & portraits


scenes from buck & the preacher:


it’s like there’s poison in this land

sweet ruby scowls

it’s like the ground is poisoned




for freedom, i’d go all the way

to the ocean

& walk away from here


from this land that is poisoned


such rough vision is a deep seeing we all some-soon day will have to face,

         now that it’s nearly three hundred years of military rule later


(i do not mean to offend those who consider america a democracy, but i

         know how the west was won, why every pilgrim had a gun & that

         they gave thanks to their warrior god not for native charity but rather

         for their socalled civilize christian superiority, their inate ability to

         conquer / nearly five hundred years of genocide against the red and

         three centuries of blacks made slaves can not be erased by a mere

         thirty years of half-hearted, about to be fully rescinded, affirmative

         action / i mean if you don’t pledge allegiance to uniting with

         conquerors and the descendants of slave masters, then there is no

         democracy here / troubled spirits inhabit this soil, restless souls

         whose wrongs must be righted / actually the poison is not in the

         land, but rather in the evilness of those who seek to ignore or to

         distort the course of justice with manifest destiny arguments & great

         nation shibbolets about how america the beautiful has made

         amends when it’s still a blood drenched plundered land)


but, oh say can you see

can you stand to see

to see our world

the world where we

struggle to be, to survive

see our reality beyond the blues

past the whites through the red

of ruby dee eyes


see not just what this nation has achieved but acknowledge also how it

         came to be

see the birth of democracy in a stolen land of slavery

see the rulers of oz for what they are actually are, sinister washington grand

         wizards continuing the reign of death for any & all who refuse to

         bow down

see that philosophically we are diametrically opposed, for us life is dearer

         than gold, & for them ownership is the goal of life

see how capitalist connivance is constant & unswerving in commodifying &

         commercializing the value of every body’s soul


i say can you see what ruby dee eyes

eyes eyeing reality

eyes eyeing dreams

eyes open

eyes closed

eyes watching the beast enter

eyes watching her man leave

eyes watching her children issue forth into a world aflame


ruby deep red eyes forced to swallow rape

red deep ruby eyes learning to love the child the master made

deep red ruby eyes challenging maimed males to be fully men

deep eyes ruby red teaching abused girls to be whole women

ruby eyes red & deeply ready to survive, to live, to love, to go down to the

         sea & walk the water if that’s the only way to get free


do you think you could see the world through ruby dee eyes

see your life on stage as maid, as po’ child who just grew, as mother,

         prostitute, lover & lesser other

see your talents more often miscased & under-utilized rather than given

         something elegant to portray, something real to say


brother could you stand the world if you had woman eyes

brother could you rise every morning if you had to lay down each night with

         your legs open because you have no other way to shelter your


brother could you be ruby & see the potential of a man’s smiling face

         betrayed by the disappointments of his back walking away

brother could you speak to brothers without screaming if most black male

         images portrayed you as a whore


if you wore ruby deep eyes you would know how constant cutting is the title

         bitch spewed out of the black holes of male mouths

if you wore ruby red you wouldn’t be able to count the times your behind

         is the first thing many men see as you walk toward them

if you wore ruby deep ruby how long could you watch television without


if you a man with deep eyes were treated like a woman but you thought like

         a man, how long before you sliced some motherfucker’s thang clean


if the only royalty you could achieve was welfare queen, how long before

         you gave up on the kingdom coming


brother how long could you cope with this hopeless insanity before it drove

         you stone mad

brother how often could you dry your eyes and keep on keeping on, steady

         stepping soft strong into tomorrow

brother how wide could you open your eyes & welcome face all your

         people in sorrow


could you look at yourself in the mirror without thinking of dying

could you

could you wear ruby dee eyes & not just survive but also grow, glow &       


& love

& live

& climb on a stage, turn to face the camera & be beautiful, be tender, be

         real, be black


if you looked at the world through red ruby woman eyes

could you still stand to be black

could you

could you be ruby dee at sixty

could you make it that long, that strong

could you hum the lyric, remember the rhythm, & harmoniously chant life’s deep song


