NOW What?

SPREAD THE WORD! An exciting project is upcoming in a popular literary series. Chicken Soup for the Soul is thrilled to announce a new title for Black women writers, publishing June 1, 2021. Chicken Soup For The Soul. I’m Speaking Now: Black Women Share Their Truth in 101 Stories of Love, Courage and Hope. I’m really pleased to serve as a coauthor for this new Chicken Soup for the Soul book.

So, I’m calling out directly to the strong and diverse community of Black Women Writers: Now is the time for Black Women to tell our story in all of its complexity. 2020 is the time, and this is the place for the deeply personal essay, the intelligent commentary, wryly or wildly humorous takes own modern life or the narrative witness to history. 

Share your dreams, your triumphs and, your failures. Write about your lives and community, which have unique challenges not well understood by others. This unique collection of stories will be for readers of all colors. Readers of color will recognize their struggles in these pages, and all readers will benefit from an inside view of Black life in America, Canada, and the diaspora.

We’re looking for everything from the serious to the silly. There will be 101 stories, so we can go wide and deep, and we’d like to share stories from Black women of all ages, from late teens to women in their nineties.

Link here for submission guidelines and a comprehensive list of suggested topics.

https://www.chickensoup.com/story-submissions/possible-book-topics

Please submit to this collection. Let’s speak now about our beauty and our ugly, our sweet and our fraught, our boiling and our simmering.

Chicken Soup For The Soul. I’m Speaking Now: Black Women Share Their Truth in 101 Stories of Love, Courage and Hope.

The deadline for story and poem submissions is JANUARY 15, 2021 but submissions will be reviewed as they come in, so please don’t wait until the deadline. 

Read my story about a dog in NOW, an online journal

https://www.hfwwnow.com/blog/95h3zk8uu650o7agjgc6qaiaedropg

NOW, an online journal of The Hobart Festival of Women Writers https://www.hfwwnow.com is a project created during this unprecedented time. Edited by Breena Clarke, Cheryl Clarke and Esther Cohen, this journal is a collection of work of twenty-one authors who have been Participating Writers with The Hobart Festival of Women Writers 2013 – 2020. NOW presents the wide swath of genre, style and subjects that these womens’ work represents.

For more information about Breena Clarke, go to http://www.BreenaClarke.com

Breena Clarke’s Books

NOW, an online journal

Hobart Festival of Women Writers has published the first issue of a new online journal featuring new work from some of the many published women authors who have been Participating Writers at Hobart Festival of Women Writers. I’m excited to have been one of the editors of this issue. I was joined as editor by Cheryl Clarke and Esther Cohen. Read excerpts of my fiction and non-fiction here:

His Teeth

Bazemore Plantation

Bazemore, Maryland

1781

His gleaming, ivory-colored teeth could have stood in his mouth for another lifetime, but each fell beneath the knife. They bound him to a plank. They dosed him with alcohol to quiet his howling as the horse surgeon pillaged his incisors, his molars, and his bicuspids. They took his teeth because he was a persistent escapee, had run away seven times and bore marks of whipping and brining.

There were no rotted teeth in his mouth, no broken ones, none were misshapen, and not a single one was missing. Very great was the resistance of the teeth to being pulled out. They were moved not at all by the horse surgeon’s pliers. He reconsidered and took up a knife and an awl and cut away the gums until the teeth could hold no longer. Several times the man nearly drowned on the massive amounts of blood in his mouth. Yanked upright, turned over a bucket to spit, salted water flushed into his mouth, more whiskey poured down his throat, the work continued until each tooth was dug out undamaged. Each was cleaned, admired, and carefully placed in a wired device fitted for the master’s mouth.

read more:https://www.hfwwnow.com/blog/95h3zk8uu650o7agjgc6qaiaedropg

Aunt Jemima, Eleanor Bumpers, Sandra Bland, and Breonna Taylor: Writing Against The Current  

