Black History Fun Fact Friday – Nora Holt

Did you know there was a woman writer during the Harlem Renaissance named Nora? Yup.

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One of the things I wanted to do with The Nora White Story project is to make everything make as much sense as possible. I know how important it is that everything fits the era to include names. Thus, I used names that were familiar with the time. Some of the names, like Nora, jumped out at me from the start. However, some of them were not so easy. To make sure everyone’s name (even minor characters) fit the time, I Googled the census data for popular names of the 1920s and scrolled through male and female names. So, who was Nora Holt?

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Nora Holt

Nora was a singer, composer and music critic. Born Lena Douglas in Kansas City, Kansas; Nora graduated from Western University of Quindaro, Kansas and later earned a Bachelor’s degree in music in 1917. In 1918, she earned her Master’s Degree in music at Chicago Musical College, becoming one of the first African-American women to complete a Master’s program in the United States. Her thesis composition was an orchestral work called Rhapsody on Negro Themes.

Nora was married quite a few times. On the fourth time, she changed her name from Lena to Nora when she married George Holt in 1916.

From 1917-1921 Nora contributed music criticism pieces to the Chicago Defender, a black daily newspaper. In 1919, she co-founded the National Association of Negro Musicians and then spent 12 years abroad in Europe and Asia singing at night clubs and private parties. Although composing over 200 works of orchestral music, one of the reasons Nora Holt is not well known is because her work was stolen. Upon leaving for Europe in 1926, she placed her manuscripts in storage when she returned they were gone. Only one piece survived because it was published prior to the theft and is called Negro Dance, (ragtime-based piano piece).

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Nora

Holt moved to Harlem in the early 1920s, where she became an important part of the Harlem Renaissance. She became good friends with novelist and critic Carl Van Vechten.

(You can meet some of these historical figures when they make special guest appearances in my new novel, Renaissance: The Nora White Story which releases tomorrow. Today (7/14) is the last day to get it at the reduced price of $1.99)

Nora was also a teacher. She studied music at the University of Southern California in the 1930s and went on to teach music in Los Angeles for several years. Nora was well rounded. Not only was she a writer and musician but she also ran a beauty shop. Apparently Nora knew how important it was to stay fly :-).

In 1943, Holt took a position as an editor and music critic with a black-oriented publication Amsterdam News and went on to live a full life. During the early 1950s and early 1960s, she hosted a radio concert series called “Nora Holt’s Concert Showcase”. It ran to 1964 and in 1966, she was a member of the First World Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar, Senegal.

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Photo of Nora Holt, taken by Carl Van Vechten, 1955

Nora Holt died January 25, 1974, in Los Angeles.


 

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Poetry Contest Reminder: Closing July 19, 2017

As you all know, I am running my first ever poetry contest in honor of my upcoming release Renaissance: The Nora White Story (Book One) which features poetry and is available now for eBook preorders.

Click Here to order at the low price of $1.99 before the price goes up on July 15th.

This book will also be available in paperback.

You can help further by marking Renaissance as to read on Goodreads. CLICK HERE.

Now, poetry…

I am writing to remind you that this contest will end soon!

First, what is this all about? For those of you who have not already checked into Colleen’s Blog where I made the initial announcement on June 19, 2017,  here are the rules:

The Poem

Submit one or two original, unpublished poems to Yecheilyah at yecheilyah ysrayl dot com (yecheilyah@yecheilyahysrayl.com) between now through July 19, 2017. You will have until 12:00 midnight Central Standard Time on 7/19 to get your poems in before closing.

Poems must be your ORIGINAL work and UNPUBLISHED anywhere online.

There is one winner of this contest with up to 2 entries per poet.

Entry Fee:

There is a $5.00 Entry fee. Click HERE to pay the fee.

OR – Entry fees can be waived by signing up for my email list HERE. There is no other way to waive the fee.

If you are already on my email list, please mention this when submitting your poem.