should you survive

how would you survive

could you cancel the cold & revive

arise the morning after, wide awake with nary a regret clouding the

         clearness of your vision

should you

could you

would you

with your ruby deep eyes wide open

be able to truthfully say









not standing still

but still standing

& ever ready to forward move


could you wear deep ruby dee eyes

& sixty years after their opening

still be standing

be standing


despite the terrors of the night

despite the heat of the night

despite whatever happens in the night


rise fore day in the morning

buckle on your traveling shoes

regardless of how your feets may feel

surmount the hurt

rise & still be standing





& ready

ready to rise

raise up out of here & fly

ready to go

to journey

to the shore

ready & ready

to meet the sea

ready & ready

to walk across


if that’s the only way

         for you

                  to be free


could you

can you

will you wear

         ruby dee



—kalamu ya salaam












saturday child press

Saturday’s Child Press Short Story Award

September 15, 2014

Entry Fee: 


E-mail address:


A prize of $1,000 and publication in Saturday’s Child Magazine is given twice annually for a short story by a woman or a translation into English of a short story by a woman. Translators of any gender are eligible. Submit a story of up to 25 pages with a $15 entry fee by September 15. Call, e-mail, or visit the website for complete guidelines.

Saturday’s Child Press, Short Story Award, 8 Woodmont Road, Montclair, NJ 07043. (973) 866-0171. Ali Sherwin, Editor.














stroud short stories image 2


We are now open for submissions for the next great Stroud Short Stories event on 26 October 2014

Stroud Short Stories is now seeking submissions for its special event to be held on Sunday 26 October 2014.  Ten stories will be selected from those submitted to be read by their authors at Stroud Valleys Artspace (SVA), John Street, Stroud, GL5 2HA at 8pm.

80 people packed into the May SSS event at the SVA for a truly memorable evening of short stories, and we are hoping to achieve that again.

For this event we are seeking stories from writers from across Gloucestershire and South Gloucestershire.

The judges this time are Sophie Livingston and John Holland.  Christiane Nicholson is our administrator. Christiane will ensure that authors retain their anonymity until the judges make their final decisions.

We are greatly looking forward to reading your stories.

Stroud Short Stories Rules for Submissions 26 October 2014 Event

  1. Submissions will be considered from writers with a Gloucestershire or South Gloucestershire connection (i.e. writers who were born, or live, or work, or study, or are a member of a writers’ group in Gloucestershire or South Gloucestershire)
  2. Authors must be 16 or over
  3. There is a maximum of two stories per author
  4. Submissions are free
  5. Stories must be between 100 and 1,500 words (excluding the title)
  6. Submissions must be received before the end of Sunday 28 September 2014
  7. Stories can be on any theme, but poetry and children’s fiction will not be accepted
  8. Stories may be previously published or unpublished
  9. Stories can only be submitted by email
  10. Writers must be available to read at the SSS event on the evening of Sunday 26 October 2014 at SVA, Stroud.  Please do not enter unless you can be there
  11. Writers chosen to read may not enter two consecutive SSS events
  12. The decision of the judges is final and no correspondence will be entered into 


How to enter

  1. Please email your stories to
  2. Attach you story in .pdf, .doc or .docx format.  Do not add any personal details to your story.  Only include the title of your story and the word count on your story attachment
  3. On the covering email, to which your story is attached, include your name, email, phone number, the title of your story (for cross referencing) and your connection with Gloucestershire/South Gloucestershire
  4. The closing date for submissions is the end of Sunday 28 September 2014
  5. Your submission will be acknowledged within 4 days
  6. You will be informed of the ten stories to be read by their authors no later than Friday 3rd October 2014
  7. Any general queries to please

Our submissions email is
Our general email is

Keep up to date on Twitter 
Stroud Short Stories@StroudStories















rsl Brookleaze grants

The RSL Brookleaze Grants

The purpose of these grants is to buy time for novelists, short-story writers, poets or playwrights with pieces of work in hand. The Council of the RSL, who will be responsible for awarding the grants, will be particularly interested in applications from writers who wish to buy time away from their normal lives – who need to take sabbaticals from their jobs, for example, or who need to travel abroad for the purpose of research.

