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The Next Best Thing

Thoughts From a Dark Girl on Robert Pruitt's "Pretty For a Black Girl"

- By Kymberly S. Newberry

Photo: Photograph of Robert Pruitt, Cedric Angeles

Gwendolyn B. Bennett

To a Dark Girl

I love you for your brownness
And the rounded darkness of your breast
I love you for the breaking sadness in your voice
And shadows where your wayward eye-lids rest.
Something of old forgotten queens
Lurks in the lithe abandon of your walk
And something of the shackled slave
Sobs in the rhythm of your talk
Oh, little brown girl, born for sorrow’s mate
Keep all you have of queenliness
Forgetting that you once were slave
And let your full lips laugh at Fate!

Several years ago, I remember sitting in the Bing Auditorium of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, when art...

The Next Best Thing

The Promissory Note and Notes on Jacob Lawrence's "The Architect, 1959"

- By Kymberly S. Newberry

Photo: Photograph of Jacob Lawrence, Carl Van Van Vechten, Courtesy of the Library of Congress

In the summer of 1941, A. Philip Randolph, founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, called for a march on Washington to draw attention to the exclusion of African Americans from positions in the national defense industry, then a feverishly growing enterprise supplying material to the Allies in World War II. For African Americans there were high levels of unemployment, minimal wage employment, and persistent racial segregation in the South. In March of 1963, Randolph telegraphed Martin Luther King and asked for his participation in another march—this time “for Negro job rights”—being planned for August.

On August 28, 1963, as his eyes...

The Next Best Thing

The Next Best Thing: Dressed to Kill

- By Janet R. Bowdan

(Editor’s note: What follows is indeed the latest in our “Next Best Thing” series, introducing you to people and events that you’ll wish you hadn’t missed. In this case, though, you’ve been granted a second chance: Karen Skolfield will be reading this weekend, as part of LitFest at Amherst College. Saturday at 11:00 a.m., in the Frost Library.)

Welcome to the Jones Library, and Amherst, and to this book launch/poetry reading. If you are perhaps a Skolfield-Goeckel, or if you know Karen through ice hockey, or through poetry, or if you have wandered in thinking, “A poetry reading! Maybe there will be wine & cheese,” well,...

The Next Best Thing

From Shining Pearl to Shining Sea

- By Xu Xi

A Transnational View of Hong Kong

Before I introduce our speaker this evening, I have a lot of thanks to give to those who supported and made this event possible. Thanks to Hampshire College Eqbal Ahmad Endowed Lecture Fund, the Ethics and Common Good Project, and the Creative Writing Program. Thanks to Smith College Office of Equity & Inclusion and the Lewis Global Studies Center. Thanks to the UMass MFA for Poets & Writers Program, Five Colleges, Inc., and The Massachusetts Review. Finally, thanks to my student, Judy Ha, for making the beautiful poster for this event and distributing it to all five campuses!

I’m very excited to welcome writer Xu Xi to Hampshire College and to welcome her back to the Five...

The Next Best Thing

Even a Number

- By Erri De Luca

Danilo De Marco is a photographer who still works with film, in black and white, and then goes into the darkroom to develop and print, under the glow of a red light bulb. He says digitalization erases the texture of his images.

One of his recent exhibitions in Udine displayed a collection of the oversized-format faces of aging partisans. Those that reached the age to become grandparents carry history carved into the map of their expressions.

Danilo has me read a letter he got in response to this exhibition, written by a young woman, thirty years old. Her grandfather had been a partisan, but she didn’t manage in time to get the stories directly from him.

Amid the oversized faces in the exhibition hall, she writes, she felt she was among family—a niece who...

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