Janelle Monáe (1985 – ) Singer, Songwriter, Actress, Model, Rapper & Producer

“I feel like Harriet Tubman, except I am trying to free people through underground music, to free themselves creatively and inspirationally” a profound declaration made by the singer, songwriter, Covergirl Model,  and self-proclaimed Arch Android, Janelle Monáe.  She is the CEO of her own music label, in which her music garnered her eight Grammy Award nominations.  In addition, her film career has catapulted into ultra success, having landed major roles in four Oscar-nominated movies, to include Moonlight (2016) which won 3 Oscars and Hidden Figures (2016).  As an artist, she has un-sheepishly used her platform to highlight social issue such as police brutality.

Born Janelle Monáe Robinson, on Decemeber 1, 1985 to working class parents in Kansas City, Kansas.  Her mother, Janet, worked as a janitor and a hotel housekeeper.  Her father, Michael Robinson Summers,  worked as a truck driver. Janelle’s parents separated when she was a toddler.  However, her mother later re-married and gave birth to her younger sister, Kimmy.

Janelle was raised in a thriving community within Kansas City called Quindaro, a town enriched in historical roots. It was established by Native Americans on the lands of the Wyandot Tribe, which was forced to move to Kansas Territory in 1844 on the heel of the Trail of Tears.  The land was sold to abolitionists just prior to the Civil War, and became a refuge for black Americans escaping slavery via the Underground Railroad. After the Civil War, Quindaro evolved into a strong African American community, laying the foundation that would build and support one of America’s first all-black colleges and medical centers, such as Western University and Douglas Hospital.

Janelle’s family lineage is rooted in relentless matriarchy.  Her maternal grandmother owned several homes in a row that housed cousins, aunts, and uncles.  “My grandmother had 11 children and although we didn’t have a whole lot of money, what we did have was a lot of love. My grandmother was the matriarch. If you didn’t have a place to stay, if you needed food, if you were just coming out of jail or rehab, you went to her. Watching her in our family and our wider community was what inspired me and still does,” a statement from the Grammy-nominated singer.

Janelle was also very close to her paternal great-grandmother and spent a significant amount of time at her house.  Her great-grandmother was the main connection to her dad and his family, as he went in and out of prison.  Janelle’s relationship with her father was rocky until he became sober.

Her family members were musicians and performers.  At a very early age, Janelle had dreamed of being a singer and a performer.  She was bought up in the Baptist Church where her talent was reared and nurtured.   Her church would host talent shows for Juneteenth, where she covered “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” three years in a row and won each time. There was a time when she was escorted out of church for insisting on singing Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” in the middle of the service.  Yet, this incident did not deter her from her religious devotions or attendance.

As a teenager, she was enrolled in a young playwrights’ program, the Coterie Theater’s Young Playwrights’ Round Table, where she began writing musicals. One musical that she composed was inspired by  Stevie Wonder’s album Journey Through “The Secret Life of Plants”.  She achieved this around the age of 12.

She attended F. L. Schlagle High School.  Shortly after graduation, she moved to New York City to study musical theater at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy.  She was the only black woman in her class.  Although she had an enjoyable experience, she feared that she might lose her edge and “sound, or look or feel like anybody else,” according to the androgynous performer. 

After a year and a half, Janelle dropped out of the academy and relocated to Atlanta, enrolling in Perimeter College at Georgia State University. She began writing her own music and performing around the campus. In 2003, she self-released a demo album titled The Audition, which she sold out of the trunk of her car.

It was during this period Janelle became acquainted with songwriters and producers Chuck Lightning and Nate Wonder. The three would eventually form the Wondaland Arts Society.

While juggling her musical ambitions, she worked at Office Depot and was eventually fired for using one of the company’s computers to respond to a fan’s e-mail.  That specific incident inspired the song “Lettin’ Go”  which caught the attention of Big Boi, a member of the Atlanta-based, hip-hop group Outkast.  Janelle was a feature on Outkast’s album Idlewild.  This opportunity led to her meeting Sean Combs and being signed to Bad Boy Record Label in 2006.

