Revolutionary Suicide by Huey P. Newton

Revolutionary Suicide

Revolutionary Suicide by Huey P. Newton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

2020 has turned out to be an unpredictable year so far. Literally elbows deep into a rebellion during the aftermath of George Floyd’s death and Christian Cooper’s near fatal police hit that was called in on him, reading Huey’s words in Revolutionary Suicide could not have come at a better time.

In this autobiographical account of Newton, you learn a great deal about the man he turned out to be from childhood until around 1971. The reader gets to be involved in the entire process of how the Black Panther Party came to be, and some highlights in his life revolving around the infamous case in which mass protests of “Free Huey” came to be. Huey details the entire process of that trial for readers to see how conniving the system is set up against the black person, and how far prosecutors will go to throw a black person in jail for anything. Huey also shares the Panthers’ 10-point system for the demands in which the Black Community was fighting for, which are still needs that the Black community needs today.

As Huey was growing up, he was a functional illiterate up until the time he decided he wanted to go to college, and self-taught himself how to read using Plato’s Republic. Inspired by his brother Melvin, Huey decided he wanted to prove to others he wasn’t stupid, and also to gain more knowledge and understanding as to what was happening during that time. Books helped him to think, to question, to explore, and finally redirect his life in a better way. This autobiographical account does humanize Huey, almost to the point where he comes across as very unlikeable. He has a really male chauvinist/patriarchal and narcissistic type of behavior, and all you can do sometimes is cringe as he talks about the ideas he has for the Black Panther Party, and how he sees and interacts with others.

As a small time criminal, fighter, revolutionary, self-taught intellectual, polyamorist, Marxist, defender of the poor, and a host of other things, Huey P. Newton explains the origins of his life and how BPP had it’s strength and it’s weaknesses during the tumultuous 1960s and 1970s. However, at the time of publication, this timeframe was probably was at the height of his BPP career because in 1973, his life started to decline into shambles.

The Black Panther Party was targeted as an nationalist extremist/terrorist group who threatened the lives of police officers and civilians (white people). However, the BPP was created for self-defense, to police the police, and to protect the community of blacks that were constantly in harms way because of white police and victims of police brutality. The BPP came int the historical gulf between the civil rights movement agitation per se to a revolutionary cause demanding nothing less than a comprehensive restructuring of American life. Black Americans were demanding fair and equal treatment, and civil liberties that were supposed to be afforded to all Americans (land, bread, housing, education, etc.). However, the FBI “sought to expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize the activities of the Black Nationalist.” J. Edgar Hoover, determined to prevent the rise of a “black messiah” by any means necessary sought out ways to destroy the BPP.

Huey talks about his relationship with Eldridge Cleaver, Bobby Seale, Lil’ Bobby Hutton, and how the BPP was to serve the needs of the poor and working class blacks. The BPP introduced “survival programs” such as groceries and Breakfast for Children, medical care, legal services, and other essential services to the Black community.

Huey Newton believed that revolutionary suicide is infused with the possibility that one’s death will further the revolutionary cause. “Move against these forces, even at the risk of death.”

Huey also talked about his illiteracy. He stated that “refusing to learn became a matter of defiance, a way to preserve whatever dignity I could hold onto in an oppressive system.” (p. 26) He believed that the American dream was not for Black people. “How could we know then that we were not going anywhere? Nothing in our experience had shown us yet that the American dream was not for us. We, too, had great expectations. And then we went to school.” (p. 16)

Newton and the Black Panther Party in the end were unable to sustain their movement due to internal and external pressures (few movements can survive the murders and imprisonments of most of their leadership over a short period of time and the defection of a Party leader), which was caused by the infiltration of the FBI and informants. Perhaps had Newton lived longer than he did, he would not be surprised by the events of a Ferguson or the murders of countless innocent black men at the hands of police. Yet seeing the community respond to these injustices, and their unwillingness to silently tolerate it any longer is probably a legacy of something he began and would probably put a smile on his face. We are seeing it today, with the riots of Minnesota, California, North Carolina, Ohio, Georgia, and others. People are fed up and are not tolerating police brutality any longer. ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE!

I recommend this book to everyone. 5 stars.

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Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

Silver Sparrow

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Dana and Chaurisse are caught in the middle of their parents’ love triangle. 2 daughters from one man, trying to live a life in which they both loved and treated like loving family members, but both are cheated in a sense from fully being embraced and loved by their father because of a deep dark secret.

