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At 88, Toni Morrison Personifies the Strength of Black Womanhood

NNPA NEWSWIRE — With each masterful stroke of her pen, typewriter or (later) her computer keyboard, Legendary author, Toni Morrison keeps readers of her works and listeners of her words spellbound. “We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives,” she once said.

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By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Black Girl Magic, Black Girls Rock, and other slogans have surfaced in recent years to describe the power, resilience and steadiness of the Black woman. But, 88 years ago, a legend was born who would eventually embody the spirit and definition of strength of Black womanhood: Toni Morrison.

“Being, a black woman writer is not a shallow place but a rich place to write from. It doesn’t limit my imagination; it expands it,” Morrison famously said.

With each masterful stroke of her pen, typewriter or (later) her computer keyboard, Morrison kept readers of her works and listeners of her words spellbound. “We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives,” she once said.

This week, this month and likely throughout Women’s History Month in March, Morrison will undoubtedly be talked about. Her words will flood social media and other platforms, and somewhere a young Black girl will be inspired.

Born Chloe Ardelia Wofford in Lorain, Ohio, on February 18, 1931, Morrison earned a B.A. in English from Howard University in 1953 and a Master of Arts from Cornell University in 1955.

She later taught at Howard for seven years.

In 1958, while she was teaching at Howard, she married Harold Morrison, a Jamaican architect and the couple had two sons before they divorced in 1964.

In 1988, Morrison won the American Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her novel, Beloved, which was later adapted for a film starring Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover.

Her first novel was The Bluest Eye in 1970. Other celebrated novels include Sula, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, Jazz, Paradise, and God Help the Child.

The first Black woman to ever be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and a Grammy Award, Morrison’s list of accolades are nearly endless.

Some of those awards include:

  • 1977: National Book Critics Circle Award for Song of Solomon
  • 1977: American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award
  • 1987–88: Robert F. Kennedy Book Award
  • 1988: Helmerich Award
  • 1988: American Book Award for Beloved
  • 1988: Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in Race Relations for Beloved
  • 1988: Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for Beloved
  • 1988: Frederic G. Melcher Book Award for Beloved.
  • 1989: MLA Commonwealth Award in Literature
  • 1989: Honorary Doctor of Letters at Harvard University
  • 1993: Nobel Prize for Literature
  • 1993: Commander of the Arts and Letters, Paris
  • 1994: Condorcet Medal, Paris
  • 1994: Rhegium Julii Prize for Literature
  • 1996: Jefferson Lecture
  • 1996: National Book Foundation’s Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American Letters
  • 2000: National Humanities Medal
  • 2002: 100 Greatest African Americans, list by Molefi Kete Asante
  • 2005: Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Oxford University
  • 2008: New Jersey Hall of Fame inductee
  • 2009: Norman Mailer Prize, Lifetime Achievement
  • 2010: Officier de la Légion d’Honneur
  • 2011: Library of Congress Creative Achievement Award for Fiction
  • 2011: Honorary Doctor of Letters at Rutgers University Graduation Commencement
  • 2011: Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Geneva
  • 2012: Presidential Medal of Freedom
  • 2013: The Nichols-Chancellor’s Medal awarded by Vanderbilt University
  • 2014 Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award given by the National Book Critics Circle
  • 2016 PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction
  • 2016 The Charles Eliot Norton Professorship in Poetry (The Norton Lectures), Harvard University
  • 2016 The Edward MacDowell Medal, awarded by The MacDowell Colony

“At the wisdom-age of 88, the creative courage and genius of Sister Leader Toni Morrison continues to awaken the consciousness of millions of people in America and throughout the world,” said National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.

“Morrison personifies what it means to be a long-distance freedom-fighting author. The NNPA salutes and wishes Toni Morrison a happy birthday,” Chavis said.

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Bay Area

Dream Fund: Entrepreneurs Can Apply for $10,000 Grants Through $35M State Program

Although a number of reports suggest that the outlook has begun to be more positive as the U.S. economy continues to bounce back defying the odds, and many Black businessowners have also become more optimistic, access to credit and technical support remain a challenge for many who had to dip into their own finances to keep their lights on.

