Monthly Archives: February 2011

Jupiter Hammon: First Published Poet

We continue (not conclude) honoring our literary legends. One of the first black poets was a gentleman named Jupiter Hammon who has the distinction of being the first published African-American in 1760 when one of his poems appeared in print. He lived until 1806. The resources below give a good detail of his life and a bit of a criticism of the man’s views, if not only his work. I will leave it up to you to decide and finishing it off, is Mr. Hammon’s poem recited in the video below.

Though assertions that Phillis Wheatley was America’s first published African-American poet continue to surface, that assertion has been discredited for many years. In fact, a slave by the name of Jupiter Hammon is credited with that title.

Jupiter Hammon (October 17, 1711 – before 1806) was a Black poet who became the first African-American published writer in America when a poem appeared in print in 1760. He was a slave his entire life, and the date of his death is unknown. He was living in 1790 at the age of 79, and died by 1806. Hammon was a devout Christian, and is considered one of the founders of African American literature.

Black Writers of America: A Comprehensive Anthology;

His poetry reflects a strong influence of Methodism and the Wesleyan Revival that swept America in the middle of the eighteenth century. This is particularly evident in the hymnal qualities of his verse. In fact, because all of his poetizing is on religious themes, some critics have speculated that Hammon may have been a preacher first and a poet only secondarily.

A strong religious bent is evident in the poem to Phillis Wheatley when, overwhelmed by religious fervor, the poet expresses joy that

God’s tender mercy brought thee here;
Tossed o’er the raging main

Could it be that Jupiter Hammon, Black man of God and a slave, really did not know how far removed “God’s tender mercy” was from a slave ship? Or could it be that he was so removed from worldly woe and attuned to anticipated heavenly joy that slavery, one of the world’s major woes, no longer existed for him? Slavery was of this earth, and Jupiter Hammon longed for salvation on high. Indeed, in “An Evening Thought” the word “salvation” occurs on every stanza, giving some hint of the absorption in Christian otherworldliness that can render a man forgetful of his earthly state.

But his religious fervor seriously impaired his poetry. There is in Jupiter Hammon’s verse none of the felicity of thought and verbal imagery found in Phillis Wheatley’s poetry. Her subject matter is of broader range, and her classical training disciplined her to take a more balanced view of Man, God, and Nature.

Jupiter Hammon’s last published work was his “Address to the Negroes of the State of New York.” His brief comments on slavery in this address serve to confirm the view that, for him, slavery was an endurable and acceptable institution. Better to accept enslavement on earth and receive a Christian crown in the Hereafter than lose one’s soul fighting against slavery. Thus he urged acceptance of the slavery system, although he did express regret that the Black veterans of the Revolutionary War were not rewarded for patriotic efforts with freedom from bondage.

In the final analysis, Jupiter Hammon’s religion was an opiate that dulled him to the world’s evil ways. Instead of giving him a revolutionary social vision, it filled him with penitential cries. And his poetry is esthetically anemic and almost stifling in its repetitive religiosity.

Note: Although the editors of the anthology seem harsh of Mr. Hammon’s life and point of view, the following poems are for you to decide whether the points were made.


Salvation comes by Christ alone,
The only Son of God;
Redemption now to every one,
That loves his holy Word.

Dear Jesus, give thy spirit now,
Thy grace to every Nation,
That han’t the Lord to whom we bow
The Author of Salvation.

Dear Jesus, unto Thee we cry,
Give us the Preparation;
Turn not away thy tender Eye;
We seek thy true Salvation.

Lord, hear our penitential Cry;
Salvation from above;
It is the Lord that doth supply,
With his Redeeming Love.

Dear Jesus, by thy precious Blood,
The World Redemption have:
Salvation now comes from the Lord,
He being thy captive slave.

Dear Jesus, let the nations cry,
And all the people say,
Salvation comes from Christ on high,
Haste on Tribunal Day.

We cry as Sinners to the Lord,
Salvation to obtain;
It is firmly fixed, his holy Word,
Ye shall not cry in vain.

Lord, Turn our dark benighted Souls;
Give us a true Motion,
And let the Hearts of all the World,
Make Christ their Salvation.

Lord, unto whom now shall we go,
Or seek a safe abode?
Thou hast the Word, Salvation Too:
The only Son of God.