The rest is “virtual” history.  Her music, acting, and modeling careers have skyrocketed and she has become a popular mainstream entertainer. She currently resides in  Atlanta, where she enjoys practicing yoga and making music.

 

Quotes:

“Black history is part of American history, and it should be treated as such.”

“I will not be a slave to my image, nor will I be a slave to anyone else’s interpretations of me,”

“I love the mystery behind things.”

“I feel like Harriet Tubman, except I am trying to free people through underground music, to free themselves creatively and inspirationally.”

“I’m a believer that the more I’m giving, the happier I am, and the more beautiful my exterior will be.”

“I always think about the next generation and creating a different blueprint for them. That’s my goal: to let them know there’s another way.”

“Perfection is the enemy of greatness”

“Don’t get high off praises, and don’t get too low on critiques.”

“You are only as beautiful as the many beautiful things you do for others without expectation.”

“Even if it makes others comfortable, I will LOVE who I am”

“I take goldenseal, Echinacea and cod liver oil when flying to boost my immune system.”

 

Awards & Nominations:

 Grammy Awards
Year Nominee / work Award Result
2009 “Many Moons” Best Urban/Alternative Performance Nominated
2011 The ArchAndroid Best Contemporary R&B Album Nominated
“Tightrope” Best Urban/Alternative Performance Nominated
2013
Some Nights[10] Album of the Year (as a featured artist) Nominated
“We Are Young” Record of the Year Nominated
Best Pop Duo/Group Performance Nominated
2019 Dirty Computer Album of the Year Nominated
“Pynk” Best Music Video Nominated

 MTV Video Music Awards
Year Nominee / work Award Result
2010 “Tightrope” Best Choreography Nominated
2012 “We Are Young” (with Fun) Best Pop Video Nominated
2013 “Q.U.E.E.N.” Best Art Direction Won
2018 “Pynk” Best Video with a Message Nominated
“Make Me Feel” Best Art Direction Nominated
Best Editing Nominated

  NAACP Image Awards
Year Nominee / work Award Result
2014 Janelle Monáe Outstanding Female Artist Nominated
“Q.U.E.E.N.” Outstanding Music Video Won
Outstanding Song Nominated
The Electric Lady Outstanding Album Nominated
2019 Janelle Monáe Outstanding Female Artist Nominated
Dirty Computer Outstanding Album Nominated

  Screen Actors Guild Awards
Year Nominee / work Award Result
2017 Hidden Figures Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Won
Moonlight Nominated

Sources:

Rolling Stone: https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/janelle-monae-frees-herself-629204/

IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1847117/bio?ref_=nm_sa_1

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janelle_Mon%C3%A1e

Black Doctor: https://blackdoctor.org/janelle-monae-yoga-and-family/#:~:text=I%20live%20in%20Atlanta.,the%20music%20video%2C%20as%20well.

Kansas City Public Library: https://civilwaronthewesternborder.org/encyclopedia/quindaro-kansas

Black Past: https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/quindaro-kansas-territory-1857-1862/

 

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Nikki Giovanni (1943 – ) Poet, Writer, Speaker, Activist, & Educator

“Writing is what I do to justify the air I breathe,”  a lucid statement from the exceptionally clever and widely read poet, speaker, author, and educator known as Nikki Giovanni.  This living legend first rose to prominence in the 1970s, after the self-publication of her book debut, Black Feeling, Black Talk.  Hailed as the “Princess of Black Poetry,”  Nikki provided a voice for the black experience. She has been named “Women of the Year” by Ebony Magazine, Mademoiselle Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal . She is a five-time bestselling author, whose resume of 27 books continues to shape conversations among diverse audiences.  In essence, Nikki Giovanni holds a wide range of honors and awards which include The Rosa Parks Women of Courage Award, seven NAACP Image Awards and twenty-seven honorary degrees.

