Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Haley Reading Group: Atul Gawande’s “No Risky Chances”

[Best American Science and Nature Writing]

By Cynthia A. Campbell

Atul Gawande’s article “No Risky Chances” focuses on the complexities that both physicians and patients face in making decisions about medical treatment that can prolong life and/or cause further complications. Gawande illuminates the implications of one cancer patient’s ordeal with her end-of-life treatment. Ultimately, the article speaks to the importance of understanding/processing issues of mortality.

Gawande’s discussion of courage was enlightening. At one point, Gawande notes that “The first is the courage to confront the reality of mortality—the courage to seek out the truth of what is feared and what is to be hoped when one is seriously ill…the second kind... the courage to act on the truth we find” (66). This point indicates that the certainty of death (our awareness that it is natural and inevitable) can allow us to face it with humility.

After reading Gawande’s article, what was one point concerning the patient’s decisions that caught your attention? Why was that point or scene notable to you? Please provide a page number citation.

Monday, September 26, 2016

A Notebook on Kalamu ya Salaam's The Magic of Juju


Kalamu ya Salaam's The Magic of Juju: An Appreciation of the Black Arts Movement (Third World Press, 2016) offers a historical look at one of our most important cultural moments in the production of African American artistic thought.

The book includes chapters on: definitions of the Black Arts Movement; its historical background; the national birth of the movement; its theory and practice; publications; audio recordings; theatre; related black music of the art and era; film and television; dance; visual arts; critics of the time period; the critical assessment of the movement.  The book also includes images of black arts texts by Eugene B. Redmond, a study guide by Jiton Davidson, and a dialogue between Salaam and Margo Natalie Crawford.

What follows are entries on aspects of the book:

The Magic of Juju and Black Arts texts
The Magic of Juju and Black Arts scholarly discourse 
Kalamu ya Salaam's introduction to the Black Arts era
Kalamu ya Salaam, Eugene B. Redmond, and special collections

Related:
The Black Arts Era   

The Magic of Juju and Black Arts scholarly discourse


Kalamu ya Salaam's The Magic of Juju: An Appreciation of the Black Arts Movement (2016) anticipated and now bookends an exciting moment in the scholarly discourse on the Black Arts Movement. Salaam's manuscript circulated underground, so to speak, among scholars years before many of us produced book-length studies on the era. Now Salaam's book arrives confirming his identity as one of our most critical cultural witnesses of African American literary art of the 1960s and 1970s.


On the one hand, Salaam's book complements the scholarly work of Eugene B. Redmond in his tremendous study Drumvoices: The Mission of Afro-American Poetry (1976). Like Redmond, Salaam traces a wide range of literary figures and explains how they contributed to a national artistic movement. Given the benefit of time and hindsight, Salaam also discusses the activities of those artists well into the 1990s, and he highlights how a range of cultural institutions such as magazines and presses, and art forms, including dance and music, also contributed to the production of Black Arts. 




In addition to drawing on and extending past studies, Salaam's work is very much in conversation with a large number of contemporary scholarship on Black Arts and African American literary studies. His book's focus on on the national reach of  the movement corresponds with James Smethurst's The Black Arts Movement. Salaam's attentiveness to critics and theories of the era parallel aspects of Tony Bolden's Afro-Blue: Improvisations in African American Poetry and Culture. Further, Salaam's examination of music and its links to black poetry bring to mind ideas raised by Meta DuEwa Jones in The Muse is Music.  


Related:
A Notebook on Kalamu ya Salaam's The Magic of Juju 

The Magic of Juju and Black Arts texts


One of the big debts I owe to Kalam ya Salaam's work in The Magic of Juju is his chapter on Black Arts publications. He identifies and discusses journals, including Soulbook, Journal of Black Poetry, Black Dialogue, and Liberator; black presses; and anthologies of the time period.

Salaam's scholarship gave me a clearer sense of the large, diverse body of journals out there that distributed black arts writing, particularly poetry and commentary about poetry. Studying publications such as Negro Digest/Black World as well as the many anthologies of the 1960s and 1970s clarified for me the extents to which Black Arts Movement was a movement.

Negro Digest/Black World was a major publication of the Black Arts era.

Negro Digest/Black World published hundreds of poets during the Black Arts era, and even more important, the periodical facilitated a national conversation about African American artistic thought. Salaam explains that "Negro Digest/Black World illustrates BAM's reach and the depth of audience receptivity to its message." He goes on to note that given American's Black population at the time, the periodical "was more broadly circulated among its target population than almost any other literary magazine in existence."

The Black Arts Movement is notable for its literary attributes,  but Salaam proposes that we also view the artistic activity as a major "'literacy movement, which encouraged reading among a mass population." The abundance of Black Arts texts surely gave readers a wide range of materials to cover.    

