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African-American Interest

Oct 10 2016

Out With The Old

by Camille B

picture-of-signboardWould you believe that you can still find a working payphone at the Decatur Library? I don’t mean a relic, barred off by velvet ropes where people can come by and stare in wonder (although they probably do). I’m talking about an actual, receiver- still- attached, working payphone.

You certainly don’t see these around anymore and many kids today have no idea what they are or how they work, just take a look here at the young man in this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xm0CoT5n7A.

This youngster’s not alone, and it’s not just younger kids, teenagers too seem in awe of this blast from our past. I have a sixteen year old niece who has never seen an actual payphone, or a rotary phone for that matter, except for the ones on TV. Funny or sad, the most vivid recollection of the phone booth this modern generation might have in the  coming years, would be of Clark Kent using it to change into Superman.

Of course I couldn’t stop my mind from travelling down memory lane, wondering what else had faded away or died a quiet death while we weren’t looking? Those things which we believed to be so indispensable that are now simply memories that make our kids chortle and roll their eyes at us as though we lived during the Middle Ages.

Well honestly, quite a number of them that popped up are already pretty much obsolete and the others, though they’re putting up a brave fight to stay with us, will soon also be a thing of the past.

The following items came up repeatedly on various lists:

Rotary Phones- picture-of-rotary-phoneI think that the rotary phone would certainly be a great conversation piece among the younger and future generations. There were no buttons to press, not even for redial. Before thumbs rocked, the index finger ruled, for both scrolling down the pages of the telephone directory and dialing -the long way around. And if the phone rang, you picked it up, without knowing who was calling. If you missed a call, you dialed *69.

Mailing a letter- When was the last time you saw a teenager in line at the Post Office?  Just about everything is done online, even getting copies of grades and turning in assignments. All correspondence is done through text, emails, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.

Disposable Cameras- Gone are the days of dropping off your disposable camera at Walgreens and anxiously waiting  the one hour for your honeymoon photos to be developed, hoping that the weird, grinning man you met doesn’t appear in any of the backgrounds.picture-of-disposable-camera

Today we can easily snap and store hundreds of photos to our heart’s content, using our tablets and smart phones and getting results in an instant. We now even have the option of developing them ourselves. And thanks to Photoshop, you can also say bye-bye to the weird grinning man in the background.

Cursive Writing- Alas, the lost art of cursive writing which was such an integral part of the schools’ curriculum and encouraged proper penmanship among students, today is almost non-existent. The logic behind it seems to be that we rarely put pen to paper anymore anyway. Maybe in years to  come there will be no need for pen and paper at all, so the thought is, I guess, why waste time with such a practice?

Still, I believe that there’s just something about a person having good penmanship, don’t you think? And it’s one of those things I’d most hate to see go. Some states and schools are still fighting the good fight to keep it as part of their school’s curriculum, Georgia included, but sadly it’s dying a slow death.

Renting a Movie- Years ago, we probably couldn’t imagine life without popular video rental stores like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video. For many it was part of the weekend experience. You stopped off at the video store down the street Friday or Saturday night to rent four or five movies which you kept for a few days.

Good times for us, but hey, no love lost for the modern generation, not when they have Redbox, Netflix, Hulu and other ways to rent movies or stream them online in your own home.picture-of-blockbuster-sign

Remembering Phone Numbers- Before everyone had a cellphone with the capability of storing every possible phone number you could think of, there was just that one house phone, remember? With probably an extra line or two for everyone in the house to use. You could recite grandma’s number by heart and aunt Helen’s, the Vet, and Wong’s Chinese takeout on the corner. Any others were probably penciled in your telephone and address book that you carried with you in your handbag.

Mixed Tapes- Look at how far we’ve come from the mixed tape. Remember all that time spent compiling our favorite songs on a single cassette with 60 or 90 minutes worth of playing time? Arranging the songs in just the right order, then listening first to one side and then flipping it over to listen to the other? And who could forget using a pencil to reel the tape back in when it somehow got unraveled.

Today there are ipods, MP3 players, tablets and cellphones that enable us to create, download and store endless playlists all at the touch of a button.

