reading

What to the Slave is the 4th of July- Frederick Douglass.

In light of everything that has happened this year in regards to protests, systemic racism, 

What to the slave is the 4th of July was a text that I read while taking classes at Drexel University. I’d actually encountered it previously and skimmed it, but this time I had to read it and write a response. 

Amazed, astounded and impressed were some of my initial thoughts. I had to admit that even I hadn’t considered the long lasting impact of what Independence Day truly meant to Black people in the Americas; particularly those whose descendants were enslaved. 

Today, I am sharing excerpts of the speech. The original is very long so I just pulled certain parts but the entire speech is available in many places on the internet and you can probably find full pdfs too. 

Enjoy your day and celebrate as you see fit! I will be at home cooking on a Foreman grill and making cheesecake bars. 🎈🎈🎈

The fact is, ladies and gentlemen, the distance between this platform and the slave plantation, from which I escaped, is considerable — and the difficulties to be overcome in getting from the latter to the former, are by no means slight. That I am here to-day is, to me, a matter of astonishment as well as of gratitude. You will not, therefore, be surprised, if in what I have to say I evince no elaborate preparation, nor grace my speech with any high sounding exordium. With little experience and with less learning, I have been able to throw my thoughts hastily and imperfectly together; and trusting to your patient and generous indulgence, I will proceed to lay them before you.

This, for the purpose of this celebration, is the 4th of July. It is the birthday of your National Independence, and of your political freedom. This, to you, is what the Passover was to the emancipated people of God. It carries your minds back to the day, and to the act of your great deliverance; and to the signs, and to the wonders, associated with that act, and that day. This celebration also marks the beginning of another year of your national life; and reminds you that the Republic of America is now 76 years old. I am glad, fellow-citizens, that your nation is so young. Seventy-six years, though a good old age for a man, is but a mere speck in the life of a nation. Three score years and ten is the allotted time for individual men; but nations number their years by thousands. According to this fact, you are, even now, only in the beginning of your national career, still lingering in the period of childhood. I repeat, I am glad this is so. There is hope in the thought, and hope is much needed, under the dark clouds which lower above the horizon. The eye of the reformer is met with angry flashes, portending disastrous times; but his heart may well beat lighter at the thought that America is young, and that she is still in the impressible stage of her existence. May he not hope that high lessons of wisdom, of justice and of truth, will yet give direction to her destiny? Were the nation older, the patriot’s heart might be sadder, and the reformer’s brow heavier. Its future might be shrouded in gloom, and the hope of its prophets go out in sorrow. There is consolation in the thought that America is young. Great streams are not easily turned from channels, worn deep in the course of ages. They may sometimes rise in quiet and stately majesty, and inundate the land, refreshing and fertilizing the earth with their mysterious properties. They may also rise in wrath and fury, and bear away, on their angry waves, the accumulated wealth of years of toil and hardship. They, however, gradually flow back to the same old channel, and flow on as serenely as ever. But, while the river may not be turned aside, it may dry up, and leave nothing behind but the withered branch, and the unsightly rock, to howl in the abyss-sweeping wind, the sad tale of departed glory. As with rivers so with nations.

Fellow-citizens, I shall not presume to dwell at length on the associations that cluster about this day. The simple story of it is that, 76 years ago, the people of this country were British subjects. The style and title of your “sovereign people” (in which you now glory) was not then born. You were under the British Crown. Your fathers esteemed the English Government as the home government; and England as the fatherland. This home government, you know, although a considerable distance from your home, did, in the exercise of its parental prerogatives, impose upon its colonial children, such restraints, burdens and limitations, as, in its mature judgment, it deemed wise, right and proper.

