15th Annual Citylit Festival on April 14, 2018

Come join me, Rosa Griffin, and 33 other authors at this year’s 15th Annual Citylit Festival on Saturday, April 14, 2018 any time between 9:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.

The event will be held in the atrium of the University of Baltimore’s William H. Thumel, Sr.’s Business Center at 11 W. Mt. Royal Avenue and Charles Street in Baltimore, MD  21201.

Admission is free.

Come meet me and the other authors who will be selling their books and other items, networking, and enjoying your company.   www.citylitproject.org.

Campus map:  http://www.ubalt.edu/uploads/pdfs/campusmap.pdf

Hope to see you there!

Rosa L. Griffin

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Did you know?  A Friend in Sports Radio

Andre A. Melton has a sports show on WEAA 88.9 FM.   He was present when Odessa Rose spoke with gratitude about her thanks to the many Black Writers’ Guild of Maryland’s members who came to the premiere of her movie, Water in a Broken Glass, at the Senator on March 1, 2018.

Andre says that he tries to put at least one item of a general nature in with the sports on each show.  So, listen up—you don’t know what he may be talking about next.

Email:  anmel1@morgan.edu

Phone:  443-825-7857

Fax:  443-885-8206

1700 E. Cold Spring Lane

New Communications, Suite 300

Baltimore, MD  21251

 

Written by Rosa L. Griffin

Energetic and Talented Bruno Mars

I feared for the talented and energetic Bruno Mars and his Hooligans dancing outside on top of the Apollo Theater marquee in Harlem, New York, when I saw their 24K Magic Live at the Apollo show on CBS November 29, 2017.  After all, the building is 77 years old.

They did the Apollo proud with their stylish singing, dancing, and playing musical instruments.  I saw Bruno Mars sing a love ballad on an award show a couple of years ago.  Who knew that he would blow up!   My favorite song of his is the ironic love ballad “Grenade” in which he sings about the great lengths to which he would go to save his loved one (taking a grenade, train, bullet, etc.), but his loved one wouldn’t do the same for him.  I love the line– “…Tell the devil I said hey when you get back to where you’re from.”

I also saw Kathy Bates do a great impression of his 24K Magic song on the Lip Sync Battle television show recently.

www.doowopsandhooligans.weebly.com/band-members.html

www.apollotheater.org/about/history

Written by Rosa L. Griffin

 

 

 

Did you know? Escarpment

I found out that an escarpment is “a steep slope or long cliff that forms as an effect of faulting or erosion and separates two relatively level areas of differing elevations.”  There are escarpments in Niagara, Southern Africa, Caprock, Catskills, Bandiagara, Helderberg, and Knobstone, to name a few.

Guess where I heard the word escarpment?  In a Tarzan movie, “Tarzan’s N. Y. Adventure” (1942) in which Tarzan and Jane’s “adopted” son, Boy (Johnny Sheffield), is kidnapped by hunters who work for circus people and were given a deadline to leave by Tarzan.   So, Jane (Maureen O’Sullivan), Tarzan (Johnny Weismuller), and Cheetah (chimpanzee) get to go to America.

Tarzan is based on a character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs.  And, in spite of 12 movies, Tarzan still never learned to speak more than a 2-3 word sentence, i.e. “Jane go”, “Boy no go”, etc.   Yet, he knew the word “escarpment”.

Johnny Weismuller was “one of the world’s fastest swimmers in the 20s, winning five Olympic gold medals and one bronze for water polo.  He won 52 U.S. national championships and set more than 50 world records.   His character’s distinctive Tarzan yell is still often used in films.”  A heartbreaking fact is that he had a heart condition that was revealed when he broke a hip and a leg in 1974 causing declining health, but he got a 21-gun salute at his funeral in 1984.

That’s where the sexy comes in—right?  You want a relatively muscular man who’s scantily clad, can rescue you if you are drowning, can keep the “animals” in check, brings home the “bacon”, and protects his home.    And, if you can’t have a kid in the plot because the studio says you are already living in sin, you can always wait for a kid to survive a plane crash in one of the movies, so you can “adopt” him or her.

Sources:

Wikipedia

IMDb

Rotten Tomatoes

 

Written by Rosa L. Griffin

Review of Odessa Rose’s BOOK Water in a Broken Glass

Tonya Mimms, an up-and-coming young sculptor, meets Malcolm, the man of her dreams, after a series of bedding and discarding other young men to avoid her attraction to women that she discovered in high school.  Tonya and Malcolm begin a sexual relationship.