Born on June 7, 1943 to Knoxville College graduates Gus and Yolanda Giovanni at Old Knoxille General Hospital, she was the younger of two daughters in a close-knit family. Her name at birth was Yolande Cornelia Giovanni, Jr, however,  during the first three years of her life, her older sister (Gary Ann Giovanni) began calling her “Nikki.”

During Nikki’s childhood, the family would make frequent visits to their grandparents’ home in Knoxville.  It was during this period she gained an intense appreciation for black culture and heritage from her grandmother. This early exposure to the power of spoken language influenced Nikki’s career as a poet and engendered her sophisticated use of vernacular speech.

In 1947 at the age of four, she moved with her parents from Knoxville to a predominantly black suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio.  In spite of the distance, she remained close to her grandmother. During her formative years, academics presented no problem to her, therefore she swiftly excelled.  By the time she reached high school, both her French and English teachers persuaded her to apply for early college admission.  In 1960, she enrolled in the early entrance program at Fisk University, her grandfather’s Alma Mater.

By early fall, a young, freethinking Nikki matriculated to Fisk University.  Wholly unaware of the staunch conservatism embedded in this small HBCU, nearly at the outset of campus life, she found conflict with the Dean of Women, Ann Cheatam.  The Dean’s ideas about the behavior and attitudes appropriate to a Fisk woman were diametrically opposed to Nikki’s ideas about the intellectual seriousness and political awareness appropriate to a college student. Unfortunately, the perpetual discord lead to Nikki’s expulsion.  On February 1, 1961, Nikki was expelled from Fisk after attending one semester.

After a few years precede by, Nikki decided to visit the University again for possible re-enrollment.  During this time, the former Dean Cheatam had a new replacement Blanche McConnell Cowan, whose personality was opposite of her predecessor’s. Dean Cowan purged the file in which Dean Cheatam gathered on Nikki and encourages her to come back to Fisk. In the fall of 1964, Nikki returned to campus, majoring in history.  With much support from Dean Cowan, Nikki strived academically and became a leader on campus.  She re-established the campus chapter of SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee). In addition, she attended writing workshops, and published various essays in Negro Digest on gender questions in the Movement.

In 1967, after graduating with honors from Fisk University , she returned to Cincinnati and established the city’s first Black Arts Festival. During this period, she began writing poems that are included in her first self-published volume, Black Feeling, Black Talk (1968). The following year she moved to New York.

In 1969, she found work as a teacher at Queens College.  As a way to promote her second book Black Judgement, she hosted a highly successful Book-party at Birdland (the New York City jazz club) where she gave her first public reading. The event attracted hundreds of people and made the next day’s publication of The New York Times. As a result of the article, Nikki began receiving widespread attention from the media and multiple invitations to read and speak. In April of the same year, The New York Times featured her in an article entitled “Renaissance in Black Poetry Expresses Anger.” The Amsterdam News named her one of the ten “most admired black women.”

By the mid-1970s, she established herself as one of the leading poetic voices and has become one of America’s most widely read poets. Her autobiography Gemini was a finalist for the National Book Award, and several of her books have received NAACP Image Awards. Oprah Winfrey named her as one of her twenty-five “Living Legends.” She has received about twenty-five honorary degrees, in addition to being named Woman of the Year by Mademoiselle MagazineThe Ladies Home Journal and Ebony.  She was the first recipient of the Rosa L. Parks Woman of Courage Award, and has been awarded the Langston Hughes Medal for poetry.

Nikki Giovanni is one of the world’s most well-known black poets.  She presently resides in Christiansburg, Virginia. She is a University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech in Blackburg, Virginia where she English.

