“Only by acknowledging the full extent of slavery’s full grip on U.S. Society — its intimate connections to present day wealth and power, the depth of its injury to black Americans, the shocking nearness in time of its true end — can we reconcile the paradoxes of current American life.”
– Douglas A. Blackmon, Slavery by Another Name
When I was in high school, in regard to black history, I remember learning about the slavery and Civil War, and then jumping ahead to the civil rights movement, with only a brief mention of sharecropping. The impression left from these lessons was that although racism still abounded after Emancipation, African Americans in the South were at least free, able to farm and build a life for themselves.
It turns out this was mostly a myth.
Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon reveals through meticulous research how southern whites by-passed the Emancipation Proclamation and constitutional amendments to continue slavery in the form of convict forced labor. “In the first decades [after Emancipation], the intensity of southern whites’ need to reestablish hegemony over blacks rivaled the most visceral patriotism of the wartime Confederacy,” writes Blackmon. So, they found their way around emancipation by criminalizing black life by writing laws targeted specifically at African Americans, one such law making it illegal for someone to leave their current employment without their employer’s permission.
It’s crunch time at my day job, which leaves me little headspace for anything else.
A beautiful, windy storm blew in with violently shaking trees and spats of pouring rain. I love sitting in my house listening to a storm — though I am very grateful it didn’t knock out the power in my area.
What I’m Reading
Just started in Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg. I loved the movie and the book is proving to be quite good as well.
I’ve finished Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon, which is fantastic and has me thinking lots of thoughts that I’ll pool together later this week.
What I’m Writing
I’ve made it halfway through the second chapter/poem of the novel in verse. The chapter was proving more elusive than I expected, but it’s falling into shape now. A sample from the chapter:
the Queen stitched
with numb but steady fingers
the image of her mother’s gardens,
trees jeweled with tangerines and persimmon,
walls cloaked with jasmine and wisteria,
her mother poised like a fae
about to pluck a crimson rose
from its branch, embroidering the mantle
she would gift to her child
Several other poems drafts have also begun to take shape, one of which I’m planning to read at an open mic this week.
Submitted: Four poems were sent off to Poetry Magazine. Woo!
Goal(s) for this week: Finish chapter two. Put another submission packed together.
What’s Inspiring Me Right Now
Community. I love seeing my fellow poets and artists and musicians rock the mic or post some amazing work online. I love seeing their efforts recognized. It’s inspiring and joyful. It’s also wonderful when these fabulous artists share feedback on my work, guiding me in the right direction. The people at Cito.FAME.us are wonderful, as are my lovely friends in my Writing Gang who I met with on Skype last week. I love speaking about words. I love living words.
Where I’ll Be
I will definitely be attending the Cito.FAME.Us Valentine’s Day Party, which will also have a limited amount of open mic readings.
Therese Walsh’s post, “Monotasking: The Forgotten Skill You (and I) Need to Re-Claim, ASAP,” fits in nicely with this year’s (for me) theme of minimalism and focus:
“I’d heard that multitasking is a fallacy — that when we think we’re doing two things at once, we’re usually only doing one and not as well as we might believe.”
1. Into the Woods (2014)
2. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I (2014)
3. The Barbarians (1987)
4. Jennifer’s Body (2009)
5. Selma (2014)
6. Bride & Prejudice (2004)
Total for the year: 6
Selma had the best artistic presentation combined with a fascinating look at U.S. history. Though Mockingjay was the most fun for me.
1. A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
2. Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente
3. Links: A Collection of Short Stories by Kaylia M. Metcalfe
4. Ancient, Ancient: Short Fiction by Kiini Ibura Salaam
Total for the year: 4
Palimpsest was complex and lyrical and wonderful.
Books Still in Progress at the End of the Month:
Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon. I thought I’d be done by now, but it’s fascinating and fact heavy, which is why it’s taking me so long to read.
I almost talked myself out of going to the Cito.FAME.us open mic tonight. It’s easy to do, since the mic goes late and my morning starts early tomorrow. But one of my goals is to attend an open mic at least once a month and I finished a poem today just in time to perform it.
I’m so glad I went, because the event turned out to be hella mellow, a small group of regulars, all showing love for each other.
The feature performer was Lyneisha, who has an amazing soulful voice. She performed several covers and shared some of her own words. She’s amazing.
And really every one was amazing, sharing their words and songs and beats. The atmosphere was loving and supportive and just perfect.
Thank you to Lindsey Leong, Scorpiana, Chris Quality, X-Ray (ChrisCross0411 on YouTube), and everyone for being fabulous tonight. I wish you all success and joy.
(PS. Prior to the event, I spent some time at a coffee shop writing and made a fraction of progress on my novel in verse. Just the beginning of one poem, but any progress is good progress and it felt good.)