And there is my absolute favorite…

Handwritten Letters- I can’think of a person who doesn’t love to get a handwritten letter. I most certainly do. How often do I get them? Not very often, I’m afraid. It is now very rare to receive a warm, handwritten letter from a friend or loved one. In the busyness of today’s world, all our new technology has completely replaced putting pen to paper.

But the memories are still there of the handwritten love letters we kept over the years, now yellowed with age.

Letters have brought comfort to men at war, cheer to sick loved ones, and solace to broken hearts. Letters and love notes have evoked the theme for many a love story.
There were so many other things on the ‘out with the old’ list that stirred up feelings of nostalgia as I did research for this post.  You can find a few more here on this link 50 things we don’t do anymore due to technology.

And though we say out with the old, we still pause to reminisce about those things that contributed to our lives in some small way over the years, even as we embrace all that technology and the future has to offer us today.

“We all have our time machines.  Some take us back, they’re called memories.  Some take us forward, they’re called dreams.”

– Jeremy Irons

Visit your local Dekalb Public Library or visit the website to find copies of these titles:

The great acceleration: how the world is getting faster, faster/ Robert Colville

The way we will be 50 years from today/edited by Mike Wallace

Toilets, toasters & telephones/ Susan Goldman Rubin

From radio to wireless web/ Joanne Mattern

The history of the telephone/ Elizabeth Raum

How to write anything: a complete guide/ Laura Brown

 

 

 

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TeegeHow would you feel if you opened a book one day and found out your grandfather was a high-ranking Nazi commandant? That’s exactly what happened to Jennifer Teege.

The Georgia Center for the Book presented Teege in April at the Decatur Library. She spoke about her book My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me: A Black Woman Discovers Her Family’s Nazi Past.

Ralph Fiennes played her grandfather in his haunting portrayal of Amon Goeth, the maniacal Nazi death camp commander in Steven Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List. Teege, who was adopted, learned the surprising fact that her biological mother was the daughter of Goeth, the “Butcher of Plaszow,” one day as she was looking for a book on depression.  She happened to see a book with the familiar face of her mother on the cover.

According to People Magazine‘s online article by Michelle Tauber:

The first shock was the sheer discovery of a book about my mother and my family, which had information about me and my identity that had been kept hidden from me, Teege, 44, had told Israeli newspaper Haaretz in a story featured on NPR.

“I knew almost nothing about the life of my biological mother, nor did my adoptive family, she said. I hoped to find answers to questions that had disturbed me and to the depression I had suffered from. The second shock was the information about my grandfather’s deeds.”

Teege’s book, co-written by Nikola Sellmair, is available at DCPL. You might also be interested in The Road to Rescue: The Untold Story of Schindler’s List by Mietek Pemper, in collaboration with Viktoria Hertling, or The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible–On Schindler’s List, A Memoir by Leon Leyson, with Marilyn J. Harran and Elisabeth B. Leyson.

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mlk

I won’t be coming to work on the Monday holiday, the day we celebrate MLK, but his actual birthday is January 15.  It was no easy feat to have this national holiday. The following is a chronology, from The King Center website.  Note the date the first legislation was introduced and how long it took to be made a reality.

“Making of  The King Holiday – A Chronology”