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Everett Sands, CEO Lendistry. Lendistry photo. 
Everett Sands, CEO Lendistry. Lendistry photo. 

By Tanu Henry, California Black Media

Since 2017, there has been a 9.8% increase of new small businesses — firms with less than 500 employees — in the United States. Over the past two years alone, over 10 million applications were submitted to start new small businesses across the country, according to the Small Business Administration.

That growth trend is true for California, too, where there are about 4.1 million small businesses, the most in the country. Those companies make up 99.8% of all business in California and employ about 7.2 million people.

But for Black-owned and other minority owned small businesses across the country, there was a steep decline in numbers, almost 41%, due to the pandemic, a Census Population Survey found in 2020. During that same time, nearly 44% of minority-owned small businesses were at risk of shutting down, a Small Business Majority report found.

Although a number of reports suggest that the outlook has begun to be more positive as the U.S. economy continues to bounce back defying the odds, and many Black businessowners have also become more optimistic, access to credit and technical support remain a challenge for many who had to dip into their own finances to keep their lights on.

Recognizing the outsized contribution small businesses make to the health of the California economy and the hit many of the smallest of small business have taken during the pandemic, the California Office of the Small Business Advocate (CalOSBA) has been making grants of up to $25,000 to small business in the state.

In its latest round of funding called the Dream Fund, which is now accepting applications on a rolling basis, CalOSBA has partnered with Lendistry, a Los Angeles-based, minority-led small business and commercial real estate lender to administer the $35 million grant portion of its program. The fund provides $10,000 to each small business that qualifies.

To become eligible, California-based small business owners will have to complete training at one of the centers run by the state’s Technical Assistance Expansion Program (TAEP) and receive a certificate.

“For the millions of Californians that have dreams of owning their own business, this grant coupled with one-on-one counseling and business expertise from hundreds of counselors at our eighty-seven Technical Assistance Centers, has the power to jumpstart their dreams,” says Tara Lynn Gray, director of CalOSBA.

Jay King, president and CEO of the Sacramento-based California Black Chamber of Commerce, says he applauds Gov. Gavin Newsom for understanding the historic systemic challenges minority businesses face and for “doing something about it.”

But giving Black businesses grants are not a “cure-all,” he says.

“It is like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound if we don’t do more to really fix the problems small businesses face,” King explains. “Ninety-six percent of Black businesses are mini- or micro- that means they make less than $100,000 or less than $35,000 a year, respectively,” King continued. “Only 4% of our businesses earn more than $100,000 annually. We have to put more resources and technical support around these businesses.”

King says informing Black business owners about opportunities like the Dream Fund and making sure they know how to apply for or access the funding is critical to making sure the people who need the help gets it.

“You have to get down into our communities,” he said. “You have to reach people through groups that are plugged into our communities to get the word out. We do not hear about these kinds of programs enough. We definitely don’t benefit from them enough.”

Everett K. Sands, the CEO of Lendistry, says he is excited to help California’s new businesses access the capital they need to “begin on their journeys.

“Over the past two years, almost 10 million new businesses have been created in the U.S.,” he says. “With record numbers of new small businesses entering the marketplace, many of which are owned by women and minorities, programs like California Dream Fund pave the way for a more robust and equitable economy as these new businesses make the leap from employing just their founders to employing their communities.”

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Activism

COMMENTARY: Pay Attention — Roe v. Wade and the Far Right’s Extreme Plans

For the most part, the judges who are letting states eliminate access to abortion are the same judges letting states limit voters’ access to the ballot box. They’re the same judges who restrict the government’s ability to regulate harmful corporate behavior. Many of them are the same judges who tried to deny millions of Americans access to health care provided by the Affordable Care Act. 

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Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way and Professor of the Practice at the University of Pennsylvania.

By Ben Jealous

Things are about to get worse for millions of vulnerable people in our country.

It looks like the far right-wing majority on the U.S. Supreme Court is getting ready to reverse Roe v. Wade, the nearly 50-year-old ruling that recognized a pregnant person’s right to have an abortion. Abortion is legal today, but pretty soon that will no longer be the case in most of the country.

