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Solange, KING,

Dev Hynes &

Moses Sumney

Show Us How To Be

‘Young, Gifted And



Photo Credit: Saint Heron

Photo Credit: Saint Heron

At this weekend’s FYF Festival in Los Angeles, audiences received a harmonious treat when KINGDev Hynes and Moses Sumney joined the stage with Solange. The artists banded together to perform Donny Hathaway‘s rendition of Nina Simone‘s “To Be Young Gifted And Black” and now we have footage from the rehearsal. In the video, the artists breathe new life into the almost five decade old song with their velvety blend of voices. Each artist takes their turn to add their unique spirit to the already soulful song but still maintain one voice when they all join in for the chorus. About the performance, Solange told, “It was a really special and spiritual moment of solidarity and pride, in celebrating our blackness. I was so grateful to share that with such beautiful like minded artist.”

Solange once performed “To Be Young Gifted And Black” at the age of nine at the Ensemble Theatre in Houston, and she asked KING, Moses and Dev to perform the song with her during the festival. A monumental moment not only because of the song’s significance, but it was also a reunion for Solange and Dev, who were on the outs in the past few years. Pull up a chair and watch the rehearsal footage of “To Be Young Gifted And Black,”and if you’re curious about how their FYF performance went, you can also catch that soul-stirring showing right here.




August 25, 2015




Grace Jones

hula-hoops topless

at Afropunk festival

The 67-year-old music icon delivered

a flawless rendition of

‘Slave to the Rhythm’,

proving she will always be awesome


Grace Jones performing at Afropunk Festival via

Grace Jones performing at Afropunk Festival


@ AfroPunk Festival 2015

While you were busy going about your usual business on Saturday night, someone, somewhere, was watching Grace Jones perform her 1985 classic “Slave to the Rhythm” completely topless and hula-hooping. I’ll just let that sink in for a moment.

The 67-year-old music icon’s perfectly eccentric performance was for Brooklyn’s Afropunk Festival, where she spent the evening completely slaying the crowd by dancing across the stage in headdresses, grass skirts and a skull mask before whipping it all off to reveal her painted birthday suit and proceeding to hula-hoop throughout the rest of her set. It’s not the first time she’s brought the hula-hoop out either. Back in 2012, she gyrated through “Slave to the Rhythm” at the Queens Diamond Jubilee concert (because if you’re going to do it anywhere, do it there). Luckily, somebody managed to capture her soon-to-be-iconic Afropunk moment on their phone.

THE Grace Jones. Afropunk Fest

Grace Jones !!!!! No one like her.!!!!! EVER. She defines art!!!!!!!!! #Afropunk Fest 2015 ----- AFROPUNK

Posted by Juliana Schmitt on Saturday, August 22, 2015

Miss Grace Jones. She's 67! And FAB-U-LOUS!!!J Boogie Love ~ Photography

Posted by J Boogie Love on Friday, August 21, 2015






photo by Alex Lear

photo by Alex Lear



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(for Nefertiti, new word journalist)


it was like

cowboys & Indians

and he was the whole

10th cavalry

diving down

into her ravine

raising dust

in a surprise

swoop attack

that left her laying

there bent back

her thighs all aquiver

with convulsive

love spasms


and when

the big guns

went off, his

coming was like

a gattling

tearing her little

target apart


each time

they got down

it was always the

same, a rerun in 3-D

the kid riding

rough and ready

into town

turning it out

at high noon

taking swift

car of business


ah, they should

of ought to

have made a movie

out of his moves


til the day

she wouldn’t roll

with his punches, didn’t

feel like faking it

anymore, refused to

be the stunt man

taking dives

and doing what

she didn’t do


she knew

there was no easy way

to release it to romeo

without putting his

love lights out,

so she simply said

“Harry, this is no way

to make love”


like a silent star

in the age of talkies

unable to learn new lines,

like a sky diver

whose parachute

was shot, falling over

committed to a point

of no return,

Harry didn’t know

what to do


so he called her



but it was finis

for his toy balloons

the film had rolled

to the end of the reel,

Harry’s hard humping

had become a fantasy

that no one would

any longer pay

to see


yet Harry sat




a blank screen,

unable to figure

out why the show

wasn’t going on

(he had always

thought sex

was like what

he saw in the pictures)


“Harry, talk to me”


—kalamu ya salaam



Kalamu ya Salaam – poet

Ginger Tanner – lead vocals

Anua Nantambu – backing vocals

Kenyatta Simon – percussion




kansas national archives




Benjamin Singleton printed handbills to attract black settlers to Kansas. (Library of Congress)

Benjamin Singleton printed handbills to attract black settlers to Kansas. (Library of Congress)

Exodus to Kansas 
The 1880 Senate Investigation of the
Beginnings of the African American
Migration from the South

By Damani Davis

In the spring of 1879, thousands of colored people, unable longer to endure the intolerable hardships, injustice, and suffering inflicted upon them by a class of Democrats in the South, had, in utter despair, fled panic-stricken from their homes and sought protection among strangers in a strange land. Homeless, penniless, and in rags, these poor people were thronging the wharves of Saint Louis, crowding the steamers on the Mississippi River, and in pitiable destitution throwing themselves upon the charity of Kansas. Thousands more were congregating along the banks of the Mississippi River, hailing the passing steamers, and imploring them for a passage to the land of freedom, where the rights of citizens are respected and honest toil rewarded by honest compensation. The newspapers were filled with accounts of their destitution, and the very air was burdened with the cry of distress from a class of American citizens flying from persecutions which they could no longer endure.1

This quotation is from the minority report of an 1880 Senate committee appointed to investigate the causes of a mass black migration from the South during the 1870s. For African Americans, the “redemption” of the South by former Confederates after the 1876 presidential election resulted in political disfranchisement, economic repression, and relentless terror. The joyful exuberance and hope evident among the “freedmen” at the end of the Civil War—and during the heady days of Reconstruction and African American political participation—had been dashed. Many black southerners sought to escape this predicament by leaving the region and migrating to states in the North and Midwest. Chief among these destinations was Kansas.

Because of its history as the home state of abolitionist John Brown and the site of fervent “free state” sentiments during the antebellum period, black southerners viewed Kansas as a place of refuge. Many African Americans believed that Kansas was a unique state where they would be allowed to freely exercise their rights as American citizens, gain true political freedom, and have the opportunity to achieve economic self-sufficiency. These romanticized ideas of Kansas, along with the continued deterioration of their lives in the South, produced a sudden exodus. This “Kansas Exodus,” also referred to as the “Exoduster” movement, represents the first major episode in an extensive history of voluntary mass migration among African Americans.

The testimony documented in the 1880 Senate investigation has a value similar to the interviews recorded in the Works Progress Administration’s (WPA) slave narratives. Whereas the slave narratives revealed the perceptions of the last generation of blacks who lived under slavery, the testimony voiced by witnesses in the Senate investigation provide first-hand accounts of the experiences and concerns of the first generation of freed blacks. Much of the testimony graphically illustrates the violence and oppression used to disfranchise and intimidate black voters during the South’s “redemption.” The testimony also reveals the beginnings of the social, political, and economic conditions that caused the Exodusters, as well as future generations of black southerners, to migrate.