“Ho! every one that hunger hath,
Or pineth after me,
Salvation be thy leading Staff,
To set the Sinner free.”

Dear Jesus, unto Thee we fly;
Depart, depart from Sin,
Salvation doth at length supply,
The glory of our King.

Come, ye Blessed of the Lord,
Salvation greatly given;
o, turn your hearts, accept the Word,
Your souls are fit for Heaven.

Dear Jesus, we now turn to thee,
Salvation to obtain;
Our Hearts and Souls do meet again,
To magnify thy Name.

Come, holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove,
The Object of our Care;
Salvation doth increase our Love;
Our hearts hath felt thy fear.

Now Glory be to God on High,
Salvation high and low;
And thus the Soul on Christ rely,
To Heaven surely go.

Come, Blessed Jesus, Heavenly Dove
Accept Repentance here;
Salvation give, with tender Love;
Let us with Angels share.


An address to Miss Phillis Wheatly, Ethiopian Poetess, in Boston, who came from Africa at eight years of age, and soon became acquainted with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

O, come, you pious youth! adore
The wisdom of thy God,
In bringing thee from distant shore,
To learn His holy word,

Thou mightst been left behind,
Amidst a dark abode;
God’s tender mercy still combined,
Thou hast the holy word.

Fair Wisdom’s ways are paths of peace,
And they that walk therein,
Shall reap the joys that never cease,
And Christ shall be their King.

God’s tender mercy brought thee here;
Tossed o’er the raging main;
In Christian faith thou hast a share,
Worth all the gold of Spain.

While thousands tossed by the sea,
And others settled down,
God’s tender mercy set thee free
From dangers that come down.

That thou a pattern still might be,
To youth of Boston town,
The blessed Jesus set thee free
From every sinful wound.

The blessed Jesus, who came down,
Unveiled his sacred face,
To cleanse the soul of every wound
And give repenting grace.

That we poor sinners may obtain
The pardon of our sin,
Dear Blessed Jesus, now constrain
And bring us flocking in.

Come, you, Phillis, now aspire,
And seek the living God,
So step by step thou mayst go higher
Till perfect in the word.

While thousands moved to distant shore,
And others left behind,
The blessed Jesus still adore;
Implant this in thy mind.

Thou has left the heathen shore;
Through mercy of the Lord,
Among the heathen live no more;
Come magnify thy God.

I pray the living God may be,
The shepherd of thy soul;
His tender mercies still are free,
His mysteries to unfold.

Thou, Phillis, when thou hunger hast,
Or pantest for thy God,
Jesus Christ is thy relief
Thou hast the holy word.

The bounteous mercies of the Lord
Are hid beyond the sky,
And holy souls that have His word
Shall taste them when they die.

These bounteous mercies are from God,
The merits of His Son;
The humble soul that loves His word
He chooses for his own.

Come, dear Phillis, be advised
To drink Samaria’s flood;
There is nothing more that shall suffice
But Christ’s redeeming blood.

While thousands muse with earthly toys,
And range about the street,
Dear Phillis, seek for Heaven’s joys,
Where we do hope to meet.

When God shall send his summons down
And number saints together,
Blessed angels chant (triumphant sound),
Come live with me forever.

The humble soul shall fly to God,
And leave the things of time,
Start forth as ‘twere at the first word,
To taste things more divine.

Behold! the soul shall waft away,
Whene’er we come to die,
And leave its cottage made of clay,
In twinkling of an eye.

Now glory be to the Most High,
United praises given,
By all on earth, incessantly,
And all the host of heaven.

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Posted by on February 28, 2011 in Uncategorized


The Next Generation: Lift Every Voice and Sing

All this month, we here at the Project have posted James Wheldon Johnson’s ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’. Now you may know it as the Negro National Anthem, but we argue it’s also a song that we now will never replace the Star Spangled Banner, but the goals of this tune to ‘let us march on till victory is won’ reflects the pain, heartaches and struggles our ancestors and if we’re old enough, our parents and grandparents had to face. Most passed on before they had the opportunity to witness their labors were not in vain. This generation and all others after it must continue the good fight as tribute to those who have left us, but also left a legacy that impacts our way of life even to this day.

The following clips are of young people singing this song from their hearts. It is our hope at the Project it will also inspire them to do wonderful and substantive achievements in their lives as well. Take care.

