I considered myself exercising patience and restraint when I resisted paying additional shipping fees to receive my order of Barack Obama’s bestselling book, A Promised Land, just one day after it came out on November 17, 2020. Having opted for the longer arrival time of approximately 2 weeks at the much cheaper cost of “Free Shipping,” I did not expect to receive the book until either the end of November or early December. So imagine my surprise and #gratitude when it showed up November 19, just 2 days after the release date.
There’s no question A Promised Land is one of the most significant, if not THE most significant, memoirs of the modern era. Because of Mr. Obama’s direct involvement with public events which have shaped much of America’s and the world’s history in this first half of the 21st century, it could not have been otherwise.
A Parallel Literary Journey
In the photograph above, I have placed A Promised Land between 2 of my own most recent books: Dreams of the Immortal City Savannah and Greeting Flannery O’Connor at the Back Door of My Mind. The reason is not because I megalomaniacally imagine myself to be as famous or influential as the 44th president of the United States of America, but to commemorate a parallel literary journey through some extraordinary shared history. It is also my way of having a little social distance holiday fun with the great man himself.
Upon his election to the Oval Office 2008, I wrote the first (“There upon A Bough of Hope and Audacity”) of several poems about Barack H. Obama’s historic achievement. During my time as a national cultural arts columnist for AXS Entertainment, I wrote a number of articles documenting responses to Mr. Obama’s first term as president (with now #PresidentElect Joe Biden as his vice president). The proliferation of what we now frequently refer to as disinformation and misinformation prompted me to coin the term guerrilla decontextualization for the extreme nihilism directed against him and his family. Many Americans were not certain he would still be here to write and publish this book. The fact that he did endure to tell his remarkable story in A Promised Land is something totally worthy of celebration and gratitude.
Harlem Renaissance Centennial 2020-2030
A shortage of compelling topics to address via books, blog essays, podcasts, fine art, photography, electronic gaming, and other creative media has not been among the traumatizing events unleashed upon humanity in the year 2020. Painful history-altering occurrences have, however, included the following: a very stubborn and deadly COVID-19 pandemic, the resulting economic crisis, further evidence of climate change in the form of murderous fires in California, riots in cities across America in response to #2ManyLivesGone2Soon, and political unease in the face of an uncertain future.
Incorporating reports on important public happenings into ongoing projects has long been among the better practices at Bright Skylark Literary Productions. It goes back at least as far to the days of my former AXS National African-American Cultural Arts column when I created art graphics for my news stories. Articles sometimes included original poetry to enhance editorial impact. Where the year 2020 is concerned, the following steps have been taken:
Although taking the above steps did not erase the different social, political, and environmental ills currently dogging the world, I like to think they contributed to the process of helping move things in a better healthier direction.
Invitation to a Bob Marley Rock-Steady (Excerpt from Greeting Flannery O’Connor at the Back of My Mind)
How public celebrations of influential voices impact individual lives is one of the major themes in the book Greeting Flannery O’Connor at the Back Door of My Mind. If you‘ve been checking out previous synopses of the book and excerpts from it, you know already its primary points of focus are on the legacies of three authors: James Alan McPherson, John Berendt, and O’Connor.
There are, however, quite a few more compelling figures within its pages, including Reggae master musician Bob Marley. The following except from Greeting Flannery O’Connor is about a remarkable concert Marley gave in Oakland, California, despite the illness from which he was suffering at the time, and which a young aspiring author excitedly attended. Following the excerpt is YouTube video footage of the concert itself:
Rocking Steady in Oakland
“As engaging as his songs were in and of themselves, there emanated from Marley’s raw corporeal soul-on-fire spiritual presence an infectious loving urgency which had nothing to do with being a stunningly innovative rock star. (What if the same could be said of O'Connor's non-threatening physicality for those who had found their way to Andalusia while she lived and coaxed from her enigmatic being something more than the thrill of greeting a celebrated writer?)
“None of those screaming and bouncing wildly up and down as he launched into the songs “Positive Vibration,” “I Shot the Sheriff,” “Lively up Yourself,” or “Is This Love/Jammin’” could have imagined a mere eighteen months later cancer would end his physical existence. The battle to save it had already started and yet there he was, up on stage, singing and dancing the dramatic pantomimes of a holy griot-prophet: laboring to convince humankind to reconsider its preferences for oppressive actions and paradoxically self-serving self-destructive values.”
––(from Greeting Flannery O’Connor at the Back Door of My Mind now available for ordering)
Contemporary award-winning author of classically-styled works in history, poetry, creative nonfiction, speculative fiction, and journalism.