James Witherspoon is a bigamist. Which is actually the first sentence in this book. Dana knows that she is a secret… she’s been told this since she was young. She can only have her father once a week, and additionally only sees him occasionally, and only on his terms. James married Dana’s mother while married to another woman. James and his brother Raleigh have both lived this lie and hid this secret for nearly 2 decades. James had to marry the girl he impregnated when she was only 14 and he 16. Neither one of them knew how to be parents or grown ups for that matter. However, they lose the baby, and James decides that Laverne can stay. As they both grew up in the marriage, at some point James wanted something more… and decided that he would marry another woman, Gwen, unbeknownst to his wife and family… only Raleigh as the sole witness to this sin. James then makes Gwen a mother, before his own wife, and secretly cherishes this new life and wife, along with Raleigh for nearly 20 years.

James is adamant that Gwen and Dana don’t spill the secret, so he makes a deal with them and continues to look out for them with the sole promise of not interfering with his other life.

Gwen and Dana go along for a spell, reluctantly really, but they secretly surveil his other wife and child seeing what they have that they aren’t getting… how he spends his time and money on them versus Gwen and Dana. Dana becomes so enraptured by Chaurisse, wanting a sister/friend, that she befriends Chaurisse. Getting to know Chaurisse, where she lives, who her mother is, where their father sits and eats when he’s not at their house, and breathes in the same air that is at her house. In a sense, it’s as if Dana has become obsessed to get to know Chaurisse and be her friend, but hiding herself because of the secret she is forbidden to share.

Everything seems to be continuing on as if nothing has ever happened until one fateful night. James is confronted with both of his daughter’s and he chooses one over the other… leaving Dana stranded. However, Dana’s mother comes in the nick of time to confront James about this abandonment and the stone rolls off the anthill for all to see… making sure Laverne, Chaurisse and the entire Pink Fox salon knows about his bigamist ways and Raleigh covering it up for all these years.

James though, bigamist as he is, still gets saved. This is the part of the book I didn’t care for… Laverne takes him back, and James shuns Gwen and Dana for sharing the secret that he didn’t want to be uncovered.

This book is about both girls trying to be loved, accepted, and figuring out who they are despite not knowing the truth about their family. One thinking they are the only ones, and the other living in the shadows of someone else getting what they feel they deserve, but only getting second best.

More than half the book went through until the drama unfolded and then the drama wasn’t even that in depth. I wish it would have unfolded and told of all of the 20 years that was held secret, but this all took place in the last 20 or 30 pages.

I also think that Raleigh should have also gotten more shine. He held on to both families like they were his, helping James keep his secret hidden, but never being able to life his own life. He held out to be available to James and both families. He never once was thanked or appreciated for all that he did.

This book didn’t have a happy ending. Dana still didn’t have her father, she never was able to have a relationship with her sister, and her mother was left out of the equation altogether, while Laverne and Chaurisse was able to enjoy the spoils of war. I would rate this book a 3.

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Saving Ruby King by Catherine Adel West

Saving Ruby King: A Novel

Ok, first of all, YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK! Hands down, this is a gold one here!

Catherine Adel West, you outdid yourself!! I just couldn’t put this book down! There is so much to talk about in this book! This is a gripping, meaty, full of life, love, secrets, betrayal, murder, generational trauma, race, and relational complexities that touch the lives of all involved. I couldn’t get enough of this book!

“Sometimes you can’t fix everything, or love your family like they need you to because you barely love yourself. You Can’t get over abandoning the dreams you had. Instead, you end up raising kids who love you and resent you because of mistakes you made.” Listen, this book is full of layers! So many layers!

“I’m stitched together by the lies I tell myself, and the lies people want to believe about me.”

The characters in this book all have a complex history with each other. This book is told from multiple POV’s, so just know that you will have to pay attention and follow along. However, the story does connect and tie them all together in a nice package at the end, so you will understand how the story and ties come together. This is the story of Ruby King and her family, who are barely holding on because of domestic abuse in the home. There is an unfortunate murder of Ruby’s mother, and in Chicago, it doesn’t seem like the police are all that interested in finding out what happened to another black person. However, the people in Ruby’s life, mainly her best friend Layla, is determined to help save Ruby King from her father, who terrorized her and her mother their whole lives.

This book talks about how secrets people keep can destroy or determine paths in life. How domestic abuse is passed down from generation to generation, unless the chain is broken. How far friends go to protect the people they love. How families are not determined by the people you are biologically connected to, but to the people that love and care for you. How the black church can be complicit sometimes in overlooking domestic violence in black families. How reputations of certain people in the community can be damaged by the amount of contact you can have with those who appear to be undeserving/undesirable. How black people are automatically either dismissed when they need help, or blamed without question when something goes wrong.

This book is super meaty and would be a great bookclub read, as there are so many layers to uncover and unpack in this fictional work. Debut novel??? Wow! Just wow! I can’t wait to read more of this author’s work. Phenomenal job! 5 stars!

