Connect with us

National

Noted Author John A. Williams Dead at 89

Published

on

John A Williams

By Herb Boyd
Special to the NNPA

NEW YORK (NNPA) – “Mine was a simple hunger,” John A. Williams said of his early desire to become a writer, “to know more than I then knew, and to set it down.”  That simple hunger grew ravenous over the years and Williams wrote more than 20 books, including perhaps his most popular, The Man Who Cried I Am. Williams, 89, died July 3 in Paramus, N.J. according to a notice from Syracuse University, where he attended and earned degrees in English and journalism.

If he were not as well-known as many writers of the 1960s, he nevertheless had a loyal following among the radical intellectuals then – and now – and his essays, non-fiction books about Black history, journalism, and his novels were consistently rewarding and captured the essence of the flourishing Black arts movement.

He caused quite a stir when The Man Who Cried I Am was published. To promote the book, Williams excerpted the King Alfred Plan, a fictional plot by the CIA to eliminate Black people, made copies and placed them on the seats of subways in New York City. Readers were unaware of the ruse and believed the plan to be real.

Born in Jackson, Miss., Williams joined the Navy during World War II and used the GI Bill to complete his education at Syracuse.  After a series of menial jobs, he began to seriously pursue a career as a writer, thanks to the portable typewriter given to him by his mother-in-law. “That was my life jacket,” he said.

Williams worked as public relations writer, copy editor, and hack journalism, as he called it, for numerous small publications and “girlie” magazines before landing assignments at Ebony, Jet, and, particularly Holiday magazine.  At one point, he even tried to publish his own newsletter but that floundered and he worked as a grocery clerk, in a foundry, and practically any kind of employment to take care of his family.

Much of this period of his life, in the 1940s and 1950s, is vividly recounted in a chapter he did for Men On Divorce – The Other Side of the Story.  “There had been occasions when my ‘Homies’ called me ‘The Writer,’ knifing deeply into the hunger I was only vaguely sure I had,” he wrote.

With his writing zipping along at a promising clip, his novel Night Song, about a talented musician akin to Charlie Parker, was impressive enough to earn him a Prix de Rome from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1962, but the prize was retracted following an interview with the Academy. Williams charged that they discovered he was Black and thereby rejected him. Portions of this rejection would be fictionalized in his books, most poignantly in The Man Who Cried I Am (1967).

Other early fiction was in 1960 with One for New York or The Angry Ones; three years later, he made a bigger splash with Sissie (1963).  Each book depicted protagonists in battle with the system, struggling with racism and the obstacles nullifying their humanity.

In 1963, on the strength of his novels and articles, Holiday magazine sent him across America for him to gather his impressions of where the nation was on race relations in particular. This Is My Country, Too (1965) was the result. Beyond the Angry Black (1966), a collection of essays edited by Williams gave him further recognition on the literary scene.

Several historical writers and activists are thinly disguised in The Man Who Cried I Am, specifically Malcolm X, Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  The main character is Max Reddick, whose life and activities mirrors those of the author.

Far less fictionalized but no less entertaining was Captain Blackman (1972) that basically chronicles American history and the prominent role of Blacks in the shaping of the nation.

In the 1980s, Williams added another genre to his creativity – playwright and librettist, though these attempts never really got the traction of his other pursuits.  One of his books, The Junior Bachelor Society (1976), was made into a television movie.

Nothing was spared by Williams when it came to injustice and indifference.  He targeted the publishing industry in !Click Song (1982), deftly sketching the travails of a struggling writer. This earned him he first of three American Book Awards.

His teaching career was almost as expansive as his writing, becoming a Regents’ Lecturer at the University of California, Santa Barbara, 1972; Distinguished Professor of English, LaGuardia Community College, City University of New York, 1973-78; visiting professor, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Summer 1974, Boston University, 1978-79, and New York University, 1986-87. Professor of English, 1979-90, Paul Robeson Professor of English, 1990-94, and since 1994 professor emeritus, Rutgers University, Newark, N.J. Bard Center Fellow, Bard College, 1994-95. Member of the Editorial Board, Audience, Boston, 1970-72; contributing editor, American Journal, New York, 1972.

