Maya Angelou is eighty today.

Today is the eightieth birthday of Maya Angelou. It is also the fortieth anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King. Ms. Angelou and Dr. King were close friends, and for years she refused to celebrate her birthday.

After a turbulent and traumatic childhood, Ms Angelou went on to develop an extraordinary career as a poet, singer, memoirist, actress and civil rights leader. Her most well-known work, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was nominated for a National Book Award. She was the first poet since Robert Frost to recite a poem at a presidential inauguration: “On the Pulse of Morning” at the first Clinton inauguration. Despite the critical acclaim she received, she tried to remain close to ordinary women, becoming Oprah Winfrey’s mentor and even appearing on her show several times.

The assassination of Dr. King is especially being covered this year on cable channels. CNN had a special documentary about it last night, and the History Channel is also having a special Sunday night.

New African-American Teen Lit & Author visit!

In anticipation of local Ann Arbor, teen author, Cassandra Carter's upcoming appearance at AADL (TUESDAY, MARCH 18 | 7:00-8:00 PM | MC ) be sure to read her latest book, Fast Life. When her single mother is offered a job in the Caribbean away from her Chicago neighborhood where drugs, gang violence, and fast money rule, sixteen-year-old Kyra finally realizes that there is more to life than Gucci, Prada and "ghetto-fabulous bling." Read the book to find out what happens to Kyra... If you're looking for some complicated romance than check out Stacie & Cole by Johnson, R.M.: Cole, who is feeling abandoned by his father and tired of being harassed by his friends for being a virgin, is ready to take his relationship with his girlfriend Stacie to the next level, but Stacie is not sure that she is ready.

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance [AUDIOBOOK-CD]

Dreams from My Father by "Barack Obama", is one of the best audiobook memoirs about race and exploration of one's identity and family history I have ever listened to. Obama's father (Barack Obama Sr.) was black from Kenya and his mother (Stanley Ann Dunham) was white from Kansas. His descriptions of the struggle to figure out who he is and who his relatives are, are compelling. The whole scenario regarding racial concerns is very informative; it exposes the world to this reality and at the same time teaches us to be more considerate. I really enjoyed listening to such a wonderful Audio Biography of a smart, well-intentioned and accomplished man; as well as, the interesting Memoirs of his past, present and future life in the great land of freedom and opportunities--USA.

Bethel AME Church

Bethel AME imageBethel AME image

This month Bethel AME Church of Ann Arbor celebrates 150 years as a congregation. That’s pretty amazing when you consider there were few black folks in Ann Arbor at the time. Check out this vintage photo of Bethel AME’s Sunday school class circa 1930. There’s also a beautiful pictorial book, Soul Sanctuary depicting African American worship around the country. Go Bethel! It’s your birthday!

Waking With Enemies by Eric Jerome Dickey

Waking With Enemies is the ideal sequel to Sleeping With Strangers. Eric Jerome Dickey effortlessly picks up right where Sleeping With Strangers left off--something that sequels rarely do. The sequel answers many questions that were left unanswered in Sleeping With Strangers. EJD provides many unique twists and turns throughout this story. In this fast paced drama, nothing is what it appears to be so it is important to pay attention to all of the little details. Note: in order to fully understand Waking With Enemies you should read Sleeping With Strangers first.

If you don’t know, now you know

Check out Tyrell by Coe Booth, the winner of the 2007 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young Adult Fiction. Fifteen-year-old Tyrell lives in a South Bronx homeless shelter with his mother and seven-year-old brother Troy. His mother refuses to find a job, his father is in jail, and his little brother is smart as a whip but stuck in special education classes so his mother can continue to collect Social Security checks. He wants to stay faithful to Novisha but how can he with Jasmine knocking on his door? Tyrell needs to make money to appease his mother, make sure his brother gets the education he deserves, stay faithful to Novisha, and help Jasmine realize her potential. And he wants to do it all without hustling. I can't put this book down! I hope there will be a sequel.

Already read it? What did you think? How unique to the Bronx is Tyrell’s situation?

African Lit 101

Interested in African literature (that is, novels by people from Africa about people in Africa)? The following should get you started:

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (Nigeria)
Xala by Ousmane Sembène (Senegal)
A Grain of Wheat by Ngugi wa Thiong'o (Kenya)
The House of Hunger by Dambudzo Marechera (Zimbabwe/Rhodesia)
Butterfly Burning by Yvonne Vera (Zimbabwe)
A Sleepwalking Land by Mia Couto (Mozambique)
The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born by Ayi Kwei Armah (Ghana)
The Famished Road by Ben Okri (Nigeria)

Meet Patricia Smith, Poet and author of Teahouse of the Almighty!

Meet journalist, poet and author, Patricia Smith at the Neutral Zone, Tuesday, April 3 @ 7:00 PM. Patricia is a four-time national poetry slam champion and was featured in the film Slamnation. She is the author of four poetry collections - including Teahouse of the Almighty. The evening will kick-off with some local slam poets - a great evening for sure!

Officer Clayton Collins

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The Ann Arbor Police Department's first African American police officer, Clayton James Collins, died February 8, 2007. Officer Collins served from 1950 - 1955 and then worked in several departments at the University of Michigan. His obituary appeared in the Ann Arbor News, March 14, 2007. To learn more about the AAPD, visit the Ann Arbor Police Department Online History Exhibit.

Embracing Eatonville at UMMA Off/Site

EMbracing EatonvilleEMbracing Eatonville

There is still time to visit the photography exhibition Embracing Eatonville at the University of Michigan Musuem of Art Off/Site (through March 18th).

Located in Orange County, Florida, Eatonville was the first incorporated African-American community in the nation. Today, it is perhaps best known for its annual showcase of arts, literature and culture that celebrates native daughter Zora Neale Hurston.

The current exhibition "celebrates the spirit and character of Eatonville through the work of contemporary photographers Dawoud Bey, Lonnie Graham, Carrie Mae Weems, and Deborah Willis, each of whom have created a new body of work for this exhibition as they explore the importance of place to individual and collective identity".

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