This unexpected wave of migration from the South generated considerable public attention and concern throughout the nation. Many white southerners charged that northern agitators were luring away their black labor for political purposes, while northern politicians countered that the oppression of black southerners by their white neighbors was the cause. To resolve the issue, the Senate passed a resolution in December of 1879 stating:

Whereas large numbers of negroes from the Southern States are emigrating to the Northern States; and,

Whereas it is currently alleged that they are induced to do so by the unjust and cruel conduct of their white fellow-citizens towards them in the South, and by the denial or abridgment of their personal and political rights and privileges: Therefore,

Be it resolved, That a committee of five members of this body be appointed by its presiding officer, whose duty it shall be to investigate the causes which have led to the aforesaid emigration, and to report the same to the Senate; and said committee shall have power to send for persons and papers, and to sit at any time.2

The resulting committee, consisting of three Democratic senators (Chairman Daniel W. Voorhees of Indiana, Zebulon B. Vance of North Carolina, and George H. Pendleton of Ohio) and two Republican senators (William Windom of Minnesota and Henry W. Blair of New Hampshire), began to receive testimony on January 19, 1880.

The committee interviewed 153 black and white witnesses from North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Missouri, Kansas, and Indiana. Many of these witnesses augmented their personal testimony with affidavits, letters, and other forms of evidence provided by members of their local communities who were not called to testify.

The black witnesses came from a variety of social and economic backgrounds, revealing a level of class stratification that had developed in the black community soon after slavery. Several of these witnesses were members of the early educated professional class of African Americans—such as John Wesley Cromwell, a lawyer, teacher, journalist, and publisher in Washington, D.C.; O.S.B. Wall, a lawyer, former Freedmen’s Bureau agent, and colonel in the U.S. Army during the Civil War; Charles N. Otey, an editor, publisher, and teacher at Howard University; and Phillip Joseph, a journalist from Alabama. Other witnesses had served as some of the first black elected officials during Reconstruction, such as James O’Hara of North Carolina and James T. Rapier of Alabama, who had served as congressmen in the House of Representatives. George T. Ruby, a former teacher and Freedmen’s Bureau agent served as a state senator in Texas before that state’s “redemption.” Similarly, William Murrell and John Henri Burch both served as elected officials in Louisiana until that state was also “redeemed” by former Confederates. Information on some of the other black witnesses indicates that they had become successful land owners, entrepreneurs, and clergymen in North Carolina, Louisiana, and other states.

Men such as these, who had successfully attained education, property, or professional status—many of them either born or educated in the North—were viewed as the natural and expected leaders of the uneducated masses. Most of the general American public, and many in the African American community, assumed that the masses of freed blacks in the South were childlike, did not know what was best for them, and required supervision and guidance from their white superiors, or at least the from the educated class of officially recognized black leaders. Though not always based on any malicious sense of inherent superiority, many African American elites generally accepted that blacks of the uneducated class were susceptible to deception and exploitation due to their ignorance or pitiable lack of knowledge.

This perception led many among the educated black elite in the South, and national leaders such as Frederick Douglass, to vehemently oppose the exodus movement and argue that it was best for the black laborers to remain in the South. Still hoping that the federal government would provide some type of protection, these spokespersons believed that blacks stood a greater chance of regaining political power and achieving economic prosperity in the South because the majority of the nation’s African American population was already concentrated in that region. Many of the black laborers and plantation workers, however, concluded that the quality of their lives had become so bleak that fleeing the South to a new land was their only hope.

Thus the Kansas Exodus was an inconvenient blow to both whites, who expected the masses of black workers in the South to quietly conform to their new role as a cheap, compliant labor force, and to African American elites, who expected them to blindly follow the dictates of the official “black leadership” and the Republican Party. It also challenged the idea that freed blacks were incapable of intelligently assessing their own predicament, drawing their own conclusions, and taking action to improve their situation. No member of the educated elite segment of the black community directly organized or led the Exoduster movement. This grassroots movement, generated by indigenous leaders among the masses of black sharecroppers and tenant farmers, sought the full benefits of freedom.

Two of the most prominent figures to emerge as leaders of this movement were Benjamin Singleton of Tennessee and Henry Adams of Louisiana. Neither of these men was formally educated, but both were highly respected for their leadership qualities and ability to organize. They both led organizations in their respective states that promoted migration from the South.

Benjamin Singleton was well known and respected in his Tennessee community as a skilled carpenter, cabinetmaker, and undertaker. During slavery, he ran away several times and finally escaped to Canada via the Underground Railroad and later moved to Detroit. After the Civil War, Singleton returned to Tennessee, where he resumed his craft as a carpenter and maker of cabinets and coffins. Working as an undertaker, he saw the results of violence on African Americans by former Confederates. He also resented white landowners who consistently cheated and exploited their black sharecroppers. In 1869 Singleton founded the Tennessee Real Estate & Homestead Association and began to organize blacks in his state to form colonies and settle in Kansas.3

As an Army veteran in Louisiana, Henry Adams garnered the esteem that many blacks held for men who had served in the military. Whites in his community respected him as a highly intelligent and skilled worker. He also had a strong reputation among both whites and blacks as a proficient and skilled folk doctor or natural healer. In his testimony to the committee, Adams stated that he had no formal education but had learned to read and write. After leaving the Army, Adams joined with other black veterans and formed a semisecret organization of about 500 men called the “Colored Men’s Protective Union.” The group proposed to look to “look into [the] affairs and see the true condition of our race, to see whether it [is] possible [that] we could stay under a people who had held us in bondage, or not.” They selected members to travel to various states in the Deep South, work among the field laborers, determine the quality of their lives, and “see whether there was any state in the South” where blacks “could get a living and enjoy [their] rights.” They concluded that the resurgence of the ex-Confederates was so pervasive that blacks could no longer remain in the South.4

They formed a new organization called the “Colonization Council” and decided that they would first appeal to President Rutherford B. Hayes and Congress to help them “out of their distress and protect” their civil rights and constitutional privileges. If that failed, Adams recommended they ask the federal government to “set apart a territory in the United States for [them], somewhere where [they] could go and live with [their] families.” If the government failed or refused to do that, their final idea was to “ask for an appropriation of money to ship us all to Liberia, in Africa; somewhere where we could live in peace and quiet.”5 Adams presented the Senate committee a copy of the letter to the President with all three of the resolutions included. Adams’s organization succeeded in getting over 98,000 names of blacks who were interested in emigrating from the South. Most of names were from Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas, with a minority from Mississippi, Alabama, and a few other states.6

Besides the apparent historical value of Henry Adams’s interview, there is also much information of potential genealogical value. His recorded testimony includes an extensive list of statements, affidavits, and memoranda that was compiled by the Colonization Council, including the names of nearly 700 black Louisianans who were the victims of various forms of violent terrorism. The list includes each individual’s name, the parish in which the victim resided, and a description of each incident.7

Another example of how valuable information can be casually presented throughout the recorded interviews is illustrated by the testimony of John O’Kelly, a black property owner and businessman from North Carolina.