But, your fathers, who had not adopted the fashionable idea of this day, of the infallibility of government, and the absolute character of its acts, presumed to differ from the home government in respect to the wisdom and the justice of some of those burdens and restraints. They went so far in their excitement as to pronounce the measures of government unjust, unreasonable, and oppressive, and altogether such as ought not to be quietly submitted to. I scarcely need say, fellow-citizens, that my opinion of those measures fully accords with that of your fathers. Such a declaration of agreement on my part would not be worth much to anybody. It would, certainly, prove nothing, as to what part I might have taken, had I lived during the great controversy of 1776. To say now that America was right, and England wrong, is exceedingly easy. Everybody can say it; the dastard, not less than the noble brave, can flippantly discant on the tyranny of England towards the American Colonies. It is fashionable to do so; but there was a time when to pronounce against England, and in favor of the cause of the colonies, tried men’s souls. They who did so were accounted in their day, plotters of mischief, agitators and rebels, dangerous men. To side with the right, against the wrong, with the weak against the strong, and with the oppressed against the oppressor! here lies the merit, and the one which, of all others, seems unfashionable in our day. The cause of liberty may be stabbed by the men who glory in the deeds of your fathers. But, to proceed.

But, such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. — The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, lowering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrecoverable ruin! I can to-day take up the plaintive lament of a peeled and woe-smitten people!

My subject, then fellow-citizens, is AMERICAN SLAVERY. I shall see, this day, and its popular characteristics, from the slave’s point of view. Standing, there, identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible, which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery — the great sin and shame of America! “I will not equivocate; I will not excuse;” I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slaveholder, shall not confess to be right and just.

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.

poetry, reading

Poetry Quotes

One of my latest obsessions is poetry quotes. Quotes taken from poetry, quotes by poets, or quotes just exalting the beauty of poetry. It all started when I was looking for poetry quotes to celebrate National Poetry Month last year. This year I posted poetry quotes on Instagram almost every day in April.

As I’ve shared several times here, I’ve been a lover of poetry for many years and many of those quotes have reaffirmed my love of the artform.

I found that there are so many quotes that can just encourage you to write poetry or to simply read more of it. Last month, I taught a poetry workshop where the students created work based off of quotes from famous poets including audre lorde, Maya Angelou and Sonia Sanchez. The results were amazing! That was one of the proudest moments of my teaching career! There was something so powerful in hearing the words and sentiments that the young ladies were able to create.

Part of the impact of using, sharing and understanding these quotes, has been inspiring. I’ve become motivated by so many of them that I’ve decided to print out some to decorate my office.

reading

A 2019 Goal

I know this is my first post for 2019. I apologize for being such a slacker. Happy New Year!

This year I went back to something that I hadn’t done in about three years. I set some yearly goals surrounding reading and submitting work. One of those goals is to read more on my tablet. I have a bad habit of using my phone to read(using the Kindle app) which I really became addicted to doing back when I had a Note phone. In the intervening year or so, I have only used my tablet to read while traveling. It is my major form of entertainment while sitting in the airport or on the plane. When I’m at home though, I rarely use it. Technology that I desperately wanted and used consistently for two years was just sitting there unused. Unless my nephew used it.
As a result, I decided to make sure that I use my tablet more. The larger screen is great for my eyes and the Kindle app is synched with the one on my phone. So all my books are there and the settings are the same.
One of the best things about this decision is that (I only read when I use my tablet). When I read on my phone, I can get distracted by apps or the internet but on my tablet that rarely happens. The only downsides are that my tablet battery drains quickly and notifications constantly pop up. I plan to tackle those two issues these week and continue reading.
Please share any literary resolutions on your list for 2019.
reading

Rereading an old favorite

One of my favorite reads from my teenage years is Sidney Sheldon’s The Other Side of Midnight. Yes, I spent my teenage years reading books like that along with Beloved, The Bluest Eye, anything by John Saul and Stephen King, much like today my choice of genre is all over the place I think that’s part of the allure of TOSoM. its multiple genres in one novel. You have romance, suspense, mystery, intrigue and all set during and after one of my favorite historical times WWII.

