When you’re an author, it is always a great feeling to know something you’ve written touched a reader in a positive way.
This 5-star review of my novel Schooling Carmen was posted recently on Amazon.com and I thought I’d share it with my blog readers:
Thank you, Sabrina, for sharing your reaction. All reviews by readers are appreciated (even the critical ones).
If any of my friends/fam/readers have been on the fence about reading Carmen’s story, I hope you’ll come on over to the purchasing side… 🙂
Also, if you’ve already read either of my books, please consider sharing your review. I will post new ones here in the future.
PEace and AbundanCE to you and yours in the coming year!
Today is my birthday. And Tupac’s Too.
Another June 16th human being I really love is John Howard Griffin.
6/16/20 – 9/9/80
I hope you already know all about this man, but if not, he was a White anti-racist who grew up in the South and wanted to do something to reach the hearts and minds of White Americans, most of whom were in denial about the conditions under which Black people lived.
Griffin conducted an experiment in 1959 that included shaving his head, darkening his skin with lamps and pharmaceuticals and living as a Black man in the deep south.
Though he endured for several weeks, he ended up cutting the experiment short, as he found that being a Black man was too difficult for him to maintain for long. He wrote a book about his experiences that made him a celebrity and (to some) a villain.
“Nothing can describe the withering horror of this. You feel lost, sick at heart before such unmasked hatred, not so much because it threatens you as because it shows humans in such an inhuman light. You see a kind of insanity, something so obscene the very obscenity of it (rather than its threat) terrifies you. It was so new I could not take my eyes from the man’s face. I felt like saying: “What in God’s name are you doing to yourself?”
“Suddenly I had had enough. Suddenly I could stomach no more of this degradation- not of myself but of all men who were black like me.”
“When all the talk, all the propaganda has been cut away, the criterion is nothing but the color of skin. My experience proved that. They judged me by no quality. My skin was dark.”
Mr. Griffin knew when he conducted his experiment he would forever be putting himself at odds with those in America who didn’t want the ugliest realities of racism to be exposed and so vividly expressed by someone White. After his book “Black Like Me” was published in 1961 he and his family received continual death threats. They left their Texas home and eventually moved to Mexico.
“John Howard Griffin was one of the most remarkable people I have ever encountered…He was just one of those guys that comes along once or twice in a century and lifts the hearts of the rest of us.” -Studs Terkel
Here is an excellent article about Griffin’s life, his experiment and his writings: JimCrowMuseum <<–Highly suggested reading!
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“It seems to me that our country is involved in a kind of mass insanity where you can abuse the gift of sight in order to use it to discriminate against somebody.”
♥ HIM !
Jean Rankin was a wife and mother of thirteen children living in a modest home overlooking the Ohio river in what was the “free state” of Ohio. Through her window she could see a clear and gorgeous view of Kentucky, where thousands of enslaved African Americans lived under the cruel system of American chattel slavery.
For forty years, leading up to the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, Jean and her husband John opened their home to offer food, lodging and directions further north to nearly 2000 fugitive slaves seeking freedom.
As a mother, and as an American woman who descended from enslaved Africans, I am awed and humbled by this family. When I think about putting my own freedom and my own children’s lives at risk to serve others, it is a frightening, daunting idea.
While researching this subject of whtie anti-racists in American history, I am finding hundreds of stories of courageous and inspiring people like the Rankins who have been left out of mainstream hero worship. I hope you will agree that it is time to remedy that omission. These are amazing American heroes our children should know about.
Know Good White People: Wrestling the term ‘White Pride’ Out of the Hands of the Klan is an homage to anti-racist white Americans whose lives embodied the ideals of “freedom and justice for all” that our forefathers prescribed at the birth of this nation. Why have they been excluded from our national memory? What has their absence done to our collective psyche in terms of race relations?
The idea for this project came, in part, from an article I read about a young girl named Lisa McClelland who tried to start a “Caucasian Club” at her high school. Long story short—for her own safety, she eventually had to change schools.
Prior to her exile to another campus, the 15-year-old insisted her proposed club would be “a positive organization dedicated to honoring diversity” and a place to learn more about what it means to be white.
Amid the firestorm of controversy Lisa sparked, a KKK representative welcomed her to join their group, and the local NAACP spokesman slammed her idea, calling it racist in name, if not intent. He said,
“When we use the word ‘white’ or ‘Caucasian,’ it has always been associated with racial bigotry. Using that term opens up old wounds…”
What message is sent to young people with the omission of white anti-racist heroes from our national history? White Americans will not (should not?) bother themselves with issues of racial justice?
I have been incredibly excited to share this week’s Powerful Beauty guest contributor. Kathleen Cross is the author of two Harper Collins novels, Skin Deep and Schooling Carmen. She has been a guest on numerous radio and television shows, including Oprah, Montel and Dr. Phil. In addition to being an acclaimed author, Kathleen has her own website KathleenCross.com. –Jami at Bionic-Beauty.com
There is incredible power in being loved unconditionally.