Signing up for my email list represents one entry.

If you are entering more than one poem, you must pay the entry fee for any additional poems.

The Reason for the Fee:

The entry fee is in place to help pay for the prizes.

Current Prizes

At this time, we have one Grand Prize Winner who will receive:

  • Poem published to The PBS Blog (includes links to your social media, buy links to your books (if any) and promotion.)

  • Amazon Gift Card

  • Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

  • *From When I was a Black Girl by Yecheilyah Ysrayl

  • And Still, I Rise by Maya Angelou

*From When I was a Black Girl is my second collection of poetry. First published in 2012 with a second edition published in 2013, this book became a book of study at The Evergreen State College in Tacoma, Washington for the Fall 2014 semester. Part of an Independent Learning Contract, it remains part of the school’s files to this day. It is my honor to offer a paperback of this collection as a winning prize for this contest. This is an exclusive offer that you will not find on Amazon.

International Shipping

Please note: Winners outside the U.S. will be awarded Kindle downloads of the books listed if someone overseas wins.

Final Thoughts:

The winner will be announced on Monday, August 6, 2017 on both this blog and Colleen’s.

(If you win, you will be notified a couple days before the announcement via email you have won and that an announcement will go out featuring you. This is so that we can collect your information, social links and links to any books you have out if any).

The Grand Prize Winner will have their poetry featured on The PBS Blog with added promotion. The date for this will be revealed to the poet after they have won.

To enter this contest, please send $5.00 to the PayPal of Literary Korner Publishing HERE.

 

To waive your fee, please sign-up to my email list HERE.(Verification of sign-up will be reviewed before poem is accepted).

 

Send your poem to Yecheilyah @ yecheilyahysrayl.com

The Theme

Since Renaissance follows the theme of The Harlem Renaissance and Black life in the South, poems should have something to do with these themes and can be as long or as short as you would like. The contest is open to all poets.

I understand not all of you are familiar with this era so I am opening this up a bit. The theme will remain the same but it is not mandatory. Poems of all kinds will be accepted and considered for the win.

 

Would a focus on the 1920s era and women in general be nice? Yes, but it is not required to win. Consider this open mic!

 

If you didn’t see the original announcement, CLICK HERE to learn more.


That is all and I look forward to reading your poems!

To All Those Women

This is the most real post I’ve read in a long time! Men are not always appreciated as much as women are and no one says anything about it.

Heron There & Everywhere

To all those women who have full-time husbands and don’t really appreciate them, you can all go to hell. Yes, I know that’s abrupt and a bit nasty, but I don’t care. This post is aimed at women who don’t know how good they’ve got it.

I’ve worked with women who whined because their husbands played golf or watched too much football or worked non-stop on the car or on the house. Their husbands were still there beside them every night, but they felt put upon because he had other interests besides them. Stupid ungrateful women.

My hubby was home for just over four hours today. Four HOURS. That was our “weekend”. He came in, we had lunch together, I did his laundry while he showered and took a nap. He watched the Preakness with me, he packed and left again. Yes, this was an unusual circumstance. There was some…

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Writers Wednesday -The Men with Blue Eyes


Chapter 1: Friday, December 31, 2005, 11:55p

632 N Dearborn St., Excalibur Castle Chicago Dance Club

BODIES FILLED THE MASSIVE VENUE, and the music growled from the belly of the loudspeakers. Excalibur once again managed to stuff every available body into the three-level club. Blue, green, red, and yellow lights beamed from above the DJ table and hung from the second and third floors, illuminating the mass of intoxicated bodies on the ground floor.

“Erica, girl where you been? It’s about to start.”

Tina turned away from the bar to face the short woman of milk chocolate complexion and short hair. Her body filled out the black dress as the woman waved her hot face.

“What?”

Tina laughed, the women couldn’t hear themselves over the music. “Its bout to start! The countdown!” she yelled in Erica’s ear.