Books & Poems:

For a comprehensive list of Nikki Giovanni’s published works, please visit: nikki-giovanni.com

Poems: DreamsMothersNikki-RosaEgo TrippingBLK History MonthLegacies

 

Awards & Honors:

The Rosa Parks Women of Courage Award (first recipient)

Seven NAACP Image Awards

Grammy nomination for Best Spoken Word Album

National Book Award nomination for Gemini

Parents’ Choice Award for The Sun Is So Quiet

The New York Times Best Seller’s List – 3 times

Legends and Legacies Award

The Langston Hughes Award

The Gwendolyn Brooks Award

Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech

Presidential Medal of Honor, Dillard University

Keys to more than two dozen American cities, including New York, Miami, Los Angeles, and New Orleans

Life Membership & Scroll, The National Council of Negro Women

Named one of Oprah Winfrey’s 25 Living Legends

Phi Beta Kappa

State Historical markers in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Lincoln Heights, Ohio

The Tennessee Governor’s Award in the Arts

Tennessee Governor’s Award In the Humanities

Virginia Governor’s Award for the Arts

Woman of the Year, Ebony Magazine

Woman of the Year, Ladies Home Journal

Woman of the Year, Mademoiselle Magazine

American Book Award

Caldecott Honor Book Award

Carl Sandburg Literary Award

Moonbeam Children’s Book Award

Tennessee Writer’s Award, The Nashville Banner

The Appalachian Medallion Award

The East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame Award

ALC Lifetime Achievement Award

Art Sanctuary’s Lifetime Achievement Award

Artist-in-Residence. The Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts

Distinguished Visiting Professor, Johnson & Wales University

Duncanson Artist in Residence, The Taft Museum

Poet-In-Residence, Walt Whitman Birthplace Association

The Cecil H. and Ida Green Honors Chair, Texas Christian University

The Hill Visiting Professor, University of Minnesota

Sankofa Freedom Award

The Legacy Award, National Alumni Council United Negro College Fund

The Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame

2000 Council of Ideas, The Gihon Foundation

A species of bat named in her honor (Micronycteris giovanniae)

Affrilachian Award

American Library Association’s Black Caucus Award for Non-fiction

Ann Fralin Award

Child Magazine Best Children’s Book of the Year

Cincinnati Bi-Centennial Honoree

Excellence in Leadership Award from Dominion Power

The SHero Award for Lifetime Achievement

United States Senate Certificate of Commendation

Woman of the Year, Cincinnati YWCA

Women of Power Legacy Award

 

Quotes:

“If you don’t understand yourself you don’t understand anybody else.”

“We love because it’s the only true adventure.”

“Black love is black wealth”

“I come from a long line of storytellers”

“Nothing is easy to the unwilling.”

“I want to be clear about this. If you wrote from experience, you’d get maybe one book, maybe three poems. Writers write from empathy.”

“Mistakes are a fact of life: It is the response to the error that counts.”
“A lot of people refuse to do things because they don’t want to go naked, don’t want to go without guarantee. But that’s what’s got to happen. You go naked until you die”

“You must be unintimidated by your own thoughts because if you write with someone looking over you shoulder, you’ll never write.”

 

Sources:

Nikki Giovanni
https://www.nikki-giovanni.com/

Poetry Foundation
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/nikki-giovanni

Biography
https://www.biography.com/writer/nikki-giovanni

Macmillan Publishers

Author

New Haven Register
https://www.nhregister.com/news/article/Princess-of-Black-Poetry-Nikki-Giovanni-speaks-11553009.php

 

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Bass Reeves (1938 – 1910) The Real Lone Ranger

Did You Know?

The ‘real’ Lone Ranger was a Black man named Bass Reeves. He was former slave who escaped from slavery and lived among the native American Indians. He was the first black deputy U.S. marshal west of the Mississippi River. He worked mostly in Arkansas and the Oklahoma Territory. During his long career, he was credited with arresting more than 3,000 felons.