He was busy looking for a job and did not attend his graduation ceremony from Syracuse, but he was there when they presented him with an honorary doctorate. Williams retired in 1994 as the Paul Robeson Distinguished Professor of English at Rutgers University.

He is survived by his wife, Lorrain; sons Gregory, Dennis, and Adam; four grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. And his sons have expressed that same hunger he had behind that portable typewriter.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Bay Area

Cautious Parents Weigh Decision to Give Children Under 5 COVID Vaccine

“There is definitely still a need for vaccinations for the whole population,” said Dr. Lucia Abascal, a physician and researcher at CDPH. “There is this idea that Omicron is milder, but if we look at children’s data in this age group, we can actually see that hospitalizations peaked as well as deaths. We have more and more evidence that kids are at an acute risk of COVID.”

Published

on

Visit Vaccinate All 58 to learn more about the safe and effective vaccines available for all children in California ages 6 months and older.
Visit Vaccinate All 58 to learn more about the safe and effective vaccines available for all children in California ages 6 months and older.

By Edward Henderson, California Black Media

Antonio and Tenaja Kizzie, a San Diego area couple, are parents of a 3-year-old daughter. Although both parents are vaccinated and boosted, the Kizzies have reservations about giving their toddler the COVID-19 vaccine the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended last week for children younger than 5 years old.

“It’s one thing to feel like her body is still developing and growing. She’s been vaccinated for everything else for things that have been around for years. It’s a little scary thinking about something that’s new. We don’t want to jump in right now,” Tenaja told California Black Media. “We just want to wait a little bit and see the side effects for other kids in her age group and reassess from there.”

Her husband chimed in.

“We believe in the science, we believe vaccines work, but when it comes to the under-fives, just being a parent we’re a bit more hesitant to give her the vaccine so far. We’re waiting to see how it goes with other under 5 kids that get the vaccine. Even though science and logic say yes, as a new parent you’re extra cautious,” Antonio said.

The Kizzies are not alone.

Numbers the CDC released at the end of May indicate that hesitancy about vaccinating their children is high among parents across the country. Although the U.S. Food and Drug administration approved COVID vaccines for children between the ages of 5 and 11 last October, only about 30% of kids in that age range have received the shot.

“For those families that are hesitant and questioning, I try to understand what their fears and questions are. I try to remind them that we are in this together. I care about the health and wellbeing of their children, and I will always suggest the best possible course for them,” said Dr. Jennifer Miller, a pediatrician with East Bay Pediatrics, a medical practice with offices in Berkeley and Orinda.

Miller was speaking during a medical panel co-hosted by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and Ethnic Media Services (EMS). The discussion was held to offer information about vaccinating children 6 months to 4 years old against COVID-19 to parents, caregivers and the media.

“I let them know that ultimately it is their decision to make, and I am here as a resource,” Miller added. “It is normal to be afraid of the unknown and to want to protect your child. With that in mind, vaccination is the best protection around.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of COVID-19 vaccines made by Moderna, Pfizer and BioNTech earlier this month. The agency’s approval came on the heels of news that COVID-19 is now the fifth leading cause of death in children 1-4 years old and the fourth leading cause of death for children younger than 1.

“These are sobering statistics for all of us,” said Sandy Close, EMS director and moderator of the news briefing. “Vaccination is an important tool to protect their long-term health against COVID-19 and helps achieve full family protection against this deadly virus.”

Panelists said it is a myth that COVID does not affect children. The CDC reports that 1 in 5 hospitalized children end up in the ICU. And during the Omicron surge, children were hospitalized five times more than in the Delta surge.

“There is definitely still a need for vaccinations for the whole population,” said Dr. Lucia Abascal, a physician and researcher at CDPH. “There is this idea that Omicron is milder, but if we look at children’s data in this age group, we can actually see that hospitalizations peaked as well as deaths. We have more and more evidence that kids are at an acute risk of COVID.”

Abascal detailed the steps of the vaccine approval process at the state and federal levels. An independent expert panel reviewed the data that Moderna and Pfizer provided and unanimously voted that the FDA approve the vaccine. The CDC was the final step of approval for the vaccine at the federal level.