“Wait lemme get my drink.”

“Girl please, time don’t wait for nobody you better c’mon,” said Tina jumping down from the barstool.

“Grey Goose Martini and a plain cranberry juice”, shouted Erica to the bartender who smiled and winked. Baby girl full of it tonight, he thought.

A crowd of people began to surround the main stage as it prepared to lower the huge crystal ball to the middle of the floor.

“I need yall to make some noise!” boomed the voice of the Emcee from the microphone, sending the crowd into hysteria.

“C’mon E,” said Tina, watching as the bartender handed Erica her drink.

Erica wobbled over to Tina and the women stumble toward the stage, laughing.

“Here we go!” yelled the DJ.

“Whew!” yelled Tina, laughing. It had been a long time since she had this much fun.

“I love you Chicago!” yelled Erica. Tina laughed. She was feeling it.

“We love you!”

“I love you too baby”, said the DJ.

“Whewww!” the women laughed.

“Ten…nine…” began the DJ.

“Eight…” said Erica.

“Seven…” said Tina.

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As the crowd chanted along something caught Tina’s eye. A man standing in the midst of the people and staring at her from a distance. Wearing a black suit and tie he is oddly out of place and looked to Tina to belong in a courtroom, not a club. The sound around her went mute and her mind raced to decipher the identity of the strange man. After spending the past year in therapy, she had tried to forget about her now fading past. Purposefully considering her sanity, she had not expected to walk into Erica’s office to receive such a down to earth reality check from a doctor who was now dancing out her dress in a club with her patient. As such, Tina took this as a sign that things were finally back to normal, taking hallucinogenic suppressants as prescribed and even cutting off any ties to the former life.

But now, as the club lights bounced off the hint of blue that gleamed even in the darkness, she knew that the nightmare she’d tried so desperately to separate herself from would be back and she would have to face the reality that the events of almost two years ago did, in fact, happen. Her nephew was murdered in a warehouse trying to save his sisters and brother from a possessed woman, she was now raising her nieces and nephews as her own, and as much as she wanted to be, she wasn’t crazy. Why couldn’t they leave her alone? What did they want now?

“HAPPY NEW YEAR!”

The return of sound and Erica’s sudden hug made Tina fall back as Erica spilled her drink.

“Damn, messing with you”, she said wiping at her dress. “Hey girl, you alright?”

Tina’s eyes darted frantically around the club for the man, but he was gone.

“Yea girl, I’m good,” she said waving her hand.

“You sure? You been taking the pills, right? Don’t let me have to write yo butt up.”

Stealing one more glance in the direction where the blue-eyed man stood, there was no one there.

“Yea girl, I’m alright. Where the bathroom though?” she said with laughter to feign the fear that already started to seep its way through her pores and release its gas into the air.

Black History Fun Fact Friday – The Inspiration Behind “Renaissance”

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Since this is our last Black History Fun Fact of the year (There won’t be one next week. I will be on vacation), I decided to share my inspiration for the first book in my soon-to-be released novel series Renaissance: The Nora White Story.


renaissance-ebookDespite the wealth of information online, in books, and in movies, there’s still a misconception about what it meant to be black in the south and black in the north in the early 1900s. One recycled piece of information that no doubt holds some truth, is the mass movement of blacks who packed up and carried their southern roots north to escape Jim Crow and to acquire better financial opportunities. But not only were blacks escaping Jim Crow, but the north had a reputation of being prosperous and successful. This image largely shaped by the south’s brutal history.

Slavery is so much the outstanding feature of the South, in the unthinking view of it, that people often forget there had been slaves all over the U.S. Slaves were auctioned openly in the Market House of Philadelphia; in the shadow of Congregational churches in Rhode Island; in Boston taverns and warehouses; In Chicago and weekly, sometimes daily, in Merchant’s Coffee House of New York. The north has been painted as the picture of staunch abolitionism when in truth Northerners bought, sold, and owned slaves.

