Saturday, October 31, 2015

Tomorrow is the beginning of my birth month. 2015 has been a good year. The highlight has to be my separation from Howard University back in the spring. Today I don't miss being on the campus. I'm doing new things and expanding my network. Life goes on. One can listen to the blues without being a blues singer.

The last few weeks I've been reading the work of Stanley Crouch.  Too often we tend to have an opinion about someone without doing our homework. I just finished reading ALWAYS IN PURSUIT and came across a number of statements that I plan to incorporate into future talks and presentations.

Crouch is a Ralph Ellison/Albert Murray fan. His essays are blues and jazz tinted. I like Crouch's concern and worry about the lack of civility these days. The problem is not just with our young, too many adults act their shoe size and not their age.

Here is Crouch:

"Our society has been the dark horse and it has been the Triple Crown winner. Perhaps that is how we have to see ourselves, as democratic jockeys moving in and out of the light with our mounts, winning, losing, improvising, learning, making great leaps, taking horrible falls, but always refusing to give an ear to anything less than the tragic optimism of the blues to be redefined."

I received two books in the mail this week:


Friday, October 30, 2015

Andrei Gromyko

I am outside another conversation -
A room with a window and no door.
Listening has become the chair I stand on.
Living is an island and not a peninsula.
People who love freedom seldom move their lips.

- E. Ethelbert Miller

The Best in Literature Honored at the Hurston/Wright Legacy Awards
The Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation presented the 14th annual Legacy Awards in fiction, nonfiction and poetry and celebrated its 25th anniversary on Friday, October 23rd.
Nearly 200 people, including creative writers, editors and publicists from publishing houses, professors in university literary programs, book clubs, and longtime foundation supporters, attended the ceremony at the Washington Plaza Hotel.
The results of the juried awards in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry are as follows:
Winner - Laila Lalami for The Moor's Account
Finalist - Roxane Gay for An Untamed State
Finalist - Tiphanie Yanique for Land of Love and Drowning
Nominee - Chris Abani for The Secret History of Las Vegas
Nominee - Ishmael Beah for Radiance of Tomorrow
Nominee - Nadifa Mohamed for The Orchard of Lost Souls
Winner - Elizabeth Nunez for Not for Everyday Use
Finalist - Charles M. Blow for Fire Shut Up In My Bones
Finalist - Charles E. Cobb Jr. for This Nonviolent Stuff'll Get You Killed
Nominee - Danielle Allen for Our Declaration
Nominee - Saladin Ambar for Malcolm X at Oxford Union
Nominee - Bob Herbert for Losing Our Way
Winner - Claudia Rankine for Citizen
Finalist - Geffrey Davis for Revising the Storm
Finalist - Roger Reeves for King Me
Nominee - Brian Gilmore for We Didn't Know Any Gangsters
Nominee - Gregory Pardlo for Digest
Nominee - Willie Perdomo for The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon
Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat received the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation's highest honor, the North Star Award, for a career as a novelist and essayist writing of her homeland Haiti and social justice. Since her first book, Breath, Eyes, Memory, Danticat has been hailed as a bold, lyrical voice in literature. The world-renowned artist's numerous books include Brother, I'm Dying and Krik?Krak!, both National Book Award finalists; The Farming of Bones, an American Book Award winner; and The Dew Breaker, a PEN/Faulkner Award finalist.
The Hurston/Wright Founding Members Awards for College Writers also were presented for fiction and poetry. The prize money was provided by publisher Harper Collins Amistad. The winners were Grace Jean-Pierre of the University of South Florida in fiction for Espwa, and Renia White of Cornell University for her poem Syndoche. Two fiction Honorable Mentions were presented to Sarah Daniele Dickerson of Otis College of Art and Design for The Turner Haunt and Jasmine Evans of Mills College for Blurred Lines. The College Writers Award, the foundation's first program, began in 1990.
Acclaimed poets Nikky Finney, a National Book Award winner, and Yusef Komunyakaa, a Pulitzer Prize winner, read original works in special tributes to the foundation's namesakes, Zora Neale Hurston and Richard Wright.
Surrounded by the literary community that has long supported the foundation, Marita Golden, co-founder, announced veteran journalist, Deborah Heard, former Style Editor of the Washington Post will take over leadership of the organization as of January 2016.
For more information about the foundation, each author and their award-winning books, go to
Hurston/Wright Foundation 840 First Street N.E. Third Floor
Washington, D.C.  20002   202-248-5051 
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Tuesday, October 27, 2015


Equity in Publishing: What Should Editors Be Doing? 