Before California recommends any COVID vaccine, it is reviewed by The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, a commission comprising medical professionals and scientists convened by Washington, Oregon, Nevada and California.

Children 3 years old and above will be eligible to receive vaccines at pharmacies. However, children under 3 will need to get vaccinated at a pediatrician’s office or a community clinic.

California has purchased enough vaccinations for every child in the state. The first shipment of 500,000 doses will arrive next week. About 2.2 million children are eligible for vaccination in California.

The Moderna vaccine is a two-dose regimen like the adult shot, with a one-month wait between doses. The Pfizer vaccine requires three doses. The first dose is followed by the second 21 days later and the final dose comes 60 days after that.

Authorities familiar with the vaccine trials say the side effects of minor fever and pain at the injection site may be stronger for children who receive the Moderna shot.

Dr. Sarah Takekawa, an obstetrician-gynecologist, who is currently raising three children under age 5, was also a panelist.

Takekawa spoke to some of the concerns pregnant women may have. She said she was fully vaccinated before conceiving her third child. She received her booster while pregnant.

“I have seen firsthand what COVID-19 infection can do to otherwise extremely healthy young women during their pregnancies. Watching adults who are otherwise healthy succumb to the disease, it seems easy to us to make this decision about wanting to get vaccinated and encouraging other parents to have their children vaccinated.

Visit Vaccinate All 58 to learn more about the safe and effective vaccines available for all children in California ages 6 months and older.

Continue Reading

Black History

Ketanji Brown Jackson Sworn In as Newest Supreme Court Justice

Replacing Breyer, Brown Jackson made history as the first African American woman to serve on the highest court in the U.S. and will assume duties immediately, but her formal investiture will occur in the fall.

Published

on

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson made history as the first African American woman to serve on the highest court in the U.S.
Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson made history as the first African American woman to serve on the highest court in the U.S.

On Thursday June 30, 2022, Ketanji Brown Jackson, 51, was sworn in by one of her mentors, Justice Steven Breyer, while her husband, Dr. Patrick Jackson, held both the family Bible and one donated to the Supreme Court in 1906. Replacing Breyer, Brown Jackson made history as the first African American woman to serve on the highest court in the U.S. and will assume duties immediately, but her formal investiture will occur in the fall.

Continue Reading

Activism

California Senate Gets Second Chance to Pass Prison Slavery Bill This Week

“One of the preliminary recommendations in our report was to support ACA 3,” said Los Angeles attorney Kamilah V. Moore, chairperson of Task Force. “The Task Force saw how that type of legislation aligns perfectly with the idea of reparations for African Americans.”

Published

on

Samuel Nathaniel Brown, at a Reparations Rally on June 12 at the state capitol in Sacramento, helped author ACA 3 while he was in prison. He was released in December 2021 after serving a 24-year sentence. (CBM photo by Antonio R. Harvey).
Samuel Nathaniel Brown, at a Reparations Rally on June 12 at the state capitol in Sacramento, helped author ACA 3 while he was in prison. He was released in December 2021 after serving a 24-year sentence. (CBM photo by Antonio R. Harvey).

By Antonio Ray Harvey, California Black Media

On June 23, the California Senate rejected a constitutional amendment to remove language in the state Constitution that allows involuntary servitude as punishment to a crime with a 21-6 vote.

The 13th Amendment of the United States Constitution, ratified in 1865, prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude with one exception: if involuntary servitude was imposed as punishment for a crime.

The state of California is one of nine states in the country that permits involuntary servitude as a criminal punishment.

Article I, section 6, of the California Constitution, describes the same prohibitions on slavery and involuntary servitude and the same exception for involuntary servitude as punishment for crime.

The number of votes cast in favor of Assembly Constitutional Amendment (ACA) 3, the California Abolition Act, fell short of the two-thirds vote requirement needed to move the bill to the ballot for Californians to decide its fate in the November General Election.

The Senate is expected to hold another floor vote on the legislation this week.

Sen. Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles), who authored ACA 3 in 2021 while serving in the Assembly, said she focused the language in the bill on the slavery ban and vowed to bring it back for a vote when Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, asked her about it June 23.