Then, blink!  Tonya’s head is turned just like that by a beautiful, sensual woman with some of the same attributes as Malcolm.  Malcolm and Satin’s voices, scents, and complexions assault Tonya upon meeting them. Each potential lover has their own business, is physically fit and attractive, owns their own home, drives a great car, and would be devoted to Tonya if Tonya would allow it.

Tonya is like a kid in a candy store whose been told that she can have whatever she wants.  She splits her affections between the two rather than switches them to Malcolm or Satin exclusively. Is it possible to be in love-at-first-sight with two different people, even two different genders, in the same month?  Who will Tonya choose?

What if you are the one who is so afraid to be different that you will verbally abuse or beat up anyone who threatens others’ perceptions of your “normalcy”?  There are also families involved in each relationship. “People don’t like it when you’re not who they need you to be.”  Ms. Rose’s novel explores the confusion of adolescence and sexual identity—a theme that is artfully interspersed throughout the book.

Ms. Rose has written a powerful novel rivaling James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room in the intensity of issues that it brings before the reader.  Like Baldwin’s David, Tonya is insensitive to the people that she is hurting while finding herself.  However, Tonya is also tortured by her own selfishness, unlike David.

I fell in love with Ms. Rose’s lyrical rhythm of writing and intelligence of expression.  Her book is one you won’t want to put down while reading and won’t want to end when you have finished it.

Written by Rosa L. Griffin

Published on Amazon 2/6/11

 

Review of MOVIE Water in a Broken Glass by Odessa Rose

Baltimore City, Maryland, is one of the stars of Ms. Rose’s brand new movie, Water in a Broken Glass which premiered at York Road’s Senator Theatre on Thursday, March 1, 2018, at 7 p.m.    Those familiar with our city will certainly recognize the beauty of some of its neighborhoods and streets with which Director Jamelle Williams-Thomas surrounded the audience.

The movie was extremely true to the book except for Tonya’s occupation.  In the book she was a sculptor, but in the movie she is a painter.   Tonya, as portrayed by Billie Krishawn, kept her love life at a distance since the young woman’s love she would not acknowledge in high school.   Tonya has to build a showing of her paintings to earn a monetary contract.   So, of course, love comes along to disrupt everything.   Her potential love life will become a big distraction to her work.

She meets handsome, larger-than-life accountant, Malcolm, who is looking for love after a break-up, played by the dimpled, reasonably muscled and tattooed Wes Hall.   Malcolm is fun to be with and quietly magnetic and Tonya thinks she’s in love.

Who comes into Tonya’s life next but the cultured and sophisticated older woman, Satin, played by Toni Belafonte.  Satin is a bookstore owner who knows about art, and is on her way out of her current relationship with Robin, played by Lee Avant.    To complicate matters further, Meyoki, an old flame from high school who Tonya refused to acknowledge comes back into her life for one evening of dancing.    Meyoki is portrayed by Shani Ashley Francillon.   Tonya has to wrestle with old yearnings that she thought were out of her life.   By this time, Tonya probably thought she was in love with three different humans.

Billie Krishawn was absolutely believable as Tonya.   She played the confused young woman who doesn’t know who she wants with compassion.  In a way, Tonya hopes to keep both Malcolm and Satin.

Tonya’s Aunt Jo, played by veteran and award-winning actress, Victoria Rowell, was wonderful in helping Tonya see what she was doing in her love life.    Best friend, Nikki, played by Candiace Dillard, also had Tonya’s back.   By the time Tonya realized what she really wanted, she felt she couldn’t have it because it had been taboo all her life.

The audience was laughing and talking back to the screen often in nearly a standing-room only crowd.   I dare say that many in the audience could identify with Tonya’s dilemma of confusion in finally deciding who to stay with.   I’m also glad that Wes Hall’s character Malcolm did not have to hit a wall breaking his hand like his character did in Ms. Rose’s original book after Tonya broke up with him.

I was also fascinated with the variety of natural hair styles and interesting outfits that Toni Belafonte’s character Satin wore in the movie.

I would love to see the movie again.   Ms. Rose’s movie was worth coming out for on a cold and rainy night.

Written by Rosa L. Griffin

 

Review of book Same Kind of Different as Me, by Ron Hall, Denver Moore, with Lynn Vincent

This is the eye-opening true story of Ron Hall, a white Plantation owner’s son, and Denver Moore, a black present-day slave who are brought together by Ron’s wife.   Both sides were told in this story–each man has their own alternating chapters.