  • April 8, 1968 Four days after Dr. King is assassinated, Congressman John Conyers (D-MI) introduces first legislation providing for a Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday.
  • June 26, 1968 – The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Center is founded in Atlanta. The mission is to establish a living memorial to Dr. King, to preserve his papers and promote his teachings. Shortly after, King Center Founder Coretta Scott King, directs the small staff to being planning for the first annual observance of Dr. King’s birthday.
  • January 15, 1969 – The King Center sponsors the first annual observance of Dr. King’s birthday with an ecumenical service and other events and calls for nation-wide commemorations of Dr. King’s birthday. This observance becomes the model for subsequent annual commemorations of Dr. King’s birthday nation-wide, setting the tone of celebration of Dr. King’s life, education in his teachings and nonviolent action to carry forward his unfinished work.
  • April, 1971 – Petitions gathered by SCLC bearing 3 million signatures in support of King Holiday are presented to Congress. But Congress takes no action to move holiday legislation forward.
  • 1973 – First state King Holiday bill (sponsored by then Assemblyman Harold Washington) signed into law in Illinois.
  • 1974 – Massachusetts, Connecticut enact statewide King Holidays.
  • 1975 – New Jersey State Supreme Court rules that state must provide a paid holiday in honor of Dr. King in accordance with the state government’s labor contract with the New Jersey State Employees Association.
  • November 4, 1978 – National Council of Churches calls on Congress to pass King Holiday.
  • February 19, 1979 – Coretta Scott King testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings in behalf of the King Holiday. She urges Rep. Conyers to bring the holiday bill up for a floor vote in the House of Representatives.
  • March 27, 1979 – Mrs. King testifies before Joint Hearings of Congress in support of King Holiday bill.
  • 1979 – Mrs. King directs King Center staff to begin intensive organizing of a nation-wide citizens lobby for a national Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday. King Center launches new nationwide King Holiday petition campaign, which is signed by more than 300,000 before end of year. President Carter calls on Congress to pass national King Holiday. The King Holiday bill finally begins to move through Congressional committees.
  • November, 1979 – The Conyers King Holiday bill is defeated in floor vote in U.S. House of Representatives by just 5 votes.
  • 1980 –Stevie Wonder releases “Happy Birthday,” a song celebrating Dr. King and urging a holiday in his honor. It becomes a hit and a rallying cry for the holiday.
  • May 2, 1980 – Coretta Scott King testifies in U.S. House of Representative in support of establishing a National Historic Site in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • September 11, 1980 – Mrs. King testifies in U.S. Senate in support of establishing a National Historic Site in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • 1981 – King Center President Coretta Scott King writes to governors, mayors, chairpersons of city council across the U.S., requesting them to pass resolutions and proclamations commemorating the Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday and send them to The King Center’s Archives. She asks them to recognize celebrations and programs of observance.
  • February 23, 1982 – Mrs. King testifies in support of the Holiday before the Subcommittee on Census and Population of the House Committee on Post Office and Civil Service.
  • 1982 – The King Center calls for and mobilizes a conference to commemorate and serve as cosponsors of the 19th anniversary of the March on Washington. More than 100 organizations participated. King Center mobilizes coalition to lobby for the holiday. Stevie Wonder funds holiday lobbying office and staff based in Washington, D.C.
  • 1982 – Mrs. King and Stevie Wonder present King Center petitions bearing more than 6 million signatures in support of King Holiday to Tip O’Neil, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
  • June, 1983 – Mrs. King testifies before Congress in behalf of The King Holiday bill again.
  • August, 1983 – The House of Representatives passes King Holiday Bill, providing for the King Holiday to be observed on the third Monday in January. The bill, which is sponsored by Reps. Katie Hall (D.-IN) and Jack Kemp (R-NY), passes by a vote of 338 to 90.
  • August 27, 1983 – King Center convenes the “20th Anniversary March on Washington,” supported by more than 750 organizations. More than 500,000 people attend the March at the Lincoln Memorial, and all of the speakers call on the U.S. Senate and President Reagan to pass the King Holiday.
  • October 19, 1983 – Holiday Bill sponsored by Senator Ted Kennedy (D.-Mass.) passes U.S. Senate by a vote of 78-22.
  • November 3, 1983 – President Reagan signs bill establishing the 3rd Monday of every January as the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday, beginning in 1986.
  • April-May, 1984 – King Center develops legislative proposal to establish the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday Commission. Mrs. King meets with leadership of the House and Senate and appeals to Congress to legislate the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday Commission. The legislation passes Congress by a voice vote.
  • August 27, 1984 – President Reagan signs legislation providing for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday Commission, to last for a term of five years, with an option to renew for another 5 years.
  • November, 1984 – First meeting of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday Commission. Coretta Scott King is unanimously elected Chairperson
  • January 20, 1986 – First national King Holiday Observed. By this time 17 states had official King holidays. The King Holiday Commissioners are sworn in by federal district Judge Horace Ward.
  • January 16, 1989 – As a result of leadership of the King Holiday Commission, the number of states which enacted a MLK holiday grows to 44.
  • 1990 – The United Auto Workers negotiate contracts with the big three auto companies requiring a paid holiday for all their employees.
  • January 15, 1990 – The Wall St. Journal Reports that only 18 % of 317 corporate employers surveyed by the Bureau of National Affairs provide a paid King Holiday.
  • November 3, 1992 – After a coalition of citizens for an Arizona King Holiday launches successful protest and boycott campaigns, the people of Arizona pass referendum establishing Martin Luther King, Jr. state holiday.
  • January, 1993 – Arizona observes first statewide King Holiday, leaving only New Hampshire without a state holiday in honor of Dr. King.
  • 1994 – Citing Dr. King’s statement that “Everybody can be great because everybody can serve,” Coretta Scott King testifies before Congress in support of making the King Holiday an official national day of humanitarian service.
  • August 23, 1994 – President Clinton signs the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday and Service Act, expanding the mission of the holiday as a day of community service, interracial cooperation and youth anti-violence initiatives.
  • 1996 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday Commission concludes mission, transfers responsibility for coordinating nationwide holiday programs and activities to The King Center.
  • 1998 – A Bureau of National Affairs survey of 458 employers found that 26 percent provide a paid holiday for their workers on the King Holiday. The survey found that 33 percent of firms with union contracts provided the paid King Holiday, compared to 22 percent of nonunion shops.
  • June 7, 1999 – Governor Jean Shaheen of New Hampshire signs the King Holiday legislation into law, completing enactment of holiday in all states.
  • October 29, 1999 – U.S. Senate unanimously passes legislation requiring federal institutions to fly the U.S. flag on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday.
  • August 2000 – The King Center’s National Holiday Advisory Committee (replacing the Federal King Holiday Commission) is established to promote the Holiday throughout the 50 states. Each governor of the 50 states is asked to appoint two state representatives to coordinate celebration in their state.
  • Today – The King Holiday is celebrated in U.S. installations and is observed by local groups in more than 100 other nations. Trinidad and other nations have also established a holiday in honor of Dr. King.

