Patricia Sullivan, Washington Post Friday, November 10, 2006
Author Bebe Moore Campbell died of complications from brain cancer at her home in Los Angeles November 27. She was 56.
Bebe Moore Campbell was the author of several best-selling books that explored issues of race from several vantage points, including Brothers and Sisters, Singing in the Comeback Choir and Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine.
Octavia Butler, 1947-2006: Sci-fi writer and a gifted pioneer in this white, male domain.
Her father was a shoeshine man who died when she was a child, her mother was a maid who brought her along on jobs yet Octavia Butler rose from these humble beginnings to become one of the country’s leading writers – a female African-American pioneer in the white male domain of science fiction.
Butler, 58, died after falling and striking her head Friday on a walkway outside her home in Lake Forest Park. The reclusive writer who moved to Seattle in 1999 from her native Southern California, was a giant in stature (she was 6 feet tall by age 15) and in accomplishment.
She remains the only science fiction writer to receive one of the vaunted “genius grants” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, a hard-earned $295,000 windfall in 1995 that followed years of poverty and personal struggles with shyness and self-doubt.
“People may call these ‘genius grants,’ ” Butler said in a 2004 interview with the Seattle P-I, “but nobody made me take an IQ test before I got mine. I knew I’m no genius.”
ByJo hn Marshall, P-I Book Critic
Benny Andrews, noted painter and visual storyteller, passed away on November 10. Born into a family of sharecroppers, Andrews grew up working in the cotton fields of Georgia and was the first in his family to graduate from high school in 1948. He spent his life painting works that addressed social issues such as the United States Civil Rights Movement, the Holocaust, and the forced relocation of American Indians. Andrews was also a longtime teacher, having taught art at Queens College in New York City for thirty years and establishing an art program in New York State’s prison system.
Coretta Scott King, known first as the wife of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., then as his widow, then as an avid proselytizer for his vision of racial peace and nonviolent social change, died early today, January 31, 2006, at Santa Monica Hospital in Baja, California, Mexico, near San Diego. She was 78. Mrs. King was admitted to the hospital last Thursday, said her sister, Edythe Scott Bagley. She died about 1 a.m., said Lorena Blanco, a spokeswoman for the United States consulate in Tijuana. Andrew Young, the former United Nations Ambassador and longtime family friend, said at a news conference this morning that Mrs. King died in her sleep.
“She was a woman born to struggle,” Mr. Young said, “and she has struggled and she has overcome.”
Mrs. King rose from rural poverty in Heiberger, Ala. to become an international symbol of the civil rights revolution of the 1960’s and a tireless advocate for social and political issues ranging from women’s rights to the struggle against apartheid in South Africa that followed in its wake.
She was studying music at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston in 1952 when she met a young graduate student in philosophy, who on their first date told her: “The four things that I look for in a wife are character, personality, intelligence and beauty. And you have them all.” A year later, she and Dr. King, then a young minister from a prominent Atlanta family, were married, beginning a remarkable partnership that ended with his assassination in Memphis on April 4, 1968.
Mrs. King did not hesitate to pick up his mantle, marching, even before her husband was buried, at the head of the striking garbage workers that he had gone to Memphis to champion. She then went on to lead the effort for a national holiday in his honor and to found the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, dedicated both to scholarship and to activism, where Dr. King is buried. The New York Times
Edna Lewis, the granddaughter of a former slave whose cookbooks revived the nearly forgotten genre of refined Southern cooking while offering a glimpse into African-American farm life in the early 20th century, passed away on February 13, 2006,she was 89.
Miss Lewis, as she was always called, died in her sleep in her home in Decatur, Ga., taking care of herself as she grew frail.
Despite a quiet demeanor, Miss Lewis had a reach that extended from her family farm in Virginia to left-wing politics in Manhattan to the birthplace of California cuisine.
Edna Lewis was born in a small settlement called Freetown in 1916, one of eight children. The farm had been granted to her grandfather, a freed slave. Growing, gathering and preparing food was more than just sustenance for the family, it was a form of entertainment. Without fancy cooking equipment, the family improvised, measuring baking powder on coins and cooking everything over wood.
She took a bus to New York when she was in her early 30’s, eager for work but restricted by the racial attitudes of the times.
In New York, she married Steve Kingston, a retired merchant seaman and a Communist.
In the mid-1970’s, while sidelined by a broken leg, Miss Lewis began writing a cookbook. With encouragement from Judith Jones, the cookbook editor at Knopf who also edited Julia Child, Miss Lewis turned her handwritten pages into The Taste of Country Cooking. In 1979, Craig Claiborne of the Times said the book “may well be the most entertaining regional cookbook in America.”
In a 1989 interview with the Times, Miss Lewis said: “As a child in Virginia, I thought all food tasted delicious. After growing up, I didn’t think food tasted the same, so it has been my lifelong effort to try and recapture those good flavors of the past.”
Miss Lewis will be particularly remembered in Brooklyn for her 5-year tenure as chef at the former Brooklyn landmark restaurant, Gage & Tollner’s.
Carl Brashear was the U.S. Navy’s first Black deep-sea diver. Years later, he achieved the status of Navy Master Diver, a rank reached by only a handful of the best divers in U.S. Naval diving history. But what makes Brashear’s accomplishment so unique is that he did it with only a 7th-grade education while having to surmount institutional racism in the Navy and the loss of a leg incurred while saving the life of another sailor.