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Posted by on February 28, 2011 in Uncategorized


Excerpts from The Emergence of African American Literary Traditions

All month long we have profiled some, but not all, of our legends of literature. From the pen of author Phyllis M. Belt-Beyan comes a book that from the preview pages shows once again, our passion for literature. Please take a moment to glance through the pages and hopefully buy this title to find out how our ancestors establish their own legacy through the written and spoken word.

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Posted by on February 21, 2011 in Uncategorized


The Balm in Gilead, Inc: Lift Every Voice and Sing

This week’s selection of Lift Every Voice and Sing (known as the Negro National Anthem) is sung by The Balm in Gilead, Inc. Enjoy!

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Posted by on February 21, 2011 in Uncategorized


Alexandre Dumas: His tales come to life

In the last post, mention was made of French author Alexandre Dumas’s life and literary works. You are invited to read the post before this. However, this entry reflects on his work in cinema. There have been over 200 motion pictures regarding Mr. Dumas’s romantic novels but here are a few clips to show over time, these timeless classics remain with us no matter which generation is around.

As authors, don’t we wish our novels and stories can be THIS good? 🙂 Hopefully, we’ll appreciate The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo just as those individuals or each race and creed have over the centuries in print.

By the way, a new Three Musketeers movie will be on screens near you later this year.

Take care.

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Posted by on February 15, 2011 in Uncategorized


Alexandre Dumas: A True Literary Legend

Most people over the age of 35 may not be familiar with this famous French author. His works have inspired other writers such as Jules Verne, Juan Gomez-Jurado, Robert E. Howard and Stephen King. But if you’ve read The Count of Monte Cristo or The Three Musketeers, then you’ve certainly heard of Alexandre Dumas.

Born Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie on July 24, 1802, Dumas was a historian, correspondent, playwright, novelist and magazine writer. His birthplace was “in the village of Villers-Cotterêts, just outside of Paris, France, the third child born to Marie Louise Labouret, daughter of an inn keeper, and Thomas Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie (1762-1806) a military General under Napoléon. Alexandres’ grandfather, the Marquis Alexandre Davy de La Pailleterie (1710-1786) married a slave he fell in love with in San Domingo (now Haiti) named Marie Louise Césette Dumas (d.1772). Thomas took her last name when he himself enlisted with the French army. After a falling out with Napoléon due to his criticism of the Egypt campaign, and a long imprisonment which left him in poor health, Thomas returned returned home a broken man with no pension. After his death the family was left in dire financial straits. Alexandre’s mother set her best efforts to providing an education for her son although he proved to be less than enthusiastic about it. He attended Abbé Grégoire’s school before finding employment with a local notary to help support the family.”

Dumas’s widely known works The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers are only a couple of this great man’s respected works. For those of you not aware of The Count of Monte Cristo, it is an adventure novel written in 1844 detailed as: “a huge literary and financial success for Dumas père. Through protagonist Edmond Dantès the reader is taken along his journey of a wrongful trial, his search for justice, revenge, and ultimately riches, forgiveness, and love.” (Source:

The Three Musketeers began as a serial in a newspaper, is a story about a gentleman named D’ Artagnan who wishes to become a musketeer like his friends Aramis, Porthos and Athos. To clarify, a musketeer is basically “an early modern type of infantry soldier equipped with a musket. Musketeers were an important part of early modern armies, particularly in Europe.” (Wikipedia). Along the way, D’Artagnan has adventures while learning what it means to be “all for one, one for all”, a constant motto he and his musketeers would cry out.

Of course, the issue of race was a part of Dumas’s life and one he could not escape from. He wrote Georges in 1843, a novel that “addressed some of the issues of race and the effects of colonialism. All his life he referred to himself as a negro.” In the novel plot itself, it “concerns the life of Georges, the son of a wealthy mulatto plantation owner named Munier, in the Île de France (modern day Mauritius). While part-black, Georges appears to be very light-skinned, if not white. As a child, Georges witnesses an attempt by the British to gain control of the island. Because George’s father is a mulatto, the other plantation owners refuse to fight alongside him. Instead, George’s father leads the blacks and delivers a crushing blow against the invading forces. Refusing to acknowledge that a man of colour saved them, M. Malmedie and the other white plantation owners ignore the accomplishment.” The novel also deals with identity crisis, slavery and other issues of that time.

