Saturday, March 31, 2012

Leon Damas Centennial

The Department of African Studies and the Department of World Languages and 
Cultures would like to invite the community to the celebration of the 100th 
anniversary of the birth of Leon G. Damas, Ph.D., co-founder of the Negritude 
Movement in Paris in the 1930s and former professor at Howard University, at 3 
p.m. Thursday, April 5, in the auditorium of the Blackburn Center. There will be 
a panel discussion on the life and work of Leon Damas by Keith Warner, Ph.D., 
former chair of the Howard University Department of Romance Languages; 
Marie-Marcelle Racine, Ph.D., professor of French and Francophone Studies at the 
University of the District of Columbia; Richard Sterling, Ph.D., professor of 
French at Bowie State University; Sulayman Nyang, Ph.D., professor of African 
Studies, and E. Ethelbert Miller, director of the Afro-American Resource Center.

The keynote speech will begin at  6 p.m. in the Gallery Lounge of Blackburn 
Center by renowned novelist, author and teacher from Guadeloupe, Maryse Conde, 
Ph.D., professor at Columbia University. The title of her lecture is “In Search 
of Negritude: A Writer’s Personal Journey.”  

The event is co-sponsored by the Department of Afro-American Studies, the 
Department of History and the Department of Sociology/Anthropology. For more 
information, call 202-238-2328.

Jersey Joe Walcott
jabs- then stops -he
takes a stroll away
from the man he is
boxing -
a fist stops
in mid-air watching
him look as pretty
as any knockdown.

  - E. Ethelbert Miller

Treve de blues.
  -Leon Damas

Compassion is my art.
 -Grace A. Ali

God makes stars. It's up to producers to find them.
 -Samuel Goldwyn

 Q. When did you get the idea for your Altar Ego art project? Is it linked to any texts that you read?

I got the idea while I was preparing to go to Hawaii for an art reception. I love the possibilities that body painting allows.  There can be a transformation that makes one feel more comfortable in their skin, at least that has been my experience. Last summer I was painting a writer friend of mine and we thought we should write background stories for who we became once painted.  After seeing the painting of mine, entitled Reddrrum, at Manifest in Hawaii, I knew I wanted to extend this idea of the Altar Ego.  I thought painting a lot of friends and would make for great photographs and offer people themselves as art work on canvas. The only texts that I considered included the writing I had done to go with some of the images people I had already painted.


Q. What happens when you paint over a black person's color?  Is there any relationship to corking and wearing blackface? 

When I paint a black or person of color they are painted. I use stage paint that is opaque. The colors come out as vibrate, if not more so, on brown skin. For whatever reason the second part of that question makes me angry.  This is nothing like blackface, we are not imitating ourselves to entertain others.  This project is about freeing one's self or becoming more connected to who we know and feel we are inside.  Many of the people who have agreed to be a part of this project have expressed more confidence and power once painted.  They have explained, in writing, that their body image issues go by the wayside and they become the more powerful being they feel they cannot be in everyday life. 

Q. What are some of the large philosophical questions behind your art project?

A long time ago my mother gave me the book Women Who Run With the Wolves.  That was so long ago I do not recall the words in book but I remember the spirit of the words.  Over the past twenty years I have looked for people like me...we seem to gravitate towards each other.  Some of us practice Voodun others are Buddhists or Christians but all have a spirited shine that keeps us questioning, creating, and more importantly we are becoming more comfortable with ourselves. I have an altar and several friends who give me advice regarding my actual altar and the one that lives within me.  For many nations, cultures, peoples, painting and adorning one's self is/was a call to ceremony.  In many ways, those of use who find ourselves on a path we "blaze" alone, have a sense that our milestones in life are not honored in a spiritual and loving way.  Instead some of us tattoo ourselves, go to Burning Man, write, perform, paint, reach to the past and bring ceremonies to our front porches, burning sage, calling on the ancestors we see that we are a small sect.  Altar Ego is an opportunity to acknowledge members in this community, to work with them through the painting and hopefully give something to them...something I owe them for running with me and keeping me sane and safe all the while.

Q. Is it possible to leave one's ego at the altar? 

I have heard it is possible. I have heard this through some of the people who practice different forms of Buddhism.  I don't know that we can ever, at least as Americans, completely leave our egos behind.  They loom large in DC but if for a moment we can let our egos fall to our feet, leave them at any safe altar I think we can find in ourselves someone who is a more satisfied person.  I want to be the person who can be happy without material gain and a constant pat on the back.  And there are moments, short though they are, when I am stripped of a few ego layers (I am usually alone at those times, safer that way) and I feel right with the world and pray for everyone living through this lifetime.  But then the moment goes, I wonder were my next pay check is coming from, if I am good enough, if I wrote the right thing for that grant application, if I am cooler than the girl I once was...and I have try again on another day. 