Thank you to NetGalley, Catherine Adel West, and Harlequin-Trade Publishing (Park Row) for providing me with an ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Divan of Shah by Shah Asad

Divan of Shah

Divan of Shah by Shah Asad Rizvi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Divan of Shah is a very emotional, intimate, sensual collection of poems. These poems literally dance with joy and romanticism, evoking a need to be with someone close. The poems do sway back and forth on the emotional spectrum between desperation and love, but they are all standalone poems that can be read and re-read through time. I loved how the author wrote about dance, and how many of the poems seem to be “dancing” in rhythm and prose allowing you to connect in more ways then just reading the poetry. There are snippets of wisdom and inspirational thought in between each poem that just fits perfectly. The poems also allow you to connect with yourself and delve deeper into a spiritual connection you may have and draw inspiration from reading this collection of work.

Poetry for me should not be read all in one sitting but over a period of time, so that you can allow the words to permeate through your mind and have you think about things going on in your life and how the poetry can influence interactions with others or give you a sense of being/relaxation/joy. This collection of work took me a while to get through because I stopped and started and came back and re-read poems that I liked. Poetry should be sipped… not gulped. Not inhaled all at once.

A few of my favorite poems I kept coming back to was:
– Sensation
– My Queen
– Foreplay
– All of You
– Tale of our lives
– A Life Without You
– A Thousand Dreams

Thank you to the author Shah Asad for providing me with an electronic copy of his book of poetry for a fair and honest review.

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What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker by Damon Young

What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker: A Memoir in Essays

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker: A Memoir in Essays by Damon Young

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: If you are not comfortable with the usage of the word “nigga” DO NOT READ THIS BOOK!

This hilariously, funny, poignant, relevant, revealing, somewhat esoteric memoir was a great read. This non-chronolological/non-linear collection of essays were a non-stop page turner for me. Damon Young addresses everything, from black boy joy, growing up black, Pittsburgh life, young adult anxieties, manhood, college life, career choices/options/decisions, basketball life, living while Black (and a man), whiteness, white supremacy, “shit white people do”, racism, marriage, fatherhood, and all the things you thought but never quite could articulate in a cohesive manner, Damon Young does that and more. Damon Young is that voice in your head that says all the things you can’t say/won’t say/too scared to say out loud. He confronts racism in the most intelligent but snarky way that makes you listen to every word he says, cause you know that sh** is true!

Damon Young weaves a fabric of black life into his work so colorful and necessary that you, as a black person, nod your head and smile and say, “man! I was thinking the same thing!” over and over to yourself. He gets race. He gets how white people sh** works and how it’s a common denominator for life-ruining for the black person. He allows himself to be vulnerable and he shares his anxieties about how he is perceived in this world that is ensconced in whiteness. How, we as blacks, are all apart of the same story for the collective white folk. That we are apart of their world… in their nigger life-ruining business, as whiteness desires to preserve its supremacy even in the face of self-destructiveness. We have all developed in some way, what Damon describes as nigga-neurosis, which is “a state of being where “Did that happen because I’m black? and “If this is happening because I’m black, how am I supposed to react as a professional Black person?” and how these “are never not pertinent questions.” (p. 5)

The introduction alone is enough to reaffirm all the things that happened to me in my life up until this point. His memoir gives words to how incidents in my life happened and to give validity to my emotions, while processing my blackness in white spaces. I grew up in the same timeframe as he, went to the sister school of his college (John Carroll Univ.), and even knew someone who attended Canisius College when he was there. I felt like him and I could have been friends… although his social skills made him seem like he always tried a bit too hard, but he made me laugh, he made feel validated while reading this, and I felt for him when his mom passed, knowing that white supremacy most likely killed her. I felt his raw emotions and fears when he said that “there’s nowhere I can be without always being possessed to carry some form of ID. Something to let them know that I’m safe. Something to assure them that despite my being surrounded and outmanned and outresourced and outflanked and outgunned by them, I am not a threat.” (p. 284) Seeing that we are now celebrating the life and demanding justice for Ahmaud Arbery, who went out for a run and never made it back home, only to be literally gunned down by 2 sadistic white terrorist murderers (let’s call them what they are) all because these white men desired to preserve white supremacy, to be able to point to and claim themselves better than. Damon gives a voice to all of that. He unleashes his stream of thought onto paper, weaving and stitching words together so creatively that you, the reader, begin to reflect back on your life, growing up black and understanding all that shit that happened to you and around you was all apart of navigation and negotiating, which is required in order to “exist while black and relatively sane.” (p. 288)

Hands down, one of the best memoirs I’ve read this year. I will continue to recommend this book to all my “niggas!”

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