The Meaning of Mariah Carey: A Review (2/20/2022)

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” -Jeremiah 29:11

Whether we realize it or not, the plans and callings on our lives are often revealed to us in our youth. For some, its revelations occur with a vibrant appearance so that it’s noticeably apparent. For others, it’s revealed subtly over time between glimmers and glimpses of moments associated with events and pivotal people. 

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Reclaiming the Black Past Book Review (2020)

Reclaiming the Black Past: The Use and Misuse of African American History in the Twenty-First Century by Pero Gaglo Dagbovie is an exciting read that focuses on and analyzes the usage of Black and African American history in the genre of comedy and media portrayals, political platforms as well as highlighting the importance of or lack of need of Black History Month. Throughout five chapters, Dagbovie weaves the conversation in and around each area of focus effortlessly. His discussion, current and contemporary commentary and accounts give the stories and experiences more dimension.


Throughout the book, the theme of how African American history is relevant or utilized in society is prevalent. With each character and figure he discusses in the book, he showcases a similar pattern of each tapping into the African American and Black historical past and applying it uniquely. Many of the black historical past characterizations are grouped by “perseverance, resistance, and survival in the midst of mind-boggling oppression.”[1] However, some of the written, oral, or theatrically expressed depictions did not always live up to these categorical ideas. In chapter one, “None of Our Hands are Entirely Clean,” Dagbovie begins the discussion by talking about the ways that former U.S. President Barack Obama influenced and didn’t influence African American and Black History.

While reading the chapter, there were several striking elements that, at first glance and having lived through the experience, the reader may not have been actively aware of what was occurring throughout his presidency. It can be easily noted that his most significant contribution to the historical conversation was his historic win and inauguration as the actual first African American president of the United States. But it was the platform and political stance that he maintained while in office and post office that many historians and activists often disagreed and debated with. Two of the most contentious aspects that happened while he was in office were the decline in the experience for African Americans and the “resurgence in anti-black thought and behavior in American culture.” [2] The culminating thought that Dagbovie addresses within this section were that Obama realized the position he had and knew that he had to yield to the ideologies and comfortability of his white supporters and constituents. Many historians and analysts decried that he had neglected the community and African American history by watering down his conversations and stances on significant issues. But it stands to note that Obama shouldn’t have had to neglect his political positioning to accurately represent his cultural heritage and experiences that were often compared to another historical black first predecessor, Booker T. Washington.

Yet it is this tension that is often associated with being a proponent for heritage celebration, specifically for African Americans, that stands as some of the reasons why Black History’s celebration and informative nature has been debated. Dagbovie analyzes that thought in chapter 2, “Honoring the Gift of Black Folk.” Throughout the section, he channels the challenges, disagreements, and support that various African American figures have with the celebration or deletion of Black History Month. Giving credit to that historian Carter G. Woodson, who established one of the first references of national commemoration for African Americans with Negro History Week in 1924, the ideas surrounding the celebration of accomplishments, historical references, and other significant observances took various evolving traits over the years.

But despite what one generation would celebrate as Black History Month, which was established fifty years after the adoption of Negro History Week or the twenty-first-century ideology of Black Future Month, many argued that its relevance is not necessary today. And adding fuel to the fire, celebrities such as Morgan Freeman and Stacey Dash have perpetuated the debate on whether such celebration is fair or if more celebration such as a yearlong observance is more appropriate. Regardless of the person’s stance about the necessity for Black History, the overall presentation of black history, in both media and written works, has impacted the conversation.

In Chapter 3, “Dramatizing the Black Past,” Dagbovie does an incredible job of featuring facts and discussion on the historical media and Hollywood portrayals of the black history narrative. Whether controversial or informative, media portrayals of black history have often driven the conversation for younger and older audiences. One thing that has been misused in the media portrayals includes the preference of showcasing slavery and other viewpoints of black suffrage as the high points for black history. Chapters 4 and 5 of the book take on two approaches to black history by discussing how black comedians have propelled the depiction of black history and its relevance in their projects while both publicizing their views and pushing the envelope of controversy.

