Twisting The Night Away

 

 

 

 

 

“We used to dream about Sam Cooke. We imagined we might be his girlfriend one day. I always think “we” because of my childhood BFF, CeeCee. She was my partner in Sam Cooke workship”    – from an essay by Breena Clarke in IDOL TALK

IDOL TALK: Women Writers on the Teenage Infatuations That Changed Their Lives edited by Elizabeth Searle and Tamra Wilson is a collection of forty-four essays on the women and men who influenced the mature selves of women writers. These are the figures who guided our growing up. In these delightful essays, we authors are at times lighthearted, but we are also frank and revealing and aware and descriptive of the zeitgeist of the teen idol era, that time between the end of the World War II up to and including the modern Civil Rights Era. And our idols were, by and large, rebels, visionaries, geniuses, innovators, and damn good lookers. And their looks were integral as they were served up to us on magazine covers and TV, the medium through which we came to know a great deal about our American culture. We know them as well as we know ourselves because we became ourselves, in some measure, because of them. I write about the sweet, dreamy, velvet-voiced Sam Cooke. Sam Cooke on YouTube  I still have a palpable reaction to his singing. I’m convinced there is no other voice like his or ever will be.

 

16th_Street_Baptist_Church_bombing_girls

The victims of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing

I also write about the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in September of 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama. I was twelve then, and Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley and Carole Robertson were fourteen years old and Carol Denise McNair was eleven. The four girls who died that day were casualties of the horrors of white resistance to civil rights. And the next year the Beatles came into my life in February 1964 and a little later Sam Cooke died in troubling circumstances in December 1964.

Young Breena

Breena Clarke

There’s Bonus material in IDOL TALk, too. The “then and now” photos of the writers including glasses, braces and goofy hairdos are fond, familiar glimpses of our youths.

I’m in great company in this anthology. The essays are written by Elizabeth Searle, Tamra Wilson, Darlene R. Taylor, Suzanne Strempek Shea, Kate Kastelein, Dolen Perkins-Valdez, Lee J. Kahrs, Judy Goldman, Nancy Swan, B.A. Shapiro, Michelle Soucy, Amy Rogers, Ann Harleman, Linda K. Sienkiewicz, Janice Eidus, Katharine Davis, Jill McCorkle, Marianne Leone, Susan Lilly, Ann Hood, Lise Haines, Marianne Gingher, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Susan Shapiro, Marjorie Hudson, Morgan Callan Rogers, Leslea Newman, Leslie Lawrence, Katie Hafner, Lisa Williams Kline, Mary Granfield, Leslie Pietrzyk, Susan Woodring, Caitlin McCarthy, Stephanie Powell Watts, Ann Rosenquist Fee, Shara McCallum, Heather Duerre Humann, Lisa Borders, Mary Sullivan, Diana Goetsch, Emlyn Meredith Dornemann and Susan Straight. Wow! We cover a lot of ground.

Peter Noone, the former lead singer of Herman’s Hermits and a certified Teen Idol, wrote the foreword to IDOL TALK: Women Writers on the Teenage Infatuations That Changed Their Lives and he and his group are on our cover. I still remember my excitement the hot afternoon that I saw him perform on The Steel Pier at Atlantic City

For more information, this link: https://mcfarlandbooks.com/product/idol-talk/

find an independent bookseller at Indiebound.org

 

 

link here for a flash of fiction by Breena Clarke Bess

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visit my website at www.BreenaClarke.com

Are you in NYC in August?  Come out to KGB Bar  for a reading from
IDOL TALK: Women Writers on their Teen Idols
Wednesday, August 8, 2018, 8:00 PM
85 East 4th Street, New York, NY
link for the reading lineup: kgbbar.com

Motherhood

Motherhood in the time of slavery

Dossie Smoot

read this sensual yet troubling story of a pregnancy in bondage

The Summer Lolly

Also by Breena Clarke

Stand The Storm    purchase Stand The Storm at  Word Books in Jersey City or ask for it at your local bookstore.

From the beginning, Annie refused to pull back caring for her boy though. As well as she knew that she toyed with sorrow, she clung to the child. Hope was a feature on his face. She had put it there and she resolved to be clever and keep him. And if he were lost, then it would be her portion to swallow, for she was committed to love him. She later pledged in her heart to Ellen, too, but she was less ardent with her. She had got used to the hurly-burly exercise of love when Ellen came and could easily choose between the two. Annie guided Gabriel—nay, she had cut him if the truth be told. Here was a man she had shaped. She had trained him to be clever and she guided him to the clever path. The woman helping her bring Gabriel had been short with her, impatient of Annie’s writhing and bucking labor. The woman handled the baby roughly when he emerged and let him squall long minutes before bringing him to Annie. “Don’t give him the tit too quick! He’s got to learn right off that he’ll wait for his vittles like everybody else. He ain’t no king on a throne,” she growled. But Annie took him up and clutched him, and he latched to her breast and sucked and would not be loosed until his head fell back sleeping and a trickle of milk came from his mouth. “Ah, you’ll cry,” the irritable helpmeet pronounced as she left with her bandages and slop pans.

