Tag Archives: Toni Morrison

Black History Month 2014: Toni Morrison

7 Feb

Toni-MorrisonToday we honor and celebrate a decorated writer and outspoken advocate of the targeted and oppressed. Toni Morrison is one of my favorite writers. Her passion and commitment to social justice shine through in every word she writes and speaks.

Born Chloe Ardelia Wofford in Lorain, OH in 1931, she developed an early love of stories. Her father told traditional African folk stories, a style she has adapted into her own work. She also fell in love with the writing of Jane Austen. (How could I NOT love her for that?) She took the name Toni from her baptismal name, Anthony, and Morrison from her (now ex-)husband.

Morrison got her BA from Howard and MA from Cornell, becoming and educator and editor. While working at Random House, she was instrumental in re-introducing black voices into the publisher’s catalog. She began writing fiction as part of an informal group of writers at Howard University. Morrison published her first novel, The Bluest Eye (One of my all time favorite novels) in 1970, launching a new career just as she turned 40.

Her work documents the tapestry that informs the African-American experience and — on a very deep level — our shared humanity. She demands that we look at the systems of oppression that have shaped American history. When speaking at the ceremony that awarded her the Frederic G. Melcher Book Award for Beloved, (A MUST READ) she noted that “there is no suitable memorial or plaque or wreath or wall or park or skyscraper lobby” honoring the memory of the human beings forced into slavery and brought to the United States.”

Beloved, her most celebrated work, was published in 1987. It won the Pulitzer Prize and American Book Award and remains a much-read and much-loved novel. Her list of honors includes the Jefferson Lecture for the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Book Foundation’s Medal of Distinguished Contributions, the National Humanities Medal, the Pearl Buck Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, and many more. Toni Morrison was the first black woman to win a Nobel prize when she was awarded the Literature medal in 1993.

A celebrated writer, a brave spirit, and a strong voice for social justice — what an amazing woman and career! The United States will remain in her debt.

Happy Birthday, Sigourney Weaver

8 Oct

Happy Birthday, to Sigourney Weaver.  She is not just a brilliant actor, but she is a wonderful social justice activist as well.  While I love most of her work, I have to confess that one of my favorite movies she starred in was A Map of the World, also one of my favorite books. She’s run the gamut, from tough-as-nails woman in space in the Alien franchise ot the delightfully unlikable boss in Working Girl, from the tragic housewife in The Ice Storm to the washed-up action heroine in Galaxy Quest. She made history for her acting in 1988: she was the first person to win two acting Golden Globes in one year (Working Girl and Gorillas In the Mist). She also became the first actor to be nominated for lead and supporiting Oscars in the same year to win neither.

Weaver has built on her work in fiction to improve reality. After her role as Dian Fossey in Gorillas In the Mist she became a champion of Fossey’s work and is the honorary chair of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. She has expanded her animal rights and environmental work, speaking before the United Nations on the threats to ocean habitats posed by aggressive fishing practices. She is also a sponsor of Trickle Up, a non-profit organization focusing on those in extreme poverty, mainly women and the disabled. It’s wonderful to see someone using their talent and fame to make the world a better place.

As an added bonus, Weaver is a woman of 63 who is proud to wear her years. She is famously opposed to plastic surgery and other cosmetic treatments, having observed:

Actors’ faces have to move. I do think life should put lines on your face, or you’re not getting out enough.

In an age of artificial beauty and youth-obsessed culture, that healthy attitude is very welcome indeed. I find her even more beautiful today than ever!

I also want to congratulate Sally Field for being honored by the Human Rights Campaign for being such a strong ally to the LGBTQ community and supporting her openly gay son.

I also want to acknowledge one of my favorite writers.  On October 8, 1993, Toni Morrison became the first African American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Beloved is one of the best books I have ever read.  Morrison is a National Treasure.

Women’s History: February 18

18 Feb

Audre Lorde

Happy Birthday, Audre Lorde. The self-described Lorde was a “black-lesbian feminist mother lover poet.”Lorde co-founded Kitchen Table Women of Color Press, the first U.S. publisher for women of color. While working hard as a feminist for women’s rights, Lorde was also a great critic of the feminist movement for not being more inclusive of and aware of the issue of race. Lorde was one of the first to acknowledge and point to how connected racism, sexism, and homophobia are linked–an idea that was not well received initially. Lorde’s activism did not contain itself to just feminism and gay rights advocacy, but she was also a vocal opponent to the Vietnam War. I think you will find this video of Lorde powerful and inspirational. The first part of the video is shortly before she died.

Happy Birthday, Helen Gurley Brown. Brown is probably best known for her best selling book: Sex and the Single Girl and for being the editor of Cosmopolitan magazine for 31 years.

Happy Birthday, Toni Morrison. Morrison is the author of two of my favorite novels: The Bluest Eye and Beloved. Neither novel is an easy read, but I love how Morrison addresses the issues of race, class, and gender. Morrison is an extraordinary gift to literature.

Quote of the day:

    What difference do it make if the thing you scared of is real or not?–Toni Morrison

 

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