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Black History: Personal accounts on inspiring figures

Black History: Personal accounts on inspiring figures

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Black History: Personal accounts on inspiring figures
February 25
00:25 2016

Sidney Johnson | Staff Writer

@Sidjohn87

I chose to highlight James Baldwin for Black History Month because of his unparalleled ability to embody the black experience in this country. His prose remains both somber and witty, detailing the struggle of blacks in the ghettos of America, while offering a sense of hope in the midst of the struggle.

He endured some of the greatest hardships I’ve ever read of, yet rose to be revered as one of the greatest writers in American history.

Born Aug. 2, 1924 in New York City to single mother Emma Jones, his stepfather, David Baldwin, was a Baptist minister and was often hard on James, festering a deep resentment within the young boy. Despite their relationship, James went on to become a youth minister in a Harlem Pentecostal church. This period of his life is detailed in the essay “The Fire Next Time.”

Set sometime in the 1940’s, the essay dove into the writer’s past, showing how the overt racism and discrimination he faced in the urban ghetto shaped his view of the world. He delves into his disdain for white supremacy, his bisexuality – a taboo subject at the time – as well as his friends and classmates who were destined for destruction on the corner he vividly describes.

With time, Baldwin left the church to pursue writing full-time and moved to Greenwich Village, a haven for writers and artists alike. Soon after, he began writing essays and short stories that were later published in national publications.

In 1947, James decided to move to Paris on a fellowship. This was a pivotal moment in Baldwin’s life as he began to analyze the stark difference between his oppression in America and his life outside the states.

He then published a slew of novels such as “Giovanni’s Room, “ “Just Above My Head,” “Another Country” and many other pieces of literary mastery.

James Baldwin died an author, playwright and poet in Saint-Paul de Vence in France on December 1, 1987, just 20 days before I was born.

Above all, Baldwin was an outspoken activist for the rectification of the plight of the black body in America. His words have influenced my perspective on life more than any other writer. He was infinitely honest in his assertion of black subordination at the time.

He is quoted as having said, “I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

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Illustration by Samuel Wiggins | Senior Staff Illustrator

The legacy of Tupac Shakur

Preston Mitchell | Staff Writer

@Presto_Mitch

Since I was 6-years-old, I grew up in a single-mother household until college. My father passed away from cancer and it was up to my mom to raise me independently. Considering the dilemma sprung so early, that way of life became second-nature to me.

The real abnormalities, however, were from looking at the families of everyone I was raised around. Moms, dads, sisters and brothers at every school event. Free from divorce or estrangement.

Fortunately, I found a few of my passions during my youth, and one of them was the music of Tupac Shakur.

Widely considered the greatest rapper of all time, Shakur struck many chords that set him apart from other musicians. By the time I was 12 or 13, I had already heard some of his classics like “California Love” or “How Do U Want It.” Because of their upbeat, festive nature, they were in heavy rotation at the Boys and Girls Club I attended every summer.

It wasn’t until stumbling upon “Dear Mama,” my favorite song of his, that I felt any personal connection to his balladry. Beautifully describing his relationship with his mother, it perfectly explicated the initial anger, the development and the eventual appreciation that males in our situation harbor for the maternal.

As a preteen finally enticed to seek out more Tupac music, it proved to be key in finding out who Tupac was a man. By uncovering his adorations for Shakespeare, philosophy and the arts, he heavily influenced me to look beyond my own narrow-minded upbringing and not let the lack of a father at home hold back my progress.

The beauty of music is that those artists can live forever, which is especially the case here. Tupac Shakur continues to touch listeners, and he did so in his lifetime because he helped transform hip-hop into a poetic art form. Thankfully, his social consciousness aided me to love myself, my potential and, of course, my own mother.

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