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Lauryn Hill (1975 – ) Award Winning Singer, Rapper, Actress, & Songwriter

“We should always be aspiring to know more, and to better ourselves, and to improve ourselves. To improve ourselves, because that’s how we improve the world around us, by working within us,” profound words spoken by the unparalleled, ultra-talented, matchless beauty Lauryn Hill. A former member of the hip hop trio The Fugees, Lauryn went on to break multiple music records with the release of her solo debut album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.”  She is regarded as a musical genius and a triple-threat for being a natural actress, gifted musical artist, and alluring model. In 2020, Lauryn is set to go on tour, commemorating the 20th Anniversary of her debut album, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.”

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Dr. Frances Cress Welsing (1935 – 2016) Scholar, Psychiatrist, Lecturer, & Author

“We’re the only people on this entire planet who have been taught to sing and praise our demeanment. ‘I’m a bitch. I’m a hoe. I’m a gangster. I’m a thug. I’m a dog.’ If you can train people to demean and degrade themselves, you can oppress them forever. You can program them to kill themselves and they won’t even understand what happened,” deafening sentiments from master scholar, behavioral psychiatrist and author Frances Cress Welsing.

Dr Welsing wrote two controversial books,  “The Cress Theory of Color Confrontation and Racism,” and “The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors,” in both books examine the root of racism (white supremacy) and its ill effect on non-white people.  Dr. Welsing, whose scholarship scientifically decoded racism (white supremacy) as a reaction to white genetic survival, has almost been a singular pioneer during her early years of spreading this concept. The compilation of her theories, lectures, and written works has undoubtedly influenced and helped to shape today’s discussions about race and racism (white-supremacy).

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Jill Scott (1972 – ) Award winning Singer, Actress, Poet & Songwriter

“You owe it to yourself to live beautifully. And I am,” says the sultry songstress, actress, and model Jill Scott.  This Grammy Award winner, has been on a fast track to music success every since her debut album released in 2000, reaching platinum.  She has earned numerous accolades in music and is has also appeared in collection of films such as Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married? and its sequel, Why Did I Get Married Too? as well as Lifetime original movies Sins of the Mother and Flint.

In 2020, the “Living My Life It’s Golden” singer is set to go on tour, celebrating the 20th anniversary since her debut album was released.  The tour is cunningly named after her debut album “Who Is Jill Scott?”.

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Betty Shabazz (1934 – 1997) Nurse, Educator, Civil Rights Advocate, and wife of Malcolm X

“I wish you power that equals your intelligence and your strength. I wish you success that equals your talent and determination. And I wish you faith,” poetic words spoken by nurse, civil rights activist, and famed wife of legendary civil rights leader Malcolm X, Betty Shabazz.

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Sam Cooke (1931 – 1964) Singer, Songwriter, Civil Rights Activist

“It’s been a long time coming. But I know a change is gonna come,” those famous melodic words ascended off the lips of the #1 soul artist of the 1960s Sam Cooke. Commonly referred to as the man who invented soul, Sam is honored in the Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame, Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, among many other accolades.  This pioneering recording artist helped shape the soul and pop scene with hits like “You Send Me,” “Chain Gang” and “Sad Mood.

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Angela Davis (1944 – ) Political Activist, Author, and Scholar

“In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist,” unmitigated words uttered by political activist, master scholar, and author Angela Davis. She is a professor emerita at the University of California, who studied at Sorbonne.  She was known as a radical feminist, a member of the Communist Party USA, and an affiliate of the Black Panther Party, Los Angeles Chapter.  She has authored over ten books on class, feminism, and the U.S. prison system.

Angela Yvonne Davis was born on January 26, 1944 in Birmingham Alabama. Her father, B. Frank Davis, was a service station owner and a former teacher. Her mother, Sallye Bell Davis, was a teacher and a member of the NAACP.  Angela was the eldest of 3 siblings; Ben,  Reginald, and Fania.

Like most black families that lived in the segregated south during the Jim Crow era, the Davis family were not exempt from experiencing the cruel injustices that plagued their territory.  Angela grow up in a segregated, middle class neighborhood, which was nicknamed “Dynamite Hill” for the multiple bombings perpetuated by the Klu Klux Klan.  In fact, Angela had personally known the four girls who were killed in the infamous Birmingham church bombing. She later became involved with her family in civil rights demonstrations.

