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Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Letter from my Mother: "It's Happening in Our Lifetimes!"

Forty-five years ago, my parents--John Due and Patricia Stephens Due--participated in the historic March on Washington. Today, from their home in upstate Florida, they will watch Barack Obama give his acceptance speech as the first black presidential nominee of a major political party, a vital step in his quest to become the first black president. In November, our families and children will gather together in my parents' home to watch election returns. Today, we are only together in spirit. (My mother is the co-author of our book Freedom in the Family: A Mother-Daughter Memoir of the Fight for Civil Rights.)

This is the email my mother sent to her three daughters and grandchildren today:

Forty-five years ago, Dad and I traveled from Miami on the Freedom Train to Washington, DC, to be part of the March on Washington. As we proceeded from Miami to DC, making stops all along the way, and singing freedom songs at each stop and as new passengers got on. By the time we arrived, we were exhausted, but the rainbow colors as we looked over the audience were exhilarating, so happy to see black and whites, Jews and gentiles, men and women, all coming together in the name of freedom and equality for all. Dad and I had been married less than eight months when we took this journey together and were so excited to be a part of history in the making.

I must admit that as I listened to speaker after speaker, my exhaustion at times got the better of me. We had been seated up near the front in a reserved section. I am sending you the card required to sit in that area. I am certain I'll write more tomorrow but as Dr. King said, it is time for us to honor that check returned with "insufficient funds." Tonight, after decades of trying to cash that check, Senator Barack Obama will receive those funds, giving millions the opportunity to share in the interest owed on that check.

We are in California, Texas, Georgia and Florida, but we are all still in that stadium in Denver. The energy of one to the other connects us as we are all suspended in time for this historic occasion.

How ironic that the continent of Africa has called on its own son to restore all that was taken from so many and to show by example how people should be treated. He is releasing us from those chains that shackled us from our motherland to this country--and others, as we were dropped off. Our ancestors are crying tonight because they are so happy and are finally being brought home, and by one of their own.

Now, I have begun to shed tears for Mother, Daddy Marion, Grandmother, Granddaddy, Grandmother Lucille, Mrs. Kelly, Mrs. Jones, Mr. Campbell, Ms. Daisy Young, Rev. Steele, Mrs. Steele, Mrs. Rosa Parks, Dr. and Mrs. King, John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, Jackie Robinson, Richard Haley, Calvin Bess, Velton Banks, William Larkins and the list goes on and on. Before us, we had stood on so many shoulders to get to this place tonight and they would all be so proud.
My heart is so full. Please allow the children to enjoy this with you and hug them tightly for me.

With love and gratitude,Mom/Grandma

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Introducing...THE DARKER MASK!

Every once in a great while, an irresistible opportunity comes along to participate in a unique project with a slew of talented writers. That was the case was Sheree R. Thomas’s Dark Matter speculative fiction anthologies, and Brandon Massey’s Dark Dreams horror anthologies.

Welcome to The Darker Mask: Heroes from the Shadows, edited by Gary Phillips and Christopher Chambers, an anthology of black superhero stories that is unlike anything that has come before.

In addition to contributions from Walter Mosley, L.A. Banks and other award-winning writers, my husband Steven Barnes and I contributed a short story collaboration called “Trickster, set in a futuristic Africa. (Those of you who read “Danger Word” in Dark Dreams have already seen a short-fiction collaboration from us—these are stories that neither of us would have written on our own! It takes a village…)

I have to admit: Unlike Steve, who is an encyclopedia of such matters, I don’t know much about comic books or superheroes. Even as a tomboy growing up, I never found superhero stories that caught fire in my imagination. Perhaps if there had been more superheroes of color…? I’ll never know.

But I do understand the power of myth in comprehending our own infinite potential, and superheroes have always signified much more than capes and tights. That is especially true in this anthology. The Darker Mask is for everyone, but its contributors are well aware that children and adults of color, in particular, have been missing those nutrients in our national popular culture.

Well, hope you’re hungry. The Darker Mask is long overdue. The stories are varied and excellent, the illustrations are amazing, and the time has come.

Oh, and it’s good, too! Publishers Weekly’s review concluded: “Deceptively simple and entertaining while never skimping on serious topics, this tight anthology will satisfy any superhero enthusiast.”

In other words, get ready for a hell of a flight.

[When you finish reading, please post a review on and send me a line here to tell me what you thought.]