There is a grandness to the novel like an old piece of architecture or a vintage dress. It is so expansive. As I commented before it covers so many themes the scope of it is so large and wide-ranging. Even the types of characters are grand! You have an actress, government and military officials, the rich, powerful and famous. Sheldon’s writing in this book reminds me of one of the reasons that I truly love reading. TOSoM transplants the reader to other countries and and allows them to see the world as it was in the past. The novel scales different times but the people are all as interesting as the plot itself.
I lost my old copies so I bought another one from Amazon a few years ago. And this long weekend, I plan to reread it. I’ve caught up on my grading. I’m going to light a bookish candle(more on those next month) and read in bed while drinking a mug of tea.
reading

Reading as Escape(Repeatedly)

I’m on Spring Break! Officially it began for me on Thursday but I’ve been relaxing most of the week. Needless to say, the way that I’ve been relaxing is by reading.

 Reading is my number one hobby. It’s my comfort, escape, and solace. For me, there’s something relaxing about reading that can’t be beat by any of my other hobbies. No matter what format or genre, I love being in bed with a book; just slipping into the worlds these authors create. As I mentioned in a previous post, I went to the library over a week ago and picked up a stack of books. I stayed up until after 3:00 this morning reading Catherine Coulter’s Enigma and am now less than a hundred pages into Harlan Coben’s Don’t Let Go

 One of my favorite parts of being a reader is getting to experience different lives, occupations and worlds. The pages of books really do allow you to live other experiences. I think that my love of books translates to my ability to see the plot twists in movies and TV shows. I may finish this book tonight or tomorrow but then I’ll definitely be diving into the next one. I’m sure that Monday will see me picking up another stack of books as I eagerly await the delivery of pre-ordered books from Amazon.

Note:The picture above is one of my favorite reads from my latest library pick up. If you haven’t had the chance to read it, please check it out when you have time. It’s a wonderful blend of history and fiction. 

reading

Giving Up

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As I have stated many times before, I am a long-time reader. I love reading, love books, love stories. There is no way to describe the joy I feel at having a book in my hand or the fact that I have come to feel the same way about ebooks. I can still recall the struggle I put myself through trying to finish Uncle Tom’s Cabin and how I kept giving myself pep talks about not letting a book defeat me. Thank God for growth. I no longer force it; if the book doesn’t work for me, it just doesn’t.

On Monday, I stopped at my local library and picked up a new stack of books. I probably picked up at least eight books but I’m sure it was easily ten. I finished one book and started another one and stalled.  I picked up another one and that one was quickly put down as well as I chose to start reading a title by J.D. Robb. I haven’t finished that one either because I chose to start rereading one of my favorite titles by another author.

I have no doubt that by the time these books are due in another week and a half that I will have read the bulk of them. But what I won’t do is keep trying to force myself to finish books that don’t hold my attention. There are too many great books out there for that!

poetry, reading

Buying New Poetry

One of my big life goals is to create a significant poetry section on my bookshelves. As a lover of poetry, I was shocked when I recently realized that the only poetry books on my shelves are those that were required from various classes; if you don’t count the William Wordsworth volume that I managed to snag from a used bookstore. My winter reading list features several poetry volumes but I have made little inroads on that. However, I did make a recent poetry purchase. It was Black Girl Magic by Mahogany L. Browne. I love it so much that I want to purchase another copy to donate to my local library.

Although it’s technically only one poem, it is really amazingly powerful and I strongly suggest reading it.

I’m going to share a small list of books that I plan to get in the next four months or so. I’m hoping that because I plan to buy these from Amazon that it will make them start recommending more books for me. A few of these are books from a few of my favorite poets and some come highly recommended.

milk and honey -rupi kaur

Don’t Call Us Dead-Danez Smith

The Essential Rumi-Rumi

Night Sky with Exit Wounds-Ocean Vuong

This Is My Beloved- Walter Benton

I’ve Been a Woman: New and Selected Poems- Sonia Sanchez

The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni: 1968-1998- Nikki Giovanni

The Complete Poetry- Maya Angelou

Electric Arches- Eve Ewing

(and I must have) The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010

 

Please feel free to share any recommendation for poetry books. I am serious about growing my collection and reading more poetry.

