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Mothers that made us, author Anna Malaika Tubbs offers insight, perspective

THE THREE MOTHERS is an assessment of its subjects’ emotional, moral, physiological, psychological, and familial bearings. Further, it explores each subject’s aspirations and motivations, the inherent attributes that inform their existential impact as daughters, as mothers, as members of the movement; their pursuits for dignity, for commerce, for acceptance of and by black people. 

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Author and academician Anna Malaika Tubbs takes us on an extraordinary exploration of three matriarchs: Alberta King (Mother of Martin Luther King Jr), Louise Little (mother of Malcolm X), and Berdis Baldwin (mother of James Baldwin). While all of the subjects and their sons no longer live among us, their life lessons live on perpetually.
THE THREE MOTHERS (ISBN: 978-1-250-75612-1, Flatiron Books), is my personal pick for a Mother’s Day gift.
Tubbs, a student of life and learning, earned an undergraduate degree in Anthropology at Stanford University; an MA in Multidisciplinary Gender Studies at Cambridge University and will soon add a PhD in Sociology to her academic accomplishments, also from Cambridge.
The life partner of Michael Tubbs (former Stockton CA mayor now current economic advisor to Governor Gavin Newsom), and soon-to-be-mother of two, beckons us to this critically acclaimed reflection of three iconic women whose parental and personal sacrifices gave way to historical giants of untold proportion.
A portion of our conversation about THE THREE MOTHERS follows–
Sandra Varner (Talk2SV):  Was it always these three mothers that you chose to profile in the book?
Tubbs:  My relationship with these mothers, in that sense, has been relatively short. I didn’t know much about them when I started my PhD. I didn’t have them in my proposal. When I was applying for my PhD program, I was generally interested in telling black women’s stories that had been forgotten. And there were so many stories that we could have chosen.  Many (Black women’s) contributions are erased, not paid attention to, not given the credit they deserve; but I was very inspired by Margo Lee Shetterly’s HIDDEN FIGURES. I knew I wanted to be somebody who also found “hidden figures” and gave them the spotlight they deserved. When I started the PhD, I began to think of all the different layers of erasures I could address in one project.  Thoughts about the many different parts of this horrible problem of erasing stories that still persists–not giving somebody the recognition they deserve.
Assessing how many of those things could I challenge in one project? So I thought about the civil rights movement. I thought about this moment in history we’re in now, crucial to our understanding of the world that we cite over and over again, that we so often speak from the perspective of our male leaders. And we don’t really say much about others who were involved–it’s very male centered perspective. I knew I was going to do something around re-examining the civil rights movement. I also thought about roles in our society that are overlooked and not celebrated in the way I believe they should be.

Art

Broadway Success of Black Artists Revealed in ‘Footnotes’

Caseen Gaines explores the question, how long will your star stay aloft?

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Footnotes/Google Books

 You can’t see where the roar is coming from.

But you can hear it, and that’s what matters. The role was made for you, you hit every line and note, the audience loved you – and now the roar of cheers and applause is yours. 

How long does the standing ovation last? How hard do they clap? And, in her new book “Footnotes: The Black Artists Who Rewrote the Rules of the Great White Way”

Caseen Gaines explores the question, how long will your star stay aloft?

Growing up in an affluent Black neighborhood in Columbia, Tenn., Flournoy Miller had everything he could ever want – and when he was 9 years old, he wanted to be onstage. It was 1894, and his parents had taken him to see Sissieretta Jones, a famous soprano and one of the highest-paid Black entertainers of the day.

“Miller,” says Gaines, “was captivated.”

And yet, growing up, Miller knew that fame was a dangerous reach. Every Black entertainer seemed to know someone who was killed by white folks for no reason, but once Miller met Aubrey Lyles in 1903 and “the two hit it off right away,” the warning was ignored. 

Miller, in fact, was more determined than ever for fame, and the two developed a popular comedy act.

From the time he was a child, Noble Sissle loved to sing. Few things pleased him more than a chance to perform in church and, while it was expected that he would become a minister like his father, he grew more passionate about music.

When Sissle took a job in Baltimore, he met Eubie Blake, a talented pianist who grew up in a Godly house as a child and honed his talents at brothels as a teenager. They, too, became fast friends and eventual collaborators.

It’s a small world, and because they worked in the same industry, Miller and Lyles knew Sissle and Blake and there was mutual respect all around. They had kicked around the idea of working together on a show, but the idea didn’t coalesce until early 1921.

And, “with nothing but a handshake agreement..” says Gaines, “the quartet agreed to give it a shot.”

The nicest thing about “Footnotes” is this: you don’t have to be a theater-goer to enjoy it. You don’t ever have to have even seen a play. You can love this lively, sparkling book for no reason but just because.

Though it takes a while to get there and though it may not seem like it, the main subject of this book is the musical, “Shuffle Along.” Gaines seems to use this main feature as a backdrop as he wraps biographies, history, and everyday life around that century-old show to demonstrate how it came to be and why it was so important to Black culture. 

There’s racism in this tale, of course, but also determination and a sense of opulence and grandeur, at times. It can be a feel-good story, but one that hurts, too.

Shakespeare said, “The play’s the thing” and so is “Footnotes.” If you love Broadway, history, or books on culture, it’ll make you roar.

“Footnotes: The Black Artists Who Rewrote the Rules of the Great White Way” by Caseen Gaines. c.2021, Sourcebooks $26.99 / higher in Canada 448 pages

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Activism

Civil Rights Before the Loving Decision

Loving v. Virginia was a landmark civil rights case in 1967 that recognized marriage as a fundamental right guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which includes the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause.

