Reading and Resources
REEL TALKS: BADDDDD SONIA SANCHEZ
This new volume by the much-loved poet Sonia Sanchez, her first in over a decade, is music to the ears: a collection of haiku that celebrates the gifts of life and mourns the deaths of revered African American figures in the worlds of music, literature, art, and activism. In her verses, we hear the sounds of Max Roach “exploding in the universe,” the “blue hallelujahs” of the Philadelphia Murals, and the voice of Odetta “thundering out of the earth.” Beacon Press 2010
Homegirls and Handgrenades
This new edition of Homegirls and Handgrenades draws together all Sanchez’s poems of the 1980’s including the original collections of Homegirls and Handgrenades. White Pine Press 2007
Shake Loose My Skin
An extraordinary retrospective covering over thirty years of work, Shake Loose My Skin is a stunning testament to the literary, sensual, and political powers of the award-winning Sonia Sanchez. Beacon Press 1999
Does Your House Have Lions?
With unrelenting honesty and searing beauty, one of our most powerful voices offers us an African-American odyssey. Does Your House Have Lions? is an exquisite and at times wrenching work exploring the life of Sonia Sanchez’s brother—a vibrant young man who left the South for New York, immersed himself in the city’s gay subculture, and became a victim of AIDS in the first years of the pandemic. Beacon Press 1997
Wounded in the House of a Friend
Sonia Sanchez explores the pain, self-doubt, and anger that emerge in women’s lives: an unfaithful life partner, a brutal rape, the murder of a woman by her granddaughter, the ravages of drugs. Beacon Press 1995
I’ve Been a Woman: New and Selected Poems
The author of several books of poetry, Sanchez’ I’ve Been A Woman is the dynamic transcendental female voice of one of the finest poets of our time. Includes “Black Magic: Blk Rhetoric” and “Blues.” Third World Press 1978
LET’S TALK: DIVAS
I Put a Spell On You: The Autobiography of Nina Simone
A gorgeous, inimitable singer and songwriter, Nina Simone (1933-2003) changed the face of both music and race relations in America. She struck a chord with bluesy jazz ballads like “Put a Little Sugar in My Bowl” and powerful protest songs such as “Mississippi Goddam” and “To Be Young, Gifted, and Black,” the anthem of the American Civil Rights movement. Coinciding with the re-release of her famous Philips Recordings, here are the reflections of the “High Priestess of Soul” on her own life. Simone, Nina. I Put a Spell On You: The Autobiography of Nina Simone (Da Capo Press, 2003.)
Princess Noire: The Tumultuous Reign of Nina Simone
Born Eunice Waymon in Tryon, North Carolina, Nina Simone (1933-2003) began her musical life playing classical piano. A child prodigy, she wanted a career on the concert stage, but when the Curtis Institute of Music rejected her, the devastating disappointment compelled her to change direction. She turned to popular music and jazz but never abandoned her classical roots or her intense ambition. By the age of twenty six, Simone had sung at New York City’s venerable Town Hall and was on her way. Tapping into newly unearthed material on Simone’s family and career, Nadine Cohodas paints a luminous portrait of the singer, highlighting her tumultuous life, her innovative compositions, and the prodigious talent that matched her ambition. Cohadas, Nadine. Princess Noire: The Tumultuous Reign of Nina Simone. (The University of North Carolina Press, 2012.)
The Amazing Nina Simone: A Documentary Film
She was left out of Civil Rights history…Erased by jazz critics…And forgotten by most Americans because no one knew how to categorize greatness. Now, a new documentary reveals the real Nina Simone through over 50 intimate & exclusive interviews with those who knew the artistry and intentions of one of America’s true musical geniuses. The Amazing Nina Simone: A Documentary Film. Dir. Jeff Lieberman. Re-emerging Films. 2015. Film. Available on Amazon Video.
What Happened, Miss Simone?
A documentary about the life and legend Nina Simone, an American singer, pianist, and civil rights activist labeled the “High Priestess of Soul.” What Happened, Miss Simone? Dir. Liz Garbus. Netflix. 2015. Available on Netflix.
Interviews with Nina Simone from 1985 and 1987
Conducted by Tom Schnabel for the radio program Morning Becomes Eclectic.
