Literary Birthdays – February 7 – 13

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February 7

 Willis Nathaniel Huggins.PNG Willis Nathaniel Huggins (born February 7, 1886) – U.S. historian

Read the Wikipedia biography of Willis Huggins:

Read more details of Huggins’ life:

Chris Rock (born February 7, 1965) – U.S. comedian, screenwriter – I Think I Love My Wife (2007)

Watch Chris Rock at the 2016 Academy Awards


February 8

Mae Street Kidd (born February 8, 1904) – U.S.  businesswoman, politician, civil rights activist – Passing for Black (written with Wade Hall)  mae-street-kidd

Read about Mae Street Kidd:

Read excerpts from Passing for Black

Ron Tyson (Presson) (born February 8, 1948) – U.S. singer (The Temptations) and songwriter ron-tyson

Read Ron Tyson’s biography on Internet Movie Database:

Visit the In Dangerous Rhythm blog post about
Ron Tyson and the
Love Committee:

February 9

Alice Walker 2

Alice Malsenior Walker (born February 9, 1944) – U.S. novelist, poet – The Color Purple

Read about Alice Walker here:

I Said to Poetry

I said to Poetry: “I’m finished
with you.”
Having to almost die
before some wierd light
comes creeping through
is no fun.
“No thank you, Creation,
no muse need apply.
I’m out for good times–
at the very least,
some painless convention.”

Poetry laid back
and played dead
until this morning.
I wasn’t sad or anything,
only restless.

Poetry said: “You remember
the desert, and how glad you were
that you have an eye
to see it with? You remember
that, if ever so slightly?”
I said: “I didn’t hear that.
Besides, it’s five o’clock in the a.m.
I’m not getting up
in the dark
to talk to you.”

Poetry said: “But think about the time
you saw the moon
over that small canyon
that you liked so much better
than the grand one–and how surprised you were
that the moonlight was green
and you still had
one good eye
to see it with

Think of that!”

“I’ll join the church!” I said,
huffily, turning my face to the wall.
“I’ll learn how to pray again!”

“Let me ask you,” said Poetry.
“When you pray, what do you think
you’ll see?”

Poetry had me.

“There’s no paper
in this room,” I said.
“And that new pen I bought
makes a funny noise.”

“Bullshit,” said Poetry.
“Bullshit,” said I.

Watch, listen to Alice Walker read from

We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For (CSpan BookTV 47 mins)

Cassandra Steen (born February 9, 1980) – German singer/songwriter  cassandra-steen

Read about Cassandra Steen:

Watch a music video Darum Leben Wir:

February 10

Michael Anthony Michael Anthony (born February 10, 1930) – Trinidad novelist, historian, poet, short story writer

Read a short biography of Michael Anthony

Read excerpts from Anthony’s short story collection
Cricket in the Road

The whole street was very long and dusty, and in the concrete drain there was no water and the brown peel of onions blew about when there
was a little wind. Sometimes there was the smell of cloves in the air and sometimes the smell of oilcloth, but where I stood the smell of the sweetness was strongest and most delicious.
He asked, “You like Calcutta Street?”
“Yes,” I said.
The two women laughed coyly and looked from one to the other.
“I have to go,” I said, “–school.”
“O, you gwine to school?” the man said. He put down his rugs again. His loin-cloth was very tight around him. “Well you could wark so,” he said, pointing away from the High Street end of the alley, “and when you get up dey, turn so, and when you wark and wark, you’ll meet the school.”
“Oh!” I said, surprised. I didn’t know there was a way to school along this alley.
“You see?” he said, very pleased with himself.
“Yes,” I said.
The two women looked at him smiling and they seemed very proud the way he explained. I moved off to go, holding my books under my arm. The women looked at me and they smiled in a sad friendly way. I looked at the chutney and barah and channa and suddenly something occurred to me. I felt in my pockets and then I opened my books and looked among the pages. I heard one of the women whisper — “Taking larning…” The other said, “Aha…” and I did not hear the rest of what she said. Desperately I turned the books down and shook them and the penny fell out rolling on the pavement. I grabbed it up and turned to the fat woman. For a moment I couldn’t decide which, but the delicious smell of the yellow, wet channa softened my heart.
“A penny channa,” I said, “wet.”

from “Enchanted Alley” in Cricket in the Road

Roberta Flack (born February 10, 1937) – U.S. singer/songwriter roberta-flack

Visit Roberta Flack’s website

Watch Roberta Flack perform “Killing Me Softly With His Song”

February 11

Jarena Lee (born February 11, 1783) – U.S. ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church (first female preacher);  first female, African-American autobiographer – The Life and Religious Experience of Jarena Lee (1836)

Read Jarena Lee’s biography here and here

Read ecerpts from Jarena Lee’s autobiography here:

and here:

The closing pages of Jarena Lee’s autobiography:

But for the satisfaction of such as may follow after me, when I am no more, I have recorded how the Lord called me to his work, and how he has kept me from falling from grace, as I feared I should. In all things he has proved himself a God of truth to me; and in his service I am now as much determined to spend and be spent, as at the very first. My ardour for the progress of his cause abates not await, so far as I am able to judge, though I am now something more than fifty years of age.

