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From Rastafarianism to James Baldwin

 

Rasta and Resistance: From Marcus Garvey to Walter Rodney by Horace Campbell.
London: Hansib Publishing Ltd., 1985.

This offering from Horace Campbell is one of the most important books ever written on the role and purpose of Rastafarian in the African struggles for liberation.

 

The book fearlessly assesses its strengths and weaknesses in a balanced and critical manner. Campbell makes known the effects of chattel enslavement on the progeny of those who suffered during the MAAFA (African holocaust) and how their descendants used pan-Africanism, not only to resist, but more importantly, to transcend their placement in Europe's 'new world.'

 

By making the links with the wider African struggles for liberation, Campbell demonstrates that what happened in the hills, gullies and slums of Jamaica in the 1930s cannot be regarded as a millenarian movement with no practical ideological basis.

 

In fact, he challenges those accounts that would have us believe that Rastafarians were merely a bunch of fantasists whose role and purpose was to 'smoke weed' and ‘get stoned.' Campbell, more than any writer before or since, explores the rationale behind putting on the covenant - Dread Locks - as a reclamation of an African-centred aesthetic and a means to put fear into the hearts of the oppressor. A must-read for those who appreciate academic rigor, coupled with an informative and highly readable style.

Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur
An illuminating autobiography and a vivid explanation of the female Panther's struggle, Shakur describes her personal experiences with racism and makes a strong reclamation of her own blackness, calling for necessary political action. There are first-hand accounts of the police harassment, infiltration and day-to-day challenges and conflicts both internal and external to the Panther party. Insider commentary throughout on the fallacy of the American justice system and of the situation that leads to her prison term and escape to Cuba.
Copyright 1999 by Assata Shakur. Available through Lawrence Hill & Co.
Recommended by Kate Glinsman

Featured: The Black activist and a torn in the flesh of American Conservatives, Assata Shakur.

Reviewed by Dr. Lez Henry

NON-FICTION

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
Baldwin’s autobiographical essay on his religious struggle from his early childhood and throughout the Civil Rights Movement which examines the disturbing racial injustice pervading American society.
Copyright 1962 by James Baldwin. Available through Vintage International.
Recommended by Jill Bolstridge

Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight: Cassius Clay vs. The United States of America
by Howard L. Bingham and Max Wallace.

This book chronicles black heavyweight boxing from the turn of the century throughout Ali's reign. Charting the life and career of the boxer alongside the turbulent politics in
America, the real story behind key legislation, desegregation, domestic/foreign policy, and the Vietnam War come to light. Ali's role in the struggle and the poignant political statements he made with his actions and non-participation elaborate greatly on the key issues and power moves both in and out of the ring.
Copyright 2004 by Howard L. Bingham and Max Wallace. Available through Robson Books, Ltd.
Recommended by Kate Glinsman

Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower by William Blum
Both an educational and shocking account of US foreign policy.  In 2003, Osama Bin Laden publicly declared that it would be “useful” for Americans to read this book.
Copyright 2000 by William Blum.  Available through the Common Courage Press.
Recommended by Jill Bolstridge

Iceman Inheritance: Prehistoric Sources of Western Man's Racism, Sexism and Aggression by Michael Bradley
Michael Bradley delves back into our glacial past during the last Ice Age in order to find the prehistoric sources of the white race's aggression, racism and sexism. Relying on the researches of Alexander Marshack, Carleton Coon, Konrad Lorenz, S.L. Washburn, Ralph Solecki and others, Bradley offers a persuasive argument that the white race, the Neanderthal-Caucasoids, are more aggressive than others because of ancient sexual mal-adaptation. And, in tracing the effects of Caucasian aggression, Bradley offers an uncomfortable and all-too-plausible explanation for the pattern of human history.
Copyright 1976 by Michael Bradley. Available through Kayode Publications.
Recommended by Kate Glinsman

Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver

A provocative, insightful, and personal analysis of private torment and pivotal current affairs at a crucial time in
US history. Cleaver, writing through his prison time, narrates his situation and actions, expresses his anguish, and comments on the works of other important authors and social leaders of the time. His analysis on US imperialism, domestic and international, is illuminating and astute.
Copyright 1968 by Eldridge Cleaver, available from Random House, Inc.
Recommended by Kate Glinsman

Post-Traumatic Slave Disorder by Joy DeGruy Leary,  Ph.D.
A brilliant examination of racism since the end of slavery and the slavery which still exists despite its legislative endings.  An exploration of the failures of the education system and the mainstream media in its historical depiction of slavery and the impact it still has on both the black and white cultures of today, as well as a profound proposal for attacking the evils of racism which still pervade the world.
Copyright 2003 by Joy DeGruy Leary, Ph.D.  Available through Uptone Press.
Recommended by Jill Bolstridge

Black Like Me by John Howard
Griffin

A journalistic investigation into the racism plaguing the American deep south in the 1950s. 
Griffin took medication to turn his white skin dark brown and lived the life of an African American, documenting his experiences in the face of racism and class in 1950s America and reveals it all in this tell-all account of his journey.
Copyright 1960 by John Howard Griffin.  Available through Penguin Books, Ltd.
Recommended by Jill Bolstridge

The Autobiography of Malcolm X, as told to Alex Haley
The autobiography of one of the most prolific leaders of the 1960s, this book traces Malcolm X’s views from his days as a hustler on the streets of New York, through his imprisonment, then into his leadership within the Nation of Islam, and then finally, into his own realm of independent leadership just before his untimely death by assassination.
Copyright 1964 by Alex Haley and Malcolm X.  Available through Ballantine Books.
Recommended by Jill Bolstridge

Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson
A chilling tale of racism in
America
through the eyes of the imprisoned.  According to Jean Genet, “… these letters from a young black in Soledad Prison … perfectly articulate the road travelled by their author – first the rather clumsy letters to his mother and his brothers, then letters to his lawyer which become something extraordinary, half-poem, half-essay, and then the last letters of an extreme delicacy, to an unknown recipient.  And from the first letter to the last, nothing has been willed, written, or composed for the sake of a book, yet here is a book, tough and sure, both a weapon of liberation and a love poem.  In this case I see no miracle except the miracle of truth itself, the naked truth revealed.” 
Copyright 1970 by World Entertainers Limited.  A Bantam Book.
Recommended by Jill Bolstridge

Race Against Time by Stephen Lewis
The book is from a series of lectures Lewis delivered in Canadian Universities. The topic of these lectures is
Africa
in terms of poverty, AIDS, and its future. In my opinion it is very well-written and also has good amounts of statistical support, but, more importantly, it also has numerous personal accounts.
Copyright 2005 by Stephen Lewis. Available through House of Anansi Press.
Recommended by Kate Glinsman.

 

Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
An incredible autobiography of a young boy growing up through the horrors and deprivation of Alexandra, a notorious South African township. Brutal police raids and insufficient schooling and food sources are documented through his every day life. Constant fear and depraved rituals due to the oppression of apartheid are shared with graphic recounts of his childhood experiences. With hard work, sacrifice and courage, the author is able to overcome these challenges and is propelled to a life of freedom and opportunity. An inspiring and insightful real-life documentation.
Copyright 1986 by Mark Mathabane 1986, available from Touchstone
Recommended by Kate Glinsman

The Colour of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride
James McBride grew up one of twelve siblings in the all-black housing projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn, the son of a black minister and a Jewish mother. The object of McBride's constant embarrassment, and his continuous fear for her safety, his mother was an inspiring figure who, through sheer force of will, saw her dozen children through college, and many through graduate school.

 

Intertwined is the story of his mother growing up in an Orthodox Jewish household in Virginia and her new life having run away to Harlem, married a black man, and founded an all-black Baptist church in her living room in Red Hook. In this remarkable memoir, she tells in her own words the story of her past. Around her narrative, James McBride has written a powerful portrait of growing up, a meditation on race and identity, and a poignant, beautifully crafted rhythm from a son to his mother.
Copyright 1996 by James McBride. Available through Riverhead Trade.
Recommended by Kate Glinsman.

Counter-Hegemony and Foreign Policy: The Dialectics of Marginalized and Global Forces in Jamaica by Randolph Persaud
An interesting explanation of how marginal groups can effect social change. Detailed analysis and explanation of social movements and the implications of foreign policy. Using Jamaica, Persaud explains how the mass of marginalised poor were able to counter the hegemonic forces of the global political economy. Trade Unions, the Rastafarian Movement, and Garvey philosophy are interwoven with Gramscian theory to provide a precise analysis of the power of people.
Copyright 2001 by State University of New York Press
Recommended by Kate Glinsman

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins
An inside look at the true wheeling and dealing of corrupt US foreign policy by a man who served the US establishment for an international consulting firm. Perkins exposes the greed, the dishonesty, and the outright corruption of the
US
global empire.
Copyright 2004 by John Perkins. Available through Plume Books.
Recommended by Jill Bolstridge

FICTION

Angry Black White Boy, or The Miscegenation of
Macon Detorney by Adam Mansbach

A chilling tale of a suburban white boy possessed and politicized by black culture and filled with rage toward White America. An exploration of the plague of racism in modern
America through the eyes of the holders of “white guilt.” An examination of the stereotypes and the media’s role in buying and selling “race” to the masses.
Copyright 2005 by Adam Mansbach. Available through Three Rivers Press.
Recommended by Jill Bolstridge

 

CHILDREN’S BOOKS
ON SOCIAL AND POLITICAL ISSUES

The People Could Fly by Virginia Hamilton
A prolific and poetic tale of slavery and inhumanity, told through beautiful poetry and brilliantly illustrated with the African artwork of Leo and Diane Dillon.
Copyright 2004 by Virginia Hamilton. Available through Knopf Books for Young Readers.
Recommended by Jill Bolstridge

Africa is Not a Country by Margy Burns Knight
A dynamic look at life in
Africa, told through the plethora of the continent’s culture and diversity.
Copyright 2001 by Margy Burns Knight. Available through Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Recommended by Jill Bolstridge

The Lorax by Dr. Suess
A colourful metaphor for the destruction of the world’s environment in the face of corporate greed.
Copyright 1971 by Dr. Seuss Enterprises. A Seuss Classic.
Recommended by Jill Bolstridge

The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss
A colourful metaphor for racism and the media’s selling of racial definition.
Copyright 1961 by Dr. Seuss Enterprises. A Seuss Classic.
Recommended by Jill Bolstridge

 

Main picture: The widely-acclaimed writer, James Baldwin (1924 - 1987)

 

Dr. William (Lez) Henry is an Afro-centric cultural historian and has published books on race, ethnicity, music and education in the context of the black experience in Britain.

 

Jill Bolstridge and Kate Glinsman are editorial staff at Ricenpeas, an award-winning documentary film production company.

 

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