Q: Where is your residence?
A: Raleigh, North Carolina.
Q: What is your profession or business?
A: I am doing a livery business.
Q: Do you own any property, real estate?
A: Yes, sir; I own some outside of the corporation of the town, and I have got a house and home.
Q: You were formerly a slave?
A: Yes, sir; I used to belong to General Cox.
Q: How much property at a round guess are you worth now?
A: I don’t know, sir; but I would not tonight take less than $5,000 for what I have got.
Q: Have you made all that as a free man?
A: Yes, sir; I had nothing at the time of the surrender.8

In this brief exchange, information on O’Kelly’s city of residence, form of employment, ownership of property and its worth, former slave status, and the name of his former slave owner are all revealed.

A further illustration of how genealogically relevant information can be presented in the investigation is shown by the interview of Julius A. Bonitz, a white newspaper editor from North Carolina, whose intent was to prove that blacks were not oppressed but were actually prospering in his state:

I know a colored man living near Mount Olive, twelve miles from Goldsboro [Wake County, North Carolina], who is the owner of three hundred and sixteen acres of land. His name is Calvin Simmons. He has, within the last year or two, finished paying for the plantation. He bought it some years ago, on long time, at the rate of ten dollars an acre. He paid for it himself—and his boys—with what they raised off from it. More than that, I have got it from his own mouth that he cleared, within the last year, nearly five hundred dollars on his crop. I don’t remember the exact number of years it has taken him to pay for it. I know a number of instances in which colored men have bought lands upon the same terms, and paid for them, and now have them for homes of their own. In my own town there is a man named William Bernard, who owns a fine house and lot. Not long ago I offered him a thousand dollars for his place; but he refused it, on the ground that he did not need the money. It is well located, a valuable piece, and increasing in value every year.9

The first individual mentioned in Bonitz’s testimony is a Calvin Simmons. The 1900 census for North Carolina confirms that there was a Calvin Simmons who fits the description.10 There is, however, a discrepancy whether Simmons owned or rented his land and home. The census record does not record him as the owner of his property or house. This evidence still does not mean that Bonitz’s testimony is untrue, for the data recorded by census takers could be inaccurate. The census for William Bernard, however, confirms Bonitz’s testimony. William Bernard is listed as the head of a family and owner of a house and property that was fully paid for.11

Although census records are not always accurate, they can provide basic data that lead to other more useful records. For instance, Henry Stewart was a resident of Dunlap Village in Morris County, Kansas, which was one among several all-black colonies founded in Kansas during the exodus. The 1880 census lists Stewart, his wife, Arrenes, and his daughter Eliza living on a farm in the Dunlap Village colony, although this particular census did not record whether property was owned by the inhabitants.12

To determine the Stewart family’s status in regards to land ownership, the researcher could search and locate them in the “land entry case files” for Kansas. To achieve this, the researcher needs the legal description of the ancestor’s land. The researcher can obtain the legal description by writing to the county courthouse with the name of the settler, location, and date. The researcher can also write to the National Archives and request Form 84, “Land Entry Records.”

This letter written by Zachary Fletcher to the Pension Office verified his age and provided other vital information that was required to prove that he had served in the military and qualified for a pension. (Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, RG 15)

This letter written by Zachary Fletcher to the Pension Office verified his age and provided other vital information that was required to prove that he had served in the military and qualified for a pension. (Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, RG 15)

Page two of Zachary Fletcher's letter to the Pension Office. (Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, RG 15)

Page two of Zachary Fletcher’s letter to the Pension Office. (Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, RG 15)

Page three of Zachary Fletcher's letter to the Pension Office. (Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, RG 15)

Page three of Zachary Fletcher’s letter to the Pension Office. (Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, RG 15)

Zachary T. Fletcher’s land files also reveal a great deal about his family. The Fletchers settled in Nicodemus, Kansas—another of the Exoduster colonies. Zachary, his wife, Jenny Smith Fletcher, and their two children, Thomas and Joseph, are listed in the 1880 census records for Nicodemus Township in Graham County, Kansas. Within Zachary Fletcher’s land case files are copies of his original “homestead affidavit” and the “final proof” letter on which he describes the date of his settlement and the improvements that he had made on the land, which consisted of a “dugout,” a “stone house” under construction, and 50 acres of braking. He also reveals that he was the town’s “Post Master” and an Army veteran who had served as a private under Capt. John Cook, Company B, Eighth Regiment of the United States Colored Artillery. To confirm his statements, Fletcher provided copies of his postmaster’s certificate and a soldier’s certificate verifying that he had served in the Army and was honorably discharged on February 10, 1866, at Victoria, Texas.13

Fletcher’s military service records and pension file describe him as age 18 when he enlisted in 1864, height 5′ 6?, dark complexioned, and born in McCracken County, Kentucky, where had worked as a farmer. The service records also confirm that he had “mustered out” or was discharged at Victoria, Texas in1866.14 The pension file contains an autobiographical letter that Fletcher wrote to verify his age and provide other vital information that was required to prove that he was the person who had served in the military and legitimately earned the pension. In his letter, Fletcher states:

Your honor, My Dear Sir,

I being raised a slave, I have no record of my age, and if there is any, I do not know anything of it. My first master was a batchler, and he died when I was a baby, and willed all of his slaves to his sister Mary, who had married a man by the name of Anthony Robb; . . . she died in a few years, and we was all divvied out with her children . . . and we never all got together untill after the war. [I]n the year 1856–57, I was bound out to a man by the name of Isaac Davis as a race rider. He died in 1863. I stayed with his family until June 1864 at which time I joined the Army, and two days later, my mistress (Mrs. Ellen Davis) came in to my camp and tryed to get me out on the grounds that I would not be 19 years old until the 12th of August of the same year. But as I had on my uniform & had been sworn in she could not get me out.

Next I went back to see my father, just before he died in 1913 and he told me that I was [born] Aug 12 / [18]45, the same year that Zachary Taylor fough[t] the Mexican war, and that my master Robert Fletcher being of the same political party named me after him—Zachary Taylor Fletcher. The above is the best mostly that I can give you of my age, as all my old white people and all of my brothers and sisters of 10 are dead. Mother died when I was 9 years old and my father died 3 years ago at the age of 93.

We colored slaves [k]new nothing of [the] census and . . . all of the above acts was in McCracken Co Ky, 5 miles west of Paducky [Paducah].15

The Kansas Exodus, as demonstrated by these diverse documents held at the National Archives, is a clear example of how federal records related to a known historical event can be used to find genealogical information. Genealogical researchers must be highly imaginative in their quest to find information on their ancestors. This applies especially to those researching African Americans since such information is often found in less conventional sources. An adequate knowledge of history can help steer the researcher to these potential sources. 


1. Report and Testimony of the Select Committee of the United States Senate to Investigate the Cause of the Removal of the Negroes from the Southern States to the Northern States, 46th Cong., 2nd sess., 1880, S. Rep. 693 (3 parts), p. x.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid., 3: 379–391.

4. Ibid., 2: 101–103.

5. Ibid., 2: 104.

6. Ibid., 2: 156–158 and 110.

7. Ibid., 2: 168–214.

8. Ibid., 1: 244–245.

9. Ibid., 1: 136.

10. Entry for Calvin Simmons, Southwest, Lenoir Co., NC; p. 5B; Enumeration District (ED) 50; Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900 (National Archives Microfilm Publication T623, roll 1203); Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group (RG) 29; National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Washington, DC.

