12 Years a Slave


Hello Everyone! Happy Monday!  Wow, I know I should be worried about the warm weather we are having on the first day of February but I can’t help but smile every time I have gone outside today.  I know winter is coming for real soon so I will cherish this warm sunshine.

Today is the start of Black History Month and I am so excited that due to the ‘leap’ we get an extra day (29 instead of 28)! So one extra day to explore more in Black History. Of course we have the whole year, but this time of year, there are often more special events to attend so it’s quite fun.

I kicked off my discoveries on Saturday and watched, “12 Years a Slave“, a historical drama adaptation of an 1853 slave narrative memoir  (12 Years a Slave) written by Solomon Northup.


The movie:

“Maybe it had to take a British filmmaker to depict clearly the United States’ greatest failing: the horrors of centuries of slavery. In 12 Years a Slave, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kinky Boots, Dirty Pretty Things) is a free man living in New York until he’s kidnapped and sold in Louisiana as a slave. He’s owned by masters relatively kind (Benedict Cumberbatch) and harrowingly brutal (Michael Fassbender), but even under the best conditions, the movie never loses sight of Northup’s condition as property, that his well-being and very life are at the whim of his owners. There’s no hype here, nor any hemming or hawing; each scene is captured simply but vividly, letting the cruel facts of life in the pre-Civil War era speak for themselves. The movie’s power lies in the unsettling details and psychological contortions slavery inflicts on everyone involved, black and white. Performances are fantastic throughout, including supporting work from Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Sarah Paulson, Lupita Nyong’o, Brad Pitt, and particularly Alfre Woodard as a slave who’s gained a position of comfort and clings to it with haughty entitlement. But it’s Ejiofor who anchors the movie; his mix of intelligence and fundamental decency carries 12 Years a Slave to a moving conclusion. From Steve McQueen, director of Hunger andShame.” —Bret Fetzer (Amazon.com)

The director:

Steve McQueen, an English film director, producer, screenwriter, and video artist directed this 2013 film, 12 Years a Slave, a historical drama adaptation of an 1853 slave narrative memoir. He he won an Academy Award, BAFTA Award for Best Film, and Golden Globe Award or Best Motion Picture – Drama, as a producer, and he also received the award for best director from the New York Film Critics Circle. McQueen is the first black filmmaker to win an Academy Award for Best Picture.

The Movie:

The movie was so powerful. I just knew going into it that I was going to be moved deeply. The idea of slavery is so difficult to process but then to add the fact that Solomon was born and lived free for 30 years before this happened to him. How does one even begin to comprehend what he must have felt? I mean really? The locations they shot the movie brought you right into the story. The casting was spot on and I couldn’t take my eyes off it despite the difficult content.

The actors:

Chiwetel Ejiofor’s depiction as Solomon Northup was spot on. He was perfect for the role and you could see him transform infront of your eyes as he immersed himself into his potrayal. Some scenes you knew everything simply from looking at his eyes.

Benedict Cumberbach portrayed one of Solomon’s master’s and although I am used to him portrayed as a villain like he did in the 2013 Star Trek Into the Darkness, it was easy for me to accept him as the slave master but he was a more complex character. He had a strange fondness for Solomon and the movie allowed you to witness the conflicts he had with owning Solomon and securing his debt.

Michael Fassbender portrayed another of Solomon’s slave master and I found myself turning from the screen from time to time while witnessing his brutality.

Lupita Nyong’o potrayal of Patsey, a slave that works alongside of Solomon was amazing. In 2013 she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Nyong’o is the first Kenyan actress and the first Mexican actress to win an Academy Award.  In 2014, she was named The Most Beautiful Woman by People and Women of the Year by Glamour.

Brad Pitt who helped to produce the film as well as star in the film as Samuel Bass, the Canadian man that eventually helps Northup to secure his freedom.

Alfreda Woodward, as a mistress that resides herself to find comfort in the position she holds. I always enjoy her performances and although brief in this film, she represented another aspect of slavery that must be acknowledged.

There were many more actors that gave stellar performances throughout this film.

