A Review- Their Eyes Were Watching God

Zora Neale Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God is a book that makes every must read black list, especially if you are a woman. Its almost most shocking if you haven’t read it (like not watching Roots).

The story is told from Janie’s perspective when she was a 40 something year old woman living in an all black town in Florida. She was talking to Phoebe because the town was gossiping about her and she wanted them to know her truth.

She married well in her early life, mostly due to her husband’s tenacity and ambition, and when he died she was left financially independent.

Her beauty gave her a lot of admirer but the younger man had a profound effect on her and she chose to finally marry for love. The relationship was tumultuous as the young man was quite unreliable and a free spirit.

What speaks to the feminine experience of the novel is that Janie not only fulfilled her duty as a wife but she also did something very daring in running off with a young man in her mature years.

This particular piece of the story is striking in its forward thinking. Even in modern society, this is still quite shocking and most people will accuse the man of what they accused Teacake of—that he was after her money and she a lonely older woman was susceptible to his charm and youth.

But because Janie knew herself and was comfortable with her life choice she told her story to the town gossip knowing that her message would be disseminated.

The novel is rich with symbolism and while it was written in the colloquial language it’s intelligence wasn’t lost. The lesson I gleaned from novel was a simple, that as a woman we are responsible for our own destiny, happiness and life. And as they saying goes “when life gives you lemons, bake a damn chocolate cake and leave the rest to figure out how you did it”.



folktales The stories that folks tell are often unbelievable. They are fun to listen to even if you wonder if the story teller is actually believes what they are saying. But if they did it would make for a better story anyway. They give you that passion and energy that makes story telling a wonderful experience. What is lacking in the modern world is the knowledge of folktales. I do not know any of the folktales that belong to my family and it is a struggle to find out the various ones. Folktales speak to the collective conscious of a particular group. The knowledge that is hidden within the story will often help the listener navigate their everyday life. You can see the pattern of thinking within the stories and the consequences of the particular actions. This is why they are important that the older generation are venerated and given positions where they can serve the next generation. They are the keepers of the story and can help to shape the young generations character into something strong and responsible. Functioning as such keeps them healthy, purposeful and alive. But that is not the world we live in anymore as you can see from the number of senior citizens who are generally cast out of their families or stricken with illness. But you can create that in one’s own family. When everyone is engage in the business of family, then you can start to see where each individual genius lies and the unit functions as a whole. Generally the grandparents will pass on their knowledge of history, lessons they learned from life, and tall tales they tell to their wide eyed listening audience. I didn't grow up with such grandparents and I know some are way to surly to be that charming but it is where they function best and when I’m old and grey and I've got my little grand progeny around me, I hope I to scare them with my cackle.

The Griot


I’m fascinated by the griot. In a digital world one doesn't often get the chance to be graced by a story teller. You may find a one man play in the park sometime and perhaps there will be a story teller and historian in the occasional drumming circle but it isn't apart of modern digital society.

In a world where the oral tradition reigned supreme, some of the best stories are locked inside of the head of a griot. They are able to recite an accurate history of events that surround their people and have the ability to entertain as well as educate.

A griot also known as jeli is a West Afrakan historian, storyteller, praise singer, poet and/or musician. They are more than a story teller and often act as adviser to the royal council.  Most villages within Afraka have their own griot who kept the record of the events and histories of their people.

They form a unique and powerful caste though an endogamous system.  Endogamy is the practice of only marrying within a specific ethnic group, class, or social group.

For some people not being able to verify the stores of the griot make it difficult to trust but that usually the problem of folks who belong to a different culture.

Maybe it’s the vibration of their words that make them so unique or maybe they are just a spiritual class of people that need to be able to survive.   This is why they generally marry within their caste system.  This gift is passed down from generation to generation and so are the stories and so are the healing remedies that they are privy to.

Within different families, it is the grandparents that preserve the history of the family by relating it to the children. They tend to be open to story and legacy.

Fairy Tales


Is it called Fairy tales because it is a story about fairies or are they called fairy tales because the story is as unlikely as seeing a fairy?

I never could figure that one out.  Fairy tales are not often about fairies themselves but they usually are a story that is hard to believe with your logical mind.

Technically a fairy tale is said to derive from the European tradition of folklore.  It included the creatures of the magical kingdom such as fairies, gnomes, ghouls, mermaids, witches and warlocks, giants and other creatures.

But you will usually hear the “fairy tale” to mean that the story is so out of the world unbelievable but pleasant enough or sometimes in the case of “fairy tale wedding” it will describe something as picture perfect.

