November 20, 2009
… the book, a collection of essays, poems and works from various people with a myriad of backgrounds, is the brainchild of Meri Nana-Ama Danquah. Meri is a writer, an actress, a broadcast journalist, and an inspirational public speaker. As a child born in Ghana, she and her family came to live in the States when she was age 6. From there, she learned quickly what it was like to be a black female, a minority, in the wild world of white. She had never experienced racism nor prejudice based on the color of her skin before. Meri was so moved and affected by the years following, that she wrote her first book, Willow Weep for Me: A Black Woman’s Journey Trough Depression in 1988, which received numerous accolades, recognition and acclaim. Her entree’ into the literary world was just the beginning of the life she would lead. This is a life which would move people of all races, ages, religions, and socio-economic backgrounds by her written and spoken words.
The book The Black Body was developed because Meri felt compelled at last, to ask the hard question: “What does it mean to have, or to love, a black body?” She reached out to friends, black, white, bi-racial. Many journalists felt their careers could be put in jeopardy if they answered this question in a published body of work. Other professionals thought there was no way they’d be quoted in black and white (so to speak). It could come back to bite them in the future. Those that did step up to the challenge include not only Kimball, but Hill Harper, Peter J. Harris, Kenneth Carroll, S. Pearl Sharp and many more, about 30 in total are heard from. Each one comes from a different background, race, religion, age, profession. Their words are honest, brutally honest, frank and open.
At Busboys & Poets, I got to meet Meri herself. It was quite an honor. The standing room only group listened intently to her read an exerpt from her own pages. I could have sat and listened to Meri for hours on end. Her voice was melodic, with geniune emotion and expression. Kimball’s reading was beautiful too. Without spoiling it for you, because I want you to buy the book and read it yourself, Kimball wrote of her life in the wealthy white world of Texarkana, how she didn’t see skin color, mainly because she hadn’t been brought up by her parents to do so (remember, racism is often passed down generation through generation) and even her first kiss with a black man. She contemplates how people are people. She writes that humans are blood, bones, muscle. If we base who we are on skin alone, the color of skin, then who really are we? We would lose out on so much beauty, talent, grace, intellect, and love.
This book is for everyone to read. It may be a hard pill to swallow. It may enrage you. It may make you question the humanity of it. It may make you look at yourself in the mirror a bit more closely. It may make you look at your friends, your neighbors, that stranger walking by you on the sidewalk or next to you on the Metro differently. It’s supposed to. It’s supposed to create a dialogue, be thought provoking, evoke emotion.
Get your copy of The Black Body today from Seven Stories Press.