More information about Anike:
No more magical season....Lin gone.
Who wants sanity?
Is this the type of poem my mother warned me about?

I don't won't to cry no more
No more young boys gone
No more blood in my songs.
Let God call 911

  - E. Ethelbert Miller

Poet Lore, Vol. 107 No. 1/2 

Spring/Summer 2012

Poems by Denise Duhamel, Maxine Kumin, David Ray, Vuong Quoc Vu, Dan Turèll, and others.

"World Poets in Translation": Thomas E. Kennedy introduces a portfolio of translated poems by Dan Turèll (Denmark).

Essay& Reviews: Nox by Anne Carson, That This by Susan Howe, One with Others [a little book of her days] by C.D. Wright, torch song tango choir by Julia Sophia Paegle, Flamenco Hips and Red Mud Feet by Dixie Salazar, Human Nature by Gary Soto, Rookery by Traci Brimhall, Say So by Dora Malech, and Incarnality: The Collected Poems by Rod Jellma

This morning I gave Karolina Gajdeczka her E-Box. She was one happy writer. Spring is here - may all the poets bloom.

KAROLINA photo by Ethelbert

ETHELBERT & KAROLINA photo by Denise King-Miller

Friday, March 30, 2012

Saddi Khali, a journey through the lens
Times LIVE
He met teachers like E Ethelbert Miller, Tom Dent, Amiri Baraka and Keorapetse Kgositsile but soon realised that he could not survive on writing alone.
Coming soon in the E-MAG:

An interview with the artist Anike Robinson.

A Salute to Gil Scott-Heron
Friday, March 30, 2012
9:30pm - 11:30pm
A salute to the late GRAMMY Award winning musician, poet, and spoken word artist Gil Scott-Heron, by former members of his bands Amnesia Express and The Midnight Band: Bilal Sunni Ali, Danny Bowens, and Larry McDonald.
We will also feature Abiodun Oyewole (founding member of The Last Poets), Mo Beasley (spoken word artist and educator), and The Singing Chef Ras Chemash Lamed.
This event is sponsored by the Eleventh National Black Writers Conference (see details below) and the Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium and produced by Abney's Top Tier Artist's, Inc.
Location/Venue: For My Sweet
Address: 1103 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY 11238
Tickets: $20 available at

Poet Robert Pinsky sent me a copy of his new poetry/jazz cd.
POEMJAZZ brings together Pinsky and Laurence Hobgood.
It's the outgrowth of recordings they did back in August and December 2011.

POEMJAZZ treats a voice speaking poetry as having a role like that of a horn:
speech with its own poetic melody and rhythm, interacting with what the music
is doing. The variations in pitch and cadence are those inherent in the words
themselves, as they make their way through the lines: the language true to
itself while adapting its rhythms and pitches to counterparts in the music.

  -Robert Pinsky

Back in 1998 Pinsky published THE SOUNDS OF POETRY.
Find a copy for your pocket.
Poetry remains a vocal and bodily art.


Tomorrow an E Box will be given to Karolina Gajdeczka. It's a way for me to help a young writer.
The E Box is filled with books taken from my personal collection. It's a box of goodies that will hopefully help a person celebrate life and words. This weekend April begins. Hey - it's National Poetry Month again. Time to open the E Box.

KAROLINA GAJDECZKA photo by Ethelbert
What will we not celebrate today? 
We fall in love with anger, hatred and pain.
We spread this news and it burns us again and again.
We come into the world too often crying and the crying never ends.

Here is a story Adrienne Rich told me about herself and June. She was ill in the hospital. They were young women in New York. June came to visit. The hospital staff said only family were allowed. June said, but she's my sister! And they let her in. 



Zucchero: The International Blues Man

Several years ago...on a free standing rack located at the back of a Staples store, between the last row of office furniture and the shelving housing the in-store stock was an odd collection of $7.99 musical goodies. I weeded through the rack unafraid to take a few risks at 8 bucks a pop. Yes, I’m cheap sometimes, but always adventurous enough to experiment. Then I came upon this red and white CD cover with a guy sitting in a field watching one of those old portable black & white TVs like one I used to have. Zucchero?! The name didn’t ring a bell, but as I read the artists included on his CD I couldn’t wait to hear it. 

