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Lidwien Kapteijns

Somali novelist, short story writer, critic, journalist, and founder of cultural and literary journals and institutions, was born in Jarriiban, Mudug region, Somalia, in 1952. His name is also given as Mohamed Dahir Afrah and Maxamed Daahir Afrax. He graduated from high school in Mogadishu in 1973. When the Siad Barre government introduced the first official orthography for the Somali language in 1972, Afrax founded the first bilingual Somali-Arabic monthly magazine using the new script, Codka Jubba (“The Voice of Jubba,” 1972–1975). In 1976, Afrax’s story “Guur-ku-sheeg” (“Pseudo-marriage”) was serialized in the Somali national newspaper Xiddigta Oktoobar (“The October Star”), laying the basis for a lasting literary tradition of serialized fiction.

In this same serialized form he also first published his popular novel Maanafaay, the story of the girl Maanafaay, who, in the Mogadishu of the 1970s, strives to be modern and modest ...

Article

Antonio López

was born Lourdes Emilia de la Caridad Casal y Valdés in Havana, Cuba, on 5 April 1938. Her family was of African, Spanish, and Chinese descent. Her father, Pedro Casal, was a doctor and dentist, her mother, Emilia Valdés, a teacher.

Casal attended the Universidad de Santo Tomás de Villanueva, a Catholic university in Havana. Her interests soon turned to writing and psychology. She participated in the Catholic ranks of the revolutionary movement, which culminated in the 1959 Cuban Revolution. By 1962 however she opposed the new revolutionary state She then traveled to Africa and in a major move settled in New York City becoming a citizen of the United States This inaugurated Casal s career as an Afro Latina protagonist in Cuban American culture and politics that fits into the arc of José Martí and Rafael Serra in the late nineteenth century and Rómulo Lachatañeré and Melba ...

Article

Ross Michael Nedervelt

was born in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands, to Alphonso Christian, a judge, and his wife, Ruth. She was raised in an unconventional family, as her parents held academic learning in high esteem. Her father believed that all six of his children should receive an equal education, regardless of the patriarchal social norms discouraging women from further education. Encouraged by her father, she became an accomplished student and avid reader. Yet, as she read through numerous books, she became quite concerned by the absence of Caribbean and African American women within the stories. At the age of 15, she traveled to the United States for the first time. She enrolled in Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and graduated with her bachelor’s degree in 1963 Her parents pressed her to go on to medical school and become a doctor but Christian decided to pursue her emerging passion for literature and ...

Article

Nicole Sealey

intellectual, feminist, educator, cultural critic, social activist, and poet, was born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, to Veodis Watkins, a custodian, and Rosa Bell Watkins, a housekeeper. One of seven children, hooks grew up in a poor family in which poetry was a well-respected art form. On stormy nights the Watkins family would host talent shows in their living room. As a youth, hooks would recite poems by such authors as Langston Hughes and James Weldon Johnson. By the age of ten, hooks was already writing and reading her own work.

Hooks attended Booker T. Washington Elementary, a segregated black school. Her teachers, mostly single black women, nurtured and fostered her young mind. With the integration of public schools in the 1960s, however, black students were bused to white schools. Hooks soon learned that the white teachers at Crispus Attucks ...

Article

Roanne Edwards

Cited in Booklist as a “formidable feminist social and cultural critic,” bell hooks is widely known for her pioneering and provocative scholarship on racism and sexism in the United States. A prolific essayist and the author of nearly twenty books, she has written on a range of issues, including feminist politics and the representation of race in Film, Television, and advertising.

In a 1995 interview with Carl Posey of Essence magazine, hooks affirmed that “fundamentally, my life is committed to revolutionary Black liberation struggle, and I don't ever see Black liberation and feminism as being separate.” She has criticized both white, middle-class feminists and black liberation activists for neglecting women of color, and has encouraged African American women to “claim a critique of sexism” based on the black experience. Seeing class divisions among blacks as a principal obstacle to racial justice, she wrote, in her 1996 book Killing Rage ...

Article

Frances B. Henderson

Born in 1952, Gloria Watkins later changed her name to bell hooks. Raised in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, by working-class parents (her mother was a homemaker and her father a custodian), hooks is one of six children and an advocate of antiracist, antisexist, and anticapitalist “policies” (Daughters of Africa). hooks identified the struggles and the volatile relationship she witnessed between her parents during her childhood as products of American patriarchy and racism. This early view of relationships was a factor that influenced her perspective and writing on love and relationships, perspectives that she articulated in her later works such as Salvation: Black People and Love (2001) and Communion: The Female Search for Love (2002).

hooks s school experience also was saturated by the challenges of living in rural Kentucky an area facing the same issues around race and gender that American society at large faced ...

