Self-Determination

Habari Gani?  Kujichagulia (self-determination) to be responsible for the community and to speak for oneself.

Reader on the shelf

Self-determination is, like food, water, and shelter, a human right. Tragically, many of our most vulnerable young people, especially young girls are unable to determine the course of their lives because they are subjected to sexual exploitation by gangs of predators who traffic them, i.e. sell them to others as sexual slaves.  The problem is thought to be particularly acute at this time of year as the Super Bowl approaches, but statistics on trafficking do not support a jump in activities. Human trafficking is a serious, year-round industry. January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, which is why the issue is getting more attention now than at other times of the year. And, with the Super Bowl drawing large crowds to the host city, outreach groups and activists say they see an opportunity for public awareness initiatives.

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Cyntoia Brown-Long

Cyntoia Brown-Long, author, speaker and advocate for criminal-justice reform and victims of trafficking, writes in The Washington Post about her own experiences of trafficking and about the case of a young woman charged in the murder of the man who held her captive and sold her to other men for sex.

I was jailed for my trafficker’s death.

Brown-Long speaks about the justice system’s blindness to the peculiar, particular horror of sexual slavery. She speaks about the case of teen, Chrystal Kizer, who faces life in prison for killing her enslaver.

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Chrystul Kizer shot and killed the pedophile who abused and imprisoned her and is charged with his murder

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Let’s celebrate Kwanzaa by being determined to recognize the needs of our communities and by being willing to stand for justice and dignity and against racism and sexual exploitation.  For more information about Kwanzaa, go toWhat is Kwanzaa

more information about Breena Clarke’s books at www.BreenaClarke.com

River, Cross My Heart, an Oprah book club selection and a classic of African American fiction is now available for your e-reader.

“The acclaimed bestseller–a selection of Oprah’s Book Club–that brings vividly to life the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, DC, circa 1925, a community reeling from a young girl’s tragic death.”  Amazon.com

River, Cross My Heart, kindle edition

 

 

Kwanzaa 2019

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Kwanzaa greeting: Habari Gani?

Today’s response: UMOJA, Unity.

I enjoy the opportunity to celebrate Kwanzaa, a harvest festival created in 1966 by Dr. Maulauna Ron Karenga to acknowledge African culture in the Americas, not as an angry alternative to Christmas, but as an opportunity to reflect before the incoming New Year. The frenzy of Christmas commerce has made celebrating that holiday a very noisy, frenetic tug of emotions about being there and getting there and wishing to be or get or re-get. If you’re ready to sweep up the wrapping paper and bring out the kinara, use these seven days of Kwanzaa as days for self-reflection and community.

Celebrate Kwanzaa 2019 –  December 26 – January 1

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There are seven principles of Kwanzaa called Nguzo Saba and each day is dedicated to one of these principles:

Umoja (unity) to maintain unity in the family and community

Kujichagulia (self-determination) to…

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Angels Make Their Hope Here

Angels Make Their Hope Here

“A tender historical novel” (Oprah Magazine)

 On Sunday 10/27/19 for ONE DAY ONLY Amazon will be promoting ANGELS MAKE THEIR HOPE HERE in a “Historical Fiction” GoldBox. The ebook edition of the novel will be available all that day at a special low price.

Link here to purchase as part of this special promotion:

AMAZON

B&N

KOBO

 ANGELS MAKE THEIR HOPE HERE is set in an imagined community in a mountainous area roughly north and west of Paterson, New Jersey in the 19th century. Russell’s Knob is a hidden, secretive place settled by people who might be described today as bi-racial or tri-racial. The inhabitants describe themselves as runaways and stay-aways. They are people who reject the limiting definitions of racial identity and character of 19th century, mid-Atlantic, North America and live outside of the “white” towns. They are spoken of derisively as “amalgamators” and “race mixers” though their true history is as complex as is the history of settlement in the region.

Dossie Smoot

Mrs. Dossie Smoot

Dossie, a young girl on the cusp of puberty is conducted on the Underground Railroad from an island plantation in southern Maryland in hopes of finding freedom with the help of the bold, committed individuals who lead escapees through the region toward the free states and the Canada border. Duncan Smoot, one of Russell’s Knob’s bold, charismatic, entrepreneurial citizens, a member of a distinguished founding family, is a conductor on the Underground Railroad. It falls to him to rescue the young wayfarer when another conductor is arrested and tortured. He brings Dossie to Russell’s Knob—to his home—and she comes to believe that she has reached the promised land, a heaven.

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With the same storytelling brio that distinguished the acclaimed novels River, Cross My Heart and Stand the Storm, Breena Clarke weaves the richly dramatic story of one woman’s triumph in the crucible of history in Angels Make Their Hope Here.

Breena Professional Photo    Angels on shelf

Celebrate the 20th anniversary of the publication of Breena Clarke’s debut novel, River, Cross My Heart with a new eBook Edition

visit Breena Clarke‘s author website at www.BreenaClarke.com. 

 

River, Cross My Heart Celebrates 20 years

River, Cross My Heart, the Oprah Book Club selection and debut novel by Breena Clarke celebrates twenty years since its publication. It’s now available in River, Cross My Heart Kindle edition.