REEL TALK: BLACK IS…BLACK AIN’T
Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do
Claude M. Steele, who has been called “one of the few great social psychologists,” offers a vivid first-person account of the research that supports his groundbreaking conclusions on stereotypes and identity. He sheds new light on American social phenomena–from racial and gender gaps in test scores to the belief in the superior athletic prowess of black men–and lays out a plan for mitigating these “stereotype threats” and reshaping American identities. Steele, Claude M. Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do. (W. W. Norton & Company, 2010.)
Dark Girls is a fascinating and controversial documentary film that goes underneath the surface to explore the prejudices that dark-skinned women face throughout the world. It explores the roots of classism, racism and the lack of self-esteem within a segment of cultures that span from America to the most remote corners of the globe.
LET’S TALK: CELEBRATING RONDO
The Arsenal of Exclusion and Inclusion
The Arsenal of Exclusion and Inclusion examines the policies, practices, and physical artifacts that have been used by planners, policy makers, developers, real estate brokers, community activists, and other urban actors in the United States to restrict or aid access to the spaces of our cities and suburbs. The Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion inventories these weapons of exclusion and inclusion, describes how they have been used, assesses their legacy, and speculates on how they might be used (or retired) for the sake of more open cities in which more people feel welcome in more places. Armborst, Tobias, Daniel D’Oca and Theodore Georgeen. The Arsenal of Exclusion and Inclusion. (New York: Actar, 2016).
“Mapping Prejudice project traces history of discriminatory deeds in Minneapolis”
From the neighborhoods near Lake Nokomis to properties along Minnehaha Creek to subdivisions in Northeast’s Waite Park, real estate documents spell out requirements meant to keep people “other than anyone of the Caucasian race” out. Now, a team of local researchers aims to make Minneapolis the first city in the nation to map every residential lot’s history of racially restrictive deed covenants. Their painstaking research is accelerating, thanks to digital technology that will let them scan records that once resided in huge dusty tomes or on microfilm in the Hennepin County recorder office. Brandt, Steve. “Mapping Prejudice project traces history of discriminatory deeds in Minneapolis,” Star Tribune. Nov 25, 2016.
The Case for Reparations
Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole. Coates, Ta-Nehisi. “The Case for Reparations,” The Atlantic. June, 2014.
“The Unraveling of the City’s Racially Restrictive Covenants”
On a beautiful summer day in 1946, pickets appeared outside the offices of the Minneapolis Board of Realtors. The young protesters — who were newly returned veterans and students at the University of Minnesota — held signs demanding equal rights. Their goal was to make visible the racism that lay hidden in the property deeds of homeowners across the city. Delegard, Kirsten. “The unraveling of the city’s racially restrictive covenants,” The Southwest Journal. October 19, 2015.
The Days of Rondo
Evelyn Fairbanks’s affectionate memoir of this lively neighborhood. Its pages are filled with fascinating people: Mama and Daddy—Willie Mae and George Edwards—who taught her about love and pride an dignity; Aunt Good, a tall and stately woman with a “queenly secretive attitude”; brother Morris, who “took the time to teach me about the street and the people I would find there”; Mrs. Neal, the genteel activist who showed her the difference between a salad fork and a dessert fork; Mr. and Mrs. Taylor, who started a girls’ string band; and a whole assortment of street vendors and playmates who made up the world of her childhood. Fairbanks, Evelyn. The Days of Rondo. (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1990).
A Raisin in the Sun
Set on Chicago’s South Side, the plot revolves around the divergent dreams and conflicts within three generations of the Younger family: son Walter Lee, his wife Ruth, his sister Beneatha, his son Travis and matriarch Lena, called Mama. When her deceased husband’s insurance money comes through, Mama dreams of moving to a new home and a better neighborhood in Chicago. Walter Lee, a chauffeur, has other plans, however: buying a liquor store and being his own man. Beneatha dreams of medical school. The tensions and prejudice they face form this seminal American drama. Sacrifice, trust and love among the Younger family and their heroic struggle to retain dignity in a harsh and changing world is a searing and timeless document of hope and inspiration. Hansberry, Lorraine. A Raisin in the Sun. (New York: Vintage, 2004).
