Shujah’s pick of books for “the ‘readingist’ month” of the year

Par Association 16 Fév 2015 09:59

Shujah’s pick of books for “the ‘readingist’ month” of the year

MARIGOT, St. Martin (February 16, 2015)—When I first glanced at the Facebook post from Nehesi House at the end of January, about February being “the readingist month” of the year, I had to laugh because that is a big statement to make without any backup information.

I was about to call Lasana right away, for proof, since he always drills me about evidence and having “multiple sources” when I find some new historical information. Nehesi House is the Facebook page of House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP). Lasana Sekou is a poet and projects director of HNP. For the annual Black History Celebration (BHC) organized by Conscious Lyrics Foundation (CLF) in February, I’ve used a lot of facts and figures from HNP books over the last 24 years. But “readingist” month of the year?

Then I thought about the parts of the USA, the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, and Africa with the extra amount of homework, book reports and interview projects that schools or community center programs assign to children in February. More than at any other time of the year, many more of us definitely hear, see and read more about history and culture in news and social media, in February. In St. Martin, as far as I know, only in February will you hear daily history readings, and only on SOS radio 95.9 FM.

Church, community council, library, bookstore, museum, and cultural group events pump up the Black history activities calendar in a big way. Politicians big and small jump on the bandwagon but some leaders in various fields are very conscious about their history and culture. The popularity of Black History Month is still spreading outside of the USA, where it started with historian Carter G. Woodson in 1926. A February history program or social media feed can now be found and shared in pockets of Brazil or Colombia as fast as in parts of England, France, or South Africa.

Caption:  President of Conscious Lyrics Foundation (CLF), Shujah Reiph (center, standing), takes a break with 170 high school students from MPC, at a Black History Month lecture and movie screening, University of St. Martin, February 11, 2015. (Photo courtesy CLF)

President of Conscious Lyrics Foundation (CLF), Shujah Reiph (center, standing), takes a break with 170 high school students from MPC, at a Black History Month lecture and movie screening, University of St. Martin, February 11, 2015. (Photo courtesy CLF)

The overwhelming majority of the month’s information for the people loving it, hearing about it for the first time, and those still denying it – comes mostly from books and great books too. Somewhere along the line, you got to read it to get it, to share it, and to benefit from it.

“With the majority of our history worldwide still not being a regular part of most schools as a normal part of history, where it belongs, Black History Month is a standard-bearer. The growing intensity of information feeds the month and the month feeds the year.” That’s what Lasana emailed to me earlier in the year when we were discussing the CLF theme for BHC 2015.

“The facts, figures, and fantasies about history and the history we continue to make in all areas of human endeavor are increasingly being packed into more books and delivered through reading and imaging devices. Don’t forget the storytelling, theater, dance and art exhibitions, movie screening and book launches in February. There’re all kinds of new research being pursued, discovered, analyzed and released about many subjects, from history to romance to science. In all of these are the struggles and victories, fantastic stories, about African peoples, Blacks in the Diaspora, including right here in St. Martin – making history in the world.” That’s what Lasana wrote last weekend when I spoke about writing this article.

It’s true that so much information is packed to the roof in February. So I figured that there is something to a statement about reading going up in February. This month I’ve been invited to speak to larger groups of school children than ever before. But if there’s proof about a reading explosion in the shortest month of the year, I had to get my hands on it.

So, back to getting the proof. I took my time a few days after glancing at the Nehesi House post, to really read it: “February might be the ‘readingist’ month in some parts…” “Might”!? Okay, I had missed that word at the first glance. Then I thought, what kind of a word is “readingist”? Well, that word was between quotation marks, so we all know what that means. Plus, a lot of us know that Lasana’s poetry is full of reconstructed words and “getting it” is usually in the context of the poem.

Then it hit me, St. Martin is one of the places in the “some parts” referred to in the post. For some of the same reasons given above, reading about our historical figures, places and events is at its highest across the island because more than the usual numbers of people are hearing, seeing and reading about many more people, places, and things in history than usual. This is probably what “readingist” means in the context of a celebration of history, in February.

I also read more in February.

Here is my list of recommended good reads for the 24th annual Black History Celebration on the Caribbean island of St. Martin: The Republic of St. Martin and Friendly Anger – The rise of the labor movement in St. Martin, both by Joseph H. Lake, Jr., and Language, Culture, and Identity in St. Martin by Rhoda Arrindell. If these exciting books are not in your libraries or bookstores, ask the librarians and store clerks for them.

Read on, my good people!

Ed. Note: Shujah Reiph is the founder/president of Conscious Lyrics Foundation, host of Conscious Lyrics radio magazine, and co-founder/coordinator of the St. Martin Book Fair.

Par Association 16 Fév 2015 09:59

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