Blues Vision: African American Writing from Minnesota
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Alexs Pate, an award-winning novelist, playwright, and writing professor, is the president of Innocent Technologies, LLC. Pamela R. Fletcher, associate professor of English at St. Catherine University, has published works of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. J. Otis Powell! is a poet, performance artist, and curator working in an aesthetic rooted in Afrocentric lore and culture.
Co-published with the Minnesota Humanities Center
Imhotep from Saint Paul Almanac, 2013. Excerpt from Nellie Stone Johnson: The Life of an Activist by David Brauer (Ruminator Books, 2000). “Apology for Apostasy?” and “As You Leave Me” from The Essential Etheridge Knight by Etheridge Knight. Copyright �1986. Reprinted by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press. “Lilac Week” by Roy McBride. Broadside illustrated by Nick Wroblewski, Powderhorn Writer’s Festival 2007. Excerpt pages 39–46 from A Choice of Weapons by Gordon Parks.
night at High Mass, the Johnny Carson Show. She called him to the kitchen for what had become a weekly ritual since the day we broke the housing barrier in the all-white enclave of Kenwood. “Frank, come into the kitchen!” A rabbit’s foot thumped against my lung as I sat on a stool before her and imagined my father in the living room groaning on bended knee like a bishop breaking genuflection. Shortly after the sandpaper growl of his slippers on linoleum, he appeared, tall, gaunt, bleary-eyed,
passion you never expressed, All the words unspoken, All the songs unsung, All the injustices unchallenged. Father! I call you forth from loss and failure perceived and real, All the would-have-beens, All the could-have-beens, All the dreams deferred, All the bad luck that stuck to your shoes. Father! I call you forth from woundedness and rage suppressed, All the betrayals, slammed doors and Jim Crow demons, All the lies, lost friends, deceitful salesmen and second-hand cars. Father!
American—but who will be raised primarily here, and who will, therefore, be primarily Black American—will see the only expression of Black manhood as the one that these boys have clearly chosen, which could have very negative consequences. We go back and forth on this matter frequently—Ballah saying that Boisey will end up with the wrong friends and on the wrong lifepath, and me responding that there are many different ways to be Black American, that this particular version of Black manhood is
sees (for better or for worse) as a leader in humanitarianism and good governance, a society with arts and social justice movements of paramount importance; that you would take your only child out of this vast sea of opportunity—this effectively damns the very country whose ideals of liberty and freedom you toil and labor so hard to express. It is exactly as James Baldwin described it almost fifty years ago, in his formidable essay, “My Dungeon Shook: Letter to My Nephew on the One Hundredth