“The CA State Senate just reaffirmed its commitment to keeping slavery and involuntary servitude in the state’s constitution,” Kamlager tweeted.

Jamilia Land, a member of the Anti-Violence Safety, and Accountability Project (ASAP), an organization that advocates for prisoners’ rights, said she remains committed to making sure slavery is struck out of the California constitution.

“All we needed was 26 votes,” Land said. “But we have made amendments to ACA 3 on (June 24). Now it could either go back to the Senate on (June 27) or Thursday, June 30.”

Five Republicans and one Democrat, Steve Glazer (D-Orinda), voted against the amendment.

He stated that the issue is “certainly a question worthy of debate” and “can be addressed without a constitutional amendment.”

“Slavery was an evil that will forever be a stain on the history of our great country. We eliminated it through the Civil War and the adoption of the 13th Amendment,” Glazer said in a June 23 statement. “Involuntary servitude — though lesser known — also had a shameful past. ACA 3 is not even about involuntary servitude — at least of the kind that was practiced 150 years ago. The question this measure raises is whether or not California should require felons in state or local jails prisons to work.”

Glazer said that the Legislative Counsel’s office gave him a “simple amendment” that involuntary servitude would “not include any rehabilitative activity required of an incarcerated person,” including education, vocational training, or behavioral or substance abuse counseling.

The Counsel also suggested that the amendment does not include any work tasks required of an incarcerated person that “generally benefit the residents of the facility in which the person is incarcerated, such as cooking, cleaning, grounds keeping, and laundry.”

“Let’s adopt that amendment and then get back to work on the difficult challenge of making sure our prisons are run humanely, efficiently and in a way that leads to the rehabilitation of as many felons as possible,” Glazer added.

Kamlager says “involuntary servitude is a euphemism for forced labor” and the language should be stricken from the constitution.

The state’s Department of Finance (DOF) estimated that the amendment would burden California taxpayers with $1.5 billion annually in wages to prisoners, DOF analyst Aaron Edwards told Senate the Appropriations Committee on June 16.

“These are facts that we think would ultimately determine the outcome of future litigation and court decisions,” Edwards said. “The largest potential impact is to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which currently employs around 65,000 incarcerated persons to support central prison operations such as cooking, cleaning, and laundry services.”

Right before the Juneteenth holiday weekend, the appropriations committee sent ACA 3 to the Senate floor with a 5-0 majority vote after Kamlager refuted Edwards’ financial data.

This country has been having “economic discussions for hundreds of years around slavery, involuntary servitude, and indentured servants” and enslavement still exists in the prison system, Kamlager said. She also added that a conflict was fought over the moral issue of slavery.

“This bill does not talk about economics. It’s a constitutional amendment,” Kamlager said. “The (DOF) is not talking about any of this in this grotesque analysis about why it makes more sense for the state of California to advocate for and allow involuntary servitude in prisons. I think (this conversation) is what led to the Civil War.”

Three states have voted to abolish slavery and involuntary servitude — Colorado, Utah, and Nebraska — and in all three cases, the initiative was bipartisan and placed on the ballot by a unanimous vote of legislators, according to Max Parthas, the co-director of the Abolish Slavery National Network (ASNN).

ACA 3 is already attached to a report that addresses the harms of slavery. The Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans issued its interim report to the California Legislature on June 1.

The report included a set of preliminary recommendations for policies that the California Legislature could adopt to remedy those harms, including its support for ACA 3. It examines the ongoing and compounding harms experienced by African Americans as a result of slavery and its lingering effects on American society today.

“One of the preliminary recommendations in our report was to support ACA 3,” said Los Angeles attorney Kamilah V. Moore, chairperson of Task Force. “The Task Force saw how that type of legislation aligns perfectly with the idea of reparations for African Americans.”

Continue Reading

Subscribe to receive news and updates from the Oakland Post

* indicates required

CHECK OUT THE LATEST ISSUE OF THE OAKLAND POST

ADVERTISEMENT

WORK FROM HOME

Home-based business with potential monthly income of $10K+ per month. A proven training system and website provided to maximize business effectiveness. Perfect job to earn side and primary income. Contact Lynne for more details: Lynne4npusa@gmail.com 800-334-0540

Facebook

Trending