Beyond conventional texts, Salaam devotes attention to another kind of Black Arts production: audio recordings of poets reading their works. He highlights recordings by Amiri Baraka, Nikki Giovanni, Haki Madhubuti, Jayne Cortez, Stanley Crouch, and others.

The size and variety of Black Arts texts assists in explaining the movement's movement powerful impact and enduring legacy. 

Related:
A Notebook on Kalamu ya Salaam's The Magic of Juju 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Kalamu ya Salaam, Eugene B. Redmond, and special collections


In some respects, Kalamu ya Salaam's The Magic of Juju (2016) extends the work of Eugene B. Redmond's Drumvices: The Mission of Afro-American Poetry (1976). Redmond's closing chapter began treating the then contemporary poetry of the 1970s. Salaam makes the history of 1960s and 1970s poetry and artistic production the central focus of his book and details the major players, publications, critics, theories, and so forth.

To produce their books, both Redmond and Salaam drew on wonderful special collections containing hundreds of primary black arts publications. For his book, Salaam called on Redmond to submit images from his collection. The Magic of Juju includes more than 150 images of people, magazine and journal covers, and volumes of poetry.

The images give a sense of the materiality of Black Arts literature. The items also provide a glimpse of Redmond's extensive special collection.   








Related:
A Notebook on Kalamu ya Salaam's The Magic of Juju 

Kalamu ya Salaam's introduction to the Black Arts era


I first read chapters from Kalamu ya Salaam's The Magic of Juju: An Appreciation of the Black Arts Movement (Third World Press, 2016) over 15 years ago. So let's be clear: Salaam was well ahead of the expanding growth of black arts scholarship that occurred over the last 10 years. In fact, many of us who produced books during that time period were drawing on lessons from Salaam.

Salaam had shared the unpublished manuscript with me years ago when I was a graduate student, after I sent him an email and asked if could I check it out. At the time he barely knew me, but I guess he took me at my word when I said I was doing work on the Black Arts Movement. Further, my undergraduate mentor, Jerry W. Ward, Jr., and Salaam are good friends, so perhaps that's why he freely sent along the manuscript.  Or, more simply, he's just generous like that.


I first heard about  Salaam's manuscript from scholar James Smethurst, who I had met at a conference early in my graduate career. Smethurst had generously passed along chapters of his then in-progress manuscript, which would later become The Black Arts Movement: Literary Nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s (2005). At one point in our exchanges, Smethurst referenced an important unpublished manuscript on the Black Arts Movement, and encouraged me to email the author, Salaam.

I benefited from The Magic of Juju then, and I'm benefiting by re-reading it now. This book offers a distinct and unusual perspective on the Black Arts era, as Salaaam writes from the position of "participant and critic" of the flourishing of arts that emerged during the 1960s and 1970s.

In the preface, dated 1997 and revised in 1999, Salaam notes that the "goal for this book is to give readers an accurate introduction to the history and significance of the Black Arts Movement." Although the official publication date says 2016, we understand his book as an early introduction and contribution to the contemporary scholarly discourse on black arts.

Related:
A Notebook on Kalamu ya Salaam's The Magic of Juju 

Friday, September 23, 2016

On the matter of Diversity, Pt. 1



On September 21, at Lovejoy Library, we hosted our first Public Thinking Event of the semester.  We concentrated on issues related to diversity. In particular, we took a look at "diversity statements" from various universities and responded to the ones that we thought were most effective.
 


Related:
Fall 2016 Programming 

Bro Yao in the mix


I was pleased to read Bro Yao's book Inheritance and add him to the mix of various other volumes I've spent time reading, re-reading, and thinking about over the years. For now, I was thinking about how his poems corresponded to works by various black men poets I've studied.


Volumes by Gary Copeland Lilley, Tony Medina, Adrian Matejka, Christopher Gilbert, Kevin Young, James Cherry, and others came to mind as I thought about links to Yao's work. In particular, I was considering how Young's first book Most Way Home, with its attentiveness to family, reminded me of some of what I've been reading in Inheritance.

The attention to experiences of black men, including their vulnerabilities, leads me to draw parallels between Yao's book and writings by Lilley, Medina, and Matejka.

But then too, there's the matter of that conversational voice I was picking up on in Yao's volume, where he's observing and taking lessons from every day experiences. Had I heard anything like that recently? After some thought, my mind went back to Christopher Gilbert. I say "back" because his work was in fact published posthumously. 



Yao and Gilbert prompt us to consider the wonder of everyday moments. They make close observation an art form. It's a subtle approach and familiar across different groups of poetry. Still, what Yao and Gilbert do ends up standing out in comparison to some of our louder modes of black expressive culture.

Moving forward, I'm looking forward to giving thought to the individual qualities that distinguish Yao's work and the aspects of his work that correspond to the broader mix of poets.


Related:
Bro Yao's Inheritance 
Yao Glover on Bookstores and Such, Pt. 1
Talking poetry with Tony Bolden, Yao Glover & William J. Harris in 2015