Category Archives: Printed Matters

Hey, White Girl! Susan Gregory’s Chicago Story

IMG_1438

The intersection of race and class. In Chicago. In the late 1960s.  That’s the backdrop of a memoir (rather cheekily) titled “Hey, White Girl!” written by Susan Gregory (Norton, 1970). 

In the book, teenage Susan transfers from well-heeled, suburban New Trier High School to attend infamous-even-then Marshall High School on Chicago’s West Side for her senior year.

What’s notable about this book is that save certain specificities (slang, style of dress, et al), the story would probably play out identically today: that’s how little race and class lines have shifted since then in the Windy City.

There are many notable moments in the book: some poignant, some funny, some perfect slices of Sixties Chicago.

“What jam can I mash on you?” the disc jockey asked… The words, the phrases were endless.  But I learned them, and slowly they became my own…

…A “humbug” was a fight. A “box” was a record player.  “The hawk” referred to the wind… Marshall and WVON helped me build my vocabulary.   — from Hey, White Girl

Find a copy, if you dare.  Definitely worth the search.  It’s wild.


Printers’ Ball Tonite!

printersball2009

Chicago is a hotbed for so many fields of creative art: among them printed arts.  From edgy magazines (Alarm, Stop Smiling, et al), to indie book publishers, comics, literary journals, and newspapers, there’s myriad ways to get high on ink!

Celebrate our collective literary history at the Printers’ Ball, organized by Poetry Magazine (an iconic magazine in its own right). 

Thanks to poetryfoundation.org for the info. 

Fifth Annual Printers’ Ball

Ludington Building
1104 South Wabash Avenue
5:00 PM – 11:00 PM
Admission to the Printers’ Ball is free and open to all ages.

 

Sneak previews of Printers’ Ball publications, preparations, and secret invitations are available at the official Printers’ Ball blog, Chicago Poetry Calendar: http://chicagopoetrycalendar.blogspot.com.

Special Attractions:

• Free ink on paper, including magazines, books, broadsides, and more
• Hidden treasures
• Printers’ Ball Library, hosted by the Alternative Press Center and the Chicago Underground Library, which invites you to spend quality time with quality print. Visit the library to browse all publications; learn more about your discoveries, what you might have missed, and where to find it; and connect directly with publishers and organizations through our one-stop mailing list and subscription kiosks.
• Busy Beaver ButtonOmatic
• Papermaking and book-binding demonstrations
• Letterpress, offset, and rubber stamp printing demonstrations
• Silkscreen demonstrations by Anchor Graphics
• Minibook-making lessons from Featherproof Books
• Ratso from Chic-A-Go-Go
• Live interviews by Chicago Subtext’s Amy Guth
• Elevated Diction, presented by Silver Tongue


Arise Up!

going_downtown_02
Picture world renowned photographers flown into Nigeria, photo shoots featuring African supermodels all over the world.  I’m not talking about the now fabled All-Black Italian Vogue.
“Arise” is that magazine: published in London by THISDAY, it’s a survey of Contemporary African Fashion & Pop Culture.  A window into a world we don’t see in full color, glossy glory nearly enough. 

What I have seen of the magazine excites me; but there is a bit of controversy.  The magazine has been criticized because an African Lifestyle Magazine doesn’t aid the continent in its upliftment.  I disagree, if only because magazines give us something to dream about, views of a life we can all aspire to (if we so choose), or maybe even a degree of escapism.  All the better if those people look like us, and the aesthetic is one that we can relate to.  Arise Magazine, to me, serves to bring balance to the butter cookie-cutter world of fashion and lifestyle magazines.  I like gingerbread, myself.  

Also, some folks feel as though the cover price (something like $12 per issue in the US, and 59 British Pounds, or about $90 per year) is overly prohibitive, effectively pricing out many (including me, honestly).  But I can dream…

Here’s some KNOCKOUT sample images:

Supermodels Naomi Campbell, Alek Wek & Liya Kebebe dressed by Nigerian designers, Deola Sagoe, Fati Asibelua of MOMO Couture, Lanre DaSilva Ajayi of LDA.

