Wednesday, January 30, 2008

First Lady Shirley Chisholm Targets the White House

Long before the presidential aspirations of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Carol Moseley Braun, Alan Keyes, Barack Obama, and others, there was Shirley Chisholm.

Shirley St. Hill Chisholm, (1924-2005), was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1968.

She was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1924.  Shirley was the first African American woman elected to Congress, and the first black to wage a serious campaign for the 1972 Democratic nomination for president.

Chisholm retired from Congress in 1982.

Listen to Congresswoman Chisholm’s historic 2 minute announcement for her candidacy for President of the United States, recorded 36 years ago, in 1972, outside of the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C.

What remarkable parallels can you hear between Chisholm’s diplomatic words and so many similar voices of the candidates of today?

Chisholm is truly a black history pioneer in American politics.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 01/30 at 07:00 PM
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Monday, January 21, 2008

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Saluted with Selma the Musical

In 2008, we’ll mark the 40th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jr.

In June of 1972, inspired by the life of Dr. King, Tommy Butler began a 9-month effort to write Selma, the musical.

After opening in a small theater in Los Angeles in 1976, Selma was brought to the attention of comedian Redd Foxx, who thought the production would be perfect for the 1976 bi-centennial celebration.

Selma the musical, who’s title comes from the famous march between Selma and Montgomery, Alabama, chronicles the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as well as other civil rights activists of the era.

Watch the story of Selma, the musical tribute to Martin Luther King Jr, produced by for Black History Month 2008.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 01/21 at 01:02 AM
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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Oprah Winfrey to Create her OWN Television Channel with Discovery Networks

Oprah Winfrey and Discovery Communications have announced plans to create OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network.

OWN will debut in 2009 in more than 70 million homes on what is currently the Discovery Health Channel.

Oprah is pictured with David Zaslav, President and CEO of Discovery Communications, who stated at a January,15, 2008 press conference: “At Discovery, our goals are to improve the quality of the networks while expanding the reach and success of our web presence. This venture does both, and having Oprah as Chairman and creative leader makes OWN a very unique property in a crowded media landscape."

OWN’s mission is to create multiple platforms for women, men and their families with a purpose and a passion: to celebrate life, to inspire and entertain, empowering viewers around the world to live their best lives, and by doing so, lift the lives of those around them in ever-widening circles.

In addition to providing her talent, and personal commitment, Winfrey will have full editorial control over the joint venture and will be responsible for OWN’s programming, branding and creative vision.

Winfrey will serve as Chairman of The Oprah Winfrey Network, LLC and the venture will be 50/50 owned by Discovery and her production company, Harpo. The Oprah Winfrey Network, LLC will be an independent company.

Announced on Martin Luther King Jr.’s (real) birthday, January 15th, 2008, this is another historic move for Ms. Winfrey.

I’m glad to see Oprah has taken the lead to provide more programming alternatives to established cable TV channels.  We know who they are: BET, TV One, and others.

However, OWN will probably be broad in scope, appealing to that mass audience Oprah knows how to attract just like a magnet.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 01/15 at 07:00 PM
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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Richard Wright’s 2008 Centennial

2008 is the centennial of the birth of author Richard Wright.

Richard Nathaniel Wright, (1908-1960), was born on September 4, in Adams County, Mississippi.  Wright was the first African American author to gain a large mainstream audience.

He accomplished this by writing honestly about black inner city life.  Wright spent his early years on a sharecropper farm in Natchez, Mississippi.  His family moved from Natchez to Memphis, Tennessee, then to Jackson, Mississippi.

As an eight grader in 1923, he wrote The Voodoo of Hell’s Half Acre, a short story that was published in Jackson’s Southern Register (a weekly newspaper targeted towards blacks).

After High School graduation, Wright returned to Memphis for a couple of years.  While in the South, Southern Editor H.L. Mencken had a significant impact on Wright’s consideration of writing as a career.

Wright realized through Mencken’s literary journalism that words were an effective weapon in the social struggle for equality.

As a young man, Wright’s fascination with writing and literature led him to unsuccessfully attempt prose in the style of many authors he admired including Theodore Dreiser, Sherwood Anderson, and Sinclair Lewis.

In 1927, Wright moved to Chicago.  He got a job in the Post Office.  Postal service friends who were members of the Communist Party encouraged him to join the party too.  Artists, writers, and intellectuals of the day who sympathized with communism became affiliated with the John Reed Club (a group sponsored by the party).

Wright joined, and had his poems published in Left Front, a John Reed Club publication (1934).  In 1936, the WPA assigned him to the Federal Theater Project where he worked as a public relations writer.

Late in 1936, Wright’s short story Big Boy Leaves Home appeared in The New Caravan anthology.  A November 1936 review by The New York Times and The New Republic called his story the best in the collection.

By 1937, Wright was in his right career as a writer.  His first novel, Native Son, was published in March of 1940.  The stage adaptation of Wright’s best seller opened in 1941 at New York City’s St. James Theater.

John Houseman produced and Orson Welles directed.  The National Urban League picketed the production expressing their dissatisfaction that “Native Son” portrayed blacks in an unfavorable light.

Wright toured Brazil, Paris, and Europe in 1946.  After writing 12 Million Black Voices, Wright was kept under surveillance by the FBI.  By 1947, he decided to move to Paris.  During the 1950’s he traveled to Africa and Indonesia.  He was a Pan Africanist who refuted Africa’s arbitrary border divisions (imposed by Europeans).

Wright excelled in authoring Japanese poetry, writing over 4,000 haiku poems.  He died in Paris on November 28, 1960.

For the 2008 Wright centennial, Harper Collins Publishers has released A Father’s Law, (on sale January 8, 2008).

This unfinished and previously unpublished novel was found by Wright’s daughter Julia after his death.

A Father’s Law, and Richard Wright, are great black history month projects.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 01/09 at 01:02 AM
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