Love allows us to see ourselves as the beautiful creatures we are, and if we are open to the lesson, it will teach us what we are truly made of.
I learned that from my former fiancé Todd Barr, who knew that at forty-something I had plenty of internal and external flaws, and chose to focus instead on what he found beautiful in me:
In His Eyes
I am sweet marrow
wrapped in angel’s flesh
strength’s elucidation of grace
Stillness in motion
Heaven and earth alloyed
I am the only goddess
and he comes undone when I dance
I am alto now, soprano then
aria in rhythmic breaths
lyric in silence
soloist and symphony abreast
I am the matchless voice
and he lip syncs as I chant
I am sapphire
I speak watercolors
in my lover’s eyes
I penned those words after Todd informed me during an argument,
“Don’t tell me not to put you on a pedestal. It’s my pedestal. I put you up there, and there’s nothing you can do or say to remove yourself, so just shine.”
The trouble with that kind of admiration is what can happen to you and your self-esteem if the admiration is suddenly withdrawn.
Todd taught me that too when he drowned in the ocean trying to save a friend caught in a riptide.
I was beyond devastated by the loss of my best friend, and, lost in the dark fog of mourning I arrived at the irrational conclusion that the only way something so terrible could happen to me is that I deserved it.
I deserved it.
That one ugly thought burrowed itself deep, obliterating my self-esteem and leaving me unable to feel beautiful or worthy of love for many months to come. I retreated to a deep dark cave where I was sure my ugly self belonged, and I stayed there much too long.
A mohawked skater-dude in line with me at the bank has no idea he helped to nudge me out of my cave. Written on his t-shirt were the words, “Welcome to Earth, where ugly things happen to beautiful people.” I found a powerfully beautiful message in it for me.
We come to Earth beautiful. Beauty, like love, is our birthright. We don’t have to do anything to deserve it any more than we can do something to deserve those experiences we interpret as “ugly.” Earth is our pedestal and it is our birthright to shine here. Todd already knew what it took me a while to learn.
I am beautiful, because I am.
Kathleen’s words are absolutely incredible and emotionally moving. I received her contribution by email, read it, and it literally stunned me. I hope all the Bionic Beauties out there love it just as much as I do. ~Jami
Sherrod Britton and Shabaka Addae Guillory
Georgia Peace Education Program Director, Tim Franzen, shares the story of Shabaka Addae Guillory, a 20-year-old who joined the Crips at age 14, and Sherrod Britton, a 29-year-old Blood member. According to Franzen, the two became best friends during an impromptu freestyle rap session at Occupy Atlanta.
“I saw him in the park, saw his colors,” Guillory told Franzen. “There was no mean mug or rivalry because we realized that what’s happening here is so much bigger then gang rivalry.”
Sherrod said he felt a deep connection to the message and process of Occupy Atlanta.” I stayed for the common cause, speaking for the people. I feel strongly that we have the right to jobs, health care, and affordable higher education.”
Franzen, who called the new friendship “one of the beautiful byproducts of this new movement…” says it is one of the “transformative experiences that has arisen as a result of so many different people from different walks of life occupying a space together for a common cause.”
The desire among gang members to fight for social justice may seem antithetical to outside observers, but the story of these two “thugs” perfectly reflects the spoken word message “The OG” voices to “The CEO” in the poem Dignity, a piece that is performed from the point of view of a gang member in a scene in my novel Skin Deep:
DIGNITY (The OG Addresses The CEO)
If I had my dignity
I would not yell street obscenities
to assert my dominion
in my streets
or paint my name in block letters
to remind you
this is my block
If I had my dignity
I would not sell anything
I could not sell without lies
or steal anything I could not buy
If I had my dignity
I would not feel the need
to threaten you physically
or challenge your right to survive
If I had my dignity
But you conspired to remove it from me
I knew even then
there was something
not quite white
about the color of my skin
And G.I. Joe and Ken?
they knew too
and they screamed it loud and clear
so all the little brothas in my neighborhood
if you try hard
you could be somebody
you could pump gas
or bag groceries
Hell, if you try REAL hard
you could even become president
you convinced me to measure my VALUE
by my material things.
And when I came up short,
my E N T R E P R E N U R I A L S P I R I T
My first BMW was black
as black as I could get
to affirm that I had bought into
the huge social lie
that you ARE what you HAVE
And when I step back and ponder
(yeah, I said ponder, it means THINK LONG)
I find similarities in our occupations
Me behind my nine
You behind your nine to five
and I wonder if you yell street obscenities
to assert your dominion
on Wall Street
or if you paint your name in block letters on your high-rise
to remind me
this is your high-rise
and I wonder if in Central America
you have sold anything
you could not sell without lies
or if in Africa
you have stolen anything
you could not buy
and facing me here eye-to-eye
I wonder if you feel the need to threaten me physically
or challenge my right to survive
…and now I realize…
if you had your dignity
you would not have taken mine
©1999 Kathleen Cross
From the novel Skin Deep by Kathleen Cross