River, Cross My Heart

“A genuine masterpiece … full of grace and beauty and profound insights … RIVER, CROSS MY HEART bears traces of Eudora Welty’s charm and Toni Morrison’s passion.” — The Baltimore Sun

Five-year-old Clara Bynum is dead, drowned in the Potomac River in the shadow of a seemingly haunted rock outcropping known locally as the Three Sisters. River, Cross My Heart weighs the effect of Clara’s absence on the people she has left behind: her parents, Alice and Willie Bynum, torn between the old world of their rural North Carolina home and the new world of the city, to which they have moved in search of a better life for themselves and their children; the friends and relatives of the Bynum family in the Georgetown neighborhood they now call home; and, most especially, Clara’s sister, ten-year-old Johnnie Mae, who must come to terms with the powerful and confused emotions stirred by her sister’s death as she struggles to decide what kind of woman she will become.

Legends abound that the Potomac River is a widowmaker, a childtaker, and a woman-swallower. According to the most famous tale, the river has already swallowed three sisters–three Catholic nuns. Yet it did not swallow them, only drowned them and belched them back up in the form of three small rock islands. They lie halfway between one shore and the other, each with a wimple made of seabirds’ wings.

The Three Sisters is a landmark. When you say the Three Sisters, people know you’re going to tell about something that happened on the river to cause grief. And it isn’t really clear whether it’s the boulders or the river at that spot that causes the grief. Nobody in his right mind goes swimming near the Three Sisters. The river has hands for sure at this spot. Maybe even the three nuns themselves, beneath the water’s surface, are grabbing ankles to pull down some company.

–From River, Cross My Heart

Oprah and Breena in 1999

Being chosen for the Oprah Book Club and appearing on the Oprah show in November 1999 was a delight. The book club continues to bring “River, Cross My Heart.” to new readers. For the complete list of all of the Oprah Book Club selections, go to  BookRiot 

 

I’ll be reflecting on my work and celebrating River, Cross My Heart’s 20th anniversary at

Crossing Thresholds: 42nd Annual ODU Literary Festival, October 6-10

For more information, go to

Old Dominion University Lit Fest.

 

My Neighbor

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By Breena Clarke

Every morning he walked by my house as I came out with my appealing and peaceable dog. Every morning he pushed his toddler past us. He never looked at me. I was open-faced, accessible, tried to catch his eye. He looked away. I was pissed. I began to shout, “Good morning.” He could not avoid responding. He did try. Next time I shouted, “Good morning,” he mumbled a pleasantry. He looked for a second. Generally, he tried to avoid me. Later with more children and a dog, he caught me unawares coming out of my house. He shouted, “Good morning.”

           
Breena Clarke is the author of three novels, Angels Make Their Hope Here,River, Cross My Heart, an October 1999 Oprah Book Club selection, and Stand The Storm. She is a founder and co-organizer of the Hobart Book Village Festival of Women Writers and…

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How Must They Have Felt?

How must they have felt I ask. I write historical fiction primarily from an urge to re-tell the past, rehabilitate the skimpy, fractured, fragmented narratives of the people of The Americas, the so-called New World. I believe that much of the national narrative of The United States is based on limited facts, racially motivated lies and the visceral belief that all people are NOT created equally. .Sometimes it feels like I have a score to settle, an injury to repair. I think I must be a caretaker of imagination so that our race of people are not unimagined and thus disappear from the earth. I feel I need to be  like Scheherazade. I think I survive daily because I’m able to continue to tell stories of myself, of ourselves. 

 – Breena Clarke

Angels Make Their Hope Here         River, Cross My Heart           Stand The Storm

READ excerpts of Breena Clarke’s Novels

Stand The Storm

Angels Make Their Hope Here

River, Cross My Heart

What techniques can the fiction writer employ to create voices of the past?

They Must Have Felt is an idea that I use I my writing. I try to find a way to express what my historical characters felt and how they acted and reacted in their day to day lives. This is often a huge job because little is known about the individuals I’m most interested in. I have written about the mid-nineteenth century struggle to end chattel slavery in this country in two novels, STAND THE STORM and ANGELS MAKE THEIR HOPE HERE. The many diaries of slave owners, traders and ordinary white people of the era form the basis of much available research of this period. The very important work of imagination has to fill in the gaps. A novelist must know what thoughts and feelings all of their characters have. The mind of the character is precisely where a fiction writer wants to be. And this is precisely why we are so sketchy about the lives of African peoples in this era.  Much of historical research does not include their voices.

Thinking about the 19th century, the period in which the enslavement of African people was legal in this country is a hard moment to inhabit.

Dossie Smoot

I begin by posing the questions. How did they feel?  How did they react? I nourish myself  on details about the daily life of my characters. For this writing tool to be successful, I begin by imagining how a human being lives in the moments I’ve constructed because a novel is a composition of moments just as a play is a composition of beats, small actions.

I’m heading to Washington, D.C. to discuss historical fiction, D.C. Emancipation and to read from my novels set in the city. This event is presented by INKPENClarke and Scott

for more information, go to Breena Clarke’s Books

Najeeb Walid Harb 1974 – 1989

Baby Najeeb

Najeeb Walid Harb 1974 – 1989

He was beloved of his parents, Breena Clarke and Walid Najeeb Harb. He was beloved of his stepfather, Helmar Augustus Cooper. He was beloved of his aunts, Cheryl Clarke and Victoria Clarke Wood.

Najeeb & Mr. Peanut

I still have the hat worn on this day

Najeeb and Breena

I am happiest here

These are my favorite pictures of the days that I remember fondly. These are days that I can recall in great sensory detail. These photographs are precious tokens for recollection.

Najeeb W. Harb

one of a series of headshots

Najeeb with football

at Hershey Park, Pa. with Popsi and Mother wearing a Hershey kiss hat and a silk shirt from Syria

Najeeb holidng bag

on the street near Cheryl’s apartment in NYC