11. Entry for William Bernard, Smithville, Brunswick Co., NC; p. 15A; ED 18; 1900 Census, T623, roll 1184; RG 29; NARA.

12. Henry Stewart, Dunlap, Morris Co., KS; p. 443.4000; ED 139; Tenth Census of the United States, 1880 (National Archives Microfilm Publication T9, roll 390); RG 29; NARA.

13. Zachary T. Fletcher, Nicodemus, Graham Co., KS; Page: 203.1000; ED 98; 1880 Census, T9, roll 382; RG 29; and Zachary T. Fletcher, Canceled Homestead File No. 19752, June 7, 1887, Colby, KS, Land Office; Records of the Bureau of Land Management, RG 49; NARA.

14. Zachary T. Fletcher, Private, Co. B, Eighth Regiment, U.S. Colored H. Artillery (USCT); Compiled Service Records; Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780s–1917, RG 94; National Archives Building (NAB), Washington, DC.

15. Zachary T. Fletcher, Soldier’s Certificate, 279,479; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, RG 15; NAB.


Damani Davis is an archivist in NARA’s Research Support Branch, Customer Services Division, Washington, D.C. He has lectured at local and regional conferences on African American history and genealogy. Davis is a graduate of Coppin State College in Baltimore and received his M.A. in history at the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.









msnbc logo




Janet Mock

Janet Mock

What’s wrong with the

Nicki Minaj wax figure?

So POPular!’s Janet Mock discusses Nicki Minaj’s new Madame Tussauds wax figure which features Minaj on all fours & the way people have used it to objectify her. Mock also talks about how black women’s bodies have been objectified throughout history.




nytimes logo379x64
AUG. 20, 2015




kekla 02

‘Shadows of


A Robyn Hoodlum


by Kekla Magoon




Kekla Magoon

Kekla Magoon

Modernizing legends can be a tricky business. One must find the resonance between ancient and contemporary, blending incongruous elements in a way that seems not only right but inevitable: telling the story of a founding father with hip-hop lyrics, as in “Hamilton,” or presenting the myth of Theseus in the milieu of reality television as in “The Hunger Games.” Kekla Magoon manages a similar feat of legerdemain in “Shadows of Sherwood,” her compelling reboot of the Robin Hood myth.

In an alternate present, in the city-state of Nott City, 12-year-old Robyn Loxley is an accomplished gymnast and an amateur tinkerer in electronics. One night, while she sneaks out to raid the local salvage yard for parts, Governor Ignomus Crown stages a brutal coup d’état, rounding up and “disappearing” all members of Parliament and their families. Robyn alone escapes the purge. Hunted by the military police, unsure of her parents’ fate, she is forced to flee to the nearby district of Sherwood with its hardscrabble neighborhoods, tent cities and forests. So begins her transformation into Robyn Hoodlum.

The narrative will keep young readers turning pages with its breathlessly short chapters, ample derring-do and engaging central mystery about Robyn’s destiny as it relates to an ancient prophecy called the moon lore. Along the way, we are treated to car chases, buried treasure, secret hide-outs, and brazen acts of thievery for all the right reasons.

You don’t have to be familiar with Robin Hood’s Merry Men to enjoy the supporting cast, but Magoon delightfully ­reimagines the identities of Friar Tuck, Will Scarlet and Maid Marian. The young minister Tucker lives in the abandoned Nottingham Cathedral, where he writes history treatises and offers sanctuary to fugitives. He is also not above knocking out the occasional policeman. “Some days it’s easier to preach than to practice,” he tells Robyn dryly. The spiky-haired teenage rebel Scarlet serves as Robyn’s cyber-hacker when she is not borrowing Robyn’s equipment without permission. Kind­hearted Merryan, Governor Crown’s niece, volunteers to help at Sherwood Clinic and becomes Robyn’s most unlikely, most potentially dangerous ally. “Anyone can decide to be different from their family,” Merryan insists. Robyn must determine whether she can trust that assertion.

Like the original Robin Hood, Robyn Loxley straddles disparate worlds. A child of privilege, she rises to become a champion of the poor. As the biracial daughter of one of Parliament’s few dark-skinned members, Robyn experiences the insidious connection between race and power. In one chilling scene, Robyn recalls meeting Ignomus Crown, the soon-to-be dictator, at a government function. When she asks Crown how he knows her father, Crown answers: “He stands out in a room like this, don’t you think?” Robyn, defiant, thinks to herself that her father would stand out in any room for his intelligence, popularity and charisma. “But she knew enough to know Crown didn’t mean those things. He was referring to Dad’s dark skin.” Robyn’s racial identity becomes an elegant expression of one of the book’s central themes — that darkness and light, while perceived as antagonists, are in fact symbiotic partners.

Most appealingly, our protagonist takes on the persona of Robyn Hoodlum not because she wants fame for her exploits, but because she wants to spare the people of Sherwood from being punished for her actions. This is not Errol Flynn’s swaggering celebrity outlaw, but rather a dispossessed girl who improbably becomes the face of a popular resistance movement.

When people begin seeing her as the fulfillment of the moon lore, Robyn is incredulous that an ancient prophecy could apply to her. The local wise woman Eveline explains that Robyn is not the first child of the prophecy, nor will she be the last. “The verses have come true before, and they will come true again. . . . The moon lore does not seek to predict, but to explain. . . . Our world turns in circles.”

Literature also turns in circles. Certain archetypes and legends speak more powerfully to certain generations. The main issue Magoon explores in “Shadows of Sherwood” — that law and justice are not always the same thing — is as timely for 21st-century America as it was for Merry Olde England. Robin Hood is an appropriate hero for our time, and Robyn Hoodlum is a welcome ­iteration of the legend.

A Robyn Hoodlum Adventure
By Kekla Magoon
355 pp. Bloomsbury. $16.99.
(Middle grade; ages 8 to 12)






August 17, 2015




Flight of the Ruler 
A transwoman in exile.

Frank Benson, Juliana, 2014-2025. 3D printed rapid prototype for bronze casting, polyurethane acrylic paint, Corian base. Edition of 4 + 1 A/P. Copyright of the artist, Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York and Sadie Coles HQ, London.

Frank Benson, Juliana, 2014-2025. 3D printed rapid prototype for bronze casting, polyurethane acrylic paint, Corian base. Edition of 4 + 1 A/P. Copyright of the artist, Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York and Sadie Coles HQ, London.

A few months before I came out as a transgender woman, I found myself for perhaps the last time on the island of my childhood, the island I would soon feel unable to return to safely. My mother and I were driving down a winding mountain road in our Pathfinder, edging along a precipice flecked with mango trees and clusters of green bamboos that shuddered like bones, to watch a performance of our great Dominican playwright Alwin Bully’s The Ruler. A close adaptation of a Vincentian novel by G. C. H. Thomas, Ruler in Hiroona, Bully’s play was first performed in 1976 by the People’s Action Theatre, four years after the book’s publication. Now, decades later, it was being staged again, this time in Dominica’s Arawak House of Culture, as part of the annual Nature Island Literary Festival. The play, I knew, would chronicle the rise and fall of a corrupt politician, the leader of the mythical island, Hiroona. Yet what was on my mind that night were other politics, a very different rise and fall: my own. My head began to throb. The girl I had suppressed for over twenty years wanted out. I wondered for a moment if I could make it through the play without losing my mind. 

