Birth of the Cool: Minnesota
by Philip Bryant
I know, Miles,
you didn’t have rural southern Minnesota
in mind when you
blew your classic mute
on your famous Birth of the Cool
sessions in New York, circa 1949.
But it’s the way the paper-thin
ice forms on the edge of the lake
in late October:
meeting at the cold dark water’s edge
-still open and free
though not for long-
with the ripples of these short choppy
muted notes of yours
blown just out of reach
this cool windy autumn morning.
A surprising and compelling anthology that reveals complex realities-beautiful, infuriating, painful, and uplifting-as described by African American writers in Minnesota over the past century.
A rich Minnesota literary tradition is brought into the spotlight in this groundbreaking collection of incisive prose and powerful poetry by forty- three black writers who educate, inspire, and reveal the unabashed truth.
Historically significant figures tell their stories, demonstrating how much and how little conditions have changed: Gordon Parks hitchhikes to Bemidji, Taylor Gordon describes his first day as a chauffeur in St. Paul, and Nellie Stone Johnson insists on escaping the farm for high school in Minneapolis. A profusion of modern voices- poet Tish Jones, playwright Kim Hines, and memoirist Frank Wilderson– reflect the dizzying, complex realities of the present. Showcasing the unique vision and reality of Minnesota’s African American community from the Harlem renaissance through the civil rights movement, from the black power movement to the era of hip- hop and the time of America’s first black president, this compelling anthology provides an explosion of artistic expression about what it means to be a Minnesotan.
Alexs Pate, an award- winning novelist, playwright, and writing professor, is the president of Innocent Technologies, LLC. Pamela R. Fletcher is associate professor of English at St. Catherine University. J. Otis Powell!? is a poet, performance artist, and curator working in an aesthetic rooted in Afrocentric lore and culture.
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