My thoughts:

I knew going into this film, I was going to be moved to tears. But one thing I realized once the movie ended is that I finally took a deep breath. I felt like I was holding it in so frequently and my face held no secrets to the sadness and anger I felt while watching this film. I just never understand how people could treat other people this way.  But despite my knowledge, I felt this was an important story to add to the many. We must be uncomfortable sometimes to move ourselves to the next space.

The amazing fact that although during this time period, there were nearly 100 slave narratives written or dictated only Solomon Northup’s was published. Which makes the case even stronger why it should be a required reading as well as viewing of the film.

My message to you is if you haven’t watched it, rent or buy it and watch it then tell someone else. It is important for us all to see. It not just black people because we must all jump into the depths and many dimensions of slavery to set us free today. It is not to be buried or filed away but revisited to remind us what humans are capable of and to establish what we will not allow moving forward for all.

If you’ve seen the movie, let me know what you think?

I wish for you a great Black History Month.


My thoughts on Black History Month

blackhistorybanner1So we come to the last day of Black History Month. Does this mean we should stop exploring the struggles and accomplishments from the past and the present of Blacks in America? Should the schools turn back to the anglo-oriented history books in the classroom? Can we fill in the check box that we participated in Black History Month events during the month of February? Can the television networks go back to their regularly “scheduled” programs? Does the dialogue of racial injustice come to a stop? Is there no more to learn?

I think Maya Angelo was onto something when she said, “Won’t it be wonderful when black history and Native American history and Jewish history and all of U.S. history is taught from one book. Just U. S. history.”

I believe in 2015, we should already have integrated our textbooks so that we don’t compartmentalize history. Things were happening simultaneously and must be taken in context not as a  separate laundry list of items.

The same should apply with cultural events. They should occur year round rather than only fixed times of year. So you don’t have to wait a whole year to see cultural Broadway shows, television specials, art events only once a year.

I feel that we all should be constantly evolving not stagnant when it comes to our education and exposure to diversity. When Black History Month began it was a way to bring to light the struggles and contributions to America but if we have evolved we should create an all-inclusive history and it should be normal to see more diversity in our culture year round.

Morgan Freeman, a well-known african american actor, also said it well when he said, “I don’t want a Black History Month, Black history is American history.”

When all are included we will then be a true United States of America.

I hope for us all that we can continue to enrich our lives by exposing ourselves to more each day. We still have a lot more work to do.

In this spirit, I will continue to incorporate more diverse information on my blog throughout the year whether it is about amazing books by black authors, movies,  humanitarian aid opportunities as well as my cultural products I produce for Belinda’s Crafts.

Have a blessed day and thanks for taking the time to listen.


Black History Month: Black Author Highlights – Zora Neale Hurston


I would like to take this month to help share the amazing contributions to literature by black authors.  I am in the process of adding to the books I have in my books and the author I am featuring today is a new addition to my personal collection.

Zora Neale Hurston, Class of 1928, Chicago, Ill., November 9, 1934Zora Neale Hurston

 Zora Neale Hurston is considered one of the pre-eminent writers of twentieth-century African-American literature. Hurston was closely associated with the Harlem Renaissance and has influenced such writers as Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, Gayle Jones, Alice Walker, and Toni Cade Bambara.

Hurston became the most successful and most significant black woman writer of the first half of the 20th century. Over a career that spanned more than 30 years, she published four novels, two books of folklore, an autobiography, numerous short stories, and several essays, articles and plays.

Born on Jan. 7, 1891, in Notasulga, Alabama, Hurston moved with her family to Eatonville, Florida, when she was still a toddler. Her writings reveal no recollection of her Alabama beginnings. For Hurston, Eatonville was always home.

Established in 1887, the rural community near Orlando was the nation’s first incorporated black township. It was, as Hurston described it, “a city of five lakes, three croquet courts, three hundred brown skins, three hundred good swimmers, plenty guavas, two schools, and no jailhouse.”