A total of £5,000 will be available annually, and this may be awarded either as two grants of £2,500 or one grant of £5,000. Council reserves the right to withhold grants if applications are not thought to be sufficiently compelling.

Applying for a grant
We are now open for applications for Autumn 2014. To be eligible to apply, a writer must have had work previously published, or have been newly commissioned, by a trade publisher in the UK or produced by a UK theatre. Works must be written by a citizen of the UK, Commonwealth, Republic of Ireland or a writer who has been resident in the UK for at least three years.

If you wish to make an application, please write a short (one side of A4) letter, describing the project on which you are engaged, detailing your previous work, explaining how you would plan to use a grant, and giving a brief outline of your financial circumstances (no supporting documents required). The names and addresses of two referees should also be submitted as part of your application. Applicants are welcome to re-submit previous applications, but unsuccessful applications will not be automatically carried forward.

The closing date for applications in the second half of the year is Friday 17 October 2014.

Applications should be sent by email to Lucy Shaw or by post to Lucy Shaw, The Royal Society of Literature, Somerset House, London, WC2R 1LA marking your envelope ‘Brookleaze application’.











from sir






“As someone who identifies himself as an African man, I try to show that pride in my work.  I also try to show the importance of freedom.  That another person’s perception or fear of your Blackness should in no way be limiting you from being who you feel in your heart you are.  

You can dress how you’d like, or undress how you’d like.  Your good times should be celebrated and your down times should be embraced.  I want my work to be an example for the developing youth.  So that they too can see representation of themselves that isn’t one-dimensional.

I feel blessed to have the mentality that I am an African artist.  I see the world differently.  And this mentality is rooted in having the desire to know where I come from.  Let’s give Black kids that same desire.”

Dexter R. Jones for
IG: sirdexrjones








April 2, 2014




@chrisabani on, among other things, defining the sublime 

Chris Abani

Chris Abani’s new novel, The Secret History of Las Vegas, has been described as a moving, strange and savagely funny book, a gut-wrenching, off-beat crime novel, a work of brutal lyricism, and a story of both global sweep and thematic unity.The Secret History of Las Vegas — a New York Times Editors’ Choice — is also a page-turning thriller.

I recently spoke with Abani, whose prolific work has garnered many awards including a PEN/Hemingway Book Prize, about his take on Afropolitans, how his novel confronts race in America, the one question he ponders in every novel he writes, and what he defines as the sublime.

You’ve said recently that all your work is against forgetting. Could you elaborate a bit? Of course oppressed people throughout history have stressed the importance of never forgetting. But it seems you meant this and more. What are we as readers, as artists, as a culture most in danger of forgetting? How does your work push against that?

First I think that I should clarify that my work reaches for the intimate while hoping to approximate something larger. So in that sense I’m worried about speaking for an entire culture, in prescriptive ways. I will say that as humans we have the ability to screen what we see – a cognitive dissonance that edits out discomfort from our consciousness. While that might be a necessary faculty in certain times, now the discomfort is more benign and often takes the form of “otherness.” So my work seeks to recover that which has been edited out, without a moral framework, but rather with a curiosity and integrity that I hope allows us to revisit our fear and reappraise our relationship to our own consciousness. I don’t think this is work limited to artists. I think it is the most basic human urge – to understand and be understood. I try to make work that is meaningful and therefore difficult, but work that pushes the limits of understanding.


Las Vegas is clearly another character in this novel. Early in the story, Sunil has the thought that “Vegas is really an African city,” and later the narrator also refers to it as “no different from any small American town, except that everything hidden and denied there was celebrated in Vegas.” Could you discuss how Las Vegas manages to conjure two places in the world that most people perceive as vastly different from one another?