Denver was raised in Red Parrish, Louisiana.   His grandmother, who raised him, died in a fire when he was a little boy.   Denver was also dragged with a rope by 3 white boys when, as a teenager, he stopped to help a white woman change her tire.   She did nothing to stop the attack except to stand still and look pretty.

In the 1960’s, Denver was a Louisiana sharecropper who owned only one set of clothes—the ones on his back—and had been working unpaid for 20 years since he was a child.  All food, clothing, animals, equipment, seeds, etc. were bought on credit—enough to get you through a year–so a black sharecropper would owe the plantation owner for the rest of his life.

“That ain’t no bad life if the labor is for your own land,” Denver said.  He couldn’t read, had no radio, car, telephone, plumbing, nor electricity.   Sharecroppers lived in corrugated shacks with no windows.   Holes in the floors were covered with boards and tin can lids.  Women made their own dresses out of flour sacks.  Denver wasn’t even aware that there had been a World War II, the Korean War, or the Vietnam War.

Denver was not paid except for maybe a few coins and a lunch meat sandwich at the end of the day, but the white sharecroppers were paid and fed at the plantation owners’ table.   Denver received a few dollars maybe 5-6 times per year and two hogs.   With progress and inventions, plantation owners didn’t need as many workers, so they put some of the blacks off the lands they had been working all their lives.   He wasn’t told that he had the right to attend colored schools, learn a trade, join the army, own money, or respect.   Denver was in that class of people who were never given civil rights.   Denver finally got free of the system by hopping a train bound for California and lived by any means necessary.

Ron Hall was basically raised by his grandfather because his father was a drunk.   Ron was a white plantation owner’s son who went to college (where he met his wife) and worked in investment banking.  Then, he discovered art dealing which made him rich.   His wife, Debbie, feared missing the calling of God, so she convinced her husband to start going to missions to feed the homeless in Fort Worth, Texas—where they met and eventually became friends with Denver and many other homeless people.

If not for this book, I would never have known what a Louisiana sharecropper in recent decades went through.  It reminds me of the movie, Sounder, where black poverty abounded in a similar situation.

Same Kind of Different as Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together, co-written by Ron Hall and Denver Moore, with Lynn Vincent, published by Thomas Nelson, 2006.  Was made into a film in 2017 by Michael Carney.

Other sources:

7/17/07 histclo.com/cwa/rcon/rec-share

Sharecropping—Slavery by Another Name—Bento—PBS

Written by Rosa Griffin

Review of book Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim

Although it is fiction, Ms. Ibrahim has written a bittersweet slave narrative of the relationship between a black slave, Mattie, and the white child, Lisbeth, that she raised from birth.    It is a heart-rending story of people in dire circumstances who learn to survive.   The story could easily be true.

The story takes place a few years before the U.S. Civil War.    Mattie was a field slave who recently gave birth to her own baby, Samuel, but was forced to give Samuel’s breast milk to Lisbeth and give her son over for months at a time to Rebecca, a fellow field hand, who nursed Mattie’s baby, and her “grandfather” Poppy who carried the baby to Rebecca each day.   She only got to see her own son for a short time on Sunday afternoons and only got to see her “husband” Emmanuelle once per month when he came from another plantation.  Of course, Mattie is an unpaid, involuntary caregiver to Lisbeth.

Before being sent to the big house, Mattie slept on a palette on a dirt floor.   In the big house, Mattie slept on a small bed and wore a simple dress given to her by the housekeeper.   Mattie felt glass at a window and looked in a mirror for the first time in her life.  Slaves told time by the sun so Mattie couldn’t tell time by the clocks in the big house.  The yellow crocus is the first sign of spring and was one of the many signs by which slaves recognized the seasons.

The author digs more into the emotional and psychological consequences of this kind of “life”.    She only gives a hint of some of the horrors faced by slaves.   Mattie gets whipped by another plantation owner when her son who was sold to him and her husband run away to make a better life for Mattie and her new baby girl Jordan.  A black child touching a white child could get him killed.  Learning to read or teaching another black person to read could get a black person killed.

The author also gives a view of the white family’s plight.   They wanted to marry off their daughters to the most wealthy plantation owners that they could.  Lisbeth’s mother is one such daughter.    She is supposed to “sit still and look pretty”, have sex with her husband just enough to have children, put up with her husband’s need to have sex with young unwilling slave girls like Lisbeth’s maid, etc.