The U.S. publishing industry is 89% white, according to a recent Publisher’s Weeklysurvey. In light of recent conversations surrounding this lack of diversity and equity, and the Best American Poets controversy, we asked editors and other industry gatekeepers to weigh in on the urgent paradigm shift needed. Contributors include recent Pulitzer Prize-winner Gregory PardloAlexander Chee, Camille RankineAmy KingAnna deVries of Picador, Amy Hundley of Grove Atlantic, Morgan Parker of Little A, and Jeff Shotts of Graywolf Press.


The PEN Ten with Adriana E. Ramírez

Adriana Ramírez is the winner of the inaugural 2015 PEN/Fusion Emerging Writers Prize for her manuscript "Dead Boys," which takes an unflinching look at the bodies of those who have died too young: victims of a Mexican drug cartel, casualties of Colombian strife, and a tragic death in the author’s own family. Read more »


Six Poems by Lucas de Lima

tree we imagine in memory of the slave who preferred / 200 lashes instead of fulmination / live blood running down the trunk instead of latex in the thorax / in pelourinho nothing grows & a child spirit offers popcorn / sky not ablaze today but muffled / with clouds Read more »


Understanding Difference: On Translating Olga Tokarczuk

by Jennifer Croft
Following Olga Tokarczuk's win of Poland's Nike Prize, the author has become the target of death threats for comments she made highlighting Polish suppression of minority groups. Her translator weighs in on the situation. Read more »


Two Stories from Mexico and Afghanistan

We feature two short stories from the anthology Flash Fiction International"The Tiger" by Afghan writer Mohibullah Zengam and"The Extravagant Behavior of the Naked Woman" by Mexican writer Josefina Estrada. 


The Books of Jacob

by Olga Tokarczuk
Translated by Jennifer Croft
Jennifer Croft is the recipient of a 2015 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant for The Books of Jacob by critically acclaimed novelist Olga Tokarczuk, which was recently awarded Poland's most prestigious literary honor. Read more »


Interview with the Editors of Flash Fiction International

Flash fiction has become a worldwide phenomenon. Christopher Merrill, co-editor of the recent W.W. Norton anthology Flash Fiction International, speaks to his fellow editor Robert Shapard on the form and translating it. Read more »

Talking truth with poet Toi Derricotte - YouTube
3 days ago - Uploaded by hocopolitso
In this edition of HoCoPoLitSo's The Writing Life, poet Toi Derricotte speaks with poet and literary activist E ...

E- News

I wrote my "E on DC" column for December this morning.  I'll see if I can develop a morning writing routine.  Today and tomorrow I plan to stay indoors. I find going out just leads to spending money. Starting next month less lunch meetings downtown. I'm also trying to avoid the Metro as much as possible.

World Series begins this evening. I'll be cheering for KC. NBA starts tonight too. I'll try and catch as many Golden States games as possible this season.

Will try and start working on my Langston Hughes lecture this afternoon.

I'm disappointed in a couple of projects that never went anywhere.  I need to be more careful hooking up with folks who are just talk...

OK...time to cut down on the distractions.

Sunday, October 25, 2015


In the old days that came too quickly one could find Elena working in the Teaching for Change Bookstore. I remember our conversation once changed from books to music. Yesterday I finally had a chance to hear her sing. Elena was in front of the Potter's House on Columbia Road. I took this picture but I need to follow her career. Elena would be a wonderful person to invite to sing at an IPS event. Just looking ahead...