Alek Wek In Deola Sagoe

Naomi

Naomi Campbell in Deola Sagoe

Liya

Liya in Deola Sagoe

for more about Arise, click here


Another Beautiful Struggle

the-beautiful-struggle-198x300“We took comfort in the rebel music that was pumped into the city from up North. Hip-Hop was the rumble of our generation, unveiling all our wants, fears, and disaffections. But as the fabled year of ’88 came upon us, we saw something more in the music, a deeper thing that interrogated our random lives and made us self-aware. We needed 1988, like the mariners of old needed the North Star. I needed a text for understanding my present crack-addled world; Bill needed some conception of a future.”

— from The Beautiful Stuggle, Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ autobiographical ode to black manhood (and the struggle to reach it and to cultivate it) is the premise for The Beautiful Struggle (Random House, 2008), a title hip-hop heads might recognize from a 2004 Talib Kweli album.  The album popularized a phrase from a Martin Luther King, Jr. speech, in which he stated:

“We must move past indecision to action. Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response.”

In the Beautiful Struggle, Coates’ father is larger than life, both Black Panther & Vietnam vet, publisher and cultural historian, trying to raise up seven children in an era when crack created a desert tooled for the destuction of a whole generation.  A book that is both a love note to hip hop, a battle cry, and a tale of rising up, A Beautiful Struggle is beautiful to be sure.


Into Africa: 50 must reads for “Every African”…

…courtesy of afripopmag.com… lots of good stuff for a book nut like me.

Anthem of the Decades, by Mazisi Kunene.
Biko, by Donald Woods
Roots, by Alex Haley
Number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith
Long Walk to Freedom, by Nelson Mandela
Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe
Woman at Point Zero, by Nawal el Sadaawi
Purple Hibiscus + Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimimanda Adichi Ngozi
Our Sister Killjoy, by Ama Ata Aidoo
Head Above Water, by Buchi Emecheta
The Heart of Redness, by Zakes Mda
You Can’t Get Lost in Cape Town/David’s Story/Playing in the Light, by Zoe Wicomb
Mother to Mother, by Sindiwe Magona
Unbowed, by Wangari Maathai
Decolonising the Mind, by Ngugi wa Thiong’o
Anthills of the Savannah, by Chinua Achebe
Hero of the Nation, by Henry Masauko Chipembere
Kaffir Boy, by Mark Mathabane
Distant View of a Minaret, by Alifa Rifaat
So Long a Letter, by Mariama Ba
A long way gone, by Ishmael Beah
Song for Night/Becoming Abigail, by Chris Abani
Infidel, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Desert Flower/Desert Dawn, by Waris Dirie
Born Under the Big Rain, by Fadumo Korn
When Rain Clouds Gather/Maru/A Question of Power, by Bessie Head
Women are Different, by Flora Nwapa
The Stone Virgins, by Yvonne Vera
Call me Woman, by Ellen Kuzwayo
And they didn’t Die, by Lauretta Ngcobo
Maru, b y   B e s s i e   H e a d
Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature, by Ngugi wa Thiong’o
Petals of blood, Weep not child, Ngungi wa Thiongo
Black Sunlight, by Dambudzo Merachera
My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, by Amos Tutola
Question of Power, by Bessie Head
Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neal Hurston
Ready For Revolution, by Kwame Ture
Autobiography of Malcolm X, by Malcolm X and Alex Haley
The Making of Black Revolutionaries, by James Forman
Destruction of Black Civilization, by Chancellor Williams
The African Origin of Civilization, by Cheikh Anta Diop
The Isis Papers, by Francess Cress Welsing
The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
Dreams From My Father, by Barack Obama
The Audacity of Hope, by Barack Obama
Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, by Barack Obama
The Souls of Black Folk, by W.E.B. Du Bois simply bcoz this century is about identity
O’ Mandingo!: The Only Black at a Dinner Party, by Eric Miyeni
Gerard Sekoto: I Am An African, by Chabani Manganyi
The Good Women of China, by Xinran just coz Africa and Asia share so much in common
Capitalist Nigger, by Chika Onyeani
African love stories, (edited) by Ama Ata Aido
Black skin, White masks, by Franz Fanon
Scatter the Ashes and Go, Hyenas, by Mongane Wally Serote
Black God of the Sun, by Ekow Eshun
Mavericks, (edited) by Lauren Beukes
Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad
Indaba, My Children, by Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa
Development as freedom, by Amartya Sen
The Spirit of Intimacy, by Sobonfu E. Some
God’s Bit of Wood, The Money Order with White Genesis, by Ousmane Sembene
Zenzele: A letter for my Daughter, by J. Nozipho Maraire
The Bible
The Land Is Ours: The Political Legacy of Mangaliso Sobukwe, by S.E.M. Pheko
Subukwe and Apartheid, by Benjamin Pogrund
I Write what I like, Steve Biko
Blues People, by Amiri Baraka
Stolen Legacy, by George G. M. James
Democracy Matters, by Cornel West
Encyclopedia Africana, probably the greatest manuscript about the entire African Diaspora
Speak so You Can Speak Again: The life of Zora Neale Hurston, by Lucy Hurston