Angela attended Birmingham public schools until 1959. She spent some time in New York City, where her mother was earning a master’s degree during summer breaks from teaching. During this time,  she attended Elizabeth Irwin High School in New York City for two years.  She excelled as a student and matriculated to Brandeis University in 1965, graduating magna cum laude, with two years of study at the Sorbonne, University of Paris. She later studied philosophy in Germany at the University of Frankfurt for two years, then received an M.A. from the University of California at San Diego in 1968. Her doctoral study took place from 1968 to 1969.

Beginning in 1969, Davis was an acting assistant professor in the philosophy department at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Although both Princeton and Swarthmore had tried to recruit her, she opted for UCLA because of its urban location. She was part of an all-black communist group called the Che-Lumumba Club, and through that group she began to organize public protests.

Later that year, the Board of Regents fired Davis from her $10,000-a-year post because of her membership in the Communist Party.  This decision was urged on by California Governor Ronald Reagan. The judge ruled that the Regents could not fire Davis solely because of her affiliation with the Communist Party, and she resumed her post. The following year, the Regents fired Angela again on June 20, 1970, for the “inflammatory language” she had used in four different speeches.  The American Association of University Professors censured the Board for this action.

Outside of academia, Davis had become a strong supporter of three prison inmates of Soledad Prison known as the Soledad brothers (they were not related). These three men — John W. Cluchette, Fleeta Drumgo and George Lester Jackson — were accused of killing a prison guard after several African-American inmates had been killed in a fight by another guard. It was rumored that she was romantically involved with George Jackson.

During Jackson’s trial in 1970, an escape attempt was made which lead to the shooting deaths of four people killed in the courtroom. This resulted in Angela being charged with three capital felonies, such as kidnapping, including conspiracy to murder. She had purchased the firearms used in the armed courtroom takeover. After spending roughly 18 months in jail, Angela was acquitted in June 1972.

She continued both her academic work and her domestic activism. In 1980, she was the professor of ethnic studies at San Francisco State University. Much of her work focused on the abolition of prisons. That same year, she ran for U.S. vice president on the unsuccessful Communist Party ticket.

In 1991, amid the dissolution of the Soviet Union,  Angela left the party and joined the breakaway Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. Also in 1991, she joined the feminist studies department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she became department director. In 1997 she co-founded Critical Resistance, an organization working to abolish the prison–industrial complex.

When Angela retired from UCSC in 2008, she was named Professor Emerita. In the years since, she has continued her work for prison abolition, women’s rights, and racial justice. Davis has taught at UCLA and elsewhere as a visiting professor, committed to the importance of “liberating minds as well as liberating society.”

In 2017 Davis was a featured speaker and made honorary co-chair at the Women’s March on Washington after Donald Trump’s inauguration.

 

Quotes:

“Radical simply means “grasping things at the root.”

“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.”

“Revolution is a serious thing, the most serious thing about a revolutionary’s life. When one commits oneself to the struggle, it must be for a lifetime.”

“The idea of freedom is inspiring. But what does it mean? If you are free in a political sense but have no food, what’s that? The freedom to starve?”

“We have to talk about liberating minds as well as liberating society.”

“If they come for me in the morning, they will come for you in the night.”

“You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time.”

“You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time.”

“We know the road to freedom has always been stalked by death.”

“Sometimes we have to do the work even though we don’t yet see a glimmer on the horizon that it’s actually going to be possible.”

“I try never to take myself for granted as somebody who should be out there speaking. Rather, I’m doing it only because I feel there’s something important that needs to be conveyed.”

“In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.”

“If we do not know how to meaningfully talk about racism, our actions will move in misleading directions.”

“I don’t think we have any alternative other than remaining optimistic. Optimism is an absolute necessity, even if it’s only optimism of the will, as Gramsci said, and pessimism of the intellect.”