 In the final chapter of the book, Dagbovie concludes his theories on Reclaiming the Black Past by elevating the thoughts of political figures pardoning the errors and traumas of black history. Yet, just as it was discussed initially, black history has often taken on the form of the person telling the story or experiencing the story. Therefore, the comfort that political figures have with using the platform to take a stance on black history and undoing the wrongs toward African Americans has been a predictable stance given the importance of lack thereof for celebrating the black past. In all, Dagbovie sets the stage for both young and older generations of historians and activists to contemplate their position on the issue of celebrating black history. Whether it is via a monthly celebration or more impactful and thoughtful media content is dispersed, one sure thing is that the black past is a past that brings both debate and interest across the board.

Bibliography

Dagbovie, Pero Gaglo, 2018. Reclaiming the Black Past: The Use and Misuse of African American History in the Twenty-First Century, Maple Press.


[1] Pero Gaglo Dagbovie, Reclaiming the Black Past: The Use and Misuse of African American History in the Twenty-First Century  (U.S.: Maple Press, 2018), X

[2] Ibid, 3

Defining the Delta: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on the Lower Mississippi River Delta Chapter 1-6 Review (2020)

LOC: Mississippi Delta Geographic Region

Chapters 1-6 of Defining the Delta: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on the Lower Mississippi River Delta, edited by Dr. Janelle Collins, placed ideologies and concepts about the delta region into a unique perspective that expands beyond the traditional views of describing a place or region. Throughout the chapters, several descriptors move the author’s overall position that the delta region of the United States consists of varying elements that ultimately shape the area’s culture and natural makeup. The author even suggests that defining the delta cannot be done by one specific definition or concept.

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Big, Bold & Beautiful: Owning the Woman God Made You To Be Review (4/23/2021)

Credit: Google Play Books Digital Bookstore

It’s been shy of two weeks since gospel singer, and fashionista Kierra Sheard-Kelly released her debut authored book, Big, Bold and Beautiful: Owning the Woman God Made You to Be. I just completed the book/devotionals, and I must say that it is easy to see why it is considered the #1Best Seller in Teen & Young Adult Christian Devotionals & Prayer on Amazon. Big, Bold, and Beautiful follows the life lessons and experiences of the singer as she shares her encounters from her teen years to the present day as a newlywed.

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Closer to the Truth Than Any Fact: Memoir, Memory, and Jim Crow (2020)

Wallach, Jennifer Jensen. Closer to the Truth Than Any Fact: Memoir, Memory, and Jim Crow. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2008. 192p bibl index, ISBN 9780820337029 eBook, $13.77)

Jennifer Jenson Wallach ambitiously illustrates the varying complexities in thoughts of the Jim Crow South and its shared experiences through the lens of literary memoirists and social historians in Closer to the Truth Than Any Fact: Memoir, Memory, and Jim Crow. Wallach brings the reader along the journey of what history versus memoir means to retell one of the most racially charged eras in American history while also highlighting that fact versus memory can create unity and division in the narrative. The book’s central thesis is that despite shared proximity and commonality with southern racial and race relations heritage, Jim Crow’s experience cannot be explained or retold with one monolithic principle. This phenomenon happens regardless of historical facts or events recalled via memory.

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Honeypot: Black Southern Women Who Love Women (2020)

Johnson, E. Patrick. Honeypot: Black Southern Women Who Love Women. Durham; London: Duke University, 2019. 250p bibl index, eISBN 978-1-4780-0724-1, $15.31)


E. Patrick Johnson masterfully crafts a riveting autobiographical and narrative account of southern black women and their sexuality in one of his latest book’s Honeypot: Black Southern Women Who Love Women. As the Dean of the School of Communication and Annenberg University, Professor of Performance Studies and African American Studies at Northwestern University, and an extensive scholar in queer studies, Johnson’s book sports a unique approach to southern black women’s narrative and their experiences outside of one singular identity.

As with many cultural and heritage studies projects, audiences and scholars must learn to accept varying perspectives and narratives that encompass the individual and human story. Doing so allows the historical events and references to gain validity while also providing personal reflections aside from the facts or data.

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A Midwife’s Tale Book Review (2020)

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary 1785-1812. New York: Vintage Books, 1990. Pp. 1-444.

A Midwife’s Tale by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich is a significant body of literature that captures women’s experiences and lifestyles semi-collectively during the 18th century and early 19th century. Mainly written from Martha Ballard’s perspective and her experiences as a midwife and an 18th-century woman in New England, the theme of women’s rights and purpose are heavily present. Throughout the book, Ulrich provides historical and social commentary that helps validate the experience of the book’s antagonist Martha Ballard and the other characters that both shape and provide meaning and purpose to Martha’s life.