The Other Side of Paradise, in plain view

2009-05-16-OtherSideof-Paradise-author

2009-05-16-OtherSideofParadisePoet Stacyann Chin’s memoir, “The Other Side of Paradise” (Scribner, 2009), is a coming-of-age story.  It’s a tale of growing up never fitting in, not with family, not with social structure.  It’s also about living in Paradise (both literally and figuratively), but never feeling as though Paradise’s bounty is available for you.  Ultimately, however, the book is about discovering that no man (or woman) is an island in regards to pain and loss…and joy.

A one-time performer on Def Poetry jam, Stacyann Chin’s upbringing was enough to seal in insecurities, and yet, she kept trying to break out beyond her circumstances.   She was born on Christmas Day in Lottery, Jamaica, and systematically denied by both her mother and father, something she  struggled with throughout her childhood.   Stacyann grew up in the slums of Jamaica that tourists never visit, and she suffered abuse that no girl should ever have to suffer at the hands of family… always dreaming of the life of the fortunate ones, always dreaming of being safe and happy.

“The Other Side of Paradise” is a fresh, poetic read that balances images of hope in trying times and the darker side of Paradise.   

Below, Stacyann Chin performing “Untitled” on Def Poetry Jam.


Light: On the South Side…Grit and Gold Lamé

I, for one, have stared for more than a moment at the forgotten, peeled paint on the side of the 408 Club building over on 79th Street (just East of King Drive).  In mid-seventies hipster font, the ad reads “Sheba Disco”, apparently some sort of disco club.  I’ve wondered what manner of elephant bells and Quiana was to be found there in its heyday. 

In the mid-’70s, photographer Michael Abramson set his viewfinder on the South Side of Chicago, specifically the many clubs and lounges that served as Hothouses of street fashion (among them, the legendary High Chaparral and the Showcase Lounge). They reflected where blues, soul and disco collided:  a dream of grit and gold lamé.   