Thursday, October 22, 2015


It was quick - so we avoided the slow blues. The Cubs now head for hibernation. I hope next year they will be the Big Bear in the playoffs. The success of the Mets means the Washington Nationals are going to have to make some serious moves in the off season. Next year they will be chasing a team that made it to the World Series - not just a division champ. Are the Mets better than the Nationals?  Right now they are and next year - well we better have an ace in the bullpen and a manager with not just a cap on his head.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


I took this photograph of Dr. Kathleen Maloy right before our interview.

THE SCHOLARS: An Interview with Dr. Kathleen Maloy

I enjoyed interviewing Dr. Kathleen Maloy this morning. We talked about health equity, mental health, stem cell research, the Affordable Care Act and much more. I plan to post a link to the show by early next week.

Monday, October 19, 2015


Author Cliff Thompson was in town. We had a chance to talk and laugh at Busboys (Takoma). The only thing missing this afternoon was Paris.  I had to take Cliff's picture. I told him he reminded me of a jazz musician - dressed as cool as MJQ. CT is the author of LOVE FOR SALE: AND OTHER ESSAYS. His most recent book is a memoir - TWIN OF BLACKNESS. Both books I reviewed for the American Book Review. I highly recommend them.


A fun morning spent with my neighbor and literary scholar Meta DuEwa Jones. I like how this woman thinks and the energy she always has. I adore her mom. We took this picture for her. Jones is a faculty member in the English Department at Howard University.


Sunday, October 18, 2015


My next guest on The Scholars will be Dr. Kathleen Maloy, an activist and public health specialist.

I'll be recording the show on Wednesday morning. I look forward to talking with her about health equity.


What photography did was to give the world a way to double its own appearance.

     - Teju Cole


Saturday, October 17, 2015


Because of my friendship and love for Jane Levey I found myself on a cold Saturday morning reading a poem outside to a happy group of citizens. Today the "Worthy Ambition: LeDroit Park/Bloomingdale Heritage Trail" was launched. This is a project of Cultural Tourism DC. They are responsible for those nice educational signs around town that offer instant history lessons. I always knew where LeDroit Park was. It was were the distant dorms of Howard were located: Slowe and Carver. During my 4 years at Howard I resided in Cook Hall. Living a semester down at Slowe or Carver would have been like playing for Tampa Bay after wearing a New England uniform. The only thing attractive about the dorms in LeDroit was that they had sinks in the rooms. For years I thought the sinks were needed for the washing of hands and the entrance into the black middle class.

Say Bloomingdale and the New Yorker in me thinks only of Macy's and downtown Manhattan.
I'm thinking Bloomingdale(s) Department store - nothing else. So it was good to be part of a local DC celebration today. These are the kind of affairs where one gets to see an ANC representative and someone from the mayor's office. Today was the first time I sat on one of those outdoor platforms. I felt like I was in a small city or maybe at a county fair and had written a poem about pumpkins.

Derek McGinty was the host and it was big fun seeing him again. He kept the program moving with warm jokes. I hadn't seen him since he interviewed me back in those old radio days at WAMU - before the coming of Kojo.

The program consisted of folks responsible for the Heritage Trail:
Tim Cox
Teri Janine Quinn
Eric Fidler
Brian Footer

Frank Smith, former activist and founder of the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum also spoke. Providing music was the Howard University Gospel Choir.

I was invited to read Paul Laurence Dunbar's poem "Emancipation"   Dunbar once lived in LeDroit.

In my remarks I said the following:

"Dunbar is known for his dialect poetry and his signature poem "We Wear The Mask" but he left us so much more. We turn to his work, the way we turn to the work of Whitman; we turn to their work because it reminds us of what it means to be American. America's defining moment is not just the American Revolution, it is also the Civil War and Emancipation."


     - Paul Laurence Dunbar

Below a photo by Ethelbert of Jane Levey warming up the audience.

Friday, October 16, 2015

'Capers in DC 

If you didn't catch it a decade ago, or this summer, check out my first solo play 'Capers next Tuesday to Friday 8pm at Forum Theater in Silver Spring, MD.   It's based on the stories of DC public housing residents protesting the demolition of their neighborhood.  Check out the Facebook invite too. Featuring talkbacks with former residents.  Half of all tickets are pay-what-you-want, which is awesome.  