from Stand The Storm by Breena Clarke

read an essay on motherhood and loss Fifteen on MOM/EGG Review                   fullsizeoutput_32d1

Parenting in the time of slavery is necessarily fraught with peril. In Breena Clarke’s novel, ANGELS MAKE THEIR HOPE HERE, young Dossie’s parents do the most difficult thing imaginable. They send their child off to uncertainty rather than have her suffer as an enslaved person on the Kenworthy plantation. They embrace a hope that, with the help of others, she can become free and live a better life (even if they don’t actually know what that better life would be). For them, the knowable horror of Kenworthy plantation is worth risking this child’s life and separating from her forever.

http://latenightlibrary.org/breena-clarke/#wrap. Breena Clarke discusses

ANGELS MAKE THEIR HOPE HERE and its depictions mothers, fathers, patriarchy vs. matrilineal constructs and parenting in the time of slavery.

. . . the most damaging aspect of the institution of slavery is the destruction of familial relationships through separation and the inability of enslaved parents to protect their children. It is in the interest of preserving families that the people of Russell’s Knob built a community, preferring to live apart from the mainstream in order to stay together with loved ones.

for more information on Breena Clarke’s books: www.BreenaClarke.com

 

 

 

 

 

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Curiosity Tales on Four O’Clock Flowers

Beautiful green bird Link to Listen

Back Along The Octoraro

read by Breena Clarke

“Birds had already brought word. That was how she knew her beloved Papa was still alive though near his end. She was skilled in understanding the conversation of birds. She was accustomed to mimicking the talk of birds. She knew their cheer, their come-hither calls, their fear, their caviling, their dirges, their territorial songs. They recognized her gifts and, though they did not engage with her in direct conversation most times, spoke in her presence. They debated, they gossiped, they testified to facts and events around her.” from “Back Along The Octoraro” by Breena Clarke

 

for more about Breena Clarke books:BreenaClarke.com 

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Swimming

 

 

I learned to swim later in life. I learned well after I wrote a book about a girl who swims against great odds and in the face of personal tragedy, a fictionalized account of my mother’s young life. Read a synopsis of RIVER, CROSS MY HEART I learned to swim well after the death of my only child in an accidental fall. He’d been a swimmer. It means a lot to me to have learned this skill at age 49. It’s the linchpin of my health and fitness routine. I was brought to tears recently by the story of a young man who rescued seventeen people and a dog because he could swim because he was determined because he was courageous because his heart was strong. Most of all because he knew how to swim and was unafraid of the water. Virgil’s story  He was unafraid to act and I’m glad he’s getting a Civilian Medal of Honor. Check out the surprise his community gave him.  https://youtu.be/7y8HjalvoaM

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Virgil Smith (l) with his friend, Keyshaun whose life he saved

And then there were the two sisters, one of whom competed in the Rio Olympics on the refugee team, who swam for three hours in the Aegean Sea to prevent a boatload of refugees from sinking to their deaths. They were the only swimmers aboard and they saved eighteen people and themselves.  The two women leaped out of the boat, into cold waters and pushed the boat for three hours in open water to prevent it from capsizing — eventually making land.  Young Syrian woman saves a boatload of refugees   

 

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Yusra Mardini

 

As summer approaches let’s make sure each child has the opportunity to learn to swim. In many cities, access to pools and swimming lessons is sparse. Be sure your municipality offers swimming instruction and access to safe pool environments for all young people. Encourage your youngsters to learn this valuable life skill. They may save a life, their own or others. They will acquire a lifelong practice that will help maintain fitness, promote confidence, and create a healthy mental state.  Check here for swimming classes in Jersey City Swimming classes for children and adults

Google your town for places offering swimming instruction and access. You may be nurturing someone who has the courage and intelligence to save others. They just need the skills. Make sure your child learns to swim.

For more about Breena Clarke’s books, go to  www.BreenaClarke.com

 

 

Personal Blueberry Cobbler

blueberries2

 

 

 

Mountain blueberries, held to have the power of magic healing in these environs, benefited the girl immediately. She gorged on them in a bowl of milk. It was said by lowlanders who had seen the mountain folk that they grew long-tall and lanky for reaching so far above their heads to dine on blueberries on the bushy tufts in the crevices of the highlands. Through the summertime in Russell’s Knob, few of the children’s mouths were colored anything other than dark purple. Each one a contented and laughing face.

——  from Angels Make Their Hope Here by Breena Clarke read an excerpt

Highbush Blueberry

Blueberries are perennial flowering plants with indigo-colored berries. They are classified in the section Cyanococcus within the genus Vaccinium. Vaccinium also includes cranberries. Commercial “blueberries” are native to North America, and the “highbush” varieties were not introduced into Europe until the 1930s. – wikipedia

Dossie waited and let them ride up and tie the horse. She stood when Hat came onto the porch, and Hat nodded to her with formal courtesy as the woman of the house. Hat held out the buckets of blueberries and grinned.