“The Origins and Diffusion of Racial Restrictive Covenants”
Racial restrictive covenants — private agreements barring non-Caucasians from occupying or owning property — were a key element of the segregationist policies in the early twentieth-century United States. Yet though we know a great deal about racial restrictive covenants at the moment of their demise in the 1940s, we know relatively little about their origins or spread. Jones-Correa, Michael. “The Origins and Diffusion of Racial Restrictive Covenants,” Political Science Quarterly. (New York: Academy of Political Science, 2000).
Governing American Cities: Inter-Ethnic Coalitions, Competition, and Conflict
Governing American Cities brings together the best research from both established and rising scholars to examine the changing demographics of America’s cities, the experience of these new immigrants, and their impact on urban politics. Governing American Cities: Inter-Ethnic Coalitions, Competition, and Conflict. Michael Jones-Correa, Ed. (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2001).
Remember Rondo: A Tradition of Excellence
Remember Rondo: A Tradition of Excellence tells the story of the Rondo neighborhood’s origins in Minnesota and St. Paul. It also profiles inspiring Rondo community members from pioneer days to the date this booklet was published in 1995. Remember Rondo: A Tradition of Excellence. Vikki Sanders, Ed. (St. Paul: Remember Rondo Committee, 1995).
The Unfinished History of Racial Segregation
Residential segregation is the linchpin of racial division and separation. In most Northeastern and Midwestern metropolitan areas, as in the nation, the degree of black-white racial separation in residence remains high, despite evidence of shifting white attitudes about race, despite successful court challenges to programs that perpetuated racial segregation. Sugrue, Thomas J. “The Unfinished History of Racial Segregation” (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2008).
Before There Was Interstate 94 … There Was Rondo
Before There Was Interstate 94 … There Was Rondo details the destruction of this vibrant neighborhood and the construction of I94. Sanders, Mary. “Before There Was Interstate 94 … There Was Rondo,” Voices: A Collection of Writings and Stories for a Diverse Community. Mark Clark, Ed. (St. Paul: St. Paul Department of Planning and Economic Development, 1992).
Remember Rondo: Celebrating the People, Their Lives and Times
A history of Rondo Avenue and the community around it. Taylor, David V. Remember Rondo: Celebrating the People, Their Lives and Times. (St. Paul: Rondo Avenue, Inc., 1983).
Voices of Rondo: Oral Histories of Saint Paul’s Historic Black Community
Rich stories told in the voices of the people who lived in Rondo. Voices of Rondo: Oral Histories of Saint Paul’s Historic Black Community. Kate Cavett, Ed. (Syren Book Company, 2005).
Invisible Walls: An Examination of the Legal Strategy of the Restrictive Covenant Cases
An examination of discrimination in real estate, community development, and revitalization. Ware, Leland B. Invisible Walls: An Examination of the Legal Strategy of the Restrictive Covenant Cases. (Washington University School of Law, 1989).
A major work by two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner August Wilson. A thoroughly revised version of a play August Wilson first wrote in 1979, Jitney was produced in New York for the first time in the spring of 2000, winning rave reviews and the accolade of the New York Drama Critics Circle Award as the best play of the year. Set in the 1970s in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, and depicting cabdrivers who serve black neighborhoods, Jitney is the seventh in Wilsons 10-play cycle (one for each decade) on the black experience in twentieth century America. Wilson, August. Jitney. (New York: Theatre Communications Group, 2008).
Two Trains Running
It is Pittsburgh, 1969, and the regulars of Memphis Lee’s restaurant are struggling to cope with the turbulence of a world that is changing rapidly around them and fighting back when they can. The diner is scheduled to be torn down, a casualty of the city’s renovation project that is sweeping away the buildings of a community, but not its spirit. For just as sure as an inexorable future looms right around the corner, these people of “loud voices and big hearts” continue to search, to father, to persevere, to hope. With compassion, humor, and a superb sense of place and time, Wilson paints a vivid portrait of everyday lives in the shadow of great events, and of unsung men and women who are anything but ordinary. Wilson, August. Two Trains Running. (New York: Plume, 1993).