I think that as humans we are trained to think of ourselves as essentially different from each other. But we are not. We are specifically different but not essentially. Humans and their cultures offer a very limited palate – food is only cooked a handful of ways. What’s different are the specific crops and spices. So it is with everything we build. It is the ways in which the US has managed to turn its culture into an island that creates this false sense of difference.

Given how The Secret History of Las Vegas continues your preoccupation with outsiders, characters who live on the margins, do you think there is something metaphorical in this tale for African Americans in particular — for their unique history and place in the world?

I think that my preoccupation is not with outsiders but with those deemed outsiders. I don’t see them as different to us otherwise I would write them as spectacle. What makes my work disturbing is its very lack of judgment.

As for the second part of your question, African Americans are a people who have been wronged by everybody – Africans for letting our family be scattered in this way and for not seeking to make amends, White western culture for its direct or indirect involvement in the initial holocaust of slavery and for its cultural perpetuation. It is in fact remarkable that all diasporic peoples are able to build such robust cultures – and this is not limited to African Americans but includes Jews, Palestinians, and former peoples of the Soviet Bloc and even I would say Scottish and Irish people. It is humbling. But those other diasporic cultures don’t need me to speak for them. And while my concern is blackness, it is still not my place to speak to what is metaphorical for African Americans. My book uses apartheid to confront race in America honestly, but since my experience is not rooted in this, it would be disingenuous of me to appropriate the cultural responses. But as a black man in the 21st Century, I say yes it speaks to our metaphorical positions and posits several ways toward solution.


If it is true that writers embark on a novel with an unanswered question that compels them, what question lay before you as you wrote this novel?

The question that lies before me in every novel is, how am I implicated in this? Where is my humanity in this? And what does that mean for me? And the most important one – can I find the right questions? Better questions.

You’ve said that, “To get to the sublime you have to go through the grotesque.” Within this story of freaks and grotesqueness in so many guises, how would you define the sublime?

The sublime is many things for many people and always different, for people and even for cultures. But I would say the sublime is finding the questions that allow you to grow, as a person or as a people, without letting your fear overwhelm you.

photo: Claus Gretter

photo: Claus Gretter

You describe yourself as having had a cosmopolitan upbringing. Yet you point out that your work, which is set in multiple countries, still has a decidedly Igbo worldview. Do you embrace the term Afropolitan? If no, why not?

I’m not sure what the term Afropolitan really means, but from what I’ve read and glimpsed of it, I would say yes, that is certainly a part of who I am. The Igbo worldview, particularly from the South Eastern Igbo that I come from, has always been cosmopolitan. We are a mix of people as far north as the Igala and as far south as the Ejagham and Efik and Ibibio. Africans have been managing cosmopolitan identities for centuries. We are the original melting pot. I claim them all. More is better; less is only good in poetry.

Could you give us a glimpse into new work that you’ve begun?

It’s still forming but I can say that I am leaning more into essays for now.

Additional links:







houston chronicle







Historically black colleges

face uncertain future



JEROME BAILEY Jr., Associated Press




Photo By John Bazemore/AP  In this Thursday, July 17, 2014 photo, plywood covers the doors and windows of Gaines Gall on the campus of Morris Brown College in Atlanta. Morris Brown College, a 133-year-old private institution, filed for bankruptcy in August 2012 and has received court approval to sell some of its property. In the last 20 years, five historically black colleges and universities have shut down and about a dozen have dealt with accreditation issues.

Photo By John Bazemore/AP / In this Thursday, July 17, 2014 photo, plywood covers the doors and windows of Gaines Gall on the campus of Morris Brown College in Atlanta. Morris Brown College, a 133-year-old private institution, filed for bankruptcy in August 2012 and has received court approval to sell some of its property. In the last 20 years, five historically black colleges and universities have shut down and about a dozen have dealt with accreditation issues.



Three days before Payton Wilkins returned home to Detroit last May with a bachelor’s degree, his cousin was arrested for selling heroin and crack cocaine.

