Category: Books

Call For Readers To Participate In District 89 African American Read-In

Wednesday, January 24, 2018 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews 

Featured image: A mayor in Maryland participating in an African American Read-In during Black History Month last year. | Michelle L. Marek/Twitter

Village Free Press is proud to partner with AKB Events and Maywood-Melrose Park-Broadview District 89 on the African American Read-In, a national reading event promoting literacy and African American authors during Black History Month.

Continue reading “Call For Readers To Participate In District 89 African American Read-In”

Village People: Maywood Native Regina Dillard Pens New Cookbook

Friday, December 29, 2017 || By Community Editor || @maywoodnews 

Featured image: Regina Thomas Dillard, pictured on the cover of her new cookbook. | Courtesy Regina Thomas Dillard 

Maywood native Regina Thomas Dillard recently published a wellness cookbook, FEED: Living Food Recipes to be Made and Eaten with Love. 

Continue reading “Village People: Maywood Native Regina Dillard Pens New Cookbook”

Darrick Campbell, a Maywood Native and Author, Talks Debut Book

Sunday, October 1, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews 

Maywood native Darrick Campbell recently completed his first book, a memoir called “My Father’s Son,” which is available for $12.99 at thebookpatch.com. Campbell said he’s working on getting the book on Amazon in the near future. During an interview earlier this month, Campbell talked about his inspiration for the book and the purpose he’s found in writing it.

Continue reading “Darrick Campbell, a Maywood Native and Author, Talks Debut Book”

Novelist With Maywood Ties Explores Suffocating Reality of Race

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Marian L. Thomas takes a break from a book signing and discussion inside of AfriWare Books in Maywood on Saturday to talk about her most recent novel, “I Believe in Butterflies.” | Michael Romain/VFP

Monday, June 5, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews 

In the opening scene of Marian L. Thomas’s new novel, “I Believe in Butterflies,” Emma Lee Baker, one of the lead characters, is standing on a bridge “during the heat of the day” and staring at fish.

“I ain’t crazy. I just like staring at freedom,” Baker says through the book’s first-person narration. Moments later, the reader finds out the 76-year-old woman’s grim discovery — the body of a young girl who appears to be no older than 14, her blonde hair “wrapped around her neck like it was the thing that choked the poor life out of her.”

Thomas flips the script, so to speak, on a very familiar literary occurrence — instead of a black male found dead, the victim of a lynching; here is white innocence itself, a young blonde female teen, symbolically lynched by the very standard of beauty and power meant to be her protection. Before long, racism makes victims of us all, Thomas’s novel proposes.

Race and its many, suffocating complications, loom over much of the author’s body of work, which includes a children’s book, a play and six novels.

But it took leaving relatively integrated Oak Park and moving to Atlanta for Thomas to start working through those many complications.

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In Oak Park, Thomas lived with her maternal grandparents, who were one of two black homeowners on the block, she said. The reality of race here, however, wasn’t quite as domineering as it was in Atlanta.

For the most part, Thomas’s grandparents lived the American Dream, which they earned through a degree of thrift that’s rare nowadays. Thomas’s grandmother, a nurse at Mt. Sinai Hospital and her grandfather, a baker, bought their Oak Park house and their Cadillacs in cash.

“They drove Cadillacs that were paid for and they would drive a car until it just fell apart,” Thomas, 45, recalled during a recent interview after a book signing event held Saturday at AfriWare Books in Maywood.

 “We don’t do that today, but that was them. They paid cash for everything,” she said of her grandparents. “They didn’t believe in credit cards. In the book, Emma Lee Baker talks about how her husband was able to afford the home she still lives in and how it was unheard of for African Americans to own a home.”

In 1988, Thomas moved to Atlanta with her father and stepmother. She was only one of two black seniors in her high school’s graduating class. Thomas said her father now lives in Maywood.

“Growing up in Oak Park, I didn’t really understand the whole black, white, interracial dynamic until I moved to the South, which is a very different culture,” she said. “It was an eye-opener.”