Ulrich has dedicated her historian career to women and colonial women of the 17th through 19th centuries, from Good Wives (1982) to her most recent book, A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism, 1835-1870 (2017). It is easy to see that her literary contribution to A Midwife’s Tale is fitting. In essence, she is more than qualified and capable of reimagining and capturing a part of American History that is often overlooked based on gender and relevance to American culture aside from paternalistic dominance.


What makes Martha Ballard’s experience and cast more tangible is that A Midwife’s Tale is presented in a fashion that includes the original and modernized conversations of Martha’s diary. The book also contains graphs and charts that provide a vivid picture of the topography during this period and the customs and traditions prevalent in her field, and the area’s social structure.


Credit: A Midwife’s Tale Analysis (Courtesy of YouTube)

Some of the book’s major points that support both the author and the antagonist are how Martha views her life and the value of her life in context to her role and the ideas that shape the lifestyle of a proper woman during the colonial period in America. We see this often in her journal entries, where she describes the births and deaths and how the occurrences impact her, and how she treats each case. We also witness her feelings about her family dynamic and structure.

She battles with the changes and the feeling of helplessness from the advancement and shifts in their lives. Martha provides imagery of being both prideful in her contribution to her local society and her social web, along with being vulnerable to the expectations of being a woman and the responsibility of following the role of caregiver and nurturer.

Overall, despite the period that the book is written in, the parallels of experiences and the social development of both the female and male characters presented in A Midwife’s Tale hold lessons for today’s readers. From the tragedies of the epidemics and pandemics of their time to the social structure that threatened conducive family environments, 21st-century readers can glean many practical viewpoints from enacting change and effective societal development today.

On The Laps of Gods Book Review (2020)

Robert Whitaker, On the Laps of Gods: The Red Summer of 1919 and the Struggle for Justice That Remade a Nation. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2009. Pp. 1-386.

The Elaine Massacre during the Red Summer of 1919 is considered one of the most horrific massacres in U.S. history. Furthermore, 101 years later, the details and factual accounts of all that happened that day are still contested and controversial. Historians have attempted to retell the story from what happened and how the United States was forever affected.
On the Laps of Gods: The Red Summer of 1919 and the Struggle for Justice That Remade a Nation by Robert Whitaker recounts this dark and horrific moment in American history.

Unimaginable pain and injustices were inflicted on innocent citizens, mainly African American and African American veterans, based on racism, Jim Crow, and oppressive laws. The horrifying injustices broadcasted from Hoop Spur, Arkansas, informed the community and the world that being black in rural America held severe consequences whether on or not on the right side of the land laws. Ultimately, the events before and after the Elaine Massacre shaped the Civil Rights movements of the 50s, 60s to the present.

Known as a journalist and writer, Whitaker has authored five books that delve into history, medicine, and the mind. Whitaker tells the story of the Elaine Massacre and its injustices from both historical and psychological perspectives. In essence, he provides visual and mental images of what happened while also providing an inside view of the nation’s culture at this point in history.


Credit: Arkansas Week Special Edition Epsidode on the Elaine Massacre (Courtesy of YouTube)

In support of his literary account and relation to his profession, the book features graphics, pictures, and newspaper clippings that provide context to the lives and stories of those that were gravely affected by the morally criminal events of the Elaine Massacre. Throughout the eighteen chapters plus epilogue, Whitaker details the events such as the union meeting before the massacre, the aftermath of what the massacre represented for the nation, the liberties touted by a governmental system that were not in support of aiding southern blacks to the triumphant success of the U.S. Supreme ruling.


Nevertheless, retelling the story in its rawest form validates the experience of the murdered. Also, it validates the accused and those in favor of aiding change. The subtitle details of history have taught us concerning the voiceless that Whitaker highlights and creates a dialogue. Such examples include the accused farmers that were eventually freed based on the landmark Moore vs. Dempsey court decision and the life and legacy of the hidden figure Scipio Africanus Jones, who was lost to gentrified history

Overall, Whitaker’s book is a comprehensive collection of stories about the lengths people went to protect comforts and a way of life bursting at the seams for change. The legacy of lives lost and their descendants that were forever changed from the Elaine Massacre will continue at the forefront of discussion and commemoration. Whitaker’s work and other historians and contributors present that despite obstacles, whether politically or socially, the history of the Red Summer of 1919 continues to release more hidden figures and testimonies from the shadows.