 

reading

Snowed In…

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Yesterday a snowstorm hit part of the East Coast and surprise of all surprises, my part of North Carolina got quite a bit. As someone who grew up in snow, I am excited about it but also staying in the house. The semester doesn’t begin for me until Monday so I’ve been relaxing. I spent the day watching the Kingsman movies and sleeping off what I hope are the last bits of a nasty cold. Tonight, I plan to finish reading Michael Connelly’s The Late Show and watching the newest episode of Chicago Fire.

I also hope to get some writing done tomorrow on one of the new pieces that I hope to finish this year. Hopefully, I will be sharing new fiction next week.

reading

New Year, Same Crap

Hi everyone! Happy New Year! I hope that you enjoyed your holidays and got the chance to overeat and relax. I took the time to be lazy and to work on a long overdue purge of clothes, old work from my past grad programs and from past semesters. 

I also started working on my winter reading list which I can already tell is going to go deep into spring because I keep adding new books. In fact, I just added Gabrielle Union’s We’re Going to Need More Wine and Ashley Farley’s Sweet Tea Tuesdays to my Kindle today. In addition to the two Michael Connelly books that I checked out of the library. 

Since we are firmly in 2018, I wanted to take a quick moment to share a few of my goals for the year.

  • I am gearing up for the new year with a commitment to building a brand for this blog and expanding it. That’s one of my major goals for 2018. I’ll be posting about that later this month.
  •  I also hope to recruit some guest bloggers or to feature more original poems from new poets. Another one of my goals for the year is to read more poetry. 
  • In that vein, I ordered a new book at the end of the year Black Girl Magic by Mahogany L. Browne and I am eagerly awaiting its arrival. 
  • Lastly, as you can see from the attached picture I am also working on some new story ideas. So one of my immediate goals is to spend more time at my desk working on these ideas.

Please let me know if you’ve set any specific goals for the new year and how you’re planning to tackle them.

reading

Winter Reading List

Newsflash: I love to read! I know that many people do seasonal reading list. I just read what comes out or whatever piques my interest when I’m at the library. However, I have decided that I want to develop a reading list for the winter. Below are the 18 books that I’ve selected, I am hopeful that I will be able to get through many of them while I am on break between semesters. I have read Otherwise as Sheila the Great and The Autobiography of Malcolm X before and look forward to doing so again. Biko is a story that I am looking forward to reading. I am looking forward to dedicating some time to relaxing, reading as I light the wick on my new bookish candles from Frostbeard Studio.

 

Please share what you’re reading and if you have any recommendations!

 

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Attica Locke -Bluebird, Bluebird

Danielle Girard- Dead Center

Harlen Coben -Don’t Let Go

Donald Woods- Biko

Alexander McCall Smith -The House of Unexpected Sisters

Children of the Night: The Best Short Stories by Black Writers 1967 to Present

Malcolm X and Alex Haley-The Autobiography of Malcolm X**

Tsitsi Dangarembga- Nervous Conditions

Roxane Gay-An Untamed State

Audre Lorde-A Burst of Light and Other Essays

Joy Jordan-Lake- A Tangled Mercy

Simeon Wright-Simeon’s Story An Eyewitness Account of the Kidnapping of Emmett Till

Rainbow Rowell -Attachments

Walter Benton- This is My Beloved

Eve L. Ewing – Electric Arches

Judy Blume- Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great *

Ayobami Adebayo-Stay With Me

Colson Whitehead -The Underground Railroad

Kali Nicole Gross-Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso: A Tale of Race, Sex, and Violence in America

Andres Resendez-The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America