Ann Arbor responds to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

March after MLK assassination

In the days following the assassination, Ann Arbor held a memorial at Hill Auditorium and Ann Arbor News photographers snapped dozens of photos of townies and students participating in marches and peaceful demonstrations. Here they are, for the first time, from the Oldnews archive.

Let Freedom Ring: Celebrating the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Music

On Monday, January 19, AADL will celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy in music, with two very special performances at the Downtown Library.

All ages are invited at 1 p.m for acclaimed percussion group Biakuye presenting a cross-cultural experience rooted in American innovation and African tradition.

In Akan languages, biakuye means unity, and their style unites percussionists from varied backgrounds, traditional instruments and found objects, and West African musical traditions and American jazz concepts.The group's members come from both Africa and the United States, and have a local connection. Mark Stone and Roger Braun attended the University of Michigan together, studying percussion. Mark spent a year in Ghana while at U of M, where he met master drummer Kofi Ameyaw. The three later formed Biakuye, and have since added and rotated members, but their unique and energetic sound remains, celebrating cultural unity and collaboration. Biakuye will perform in the Downtown Library Multi-Purpose Room.

In the evening, Baritone Emery Stephens and accompanist Alvin Waddles will give an interactive lecture and concert highlighting the musical legacy and achievements of African-American composers and arrangers.

They will discuss such recognizable tunes as “This Little Light of Mine,” “It’s Me, O Lord,” “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” and composers such as Harry T. Burleigh, John Work, and Margaret Bonds. Both Emory Stephens and Alvin Waddles have performed, studied, and taught throughout the area and around the country and will join us for an entertaining and informative performance at 7 p.m. in the Multi-Purpose Room.

Can’t make it? Use these lists of books on Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement for children, teens, adults, graphic novels, and picture books to mark the day.

Josephine Baker Biography

If Jacqueline Woodson’s award-winning memoir Brown Girl Dreaming has you craving more stories-in-verse that share the African-American experience, check out this fantastic title:

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker written by Patricia Hruby Powell and illustrated by Christian Robinson is picture-book biography of dancer Josephine Baker. Beginning with her childhood in the segregated South, the book traces her life as a teenager in a traveling dance troupe, her star-making Paris debut, her work as a spy during World War II, and her adoption of twelve children of different nationalities, always highlighting her desire for racial acceptance. With its bright, bold illustrations and free-verse text that mixes quotations from Baker with energetic narration, this 100-page picture book is a perfect showcase for the dancer’s story.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #463 - "The books that help you most are those which make you think the most." ~ Pablo Neruda

As one reviewer puts it so aptly, Ruby * * "is difficult to read for its graphic and uncomfortable portrayal of racism, sexual violence, and religious intolerance", but debut author Cynthia Bond had me in the palm of her hand right from the start, opening with "Ruby Bell was a constant reminder of what could befall a woman whose shoe heels were too high".

Liberty Township, East Texas. Once so pretty that "it hurt to look at", Ruby is now "buck-crazy, ...(h)owling, half-naked mad". As a child, she suffered abuse beyond imagination, so as soon as she could, she fled to New York. When a telegram from her cousin forced her to return home, 30 year-old Ruby found herself reliving the devastating violence of her girlhood. Once sharply dressed and coiffed, "she wore gray like rain clouds and wandered the red road in bared feet", and folks walked a curve path to avoid her door. Except for Ephram Jennings, who has never forgotten the beautiful girl with the long braids. And on one end-of-summer day, 45 year-old Ephram asked his sister Celia to make up her white lay angel cake, thus began a long, sweet courtship that would anger the church folks in town. Eventually, Ephram must choose between loyalty to the sister who raised him and the chance for a life with the woman he has loved since he was a boy.

"(E)xquisitely written, and suffused with the pastoral beauty of the rural South, Ruby is a transcendent novel of passion and courage."

"Definitely not for the faint of heart or for those who prefer lighter reads, this book exhibits a dark and redemptive beauty. Bond's prose is evocative of Alice Walker and Toni Morrison, paying homage to the greats of Southern Gothic literature. "

A graduate of Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism, and American Academy of Dramatics Arts, PEN/Rosenthal Fellow Cynthia Bond founded the Blackbird Writing Collective. Currently, she teaches therapeutic writing at Paradigm Malibu Adolescent Treatment Center.

* * = 2 starred reviews

The African-American Cultural & Historical Museum Of Washtenaw County Living Oral History Project

Sunday September 28, 2014: 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm -- Downtown Library: 4th Floor Meeting Room

Join the AADL and the African American Cultural & Historical Museum of Washtenaw County for this premiere of their Phase II of the Living Oral History Project. The African American Cultural & Historical Museum of Washtenaw County began this project in March 2013 in collaboration with AADL. This second phase was filmed in May 2014,

Five individuals were identified to initiate the project by participating in a series of interviews that were professionally filmed and edited. These interviews serve as a roadmap to what African Americans witnessed, experienced, shared, and contributed in building the community we see today. Those interviewed for the second phase include John Barfield, Sr., Tessie Freeman, Barbara Meadows, Paul Wasson, and Dorothy Wilson. A short program and an opportunity to speak with those interviewed will follow the premiere.