——  from Angels Make Their Hope Here by Breena Clarke read an excerpt

Blueberries are considered a superfood for their anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Arthritis sufferers, get some. Click here for useful Blueberry Facts

I enjoy this low-sugar, portion-controlled blueberry dessert as often as possible.

 

Personal Blueberry Cobblers

for the diabetes-friendly diet

Four small ramekins

Two cups of fresh blueberries

One frozen pie crust

2/3 to 3/4 cup of Truvia baking blend – read the package for complete info

Two tablespoons of cornstarch

One teaspoon of ground cinnamon – also useful for arthritis

Two teas. of lemon juice

Two tablespoons of butter

Combine cornstarch, Truvia and cinnamon, add rinsed blueberries and lemon juice. Stir to coat the fruit. Fill each ramekin halfway. Cut four circles of dough with a large biscuit cutter or cup. Put strips of dough in berries. Fill ramekins, dot with small bits of butter, cover each with a circle of dough. Brush tops with melted butter. Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 40 minutes until filling is bubbly and crust is lightly browned. Let cool.

For more about Breena Clarke’s books, go to www.BreenaClarke.com

 

 

 

Wake Up Everybody​! It’s 2018​

 

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. Eyes wide open though! Don’t put faith in celebrities and charlatans. Believe in a better future, a better world, a more equitable world.

free-vector-kwanzaa-icon_101867_Kwanzaa_Icon        MLK

Let’s reflect on Kwanzaa 2017  (what is Kwanzaa) with a rumination 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 speech   

IS THIS DREAM STILL POSSIBLE?

 

for more about Breena Clarke’s booksBreena Clarke.com

 

Good Fat, Good Sweet, Goodness!Let’s Eat

Kwanza     Habari Gani?

Kuumba (creativity) to make the community more beautiful and beneficial for the future generation.  Let’s ruminate on creative uses of agricultural products and the brilliance of African Americans in science and agriculture.

Geroge Washington Carver

George Carver began life sometime during the Civil War as the property of Moses Carver, a southwestern Missouri farmer of moderate wealth. “My sister, mother and myself were ku clucked and sold in Arkansaw,” he once wrote of a kidnapping by border-raiding bushwhackers during his infancy; his owner gave a horse in payment for his recovery, according to later accounts. The orphaned child stayed on the Carver farm near Diamond Grove for a decade after emancipation, then left to seek an education in nearby Neosho. During these years he developed the love of plants that would remain with him ever after. “Day after day I spent in the woods alone in order to collect my floral beauti[e]s and put them in my little garden…,” he later recalled.”…strange to say all sorts of vegetation seemed to thrive under my touch until I was styled the plant doctor, and plants from all over the county would be brought to me for treatment.” Painting and music were additional subjects of what he called his “inordinate desire for knowledge.”  from American Heritage.com https://www.americanheritage.com/content/george-washington-carver-and-peanut

For a plant food, peanuts are an exceptionally good source of protein.

Peanuts

Contrary to popular myth, George Washington Carver did not invent peanut butter. He did, however, experiment with goobers and developed hundreds of uses for the foodstuff. He’s still Mr. Peanut to me although this photo of my son with the Atlantic City Boardwalk’s Mr. Peanut, an advertising symbol of Planter’s Peanuts, is a favorite.

 

Najeeb & Mr. Peanut

Najeeb Harb and Mr. Peanut in Atlantic City, New Jersey

 

Carver’s appearance before the House Ways and Means Committee in January, 1921, launched his national identity as “the peanut man.” Some of the congressmen, patronizing him as “uncle” and “brother,” greeted Carver as an amusing diversion, but he held the committee’s interest well over his allotted time. Again he based his presentation on a great diversity of products that he demonstrated or described, including candy, ice cream flavoring, livestock feed, and ink.

Geroge Washington Carver was not the only African American scientist, inventor or innovator. For more African American Scientists and Inventors

Along with the peanut Carver championed the sweet potato, a nutritional complement also well suited to Southern soils. Man could live by the peanut and sweet potato alone, he asserted, for together they constituted a balanced ration. Again he publicized the crop’s potential in quantitative terms. “The sweet potato products number 107 up to date,” he told the congressional committee during his peanut presentation. “I have not finished working with them yet.”

sweet potato

So choose sweet potatoes. Named one of the best foods you can eat by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, sweet potatoes are just as satisfying as white ones, but a lot more nutritious. Don’t worry about Yam or sweet potato – both are nutritionally wonderful and wonderfully tasty when roasted to a fair thee well and topped with butter

Be sure to choose peanut butter without added sugar or salt. Bake those sweet potatoes or roast them or spiralize them and, every once in a while, have sweet potato fries.