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Book Reviews

‘The Book of Obsidian: A Manual for the 21st Century Black American Gentleman’

The 450-page reader focuses on Black dating and male and female relationships, a subject that has been a large focus for his weekly podcasts over the past four years. He believes the situation between Black men and women is dire.

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Book of Obsidian/Amazon

Based on everything he puts to paper, the prolific novelist and essayist Ishmael Reed has been called a writing pugilist. Social media personality and DJ Mumia Obsidian Ali can be viewed in that same light. Ali is a fighter for the everyday Black man in his radio shows and on his YouTube platform.

The 52-year-old Philadelphia native is one of the most influential voices online as one of the co-founders of Black Manosphere, the African American section on YouTube, which deals with helping uplift Black men. The Black Manosphere has content creators who deal with self-improvement, popular culture, family development, hip-hop culture, history and mating and dating.

The first manifesto of the Black Manosphere is Ali’s recently released book, the ‘Book of Obsidian: A Manual for the 21st Century Black American Gentleman.’

The 450-page reader focuses on Black dating and male and female relationships, a subject that has been a large focus for his weekly podcasts over the past four years. He believes the situation between Black men and women is dire.

“Successful Black men and women just can’t get along, especially when you consider that when Black Americans were under the heel of Jim Crow itself, more were married then whites,” writes Ali.

Ali’s book is comprised of new essays and others written for the Negromanosphere, an online web publication started by Oshay Duke Jackson, another founder of the Black Manosphere.

Like Ali’s witty and combative talking style on the microphone, in his writing Ali paints a complicated picture of how Black relationships are marred by the old paradigm of the negative Black male image.

This image dates back to the 1980s and 1990s when Black men were portrayed in the media and in song as irresponsible, in prison, on drugs, unemployed or unambitious. This has led to many Black women asking, “where are the Black men at?” One of the first things he does in the book is to dispel this myth.

“Not only do more Black men attend and graduate from college today,” writes Ali. “There are actually more of them doing so than at any other point in American history.”

He writes that the negative perception of Black men makes Black women feel they do not have suitable mates when this is far from the truth.  More than 52% of Black men have never been married and are childless. Of those that are married, 85% have Black wives and that Black men are more likely to be married then Black women.

The book has two parts. The ‘Macro’ takes a newspaper story or contemporary look at dating topics with Ali’s commentary on the issues and news article. The book then takes a ‘Micro’ examination of issues in which Ali deals with mating and dating.

At times the book drags on as it’s probably 100 pages too long, but you get the point that Ali has a lot to say and get off his chest. So much so, he has stated, the ‘Book of Obsidian,’ will be the first in a trilogy of books.

Ali’s ‘Book of Obsidian’ will give you an overview on how we got to where we are and where things are going to go. He said there needs to be re-examination of how Black men and women relate to each other as we move on with the rest of the 21st century.

The Book of Obsidian can be purchased online at Amazon, Barnesandnoble.comBooksamillion.comBookbaby.com and various other online and book stores across the country.

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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Book Reviews

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.

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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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