The individuals selected represent a broad section in gender, education, faith, and socioeconomics. Areas of community concern such as race, gender and education equality, faith, housing, employment, community building activities, and infrastructure were presented and discussed. These topics provide a spectrum that is relevant to current issues and concerns within Washtenaw County today and into the future.

This premiere of this second phase of the Living Oral History Project will include a short program and an opportunity to speak with those interviewed. Light refreshments will also be served.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #449

Inspired by the true story of African-American WWII veteran Isaac Woodard, Deborah Johnson's The Secret of Magic * is a clear-eyed depiction of the post-war Deep South, and a young female attorney's attempt of the impossible - attaining justice for a black man.

Joe Howard Wilson called his father from a rest stop to let him know that he was within hours of being home. But he never arrived. Two weeks later, his body was found.

A newly minted attorney at the NAACP office in New York, Regina Robichard worked for a young Thurgood Marshall who sent her down to Revere, Mississippi, after receiving a letter asking that they look into the murder of a black war hero. The letter was signed by M(ary) P. Calhoun, a reclusive author whose novel The Secret of Magic about white and black children playing together in a magical forest, had captivated a young Regina.

"Johnson offers a completely engaging Southern gothic with unforgettable characters in this fictionalized account of a pivotal NAACP case from the 1940s".

"Passionate but never didactic, Johnson wisely allows the novel's politics to play second fiddle to the intimate, nuanced drama of the young black Yankee and middle-aged white Southerner in this provocative story about race in America that becomes a deeply felt metaphor for all human relationships."

* = starred review

Golden Globes 2014

Last night, amidst the glitz and glamour that is Hollywood at its most celebratory, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association hosted the 71st Golden Globe Awards which recognize the best that movies and television have to offer.

Hosted again by the popular duo Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, more than two dozen prizes were received with the usual mix of speeches that ran the gamut from eloquent to a stunned scrambling for coherence, from blink-and-you'll-miss-it brevity to gassiness that shouted over the 'stop, you're done' musical cues from the orchestra.

Among the winners were:

12 Years a Slave for Best Motion Picture, Drama -- based on the 1853 memoir of Solomon Northup who was born a freeman in New York and then captured and enslaved in New Orleans.

Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama went to Cate Blanchett for her mesmerizing portrayal of a New York socialite who has lost it all and is forced to move in with her working-poor sister in San Francisco in Blue Jasmine, directed by Woody Allen, who took heat last night from his family and foes via Twitter, when he accepted a Lifetime Achievement award later in the evening.

Amy Poehler got to switch roles when she captured the category of Best Actress in a TV Series, Musical or Comedy for her portrayal of Leslie Knope in the NBC hit series, Parks and Recreation.

Check out the complete list of winners here.

Amiri Baraka, playright, poet, and founder of the Black Arts Movement, has died

Amiri Baraka, controversial writer and founder of the Black Arts Movement in the 1960s and 70s, died yesterday in Newark, New Jersey.

Born Leroy Jones (he later changed the spelling to LeRoi Jones to honor the memory of Roi Ottley, an African American journalist), Baraka was a brilliant student who could not tolerate mainstream academia, becoming ever more political, especially after his brief stint in the Air Force.

His first play, Dutchman (and incendiary indictment on race relations at the time). was performed Off Off Broadway and won the 1964 Obie for Best American Play.

The assassination of Malcolm X further radicalized Baraka. He changed his name two more times, first to Imamu Ameer Bakarat and then to Amiri Baraka. He abandoned his white wife and children, founded the now-defunct Black Arts Repertory Theater, and was credited with starting the Black Arts Movement which jump-started the careers of such noteworthy authors as Nikki Giovanni, Eldridge Cleaver, and Gil-Scott Heron.

His volatile personality got him in trouble in 1979 when he assaulted his second wife, poet Amina Baraka. He was sentenced to 48 weekends in a halfway house and used that time to pen his autobiography, The Autobiography of LeRoi Jones (1984).

In 2002, he was named New Jersey Poet Laureate, a title that he held incident-free for just one month. When Baraka published Somebody Blew Up America, a furious poem about the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, with some strong anti-Semitic accusations, the governor of New Jersey demanded he resign his poet laureate post. Baraka refused so a year later the New Jersey legislature passed a law dissolving the position altogether.

Among the authors who recognized Mr. Baraka's influential, brilliant, provocative writings were Maya Angelou, Norman Mailer, and Allen Ginsberg who became a lifelong friend when they exchanged a brief correspondence written on toilet paper. He was the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1989, he won the Langston Hughes Award.

Mr. Baraka, who suffered from diabetes, was 79.

Performance Network: The Mountaintop Opens April 25

The Mountaintop, by Katori Hall, runs April 25 - June 2 at Performance Network in Ann Arbor. As the play opens, the date is April 3, 1968, the night before the assassination of Martin Luther King. A maid in the motel where he is staying shows up dripping wet on his doorstep and they share a powerful conversation. This is the Michigan premiere of a play that enjoyed a run on Broadway. Ticket information is available on the Performance Network website.

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