Dumas had a response for a gentleman who challenged his mixed race background: “My father was a mulatto, my grandfather was a Negro, and my great-grandfather a monkey. You see, Sir, my family starts where yours ends.” Even then, Dumas found respect difficult. “Although his books were revered by his contemporaries, he was often mocked for his colour. “In caricatures or in sketches he was always presented with big lips, with Afro hair, as a sort of monster.” “ (Source: : Alexandre Dumas the Black-Frenchman: France Attempt to Steal Black History Creates Row)

Dumas passed away on December 5, 1870. Again, the measure of his works are still being felt today. Not only are his works translated in hundreds of languages, but over 200 motion pictures as well. In recent years, French President Jacques Chirac acknowledged the racism in Dumas’s lifetime proclaiming, “a wrong had now been righted with Alexandre Dumas enshrined alongside fellow authors Victor Hugo and Voltaire. “ The statement following a ceremony on November 2002 where his buried remains had been exhumed and “in a televised ceremony, his new coffin, draped in a blue-velvet cloth and flanked by four men costumed as the Musketeers: Athos, Porthos, Aramis and D’Artagnan, was transported in a solemn procession to the Panthéon of Paris, the great mausoleum where French luminaries are interred.”

Perhaps it can be mentioned that Alexandre Dumas, although not recognized today or as often, is one of our cherished literary legends who by the power of his pen used his gift to create tales for generations. However, it is that struggle of his claimed heritage that will always be debated even in the 21st Century. Case in point: the controversy surrounding French actor Gerard Depardieu portraying the author in a movie entitled L’Autre Dumas, which has received the ire of “Non-white celebrities, some Dumas experts and black organisations are angry because they say that the producers missed a chance to celebrate France’s ethnic diversity and remind the world of the writer’s part black origins. “There is a mechanism of permanent discrimination by silence,” said Jacques Martial, a black actor who made his name playing a television police detective. Patrick Lozès, President of the Council of Black Associations (CRAN) wondered: “In 150 years time, could the role of Barack Obama be played in a film by a white actor with a fuzzy wig? Can Martin Luther King be played by a white?””

More details on the movie and the harsh reaction to Depardieu in this link. Also in this BBC article, more criticism found here.

It is understandable while Dumas may be a national literary legend to the French, it is part of the same issue President Chirac admitted during the ceremony and one which Dumas addressed himself. While this may be discussed at a later date, it would behoove all of us to know that Dumas was proud of his heritage and we in the present time, should recognize that. While Mr. Depardieu certainly had his right to play Dumas the man, the reality and problems Dumas faced back in the 18th Century are still constant even now in America. Unless that is properly addressed and discussed, we’ll always have this debate. Always. Judging by the pictures and drawings of Mr. Dumas, it is believed we can all come up with our own conclusions which ethnicity he shared.

Mr. Dumas had a son who also became a successful author. Alexandre Dumas, fils (1824-1895) was also a dramatist and the writer of The Lady of the Camellias (Camille) (1848) and L’affaire Clemenceau (The Clemenceau Case) (1867). It’s good to know Alexandre Dumas, fils carried on the literary legacy like his father.

Alexandre Dumas left an impressive body of work, the following links will prove that. While we celebrate our American literary forefathers, we should also recognize the achievements through print of our famous writers of long ago as well. Whether it be Dumas or Douglass (who lived during this time), each of them dealt with the problems that arose because of their race, yet continued to produce great works for all of us to enjoy and be entertained.

Let’s remember that it’s “all for one, one for all.”

Wikipedia Dumas entry

The meaning of “All for One, One for All”

Wikipedia entry on Alexandre Dumas, fils

Detailed Dumas biography

CNN Black History Month mention

Amazon: Alexandre Dumas

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Posted by on February 15, 2011 in Uncategorized


Acappela: Lift Every Voice and Sing

This week performing ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ is the group Acappella with their sweet, spiritual version of the song. This is certainly worth watching, hope you agree. Enjoy!

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Posted by on February 15, 2011 in Uncategorized


Anansi: The Original Spider Man!

Most of the content on this blog focuses on Black writers in America. Yet, it would be remiss of us if we did not feature tales from other parts of the world, specifically Africa.