The King Holiday should highlight remembrance and celebration and should encourage people everywhere to reflect on the principles of nonviolent social change and racial equality as espoused by Martin Luther King, Jr. It should be a day of community and humanitarian service, and interracial cooperation.

The King Holiday should be a day of which the majority of local and state governments close, and one on which private organizations and the majority of businesses honor Dr. King by encouraging their employees to undertake community service work to address social needs.

The King Holiday should officially and appropriately be observed by the United Nations and its members. Mrs. Coretta Scott King, who severed as Chair, Martin Luther King, Jr., Federal Holiday Commission and Founding President of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Nonviolent Social Change, is quoted as saying:

“As a nation chooses its heroes and heroines, a nation interprets its history and shapes its destiny. The commemoration of the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. can help America realize its true destiny as the global model for democracy, economic and social justice, and as the first nonviolent society in human history.”

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Dec 17 2014

Foxy Brown, She-ro

by Hope L

pamI’m not really a Twitter person, but when I joined Twitter and tried to use the doggone thing, I was surprised when a famous person, none other than Pam Grier–yes, THE  Pam Grier of Foxy Brown, Jackie Brown and most recently, The L Word (cable TV series) fame–started following me.

Now, there are probably those of you who have celebrities following your Twitter feed. I, on the other hand, am a complete social media novice, and when Pam Grier’s name popped up–well, I mean, with Foxy and Roger Corman and Richard Pryor and Freddie Prinze and Kareem, oh yeah, and more recently, Jackie Brown and Quentin Tarantino…

Being the Hollywood gadfly that I am, I went and checked out Foxy: My Life in Three Acts, by Pam Grier with Andrea Cagan, from my DCPL branch. It just confirmed what I already knew about Pam Grier/aka Foxy–she is one cool chica.

Now, I had watched her for a few years around the turn of the millennium in Showtime’s The L Word.  And of course a chick like Pam would play a character who could only drive a green vintage late 60’s/early 70’s vehicle (Chevelle? Impala?).  She couldn’t exactly drive around in a Subaru, now, could she?

