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On Masculinity, The Power of the Word, And Finding Zion

From the web

Issue 117, Summer 2022

James Baldwin, 1963, Everett Collection Historical/Alamy

DANTÉ STEWART wrestles with the grief of our time and sifts through the words of James Baldwin for healing and liberation in "Little Experiments of Liberation." 

“My desk is full of books that speak that same language back to me. Over my shoulder there are four images that watch, and in my mind’s imagination, pray over me. Toni Morrison. James Baldwin. James Cone. Katie Cannon. As my eyes travel from the books that weigh down my desk to my coffee and then to the reflection of those four images in the black of my computer screen, I remind myself: love is the beginning of liberation and liberation is the embodiment of love.” 

Still from "The Evening Hour," by Scott Patrick Green. Courtesy Come On, Backslider LLC

CARTER SICKELS reckons with performing masculinity while filming an adaptation of his novel in "Men Playing Men." 

“And, yet, didn’t I also observe sparks of tenderness lighting up the dark heavy folds of traditional masculinity? My grandfather walking through the woods and teaching me the names of the trees, or my father gently pulling tomatoes off the vines. A boy in a ripped-up jean jacket and motorcycle boots strutted through the halls at school, and in art class, he drew the most delicate birds—they looked like they could fly off the page. I wanted to write into that tension between toughness and tenderness, about the men I knew growing up and later met in West Virginia and in Kentucky, men...trying to break out of the old narratives of masculinity.” 

Lauryn Hill at Tom Brasil in São Paulo, Brazil, 2007. Photo by Daigo Oliva via Wikimedia Commons

NADIRAH SIMMONS breaks down music history and reimagines motherhood in “To Zion, Marching.” 

“And when you realize how layered the song is, from its nods to blues traditions to lyrics that affirm ‘the joy’ of motherhood, you might never hear ‘To Zion’ the same again.” 

Carter Sickels, Nadirah Simmons, Danté Stewart

Carter Sickels is the author of the novel The Prettiest Star (Hub City Press), winner of the 2021 Southern Book Prize and the Weatherford Award for Appalachian fiction. His debut novel The Evening Hour was adapted into a feature film that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2020 and is now streaming. His writing appears in the Atlantic, Poets & Writers, BuzzFeed, Guernica, Joyland, and Catapult. Carter teaches at Eastern Kentucky University.

Nadirah Simmons is a writer and digital content creator committed to preserving Black history, hip-hop history, and pop culture, as well as finding new ways to tell stories on television and the internet. In 2018 she was inspired to put her love of hip-hop, Black history, and Black womanhood and her producing and writing skills into practice. She created The Gumbo Mass Media & Social Club, LLC, an innovative space in media for the creative excellence and activism of Black women in hip-hop and a safe haven free of politics. The Gumbo’s goal is to inspire creative leadership and contribute to a cultural shift that reframes, re-energizes, and reimagines Black women and their relationship with hip-hop through dynamic content, events, and the dissemination of vital information on developments in the genre.

Danté Stewart is a writer, speaker and author of Shoutin' In The Fire: An American Epistle. Named by The Center for American Progress as one of "22 Faith Leaders to Watch in 2022" and by Religion News Service as one of "Ten Up-And-Coming Faith Influencers," his work has appeared in TIME Magazine, CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post, ESPN's Andscape, Sojourners, and more.