Stumbling Toward Enlightenment

Gatherings from the Internet

by barenose

Remember the Ladies: Wanda Coleman

Excerpts from Black Then and Wikipedia

Wanda Coleman
Wanda Evans was born in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, where she grew up during the 1950s and 1960s. She is the eldest of four children. Her parents were George and Lewana (Scott) Evans, who were introduced to one another at church by his aunt. In 1931, her father had relocated to Los Angeles from Little Rock, Arkansas, after the lynching of a young man who was hung from a church steeple.

After graduating from John C. Fremont High School in Los Angeles, Wanda Evans enrolled at Los Angeles Valley College in Van Nuys, California. She transferred to California State University at Los Angeles but did not complete a degree.

Shortly after finishing high school, she married white Southerner Charles Coleman, a troubleshooter for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the 1960s. Their union produced two children, Luanda and Anthony. She went on to marry two more times. Her third husband was poet Austin Straus, whom she married in 1981.

Coleman received fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the California Arts Council (in fiction and in poetry). She was the first C.O.L.A. Literary Fellow (Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, 2003). Her honors included an Emmy in Daytime Drama writing.

While critically acclaimed for her creative writing, Coleman’s brush with notoriety came as a result of an unfavorable review she wrote in the April 14, 2002, issue of the Los Angeles Times Book Review of Maya Angelou’s book A Song Flung Up to Heaven. Coleman found the book to be “small and inauthentic, without ideas wisdom or vision.” Coleman’s review provoked positive and negative responses, including the cancellation of events and the rescinding of invitations. Her account of this incident appears in the September 16, 2002, edition of The Nation.

“In our post-9/11 America, where unwarranted suspicions and the fear of terrorism threaten to overwhelm long-coveted individual freedoms, a book review seems rather insignificant—until the twin specters of censorship and oppression are raised. What has made our nation great, despite its tortuous history steeped in slavery, are those who have persisted in honoring those freedoms, starting with the Constitution and its amendments. It is this striving toward making those freedoms available to every citizen, regardless of race, creed, color, gender, or origin, that makes the rest of the insanity tolerable. It is what allows me to voice my opinion, be it praise song or dissent, no matter who disagrees.”

In That Other Fantasy Where We Live Forever
Poem by Wanda Coleman

we were never caught
we partied the southwest, smoked it from L.A. to El Dorado
worked odd jobs between delusions of escape
drunk on the admonitions of parents, parsons & professors
driving faster than the road or law allowed.
our high-pitched laughter was young, heartless & disrespected
authority. we could be heard for miles in the night

the Grand Canyon of a new manhood.
womanhood discovered
like the first sighting of Mount Wilson

we rebelled against the southwestern wind

we got so naturally ripped, we sprouted wings,
crashed parties on the moon, and howled at the earth

we lived off love. It was all we had to eat

when you split you took all the wisdom
and left me the worry

Wanda Coleman

by barenose

Remember the Ladies: Terry McMillan

Photo credits: Matthew Jordan Smith

Terry McMillan
Popular novelist and short-story writer Terry McMillan was born on October 18, 1951, in Port Huron, Michigan to Edward and Madeline McMillan. During McMillan’s childhood, her father was mostly confined to his home due to tuberculosis. This forced her mother to support the family by working various jobs. McMillan’s parents divorced when she was 16. As the eldest of five children, she found her first job as a library assistant to help support her mother and siblings.

It was during this time that McMillan discovered her interest in literature, particularly the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Thomas Mann. Her later introduction to James Baldwin was especially inspirational. Baldwin’s prominence sparked McMillan’s realization that African-Americans could be successful writers as well.

At age 17, McMillan moved to Los Angeles, California. After arriving, she found a job as a secretary and began taking night classes at Los Angeles City College. Here she began studying African American literature. Also, during this time, McMillan began to experiment with writing on her own. She continued her education at the University of California at Berkeley, where she received a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism in 1978. She later pursued a Master’s degree in Film at Columbia University. However, McMillan left after only a few semesters to join the Harlem Writer’s Guild.

McMillan’s success and popularity have gained her a large following of diverse readers. Critics attribute this to her distinct talent for confronting universal themes such as romantic commitment, family obligations, and parent-children relationships. Her novels include Mama (1987), Disappearing Acts (1989), Waiting to Exhale (1992), How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1996), and A Day Late and a Dollar Short (2001).

Both Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back made the New York Times bestsellers list and were turned into popular movies in the 1990s. McMillan co-wrote the screenplays for both films. Her unique talents earned her a National Endowment for the Arts Award in 1988, as well as a Barnes and Noble Writers award in 1998. She has also taught English at Stanford University, the University of Wyoming, and the University of Arizona at Tucson.

Terry McMillan continues to write novels and short stories.