Meena's Dream on Tour 

I'm returning to Phoenix with my show Meena's Dream November 6th at ASU's Kerr Cultural Center.  I'll also be leading workshops with local artists and activists through the AZ Art Worker Program. If you know anyone in Phoenix, send them over!  ($10 tickets with the secret discount code DREAM)

November 17-19 I'll be at Edmonds Center for the Arts in Washington State leading workshops and performing! 
Comedy & Equity

Continuing the juggling act of the freelance artist, I began a new collaboration with the Institute for Policy Studies through this small grant from the Center for Performance and Civic Practice.  The proposal?  Interpret their research on social justice issues in the form of sketch comedy.  We are the beginning stages, and I'm excited to see where it goes.

Thank you for supporting my work as an artist.  This is a year of unfurling, and recognizing the beauty of being present.  And staying hydrated.  It's a great journey and I'm learning how to enjoy more moments.  Work doesn't always need to be hard and life is not merely struggle.  There are moments of joy.  That's pretty cool and I wish that for us all.

take care, and enjoy the sunshine or vitamin d3 (or both),

Sparking dialogue through performance.  


U.S. Publishers Pledge to Address Chinese Censorship

As the International Publishers Association announces the admission of China to its membership at a meeting at the Frankfurt Book Fair, 12 leading U.S. publishers have signed onto a PEN American Center pledge to monitor and address incidents of censorship in translations of books by foreign authors for the Chinese market.
Signed by Penguin Random HouseHachette, Macmillan, Grove Atlantic, New Directions, Archipelago Books, Beacon Press, Graywolf Press, OR Books, Other Press, Workman Publishing, and W.W. Norton, as well as the Association of American Publishers International Freedom to Publish Committee, the pledge affirms a commitment to assess whether any book for which the publisher controls Chinese publication rights includes political or historical content known to be censored in China, and to work with authors and trusted Chinese editors to minimize excisions and changes in the translation.

Featured Writers in October

Women’s free expression must be celebrated and used as a tool to further gender equality and women’s rights. Throughout October, PEN American Center is featuring the cases of three courageous and determined female writers, whose voices have been silenced through murder, imprisonment, or house arrest. Read more »

Liu Xia


October 8, 2015, marked five years that Liu Xia, the wife of imprisoned Chinese writer and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo, has been under extralegal house arrest in her Beijing apartment. It was on this date in 2010 that the Nobel Committee announced that her husband was to receive the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. Within hours, police descended on her apartment complex, cut her phone lines, and barred friends and family from entry.

Anna Politkovskaya


On October 7, 2006, journalist Anna Politkovskaya was found murdered in her apartment building in Central Moscow. She had been shot once in the shoulder, twice in the chest, and once in the head at point-blank range. There is widespread international concern and outrage that the killing was a contract killing because of Politkovskaya’s reporting on human rights abuses and corruption in Russia.

Shiva Nazar Ahari


Shiva Nazar Ahari is an Iranian journalist, blogger, and human rights activist serving a four-year prison sentence. She reported to Evin prison, notorious for torture and other prisoner abuses, on September 8, 2012, to serve her sentence on charges of “waging war against God,” “spreading propaganda against the system,” and “gathering and colluding to commit a crime against national security” for her alleged participation in political gatherings in 2009.
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I was a tad of a lad when I met Bill Thomas. It was my freshman year at Howard University. He was one of my first English teachers and played a key role in encouraging me to become a writer. Bill Thomas was a funny man and wrote a very critical article in the Washington Star about his experience at Howard. I think that's why I didn't see him anymore prior to graduation. LOL. Anyway, I ran into him at Whole Foods yesterday before my meeting at the Gelman Library (GW)

BT was eating breakfast. He still calls me "Eugene" and I suspect he knows my GPA.