As Pam explains:

“I had become one of the most recognizable female stars of the blaxploitation genre…  This movement of which I was such a prominent member was shadowing the women’s movement, where women were demanding equal rights to men in art, business, family, and all aspects of life.  My movies featured women claiming the right to fight back, which previously had been out of the question.”

You, GO, Girrrrl!

pam2Yes, the queen of Blaxploitation movies is not only cool, she has had one heckuva life so far. Highlights of her life include enduring and witnessing racial discrimination from all directions, like being in a church choir bus that was shot at in the middle of Watts during the historic riots of 1965;  and, just as she garnered her first job as an actress, meeting and dating the soon-to-be famous college basketball player Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, Jr. (“Call me Lew” before he changed his name to Kareem Abdul Jabbar); and, upon prodding from Gloria Steinem, appearing on the cover of Ms. Magazine; AND, dating and loving two major comedians who would struggle with drug addiction (Freddie Prinze and Richard Pryor), and on and on.

Pam Grier did many of her own stunts, like riding the stunt horses and popping wheelies on motorcycles. She starred in movies with Paul Newman, Eartha Kitt, and had a role on the blockbuster TV miniseries RootsShe survived both cancer and the entertainment industry.

As I watched Jackie Brown the other night, I rooted for Jackie (Pam). In the end, I knew she would get revenge, the money, and the guy–if she wanted him.

Pam Grier defines the word SHE-RO. Plus, unlike me, she knows how to tweet and use Twitter.

 

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Aug 12 2013

Remembering Emmett

by Hope L

pic

Now, I don’t know if you know about Emmett Till, but you definitely should.

This time every year—but especially now with Trayvon Martin’s death and the trial of George Zimmerman—I think of Emmett. It is a sad time.

14-year-old Emmett Till was savagely murdered August 28, 1955, while visiting relatives in Money, Mississippi.

Death of Innocence—The Story of the Hate Crime That Changed America by Mamie Till-Mobley and Christopher Benson, tells the story as only a mother could. I loved this woman’s courage.

Her son’s ‘crime’? Entering a small grocery store for sweets and supposedly whistling at a white woman, the wife of the proprietor.

Emmett’s mama insisted his casket be open at the Chicago funeral (in order to do so without the smell, a glass-covered casket was used) with thousands of people filing in to view the body. Photographers took pictures of her son—photos that appeared in a black newspaper and Jet magazine. The result was shock, horror, and—some say—the impetus for the civil rights movement.

“People had to face my son and realize just how twisted, how distorted, how terrifying race hatred could be. People had to consider all of that as they viewed Emmett’s body. The whole nation had to bear witness to this,” she said.

Heartbreaking as it is, Till-Mobley’s account of her son’s murder is a testament to her strength, vision and tenacity. And her words ring especially true today.

She writes, “If you look at Emmett’s century, you see that the men who lived important lives, significant lives, were truly gifted. They were blessed with good mothers, mothers who gave them exactly what they needed—unconditional love. That, and the freedom to express themselves, to fulfill their promise. In that way, these mothers helped their sons come to believe that there was nothing they couldn’t achieve. This was a gift I gave my own son—a boy of great potential.”

Sadly, potential never realized. As Mamie Till-Mobley said during the 1989 dedication of the Civil Rights Memorial (at the Southern Poverty Law Center Headquarters, Montgomery, Alabama):

“We cannot afford the luxury of self-pity. Our top priority now is to get on with the building process. My personal peace has come through helping boys and girls reach beyond the ordinary and strive for the extraordinary. We must teach our children to weather the hurricanes of life, pick up the pieces, and rebuild. We must impress upon our children that even when troubles rise to seven-point-one on life’s Richter scale, they must be anchored so deeply that, though they sway, they will not topple.”

The murder of her son pushed her into activism:  the NAACP  asked Till-Mobley to tour the country relating the details of her son’s life, death, and the 1955 trial that acquitted his murderers. (Roy Bryant and his half-brother J.W. Milam confessed in Look magazine, reportedly earning $4,000 for their participation in the 1956 article.) In 1956 she graduated from Chicago’s Teacher’s College; in 1976 she obtained her master’s degree in administration at Loyola University Chicago.

