Blog post by Graduate Assistant Kelly Hogan
On Thursday, October 9th, Linda Holmes, author of A Joyous Revolt: Toni Cade Bambara, Writer and Activist (2014), gave a presentation at the Avery Research Center on the life and work of Toni Cade Bambara. Holmes first met Bambara while taking one of her poetry classes. Holmes’ story, “The True Story of Chicken Licken’” was later featured in a book of short stories compiled by Bambara, Tales and Stories for Black Folk.
In her presentation, Holmes provided an overview of Bambara’s life and career. Bambara emerged at the forefront of twentieth century black feminist literary movements in the 1970s. She was part of a new generation of black women who spoke from their own perspectives and experiences. Bambara’s work is deeply rooted in black culture and the culture of Harlem where she grew up. Her most iconic work, The Black Woman, challenged the chauvinism and tackled issues surrounding body image, the economy, politics, and much more. Bambara is celebrated as a transformative and groundbreaking writer.
In her presentation, Holmes described how Bambara always focused on the needs and voices of the collective group, both in the classroom, as well as her life. Bambara encouraged her students to express themselves, to speak loudly and boldly, to be present and to be confident. Holmes played a brief and entertaining clip from one of Bambara’s speeches, which allowed the audience to see just how captivating and charismatic Bambara was.
Holmes’ quoted Bambara in her presentation, and I believe that this quote captures much of what Bambara stood for:
When Harriet Tubman crossed the border, she might have sat down for a leisurely cup of coffee, might have draped a shawl around her shoulders and settled comfortably into the hearth-side rocker, humming out the rest of her days. But she didn’t. She took responsibility for what she knew – that there is no life of honor to the ‘I’ when the ‘we’ are penned up and down pressed.
— A Joyous Revolt: Toni Cade Bambara, Writer and Activist