Travels & Rambles

Me and My Daddy See the Sights of the Delta

I’m blogging from Itta Bena, Mississippi where I will address the Mississippi Philological Association. I had a few hours before giving the keynote, so my father and I went on a quick tour of the surrounding areas. Here’s a quick recap.
Our first stop was the storefront where Emmet Till was said to have whistled at a white woman, leading to his brutal murder. (That’s the photo here on the right.) As you can see, the place is falling apart now. There’s a rumour that the owners of the property are seeking to sell it for a cool million bucks. While I am all in favor of turning the spot into a shrine or a place of remembrance, I REFUSE to help make that family into millionaires.
The next stop, a mere 10 minutes away, was the grave of Robert Johnson, the great blues musician. The marker was decorated with whiskey bottles, beer cans, and a harmonica– fitting tributes. There are two other church yards that also claim to house Robert Johnson’s remains, but this one is on a major thoroughfare.
After that, we went to Tallahatchie Flats, a vacation destination about an stone’s throw from Johnson’s grave. The idea is that fans of Johnson can rent out an old shack and live like a sharecropping blues man. ($50 a night. You have to check out the website.)
I can’t imagine that they had to hire historians to find the meager housing. Afterall, there are many Mississipians living in such houses, for real.. not just for play-play. For kicks, here is a quote from the website:

Could Robert Johnson have actually died in one of them(the rental shacks)? His grave, in the cemetery at Little Zion Church is less than a mileaway and current knowledge is that he succumbed in one of the small houses nearby.

Our final destination was Ruleville, Mississippi– the home of the late great Fannie Lou Hamer. (There will be a HUGE celebration on March 1-March 3.) I was struck by the lack of splendor at her grave site. She has a nice enough headstone, but there was no monument that would give anyone a true understanding of her significance to women’s history, to African American history, to AMERICAN history.
Well, my reading is in about an hour. I need to breathe. Here’s the photo album of our trip!

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Linky Dink

  • I asked “What Are You Wearing?” and Carleen says, “It’s All About the Jammies.”
  • The National Book Critics Circle nominations are up. Am I the only that has African American writers seem to have gone out of style? And Ed raised a whole gang of other issues.
  • And lookie here, NPR has done a feature on black folks doing graphic novels. They must have overheard me wondering.
  • To quote Eddie Murphy in Dreamgirls, “Fake Your Way To the Top Altar.” Here’s the story behind My Invisible Husband by Shelia M. Goss.
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    I am slamming to meet a couple of deadlines, so forgive me for not providing much new content this week. Here are some interesting links that you may want to check out.
    The NAACP Image Award Nominees are announced. Natasha Trethewey and Pearl Cleage, two writers we love– both on the page and in life– are nominated. (On a related note: Jack and Jill Politics is too through with the NAACP.)
    Last week, I went to lunch with Ladylee. She blogged it. Not once. But twice. That girl cracks me up.
    Charlie Rose interviews Toni Morrison.

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    Laurel K. Hamilton sends a message to her unhappy fans. “If you’re unhappy with my books, and have decided you never want to read another thing that I write; great. I mean that. Life is too short to read books you don’t like, so if you’re not having a good time, stop doing it. I’m sure there are other books out there that will make you happier than mine. “ (via Gwenda)
    New Year, New Book, New Name. How far would you go for a fresh start?
    Al Young prepares for the year ahead. “My brother Richard used to test his proposed resolutions for the coming year right after Halloween. “The ones I can see aren’t going to work out,” he said, “I get rid of those.”
    Are you a madmanperson, architect, carpenter or judge? Some thoughts on writing.
    A twenty-something Pisces from Osaka, Japan has written five novels in 14 months– all on her cell phone. She’s sold a million copies so far– to other people’s cell phones! (thx champ)

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    A Star is Born! (UPDATED)

    You never know who you know. I went to see “Dreamgirls” with my good friend, Phillip Alexander. I knew Phillip was a great singer and performer, but I had no idea that he had personal experience with “Dreamgirls.” About ten years ago, he played CiCi in an off-off Broadway show! He let me use this cool picture from his scrapbook– Effie and the Girls. You have to read his blog entry, if only to see the high-top fade cast photo! While you’re over there, check out some of the songs on his new album. And if you are on myspace, add him as a friend.
    I’ve got a copy of Phillip Alexander’s debut CD, “LOVE YOU GOOD.” Tell me your favorite “Dreamgirls” moment and why. The best story wins the CD!

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    And I Am Telling You: Go See “Dreamgirls”

    On Christmas Day, I went to see “Dreamgirls.” I am a big fan of the orginal play– I even saw it once with Jennifer Holliday and once with an understudy wo truly put her foot in it. Further, as a black woman of a certain age, you know that I saw many a young girl belt out “And I am Telling You” and “I Am Changing” at highschool talent shows. In short, I am the ideal audience for this movie.
    I did enjoy it. Let me start by saying that.

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    For those of us not ashamed to show our age. Here’s Jennifer Holliday, who played Effie in the Broadway production. Listen to her sing “And I Am Telling You,” at the 1982 Tony Awards.

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    I’ve Been Elfed!

    Hee hee. This is FUNNY.

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    Holidays Freaking You Out?

    Here are some fun stress relievers/time killers:
    Make-a-Flake: Indulge your inner child and make some “paper” snowflakes on line.
    Have You Known Me Lately: A short story I wrote a few years back. I was asked to write a holiday story for an anthology. I wrote it. It was rejected. Not warm and/or fuzzy enough, I guess.
    Fa la la la la: These are lyrics to popular holiday song. The overly anxious among us can brush up before heading the the holiday party. All the songs are here, from the really secular (The Grinch Song) to the sacred (O Holy Night)
    Ornamental: Lovely photos of Christmas ornaments covertly snapped at Crate and Barrel.
    Sippy-sip: Holiday Drink Recipes
    Krismas Njema Na Heri Za Mwaka Mpya: Say Merry Christmas in 350 languages.

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    Red Velvet Cake!

    Well, it’s a tradition here on the blog to post the recipe for Red Velvet Cake to ring in the holiday season. Before I list the ingredients, let me relay to you a little anecdote.
    I heard a fairly well known transplanted southern writer speak about her anxiety about preparing a red velvet cake for her South Carolinian husband. This was back in their courting days. She says she had never heard of red-velvet cake and queried his mama who reluctantly sent the recipe to her Midwestern daughter-in-law-to-be. The short version is that the woman could not bear to feed her beloved anything that called for so much artificial coloring. Instead she just put in a couple-three drops and now their family has “pink velvet cake” instead. Hurrah for the “New South.”
    The recipe attached is my mama’s recipe and it calls for 1 1/3 ounces of food color. That’s about a bottle and a half. To make the cake taste right (let alone LOOK right), you’re going to have to use the coloring. If you remove that much liquid from your cake it’s going to be dry. And it’s going to look stupid. If you’re afraid of red food color, make another cake. Email me and I’ll send you a recipe for pound cake or something.

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