If moving to the South sparked an awareness of grand themes that would define her work, Thomas’s time in Oak Park fertilized her passion for storytelling. It was in the library at Oak Park and River Forest High School where she wrote he first short story, which became the basis for her first novel, “Color Me Jazzmyne” — published two decades and many rewrites later.

The book climbed to the top of the Amazon bestseller’s list and won a Sankofa Literary Society award.

Thomas had by then graduated from college magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in business. She said she was pushed by an old boss to rework her high school short story into a novel.

Now, Thomas, who works full-time as a digital marketing professional, is experiencing a fresh surge in popularity and appeal. Her message, though, is as age-old as her grandparents’ thriftiness.

“Emma talks about her fish and why she loves her fish, which she call ‘freedom,’” Thomas said. “That’s because that’s how God meant for all of us to be [just as fish are fish, people are people]. We should focus on being men and women. Race shouldn’t be the first thing we think about. The message in the book is to treat each other as humans.” VFP

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Maywood Native, Author to Visit Walther Christian Academy, March 24 | Maywood Library to Remove Late Fees, March 20 – April 1

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Dr. Edmond Kelly. | Photo: Edmond Kelly/Facebook

Dr Edmond KelleyMarch 20, 2014 || By Community Editor || @maywoodnews

[Walter Christian Academy Release]: Dr. Edmond Kelly who was raised in Maywood and graduated from Walther Lutheran High School in 1995 recently announced the publication of his first book How ONE Choice Directs Your Destiny.

How ONE Choice Directs your Destiny is a self-inspirational book set as a three-part series that prepares a person to learn about their truth, trust their decision-making, and remaining in triumph once they have overcome.

The book is also an introduction to his philosophy, Mind Interpretation Theory, which focuses on teaching how to make righteous decisions, which will help begin the process of working smart, not hard, and living a life in excellence.

Walther Christian Academy, located at 900 Chicago Avenue in Melrose Park, will host a book-signing for Dr. Kelly on Friday, March 247 p.m. The public is invited to attend to hear from Dr. Kelly and copies of his book will be available for purchase.

Dr. Edmond Kelly Jr. has worked in the education field for fifteen years, but truly gained knowledge and wisdom during his time as a young boy in ministry and through receiving his Masters of Counseling in 2012 and doctoral degree in Educational Leadership in 2015 from Liberty University.

Dr. Kelly and his wife Felicia are blessed with two, beautiful children, Zoey and Elicia. He believes when making any decision, family should be the first thought in mind. He accredits his family as the guiding light to completing the book.

As a philanthropist, author, and co-founder of Crossover Gear clothing line, he felt that education will be the driving force to bless others in need. Through counsel and mentorship, he has created developmental programs for youth, such as, Heroes Of Tomorrow youth ministry.

He produced campaigns called the BACK UP Plan: Bullying Awareness Constitute Knowledge & Ultimate Protection, Crossover Cares Foundation (which will create scholarships for college bound students, contributed to charities yearly) and Operation Save-A-Life.org. The latter focuses on prevention of violence in the city of Chicago.

His passion for blessing others kept him grounded, humbled, and focused on making decisions to reach his own destiny, which is to give.

Maywood Library to Remove Late Fees 

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At 100, Gwendolyn Brooks Still Inspires

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The late poet Gwendolyn Brooks, who was the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize. | Photo by Nora Brooks Blakely

Golden Shovel book .jpgTuesday, March 14, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

The poet Gwendolyn Brooks, who died in 2000 at the age of 83, would have been 100 years old this year. In Illinois, particularly in the Chicago area, Brooks has become something of an institution. There are no fewer than five schools across the state named after the late poet.

Last month, the Art Institute of Chicago’s Rubloff Auditorium hosted all five living African-American winners of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, the Chicago Tribune reported. The night climaxed with the tony crowd chanting Brook’s famous 1959 poem, “We Real Cool.” And that was just the start of a spate of Brooks centenary celebrations happening all over the state this year.

