Thursday, October 31, 2013

Childhood Halloween Haiku

Collecting pennies/
“Trick or Treat for UNICEF”/
Orange box of help.

One of my earliest memories of Halloween was collecting money for international relief--I remember my teacher reminding us that there were children just like us in other parts of the world who were starving. My mother, as well, told us that children in Bangladesh and Biafra needed our help. Have a safe Halloween.

All best,



Monday, October 28, 2013

Literary Reading of "Sweeps," from Skyline Worlds: Collected Stories

On Halloween, I will be participating in a literary reading to celebrate the publication of the new speculative fiction anthology, Skyline Worlds: Collected Stories, published by Osma Press. This collection features original works by two of my colleagues on the English Faculty at Essex County College, Sean O’Connell and Billy Tooma (who also served as editor of the collection), as well as a short story by me, titled "Sweeps."

This is my first time reading fiction to an audience that includes my students, so I am very excited about it. The event will take place at 3:50 pm in Siegler Hall on the 2nd floor of the Main Building at 303 University Avenue. It is free and open to the public.

My story, "Sweeps," is set in New York City in the 19th century, and focuses on the lives of young black chimney sweepers who are "swept" into a chilling adventure that threatens the future of African Americans in the years just after the end of the Civil War. I will be reading selected passages from the story. We will be doing a free raffle for a book giveaway, we'll have Halloween treats and 3 lucky winners will also receive ... 

All best,


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

State of Black Writers Symposium at Essex County College on Thursday, October 24: Free & Open to the Public

On Thursday, October 24, Essex County College’s Africana Institute in partnership with ECC’s Division of Humanities, and the Frances E.W. Harper Literary Society at the Newark Public Library will host the Fifth Annual State of Black Writers Symposium.

The 2013 State of Black Writers symposium, "Activism in the 21st Century," will examine “activism” as a continuing paradigm in the lives and writings of people of African descent. Writers from all academic disciplines, as well as those outside of academia, have been invited to participate in this day-long symposium as we consider the state of activism in the African diaspora. Dr. Akil Kokayi Khalfani, Director of the Africana Institute, will open the conference, and  the joint keynote address will be delivered by civil rights activists Claudette Colvin and Angeline Butler, respectively. Below are links to more information on these living legends of civil rights activism.

I will also being moderating a panel (at 11:30), titled "The Red Record to "The Root": Black Media Activism from Print Culture to Social Networking." Shelagh Patterson (professor at Montclair University), Cyrille Phipps (independent filmmaker and media professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Essex County College), and Imani Henry (activist, writer, performer) will be the panelists--each sharing their work and experiences as activists utilizing a variety of social media to disseminate information, communicate with the public, and to inspire others to action.

The entire schedule is listed in the image above--the panel discussions run from 9:30 am - 6:30 pm, and culminate in a special screening of Long Distance Revolutionary: A Journey with Mumia Abu-Jamal, which begins at 6:45 pm.
The symposium is free and open to the public, and will convene in Smith Hall of the Main Campus (303 University Avenue) in the heart of Newark's University Heights. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Disney Movie You May NOT Have Seen!

My favorite Disney film remains the glorious Pinocchio, released in 1940.  However, in 1946, Walt Disney Studios released a short educational film "through the courtesy of Kotex Products," titled The Story of Menstruation. The film features typical Disney animation, along with a straightforward sex education lesson on the workings of the female reproductive system.

Among other sage bits of advice, the narrator suggests that you (the young girl) "...try not to throw yourself off schedule by getting overtired, emotionally upset, or catching cold." The narrator also reassures young girls that not only is it all right to bathe, but it is preferable. Also, girls are encouraged to exercise during their cycle--the animation of a young girl in equestrian garb furiously rocking back and forth on a trotting pony is bizarre, to say the least.

Girls are admonished, "Don't Dramatize Yourself," and are informed that there may be a bit of "pressure" or an occasional "twinge" or "nerves" during this time of the month. However, "...once you stop feeling sorry for'll find it easier to keep smiling and even-tempered."

Towards the end, girls are scolded about slouching--one way to ensure that your body functions correctly is to practice good posture and to avoid constipation. It is rather unusual to hear the words "rectum," "vagina," "uterus," and "bladder" in a Disney production, but this film, which runs a little less than 10 minutes, was apparently shown in classrooms until the 1960s.

The film closes with the happy young girl fulfilling her (1940s-style) gender-assigned role of growing up, becoming a bride and then having a baby of her own. Copulation is not mentioned. Ah...Disney! Enjoy!



Saturday, October 19, 2013

Celebrate the National Day on Writing: Sunday, October 20

Sunday, October 20 marks The National Day on Writing, established by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). According to the NCTE website (click here):

The National Day on Writing
  • points to the importance of writing instruction and practice at every grade level, for every student and in every subject area from preschool through university,
  • emphasizes the lifelong process of learning to write and composing for different audiences, purposes, and occasions, and 
  • encourages Americans to write and enjoy and learn from the writing of others. 
 As an instructor of writing, I encourage you to think about the importance of writing (and reading, of course!) as you go about your activities on this beautiful autumn Sunday.