Sunday, March 1, 2009

On the Verge of Spring . . .

It's March 1st and I am looking out my window and watching it snow, expecting at least 12 inches to land in New York City tomorrow morning.

Our world is so upside down, things don't make sense any more. Even during these bad times, when the arts is struggling for survival, rays of sunshine penetrate the clouds and manage to touch us. I heard recently that the film industry is making a killing, people are spending money going to the movies. Of course they are -- it's cheaper to spend 80 bucks at the movies (just saying 80 bucks sounds obscene to me) than plan the annual family trip, or taking a quick getaway trip to Florida. But what's even more telling is that people turn to the arts for comfort, escapism -- to just get away from it all. So it's snowing in March and despite our worlds being turned upside down from this financial crisis mess we're in, and our morale is at an all time low, we're still looking for rays of sunshine.

You know what they say, "like all other pleasures immoderately enjoyed, the excesses of hope must be expiated by pain." Let's hope the anxiety we're all facing will subside and that the beauty of art -- be it music, books, festivals, dance and movies -- will continue to prevail.

By the way, Black History month has come to a close and what could be more fitting than suggesting a few new books with an African American slant?

A month full of milestones in Black History

This year marks the 77th anniversary of America's Black History celebration, a memorial that began in 1926 as Black History Week and has since expanded into a month-long tribute to African-American culture and heritage. The idea for this time of remembrance originated with Carter G. Woodson, a black scholar and Harvard graduate who chose February as a time for commemoration because two important figures in African-American history, Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, celebrated birthdays during that month. The creation of the NAACP and the death of Malcolm X also occurred in February, making the time an especially appropriate one.

Woodson would be pleased with the variety of titles published this year in honor of the celebration he initiated. This Far By Faith: Stories From the African American Religious Experience, the companion volume to the PBS television series airing in June, explores the role of religion in black culture. Written by Emmy Award-winner Juan Williams, author of Eyes on the Prize, and Quinton Dixie, the book blends research, interviews and input from noted contemporary religious figures with unforgettable photographs and archival material.

The book contains fascinating tales of people on fire with faith, like Sojourner Truth, whose absolute trust in God allowed her to walk away from an unjust owner and campaign for the rights of women and African Americans. We read of the establishment of the storefront church as blacks migrated north, the indispensability of the largely Protestant church in the Civil Rights movement and the rise of the controversial Nation of Islam. This Far By Faith is a wonderfully comprehensive evaluation of the ways in which African Americans have worshiped, as well as a moving tribute to the life of the spirit. >>MORE

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