Till-Mobley died in 2003 at age 81 during the writing of her book,  and although she sought justice for her son her entire life, no one has ever been convicted of the crime. The state of Mississippi had to exhume Emmett’s body in 2005 to reopen the case, and his casket now resides in the Smithsonian.

But perhaps Emmett and Mamie led the way for that other boy of color with a single mother, born six years after Emmett’s death:  Barry Obama.

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Jun 26 2013

June is National Soul Food Month

by Glenda

Soul_Food_DinnerSoul food originated in Africa and came to the United States with African slaves. Foods such as okra and rice, which are common in West Africa, were introduced to the Americas as a result of the transatlantic slave trade. These foods were dietary staples among the slaves. Foods such as corn from the Americas, turnips from Morocco and cabbage from Portugal would become staples in African-American cuisine. Slaves were fed as cheaply as possible; they were given the scraps: pig ears, pig feet, ox tail, ham hocks, hog jowls, trip and skin of animals. The slaves developed dishes using the scrap parts and these dishes became a part of their daily diet. They used onions and garlic to add flavor and lard for baking and frying. In addition to the scrap animal parts they were given the small intestine of the pig, or chitterlings, which were a poor dish for Europeans during medieval times.

These cooking rituals would be passed on from generation to generation of African-Americans, and these recipes are alive and well even today. Of course these dishes are not prepared in the same manner as during slave times, but they have not changed a whole lot. For instance, chitterlings are prepared in African-American homes during the holidays every year. In my family, my mother, grandmother and aunts prepare chitterlings every Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter. Chitterlings are cooked with onions and garlic the same as the slaves, but are prepared in much nicer cookware and maybe with a little vinegar. Fried corn, a major staple in soul food, was introduced to the slaves by the Native Americans and continues to be a popular dish today. Other products made from corn, such as cornbread, grits, whiskey and moonshine are still a part of the African-American diet.

When I think of soul food, I think of Sunday dinners that include fried chicken, fried corn, macaroni casserole, collard greens, turnip greens, cornbread, fried pork chops smothered in gravy, black eyed peas, potato salad and sweet potato pie. I can smell these wonderful dishes right now. Some people say soul food is not exactly the food a person cooks; it’s that the person cooks from the heart. Personally I think the enslaved African women put their heart and soul into the food they were cooking for their families.

If you would like to cook some of these wonderful dishes, you should come to the library and check out African-American Kitchen: Cooking from our heritage by Angela Shelf Medearis, The Welcome Table: African-American heritage cooking by Jessica B. Harris, and Down Home with the Neely’s: A southern family cookbook by Patrick Neely.  Or for a lighter version of soul food try Healthy Soul Food Cooking by Fabiola Gaines.

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May 29 2013

Mark your calendars!

by Dea Anne M

On September 23 1957, 3 years after the U.S. Supreme Court declared via Brown vs Board of Education that all laws establishing segregated schools were unconstitutional, nine African American students enrolled in Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. The tumultuous events that preceded and followed this event have become generally known as the Little Rock Integration Crisis. Someone who played a leading role during this time, and in times to come, was Daisy Bates (November 11, 1914 – November 4, 1999). Elected president of the Arkansas branch of the NAACP in 1952, Mrs. Bates, along with her husband L. C. Bates, was a very important figure in the African American community of Little Rock. Their newspaper, the Arkansas State Press, whose first issue appeared on May 9, 1941, was a voice for civil rights well before a nationally recognized movementemerged. Mrs. Bates acted as advisor and guide to the students who became know as the Little Rock Nine.The Bates’ newspaper suffered such a loss of advertising revenue during and after these events that they were forced to stop publishing in 1959 but Mrs. Bates went on to do important work in New York City and Washington DC. In 1988, the reprint of her 1962 memoir The Long Shadow of Little Rock (which was initially banned throughout the South) won a National Bookrock Award.

