KenteCloth: Southwest Voices of the African Diaspora: The Oral Tradition Comes to the Page

KenteCloth: Southwest Voices of the African Diaspora: The Oral Tradition Comes to the Page

KenteCloth: Southwest Voices of the African Diaspora: The Oral Tradition Comes to the Page

KenteCloth: Southwest Voices of the African Diaspora: The Oral Tradition Comes to the Page

Excerpt

Of course I'd always known that I was black, but I'd never really stopped to take stock of what I was involved in. I met life as an individual and took my chances.... Through reading I was amazed to discover how confused people were.

Eldridge Cleaver, From "On Becoming, " Soul on Ice

In many ways the above quote from Eldridge Cleaver, taken with liberties to context, makes a proper case for why this anthology, KenteCloth: Southwest Voices of the African Diaspora, is a necessary addition to the current re-facing of the African-American literary canon. Knowing that one is Black, African, African-American or any other layer of that Diaspora, requires understanding and appreciating that diversity. Cleaver, who hails from Wabbaseka, Arkansas, a region within the anthology's scope, used this quote to describe his awakening as a person of intentional action. I adopt his words here to cajole the reader's sensibilities to the untapped and oft purposefully overlooked literary culture of the Black Southwest region. Like Cleaver did with his essay, "On Becoming," I hope with this anthology to expand the reader's expectations, not merely of self, but rather of the developing canon.

This region—for our purposes defined as Texas and its contiguous states of Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arkansas—is truly untapped and underserved, as far as literature is concerned. Of course, this perspective concedes that the Southwest is at the mercy of others' appreciation of its contribution in this arena. None would deny that the Southwest has always been recognized for its wealth of contributions to the oral traditions. History is replete with the folklored endeavors of the trickster; preacher tales; superstitions; rhymes; riddles; spirituals and the like. The horrific ghost tales and vengeful slave yams are rooted in this folklore and have been carried far and wide through black migration. Black comedy is the beneficiary of these Southern facets with its "hoo-ra" or "dozens." Black music, the ever-changing spiritual in . . .

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