I enjoyed Ms. Ibrahim’s writing style which was warm and compassionate to all of her characters.   However, slavery will always be an uncomfortable subject.

Ibrahim, Laila, Yellow Crocus, Lake Union Publishing, 2014

Review written by Rosa L. Griffin

 

Review of book Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris

In the animal kingdom, a powerful predator sniffs, listens, observes, takes his/her stance, and pounces on the weakest animal in the herd.  So, it is with humans.  Predators watch for their opportunities to find the weakest among the human herd.

Grace is a woman who, out of love, has given half her life for the care of her younger sister, Millie, who has Downs Syndrome and will soon be graduating from her special school.  Grace’s parents wanted to institutionalize Millie, but Grace fought to work and provide solely for Millie’s education and other expenses.   Although Grace traveled out of the country for work, she still led a sheltered life because she allowed herself no social or love life other than to take care of her sister.  This denial of life made her a target.

People like Jack Angel can recognize a person who would be weak to his looks and money.  He watches Grace and Millie in public and decides they will be his next victims.   He does the dance isolating them from the rest of the herd and pounces.  Jack could tell that Grace craved physical contact and love, which he held out to her like a last meal.

Jack put tremendous pressure on Grace to marry him after 3 months.   But, what happens when you marry a predator?   The worst horror of all is when the person you love turns out to be a monster.   Especially when the monster comes wrapped in love, money, talent, and beauty—all the things you would want in a future spouse.  But, pull back the wrapping and you have Jack Angel, a predator.

It’s like watching an accident while driving, but you just can’t take your eyes away.  By page 80, I was nauseous because I could see and “hear” the clues and feel the tension when Grace couldn’t.   Nor did she follow her instincts when things weren’t right.  It was hard to put the book down, but I had to keep breaking away to save my own sanity.

B.A. Paris has written an exquisite horror story from which others would do well to read and learn.  I liked Ms. Paris’ writing style in the third person from Grace’s point of view.   I also liked the way she entitled each chapter either PAST or PRESENT so it was easy to keep up with flashbacks.  This was an intense read.

B.A. Paris, Behind Closed Doors, a novel, St. Martin’s Press, 2016

Written by Rosa L. Griffin

Review of Jenifer Lewis’ book The Mother of Black Hollywood: A Memoir

I always saw Jenifer Lewis as the strong, sexy black woman with the deep voice and the street smarts.   I never knew that she could sing and dance as well.  She has appeared in off-Broadway and Broadway stage, television, and movies.   Everyone has probably had a friend they would say is “so crazy”, but fun, until you’re around him or her long enough to see that something is not quite right about them.   Jenifer Lewis has shared her story identifying herself as that “friend”.  One who can turn you on or off in a heartbeat, lift you up or dismiss you.    But, you can’t put your finger on what’s wrong with that person.  They only half-realize themselves that something is wrong in their alone moments.

Through Jenifer’s fascinating show-business life, she hobnobbed with the famous and the infamous.   She fought causes like AIDS, civil rights, bipolar, etc.  She was in the front row when President Obama accepted the Democratic nomination.   She drops a lot of names in the book.  The question is:  Who does she not know?   Seems like she knew or has worked with everybody in the business.

As I read the book, I kept saying to myself as I’m sure people she knew also thought—when will she be satisfied with her accomplishments?  How far does she have to go to be content?   But, I found that no matter where and how much she was performing (throwing that leg up to the ceiling), she never felt that she had done enough to become a star.    When she was up during each performance, she had to come down with men and/or drink in order to get to sleep.  Jenifer found that she was addicted to sex and alcohol, and I would say also to performing.

Jenifer eventually found out that she was bipolar.    I have a friend who is bipolar, but my friend is opposite from Jenifer.   He is not outgoing and refuses to get involved with anyone.   He spends his time watching “reality relationship” TV shows (like Maury Povich and Jerry Springer) in which he says constantly that he will never date anyone because he doesn’t want to go through what those people went through.    I can see my friend in Jenifer otherwise.    Especially in his extreme mood swings— my friend is depressed about what he should be happy about and happy about little or nothing.

In the years dealing with the diagnosis, Jenifer was still up and down, but she had a goal to get well once she knew what the problem was.   I liked the book, especially in how she opened herself up to let you know the good and the bad that usually doesn’t come out until after the star has died.   Thank you, Ms. Lewis, for your honesty.

Jenifer Lewis, The Mother of Black Hollywood

Amistad, Imprint of  HarperCollinsPublishers, c 2017

Written by Rosa L. Griffin