The dark street outside the theater was humming with voices, bodies dim floating shapes under the orange of the streetlights and the indigo of the approaching night. A cock strutted down the uneven sidewalk, glancing at me before disappearing into the gutter behind a car’s wheel. There was excitement in the air, many of the attendees doubtless curious to see if the play would satirize our prime minister, a ruler embroiled in controversy. Through the chatter of the crowd, I chanted to myself like a witch: You are not an abomination, you can live on and Shut up, fool, you know you cannot be a woman here. On an island that, like so many other former British colonies, had inherited a legacy by which male homosexual activity is criminalized and transgenderism often swept under the rug of “biblical abomination,” I felt a sense of deep divide. Was it worth it to live as my true self even if it meant losing familial support, the privilege of leaving and returning to my home easily?

I knew, as the crowd rose to acknowledge the entrance of the president and his guards, that standing atop a mountain and shouting into the wind, I am transgender, I am a woman, I am not an abomination, I want to be accepted here, as I am, would be a cry that would fall on so many deaf ears. A cry that, when the wind carried it from village to village and house to home, would be answered with ridicule and abandonment at best and with fists and cutlasses and broken glass at worst. 

Just months earlier, in Jamaica, a group of men fatally beat, stabbed, and ran over sixteen-year-old Dwayne Jones after discovering Jones, the beautiful girl they had been dancing with, was not a cisgender woman. Dominica has a better record than Jamaica on LGBTQIA violence, but only a fool would think it was much safer. In 2012, the minister of education announced a fortunately short-lived plan to create a task force against “deviance and homosexuality” in schools. In 2013, our prime minister said he would not repeal the buggery law that criminalized same-sex activity, and the next year said he would “never allow for the state to recognize same-sex marriage” as long as his government is in office.

I knew, as the theater’s lights dimmed, that I would look down from that mountain upon which I wished to shout, deep into the open arms of the fern-dappled drop, and jump off. To acknowledge who and what you are is to take a leap into the winds—and to hope you will not fall. 

*                      *                     *

Half a year later, in the United States, I would think of flight. I would dream again of the mountain, the land unsafe to revisit as a transwoman stretched before me, and remember the women punished for their ability to fly in Edwidge Danticat’s “Nineteen Thirty-Seven,” a story in Krik? Krak!. In it, the mother of Josephine, the protagonist, has been imprisoned for allegations that she is a lougarou or soucouyant, a woman who sheds her skin at night and flies into the air as a ball of fire, often in search of blood. Targeted because of her Otherness, this woman’s humanity is stripped from her like the skin she is accused of shedding. It is an open question throughout the story, whether or not she can fly in the literal sense. But she does, of course: she has fled the Parsley Massacre that was ordered by General Trujillo, and she was pregnant with Josephine as she leapt over the red waters of Massacre River. We do not need wings to take flight.  

*                      *                     *

I grew up on the edge of a mountain, on the outskirts of the village of Giraudel, and the relative isolation of our home, as well as the fact that I was an only child, meant that I was often alone. I grew accustomed to walking on our lawn under the fireflies and royal palms and gazing at the stars. Once, I dreamed I switched bodies with a woman on a distant space station. It was exhilarating to miraculously inhabit the body I had always wanted, and, when I awoke, I was glum. 

I didn’t even know the word “transgender” until I went to college in the United States.

But I didn’t believe I could be a woman, really. I wanted to belong at the all-boys primary and secondary schools my parents had chosen for me. I tried to fit in with my many cousins, some of whom were famed “bad boys” and “shottas” in our capital city. I never told anyone how much it hurt to go to family parties because I wanted to be one of the girls there, or how joyous I felt the day a boy from a higher form told me, as an insult, that I looked like a girl. I told no one how I cherished the nights my parents went out, leaving me alone to sneak into the palace of my mother’s closet and try on her clothes and makeup and take silly photos of myself, imagining different universes in which I had been born as the sad-exultant woman in the stills. To admit these things would have been to lose the few friends I felt I had, to be beaten up and stigmatized as gay. I didn’t even know the word “transgender” until I went to college in the United States. 

I tried to suppress my feelings and to imitate the American hip-hop and Jamaican dancehall cultures that so influenced codes of young masculinity on our island. But I couldn’t hush the girl knocking against the bars of my bones—and while in graduate school in Florida, when I began planning to drink poison, I knew the ruse had to end. I had tried, and failed, to live in denial, and I had to make a decision. 

I decided to fly off the mountaintop, not down into the trees or stones that would shatter bones, but toward the sea. And I hoped I would be able to fly back—not as a comic disgrace, like the ruler of Hiroona, but as a woman who had shed her fear. 

*                      *                     *

What does it mean to be a woman, Elinor Burkett recently asked in an essay in the New York Times, if one is socialized as a man and does not experience menstruation or the pains of childbirth? What are we—the essay, and many like it, considers—to make of the international media sensation of Caitlyn Jenner’s debut on the cover of Vanity Fair, where her body is glamorized, modelesque, on display for the sexualizing gaze? Does Jenner’s appearance on the magazine in this way, and particularly at her age, not constitute reducing women to their bodies, Burkett wondered, and would this spectacle not be ridiculed if she were cisgender? How can transwomen know the terror of being sexually harassed, or the “sisterhood” of femininity, since they—we—have had access to male privilege all their—our—lives? 

I have grave issues with almost everything in Burkett’s piece. It presents little new argumentation about the politics of gender identity, but rather uses stale trans-exclusionary radical feminist rhetoric to discuss contemporary examples, like Jenner. It is logically incoherent and circular: women should not be reduced to their bodies, but transwomen are to be excluded because of their bodies, and ciswomen who have not experienced sexual harassment are still women because of their bodies, it is implied, and women are women because of their bodily functions, like menstruation and childbirth. Burkett’s assertions demonstrate the ways that conservative and reductive views of what womanhood and manhood entail can be packaged and picked up by liberals, as if such ideas were, in fact, liberal. They go against what neuroscience suggests—that the brain patterns of transmen and transwomen often correspond more, in certain aspects, with those of the gender they identify with. Most of all, they represent a failure of empathy.

I am not appropriating a space of womanhood while conveniently avoiding the pains.

Many transwomen, myself included, have been so repressed in how we present ourselves to the world that when we finally get the opportunity, we want to glam ourselves up. It’s like entering a second puberty. The idea that a woman is “more than” nail polish and breasts is obvious—but what is wrong if one chooses to wear nail polish or flaunt one’s breasts? I love wearing makeup and looking a certain way; this is my choice, and I will not have that right undermined by a crotchety notion that all women must look like slobs or else are pandering to a heteronormative sexualized gaze. Jenner’s cover does not represent transfeminity broadly; it represents an individual free to appear however she wishes to. 

