Blues Vision: African American Writing from Minnesota (Minnesota Historical Society/Minnesota Humanities Center), prose and poetry culled from the proverbial cream of the Twin Cities crop of African American authors, is a book you want to have sitting on your coffee table. Not just as some sort of intelligentsia ornament — though, yes, it’ll serve the purpose — preferably as evidence that thinking Black folk abound around this area.
Edited by literary legends Alexs Pate, Pamela R. Fletcher and J. Otis Powell!, and recommended by the likes of Minneapolis native son and congressional Rep. Keith Ellison, journalistic celeb Robyne Robinson, and scholar Dr. John S. Wright, it’s not your run-of-the-mill academic tome but a work well worth perusing for both enlightenment and entertaining reading. First, for sheer curiosity. Then, for incomparable content.
Pate, Fletcher and Powell! also contribute, along with a veritable laundry list of iconic scribes, including but far from limited to seminal figure Anthony Peyton Porter, Mary Moore Easter, David Grant and former MSR editor Shannon Gibney. This is the sort of collection readers might well be talking about for some time to come.
Nothing, of course, is perfect. Accordingly, salient voices such as Mankwe Ndosi and Juin Charnell are absent. Still, Blues Vision is strong.
Famed poet Louis Alemayehu, renowned for heading up historic spoken word/avant-garde jazz ensemble Ancestor Energy, pens “Heartsong for Our Father” and “Akhenaten’s Dream: Sunrise.” His terse, impassioned writing is not to be denied. Angela Shannon’s lyrical, image-rich verse similarly arrests.
Porter can be considered the granddaddy of Twin Cities minority essay writing. As editor of Colors: A Journal of Opinion By Writers of Color, he saw to it that essayists Pate, Fletcher, Powell!, Grant, e.g. bailey and more gained traction at a point in their careers when achieving sure footing was all.
He contributes, in his trademark style, “Home Delivery.” Porter uniquely renders life’s everyday circumstance remarkably interesting. To wit: When was the last time you gave the first, let alone second, thought to newspapers being dropped off on a doorstep? You’ll think about it with a twist after reading this.
An excerpt goes, “Monday and Tuesday meant a light paper that was difficult to throw accurately. They were like Whiffle balls — I never knew where they’d end. They could catch the slightest breeze and float off into the bushes. I had to walk farther up the walk when the paper was light.” Immediate, not a word wasted.
Over the years, a slew of brilliant Black writers have been doing their thing hereabouts. If you didn’t know that before, Blues Vision sees that you know it now.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.