African folktales are defined as ‘the storytelling and oral history of African American culture.’ In America we have Br’er Rabbit, a folktale legend in the American South. We’ll discuss him later in the blog. For now, we turn our attention to Anansi who is known as:

“a cunning and intelligent spider, and is one of the most important characters of West African and Caribbean folklore. He is also known as Ananse, Kwaku Ananse, and Anancy; and in the Southern United States he has evolved into Aunt Nancy. He is a spider, but often acts and appears as a man. The story of Anansi is akin to the tricksters Coyote, Raven or Iktomi found in many Native American cultures.” (Wikipedia)

When I was a child, I read the Anansi tales in an old Negro anthology and I laughed at the situations he wound up in, but taking a closer look at these tales, the one constant that has stuck with me is that Anansi used his wits and wisdom to get through a particular situation or conflict. Although he was less than perfect, the lesson I gathered from the folktales is Anansi always found a way out of trouble, no matter how deep he found himself in.

I don’t know whether our children have heard of Anansi the Spider-Man instead of that costumed guy who has three plus movies and a long comic book history to his name. Although African folktales were best recited by word of mouth, there were enough tales that revealed the human nature in all of us. The trickster protagonist in the folktales is usually an animal, and I believe that works best when presenting a tale about the human condition. The following stories about Anansi reveal that.

If you take a trip around the internet, there are an abundance of Anansi tales to share. While the samples below are brief, I invite you to visit the following websites and witness for yourself the wit and wisdom of this ‘spider-man’ in action:


In the beginning, all tales and stories belonged to Nyame, the Sky God. But Kwaku Anansi, the spider, yearned to be the owner of all the stories known in the world, and he went to Nyame and offered to buy them.

The Sky God said: “I am willing to sell the stories, but the price is high. Many people have come to me offering to buy, but the price was too high for them. Rich and powerful families have not been able to pay. Do you think you can do it?”

Anansi replied to the Sky God: “I can do it. What is the price?”

“My price is three things,” the Sky God said. “I must first have Mmoboro, the hornets. I must then have Onini, the great python. I must then have Osebo, the leopard. For these thing I will sell you the right to tell all the stories.”

Anansi said: “I will bring them.”

He went home and made his plans. He first cut a gourd from a vine and made a small hole in it. He took a large bowl and filled it with water. He went to the tree where the hornets lived. He poured some of the water over himself, so that he was dripping. He threw some water over the hornets, so that they too were dripping. Then he put the bowl on his head, as thought to protect himself from a storm, and called out to the hornets: “Are you foolish people? Why do you stay in the rain that is falling?”

The hornets answered: “Where shall we go?”

“Go here, in this dry gourd,” Anansi told them.

The hornets thanked him and flew into the gourd through the small hole. When the last of them had entered, Anansi plugged the hole with a ball of grass, saying: “Oh, yes, but you are really foolish people!”

He took his gourd full of hornets to Nyame, the Sky God. The Sky God accepted them. He said: “There are two more things.”

Anansi returned to the forest and cut a long bamboo pole and some strong vines. Then he walked toward the house of Onini, the python, talking to himself. He seemed to be talking about an argument with his wife. He said: “My wife is wrong. I say he is longer and stronger. My wife says he is shorter and weaker. I give him more respect. She gives him less respect. Is she right or am I right? I am right, he is longer. I am right, he is stronger.”

When Onini, the python, heard Anansi talking to himself, he said: “Why are you arguing this way with yourself?”

The spider replied: “Ah, I have had a dispute with my wife. She says you are shorter and weaker than this bamboo pole. I say you are longer and stronger.”

Onini said: “It’s useless and silly to argue when you can find out the truth. Bring the pole and we will measure.”

So Anansi laid the pole on the ground, and the python came and stretched himself out beside it.

“You seem a little short,” Anansi said.

The python stretched further.

“A little more,” Anansi said.

“I can stretch no more,” Onini said.

“When you stretch at one end, you get shorter at the other end,” Anansi said. “Let me tie you at the front so you don’t slip.”

He tied Onini’s head to the pole. Then he went to the other end and tied the tail to the pole. He wrapped the vine all around Onini, until the python couldn’t move.

“Onini,” Anansi said, “it turns out that my wife was right and I was wrong. You are shorter than the pole and weaker. My opinion wasn’t as good as my wife’s. But you were even more foolish than I, and you are now my prisoner.”