But fairies in general are interesting creatures.  When I was very young, I use to talk to them and play around in their small world.  I had a handful of miniature toys that I played with and even had a language that I spoke to them in.

They would come to visit shortly after I awoke and I would recreate a world for them in the folds of my blanket.

I haven’t played with them in a very long time and according to legend they probably just would play tricks on me.  I was no longer that child innocence.

But I still admire the fairies, at least what I know of them and wondered why there aren’t more stories about them.

In Afrikan fairy tales, everyone in general is pretty steeped in their magical powers.  There is no separation from their spiritual life to their mundane life so the stories I’ve read focus on the relationship they have with the majestic animal kingdom.

The lesson is hidden within the context of the story which is what fairy tales are for in this day and age.  It is to educate children about the spiritual and magical world all around them.



Images flashing across your mind that bring up feelings and understandings of the character you are reading about.

You are in a different space and time and you can almost smell what it would smell like in the imagined destination.

The imagination allows you to visualize and live out the things that are reading almost as if you are experiencing them.

Sometime people will criticize one’s with “over active” imagination but that is because their own is so weakened by daily life, stress, and television.

For some, they will never know the delight of closing your eyes and become a pirate on the only golden ship in the sea.  You are the captain and your crew of powerful, dangerous but honorable sea farers are not difficult to manage as long as they are shown due respect.

For some they will not be able to see the iridescent hue of the mast or see the storm that is coming on the eastern starboard, they would rather watch Pirates of the Caribbean.

There is nothing wrong with that of course but it is takes a different kind of brain function in order to fully imagine things that hasn’t yet existed in your world.

Being able to imagine is being able to create.  Creativity can be restricted in children where there is a lack of freedom or where they feel it is dangerous to express themselves.

But children are amazingly resilient so if you give them the chance they will once again begin to create and be innovative.

This notion only makes the tragedy of television more stark because its addictive nature will program the child’s mind that experiences are created from outside themselves rather than from within.

Then they will grow into boring adults who only seek to be stimulated rather than stimulating.

A Review-The Miseducation of the Negro

"When you control a man's thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his 'proper place' and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary” Carter G. Woodson

The Miseducation of the Negro

Now this is a book that needs to be required reading for anyone with a drop of Afrakan in their blood.  It is about the type of character that the American educational system creates.

It’s not just a classic to be dissected and handing the report to the teacher for the grade, it is a book that should be ingested and understood.

The short thesis by Carter G Woodson was penned in the 1930s about how the Afrakan mind was being from the Latin word meaning to bring out or bring forth from within.

But the school systems are no longer designed to do this, from the emphasis on numbers and test scores a number of children are left without proper education even though they continue on to the next grade.

But what is evident in today’s society is that Woodson is absolutely right.  From pre-school to college one is taught how to work for someone else.  One is taught that massive debt is suitable as long as you have a bunch of initials after your name.  One is taught that doing what you love and being successful is a pipe dream that the rich can only afford.

Instead of learning how to be stewards of money and business we are taught to consume until our banks collapse.

But more and more people are starting to see the folly of this reasoning.  Self-determination is the hallmark of an awakened mind thirsty to express its inner genius.

We were taught to forget who we are where we come from but that innate knowledge is always there an as we free ourselves from mental slavery we will see that the universe is a thought away.

The Spook that Sat by the Door- A Review

the spook that sat by the door

When I first read the Spook that Sat by the Door by Sam Greenlee, I was struck (yes, kind like against the wall kind of struck) by the genius idea and quality of the novel.

The novel is was about a CIA agent who navigated the climate of governmental agency and became the first black man to become an agent.

He works for government all the while plotting his own devious plot. The time was set in the late 1960s during the heat of the Civil Rights Movement and black power.

It is said to be satire and critique of the struggle and of black militancy.  But when I finished reading the story I was miffed that protagonist didn’t use his knowledge more strategically and was more forward thinking in his approach of turning the Chicago youth into capable guerilla soldiers.

I would have preferred that instead of waging war against the country in the short term, with guns and grenades, that war was waged on the long term with systematic economic structure.

Instead of using the violence that ravaged the times and black families as a weapon, the protagonist could have trained those young youth’s mind.

Imagine instead of black power and black militancy being the stereotypical all black attire with rifles on one’s hip, it was about getting the gang member to all have strategic college degrees—lawyers, civil law experts, contract law experts, doctors, historians, civil engineers, business men as well as architects.