Adelmo “Zucchero” (sugar) Fornaciari is an Italian singer famous in Europe, but virtually unknown in the United States whose career spans over 40 years. His music has been described as pop, rock, gospel, blues, jazz. It may be more illustrative to list some of the musicians he has worked with: Ray Charles, Clarence Clemons, Joe Cocker, Randy Jackson, jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater, blues singer Rufus Thomas, blues guitarists Stevie Ray Vaughan and Buddy Guy, R&B singer Randy Crawford, percussionist Sheila E. For his 2004 album, featured here, he adds blues/rock guitarist Eric Clapton, blues guitarist B.B. King, jazz/blues guitarists Jeff Beck, Sing, R&B vocalist Macy Gray and Miles Davis. Wow! What a stellar line up for an international musician obscure in the United States.

If you love blues music you’ll love Zucchero & Co.’s version of them. Each song is a universe of storytelling about love and life. Dune Mosse ,“I’ll go through moved dunes” with Miles Davis is a hunting declaration of someone deeply in love. It is a ballad, the kind of song Miles Davis loved to play the most. Cosi Celeste “so light (the color of the sky)” a romantically poetic love ballad celebrating the woman of his heart. Muoio Per Te, “Mad About You” sung with Sting is the story of a man madly in love with a woman whose life would become a “prison”…”if you became another’s wife.” The rest of the samples need no translations and after listening to Zucchero & Co. it will be clear why these collaborations are “United in divinity in blues we trust.”

The U.S. market for music is geared toward categories and when the American market can’t pigeonhole a collection of chords and harmonies one of the default labels is World Music. Ironically, most, if not all, music is world music.

Hear some songs from Zucchero & Co. (2004)

A Wonderful World with Eric Clapton

Cosi Celeste with Cheb Mami

Dune Mosse with Miles Davis

Hey Man (Sing A Song) with B.B. King

Muoio Per Te with Sting

Senza Una Donna (Without A Woman) with Paul Young

Like The Sun (From Out of Nowhere) with Macy Gray feat. Jeff Beck

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Request for Talent
The Joint Center for Political & Economic studies is seeking a committed, passionate Spoken Word artist that can ardently frame their upcoming PLACE MATTERS National Conference.  The event will be held on September 5, 2012 at the Renaissance Hotel in Washington DC.  The conference builds on the Joint Center's Place Matters, a national initiative that helps local leaders to address capacity building issues in 24 communities around the country to identify and address social, economic, and environmental conditions that shape health.  

Our selection will be based on the artist's ability to articulate how the struggles and social conditions (racism, poverty, violence, lack of opportunity and political access) disproportionately impact people of color and how these conditions help to shape health outcomes. 

The artist that is able to utilize poetry to raise the level of consciousness on the issues described above,  will receive $500.00 (including travel expenses) and will be featured at the Joint Center's conference of over 350 guests.  The title of the poetry should incorporate the name "PLACE MATTERS", and should reflect and embody the spirit of the event.     For more information please see the following links:

Deadline:  May 1, 2012
Selection will be made by: July 1, 2012

For more information, or to submit a video clip, please contact Kim Raymond at

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Tricycle Daily Dharma March 29, 2012

Straight Ahead

Go very deep into yourself. Let body and mind fall away. Experience the absolute basis of reality. But the path doesn't end there. This is just the peak of the mountain. You need to continue the journey. Where do you go when you’re at the peak? Straight ahead. It’s always straight ahead. Straight ahead when you’re on the peak means down the other side of the mountain back into the marketplace. That’s where your realization needs to manifest. Otherwise, what’s the point?
- John Daido Loori, "Straight Ahead"
Read the entire article in the Tricycle Wisdom Collection
When Shall I Rise From This Burial?

I felt the lash 
this morning

Something more
than hurt or pain

Something closer
to grief

The face of my mother
when her mother died

like a child separated
from a hand or breast

and knowing nothing
of slavery

There are birthmarks
on my skin

and places where
history's wounds

are forever

 - E. Ethelbert Miller

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

ADRIENNE RICH dead at 82.

This hurts...coming after Split This Rock and all the memories and conversations about June Jordan. I met Adrienne Rich because of my friendship with June. I met Rich at an AWP conference - it might have been in Arizona. Gosh -she was so warm to me. Her work so important - it shaped my views on how to see women - completely -and her poems and essays surrounded my thinking and only then could one really love another. I still cherish the letter she sent me after I published my anthology - WOMEN SURVIVING MASSACRES AND MEN. Her words were encouraging and maybe after our survival there will be a new day. Tonight I will dream of a common language.