Radio Golf is August Wilson’s final play. Set in 1990 Pittsburgh, it is the conclusion of his Century Cycle—Wilson’s ten-play chronicle of the African American experience throughout the twentieth century—and is the last play he completed before his death. With Radio Golf Wilson’s lifework comes full circle as Aunt Ester’s onetime home at 1839 Wylie Avenue (the setting of the cycle’s first play) is slated for demolition to make way for a slick new real estate venture aimed to boost both the depressed Hill District and Harmond Wilks’ chance of becoming the city’s first black mayor. A play in which history, memory, and legacy challenge notions of progress and country club ideals, Radio Golf has been produced throughout the country and will head to Broadway this season. Wilson, August. Radio Golf. (New York: Theatre Communications Group, 2008).
LET’S TALK: VOTING RIGHTS
Election Protection, 866ourvote.org
The national, nonpartisan Election Protection coalition was formed to ensure that all voters have an equal opportunity to participate in the political process. Made up of more than 100 local, state and national partners, Election Protection works year-round to advance and defend the right to vote.
Give Us The Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America, by Ari Berman
In this groundbreaking narrative history, Ari Berman charts both the transformation of American democracy under the Voting Rights Act and the counterrevolution that has sought to limit voting rights from 1965 to the present day. The act enfranchised millions of Americans and is widely regarded as the crowning achievement of the civil rights movement. And yet fifty years later we are still fighting heated battles over race, representation, and political power, with lawmakers devising new strategies to keep minorities out of the voting booth and the Supreme Court declaring a key part of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. Berman brings the struggle over voting rights to life through meticulous archival research, in-depth interviews with key figures in the debate and incisive on-the-ground reporting. He vividly takes the reader from the demonstrations of the civil rights movement to the halls of Congress to the chambers of the Supreme Court.
Selma: The Bridge to the Ballot
This film tells the story of a courageous group of students and teachers who, along with other activists, fought a nonviolent battle to win voting rights for African Americans in the South. Standing in their way: a century of Jim Crow, a resistant and segregationist state, and a federal government slow to fully embrace equality. By organizing and marching bravely in the face of intimidation, violence, arrest and even murder, these change-makers achieved one of the most significant victories of the civil rights era.
Southern Poverty Law Center, tolerance.org
Founded in 1991 by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Teaching Tolerance is dedicated to reducing prejudice, improving intergroup relations and supporting equitable school experiences for our nation’s children. They provide free educational materials to teachers and other school practitioners in the U.S. and Canada. The self-titled magazine is sent to 450,000 educators twice annually, and tens of thousands of educators use their free curricular kits.
SURJ is a national network of groups and individuals organizing White people for racial justice. Through community organizing, mobilizing, and education, SURJ moves White people to act as part of a multi-racial majority for justice with passion and accountability. We work to connect people across the country while supporting and collaborating with local and national racial justice organizing efforts. SURJ provides a space to build relationships, skills and political analysis to act for change.
LET’S TALK: THE BLACK PANTHERS
Black against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party, by Joshua Bloom and Waldo Martin
Black against Empire is the first comprehensive overview and analysis of the history and politics of the Black Panther Party. The authors analyze key political questions, such as why so many young black people across the country risked their lives for the revolution, why the Party grew most rapidly during the height of repression, and why allies abandoned the Party at its peak of influence. Bold, engrossing, and richly detailed, this book cuts through the mythology and obfuscation, revealing the political dynamics that drove the explosive growth of this revolutionary movement, and its disastrous unraveling. Informed by twelve years of meticulous archival research, as well as familiarity with most of the former Party leadership and many rank-and-file members, this book is the definitive history of one of the greatest challenges ever posed to American state power.
FBI Secrets: An Agents Expose, by M. Wesley Swearingen
A former FBI agent exposes the agency’s myths and wars against political freedom in this country.
Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC
Faith S. Holsaert, Martha Prescod Norman Noonan, Judy Richardson, Betty Garman Robinson, Jean Smith Young, Dorothy M. Zellner, editors. In Hands on the Freedom Plow, fifty-two women–northern and southern, young and old, urban and rural, black, white, and Latina–share their courageous personal stories of working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement. The testimonies gathered here present a sweeping personal history of SNCC: early sit-ins, voter registration campaigns, and freedom rides; the 1963 March on Washington, the Mississippi Freedom Summer, and the movements in Alabama and Maryland; and Black Power and antiwar activism. Since the women spent time in the Deep South, many also describe risking their lives through beatings and arrests and witnessing unspeakable violence. These intense stories depict women, many very young, dealing with extreme fear and finding the remarkable strength to survive.
