As Black History Month continues, here are more new reads from Black authors, who by sharing their voices with us give us the opportunity to educate ourselves and grow.
James Hannaham’s latest work of poetry, “Pilot Imposter,” is an exploration of the self, written during a time of unrest. During the pandemic, flying has become a battleground of personal rights, and using that motif Hannaham questions what the limits of personal rights are and who truly has those rights. He also works through the meaning of personhood, the nature of leadership, and the ongoing consequences of slavery. With a background in visual art, Hannaham uses memes and artwork to aid in his search for answers and to highlight some of the absurdity we currently find ourselves in. One example of his commentary on current events is to correlate Trump’s presidency with a pilot who has never flown a plane. Inspired by the poetry of Fernando Pessoa and the history of air disasters, Hannaham’s prose and images work to answer how a human can stay aloft in the face of so many things that could go wrong.
“Carefree Black Girls: A Celebration of Black Women in Popular Culture” by Zeba Blay centers on the often confusing way in which Black women are such large contributors to popular culture, but at the same time are ostracized from it. Some examples cited include the critique of artists like Lizzo for being plus size, but also not being enough of a role model for the plus-sized community, or that most Black actresses are relegated to the sassy sidekick roles, and those that are able to score leading roles, do so with less pay than comparable actresses of different ethnicities. There are also the ramifications leftover from the Jim Crow era which lead to many women being placed in the archetypes of ‘helpful caretaker’ vs. ‘jezebel.’ She even touches on the fact that even girlhood is denied Black women. In the face of all this, Blay looks to put a spotlight on Black women in the hopes that one day society will not only recognize their contributions but celebrate them as well.
The latest book of poetry by Kevin Young entitled “Stones” is about the loss we experience as an individual and as a community and how that loss ripples through time. Connecting to his past, Young explores his roots through the places he frequented as a child and the memories that have helped to define him. He continues that connection to the future through the use of grave markers, showing reverence to those that came before and questioning where his own will sit. Young shows that connections to what we grew up with helps to define who we are, and these connections are not lost even if the items or person are. Through his poems, Young seeks to keep the past alive and also questions what will happen when his time and our own comes.
Kanopy, a streaming service free to A.K. Smiley Public Library cardholders, also offers an extensive collection of films in honor of Black History Month. So watch, read, and take the time to elevate and celebrate all month long.