Reference: Frailey, P. (2017, October 22) Terry McMillan (1951- ). Retrieved from
Research source: Colin A. Palmer, ed, Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History: the Black Experience in the Americas 2nd edition (Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2006); Hans Ostrom and David J. Macey, eds., The Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2005; “Terry McMillan Biography,” BookRags. writer and historian Victor Trammell edited and contributed to this report.

by barenose

Remember the Ladies: Ferron

“There’s godlike
And warlike
And strong
Like only some show
And there’s sad like
And madlike
And had
Like we know
But by my life be I spirit
And by my heart be I woman
And by my eyes be I open
And by my hands be I whole
They say slowly
Brings the least shock
But no matter how slow I walk
There are traces
Empty spaces
And doors and doors of locks
But by my life be I spirit
And by my heart be I woman
And by my eyes be I open
And by my hands be I whole
You young ones
You’re the next ones
And I hope you choose it well
Though you try hard
You may fall prey
To the jaded jewel
But by your lives be you spirit
And by your hearts be you women
And by your eyes be you open
And by your hands be you whole
Listen, there are waters
Hidden from us
In the maze we find them still
We’ll take you to them
You take your young ones
May they take their own in turn
But by your lives be you spirit
And by your hearts be you women
And by your eyes be you open
And by your hands be you whole”

Ferron (born Deborah Foisy on 1 June 1952) is a Canadian-born singer-songwriter and poet. In addition to gaining fame as one of Canada’s most respected songwriters, Ferron, who is openly lesbian, became one of the earliest and most influential lyrical songwriters of the women’s music circuit, and an important influence on later musicians such as Ani DiFranco, Mary Gauthier, and the Indigo Girls. From the mid-eighties on, Ferron’s songwriting talents have been recognized and appreciated by music critics and broader audiences, with comparisons being made to the writing talents of Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, and Leonard Cohen.

In addition to her performance career, Ferron has taught master classes in writing in places including Omega Institute, NY, The Rowe Conference Center in Massachusetts, IMA in Bodega, California, and in Provincetown, Massachusetts. She was instrumental in opening up a retreat center near Three Rivers, Michigan called The Fen Peace and Poetry Camp for Women. From 2009 to 2010, Ferron created commissioned textile art—wall hangings, quilts, and pillows—that features her lyrics and poetry. For Ferron, “artistic expression is not only essential, it’s revolutionary.” “Art is really the expression of the soul,” Ferron says. “I’m asking women to remember that if we remember our soul, we keep our soul, and we can do it through artistic connections. Art is connected to the soul, and the soul is connected to God, and God is connected to humility, so if you want to take control of a person’s soul, don’t let them have art. To me, it’s a revolutionary act to continue keeping your artist soul alive”.

In July 2017, Ferron performed at the 40th annual Vancouver Folk Music Festival at Jericho Beach Park in Vancouver, BC. The Main Stage festival finale was led by Ferron and fellow Canadian singer-songwriter Roy Forbes, with festival artists on stage and the audience singing along to one of Ferron’s anthems: “Testimony”. (Wikipedia)

by barenose

Remember the Ladies: Kimberly Clarice Aiken Cockerham

Kimberly Clarice Aiken Cockerham

Kimberly Clarice Aiken Cockerham (pictured), Miss America, 1994, was the fifth black woman to win the crown.

Aiken was born on October 11, 1975, in Columbia, South Carolina to Charles and Valerie Aiken. At the time she won the crown, Aiken was only 18 years old and was the youngest Miss America since Tawny Godwin, Miss New York and Miss America 1976. Godwin was also 18. Aiken was also the first black woman from the South to win the crown. She is the second African American winner to have later served as a judge in the pageant.

In contrast to a number of young women who spend their lives grooming for the title of Miss America, Aiken pursued other interests. Her initial pageant goals were modest. She intended to represent her hometown and become Miss Columbia, South Carolina which she won in 1993. Later that year she won the state pageant. Afterward, Aiken competed in Atlantic City, New Jersey for the national crown of a beauty queen.

During her reign as Miss America, Aiken made the plight of the homeless her platform. She worked closely with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity where she helped with the construction of homes across the nation. She also visited homeless shelters and spoke before numerous organizations including the National Press Club in an effort to bring awareness to the issue. After her dazzling pageant reign ended, Aiken made numerous television appearances. In 1994 she was recognized by People Magazine as one of the “Fifty Most Beautiful People in the World.”

After graduating from New York University, Aiken pursued a career in public accounting with the accounting firm Ernst & Young LLP. She later left the firm to work full time as an image consultant and motivational speaker. She inspired audiences by speaking about her own personal experiences. Aiken spoke about overcoming adversity, including undergoing brain surgery and the brief bout of depression that followed afterward. Aiken is a regular columnist for Pageantry Magazine.

Later in her fabulous life, Kimberly Aiken married Haven Cockerham, a marketing executive. They are the parents of a son named Russell. The family lives in New York City.

Source: “Kimberly Aiken (1975-)” by E. Watson for (May 2010)
* writer and historian Victor Trammell edited and contributed to this report.