Anansi carried the python to Nyame, the Sky God, who said: “There is one thing more.”

Osebo, the leopard, was next. Anansi went into the forest and dug a deep pit where the leopard liked to walk. He covered it with small branches and leaves and put dust on it, so that it was impossible to tell where the pit was. Anansi went away and hid. When Osebo came prowling in the black of night, he stepped into the trap Anansi had prepared and fell to the bottom. Anansi heard the sound of the leopard falling and he said: “Ah, Osebo, you are half-foolish!”

When morning came, Anansi went to the pit and saw the leopard there.

“Osebo,” he asked, “what are you doing in this hole?”

“I have fallen into a trap,” Osebo said. “Help me out.”

“I would gladly help you,” Anansi said. “But I’m sure that if I bring you out, I will have no thanks for it. You will get hungry, and later on you will be wanting to eat me and my children.”

“I promise it won’t happen!” Osebo said.

“Very well. Since you promise it, I will take you out,” Anansi said.

He bent a tall green tree toward the ground, so that it’s top was over the pit, and he tied it that way. Then he tied a rope to the top of the tree and dropped the other end of it into the pit.

“Tie this to your tail,” he said.

Osebo tied the rope to his tail.

“Is it well tied?” Anansi asked.

“Yes, it is well tied,” the leopard said.

“In that case,” Anansi said, “you are not merely half-foolish, you are all-foolish.”

And he took his knife and cut the other rope, the one that held the tree bowed to the ground. The tree straightened up with a snap, pulling Osebo out of the hole. He hung in the air head downward, twisting and turning. As he twisted and turned, he got so dizzy that Anansi had no trouble tying the leopard’s feet with vines.

Anansi took the dizzy leopard, all tied up, to Nyame, the Sky God, saying: “Here is the third thing. Now I have paid the price.”

Nyame said to him: “Kwaku Anansi, great warriors and chiefs have tried, but they have been unable to do it. You have done it. Therefore, I will give you the stories. From this day onward, all stories belong to you. Whenever a man tells a story, he must acknowledge that it is Anansi’s tale.”

And that is why, in parts of Africa, the people love to tell, and love to hear, the stories they call “spider stories.” And now, you have heard one too.


Author: unknown
It was the dry season. Anansi’s people were starving. He told his people that he was going to find food. He left and walked many miles, until at last he saw smoke from a distant village.

When he got there the town was full of cassava–just cassava! One cassava asked, “Would you like us roasted, fried, or boiled? Anansi told them that it didn’t matter, so they roasted themselves.

The spider was just sitting down to eat when he saw a column of smoke on the horizon. He asked, “My people, who lives at that far place?” One cassava told him that plantains (bananas) live there. The spider started to leave but the cassavas didn’t want him to go. Anansi left anyway.

When he reached the village, the plantains approached him. They all asked if he wanted them roasted, fried, or boiled. He told them it didn’t matter because he was so hungry that he would eat them anyway at all. Anansi just sat down to eat when he saw smoke rising from a town near the horizon. He asked who lived there, and the plantains said that the rice lived there. The spider started to leave but the plantains urged him to stay. It was too late, but Anansi left anyway.

Anansi came to the village with the rice. The rice asked if he wanted them roasted, fried, or boiled. He responded with the usual answer. The rice boiled themselves so that he could eat them. Anansi was just beginning to eat when he saw a smoke cloud rising not know who lived there. Anansi took off toward the town thinking that it might be something better than rice.

Anansi walked for a long time. When he finally got to the place, he stopped and rubbed his eyes. He couldn’t believe it! It was his own village! Anansi fainted.

When he woke up his wife gave him a bowl of fish bone soup. He told her his story, but she didn’t believe him. No one ever believed him because no one was ever able to go to those villages.

There are more websites with links of stories to perhaps read to your kids or to view yourself.

A fable involving Anansi:

Jamaica Anansi Stories:

Something for the kids

Sorry Peter Parker, you weren’t the first:

One more website

Hopefully this list will inspire your curiosity!