The decision to feed the world
is the real decision. No revolution
has chosen it. For that choice requires
that women shall be free.

   - Adrienne Rich
The 5th Inning          
E. Ethelbert Miller
BN: 9781604865219 | $15.95

Now in paperback!
In The 5th Inning, poet and literary activist E. Ethelbert Miller returns to baseball, the game of his youth, in order to find the metaphor that will provide the measurement of his life. At 60, he ponders whether his life can now be entered into the official record books as a success or failure.

The 5th Inning is one man's examination of personal relationships, depression, love, and loss. This is a story of the individual alone on the pitching mound or in the batter's box. It's a box score filled with remembrance. It's a combination of baseball and the blues.

"The 5th Inning is a poetic meditation as much as a memoir. Ethelbert brings his poet's eye to the game of baseball and transforms it into a metaphor for a life that knows strikes, groundouts, and errors as well as the beauty of a ball sailing straight across homeplate."
----Josephine Reed, WPFW 
Robert Moses' Kin poised for 'Helen' S.F. premiere
San Francisco Chronicle
... that Moses says takes flight to the rhythms of Carl Hancock Rux's spoken-word essays and E. Ethelbert Miller's poetry, with nods to Helen of Troy.


OF LEON DAMAS, one of the founders of 

the Negritude movement. 

Last week poet Sonia Sanchez gave me promotional bookmarks for her Peace Is A Haiku Song mural project.
Sing you song of peace and submit a haiku.
For information:

New 'Drone Studies' Major Has Graduates Pulling In Up To $200K A Year
MICHON BOSTON photo by Ethelbert
On April 28th at 5PM (Busboys and Poets/5th and K ) Michon Boston will be hosting a book party for THE 5TH INNING. Yep, the paperback will be out. Don't miss the public discussion between Ethelbert and his wife (Denise King-Miller) as they discuss memoir, marriage and the poetic life.
Also speaking will be Andy Shallal and that woman of note - Grace A. Ali. Don't let any April shower prevent you from attending this event. Tell friends and lovers.
ProfilesIntersections E Ethelbert Miller interviews Sam Gilliam on ...
A reissue of a classic interview with two of America's most accomplished artists and thinkers, E. Ethelbert Miller and Sam Gilliam.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"A relationship is like a shark. It has to constantly move forward or it dies." -- Woody Allen from Annie Hall
I received this information today from my friend Noura:

SELLIN' 'HELEN' TO THE HOME CROWD: Robert Moses' Kin presents its 17th annual home season Friday through Sunday with the world premiere of "Helen," a dance inspired by the words and music of Carl Hancock Rux, the poetry of E. Ethelbert Miller and Homer's "Iliad"; excerpts from the forthcoming "Scrubbing the Dog"; "Biography," inspired by the life and writing of James Baldwin; "The Soft Sweet Smell of Firm Warm Things" and "Speaking Ill of the Dead." Details: 8 p.m. each night at Novellus Theater, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard St., San Francisco, $25-$45, 415-978-2787,

Between 1975, when I moved to the Washington area, and 2011, there have been 12,988 homicides reported in the District, according to FBI statistics. Many of the victims were black youngsters being raised by single mothers, and they were killed by other blacks who had been raised the same way.

  - Courtland Milloy

Edward P. Jones talks about his fiction - YouTube 9, 2012 - 30 min - Uploaded by hocopolitso
Edward P. Jones, arguably the nation's capital's best fiction writer, talks ... and his short fiction with E. Ethelbert Miller.

Tricycle Daily Dharma March 27, 2012

Having Good Purpose

In America and Europe, everyone is very active. But if you become too active, you lose the essence of Buddhism. You only have the Buddhist labels. One must cultivate peace to be compassionate. Without this, what you do, even as an 'engaged Buddhist' is just a lot of activity with no good purpose.
- Sulak Sivaraksa, “In Exile from Siam”

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Change We Must Fight For

April 19, 2012, 6:30 pm–8:30 pm
Busboys & Poets
1025 5th Street NW
Washington, DC

photo of Ethelbert and KatrinaAward-winning author and poet, E. Ethelbert Miller interviews Nation editor and publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel on the state of the world, the nation, the elections, the 99% spring, and the right battles for the change we must fight for.