On Saturday, June 8th, the Stonecrest branch of DCPL will proudly host Janis F. Kearney the author of Daisy: Between a Rock and a Hard Place. Kearney, who was 16 when she met Bates, paints a vivid and compelling picture of a true legend, a woman ahead of her time during a fascinating, and for many dangerous, period of our nation’s history. Ms. Kearney, a highly respected scholar, served as Presidential Diarist to President Bill Clinton from 1995 to 2001 and is the author of the memoir Cotton Field of Dreams which tells of her childhood growing up as one of 17 children born to poor sharecroppers who encouraged their children to succeed through hard work, education and bold dreams. Funding for this very special event is provided by the Friends of the Stonecrest Library and the City of Lithonia and will take place from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm. Please be sure not to miss this exciting author talk!Little Rock

For more background on Daisy Bates, check out The Power of One: Daisy Bates and the Little Rock Nine by Judith Bloom Fradin and Dennis Brindell Fradin and to learn more about the Little Rock Integration Crisis be sure not miss Turn Away Thy Son: Little Rock, the crisis that rocked the nation by Elizabeth Jacoway

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Feb 6 2013

African food heritage

by Dea Anne M

We all know that February is Black History Month but did you know that during February we also celebrate African Heritage and Health Week? According to Oldways, the nonprofit food and education organization, February 1st – 7th is a time for celebrating African heritage by eating meals inspired by the traditional cooking of Africa, the Caribbean, South America, and the African American South. Numerous studies have shown that traditional diets that emphasize vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans help to promote good health. I urge you to visit this very interesting website and learn more about the traditional food of Africa. You’ll find the African Heritage Diet Pyramid, information about African Diaspora cultures, tips on grocery shopping and setting up your kitchen, and my favorite feature “African Heritage Dine-Around-Town.” This is a list (with links) of restaurants in every state that serve African cuisine. Though it is by no means comprehensive (for example, no Ethiopian restaurants make the list for Georgia) it’s still a fun tool for those who want to dine out on African foods.

cuisineAre you interested in exploring African foods in your own kitchen? Check out these resources from DCPL.

Marcus Samuelsson is a world famous chef who was born to Ethiopian parents and adopted by a Swedish couple after the death of his mother. Raised in Sweden, he trained and apprenticed in Europe before coming to New York where he became the youngest chef to receive a three star review from the New York Times. His newest restaurant is Red Rooster in Harlem and his cookbook The Soul of a New Cuisine: a discovery of the foods and flavors of Africa (with Heidi Sacko Walters) was selected as the “Best International Cookbook” by the James Beard Foundation in 2006.

africaAlso take note of:

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Oct 26 2012

Bless Her Heart

by Veronica W

In the movie Steel Magnolias, two middle aged southern women, Clairee and Truvy, are at a wedding reception, watching one of their peers dance. Her “form fitting” dress shows all her curves and extras, in rolling, gyrating splendor.

Truvy: Clairee, you know I’d rather walk on my lips than criticize  anybody…but…Janice Van Meer…

Clairee: I know…

Truvy: I bet you money she’s paid $500 for that dress and doesn’t even bother to wear a girdle.

Clairee: It’s like two pigs fighting under a blanket.

Truvy: Well, I haven’t left the house without Lycra on these thighs since I was 14.

Clairee: You were brought up right.

This movie remains one of my favorites. It gave me an insight into a type of womanhood which I, growing up in my Yankee environment, would never have experienced otherwise. Although my mother was from Richmond, Virginia, there was little, if any, venom in her and she would have considered the above conversation in questionable taste. Then again, she had spent much of her adult life in the icy north.

There are so many books with southern women as main characters that I will only give you books or authors with whom I am personally familiar.  One of my favorite authors is Anne Rivers Siddons, whose Homeplace and Low Country delve into the lives of women returning to their southern roots.  The Secret Life of Bees, Cold Sassy Tree and Saving Grace are also good choices if you want to explore the hearts and minds of Dixie women. For pure fun, read the Miss Julia series by Ann B. Ross.