Those photos have been compiled in Light: On the South Side, which is set for a November release by local label Numero Group.  The package also includes a 17-track vinyl-only comp entitled Pepper’s Jukebox, featuring various local juke joint luminaries including Bobby Rush and Little Mack. Cratediggers, this one also includes the one-time cockroach of Chicago 45rpm collecting: “I’m a Streaker, Baby” by Arlean Brown.  Remember that one?  Couldn’t even give that one away, it was so plentiful.  Anyway, check out the photo gallery, above (from the forthcoming book).  Be inspired.  Jive on.

 photo by Michael Abramson224_x600_cl_light18


Sweet Flypaper of Life: 1950s Harlem in Black & White

De_carava_the_sweet_6

Picture it.  I’m in high school, late for the morning bus, desperate for something to read during my lengthy commute.  On my Grandmother’s disheveled porch, I find a slightly sunfaded paperback.  The book is Sweet Flypaper of Life, with text by Langston Hughes and photography by Roy DeCarava (1955).  I toss it in my backpack, completely unaware that:

1. My life would never be the same… I would see the world differently from that day on.

2. That paperback was (at the time) thirty years old and worth nearly 100 bucks.  I would only discover its value when I attempted in college to upgrade for a hardcover.  Apparently, it’s an exceptionally rare book.  And I threw it in my backpack.  Did I mention it rained that day?

About the book:

Essentially, the Sweet Flypaper is written from the point of view of an older woman in Harlem who is a fixture in her community.  She introduces us to each person in her world.  We’re let in on their struggles as well as the hard-fought victories in their lives.  The Langston Hughes’ text is accompanied by a memorable photo essay by Roy DeCarava.

DE_Carava_the_sweet_1How I love this book.  It captures a time on the cusp of the Civil Rights Era: a time steeped in the Electrified Delta Blues, in Joe Louis Fights, in Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughn, in Miller High Life, in Dixie Peach pomade.  It captures something so timeless that it stays with you…. always.  I recommend you discover a copy of your own, but until you do, enjoy the pages I reproduced here for you. Jive on!

De_carava_the_sweet_2


Blackness…Finally Forgivable?

from the Stop Smiling Blog….

A Pugilist’s Pardon, Once Unforgivable

blog-johnson1It’s Jack Johnson, 1 — Scooter Libby, zero. Senator John McCain delivers some straight talk we can believe in with the announcement this week that he is seeking a presidential pardon for the late Jack Johnson, the nation’s first black heavyweight boxing champion, who he “feels was wronged by a 1913 conviction of violating the Mann Act by having a consensual relationship with a white woman” (read more about the story at AP); STOP SMILING featured Johnson on the cover of our Boxing Issue back in 2005, timing with the release of Ken Burn’s extraordinary documentary Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson. The final bell will be rung by President Obama.

Really? What’s McCain’s motivation? I remember an audio piece produced by my friend Kabuika for Vocalo.org in which an eleven year old kid asks Black Journalists if they think McCain is afraid of Black People (after McCain declined an invite to a Conference of Black Journalists in 2008).

McCain, Afraid of Black People? by Kabuika

So, what is McCain’s Motivation for pushing to pardon somebody who’s been dead sixty-0dd years?  Like the classic Tootsie Pop commercial, the world may never know


Matériel Magazine and Pr Launch Party in Bridgeport

mat_magazine_cover_lr_01

from the local folks who bring us the mags Lumpen and Proximity…….

Matériel Magazine and Pr Launch Party and fundraiser for Version Festival

Please come and help us raise funds to pay for Version>09 Immodest Proposals. We will be giving to everyone who attends a complementary copy of our new publishing projects, Matériel and the new Pr poster/newsletter.

We will be hosting an evening of performances and displaying pages from Matériel on the gallery walls. Musical performances by Casual Encounter , Caw! Caw! (not cawcaw) and a few secret super special guest stars.
Pr is Proximity’s in-between issues newsletter and art poster featuring articles interviews reviews a calendar and art work.

Matériel is an oversized broadside newsprint publication that’s a collection of the best/brightest designers/illustrators/photographers work we can find – creating a showcase for their submitted work.”

Friday, March 21, 2009, 8pm
Co-Prosperity Sphere
3219 S Morgan St

$10 Suggested Donation.

for more on Proximity, click here

for more on Version Fest, click here

v09poster