I never thought I’d be updating the dramatic work, “Re/Membering Aunt Jemima: A Menstrual Show” or even seriously reconsidering it. Written more than twenty-five years ago, the play contains topical references that I thought would seem stale in the 21st century. Glenda Dickerson and I had, in writing “Aunt Jemima: A Menstrual Show,” flung ourselves at notions of racial propriety. We didn’t want to write a domestic drama full of polite insistence that black people are worthy of Western civilization. We wanted to confront the popular culture of negative images of Black Women in messy confrontational language.


read my entire essay at https://www.hfwwnow.com/blog/g89bnakx17u4jne2r8wlib0u6r9d2a

NOW, an online journalhttp://hfwwnow.com features also the work of Alexis DeVeaux, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Arisa White, Lisa Wujnovich, Esther Cohen, Elena Schwolsky, Cheryl Boyce Taylor, Marina Cramer, Julie Enszer, Aine Greaney, Ellen Meeropol, Bertha Rogers, Linda Lowen, Diane Gilliam, Dahlma Llanos Figueroa, Denise B. Dailey, Cheryl Clarke and Stephanie Nikolopoulos

http://www.BreenaClarke.com

Save the Postal Service

It seems counterintuitive that, in a time of the global pandemic, there are few things on which we all can agree. Open the economy or keep it closed? Wear a mask or refused to. However, there is one galvanizing issue for people in the United States’ rural communities, urban, suburban, exurban, coastal, middle American towns, territories, islands, and isthmuses. We all need the United States Postal Service. And the USPS is under attack by the Trump administration for fear that we may finally be able to have full participation at the voting booth via mail in ballots.

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The USPS traces its roots to 1775 during the Second Continental Congress when Benjamin Franklin was appointed the first postmaster general. National postal service with universal delivery was Franklin’s brainchild. So, since 1775, somebody has been delivering mail throughout all of our states.

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In the European theater in World War II, General Patton bemoaned his troops’ low morale and pressed to have the distribution of soldiers’ mail prioritized as a boost to them. Contact through letters and packages was seen as vital as munitions to keeping the soldiers ready and able for combat. Under the leadership of Oveta Culp Hobby and at the urging of Black leaders, such as Mary Macleod Bethune, African American women who had enlisted in The Women’s Army Corps, were assigned to the 6888th Postal Directory Battalion. The WAC, though segregated as the rest of the armed services, allowed African American women to enlist. The recruits quickly and efficiently relieved the logjam in warehouses in Birmingham, England, and created a smooth system for the distribution of mail to the European Theater’s troops. General George Patton credited the Postal Battalion for providing this vital boost to troop morale.

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Of course, we’ve all got a “postal clerk from hell” story. But it was a clerk in the legendary Radio City Station, the New York post office through which legions of small businesses ship their goods, who wished me luck when I told her I was mailing out my debut novel. I’ve always thought it improved the manuscript’s chances.

There are no elves in our service industries. There are people with hands, eyes – even in automated industries. Notably, this is true in the USPS. There are letter carriers and clerks, recognizable individuals we see nearly every day. In most communities, they are the people next door or just down the road; by and large, they are local folks. Working for the post office has been a traditional entry into the working middle class for women, vets, and racial and ethnic minorities. Now that you’re at home, perhaps you’ve seen more of your letter carrier. An essential worker, she has been wearing gloves and a mask while making her rounds. The letter carrier on my street has been wearing gloves since the start of the flu season. She looks like a woman who has kids at home. Thanks to her, I’m still receiving flower catalogs, junk circulars, notes, bills, magazines, books, pet supplies, prescriptions, and anything else I’ve ordered, including my voter registration and census forms.

What does the letter carrier look like in your community? I’ll bet it’s someone you’d trust to come roaring up to your front door and bang on it to alert you to the smoke coming out the side of your house. Decades ago, a letter carrier in the neighborhood I grew up in, the kind of community that African American letter carriers and government workers lived in, still a time of residential segregation, broke a window and rushed into a burning house to save two children while on his morning rounds. My mother wrote to his supervisor at the Post Office and to The Washington Post to commend his courage. They gave him a citation, my mother received a letter of thanks from the USPS, and The Washington Post published her letter.