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Not so recently in the United States, same sex marriages were illegal. In the last century, there were laws on the books that prohibited folks from different races marrying.  

Loving v. Virginia was a landmark civil rights case in 1967 that recognized marriage as a fundamental right guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which includes the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause.

In 1958, Mildred Loving, a Black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, were convicted and sentenced to a year in prison for violating the state of Virginia’s laws prohibiting their marriage.

That conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1968, ending discrimination in marriage based on race.

The Loving decision was a catalyst in 2015 to help abolish discrimination in marriage in same-sex marriages, which allowed for equality in the LGBTQ communities of all races including this author.

Before the Loving decision, Joan Steinau, a white woman, married Julius Lester, who at the time was a singer and a photographer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).  Julius later became a writer.  

Joan and Julius were divorced in 1970.

Next month, Joan’s memoir, “Loving before Loving:  A Marriage in Black and White,” will be released. In the book, she recounts her marriage to Julius Lester before the Loving decision in the midst of the civil rights era as a wife, mother, and activist. 

In an interview with the Post, she said,   “Given both the erasure and distortion of Black lives as presented in the white-led media, the existence of a robust Black press . . .has been essential to the survival and thriving of Black community.”

Quoting the Chicago Daily Defender in her memoir, she said, “When one of its reporters asked President Truman, after he said school integration might lead to intermarriage, ‘Would you want your daughter to marry a Black man if she loved him?’ The president responded with a typical segregationist attitude of the time, ‘She won’t love anybody that’s not her color.’   It was important for the Black reporter to be there, because of course he assumed the possibility that naturally she could love anyone and pointed that out with his question.”

She added,  “That’s just one example of a long history of significant advocacy and reportage by hundreds of Black newspapers over the last 150 years. The Post News Group has jumped into the gap regionally to fill this important space, and I’m grateful for it. Until we have true representation of all experiences/perspectives at major media outlets, we will continue to need media targeted to excluded groups.

“My own history with Oakland/Berkeley dates to the 1980s when I began to visit from the East Coast and plot a way to move here. In 1991, my wife and I did settle in Berkeley. We immediately joined a predominantly Black church in Oakland and began creating a friendship circle. The diverse culture here was high on our list of reasons to move from our predominantly white area in New England. And it has been everything we hoped for.”

Joan Lester dedicates this memoir to her wife, Carole.  In addition to this memoir, she is a commentator, columnist and book author.

“Loving before Loving A Marriage in Black and White” by Joan Steinau Lester is available for pre-order now and on sale on May 18 on Amazon and at local bookstores.

For more information log onto JoanLester.com.

Wikipedia was a source for this story.

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African American News & Issues

Books on Black Heroes and History Appeal to Children, Adults Alike

Authors Deborah Riley Draper and Travis Thrasher walk readers through their turbulent journey in “Olympic Pride, American Prejudice: The Untold Story of 18 African Americans Who Defied Jim Crow and Adolf Hitler to Compete in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.” Among these athletes are John Brooks, David Albritton, and Jessie Owens. These 18 African Americans, according to Draper, “challenged discrimination on the world stage…. The unprecedented effort is largely known, and their stories are largely forgotten.” 

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Little ones will love turning the pages of “The ABCs of Black History,” a book filled with lively verse and colorful faces (illustrations by Lauren Summer) in all shades of brown—just like theirs!

Author Rio Cortez also scrolls the alphabet letter by letter giving lessons in important words, words that our children need to not only hear every day but know and live: A is for the anthem; B is for beautiful, brave, bright, bold; C is for the community, church, civil rights … and more.

Layers of history will unfold like the pages of this accessible resource are turned. An education in pride is definitely offered in this one.

The history of Black people in America has been turbulent. The pain, sorrow, grief, and daily life are documented through song and poetry in a book edited by Kevin Young  called “African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song.” It is said to be the “most ambitious anthology of Black poetry ever published, gathering 250 poets from the colonial period to the present.”

Organized in eight sections, readers can explore works by Wheatley, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, James Weldon Johnson, Claude McKay, Countee Cullen, Gwendolyn B. Bennett, Georgia Douglas Johnson, and Anne Spencer. No style or poet has been ignored in this robust collection. 

Youth and adults alike will feel the soul of the history in this collection.

Despite the exclusionary practices of the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, countries worldwide, including the US, agreed to participate. That year, 16 Black men and two Black women defying the racism of both Nazi Germany and the Jim Crow South traveled to Berlin to represent America. They were dubbed “the Black auxiliary.”

Authors Deborah Riley Draper and Travis Thrasher walk readers through their turbulent journey in “Olympic Pride, American Prejudice: The Untold Story of 18 African Americans Who Defied Jim Crow and Adolf Hitler to Compete in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.” Among these athletes are John Brooks, David Albritton, and Jessie Owens. These 18 African Americans, according to Draper, “challenged discrimination on the world stage…. The unprecedented effort is largely known, and their stories are largely forgotten.” 

Explore one of the hidden gems of American history in James Otis Smith’s graphic novel “Black Heroes of the Wild West.” Throughout the colorfully illustrated pages, readers follow three Black heroes as they take control of their destinies and stand up for their communities in the Old West. 

Young readers will come face to face with the likes of Stagecoach Mary, who carried a rifle and a revolver as she met trains with mail, then drove her stagecoach over rocky, rough roads and through snow and inclement weather; law enforcement officer Bass Reeves, the first black deputy U.S. marshal west of the Mississippi River; and Texas cowboy Bob Lemmons, who said: “I grew up with the mustangs … I acted like I was a mustang … made them think I was one of them.” 

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