Charles Chatmon
Executive Director
Los Angeles Black Book Expo

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Posted by on February 9, 2011 in Uncategorized


Kim Weston: Lift Every Voice and Sing

In 1972, Kim Weston performed the ‘Negro National Anthem’ song of Lift Every Voice and Sing during Wattstax inside the Los Angeles Coliseum. Scenes from entire concert is available on DVD and a few highlights are available via YouTube. Wattstax was an important event in not only L.A. history, but Black history. Seven years prior, Watts went up in flames in a riot or rebellion (I urge you to take your pick). The concert promoted racial identity, pride, and a fun filled day to enjoy. Sadly, those days are gone as if you see the entire film, you’ll understand. However, it is a blessing to watch this rendition of the anthem from Ms. Weston and to hear the power and range in her voice.

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Posted by on February 9, 2011 in Uncategorized


Archive: We Wear The Crown

This appeared on Thoughts On A String: 1/11/2006

Growing up on the Southside of Los Angeles, there are only a few conscious-filled songs I remember from the hip-hop nation. Songs like “The Message”, “Survival” and “Beat Street” from Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, “19” (not exactly a hip-hop song, but if you’ve ever listened to it, very informative), “Self Destruction” and “We’re All In The Same Gang”. However, there is one tune older than the ones just mentioned. The title is a dead giveaway, but back in 1983 New York radio DJ Gary Byrd along with Steve Wonder came out with a song entitled, The Crown. Unlike most of our rap songs today in the 21st Century that speak on the influences of money, power and fast women and cars, The Crown was a song that encouraged those of us of African decent to be proud of our heritage, claiming the right to wear The Crown. As the Chorus sings:

You wear the crown

I wear the crown

so proud to say

that we all wear the crown

the crown!

I enjoy listening to this song (and still have it as part of my collection) because it’s different from the normal “‘bang bang’, there goes my enemy” messages our young people have been hypnotized by record companies, a few rappers and we, the public who enjoy listening to those types of records. I always stress alternatives and The Crown is a song that emphasizes on the positive, telling our kids to always strive for the best no matter what they do in life, whether it’s sports, or being a leader or even writing “like Langston Hughes or Our Miss Brooks“.

Think about it for a minute, our children growing up in these meaner streets today need to be told straight out they are precious, that they have something to live for and although we’re all children of God, royalty in the fact we’re blessed with minds that can create pyramids, make advances in science and given the proper tools, build companies that are consistent and prosperous such as the John Johnson empire, just to name a few. However, the dominant society would rather our children not hear those messages. It’s content to reinforce the notion our kids are good for sports, music and if you can’t cut it, then a life of crime. This is the 21st Century, it is time to say enough of this! Our children deserve a much, much, much better way of life than our first generation after the Civil Rights Movement have.

I wear the crown

you wear the crown

so proud to say

that we all wear the crown

the crown

Today political pundits make it a mental crime for our children to research their unique heritage, one that contributed to world and American history. These pundits will never understand that for all the negativity our kids face day to day in neighborhoods they don’t live in nor care about, children thirst for the positive, curious, and interested in other facets of history besides our own American story. Thank the Lord for the internet. Many websites have been created so they (and you) can look in to the African, and Americans of African decent and smile at the joys of what their ancestors have done, and cry at the injustices inflicted by a racist multitude.

I wear the crown

you wear the crown

so proud to say

that we all wear the crown

the crown

In Mr. Byrd’s song, many inaccuracies are challenged. Remember Inhotep from the “Mummy” movies? Well, that’s not the real Inhotep as described in history, nor as written before, the pyramids were created by aliens from outer space, and Mr. Byrd will have you know that even if you’re not of African decent, you still wear the crown. In case you need some proof, here it is:

And don’t let nobody confuse the fact

you don’t wear the crown just because you’re black

everybody in the world has a crown and place

that becomes their culture and their face

Would you rather let our children be influenced by positive messages of respect, education and self-pride or allow them to feel as if they’re nothing in this world which gets colder by the day? Should we continue to say they’re nothing but gangstas, thugs, high-balling G’s? Maybe Destiny’s Child is looking for a soldier, but I’m certain a lot of women, young and old, want a man who wears the crown of success, no matter what his station is in life. So what should we do? I’m hoping we do the right thing and tell our children how great they are, and if we do, continue. Then show them why and not wait until February.

You wear the crown

I wear the crown

so proud to say

that we all wear the crown

Get down!

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Posted by on February 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

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