Josephine Baker On Differences

In recognition of Black History Month, Transformation Publications will present poems, essays, and other artistic creations by Black artists, musicians, and writers.

   Josephine Baker   (June 03, 1906 – April 12, 1975)
Josephine Baker (June 03, 1906 – April 12, 1975)

Surely the day will come when color means nothing more than skin tone, when religion is seen uniquely as a way to speak one’s soul; when birth places have the weight of a throw of the dice and all men are born free.

 

 

Photo Credit: Black Betty Boop photographed by Tao Writer from the private collection of Melvin and Robin Jackson, ©️2017.

Learn more about the life of Josephine Baker here.

Listen to Richie P Havens sing Freedom here.

On This Day, January 25, 1870, Hiram Rhodes Revels become the first Black man elected to the United States Senate.

Audre Lorde On The Transformation of Silence

In recognition of Black History Month, Transformation Publications will present poems, essays, and other artistic creations by Black artists, musicians, and writers.

   Audre Lorde    (February 18, 1934 – November 17, 1992)
Audre Lorde   (February 18, 1934 – November 17, 1992)

The Transformation of Silence Into Language and Action by Audre Lorde

I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.  That the speaking profits me, beyond any other effect.

I was forced to look upon myself and my living with a harsh and urgent clarity that has left me still shaken but much stronger.  Some of what I experienced during that time has helped elucidate for me much of what I feel concerning the transformation of silence into language and action.

In becoming forcibly and essentially aware of my mortality, and of what I wished and wanted for my life, however short it might be, priorities and omissions became strongly etched in a merciless light, and what I most regretted were my silences.  Of what had I ever been afraid?  To question or to speak as I believed could have meant pain, or death.  But we all hurt in so many different ways, all the time, and pain will either change or end. Death, on the other hand, is the final silence.  And that might be coming quickly now, without regard for whether I had ever spoken what needed to be said, or had only betrayed myself into small silences, while I planned someday to speak, or waited for someone else’s words.

I was going to die, if not sooner then later, whether or not I had ever spoken myself.  My silences had not protected me.  Your silence will not protect you.

What are the words you do not yet have?  What do you need to say?  What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence?  Perhaps for some of you here today, I am the face of one of your fears.  Because I am a woman, because I am Black, because I am lesbian, because I am myself — a Black woman warrior poet doing my work — come to ask you, are you doing yours?

And of course I am afraid, because the transformation of silence into language and action is an act of self-revelation, and that always seems fraught with danger.  But my daughter, when I told her of our topic and my difficulty with it, said, “Tell them about how you’re never really a whole person if you remain silent, because there’s always that one little piece inside you that wants to be spoken out, and if you keep ignoring it, it gets madder and madder and hotter and hotter, and if you don’t speak it out one day it will just up and punch you in the mouth from the inside.

In the cause of silence, each of us draws the face of her own fear — fear of contempt, of censure, of some judgment, or recognition, of challenge, of annihilation.  But most of all, I think, we fear the visibility without which we cannot truly live.

And that visibility which makes us most vulnerable is that which also is the source of our greatest strength.  Because the machine will try to grind you into dust anyway, whether or not we speak.  We can sit in our corners mute forever while our sisters and our selves are wasted, while our children are distorted and destroyed, while our earth is poisoned; we can sit in our safe corners mute as bottles, and we will still be no less afraid.

Each of us is here now because in one way or another we share a commitment to language and to the power of language, and to the reclaiming of that language which has been made to work against us.  In the transformation of silence into language and action, it is vitally necessary for each one of us to establish or examine her function in that transformation and to recognize her role as vital within that transformation.

For those of us who write, it is necessary to scrutinize not only the truth of what we speak, but the truth of that language by which we speak it.  For others, it is to share and spread also those words that are meaningful to us.  But primarily for us all, it is necessary to teach by living and speaking those truths which we believe and know beyond understanding. Because in this way alone can we survive, by taking part in a process of life that is creative and continuing, that is growth.

And it is never without fear — of visibility, of the harsh light of scrutiny and perhaps judgment, of pain, of death.  But we have lived through all of those already, in silence, except death.  And I remind myself all the time now that if I were to have been born mute, or had maintained an oath of silence my whole life long for safety, I would still have suffered, and I would still die. It is very good for establishing perspective.