A leaked draft of a Supreme Court ruling expected to be released in June indicates that the Court will rule that there is no constitutional protection for abortion. Bans will go into effect in many states immediately, and others will follow soon. That will leave millions of women and LGBTQ people — and their spouses and partners — less free and less in control of their own health, lives, and families.

Like many laws and policy decisions handed down from on high, the harm will fall hardest on those with the fewest resources and political power — people of color and low-income people. It is hard to take.

How did this happen?

In the long term, it happened because opponents on the right to choose spent decades building a movement to make it happen. They invested time and money to elect like-minded politicians. They pushed Republican presidents to fill federal courts with judges who were willing, if not eager, to restrict or ban legal access to abortion. They made it a top priority when deciding whether and how to vote.

In the short term, it happened because Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election. To energize the Republican Party’s ideological base, Trump promised them judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade. They took the deal Trump offered. They turned out to vote. And with help from Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, Trump gave them kind of judges they wanted.

And now that they have the power to impose their will, Americans’ freedom will shrink and American families will suffer.

In fact, many are already suffering. Anti-choice activists have harassed and sometimes killed abortion providers. Judges have been letting state legislators pile on more and more restrictions on abortion care. As a result, in some states, the right to abortion care may exist in theory, but in reality, it is virtually nonexistent, because clinics and providers have disappeared.

There are hard times and hard decisions ahead.

There are also lessons to be learned and acted on.

One important lesson is that the Supreme Court has a big impact on our lives, even though most of us don’t think about it in the day to day. We should all pay more attention.

We should pay attention when the far right tells us what they plan to do with their political power. They have been loud and clear about their intent to overturn Roe v. Wade.

But many Americans refused to believe that the threat to Roe v. Wade was real. They just could not imagine a 21st century America in which women and doctors are treated like criminals for seeking or providing abortion care.

We no longer need to imagine that kind of scenario. We’re about to live it.

And that’s why we also have to pay attention to the consequences of our voting behavior.

For the most part, the judges who are letting states eliminate access to abortion are the same judges letting states limit voters’ access to the ballot box. They’re the same judges who restrict the government’s ability to regulate harmful corporate behavior. Many of them are the same judges who tried to deny millions of Americans access to health care provided by the Affordable Care Act.

The Supreme Court justices and other federal judges who are put in place by the president and U.S. Senate have jobs for life. That means we are stuck with Trump’s judges for many years to come. And that means we all need to think long and hard about who we vote for — and about ever passing up the opportunity to vote.

Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way and Professor of the Practice at the University of Pennsylvania. A New York Times best-selling author, his next book “Never Forget Our People Were Always Free” will be published by Harper Collins in December 2022.

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Bay Area

Bishop Bob Jackson Celebrates 38 Years at Acts Full

On May 5, Rev. W.R., “Smokie” Norful Jr. preached the sermon. Norful is an American gospel singer and pianist, best known for his 2002 album, “I Need You Now” and “Nothing Without You,” which won a Grammy at the 47th Annual Grammy Awards for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album in 2004.

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Bishop Bob Jackson, First Lady Barbara Jackson, Rev. Smokie Norful, Gospel recording artist, and Cathy D. Adams, president and CEO of the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce.
Bishop Bob Jackson, First Lady Barbara Jackson, Rev. Smokie Norful, Gospel recording artist, and Cathy D. Adams, president and CEO of the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce.

From May 4-6, 2022, hundreds of well-wishers came to celebrate with the senior pastor of Acts-Full Gospel Church of God in Christ, Bishop Robert (Bob) L. Jackson, as he marked 38 years of service. On May 5, Rev. W.R., “Smokie” Norful Jr. preached the sermon. Norful is an American gospel singer and pianist, best known for his 2002 album, “I Need You Now” and “Nothing Without You,” which won a Grammy at the 47th Annual Grammy Awards for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album in 2004. Norful received his second Grammy in 2015 at the 57th Annual Grammy awards for his song “No Greater Love,” 10 years after winning his first.

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