Photo by Ethelbert
Today's selection -- from American Sphinx by Joseph J. Ellis. Thomas Jefferson was an intentionally inconspicuous president:

"Apart from his daily horseback rides through the woods and on the bridle paths of semirural Washington, [President Thomas] Jefferson made no public appearances whatsoever. This constituted a break with precedent, since both Washington and Adams had delivered periodic public addresses before crowds and had appeared before Congress at least once a year to deliver their annual messages. Jefferson discontinued the practice of presenting his Annual Message as a speech, claiming that a written version was more efficient. It also eliminated the spectacle of the presidential entourage parading up Capitol Hill in conspicuous imitation of European royalty, then placing the members of Congress in the position of subjects passively listening to his proclamation. Jefferson believed that a republican president should be inconspicuous. He wanted to institutionalize a self-consciously nonimperial presidency. As far as we know, the only two public speeches he delivered throughout his eight years in office were his two inaugural addresses.

"The chief business of the executive branch under Jefferson was done almost entirely in writing. Indeed, if we wish to conjure up a historically correct picture of Jefferson as president, he would not be riding or walking toward Capitol Hill for his inauguration but would be seated at his writing table about ten hours a day. He usually rose before daybreak, around five o'clock, worked at his desk alone until nine, when cabinet officers and congressmen were permitted to visit. He went riding in the early afternoon, returning in time for dinner at three-thirty. He was back at his desk between six and seven o'clock and in bed by ten. As he explained to a friend, he was 'in the habit, from considerations of health, of never going out in the evening.' Apart from the months of August and September, when the heat and humidity of Washington drove him back to his mountaintop at Monticello, he was desk-bound. In his first year as president he received 1,881 letters, not including internal correspondence from his cabinet, and sent out 677 letters of his own. This reclusive regimen made him practically invisible to the public. He even seemed determined to obliterate any traces of his written record as president, insisting that all his public correspondence be filed under one of the other executive departments 'so that I shall never add a single paper to those constituting the records of the President's office.'

"It was all of a piece. A minimalist federal government required a minimalist presidency. Political power, to fit the republican model, needed to be exercised unobtrusively, needed neither to feel nor to look like power at all. Jefferson's notoriously inadequate oratorical skills were conveniently rendered irrelevant or perhaps made into a virtuous liability. The real work of the job played right into that remarkable hand, which could craft words more deftly than any public figure of his time, and into Jefferson's preference for splendid isolation, where improvisational skills were unnecessary, control over ideas was nearly total and making public policy was essentially a textual problem.

"Indeed one might most aptly describe Jefferson's self-consciously unimperial executive style as the textual presidency. The art of making decisions was synonymous with the art of drafting and revising texts. Policy debates within the cabinet took the form of editorial exchanges about word choice and syntax. When Jefferson prepared his first Annual Message to Congress, for example, all the department heads were asked to submit memoranda suggesting items for inclusion. He composed a draft based on their written advice and then submitted that draft for their comments. He asked Madison to pay special attention to language: 'Will you give this enclosed a revisal, not only as to matter, but diction. Where strictness of grammar does not weaken expression, it should be attended to in complaisance to the purists of New England. But where by small grammatical negligences the energy of an idea is condensed, or a word stands for a sentence, I hold grammatical rigor in contempt.' ...

This extraordinary reliance on the written word had some ironic consequences. On the one hand, it allowed Jefferson to remain one of the most secluded and publicly invisible presidents in American history. On the other hand, it produced a paper trail that has made the decision-making process of his presidency more accessible and visible to historians than any other -- that is, until the installation of electronic recordings under John Kennedy and the sensational revelations produced by the White House tapes of Richard Nixon. And because Jefferson's annual messages were polished documents designed to be read for content -- and because his mastery of language was unmatched by any subsequent American president save Lincoln -- they present a remarkably cogent and peerlessly concise statement of what, in fact and not just in theory, he thought 'pure republicanism' meant."

American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson
Author: Joseph J. Ellis 
Vintage Books a division of Random House, Inc.
Copyright 1996 by Joseph J. Ellis
Pages 227-230

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