The inspiring story of this true legend was told in the hit movie Men of Honor which starred Oscar winners Cuba Gooding, Jr.
By CDR (Ret.) Gregory Black, Black Military World (BMW) Founder
Gordon Parks, Sr., a versatile and prolific artist, warrants his status as a cultural icon. Parks passed away on March 7, 2006 at the age of 93. The poet, novelist, film director, and preeminent documentary and fashion photographer was born on November 30, 1912, in Fort Scott, Kansas, the youngest of fifteen children. Parks saw no reason to stay in Kansas after the death of his mother and moved to St. Paul, Minnesota at age sixteen to live with his sister. After a disagreement with his brother-in-law, Parks soon found himself homeless, supporting himself by playing piano and basketball and working as a busboy.
While working on a train as a waiter, Parks noticed a magazine with photographs from the Farm Security Administration (FSA). The photos by such documentary photographers as Dorothea Lange, Russell Lee and Arthur Rothstein led him to Richard Wright’s 12 Million Black Voices, other photo essays about poverty and racism, and the social and artistic voice he had been seeking. Parks bought a used camera in 1938, deciding on a career in photography. In 1941, Parks received a fellowship from the Julius Rosenwald Foundation to work with Roy Stryker at the photography section of the FSA. In Washington, D.C., he trained as a photojournalist. He would work with Stryker for the next few years, producing work and honing the modernist and individualistic style he became known for by photographing small towns and industrial centers throughout America.
By the end of the 1940s, Parks was working with Life and Vogue and in that capacity, did some of his most famous work. Traveling the globe and covering issues as varied as the fashion industry, poverty in Brazil, the Nation of Islam and gang violence, and eventually celebrity portraitures, Parks continued to develop and create new ways to convey meaning through his work.
Branching out from his photography in 1963, Parks directed his first film, The Learning Tree, based on his autobiographical novel of the same name. His filmmaking career launched, Parks went on to direct many films, including Shaft in 1971. In addition to film, Parks has composed music and written several books including: A Choice of Weapons (1966), To Smile in Autumn (1979), Voices in the Mirror (1990), Arias of Silence (1994), and a retrospective of his life and work titled Half Past Autumn (1997), which was recently made into an HBO special. The History Makers
Katherine Dunham was well-known for bringing African and Caribbean influences into the European-dominated dance world. Born in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, she was a success in dance recitals at school in Joliet, Illinois, where her father ran a dry cleaning establishment. She never thought about a career in dance, instead, she followed her family’s wishes that she become a teacher. As an anthropology student at the University of Chicago in 1935, she took her first trip to Haiti on a fellowship to study Caribbean culture and dance. The experience encouraged her, who was paying for college by giving dance lessons, to go into dance full-time. During her career, she choreographed Aida in 1963 becoming the first African American to choreograph for the Metropolitan Opera. She also did choreography work for such musicals as Cabin in the Sky. She appeared in several films including Stormy Weather in 1943 with Lena Horne and Bill Robinson and Carnival of Rhythm. She was also influential to such entertainers as Harry Belafonte and Eartha Kitt. A passionate civil rights activist, she refused to perform at segregated theaters. Katherine Dunham was honored numerous times during her career, with such distinguishable awards as The Presidential Medal of the Arts at the Kennedy Center Honors, The Albert Schweitzer Prize at New York’s Carnegie Hall on January 15, 1979, as well as awards from Brazil and Haiti. She passed away at a Manhattan, New York City, New York assisted-living facility.ÿ(bio by: C.S.)
James Brown passed on Monday, December 25, 2006, and he was more than “the Godfather of Soul.”
If there is a lingering popular image of who James Brown was, it is of that exotic, possessed entertainer. But that image is a clich‚. Brown was a great showman, but he was no cartoon. That he was demonized by legal troubles didn’t help. But he was no circus act.
The “Godfather of Soul,” who died in Atlanta at age 73, was one of the most important leaders of America’s Civil Rights movement during the second half of the 20th century.
He communed with presidents and elected officials of all political stripes, recorded groundbreaking Black-pride anthems, and may have saved Boston from being burned by rioters in the days following the assassination of Martin Luther King.
From 1965 onward, Brown often cancelled his shows to perform benefit concerts for Black political organizations like the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).
In 1966, the song “Don’t Be a Drop-Out”, urged Black children not to neglect their education.
In 1968, he initiated “Operation Black Pride,” and, dressing as Santa Claus, presented 3,000 certificates for free Christmas dinners in the poor Black neighborhoods of New York City.
His funky 1968 anthem, “Say it Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud” preached economic self-reliance and taught generations of hard-working Blacks it was time to “get our share.”
“We’d rather die on our feet than be livin’ on our knees,” he sang.
From the same era, Brown issued another manifesto, this time on male-female relationships: “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.” Though it’s commonly mistaken for a chauvinist rant, the song is actually a plea for companionship, a lament about how all the power in the world “wouldn’t mean nuthin’ … nuthin’ … without a woman or a girl.”
“People already know his history, but I would like for them to know he was a man who preached love from the stage,” said friend Charles Bobbit, who was with Brown at the hospital. “His thing was ‘I never saw a person that I didn’t love.’ He was a true humanitarian who loved his country.”
Compiled from Chicago Tribune, Reuters, PBS, Forbes by blackmaleappreciation.blogspot.com