Nina Simone

The High Priestess of Soul, Nina Simone, was an icon with a commanding stage presence and whose rich contralto voice  powerfully wove together stories about liberation, empowerment, and love. She became a voice to power for the black American community. Nina sang from a diverse catalog – jazz, classical, folk, blues, gospel, and covers of contemporary popular artists such as Bob Dylan. She recorded more than 40 albums between 1958 and 1974.

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Wanda Sykes

Wanda Sykes is an award-winning comedian, writer, and actress with a brilliant style of stand-up comedy that she’s been doing since the late 1980s. She is the first African-American woman to star in her own prime-time sitcoms and the first to perform at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner (and she was also the first out lesbian to do so). She is a strong, confident, hilarious, driven woman who has found her voice and uses it well.

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Black History Month, Boss Bitches & Eartha Kitt

Last year during Black History Month I tried to do a post every day about an innovative black American whose name was likely not currently common knowledge, starting with Carter G. Woodson, the historian who started Black History Month, and ending with Octavia Butler, a science fiction writer. And, I tried to not focus on the “predictable” focus areas of black excellence, such as athletics and music. I wanted to hi-light how time and time again black Americans fought adversity, excelled, and changed our world, such as with Percy Julian, who was instrumental in creating birth control, or Bayard Rustin, the civil rights and gay rights activist who brought the non-violent teachings of Ghandi to MLK Jr. Continue reading

Can a community heal from a hate crime?

I was surprised when I read an April 21 article from Fox Chicago, Racist who dragged black man behind truck will be executed this week. (It looks to be a reprint used in several publications.) I expected a bland short piece giving a brief biased synopsis of the 1998 murder of James Byrd Jr. and minimal details of the impending execution of one of his murderers. Instead, the piece starts with a story of how that murder has shaped people’s view of the town by telling how a tech company questioned opening a center there specifically because of the murder that took place 21 years ago.

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DeVos illegally delayed rule to rectify racist practices in special education

Last week a federal judge ruled that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos illegally delayed a rule that would require states examine and rectify policies and practices that contributed to racial inequities in special education programs. The rule had been passed under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act in the final days of the Obama administration.

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Octavia Butler

On this last day of Black History Month, let’s carry forward the legacy of black Americans who, despite their struggles in this violently oppressive country, have shown innovation, talent, depth, and courage. And, let’s look to what is possible in the future.

I was a fan of science fiction and fantasy fiction as a child. It was my favorite escape – imagining impossible adventures, fantastical creatures, emotion-driven characters, good and evil, mystery and magic, creativity and curiosity, exploration and adventure, legacy and the future. The majority of these stories, though, are obviously rooted in western, white patriarchal concepts. I distinctly remember my excitement when I first read Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time – how refreshing to read about a young, female protagonist! Then, as an adult, I found Octavia Butler, a black woman science fiction writer – an afrofuturist who’s short bibliography shifted the white male-dominated field of science fiction with amazingly crafted worlds and powerfully disturbing stories of struggle, colonization and oppression, perseverance, hope, and change.

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