 

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Malcolm X (1925 – 1965) Activist, Black Leader, Minister, & former National Representative for the NOI

“A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything,” powerful words spoken by the honorable Malcolm X, black leader, activist, and former national representative for the Nation of Islam, a black Muslim organization. Malcolm X, who later went by the name el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, was a well spoken, forthright, prominent figure for the black power movement, promoting ideals of black empowerment, self preservation, cooperative economics, human rights, and justice.

Born Malcolm Little in 1925, in Omaha, Nebraska, Malcolm was the son of Earl Little,  a Baptist preacher and member of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and Louise Helen Little his Grenadian born mother.  Malcolm was the 7th born of 12 children. Malcolm’s father had three children from a previous marriage, Ella, Earl, and Mary.  He later met and married Malcolm’s mother in Philadelphia, where their first child Wilfred was born.  Then followed Hilda, Philbert, Malcolm, Reginald, Wesley, Yvonne, and Robert. Shortly after Malcolm’s birth, the family moved to Milwaukee.

Continue reading “Malcolm X (1925 – 1965) Activist, Black Leader, Minister, & former National Representative for the NOI”

Assata Shakur (1947 – ) Political Activist, Author, and #1 on America’s Most Wanted Terrorist List

 

“People are tried and convicted in the newspapers and on television before they ever see a courtroom.” -Assata Shakur

Since the 1960’s, Assata Olugbala Shakur has been fighting for the liberation of the racially oppressed. Ironically, it is the same oppression that has caused her to become the first female ever to be added to the FBI’s America’s Most Wanted Terrorist List.  Political activist, former member of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army, and step-aunt to slane hip-hop artist Tupac Shakur,  her story is deeply cloaked in the struggle for systemic change.

Continue reading “Assata Shakur (1947 – ) Political Activist, Author, and #1 on America’s Most Wanted Terrorist List”

Aretha Franklin (1942 – 2018) Singer, Songwriter, Pianist, and Activist

We pay our R-E-S-P-E-C-T to the singer, songwriter, pianist, Civil Rights Activist, Aretha Franklin, who will forever be hailed as the Queen of Soul. She was the first female inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and her magnanimous voice was declared a “Natural Resource” in the State of Michigan. An artist of prodigious versatility, her powerful vocal ranges stemmed from her early gospel roots, although she swiftly moved on to embrace Jazz, Soul, Classical, and R&B. Rolling Stone Magazine ranked her as the greatest singer of all time.

Born Aretha Louise Franklin, on March 25, 1942 in Memphis Tennessee to Clarence LaVaugh Franklin, a Baptist minister and Civil Rights Activist, and Barbara (nee Siggers) Franklin, an accomplished pianist and vocalist, Aretha was the 3rd born of the couples four children. Erma (1938-2002), Cecil (1940-1989),  Carolyn (1944-1988). They also had children from prior relationships. Vaughn (1934  -) and Carl Ellan (1940 -).  At the age of six, she and her family had moved to Detroit.

Continue reading “Aretha Franklin (1942 – 2018) Singer, Songwriter, Pianist, and Activist”

Lorraine Hansberry: (1930 – 1965) Playwright, Author, Civil Rights Activist

Welcome to Recreate, a historical blog dedicated to highlighting prominent African American women whose lasting contributions have influenced the civil rights movement, politics, science, business, technology, art, music, theatre, beauty, and fashion.

The featured “Recreate” photograph is a collage of the famous playwright Lorraine Hansberry on the left, and myself on the right.  Lorraine wrote “A Raisin In The Sun”, the first play written by an African American to be produced on Broadway.  The play debuted in 1959 and was meet with much acclaim.  It tells the story of a poor African American family that struggles to raise above socioeconomic conditions only to face housing discrimination on the basis of race.  She was the first black playwright, the youngest American, and only the fifth woman to win the New York’s Drama Critics’ Circle Award. The title of the play comes from a line in the poem “Harlem” written by Langston Hughes: “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?”

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