Before the government could catch on what was happening an entire structure could be built by black people to support the economic growth and civil protection of black people.

Because as we know the American government was built on the backs and the blood of imprisoned Afrakans and a few years of shouting wasn’t really going to cut it.

But the book in general was a great read and had me thinking a whole lot on what it actually means to black and proud.

Invisible Man- A Review

Invisible Man

In a modern world it is really difficult not to feel invisible.  We are programmed to be unrecognizable to ourselves and to mimic and emulate what it is deem right and desirable.

For many of us rejection is an experience to avoid at all costs –no matter what.

So when thinking about the novel Invisible Man written by Ralph Ellison, novelist and musician, in the late 1940s, it is deeply striking how much of the novel’s symbolism is still relevant in 2014.

The novel is written in the first person by an black man who doesn’t have a name.  He moves through society and with each interaction see that his human-ness is invisible to others.

He is used and abused by people mostly because he is black and this was pre the Civil Rights era.  Modern times, the situation isn’t so stark for black people as a whole.

It is much more insidious and the effects are seen in the deterioration of the black family, the brutal murders of unarmed men by the police, the amount of missing black children that never seem to get the right amount of press and the idea that Zoe Saldana is the right look to play Nina Simone on the big screen.

The first striking scene in the novel is called the Battle Royale.  As a young man the narrator won a scholarship to college and was invited to speak but could only receive his scholarship if participated in a demeaning blood sport where other blind black men fight each other.

The symbolism of that scene is quite visceral to me because in order to advance in a society that is designed to eliminate the uniqueness of individuals and receive the rewards, one must fight their fellow man. These contestants often remain blind because this way they cannot acknowledge how they are objectifying themselves for something as frivolous as 15 minutes of spot light.

The novel is rife with intense symbolisms and leaves me with the question: am I invisible because society doesn’t see me or am I invisible because I do not see myself?

Children’s Books

Children's book

When I was in the second grade, I remember my favorite teacher, a tall man reading stories to us. I’m not even sure if it was a part of the curriculum but what did I know then about curriculums.

We sat all together in a circle as he animatedly read James and the Giant Peach.  It was better than TV and I remember it so vividly that I wonder if I ever did see the movie.  Oddly enough I cannot remember if I did or not.

I was fortunate enough to have this experience repeated a few more times and each time, those stories became my favorite.

I fell in love as a child when I my third grade teacher read to us poems written by Shel Silverstein.  They were fun and the topics were always intriguing, like polar bears in Frigidaires or the twistable turnable man.  It wasn’t until later that I understood his poems completely and marveled at the lessons that were hidden in the rhymes.

Even in the fifth grade when our teacher read to us the of Johnny Tremaine set during the early days of America, the young boy overcame some serious obstacles and was able to be take part in significant events of history.

It is almost crazy to me how much I remember of these particular stories but never went back to read them as an adult. But that’s just how powerful children’s books are.

What seems to be an innocent telling of an important topic actually gets into the minds of the child and sticks like gum on hot concrete.  But then it is also a caveat to parents about screening the things that their children reads and watches because that stuff gets into their minds and stays there.

But for all the wonderful stories that exist children’s books are a great way to expand the mind of a child.



Reading is essential  for the imagination in my opinion. I know when I read a good book one filled with imagery and thematic content and that is easy to read but has a challenging bite to it, I’m in heaven or whatever realm that the story is steeped in.

I often get lost in the pages and can sense and feel the characters and their circumstance.  It’s a way to escape and learn something different about the human condition. 

Only if the author is interested in educating their reader will this be able to happen.  I’m always fascinated while reading when you can fully weave third person omniscient into a personal narrative.

On one hand it doesn’t really make sense.  Real life doesn’t include third person omniscience.  You won’t be able to know or understand completely another’s intention or their heart’s longing.  (unless you are a psychic but still how much can they really know)

On the other hand, it fill out the story for the reader.  You get to see the different sides to things and as a reader you can interject your own judgments on the character because really you are judging yourself in that moment.

If you were able to make life as interesting as a novel, could you really stand it?  This is a rhetorical question but I imagine the answer is yes, you could and every step of the way regardless of how much pain it might cause you the possibility of greatness would keep you going.

Is there an ideal beyond love and religion worth dying for?  I say beyond religion or love because it would be the most obvious reasons but maybe there is something less cliché that would drive a person.

But sometimes it is worth the few hours to read another’s story even if it is fictional.