One of the most intriguing books I ever read was Kindred by Octavia Butler. In the story, a modern day, young African American woman goes back in time to live on a post civil war plantation. Without much warning, the young woman disappears from her current surroundings and reappears on the plantation. Only extreme, life threatening danger brings her back to her current time. On one such trip her husband, who is white, manages to hold onto her and he goes back with her, which causes all kinds of other problems. The premise is a fascinating one and a lot of insight is given into the relationship between black and white southern women.

For non-fiction fans, Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Bragg’s All Over But the Shoutin’ is an incredible paean to his Alabama mother, who “went eighteen years without a new dress so that her sons could have school clothes and picked other people’s cotton so that her children wouldn’t have to live on welfare.” It is the story of the “steel” that is not always evident beneath the slow, southern cadence or the often slower, rather deliberate movements of southern women. While I confess that much of my reading involves escapist fiction, I was enthralled by this book.

Two middle aged women sit in the crowded waiting room, their soft, honeyed drawls in big contrast to the litany of faults they obviously found in a mutual acquaintance. I unashamedly eavesdrop, my unread book in my hands.

“Poor thing,” one says with a sigh. “She just can’t seem to get her life straight.” Shaking her head, the other lady tacks onto this final assessment, the benediction “Bless her heart.” I smile to myself. Magnolias in full bloom.

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Oct 5 2012

Building Common Ground

by Patricia D

I’m really not accustomed to having culturally important landmarks in my backyard.  We did have the home of Louis Bromfield near where I grew up,  as well as the Ohio State Reformatory, site of the films Tango & Cash (ah yes, such a great film) and the Shawshank Redemption.  OSR is no longer a maximum security prison but it is a terrifying Haunted House.  Folks come from all over the Midwest and Middle Atlantic and pay to get into the place Kurt Russell and Tim Robbins worked so hard to escape.  Even though organizers could get by with just handing over a flashlight and sending you into the abandoned cell block (no joke, that place is seriously creepy, and not in a Scooby Doo  way) they go all out with decorating, actors  and animatronics.  That,  on top of actually being in an old prison (lots of bad energy in those walls), makes for a really good show, if you’re into that sort of thing.  So that’s my hometown’s  claim to cultural significance .  I had to move to Georgia just to up the ante.  Now I can claim all sorts of things,  including the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area, part of which is in southeastern DeKalb County.  It is one of only 49 National Heritage Areas in the United States.

There are two huge things that make Arabia Mountain so special, neither of which is that it was one of the locations for the movie Pet Sematary II.   One is the ecosystem on Arabia Mountain itself.  Animals such as lichen grasshoppers, marbled and spotted salamanders, coachwhip and hognose snakes, great- horned owls, deer and bobcats make their home on the monadnock.  It is home to the world’s largest population of  Isoetes melanospora (black spotted quillwort), a Federally protected plant.  It’s also home to the rare Small’s Stonecrop, a plant that makes a living out of almost nothing.  There are also the the less rare, but lovely,  Sunnybells, Sparkleberry, Yellow Daisy, Fringetree and Georgia Oak.

The second reason Arabia Mountain is so special is the people.  The area has been inhabited for thousands of years—Native Americans, Scots immigrants, Trappist Monks—but it is the Flat Rock community, established by freed slaves, that will be the focus of Building Common Ground: Discussions of Community, Civility and Compassion, a series of programs at the DeKalb County Public Library that will celebrate the history, diversity and preservation of the community.

Flat Rock began as a small area south of what would become I-20.  It was an agricultural community  bordered by three small slave-holding farms and grew after the  Civil War into a bustling community of churches, schools, and civic organizations.  It thrived for decades, done in finally by the Great Migration and the Great Depression.  It is also the site of one of the few intact slave cemeteries left in Georgia. Today it provides a glimpse into the lives of freed slaves and their descendants.

Building Common Ground is funded by a grant from the American Library Association and the Fetzer Institute.  DCPL’s partners include the Arabia Mountain Heritage Alliance, the Flat Rock Archives and Museum and Arabia Mountain High School.  The four programs will be hosted by the amazing staff at the Stonecrest Library. You may also listen to interviews with community members on the Building Common Ground page conducted by StoryCorps.

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