Tag Archives: Printed Matters

Ebony is Back…. and fly!

Oh. Goodness. To be clear, Ebony never left us, but it did sort of lose influence in the Black Community. But, wow, have they stepped up. And, I’m prouder than ever to pass by their headquarters here in Chicago (on South Michigan Avenue).

To give a little background, Ebony (launched in the 1940s by the Johnson Family) was by far the most popular, influential Black Magazine in America for decades. At its peak, Ebony was home to Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Moneta Sleet, Jr., among other giants in the publishing field. By the 21st Century, their popularity (along with magazines in general) had waned, and by 2010, they well undersold expectations and were in need of an aesthetic revamp. There was talk of selling the magazine. But, first they gave it another shot.

The first move they made was to bring in Desiree Rogers as CEO. Then they hired Amy DuBois Barnett (of Honey Magazine [sadly shuttered circa 2006]) as Editor, and brought in young, fresh talent from Vanity Fair and a slew of other sources. Next, the team commenced in the first full overhaul of the magazine since 1945.  The first revamped Ebony was published in April 2011.

In recent offerings, they’ve captured cutting edge yet approachable black culture, art, music, and thought (recent features have covered topics as varied as the recent retrospective of Black visual artist Glenn Ligon, underground soul /vocalist Jesse Boykins III, what Black Fashion Bloggers were wearing during New York’s Fashion Week [hint: it was fly], and cultural critic Touré unpacked the rhetoric of “Post-Blackness“). They also represent the full tonal spectrum of black beauty in their fashion/beauty sections, something that had been slipping a bit in recent years. For more on Ebony’s legacy in the fashion world, click here.

In short, they worked it out. It shows. Check out September 2011’s cover, above.

As of 2011, Ebony’s circulation averaged 1,235,865 (a 10.9 percent increase), and Jet’s swelled to 820,557 (a 7.6 percent increase).

Jive on.


Tim & Tom: it wouldn’t be funny if it weren’t so true

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As part of the Chicago Humanities Festival, this Saturday meet Tim & Tom… a “Salt & Pepper” comedy team born in the hotbed of sixties Chicago…

Tim Reid and Tom Dreesen met for the first time in tumultuous 1968 Chicago. As the heady promise of the sixties sagged under the weight of widespread violence, rioting, and racial unrest, two young men – one black and one white – took to stages across the nation to help Americans confront their racial divide: by laughing
at it.

“While the country was wracked by the civil rights movement, a sexual revolution, and a controversial war, these friends took the stage as the first—and so far, only—black and white comedy team. Together they spent five years touring the country, facing unabashed racism, occasionally violent hecklers, and cheering crowds. Reid went on to star in the sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati and create the influential Frank’s Place, and Dreesen spent 30 years in stand-up, including 15 years as Frank Sinatra’s opening act. The duo returns to the stage to tell their stories and reflect on a lifetime of unique experiences. Ron Rapoport moderates.”

–from Chicagohumanities.org

Where & When:

DuSable Museum of African American History
740 East 56th Place
Chicago, IL 60637
Saturday, October 17th 2pm-3:00pm

Tickets:

Adults: $5.00
Educators & Students: FREE
The book entitled Tim & Tom: An American Comedy
in Black & White
is published by University of Chicago Press.

Ronald Fair: Griot of Chicago Tales

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Ronald Fair is perhaps best known as a teller of crisp, satirical, and unsentimental Chicago Tales: inner city stories of struggle, morality, and overcoming (not unlike his own Chicago story).  Born in Chicago on October 27, 1932, Fair attended public school. He was inspired as a young man by fellow Chicagoan Richard Wright to begin writing. Wright, as well as a black English teacher encouraged him to keep at his craft despite setbacks. 

Fair ultimately published various short writings in the Chicago Defender, Ebony, Chat Noir, and other publications. His first novel, Many Thousand Gone: An American Fable, was published in 1965.  The book covers the span of time from the Civil War to the 60s, and presents a fictional town called Jacobsville, Mississippi, whose residents were unaware that slavery had been abolished.   The work, through symbolism, called for Blacks to wake up and rise against the systemic oppression they were under.  

His second novel, Hog Butcher (1966), set in the 1960s, told the story of three inner city Chicago boys and one tragedy that changed a community forever. It was adapted into the film Cornbread, Earl, and Me (1975, see the theatrical trailer below).  The film starred a pre-pubescent Laurence Fishburne, and featured a grooving soundtrack composed by Donald Byrd and performed by the Blackbyrds.

Fair’s next work, World of Nothing, was published in 1970.  The work consists of two edgy, perse, short novellas: one of which dealt with sexual abuse in the Catholic church and, like Hog Butcher, featured a young central character.

Soon after the publication of Hog Butcher, Ronald Fair moved to Europe, were he remained, as he was “fed up with American racism”.  While in Europe, he published what he considered his supreme work,”We Can’t Breathe” (1972).  The book covered the lives of five Chicago friends (one of whom becomes an author), and was deeply autobiographical.  The book sold well at first, and then sales inexplicably tapered off.

Ronald Fair still writes today, but has dropped off the national literary radar, unpublished in the U.S. in more than twenty years, yet the messages within his work remain eerily pertinent for folks coming up in our hardscrabble city.

 

 

Read more: http://biography.jrank.org/pages/2345/Fair-Ronald-L.html#ixzz0QiUlGCM4


Printers’ Ball Tonite!

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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!

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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


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.


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

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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


Portraits of Black Chicago: Cool Off

black_youngstersBlack youngsters cool off with fire hydrant water on Chicago’s South Side in the Woodlawn community… June 1973

“…The kids don’t go to the city beaches and use the fire hydrants to cool off instead. It’s a tradition in the community, comprised of very low income people. The area has high crime and fire records. From 1960 to 1970 the percentage of Chicago blacks with income of $7,000 or more jumped from 26% to 58%.”*  caption by John H. White.

* according to Paul Louis Street’s Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis, the median income for Blacks in Chicago in 2000 was “more than $6,000 less than the Economic Policy Institute’s “basic family budget”…for even a small family of one parent and two children ($35,307).  On the flip of this, the median white income in the city was $11,000 more than the that basic family budget.

from the National Archives website:

From June through October 1973 and briefly during the spring of 1974, John H. White, a 28-year-old photographer with the Chicago Daily News, worked for the federal government photographing Chicago, especially the city’s African American community. As White reflected recently, he saw his assignment as “an opportunity to capture a slice of life, to capture history.”

Today, John White is a staff photographer with the Chicago Sun-Times. He has won hundreds of awards, and his work has been exhibited and published widely. In 1982 he received the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography.

I am a big fan of John H. White’s photography.  He has that magic ability to tell a whole story with one frame.  click here for his website


taken from the National Archives and Records Administration Website