Katrina vanden Heuvel's latest book is "The Change I Believe In: Fighting for Progress in the Age of Obama." E. Ethelbert Miller is the Board Chair of IPS, and author, most recently, of "The 5th Inning."

VIDEO HITS: E. Ethelbert Miller

Sunday, March 25, 2012


New books sent or given to me this week:

OTA BENGA UNDER MY MOTHER'S ROOF by Carrie Allen McCray edited with an introduction by Kevin Simmonds
It's back to cold outside. Rain. How quickly the weather changes. Why is racism a constant?

Saturday, March 24, 2012



Friday, March 23, 2012

Happy Birthday Woody!
Coup in Mali...more sad news.

 CNN Breaking News
President Barack Obama waded into the growing national controversy of the killing of an unarmed black teenager in Florida, saying Trayvon Martin's death particularly resonated with him as an African-American parent.
"If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon," Obama said in brief remarks outside the White House.

Obama said the nation should do some "soul-searching to figure out how something like this happens."
"I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this and that everybody pulls together, federal, state and local, to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened," Obama said.

Obama to nominate Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim to head World Bank

Senior administration officials say President Barack Obama is nominating Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim to head the World Bank.

It’s a surprise choice for the World Bank’s top job. A physician by training, Kim is a prominent figure in the global health world. Officials believe his broad international experience will help counter criticism from developing countries weary of the U.S. stranglehold on the World Bank’s top post.

Bank President Robert Zoellick announced his resignation in February.


Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings: The Dap Sound

If the classic R&B genre could be represented by one or two groups which ones and what time period would you ? Chances are the artist or artists you choose have “that sound” distinguishing them from the rest of the pack. The pursuit of “that sound” was funneled into the record production formula of recording studios like Stax Records, Motown and Hitsville U.S.A. Arguably the Motown Sound was most recognizable and came to represent all of what R&B seemed and hoped to be. The success of these record labels was mainly due to intelligent song writing, vocal ability and especially the toe tapping, finger popping danceable rhythms and beats that required the proficiency of highly skilled musicians.

The most effective vocalists had more than a tinge of gospel in their cadence and climatic accent on notes, words and the way they phrased lyrics. Then some, like Diana Ross, with “sweet” soft voices could shape that gospel/blues thing into more mellifluous projections that could appeal to audiences not attuned to too many emotional embellishments. Still, others like the late Sam Cooke, who had crossover appeal, could mix it up. Reigning over this R&B landscape are the Queen and the late Godfather of Soul, Aretha Franklin and James Brown, respectively.

The music was always changing, but there was always room for a small horn section, and a guitar which echoed elements of jazz composition and choreographed improvisation giving the music a full tonal and harmonic texture with melodies and counter melodies enriching the listening experience. The convergence of digital technology and the promotion of exploitive lyrical fantasy from composers with no or inchoate literary references has taken its toll on an art form that embodies emotional beauty. With some exceptions, it seems stuck in a syncopated yet monotonous dialogue between a heavy bass line and the bass drum.

If you were to pour the R&B experience through a funnel at the other end of your distillery you would not be disappointed to find that the reward of your labor is Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. To say they have distinctive and easily recognizable sound would be correct. To say they are a through back to an earlier era would be a misleading cliché. Rather, they are bringing the music forward with new material, but based on a tried and true formula of projecting “that sound,” the Dap Sound.

In 10 years and four albums Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings have garnered a worldwide cache of admiring fans and a high degree of respect form the music industry. You may have seen them on late night shows: Jay Leno, David Letterman, The Late Night Show With Graig Ferguson, CNN, CBS News, NPR and PBS’s Austin City Limits.

As a vocalist Sharon Jones projects with a powerful clear and articulate voice with all the raw emotional zeal of a Baptist preacher. Powerful vocals are no good if they are out of control. Jones always has hers well under control; never an out of pitch moment. Jones, 55 from Augusta, Georgia, appeared and sang in Denzel Washington’s The Great Debaters.

The band she fronts, The Dap-Kings, backed up Amy Winehouse on her Back to Black album and Al Green’s Lay It Down, both Grammy winning albums. The Roots, an R&B/hip-hop band has been widely recognized as one of if not the best bands in the business. They are Jimmy Fallon’s house band. There is no doubt that The Roots are a solid band, but I’d have to say that the Dap-Kings are several cuts above. Without being biased here’s why: virtuosity!

Check out the Dap Sound of Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings’ from their 3rd album, 100 Days, 100 Nights.

Answer Me

Humble Me

Let Them Knock

Something’s Changed

Keep On Looking