In the presence of such information, many blacks came to look at northern cities as a saving grace. Not only did it represent freedom from bondage, but discrimination in the north has always been so well organized that it did not have the same up close and the personal effect that the south had. The south was more brutal, more abusive, and more personal whereas the racism in the northern cities was sugar coated (I should use the present tense here).

Blacks then looked up to Harlem and Chicago and many in their hearts scorned their brothers and sisters in Mississippi and Alabama and Louisiana who picked cotton instead of sleep on the floor. Blacks opted to tread north to share rooms with rats and roaches in overcrowding apartment buildings while leaving an impression among their southern brethren that they were in the lands of milk and honey. And even when we returned, many of us maintained this air of superiority and this created a silent fuel between blacks in the south and blacks in the north.

Deep down southern blacks knew that northern blacks thought themselves too proud because they were in New York trying to live like white men but being black men without a pot to piss in, and a window to throw it out of. This was my inspiration behind The Nora White Story.

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Shaped by such views, Nora is not as appreciative of the sacrifices that her parents made as she should be. She’s naïve, pampered, and sees the North through the same eyes as many who came before her. Before and during The Harlem Renaissance, many black women tried to mimic the traditional image and role of white women. Many of them saw themselves as  elite and often tried to appear “white”. (Many black women lightened their skin or passed as white as portrayed in Book Two of The Stella Trilogy “Beyond The Colored Line” which you can read free HERE). Since the days of chattel slavery blacks have been faced with a constant reminder of America’s sweetheart.

Her blonde hair and blue eyes graced the workplace, newspapers, women’s magazines, and everywhere in their daily lives’. When the end of slavery happened and blacks were given the opportunity to escape the south, a symbol of their captivity, many adapted the model of the white world and white standards of beauty and not only beauty but the concept of success itself, that is to exude whiteness.

Nora is a descendant of freemen, not just slaves. Her family does not sharecrop but they own land, and Nora does not live in a shabby home in the middle of corn fields. This story, Nora’s story, is not of your stereotypical black southern family. Nora’s lineage is a prestigious one. The only question is, will she realize how good she’s got it before it’s gone?


book-and-e-reader-nora-wRenaissance: The Nora White Story Coming July 15-16, 2017

Meanwhile, The Road to Freedom is $0.99! Don’t miss out. Get your copy at this super low price now HERE.

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“Deeply concerned about the state of Black America, a fight with his brother compels a young Joseph to leave his mother’s house and join his friends for a trip to Atlanta for SNCC’s (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) second conference. Excited to live life on their own, Jo and his friends have left school and the lives they were living for a chance to become part of the movement. With no money and essentially no plan the seven friends, three black and four white, set out for the road when they are stopped by a racist cop who makes them exit the car. The teens are unaware that a mob of Klansmen also await them at the New Orleans bus terminal.”

Lost to History – Unfamiliar Faces: Francis E.W. Harper

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Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Richard Wright, and Zora Neale Hurston are among many peoples list of powerful writer influences. Throw in Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Alice Walker, Octavia Butler, and Langston Hughes and you have a dream team of the world’s most quoted, most copied, and most talked about black writer contributors of all time. A name you won’t hear is Francis Ellen Watkins Harper, poet, author, and abolitionist.

“My home is where eternal snow Round threat’ning craters sleep, Where streamlets murmur soft and low And playful cascades leap. Tis where glad scenes shall meet My weary, longing eye; Where rocks and Alpine forests greet The bright cerulean sky.” – Forest Leaves, Yearnings for Home by Frances E.W. Harper

Frances was a writer and poet born free to free parents in Baltimore and attended a school for blacks that was ran by her Uncle. Frances wrote poems and went on to publish her first collection in 1845, Forest Leaves. Years later, Frances taught domestic duties at Union Seminary in Ohio which was run by John Brown, the devout abolitionist who held strong opposing views of slavery. Brown, a white man, was a conductor of The Underground Railroad and The League of Gileadites, an organization established to help runaway slaves escape to Canada. As a result, naturally Frances got involved in the abolitionist movement and The Underground Railroad becoming a lecturer who went on tours with such men as Frederick Douglas.