“Before I came to college I was hanging out with him so it’s a really good chance I would be in prison right now,” said Wilkins, 24, the first person in his family to graduate from college. He had no college plans until his mom made him apply to Dillard University, a private historically black school in New Orleans.

For generations, such colleges and universities have played a key role in educating young African-Americans like Wilkins.

But facing often steep declines in enrollment, these schools are struggling to survive. In the last 20 years, five historically black colleges and universities — or HBCU’s — have shut down and about a dozen have dealt with accreditation issues.

South Carolina State University, that state’s only public historically black higher education institution, had its accreditation placed on probation last month after the school was cited for financial problems.

Morris Brown College, a 133-year-old private institution in Atlanta, filed for bankruptcy in August 2012 and has received court approval to sell some of its property.

Last year, North Carolina elected officials flirted with the idea of merging Elizabeth City State University, a public historically black college, with another institution after its enrollment had dropped by 900 students in three years.

An outcry from supporters saved the school and stirred up support from the state’s Legislative Black Caucuslast month.

Historically black colleges once were the only option for most black students, who made up almost 100 percent of their enrollment in 1950. That began to change in the 1960s, as many doors that once were shut to blacks were opened.

Now that black students have a much wider choice of schools, only 11 percent of African-American college students choose a historically black college or university.

Abdul S. Rasheed, a member of Elizabeth City State’s board of trustees, said that in order for historically black schools to survive, their graduates and supporters must take control of their own future.

While financial contributions to U.S. colleges rose slightly in 2013, on average at historically black colleges, only 10 percent of alumni give back.

“If nothing changes, they will eliminate them,” says Rasheed. “That will be the biggest mistake this country has ever made.”

Marybeth Gasman, an expert on historically black colleges and professor at the University of Pennsylvania, said states should support black colleges because they are doing the “lion’s share” of the work for first generation-students like Wilkins.

“Historically black colleges serve low-income students, first-generation students, students of color, adult learners, part-time students, students who might be what I call ‘swirlers’ who swirl in and swirl out of academe,” says Gasman.

Eighty-four percent of students at historically black schools receive Pell Grants, which are federal, need-based funds awarded to low-income students.

Wilkins says the question of relevancy for HBCU’s is itself irrelevant.

“Coming to Dillard, I really wasn’t prepared academically. Dillard brought out of me this urge to want to learn,” says Wilkins. He graduated with a political science degree and plans to go to law school.

As society changes, many historically black colleges and universities are not all black anymore. One of every four students at a historically black institution is Hispanic, Asian-American, white or of another ethnicity.

Zane Lewis, a white freshman from Sanford, North Carolina, plans to major in business or marketing at North Carolina Central University, a historically black school in Durham.

“I thought I wasn’t really going to fit in but, I mean, everyone has been really friendly so far,” says Lewis. “I just want to walk away saying that they didn’t treat me different.”

Gasman says states are reluctant to support historically black colleges because they consider them segregated — although largely white universities can be less integrated than the historically black schools.

“We are no more separate than Chapel Hill is,” says Rasheed, referring to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where the student body was 66 percent white last fall, according to data from the college portrait of undergraduate education website.

“If they close down Elizabeth City State, are they going to allow 2,000 more African-Americans and others to be admitted at other campuses?” he asked.


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american dream

July 27th, 2014





Mass Incarceration:

21 Amazing Facts About

America’s Obsession With Prison

By Michael Snyder

Nobody in the world loves locking people behind bars as much as Americans do. We have more people in prison than any other nation on the planet. We also have a higher percentage of our population locked up than anyone else does by a very large margin.But has all of this imprisonment actually made us safer? Well, the last time I checked, crime was still wildly out of control in America and for the most recent year that we have numbers for violent crime was up 15 percent. The number of people that we have locked up has quadrupled since 1980, but this is not solving any of our problems. Clearly, what we are doing is not working.Nobody wants more crime.  And it seems logical that locking more people up and keeping them in prison for longer terms would “clean up our streets” and make our communities safer. But instead, we have spawned a “prison industrial complex” that costs taxpayers more than 60 billion dollars a year but that does very little to turn the lives of the men and women inside around.