Article

Deborah G. Chay

With her first two books, Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism (1981) and Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center (1984 bell hooks born Gloria Watkins joined a generation of black feminists whose political perspective was explicitly forged in a consciousness of their marginality to the Black Power civil rights movement and feminist movement of the 1960s Unlike some of her contemporaries hooks did not feel that black women s double oppression warranted advocating a separate black feminist agenda but instead saw black women s special historical situation as relevant both for a feminist movement that had stumbled over its implicit class and race biases and for a black liberation movement that remained committed to the patriarchal values of the racist society it denounced Challenging feminist and antiracist movements to become accountable for the lives and experiences of black women hooks envisioned black feminism as ...

Article

Amy Grant

The intrepid bell hooks has been one of America’s premier social critics, although often incorrectly categorized as merely a black feminist. It would be more accurate to characterize her as a public intellectual engaged in the arts of literary, film, and popular cultural criticism and committed to the struggle against racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia. Many of her writings, interviews, and public speeches identified these dominant discourses as serious impediments designed to inhibit people from realizing a fuller understanding of themselves and their fellow human beings. Hooks sought to dismantle these dominant political discourses by exposing their use in art, literature, and film. Meanwhile, hooks encouraged those most damaged by these ideas, such as black women, to join this struggle, believing strongly that the elevation of black womanhood will result in the liberation of blacks and American society itself.

Bell hooks was born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, Kentucky ...

Article

Stephanie Y. Evans

feminist theorist and author. Born Gloria Jean Watkins in 1952 in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, bell hooks was raised in the segregated South and was aware of racial, gender, and economic discrimination at an early age. Defying the odds, she earned a BA in 1973 from Stanford University in English, an MA in 1976 from the University of Wisconsin, and a PhD in 1983 from the University of California, Santa Cruz. hooks's dissertation explored the ideas of Toni Morrison.

hooks began writing her first book, Ain't I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism, when she was nineteen years old, and, after much revision, it was published in 1981 Since then her writing has explored themes including the experience of growing up black and female in America the creation of feminist ideals by which to evaluate culture observations on interracial relationships and race relations and discussions of love and spirituality ...

Article

Wylene J. Rholetter

James Russell Lowell was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, into a family that traced its ancestry to the first Lowell to arrive in Massachusetts in the mid-seventeenth century. The son of Dr. Charles Lowell, who served as the pastor of West Church in Boston for fifty-six years, and Harriet Spence, who gave her son a love of poetry and tales, Lowell would prove to be the most versatile of the Fireside Poets, the group of Massachusetts poets so-named because the popularity of their poems made them standard hearth-side reading in homes across the country. (In addition to Lowell, the group included William Cullen Bryant, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and John Greenleaf Whittier.)

After receiving his bachelor's degree from Harvard, Lowell briefly considered the ministry and business before entering Harvard's Dane Law School, where he received his degree in 1840 More significant to his ...

Article

Alan West

José Martí is one of the major figures of nineteenth-century Latin America. He is regarded by Cubans across the political spectrum as the father of Cuba's independence. His collected works span some twenty-eight volumes and include exquisite poetry, insightful essays on Whitman and Emerson, impassioned political analysis, and a remarkable book of children's literature, La edad de oro (1889).

While still an adolescent, Martí embraced the cause of Cuban independence, founding the newspaper La Patria Libre in 1869. He was imprisoned and then banished for writing a letter denouncing a Spanish fellow student. After 1871 Martí spent a great deal of his life outside of Cuba (Mexico, Guatemala, Spain), and most of the years between 1881 and 1895 in New York where he dedicated himself to the Cuban independence movement as a brilliant orator journalist fund raiser and political leader He ...

Article

Kenneth Ombongi and Marcel Rutten

Ali Mazrui, a Kenyan academic, is an enigma. Many call him a pan-Arabist, pan-Africanist, or Muslim fundamentalist. In academia, he is a political historian, political scientist, philosopher, or commentator on diverse issues. However, there seems to be consensus that he is a prolific writer and an orator.

Mazrui is a creation of diverse influences and a creator of many ideas. In his achievements, he is a creation of countries other than his own. He was born 24 February 1933 in Mombasa, Kenya, and got his early education there. He has, however, spent his professional life outside Kenya. Educated at university in England and America, Mazrui’s achievements have been made and celebrated abroad. Whereas he started his scholarship career in Makerere University, in Uganda, he has achieved his intellectual prowess in the United States.

True, the Swahili culture constitutes Mazrui’s cultural roots but he is also Westernized Perhaps neither ...

Article

Ali A. Mazrui was born into the prominent Mazrui clan of Mombasa, which ruled the city during the eighteenth century. His father, Al’Amin Ali Mazrui, was chief Kadhi, Kenya's highest-ranking Islamic judge. After attending primary and secondary schools in Mombasa, he earned a B.A. from the University of Manchester in 1960. He earned an M.A. from Columbia University in New York City in 1961 and a doctorate from Oxford University in 1966.

While working on his dissertation, Mazrui began teaching political science in 1963 at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Mazrui was named dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences in 1967, a position he held until 1973. An early favorite of Idi Amin, in 1971 Amin s first year in power Mazrui soon lost favor because of his outspokenness and was told to shut up or move out of Uganda ...

