Mt. Lebanon Public Library is observing Black History Month with some programs and a comprehensive reading list.
From 11 to noon on Saturday, February 11, historical researcher Susan Cannavino will present The Extraordinary Life of Martin Luther King, a look at the civil rights leader’s childhood, adult relationships and family values and how they informed his career. The online-only presentation will be conducted via Zoom, and registration is required. Register online.
On Thursday, February 9, from 7 to 8 p.m., join Marty Ashby and Mark Jackovic of the Manchester Craftsmens Guild to discuss the award-winning documentary We Knew What We Had: The Greatest Jazz Story Never Told. Ashby and Jackovic offer behind the scenes insight on how interviews, archival photography, performance footage and more came together to tell the story of Pittsburgh jazz legends George Benson, Stanley Turrentine, Ahmad Jamal, Art Blakey, Mary Lou Williams and others. Registration is required.
Here is a sampling of the library’s recommended Black History Month book suggestions:
Rattlebone, by Maxine Clair
Irene Wilson knows that a “no-name invisible something” has settled over her parents’ marriage and suspects her glamorous new teacher is to blame. Irene is not alone in her suspicions. In the town of Rattlebone, a small Black neighborhood of Kansas City, secrets are hard to keep and growing up is a community affair.
As Irene is initiated into adult passion and loss, her family story takes its place in a tightly woven tapestry of neighbors whose griefs and joys are as vivid as her own. Capturing an entire world through the eyes of its unforgettable heroine, Rattlebone is a one-of-a-kind triumph of American fiction.
Sweep of Stars, by Maurice Broaddus
Maurice Broaddus’s Sweep of Stars is the first in a trilogy that explores the struggles of an empire. Epic in scope and intimate in voice, it follows members of the Muungano empire – a far-reaching coalition of city-states that stretches from O.E. (original earth) to Titan – as it faces an escalating series of threats.
“The beauty in blackness is its ability to transform. Like energy we are neither created nor destroyed, though many try.” – West African Proverb
The Muungano empire strived and struggled to form a utopia when they split away from old earth. Freeing themselves from the endless wars and oppression of their home planet in order to shape their own futures and create a far-reaching coalition of city-states that stretched from Earth and Mars to Titan.
With the wisdom of their ancestors, the leadership of their elders, the power and vision of their scientists and warriors they charted a course to a better future. But the old powers could not allow them to thrive and have now set in motion new plots to destroy all that they’ve built.
My Government Means to Kill Me, by Rasheed Newton
A fierce and riveting queer coming-of-age story, following the personal and political awakening of a young gay Black man in 1980s NYC, from the television drama writer and producer of The Chi, Narcos, and Bel-Air Born into a wealthy Black Indianapolis family, Earl ‘Trey’ Singleton III leaves his overbearing parents and their expectations behind by running away to New York City with only a few dollars in his pocket. In the City, Trey meets up with a cast of characters that change his life forever–from civil rights leader Bayard Rustin, who he meets in a Harlem bathhouse, to his landlord, Fred Trump, who he clashes with and outfoxes. He volunteers at a renegade home hospice for AIDS patients, and after being put to the test by gay rights activist Larry Kramer and civil rights leader Dorothy Cotton, becomes a founding member of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP). Along the way Trey attempts to navigate past traumas and searches for ways to maintain familial relationships–all while seeking the meaning of life in the midst of so much death. Vibrant, humorous, and fraught with entanglements, Rasheed Newson’s My Government Means to Kill Me is an exhilarating, fast-paced, coming-of-age story that lends itself to a larger discussion about what it means for a young, gay, Black man in the mid-1980s to come to terms with his role in the midst of a political and social reckoning.
Half American, by Matthew F. Delmont
The definitive history of World War II from the African American perspective, written by civil rights expert and Dartmouth history professor Matthew Delmont. Over one million Black men and women served in World War II. Black troops were at Normandy, IwoJima, and the Battle of the Bulge, serving in segregated units and performing unheralded but vital support jobs, only to be denied housing and educational opportunities on their return home. Without their crucial contributions to the war effort, the United States could not have won the war. And yet the stories of these Black veterans have long been ignored, cast aside in favor of the myth of the “Good War” fought by the “Greatest Generation.” Half American is American history as you’ve likely never read it before. In these pages are stories of Black heroes such as Thurgood Marshall, the chief lawyer for the NAACP, who investigated and publicized violence against Black troops and veterans; Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., leader of the Tuskegee Airmen, who was at the forefront of the years-long fight to open the Air Force to Black pilots; Ella Baker, the civil rights leader who advocated on the home front for Black soldiers, veterans, and their families; James Thompson, the 26-year-old whose letter to a newspaper laying bare the hypocrisy of fighting against fascism abroad when racism still reigned at home set in motion the Double Victory campaign; and poet Langston Hughes, who worked as a war correspondent for the Black press. Their bravery and patriotism in the face of unfathomable racism is both inspiring and galvanizing. In a time when the questions World War II raised regarding race and democracy in America remain troublingly relevant and still unanswered, this meticulously researched retelling makes for urgently necessary reading.
The Come Up: An Oral History of the Rise of Hip-Hop, Jonathan P. D. Abrams
The essential oral history of hip-hop, from its origins on the playgrounds of the Bronx to its reign as the most powerful force in pop culture-from the award-winning journalist behind All the Pieces Matter, the New York Times bestselling oral history ofThe Wire. The music that we would later know as hip-hop was born at a party in the Bronx in the summer of 1973. Now, fifty years later, it’s the most popular genre in America and its electric impact on contemporary music is likened to that of jazz on thefirst half of the twentieth century. And yet, despite its tremendous influence, the voices of many of hip-hop’s pioneers have never been thoroughly catalogued-and some are at risk of being lost forever. Now, in The Come Up, Jonathan Abrams offers the most comprehensive account so far of hip-hop’s rise, told in the voices of the people who made it happen. Abrams traces how the genre grew out of the resourcefulness of an overlooked population amid the decay of the South Bronx, and from there how it overflowed into the other boroughs and then across the nation-from parks onto vinyl, below to the Mason-Dixon line, to the West Coast through gangster rap and G-funk, and then across generations. In more than 300 interviews conducted over three years, Abrams hascaptured the stories of the DJs, label executives, producers, and artists who both witnessed and made the history of hip-hop. He has on record Grandmaster Caz detailing hip-hop’s infancy, Edward “Duke Bootee” Fletcher describing the origins of “The Message,” DMC narrating his introduction of hip-hop to the mainstream, Ice Cube recounting N.W.A’s breakthrough and breakup, Kool Moe Dee elaborating on his Grammys boycott, and many more key players. And he has conveyed with singular vividness the drive, the stakes, and the relentless creativity that ignited one of the greatest revolutions in modern music. The Come Up is an important contribution to the historical record and an exhilarating behind-the-scenes account of how hip-hop came to rule the world.
Blk art : The Audacious Legacy of Black Artists and Models in Western Art, by Zaria Ware
A fun and fact-filled introduction to the dismissed Black art masters and models who shook up the world. Quietly held within museum and private collections around the world are hundreds of faces of Black men and women, many of their stories unknown. Then, after hundreds of years of Black faces cast as only the subject of the white gaze, a small group of trailblazing Black American painters and sculptors reached national and international fame, setting the stage for the flourishing of Black art in the 1920s and beyond. Captivating and informative, BLK ART is an essential work that elevates a globally dismissed legacy to its proper place.