I just returned from being a special guest at Camille Yarbrough's ANCESTOR HOUSE. The show aired live at 6 pm on MNN (Manhattan Neighborhood Network) Channel 34. Many thanks to co-editors Dr. Brenda Greene and Fred Beauford and Herb Boyd (BALDWIN'S HARLEM). We were gathered to discuss the publication of Greene and Beauford's recent collaboration, MEDITATIONS AND ASCENSIONS: Black Writers on Writing. The collection covers the dynamic panels that were featured at the Eighth Annual National Black Writers Conference hosted by Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn in '06. The chapter in which I'm featured is the Speculative Fiction panel including science fiction pioneer Samuel R. Delany, the incomparable Walter Mosley, and Tananarive Due (MY SOUL TO KEEP...and yes, I know she's written several novels since that one, but it IS STILL my favorite! Check out her the latest volume in this remarkable triology exploring an Ethiopian sect of immortals in modern times...). Our panel was moderated by Robert Reid-Pharr.
If you don't know Nana Yarbrough, then you better ask somebody. She bad.
I first encountered her work as a child and later as a mother...perhaps you too have enjoyed her book, CORNROWS, illustrated by Tom Feelings. Or perhaps you've had a chance to hear her critically acclaimed album, THE IRON POT COOKER. Nana Yarbrough so bad she's been all over the world with her wisdom and art, journeying through Africa like a queen comin' home, and her poetry and song, "Take Yo Praise," was sampled and featured by FatBoy Slim among many others.
After we left the studio which is down by the West Side highway, I headed over to Jazz at Lincoln Center with the very prolific Herb Boyd--one of the fly folk who inspired me to become an anthologist and edit my own books--and Dr. Greene, Executive Director of the Center for Black Literature and mother of Talib Kweli. Brenda is one of several dedicated people who are continuing the work of novelist and educator John Oliver Killens, founder of the National Black Writers Conference. Herb is working on some amazing projects with the History Channel in addition to who knows how many other equally significant forthcoming works, so he gave us some suga' after guiding us toward the elevators. This was Brenda's first visit to Dizzy's, the fab jazz joint with the dazzling view of Columbus Circle and Central Park South. The band hadn't started yet when we arrived, but of course, the drinks and the gumbo was making rounds. Brenda had the crab cakes and you know I had to get me some jambalya, served in the cutest little cast iron black pot. Yeah, I had my mojo and mojito workin'!
It's a gorgeous piece of jazzy heaven in a very jampacked space. When we rolled out (just in time to duck the $35 cover!) we stumbled upon some mile high Romare Bearden reproductions and yet another musical celebration. In the lobby, folks were getting their samba on because Brazil was in the house! I watched a lone couple steal spotlight as they worked it to a band that sounded good but looked anything but Brazillian (e.g., the pianist was Japanese...) but you know how we do. Sampled SOME MO' food from Cuba (how they get up in the mixit?), skipped the sweet sangria, collected some business cards, then headed over to the tiny Jazz gift shop where your charming Negresse managed to convince the equally charming M. Thomas (a cuz perhaps?) to purchase one of our books, while Brenda scored big time with some wonderful Father's Day presents--all signed by the artists! A return trip may be required.
And, almost forgot, that I got a cool new gig, thanks to Ancestor House. Serendipity and all that. Channeling the changes. Mo' details to come.
PS - Will let you know when the video is up.