In a lot of rural or suburban towns, the center is reckoned by where the post office is located. I’m willing to bet that, if there were no longer a post office, no longer daily mail delivery, many a town would shrink and fade away. Demanding that Congress and the Executive Branch of our government rescue the United States Postal Service could be THE galvanizing issue of our modern democracy. Demanding the right to cast our votes by mail in the upcoming election could be a banner we can all raise. Are we going to let our neighbors down? East Coast or West, North or South and in our territories, are we going to let partisan politics destroy the one common denominator of communications that we have – a system that will take a letter from Schenectady to Miami for less than half a dollar, a reliable network for the distribution of everything. At a time when taxpayers are bailing out airlines and banks (again), and hotels, is there no groundswell of support for the USPS?

General George Patton realized that he needed reliable postal distribution to keep his troops ready and able for combat. Simply put, our country needs a secure delivery of mail, a service that cuts across class and racial lines. We need to maintain this agency in its vital work as a linchpin of our nation’s communications. Postal workers are foot soldiers in this pandemic. They are essential to keeping us connected to services. Whether your grandma lives in Hackensack, Jersey City, Paterson, Newark, Toms River, The Bronx, Bensonhurst, Poughkeepsie, Stamford, Canton, Albany or Los Angeles – whether rural, urban, suburban or whatever, you need the United States Postal Service. And the United States Postal Service needs to be funded in this time of crisis. Now more than ever, let’s unite on this issue. Let’s all say, “The USPS is not a joke!” Urge your representatives to support the postal service.

Don’t let Donald Trump’s fear of voting by mail and his basic vindictiveness take away this vital lifeline.

Explore Breena Clarke’s books at Breena Clarke.com

 

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

 

 

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.

READ MORE

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.

 

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

 

 

Taming The Sweet Tooth

These Avocado Peanut Butter Brownies are low, low sugar, high fiber and oh, so delicious.

Don’t deny your sweet tooth, hoodwink it!

Few of us can remain healthy if we indulge in the abundant sweet temptations of Valentine’s Day. This recipe could become your favorite.

1 cup of natural, creamy peanut butter
1 12oz. bag of dark chocolate chips (baking chocolate)
1 cup of *Truvia baking blend
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and mashed
1/2 cup of soy milk (for vegan) OR 1/2 cup of fat-free milk
1/2 cup of canola oil
1 cup of whole wheat flour
1 teas. baking powder
1 teas. of salt
Preheat oven to 350 (175 degrees C) Lubricate 9X13 inch baking pan with canola oil spray. Melt peanut butter,  chocolate chip, and Truvia together in a saucepan over low heat, stirring until mixture is melted together. Then cook together at medium to low heat until slight bubbling at the edges. Blend avocado, milk and canola oil until smooth. Stir avocado mixture into the chocolate until thoroughly combined. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together in large bowl and add the chocolate avocado mixture. Stir until just blended. Pour batter into baking pan and cook for 20-25 mins, until beginning to crisp at the edges. Cool completely before cutting and serving.
* is made from the stevia plant and has a small amount of granulated sugar for baking.
Celebrate February Black History Month with the historical novels of Breena Clarke

For more information, go to www.BreenaClarke.com

WAKE UP, EVERYBODY! IT’S 2020

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Habari Gani?

The final principle of Kwanzaa is Imani (faith) to believe in our people, parents, teachers, and leaders. It’s a simple principle, the easiest . . . most dangerous. Eyes wide open! Don’t put faith in celebrities. Don’t put power in the hands of charlatans.

Disavow the anti-semite, the racist, the misogynist. Believe, Have Faith, Imani  – in a better future, a better world, a more equitable world.

Wake Up Everybody!

Beginnings: LeBron James

 

free-vector-kwanzaa-icon_101867_Kwanzaa_Icon        MLK

Let’s ruminate on the plausible (?) utopia  Martin Luther King delineated so specifically in a speech that is instantly google-able. In anticipation of the official holiday commemorating MLK, here is a well-known portion:

“I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

———– Dr. Martin Luther King

for the   entire text of the speech   

IS THIS DREAM STILL POSSIBLE?

for more about Breena Clarke’s booksBreena Clarke.com

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

“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