Article

Zodwa Motsa

Nigerian playwright, novelist, short story writer, dramatist, critic, and political analyst, was born on 21 April 1943 in Akure, western Nigeria. He was raised in the Yoruba tradition but has been a resident of South Africa since 1991. Known also as Bankole Ajibabi, his life is a rich academic tapestry woven across Africa and Western Europe.

Omotoso received his secondary education in Lagos, Nigeria (1962–63), and the University of Ibadan (1968). In 1972 he received his doctoral degree in Arabic and French from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Omotoso started as a lecturer in the department of Arabic and Islamic studies, University of Ibadan, Nigeria (1972–1976), becoming a senior lecturer and head of the department of drama and director of the Life University Theatre (now Obafemi Awolowo University, 1976–1988). Between 1989 and 1991 he was a visiting professor in English at the University ...

Article

Robert Fay

Kole Omotoso was born into a Yoruba family in Akura, Nigeria and received his early education in local schools. Inspired by his uncle, the author Olaiya Fagbamigbe, and by evenings spent listening to Yoruba folktales, Omotoso went on to publish stories while at King’s College in Lagos. He earned a bachelor of arts degree in French and Arabic from the University of Ibadan in 1968 and a docorate in modern Arabic literature from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland in 1972. He returned to Nigeria to write and teach, and took a post as professor at the University of Ibadan in 1976.

Influenced by the Nigerian writer Wole Soyinka Omotoso s increasingly political writings have dealt with issues affecting Africa s future from the perspective of ordinary people Omotoso believes in the power of the arts to bring social change He contributes frequently to magazines and ...

Article

Sylvie Kandé

An outstanding figure of twentieth-century philosophy, literature, and politics, Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–1980) was the author of world-renowned essays, biographies, novels, and plays. He is generally remembered for his contribution to existentialism, a philosophical doctrine that challenges previous determinations of the nature of human existence and focuses instead on its raw and subjective reality. Positing that existentialism is a form of humanism, Sartre held that individuals must take responsibility for their freedom, which he defines as an uninterrupted series of choices. To achieve authenticity, one must also commit to personal and collective disalienation—an anxiety-inducing process, given the meaninglessness of a world devoid of teleology.

Sartre s own interventions in speeches and publications constantly targeted state power and its institutions and reflected his solidarity with the oppressed An eminent intellectual who declined the Légion d Honneur and the Nobel Prize for Literature Sartre undoubtedly brought into the limelight the various ...

Article

Patrick Chura

author, professor, and political commentator, was born in Chicago, Illinois, one of four children of Shelby Steele Sr. and Ruth Steele. Steele's father, born into poverty in Kentucky in 1900, completed only the third grade before being pushed out of school to work in white-owned tobacco fields. He left Kentucky for Chicago in 1914 and met Shelby's mother, Ruth, a white social worker, while volunteering in the early 1940s for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), an organization composed mainly of white middle-class college students seeking to change racist attitudes through peaceful protest. Steele's father supported his family by working as a non-union truck driver and earning extra income as a rental property owner, garage builder, exterminator, and paint salesman. Through reading and rigorous independent study, he achieved a high level of self-education.

Both of Steele s parents were devoted civil rights activists who believed ...

Article

Lorna Lueker Zukas

Zimbabwean author and human rights activist, was born at the Dadaya Mission in Zimbabwe (formerly Southern Rhodesia) on 18 March 1943. Her missionary father, Reginald Stephen Garfield Todd, served as Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia (1953–1958). His plan to extend the franchise, majority rule, and human rights to blacks led to his expulsion from political life and left the family ostracized from white society. Her mother, Jean Grace Wilson Todd, designed and implemented the Southern Rhodesian African Educational System and fully supported her husband and daughter’s political activities. Garfield Todd received a papal medal in 1973 for his peace and human rights work and a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth of England in 1986. Serving as a senator in Zimbabwe’s first parliament (1980–1985), he left government service after becoming disillusioned with Robert Mugabe’s leadership.

Judith Todd likewise dedicated her life to the freedom struggles of blacks in Zimbabwe In ...

Article

Kim Miller

South African artist, writer, and human rights activist, was born in Lichfield, England, in 1941. Williamson’s family emigrated to South Africa in 1948, just months before the Nationalist Party came into power. Raised in what was then the Western Transvaal, Williamson studied journalism at the University of Natal (Durban). In 1969 she achieved a fine arts degree at the Art Students League of New York. Williamson returned to South Africa in 1969 and received an advanced diploma in fine arts from the Michaelis School of Fine Art in Cape Town in 1984. She became a South African citizen in 1990, once it was clear that apartheid was coming to an end.

As artist Sue Williamson is highly respected for her involvement in human rights organizations associated with the antiapartheid movement and for her efforts to make visible the experiences of people and communities who were marginalized ...