The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks, by Jeanne Theoharis
The definitive political biography of Rosa Parks examines her six decades of activism, challenging perceptions of her as an accidental actor in the civil rights movement. Presenting a corrective to the popular notion of Rosa Parks as the quiet seamstress who, with a single act, birthed the modern civil rights movement, Theoharis provides a revealing window into Parks’s politics and years of activism. She shows readers how this civil rights movement radical sought—for more than a half a century—to expose and eradicate the American racial-caste system in jobs, schools, public services, and criminal justice.
Want to Start a Revolution?: Radical Women in the Black Freedom Struggle
Dayo F. Gore, Jeanne Theoharis and Komozi Woodard, editors
The story of the black freedom struggle in America has been overwhelmingly male-centric, starring leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Huey Newton. With few exceptions, black women have been perceived as supporting actresses; as behind-the-scenes or peripheral activists, or rank and file party members. But what about Vicki Garvin, a Brooklyn-born activist who became a leader of the National Negro Labor Council and guide to Malcolm X on his travels through Africa? What about Shirley Chisholm, the first black Congresswoman? From Rosa Parks and Esther Cooper Jackson, to Shirley Graham DuBois and Assata Shakur, a host of women demonstrated a lifelong commitment to radical change, embracing multiple roles to sustain the movement, founding numerous groups and mentoring younger activists. Helping to create the groundwork and continuity for the movement by operating as local organizers, international mobilizers, and charismatic leaders, the stories of the women profiled in Want to Start a Revolution? help shatter the pervasive and imbalanced image of women on the sidelines of the black freedom struggle.
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, by Bryan Stevenson
Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever. Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.
REEL TALK: ANNE BRADEN A SOUTHERN PATRIOT
What Does Justice Look Like?: The Struggle For Liberation in Dakota Homeland, by Waziyatawin
Learning to Be White: Money, Race and God in America, by Thandeka
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander, with an introduction by Cornel West
Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race, by Debby Irving
LET’S TALK: ON THE FRONT LINES
Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
“Between the World and Me is a love letter written in a moral emergency.”—Slate Magazine
“Powerful and passionate . . . profoundly moving . . . a searing meditation on what it means to be black in America today.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“Brilliant . . . [Ta-Nehisi Coates] is firing on all cylinders, and it is something to behold: a mature writer entirely consumed by a momentous subject and working at the extreme of his considerable powers at the very moment national events most conform to his vision.”—The Washington Post
How the Irish Became White, by Noel Ignatiev
Ignatiev traces the tattered history of Irish & African-American relations, revealing how the Irish used labor unions, the Catholic Church & the Democratic party to succeed in American. He uncovers the roots of conflict between Irish-Americans & African-Americans & draws a powerful connection between the embracing of white supremacy & Irish “success” in 19th century American society.
Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement, by Barbara Ransby
In this deeply researched biography, Barbara Ransby chronicles Ella Baker’s long and rich political career as an organizer, an intellectual, and a teacher, from her early experiences in depression-era Harlem to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Ransby shows Baker to be a complex figure whose radical, democratic worldview, commitment to empowering the black poor, and emphasis on group-centered, grassroots leadership set her apart from most of her political contemporaries. Beyond documenting an extraordinary life, the book paints a vivid picture of the African American fight for justice and its intersections with other progressive struggles worldwide across the twentieth century.
41ST SEASON: CROSSING LINES
Color, culture, sexuality, class. What happens when we dare to cross society’s difficult divides? This season, Penumbra presents stories of people fighting to be seen, accepted, respected, and loved — not as the world dictates, but as they are. Join us to celebrate the struggles and strength of those who don’t live inside the lines.
Penumbra Theatre produces artistically excellent, thought-provoking, relevant art that illuminates the human condition through the prism of the African American experience.
Penumbra’s Let’s Talk Series creates space for compassionate and challenging conversations around issues of social justice, equity, and the arts. Hosted by Sarah Bellamy, the event begins at 6:00pm with refreshments and light bites, followed by a 90-minute presentation and discussion.
Join us for film screenings followed by provocative discussion about the themes. REEL Talks are free, but reservations are required. Each event begins at 7:00pm.
“Penumbra doesn't just recreate what we see–it makes us see! ”
—T. Mychael Rambo