Beyond Illinois, however, the legacy of Brooks — the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize and the first black woman to be appointed a Poet Laureate, a position she held in Illinois from 1969 until her death — can still sometimes seem unjustly underappreciated, says Peter Kahn, Oak Park and River Forest High School English teacher and Spoken Word Club sponsor.

That’s partly why Kahn set out to compile hundreds of poems, written by poets both famous and up-and-coming (including around 20 OPRF alums), based on lines from several Brooks poems, including “We Real Cool.”

The result is The Golden Shovel Anthology: New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks, which was published this year by the University of Arkansas Press.

“Golden Shovel” was inspired by a poem written less than a decade ago by National Book Award-winning poet Terrance Hayes called “The Golden Shovel.” The last words of each line in Hayes’ work are words from at least one line pulled from Brooks’ “We Real Cool.”

According to a description that appears on the jacket of the anthology, “The poems are, in a way, secretly encoded to enable both a horizontal reading of the new poem and vertical reading down the right-hand margin of Brooks’ original.”

Hayes writes the forward for the book and his “Golden Shovel” is the first poem in a collection of at least 200 other Golden Shovel poems by some of the greatest living poets in the country, including Brooks admirers like Nikki Giovanni and Rita Dove — herself a Pulitzer Prize winner and the first African American U.S. Poet Laureate.

Kahn said it took approximately three years of frequent emails and follow-ups to compile the book, which he co-edited along with poets Ravi Shankar and Patricia Smith. The fact that he’s a teacher, he added, may have helped ease his pitch.

“In some instances, people would send me a poem on the day I requested it,” Kahn said last week. “In other instances, I emailed three or four times over the course of 2-3 years. I think mentioning that students were involved was helpful.”

The Golden Shovel poems by Kahn — whose poem, “Gray,” is based on a line from Brooks’ “Kitchenette Building” — and two dozen of his former students are also featured in the book.

For Chicago poet Asia Calcagno, who said Kahn introduced her to poetry while she was a student at OPRF roughly a decade ago, the anthology was as much an ode to Brooks’ life work as it is to her poetry.

“I think Peter cared a lot about getting different generations involved in the book, similar to how Gwendolyn cared about youth and the arts,” said Calcagno. “Peter didn’t just want popular poets but also young poets who are starting to come into their own voice.”

Calcagno’s poem, “Gravestones,” is based on a line from Brooks’ poem, “Riot,” about a linen and wool-clad, Jaguar-owning white man named John Cabot, “out of Wilma, once a Wycliffe,” who stumbles upon a group of “black and loud” blacks during a domestic disturbance.

One of the poem’s last lines, “You are a desperate man, and the desperate die expensively today,” runs down the left margins of Calcagno’s poem about a deep, philosophical conversation she once had with a friend during a smoke break.

“I don’t think I realized how profound [Brooks] was until I was starting college,” Calcagno, a former school teacher, said. “Her being a woman of color from Chicago who had a deep appreciation for youth and education and the arts — everything in my life has revolved around those things.”

Adam Levin, another of Kahn’s former students and his current Spoken Word teaching assistant at OPRF, said the opportunity to be published beside poets like Billy Collins, the former U.S. Poet Laureate, was “incredibly humbling.”

“I think it’s a testament to Peter, that he’d be willing to do that for his former students,” Levin said. “People like me almost never submit poems to anything for publication. He asked me to do it and stayed on me, having me re-write drafts until I had something worth being in the book.”

Kahn said he was simply taking his cues from Brooks, whom he met three times when the poet was still alive. Each time, he said, the poet exhibited the kind of humility and openness that endeared her to so many poets and non-poets alike.

“I was always blown away at her combination of being so humble, yet so fierce and so accessible and so genius,” said Kahn. “Those are words you wouldn’t normally associate with one another. She was extremely generous with her time and her own money. I think that’s partly why we were able to get so many people like Nikki Giovanni, who looked up to Brooks, I imagine, not just as a writer but also a mentor.”

Those qualities in the late poet may be what makes Levin’s Golden Shovel poem, “We were gonna go through with it, and then we lost it,” so profound. He borrows part of the last line from Brooks’ “The Mother.”