Transwomen are sometimes stigmatized—considered “not really” transgender—if they do not present indicators of femininity, so it’s a case of being damned if you do and damned if you don’t. What’s more, many of us wear makeup in the beginning stages of transition not because we necessarily want to, but because we need it to hide or modify signs that could get us “read” as transgender, like a bluish beard shadow or an overtly masculine facial structure. I have an androgynous, if not feminine, face, but when I began, prior to coming out, to leave my house in secret, dressed in the women’s clothing and makeup I had purchased by pretending they were for my sister, I was so often terrified of being read as transgender because of all the makeup, even as I felt too scared to venture into the world without it. That is no longer as great a fear, thanks to laser hair removal and hormone therapy. But an everyday trip to the grocery store can be traumatic if you feel the need to put on an entire face of makeup to avoid overt discrimination, if not violence. This is not equating womanhood with clothes or makeup; it is a survival mechanism. 

And it is extraordinary to me to be told by Burkett that I am exercising “male privilege” by being a transgender woman, and that I cannot relinquish such privilege. That I am unaware of what it feels like to be sexually harassed or fearful for my life when followed by a strange man at night. I live entirely as a woman; I never present myself as male. My name has been legally changed to an unambiguous female one. I do not use the men’s restroom. I am frequently harassed by male strangers when I am alone, and they treat me as they would a ciswoman because I look, for all intents and purposes, like any other ciswoman. I have been sexually propositioned by security guards in art museums in DC and by hotel doormen in Manhattan, have had construction workers whistle and call out to me as if I were a dog, have had numerous men speak to me as though I were beneath them for being a woman. And I’ve felt panic knowing that if I attempt to seek justice for a wrong I might be constrained not only because I am a woman of color but also, possibly, rejected or laughed at because I am a transwoman of color. I know the feeling of my heart beating like a hummingbird’s wings. Hormone-replacement therapy reduces muscle mass, and I was never that physically strong to begin with, so I have become acutely aware of my compromised ability to defend myself. I did not have these fears when I lived as male. They have now been etched into my everyday. 

If I could experience the pain of menstruation and of childbirth, by all the gods, I would. I yearn to. But I am no less of a woman because I cannot. Not all ciswomen can menstruate or give birth—or, as Margaret Atwood puts it in “The Female Body,” “The Reproductive System is optional, and can be removed.” I am not appropriating a feminine space while conveniently avoiding the pains. And I have no desire to force my way into situations I cannot contribute to meaningfully, like meetings about the experiential realities of pregnancy. This is a space, in the wide world of womanhood, that is not part of my experience. But I can speak with those women about so much: harassment, diminished employment opportunities, societal expectations of our bodies, and on and on. There are many constellations in the star field of womanhood, and I represent one of them. Often, we converge.

It hurts to be kicked out of that patch of the night sky you belong to, to have your wings torn off, because of how you were born. It hurts to fall to the ground, to be told you should return, with the grace of Icarus, to the world you tried to flee from.

There are many reasons why so many of us consider ending our lives, letting our bodies drop too far down to the ground. This—the idea that we will never belong, that we are caricatures if we embrace a certain femininity, fakes if we do not, true Captain Nemos of a new sea, Captain No-Bodies, of a lonely Nowhere-Place many leagues beneath where other people comfortably live—is one of them. 

*                      *                     *

Discussions of transgender identity are still somewhat rare in Caribbean critical and creative works relative to depictions of gay and lesbian sexual identities. In Black Skin, White Masks, published in 1952, the Martinican theorist Frantz Fanon famously declared that homosexuality did not exist in Martinique due to the absence of an Oedipal complex on the island but that Martinicans in France sometimes became passive homosexuals. Fanon did, however, admit the existence of Ma Commère, which he defined as men who dress in women’s clothing. The trouble with this definition is that it both lumps together and separates homosexuality from a kind of broad transgenderism: Fanon identifies the “men” wearing women’s clothing as “men,” without questioning their psychological experience of gender, and suggests that they lead “normal” sexual lives, implying that their female presentation is a superficial addition to what is otherwise cisgender heterosexuality.

Of course, the idea of transgender identity was still very new at the time of Fanon’s writing—only a few recorded male-to-female sex changes had occurred prior to the publication of his book, though it is notable that the story of Christine Jorgensen, who would become for years the world’s most famous transsexual woman, broke the same year Black Skin, White Masks appeared. And it is unclear if Fanon is actually talking about transvestism—which would not involve a shift in gender identity. But too commonly, in instances of gender-nonconformity that may or may not be instances of transgenderism, sex and gender are blurred, which can lead to the false assumption that transgender individuals are actually cross-dressers, erasing the crucial distinctions between the two. 

A related notion appears in “Tales Told Under the San Fernando Hill,” a short story by the Trinidadian writer Lawrence Scott, when he refers to “boys” who dress like women. When they pass as women well enough, they are deemed—by the society in the story, even as Scott attempts to humanize them—deceptive sexual predators, males trying to trick other males into sex by “pretending” to be women—which is often how transwomen are portrayed. More favorably, the recent Bajan play Simone’s Place, written by Glenville Lovell and directed by Russell Watson, depicts Lady Simone, a transgender woman who performs pieces by Nina Simone and whose club serves as a hub for queer individuals to voice their feelings openly. And the Trinidadian-Canadian Shani Mootoo’s novel, Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab, chronicles the life of a Canadian man, Jonathan, trying to reconnect with his dying father, Sydney, who used to be Jonathan’s lesbian mother and who has decided to embrace his male gender identity and return to Trinidad to live out his last years. It is hard for Sydney’s final written words to his son not to resonate with so many of us who have fled or faced rejection from loved ones: “How do I explain it,” Sydney asks, “so that he doesn’t think I ran away, gave up, failed?” 

*                      *                     *

Near the end of the play The Ruler, the protagonist Jerry Mole, the increasingly avaricious leader of the fictional island of Hiroona, finds himself standing in a bucket in the shack of an obeah woman, clutching dolls emblazoned with the names of his political opponents and chanting a mantra he believes will help him win the next election. The people have largely turned on him, as the election-rigging and fraud he’s perpetrated have become known across the island, and Mole decides he must resort to magic. As we in the audience laughed, I wondered whether I would become such a spectacle if someone on the island were to discover my desire to be a woman. My laughter felt false. I knew the play was a distraction from the dark, a way to try to forget. 

I started to cry, then quickly wiped my face. I tried to focus on the extraordinary resonances between this work from the 1970s and recent political events in Dominica. I tried to focus—but I couldn’t see properly anymore. I couldn’t laugh. I wanted to scream.

I cried so many nights—and still do—at the pain of knowing I could not just return home anymore, that simple words like “family” and “past” and “home” had fractured.

The play came to an end. 

As I left the theater with my mother, I looked at the young men filtering back into the street, some of whom I had known growing up. They suddenly seemed like strangers to me, and I couldn’t speak to them. I didn’t want to be male to them; I wanted to be any other woman leaving the theater. But I was constrained by my body, my voice, the manacles of my history. I looked away from them, wanting to disappear into the night, to set off and live alone, like Saint-Exupéry’s Little Prince, on some distant asteroid, or just sink into the deep-space dark, the princess of a black hole. To feel that you cannot be the gender you have always wanted to be is so often to wish you were not

Months later, I would remember this play when I decided I would break free. I would learn quickly about the frightening weight of male harassment. I would consider how the body that now made me so much happier was the very thing that might prevent me from returning home safely. Comments on an article about Caitlyn Jenner republished by the Jamaica Observer would echo in my mind: Jenner was “so sickening,” an “unholy deception and abomination to God’s will,” and America “the Devil’s sewer.” And I would think of the lonely transgirl on the island somewhere, denying who she was, terrified not only of rejection or attack at home, but that even in the US, the nation she might dream of escaping to, she could never belong as a woman. I would cherish the joy that hit me like a waterfall when some of the students I’d taught since coming out told me I had helped them to see the world in a richer, more nuanced way.