In Eatonville, Zora was never indoctrinated in inferiority, and she could see the evidence of black achievement all around her. She could look to town hall and see black men, including her father, John Hurston, formulating the laws that governed Eatonville. She could look to the Sunday Schools of the town’s two churches and see black women, including her mother, Lucy Potts Hurston, directing the Christian curricula. She could look to the porch of the village store and see black men and women passing worlds through their mouths in the form of colorful, engaging stories.

Growing up in this culturally affirming setting in an eight-room house on five acres of land, Zora had a relatively happy childhood, despite frequent clashes with her preacher-father, who sometimes sought to “squinch” her rambunctious spirit, she recalled. Her mother, on the other hand, urged young Zora and her seven siblings to “jump at de sun.” Hurston explained, “We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground.”

Hurston’s idyllic childhood came to an abrupt end, though, when her mother died in 1904. Zora was only 13 years old. “That hour began my wanderings,” she later wrote. “Not so much in geography, but in time. Then not so much in time as in spirit.”

After Lucy Hurston’s death, Zora’s father remarried quickly–to a young woman whom the hotheaded Zora almost killed in a fistfight–and seemed to have little time or money for his children. “Bare and bony of comfort and love,” Zora worked a series of menial jobs over the ensuing years, struggled to finish her schooling, and eventually joined a Gilbert & Sullivan traveling troupe as a maid to the lead singer. In 1917, she turned up in Baltimore; by then, she was 26 years old and still hadn’t finished high school. Needing to present herself as a teenager to qualify for free public schooling, she lopped 10 years off her life–giving her age as 16 and the year of her birth as 1901. Once gone, those years were never restored: From that moment forward, Hurston would always present herself as at least 10 years younger than she actually was. Apparently, she had the looks to pull it off. Photographs reveal that she was a handsome, big-boned woman with playful yet penetrating eyes, high cheekbones, and a full, graceful mouth that was never without expression.

Zora also had a fiery intellect, an infectious sense of humor, and “the gift,” as one friend put it, “of walking into hearts.” Zora used these talents–and dozens more–to elbow her way into the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, befriending such luminaries as poet Langston Hughes and popular singer/actress Ethel Waters. Though Hurston rarely drank, fellow writer Sterling Brown recalled, “When Zora was there, she was the party.” Another friend remembered Hurston’s apartment–furnished by donations she solicited from friends–as a spirited “open house” for artists. All this socializing didn’t keep Hurston from her work, though. She would sometimes write in her bedroom while the party went on in the living room.

By 1935, Hurston–who’d graduated from Barnard College in 1928–had published several short stories and articles, as well as a novel (Jonah’s Gourd Vine) and a well-received collection of black Southern folklore (Mules and Men). But the late 1930s and early ’40s marked the real zenith of her career. She published her masterwork, Their Eyes Were Watching God, in 1937; Tell My Horse, her study of Caribbean Voodoo practices, in 1938; and another masterful novel, Moses, Man of the Mountain, in 1939. When her autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road, was published in 1942, Hurston finally received the well-earned acclaim that had long eluded her. That year, she was profiled in Who’s Who in America, Current Biography and Twentieth Century Authors. She went on to publish another novel, Seraph on the Suwanee, in 1948.

Still, Hurston never received the financial rewards she deserved. (The largest royalty she ever earned from any of her books was $943.75.) So when she died on Jan. 28, 1960–at age 69, after suffering a stroke–her neighbors in Fort Pierce, Florida, had to take up a collection for her February 7 funeral. The collection didn’t yield enough to pay for a headstone, however, so Hurston was buried in a grave that remained unmarked until 1973.

That summer, a young writer named Alice Walker traveled to Fort Pierce to place a marker on the grave of the author who had so inspired her own work. Walker found the Garden of Heavenly Rest, a segregated cemetery at the dead end of North 17th Street, abandoned and overgrown with yellow-flowered weeds.


zoranealehurstonI just picked up this book from the Goodwill and plan to read it. I love when I can find a great book to add to my collection.  I have not read anything by Ms. Hurston so this will one will be my first.  Especially after reading about her life, I am eager to read her words on the printed page.

If you have a favorite of Ms. Hurston’s books please let me know. If you haven’t read anything by her, I hope you might find one of her books and give them a try too. Happy reading!



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