“Believe me, I loved you all,” writes Brooks. “Believe me, I knew you, though faintly, and I loved, I loved you all.” VFP

P A I D  A D V E R T I S E M EN T 

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Maywood-born Author Publishes Guide to Black-owned Businesses, To Present During Dec. 30 Kwanzaa Event

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The Negro Travelers’ Green Book, published from 1936 to the early 1960s, was responsible for helping black travelers navigate the country’s roadways safely. | PBS || Below left, Tequila Sahaya Shabazz has authored what might be called a Green Book for the 21st generation, The Neo-Green Book. || R. Amon Photography/Facebook

tequila-shabazz-photoThursday, December 22, 2016 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

In its heyday, The Negro Travelers’ Green Book was considered the “Bible of black travel during Jim Crow.” First published in 1936 by Victor Hugo Green, a black postal employee from Harlem, the Green Book was designed “to give the Negro traveler information that will keep him from running into difficulties, embarrassments and to make his trip more enjoyable,” according to Kathleen Franz’s and Susan Smuylans’ Major Problems in American Popular Culture.

Circulation of the book may have been discontinued shortly after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but one Maywood-born author says that the book’s disappearance doesn’t mean that something like it is no longer needed.

TeQuila Sahaya Shabazz, the author of The Neo-Green Book, said in a recent phone interview that her book is a successor of sorts to the Green Book.

“This is the next generation to that book,” Shabazz said, adding that her work, which was published this year and is now available for purchase online and at select book stores (including Afriware Books in Maywood), provides information for consumers who want to shop at businesses that are black-owned, local and socially responsible.

“The Green Book published places where people could safely stop during their travels,” Shabazz said. “Today, we have to expose and highlight places that are safe to shop at. This is an economic war. There are companies we give our money to that fund the prison industrial complex [among other social problems that ensnare poor and minority consumers].”

Shabazz, 39, worked for 15 years in sales at various media companies, including the Chicago Tribune and PBS, before retiring in order to dedicate herself full-time to guiding people on ways they can “buy, give, love and live black.”

In addition to publishing the Neo-Green Book, which she plans on releasing quarterly, she also heads up the BRIJ Embassy for Black America, which Shabazz describes as a “cooperative of people who want to eradicate poverty and build wealth in black America.”

Shabazz said that she and her colleagues log how much money they’ve spent at black-owned and socially responsible businesses. They also conduct secret shopper visits to stores and analyze a businesses investment patterns, cleanliness and customer service, among other baseline indicators that businesses must satisfy if they’re to be included in The Neo-Green Book.

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Shabazz said she’s been gathering data herself for four years and has worked intensively at data-gathering with her colleagues at BRIJ for roughly a year. So far this year, she said, they’ve invested over $700,000 into businesses within black communities in metro areas across the country, including Chicago, Gary and Cleveland.

Shabazz will present a keynote address on Dec. 30 during the annual Kwanzaa celebration hosted by Afriware Books, 1701 S. 1st Ave. in Maywood. The event will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m.

The timing is particularly ripe, considering the village’s recent woes. Shabazz, who grew up in Maywood and the West Side of Chicago, said she was shocked to learn that Aldi was Maywood’s only full-service grocery store and dismayed when she discover that it would be closing on Christmas Eve.

How, she was asked, might she translate her philosophy of economic self-sufficiency to some of the residents of her hometown?

“First, you have to analyze your capital base,” she said. “It’s going to be hard work. It’s not easy and won’t happen overnight. But you have to know what human capital — what knowledge, skills, resources and tools — you have access to immediately.”

Shabazz said that Maywood residents should look to places in Chicago, such as sustainable farms and cooperative grocery stores, for examples of what economic independence looks like and for potential investment opportunities.

“How do we open grocery stores owned by the community and in which the community invests and receives the profits?” she said, adding that the key isn’t to protest or to pressure large private and public institutions.

“In the city, there are many areas without grocery stores, but people have created mobile grocery stores and opened up stores of their own,” she said. VFP

For more info, or to purchase Shabazz’s book, click here

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