The chart posted below is a bit old, but it shows that we have a massive problem with recidivism in this country…

Recidivism in the United States

So what should we do?

To keep people from committing the same crimes should we just lock them up even longer?

Should we penalize a young kid for the rest of his life for a non-violent mistake that he made when he was 19 years old?

Should we continue to tear apart families and communities just so that we can have the illusion of feeling a little bit safer?

Or could it be possible that there is a better way to deal with all of this crime?

The following are 21 amazing facts about America’s obsession with prison…

#1 There are more than 2.4 million people behind bars in America as you read this article.

#2 Since 1980, the number of people incarcerated in U.S. prisons has quadrupled.

#3 The incarceration rate in the United States is more than 4 times higher than the incarceration rate in the UK and more than 6 times higher than the incarceration rate in Canada.

#4 Approximately 12 million people cycle through local jails in the U.S. each and every year.

#5 Overall, the United States has the largest prison population and the highest incarceration rate in the entire world.

#6 Approximately one out of every four prisoners on the entire planet are in U.S. prisons, but the United States only accounts for about five percent of the total global population.

#7 The state of Maryland (total population 5.9 million) has more people in prison than Iraq (total population 31.9 million).

#8 The state of Ohio (total population 11.6 million) hasmore people in prison than Pakistan (total population 192.1 million).

#9 Incredibly, 41 percent of all young people in America have been arrested by the time they turn 23.

#10 Between 1990 and 2009 the number of Americans in private prisons increased by about 1600 percent.

#11 At this point, private prison companies operate more than 50 percent of all “youth correctional facilities” in this nation.

#12 There are more African-Americans under “correctional supervision” right now than were in slavery in the United States in 1850.

#13 Approximately 90 percent of those being held in prisons in the United States are men.

#14 The incarceration rate for African-American men is more than 6 times higher than it is for white men.

#15 An astounding 37.2 percent of African-American men from age 20 to age 34 with less than a high school education were incarcerated in 2008.

#16 Police in New York City conducted nearly 700,000 “stop-and-frisk searches” in 2011 alone.

#17 The “SWATification” of America has gotten completely and totally out of control.  Back in 1980, there were only about 3,000 SWAT raids in the United States for the entire year.  Today, there aremore than 80,000 SWAT raids in the United States every single year.

#18 Illegal immigrants make up approximately 30 percent of the total population in our federal, state and local prisons.

#19 The average “minimum security” inmate in federal prison costs U.S. taxpayers $21,000 a year.

#20 The average “maximum security” inmate in federal prison costs U.S. taxpayers $33,000 a year.

#21 Overall, it costs more than 60 billion dollars a year to keep all of these people locked up.

And it certainly does not help that we treat ex-cons as pariahs once they leave prison.

Most people will not hire them, and in many cases public assistance is not available to them.  Often their wives and families have abandoned them, and they have no roots in their communities after being away for so long.  Without any options, it is really easy for many of them to fall back into crime.  And that is the last thing that we should want to see happen.

It is almost as if we give up on someone once that person is convicted of a felony.  We want criminals locked up for as long as possible, and then once they get out we make it extremely difficult for them to reintegrate into society.

Without a doubt, there are a lot of really bad people locked up in our prisons.  And criminals should be punished for their crimes.  But there are also a whole lot of people that made one stupid mistake when they were young, and there are also a whole lot of people that do not deserve to be there at all.

Perhaps instead of totally rejecting our prison population, we should have a little bit more love and compassion for them.

Perhaps instead of treating them as worthless pariahs, we should be doing more to change their hearts and to help them eventually reintegrate into society.

In the end, the truth is that none of us is perfect.

We all need grace and we all need forgiveness.

Perhaps we should remember that.


Michael Snyder is a writer, speaker and activist who writes and edits his own blogs The American Dream and Economic Collapse Blog. Follow him on Twitter here.