Before I came out, my parents warned me about the danger and ridicule I would face if I tried to live as a woman, as well as the danger and ridicule they would face on my behalf. I could not go back to Dominica. Do not breathe a word of this to anyone on the island, anyone in our family, anyone you grew up with, they told me. Even on the day I publicly came out in an essay I shared on social media, I attempted to “hide” it from every Dominican, every old friend and family member. I felt exultant to finally begin living every day in the United States as myself. But I cried so many nights—and still do—at the pain of knowing I could not just return home anymore, that simple words like “family” and “past” and “home” had fractured.

“Break a vase,” poet and playwright Derek Walcott said in his Nobel Lecture, “and the love that reassembles the fragments is stronger than that love which took its symmetry for granted when it was whole.” It is strange, that love and exile can feel so deeply, sharply connected, as if one is the shadow of the other. 

*                      *                     *

I want to believe that acceptance for transgender individuals is coming to our islands, that people who do not yet know how to deal with the difficult reality that human experience is messy and mystifying in its breadth will someday learn. I want to believe that a new ruler is coming.

“We must be the change,” the St. Lucian poet Vladimir Lucien said in a newspaper interview earlier this year. Speaking about human rights and an evolving Caribbean society, he mentioned homosexuality as something he could speak about with increasing ease, especially now that he has begun to firmly establish a place in our literature. “Who could come,” Lucien said, “in my friends’ circle, and say anything positive about homosexuality? But now I say it to them…. Just like everything else, if you have something happening in a submerged form, when you start to address it is when you can really have a conversation about it.” Those who are in positions of privilege, he argued, must speak on behalf of those who lack such privilege, including those of us who are queer: “I’m not saying we have to rely on the person in power all the time—but it helps! That’s one of the ways you can help your society move forward, if you are part of a privileged group. You can come and speak on the part of the people.” 

I want to believe in such optimism. Queerness is a part of Caribbean literature and identity, if a submerged one, and our archipelago is not uniformly unaccepting. But too much of the landscape is still manifestly dangerous. Another transgirl I spoke with online from Martinique, who would not reveal her identity for fear of stones and crushed bones, told me that she, too, felt she needed to leave her island to transition. The brave gay Belizean, Caleb Orozco, who made the first challenge to a Caribbean anti-sodomy law five years ago, yet to be decided by the courts, now must live largely in a world of terror, garrisoning his house with padlocks and broken glass. It is difficult work for societies to accept that the past and present may not reveal the future. But as the characters in Earl Lovelace’s The Dragon Can’t Dance eventually learn, the world one comes to think of as fixed is full of people changing identities, taking on new tasks, rather than dancing the same dance year in and year out.

There is also the powerful case of the hairdresser turned politician and activist Jowelle de Souza, the first Trinidadian to undergo sexual reassignment surgery. De Souza, who also won a landmark transgender discrimination case in the Caribbean, recently became the first openly transgender individual to enter the island’s political sphere. While she has faced some religious opposition to her run, she has also received a fair amount of support—and this, to me, is a bright spot in the star fields, a sign that a new day may be coming to Trinidad, and hopefully the wider Caribbean. Jowelle is also a Junoesque woman, able, unlike many transwomen, to pass perfectly well. This, no doubt, has helped smooth her transition; it is still easier for many people to accept a transgender woman who looks like a highly attractive cisgender woman. But her story alerts me to the sound of wind.

I write and shout into sea and sky because I want to believe a new ruler in our many Hiroonas is possible—a day when those of us who are queer feel safe returning to our beautiful and mad and calm homes. A day when we don’t feel compelled to escape, as Marlon James wrote, in a coffin or in a plane. A day when we do not, like the Bajan transwoman Alexa Strauss-Hoffmann, face abandonment from our families. A day when womanhood is understood as a place with many rooms, many views, and where we, women of all kinds, can exist in unison. A day when we can simply be, because we are.


Gabrielle Bellot, who has also written under J. Bellot, holds an MFA from Florida State University, where she is currently a PhD Candidate in fiction. She has contributed work to Prairie SchoonerThe Missouri Review, Small Axe’s sx salonThe SouthEast Review, and other journals. She grew up in the Commonwealth of Dominica, where she has worked as a member of a committee for the Nature Island Literary Festival. She is working on her first novel.

To contact Guernica or Gabrielle Bellot, please write here.









port and fin
AUGUST 17, 2015










ChiliGarlicShrimpCouscous22Oh my. THIS.

I’m at a loss for words with this recipe. I threw this together on a whim one night after a particularly long and stressful day; the clock struck 7pm and I was approaching the danger zone of Hangry. I needed something warm, tasty – and preferably healthy – in my belly asap before I resorted to anger-eating an entire frozen pizza (….not that I ever do that. Right?). So, I tossed together a few of my favourite things and, well, magic was born.

It’s funny how the most random moments can bring together the most amazing recipes.

ChiliGarlicShrimpCouscous62I’ve been eating this for leftovers all week. It’s seriously so good: spicy, sesame couscous topped with sauteed-yet-flavourful garlic spinach and chili garlic prawns. It’s healthy, it comes together in minutes, and it packs a ton of flavour.

The magic ingredient – aside from the sesame oil (how much do we LOVE sesame oil?!) – would have to be the chili garlic sauce. If you have yet to try this magic sauce, do it. It’s from the same makers of Sriracha, and while it packs a similar punch of heat, it’s slightly sweeter and more complex in flavour. I’ve been putting it on everything, from pasta to KD to salads to toast. It’s amazing.

Sure, you can make your own chili garlic sauce (I will try it one day!) but this stuff is so cheap and delicious, it’s almost silly not to have it in your fridge.

ChiliGarlicShrimpCouscous32The shining star in this recipe is actually the couscous. It’s bold and flavourful and adds a wonderful texture to any dish. I am loving couscous right now for a variety of reasons:

a) it’s lighter and a lot less “heavy” in your tummy (like pasta can be).
b) it’s so versatile! Great warm or cold, in salads or as a side.
c) it’s literally the easiest thing to make. Ever.
d) it soaks up surrounding flavours so well.

ChiliGarlicShrimpCouscous42Adding sesame oil and a little of the aforementioned chili garlic sauce makes this couscous tangy and slightly spicy with a nutty, aromatic flavour.

I could eat this stuff for days. In fact, I have! It was great for dinner warm and fresh, but maybe even better the next day for lunch at work.

This will definitely be in my regular rotation. But be warned! If you’re not a fan of spice, this may not be for you. You can dial down the amount of chili garlic sauce if you prefer, but the recipe makes it fairly spicy.


