Thursday, February 14, 2008


It’s Black History month and I feel a perfect storm brewing.

I’ve always had a strong feeling that it’s important to highlight the many achievements of black Americans, which for so long were excluded from the history books, but I have a growing longing for black history to become a seamless part of “our” history.

I believe I feel it happening. I’m an Obama supporter. He inspires me and makes me feel like “we” can be a great nation and feel good about ourselves as Americans again. When he says "we", I picture every last one of us. I haven't felt like I was part of a "we" for a long time.

This video was one of my favorites from the late 80’s. This was another. I’ll never forget the first time I actually saw it. I was stationed in Germany, so MTV wasn’t a part of my life then unless someone got a videotape in the mail. But I heard Living Colour on the radio and they rocked. When I saw the video and realized they were black, I almost fell over. It was one of the coolest things I’d ever seen and it wasn’t at all what I was expecting! It wasn't that they sounded especially white, it was that they were breaking into a sound I'd never heard from black musicians. Vernon Reid is listed as one of the top 100 guitar players of all time and Corey Glover has gone on to a successful musical and acting career. It was a very cool time in music with a lot of crossover between heavy metal, funk, punk and hip hop with bands like Living Colour, Jane’s Addiction, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Faith No More -- all my faves from that period -- and gosh, I was years from 30 then!

Vernon Reid founded The Black Rock Coalition:

“The Black Rock Coalition was founded in 1985 by guitarist Vernon Reid, journalist Greg Tate and producer Konda Mason in reaction to the constrictions that the commercial music industry places on Black artists.

A collective of artists, writers, producers, publicists, activists and music fans assembled to maximize exposure and provide resources for Black artists who defy convention. To date, the BRC is the only national nonprofit organization dedicated to the complete creative freedom of Black artists.”

For me it was the start of something very cool in the music industry.

Yesterday at Carleen’s Brice’s site – Don’t forget to buy your copy of her fabulous debut novel, Orange Mint and Honey – available at fine booksellers everywhere and your local Target store – and found a fabulous new blog, Ringshout:

"RingShout was founded following Martha Southgate's essay "Writers Like Me" in the New York Times Book Review in July of 2007. The response in the blogosphere and in the literary world was enormous. So Martha wanted to harness this energy. She contacted Cornelius Eady and Alison Meyers of Cave Canem , a group she greatly admired, for insight into how they had formed their organization. The next step was contacting several writers, editors and a bookseller (Sarah McNally of McNally Robinson Books who participated in our first couple of meetings) who she knew and respected. The five got together over a period of six months and brainstormed until they had come up with a way to form a book list and a tool kit that would help carry out the group's mission. We kicked off with a party to drum up support and volunteers on February 1, 2008. At the present time, we remain an all-volunteer effort that is unaffiliated with any larger organization."

Writers (black, white, Latino, Asian, Indian, everybody!) please check it out. The most recent post is about a desire for "our books to be for everyone--Barack style."

This new blog has brought to the forefront a conversation that many of us have been having on and off for a long time. A fine book is a fine book and needn’t be separated into an ethnic category and I’m delighted to have discovered some new voices in American literature.

“We’ve” got some cool things happening.


Patti said...

i love finding a new haunt where i can hangout...

kristenspina said...

I like Obama too!!

Carleen Brice said...

"We" is a very important concept. I have hopes that we're on our way!

Larramie said...

On a lighter -- but just as heartfelt -- note, Lisa: Happy Valentine's Day!

Usman said...

I'm following the Democrats more than I am the election in Pakistan two days from now.
It's a great contest. IF I were an American, I would vote Obama; change is always better than the status quo.
I think America needs to accept this change wholeheartedly.
The simple fact if Obama is elected would improve US image around the world. This image has been battered in recent times.

Lisa said...

Patti, I'll be haunting your neck of the woods!

Kristen, He just makes me feel an optimism about the possibilities for our country that I've never felt in my adult life -- finally!

Carleen, It sure is and it's so strange for me to realize that I've never thought of being an American or just a citizen of my town or my state or the world in terms of "we" before -- it was always in much more divisive terms. I really feel a "we-ness" that lifts me up and makes me believe that anything is possible.

Larramie, Well thank you and the same to you!

Usman, I think you're right, and it's important to hear it from you because we don't get a lot of first-hand insights from people in non-western countries. Are many Pakistanis also paying close attention to what's happening with our presidential race too?

Rebecca Burgess said...

Lisa, very insightful post. I just visited Ring Shout and I love what they are doing, especially the concept of speaking to everyone "Barack style".

I too look forward to the time when American history means ALL American history. I think as the necessity to bring attention to the merits of individuals who fit certain profiles diminishes, we will finally be able to laud accomplishments solely because they are incredible achievements, regardless of the person's heritage.

Melissa Marsh said...

I hope we reach the "we" stage in this country, too, instead of the "us" vs. "them."

Sustenance Scout said...

Lisa, you know this issue is an important one for me. Thanks for the links! K.

Usman said...

A lot of Pakistanis are following this election, though the interest shall intensify once our own political house is in order.

Barack was very popular till he made thata comment about Pakistan being a better target for US forces than Iraq. I know there was more to the comments and Barack did clarify that.
For Pakistanis the elections are important; we want a US administration that stops supporting dictators like Musharraf.

Julie at Virtual Voyage said...

Lisa - good post - fascinating gaining an insight into these areas from a US point of view.

Somewhere along the line, blog communities will start to erode some of the cultural misunderstandings just by sheer exposure, I guess.

Thanks for the tip on mine re spring cleaning - I knew someone else who photographed clocks - initially for insurance, but later they had a record!

Charles Gramlich said...

I remember buying the first "Living Colour" album on the strength of "Cult of Personality." Loved, loved this song, but I was disappointed that they didn't rock out on the rest of the tunes. Another black rock group that plays more the music I like is Body Count.

steve said...


As someone who's been virtually living in 1968 for the past several months, Barack Obama seems to be inspiring the same kind of idealism in the millennial generation that Eugene McCarthy, Robert Kennedy, and George Mcovern did in my generation. I'm a little bit worried about the parallels. A friend of mine who's a delegate for Obama at the Minnesota state convention talks of the "Clinton Fortress" and is convinced the Clinton forces will try to steal the nomination by way of the super-delegates.

I don't want to see a divided Democratic Party as in 1968. Al Lowenstein, the man who inspired so many of us baby-boomers, said at the end of the 1968 Convention: "This convention elected Richard Nixon President of the United States tonight. That's like electing Arthur Goldberg Mayor of Cairo."

I'd hate to see the Denver convention electing John McCain. I just hope both the Clinton and Obama forces can stay civil through the convention. I'm for Barack, my wife is for Hillary, and we're not divorcing over it. I just hope the higher-ups can manage civility.

I hope to do a post on Charles Gordone for Black History Month. But right now it's back to Chapter 10 of TD&U.

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Literary Quote

It is worth mentioning, for future reference, that the creative power which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book quiets down after a time, and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in. Then one becomes resigned. Determination not to give in, and the sense of an impending shape keep one at it more than anything.

Virginia Woolf