As to the nature of uncommon impressions, which the reader cannot but have noticed, and possibly sneered at in the course of these pages, they may be accounted for in this way: It is known that the blind have the sense of hearing in a manner much more acute than those who can see: also their sense of feeling is exceedingly fine, and is found to detect any roughness on the smoothest surface, where those who can see find none. So it may be with such as I am, who has never had more than three months schooling; and wishing to know much of the way and law of God, have therefore watched the more closely, the operations of the Spirit, and have in consequence been led thereby. But let it be remarked that I have never found that Spirit lead me contrary to the scriptures of truth, as I understand them. “For as many as are led by tha Spirit of God are the sons of God.” – Rom. viii. 14.

I have now only to say, May the blessing of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, accompany the reading of this poor effort to speak well of his name, wherever it may be read. AMEN.

P.S. Please to pardon errors, and excuse all imperfections, as I have been deprived of the advantages of education (which I hope all will appreciate) as I am measurably a self-taught person. I hope the contents of this work may be instrumental in leaving a lasting impression upon the minds of the impenitent; may it prove to be encouraging to the justified soul, and a comfort to the sanctified. Though much opposed, it is essential in life, as Mr. Wesley wisely observed. Thus ends the Narrative of Jarena Lee, the first female preacher of the First African Methodist Episopal Church.

Bethel At Philadelphia, Penn., United States Of America.
Florynce Kennedy (born February 11, 1916) – U.S. attorney, civil rights activist, feminist, autobiographer – Color Me Flo: My Hard Life and Good Times (1976)

Read a short bioraphy of Flo Kennedy:

Read more about Flo Kennedy as remembered by Marsha Joyner:

Read the Ms. Magazine obituary:

Listen to a 1-hour Circle A Radio documentary about Flo Kennedy (aired August 2009) (scroll down)

February 12

george-elliott-clarke George Elliott Clarke (born February 12, 1960) – Canadian novelist, poet, playwright, professor

Read Clarke’s biography in Wikipedia

and in the UofT magazine

From Africadian Petition (1783):

We be hauling Hardships long as pines—

All White whips which you Putting
to us here Since we be breathing
And Luvving. Goddam lashings harp
our Crimsoning hirt.
Your Onnour verry well knose
wheather Ragerlations shell change,
shift, for our Sattersfaction.
You forgit us, so we be Nothing—
Like rain, Sobbing over water.
Read the entire poem here:
Listen to a 2009 Voiceprint interview of Clarke, where he compares the differences between African-Canadians and African-Americans [28 mins]:

February 13

Lenard Duane Moore (born February 13, 1958) – U.S. poet, essayist lenard-moore

Read Moore’s Wikipedia biography

Read Lenard Moore’s thoughts on his Letterpoem, in honor of Barack Obama’s election to the U.S. presidency

Letterpoem, November 4, 2008

Dear Granddaddy,

Did you see the star
eleven and a half years ago?
I know you hadn’t heard about the new nova
illuminating the global landscape.
I write to tell you that I don’t know what
to say at this moment when a black man
has risen like a flag into the sky.
He’s just been elected the President
of this country where your grandfather slaved.
I remember you telling me
before I became a teenaged boy,
just how tough it was in Hoover days
when you plowed fields,
dug septic holes, graves, drainage lines,
carpentered houses with your hands.
All day rain didn’t stop voters from voting.
I know you would be a century now.
I am a half-century old, seeing
the dream walk across the stage this fall night.

Your grandson,

Examples of Moore’s haiku poetry:

wind chimes
a robin stops
to listen

from The Open Eye: Haiku (1985)

cleaning his weapon
a soldier
with the hot sun
setting in his eyes

from Desert Storm: A Brief History (1993)

Faiz Ahmad Faiz (born February 13, 1911) – Punjabi poet


Loneliness like a good, old friend
visits my house to pour wine in the evening.
And we sit together, waiting for the moon,
and for your face to sparkle in every shadow.

Read more poetry here

Read the Authors Calendar biography of Faiz Ahmad Faiz

Listen to U.S. Library of Congress recordings of Faiz reading his poetry

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