We can learn to work and speak when we are afraid in the same way we have learned to work and speak when we are tired. For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us.

The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence.  And there are so many silences to be broken.

 

 (Originally delivered at the Modern Language Association’s “Lesbian and Literature Panel,” Chicago, Illinois, December 28, 1977.  First published in Sinister Wisdom 6,  1978 and The Cancer Journals, Spinsters Ink, San Francisco, 1980.

Learn more about Audre Lorde in A Litany For Survival: the Life and Work of Audre Lorde here.

Photo Credit: Aldis Hodge and Harmonia Rosales

 

Listen to N.W.A. rap version of Express Yourself here

 

 

🎂Happy Birthday William Edward Burghardt WEB Du Bois (February 23, 1868 – August 27, 1963) In Memoriam🌹

Zinzi Clemmons On Writers

In recognition of Black History Month, Transformation Publications will present poems, essays, and other artistic creations by Black artists, musicians, and writers.

   Zinzi Clemmons
Zinzi Clemmons

l never felt like I had a tribe that I could belong to without some qualification – ‘you are this, but’… That kind of experience is what makes you a writer … I think all writers are outsiders, for some reason … They’re the people who kind of stand off to one side, they’re not participating, they’re observing..

 

Photo Credit: NoBody But Myself photographed by Tao Writer from the private collection of Melvin and Robin Jackson, ©️2017.

Note: This photograph was also the cover for my fourth publication, NoBody But Myself, What I Have To Give.

 

 

Listen to Little Anthony & The Imperials sing I’m On The Outside Looking In here.

Jamaica Kincaid On Writing

In recognition of Black History Month, Transformation Publications will present poems, essays, and other artistic creations by Black artists, musicians, and writers.

   Jamaica Kincaid   (May 25, 1949 -)
Jamaica Kincaid (May 25, 1949 -)

When I start to write something, I suppose I want it to change me, to make me into something not myself. And while I’m doing it, I really have the feeling that this time, at the end of it, I will be other than myself. Of course, every time I end a book, I look down at myself and I’m just the same. I’m always disappointed that I’m just the same, but not enough to never do it again! I get right back up and I start something else, and I think this time – this time – I really will be transformed into something other than this tawdry, ordinary thing, sitting on the bed and drinking cold coffee. When I write a book, I hope to be beyond mortal by the time I’m finished.

 

Photo Credit: Mother and Child photographed by Tao Writer from the private collection of Melvin and Robin Jackson, ©️2017.

 

  

Listen to Johnny Hartman sing and John Coltrane playing tenor sax on Dedicated to You here.

 

     
   

🎂Happy Birthday  James “Eubie” Blake  (February 7, 1887 – February 12, 1983) In Memoriam🌹

 

On This Day, February 07, 1964, Cassius Clay converts to Islam, and is renamed Muhammad Ali.

Frederick Douglass On Reflection

In recognition of Black History Month, Transformation Publications will present poems, essays, and other artistic creations by Black artists, musicians, and writers.

   Frederick Douglass    (February 02, 1818–February 20, 1895) 
Frederick Douglass   (February 02, 1818–February 20, 1895) 

The process by which man is able to posit his own subjective nature outside of himself, giving it form, color, space, and all the attributes of distinct personality, so that it becomes the subject of distinct observation and contemplation, is at [the] bottom of all effort and the germinating principles of all reform and all progress… It is the picture of life contrasted with the fact of life, the ideal contrasted with the real, which makes criticism possible. Where there is no criticism there is no progress, for the want of progress is not felt where such want is not made visible by criticism. It is by looking upon this picture and upon that which enables us to point out the defects of the one and the perfections of the other.

Poets, prophets, and reformers are all picture-makers — and this ability is the secret of their power and of their achievements. They see what ought to be by the reflection of what is, and endeavor to remove the contradiction.

 

Photo Credit: Jamboree photographed by Tao Writer from the private collection of Melvin and Robin Jackson, ©️2017.

Note: Jamboree was the name use on the day the 13th Admendment was passed and Black slaves were granted freedom.

 

Listen to Kool & The Gang sing Celebration here.

 

Note: During the late 60’s before they became famous, Kool & The Gang spent many hours entertaining the Black Students of Rutgers University where I attended.

 

🎂Happy Birthday Al McKay (February 02, 1948 -)