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CELEBRATING THE BIRTHDATES OF OUR PEOPLE – JUNE 7TH

Today – June 7th, 2011, is the birthday of three well-known artists, as follows:
Gwendolyn Brooks, well-known Poet and Novelistwas born on this date in 1917, in Topeka, Kansas.  When she was only two months old, her family moved to Chicago, Illinois, of which she made her home for the rest of her life.
Ms. Brooks published her first poem in 1930, and continued writing throughout her entire life.  She began winning poetry contests in the 1940s.  Her first book, “A Street in Bronzeville,” (published in 1945) refers to the ‘Defenders’ name for the African-American section of Chicago, Illinois.
Ms. Brooks was the first African-American to receive a Pulitzer Prize for her book, “Annie Allen,” which she wrote in 1949.  In 1976, she become the first African-American woman elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters; and she was appointed ‘Poetry Consultant’ to the Library of Congress in 1985.  Over the years, she received numerous awards, including over 50 honorary doctorates.
With passion, clarity and astounding literary craft, Ms. Brooks’ writings present and explain urban African-American life from the mid to late 20th Century.  As the struggle for racial justice enhanced, she became a more profound political figure, and the most prestigious African-American poet of her generation.
A major figure in American poetry, Ms. Brooks used her personal prestige to support and inspire young Black Writers and to establish publishing institutions that would serve the specific interests of African-Americans.
Ms. Gwendolyn Brooks passed away on December 3, 2000 in Chicago, Illinois.
Below are a few quotes by Gwendolyn Brooks, and her poem, ‘We Real Cool.’  Let’s not forget the contributions of this prolific Literary Artist.
QUOTES BY GWENDOLYN BROOKS
” Don’t let anyone call you a minority if you’re Black or Hispanic, or belong to some other ethnic group.  You’re not less than anybody else.”
“First Fight.  Then fiddle.”
“A writer should get as much education as possible, but just going to school is not enough; if it were, all owners of doctorates would be inspired writers.”
“WE REAL COOL” By Gwendolyn Brooks
We real cool. We left school.
We lurk late.  We strike straight.
We sing sin.  We thin gin.
We jazz June.  We die soon!

Nikki Giovanni, Poet, Lecturer, and Educator was born on this date in 1943.  She was named, Yvonne Cornelia Giovanni, Jr., in Knoxville, Tennessee – after her mother.  Shortly after her birth, her family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where she was raised.  During the time that she was a toddler, her sister began calling her, ‘Nikki,’ and she has been known by that name ever since.

During the 1960’s and 1970’s, Nikki Giovanni became a well-known poet, as well as a Civil Rights Activist, as most, if not all of her poetry was centered around Black Awareness/Civil Rights issues.

In the summer of 1968 she published her first book of poems, titled, “Black Feeling Black Talk,” and by the end of 1968 she published her second volume of poems, titled, “Black Judgement.”  Throughout the 1970’s she published several works, such as: “Spin a Soft Black Song” (For Children); “My House”; and “Those Who Ride the Night Winds.” 

In 1987, Nikki Giovanni began teaching at Virginia Tech, which evolved into a University Distinguished Professorship.  During her tenure there, she published several new books, including, “Racism 101” (1994), which has been popular among many college students.

In 1995, Ms. Giovanni was diagnosed with lung cancer and given only six months to live.  Due to her undying fight, she obtained a second opinion from doctors in her home town of Cincinnati, Ohio, as well as successful surgery, as the cancer did not spread.  This encounter with cancer only revitalized her, as she entered another period of high productivity, whereby publishing seven (7) books between 1996 and 2002.  Of these, three – “Love Poems” (1997); “Blues: For All The Changes” (1999); and “Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea” (2002) – won NAACP Image Awards, of which she is the proudest.

Currently, as when she started her career, she is a ‘Poet of the People,’ drawing extremely large audiences to her lectures and readings.  She has received dozens of honors and awards, including twenty-two honorary doctorates.  Ms. Giovanni continues to speak the truth as she sees it, and she constantly celebrates Black People and Black Culture.

Below are a few of her quotes and her poem, “Quilts.”  Let’s share the continued works of this prestigious Literary Artist!

QUOTES BY NIKKI GIOVANNI
“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.”

“There’s two people in the world that are not likeable: A master and a slave.”

“Everything will change.  The only question is growing up or decaying.

“QUILTS” By Nikki Giovanni
Like a fading piece of cloth, I am a failure.
No longer do I cover tables filled with food and laughter.
My seams are frayed, my hems falling;
My strength no longer able to hold the hot and cold.
I wish for those first days when just woven I would keep water from seeping through,
Repelled stains with the tightness of my weave,
Dazzled in the sunlight with my reflection.
I grow old though pleased with my memories.
The tasks I can no longer complete are balanced by the love of the tasks gone past.
I offer no apology, on this plea:
When I am frayed and strained and drizzle at the end,
Please someone cut a square and put me in a quilt, that I might keep some child warm,
And some old person with no one else to talk to will hear my whisper, and cuddle near.

Prince – also known as “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince,” and back to Prince again, was born on this date in 1958, in Minneapolis Minnesota.  Prince is a Singer, Songwriter, Multi-Instrumentalist, Arranger, Composer, Record Producer, and Actor.

Prince began his musical career at the young age of 17 years old, as he signed a recording contract with Warner Brothers with the assistance of businessman – Owen Husney.  Soon thereafter, he left Minneapolis, Minnesota, and moved to California, where his career has continued to soar from that time.  Prince’s music is in the R&B, Rock, Funk and New Wave genres.

Throughout his career, Prince has produced ten (10) Platinum Albums, and 40 Top Singles.  He founded/established his own recording studio nad record label, including writing, self-producing, and playing most or all of the instruments on his recordings.  He has also been a Talent Promoter for Sheila E., Carmen Electra, The Time and Vanity 6, and has written songs for Chaka Khan, The Bangles, Sinead O’Connor, and many other artists.

Prince has earned 33 Grammy Nominations, winning seven (7) Grammy Awards.  Two of his albums were awarded the “Grammy Hall of Fame Award,” — “1999” and “Purple Rain.”  Additionally, Prince was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.

Below are a few quotes made by Prince.

QUOTES BY PRINCE
“You can always negotiate a record contract.  You go in and say, ‘You know, I think my next project will be a country-and-western album.”

“Cool means being able to hang out with yourself.  All you have to ask yourself is, ‘Is there anybody I’m afraid of? Is there anybody who if I walked into a room and saw, I’d get nervous?’  If not, then you’re cool!”

CONTINUE TO ACKNOWLEDGE OUR GREAT ACCOMPLISHMENTS!

[Sources:  Internet and The Book: “African-American Lives,” By Henry Louis Gates, Jr. & Evelyn Brooks- Higgenbotham – 2004]

NATALIE R. FITTEN

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