Chili Garlic Prawns on Sauteed Spinach and Sesame Couscous  
Recipe type: Main
Author: Chelsea
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
  • Couscous:
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup water
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp chili garlic sauce
  • .
  • 400g large prawns, peeled
  • 3 Tbsp chili garlic sauce
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 cups packed, fresh spinach
  • Sesame seeds, for topping (optional)
  1. To make couscous, bring water and salt to a boil over medium heat. Once water is boiling, remove from heat and stir in couscous. Let stand for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and add in the sesame oil and chili garlic sauce, stirring to coat. Cover; set aside to keep warm.
  2. In a small bowl, toss together the prawns, garlic sauce, salt, and pepper; set aside.
  3. Heat sesame oil in a medium skillet over high heat. Add garlic, stirring until fragrant (just a few minutes). Be sure not to brown the garlic! Add the spinach to the skillet and stir to combine. Remove skillet from heat and keep stirring the spinach – this way the spinach will wilt but the garlic won’t burn. Transfer to a separate bowl and set aside.
  4. In the same skillet, cook the prawns on medium heat, about 3 minutes per side or until no longer translucent.
  5. Serve couscous topped with garlic spinach and prawns. Top with sesame seeds, if desired.















Call for Papers and Panels:

African Literature Association

conference 2016

african literature assoc

Emory University and Kennesaw State University cordially invite you to submit your proposals for seminars, roundtables, and panels at the African Literature Association 2016 Conference, “Justice and Human Dignity in Africa and the African Diaspora.”

We encourage you to share your scholarship on topics including, but not limited to:

  • African and African diaspora arts, literature, and intellectual work as practices of social justice and dignity
  • Re-imagining rights, law, justice, and/or dignity in Africa and the diaspora
  • African & diaspora women writers, social justice, and human dignity
  • The aesthetics, forms, and/or genres of justice
  • African human rights systems and precursors to human rights in Africa and the diaspora
  • Colonization, neo-colonization, trauma, and human rights violations
  • War, peace, conflict management, and human dignity in Africa
  • Ecological threats and environmental justice in Africa and beyond
  • Education and human rights advocacy in Africa and the diaspora
  • Civil and human rights movements in Africa and the diaspora
  • Labor, migrant/immigrant experience, and human dignity
  • Identity formation and inequality (gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, age, ability, socioeconomic status)
  • Globalization, the digital age, justice, and human dignity
  • Health systems, access, and justice
  • Language politics and multilingualism in Africa and the diaspora
  • Progress and human rights in Africa and the diaspora

This conference will feature three modalities for presenters to share their work: panels, roundtables, and seminars. In order to enrich the diversity of scholarship and  accommodate the largest possible number of presenters, individuals will be limited to  presenting in a maximum two sessions.

You must be a member of the African Literature Association in order to participate in any capacity. To become a member, visit the African Literature Association Homepage.



Individual paper proposals are welcome. We strongly encourage submissions in panels (see below). If accepted, an individual proposal will be assigned by the conveners to a panel of three-four presenters. When submitting an individual paper proposal, please include your own name, institutional affiliation, and email address, as well as an abstract of up to 250 words and an indication of any requests for A/V equipment. All individual paper proposals must be submitted by November 15th, 2015 to



We strongly encourage full panel submissions. We recommend that panels bring together scholars from multiple institutions. A full panel proposal should include a title, a description of the panel topic, the names of up to four panel participants, including their institutional affiliations and email addresses, abstracts of up to 250 words for each paper, and an indication of any requests for A/V equipment. All panel proposals must be submitted by November 15th, 2015 to



A roundtable will consist of a chair, who organizes the roundtable, and no less than four and no more than six presenters. To submit a proposal for a roundtable, please submit a title, a description of the roundtable topic, a brief summary of the main questions to be explored, the names of the proposed roundtable participants, including their institutional affiliations and email addresses, and an indication of any requests for A/V equipment by November 15th, 2015 to



The ALA seminar consists of 2-3 panels on a theme or cluster of related themes. The panels will be held once a day over 2-3 days. Seminar leaders must define the seminar issue, recruit participants, and propose panels, including abstracts of all papers, by November 15th. Each seminar proposal should be submitted by two organizers and each panel should have no more than four presenters. To enhance the intellectual diversity of presentations, we strongly encourage proposals that bring together scholars from multiple institutions. While seminar leaders normally serve as panel chairs, a seminar leader who is presenting a paper cannot chair more than one panel of the seminar. Pre-circulation of papers among seminar participants is strongly encouraged; full written-up presentations are required. All seminar participants are expected to attend all panels in the seminar.

To submit a proposal for a seminar, please submit a title, a brief description of the seminar as a whole and of each panel, the names of all participants, including their institutional affiliations and email addresses, abstracts of up to 250 words for each paper, and an indication of any requests for A/V equipment by November 15th, 2015 to


Information for ALA-Approved Caucuses

ALA-Approved Caucuses are advised to write to their members a call for papers for the 2016 conference that concerns the central theme of Justice and Human Dignity in Africa and the African Diaspora. Chairs of the ALA-approved caucuses must submit full panels bringing together scholars from multiple institutions. A full panel proposal should include a title, a description of the panel topic, the names of up to four panel participants, including their institutional affiliations and email addresses, abstracts of up to 250 words for each paper, and an indication of any requests for A/V equipment by November 15th, 2015 to


Convener’s Statement on Deadlines

Due to the popularity of the ALA 2016 location and in order to provide adequate time for participants to plan to attend the conference in early April, the conveners will be unable to consider submissions received after the November 15th, 2015 deadline. Only proposals received by the deadline will be considered for acceptance.

You will be notified of the status of your submission by Jan 15th, 2016.





chariton review



An annual award for the best unpublished short fiction on any theme up to 5,000 words in English.

The winner will receive a prize of $500 and two or three finalists will receive $200 each; the winning stories will be published in Chariton Review. All U.S. entrants will receive a complimentary copy of the Spring prize issue.

Submission Guidelines

  • Manuscripts must be double-spaced on standard paper. No handwritten manuscripts are allowed.
  • Manuscripts must be unbound.
  • Electronic submissions may be made here.
  • Include two title pages: one with the manuscript title and the author’s contact information (name, address, phone, email), and the other with only the manuscript title. The author’s name must not appear on or within the manuscript.
  • Enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope if you want to be notified when your manuscript is received. Manuscripts will not be returned. Please do not send your only copy.

Multiple Submissions

Your manuscript may be under consideration elsewhere, but please inform Truman State University Press if it is accepted for publication. More than one manuscript may be submitted annually to Chariton ReviewShort Fiction Prize (and each requires a separate fee), but only one prize issue is offered for each author’s multiple entries.


Previously published stories are not eligible. Current Truman State University faculty, staff, and students are not eligible to compete.


Manuscripts must be postmarked or submitted electronically by September 30 of each year.


Include a non-refundable reading fee of $20 for each manuscript submitted. Make check payable to Truman State University Press. To pay by credit card, please call the Press at (660) 785-7336, or submit online.


Manuscript and fee should be sent to:

Chariton Review Short Fiction Prize
Truman State University Press
100 East Normal Avenue
Kirksville, MO 63501-4221


The final judge will be announced after the finalists have been selected in January. Previous judges include Jaimy Gordon, Kellie Wells, and Gordon Weaver.

Competition Results

Results will be posted online in February.

See also Chariton Review