In 1854, Frances published Poems of Miscellaneous Subjects, which featured one of her most famous works, “Bury Me in a Free Land”, and in 1859 made literary history with “Two Offers” which made her the first African-American female writer to publish a short story.

Harper died of heart failure on February 22, 1911, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

A Love Letter To Some of the Black Women Writers Who Inspired Me

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Image Credit: Black Girl Lost – Sunday Kinfolk

Mildred D. Taylor

Just so you know, I fell for you first. Maybe it’s because that Logan boy and I shared the same name I was birthed with. I mean, back then I had never been to the deep south and I’m sure Stacey Logan knows more about the land than I do. Anyway, I was in 6th grade when we met. You didn’t know it then but you introduced me to black literature and I’m not afraid to claim that title or to separate black writer’s into a category of their own. How could our experiences not be likened to the Roll of Thunder? You were that seed planter for the rooted passion I now carry with me.

Sista Souljah

You always kept it real so Imma return the favor. You see my eyes hypnotized every young man who lusted for my lil sweet self. All fresh and new and walking all lady like. And then you came knocking at my consciousness like the Coldest Winter Ever but claimed No Disrespect. I’m sure we connected by way of the struggle. You see I was brought up in the Robert Taylor projects on Chicago’s south side so crack heads, rats, and hunger didn’t alarm me. I fell in love with the way you never sugar coated the truth and anyone whose been where we’ve been knows just how real your words are.

Maya Angelou

How long must the caged bird write before she sings? I can’t credit myself for coming up with that line. You showed me how a poet can use metaphors to write fiction too. Even though your memoir is all truth, your talent transformed it into something that can be considered just as poetic as phenomenal women. Your voice was passionate and strong and thundered like waves of air across the sky. Even in death is your memory, still that uplifting arm rising like dust and written down in history.

Ntozake Shange

Speaking of poetry, ever since I heard you speak I wanted to write for colored girls. You brought me back to those Souljah days with your raw tongue. How it unfolded from the very bottom of your gut and lifted the skirt to every pain black women have endured since the days their slave masters told them that rainbows weren’t enough. You didn’t write the way that I was taught in school, you wrote the way that I spoke. Like when my friends and I crowded around de front porch and ma boyfriend waz whispering quite literally, sweet nothin’s in my ear. And I laughed stupid like “You pretty” was something revolutionary enough to show my privates for.

Toni Morrison

By the time I got to you my thoughts started to evolve into a wanting I couldn’t put my finger on. My mind had gone from reading for entertainment to studying the books I read. I was on a search for something deeper than cotton fields, magnolia trees, and project rats. By the time you came along I was reading in-between the lines and trying to find that thing called freedom. And I wondered just how deep I had to look for that Tar Baby.

Gwendolyn Brooks

As soon as I found out you were from my home town we bonded. Was real cool like besties from the low end on the South Side. Bonded like 47th Street and State, Bronzeville, or Englewood. You see your lyrics had depth like the deep south you was born in, but had that look about it that screamed Chi-Town. Simple poetry that spoke volumes. You taught me that if I loved him the right way, saw him the way I was supposed to, that a man became more than just a body.

Terry McMillian

This relationship of ours! I can read you anytime and Lewis will always seem like the same Ray Ray and Pookie we all know. You perfected the art of black family life and character development. Every book I read of yours sends me into that world and I’m just laughing and shaking hands with your people like they my people because they are. I have stayed up plenty of nights turning pages and laughing and trying to figure out just what it means to be A Day Late and Dolla Short.

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A Love Letter to the Black Women Writers Who Liberated Me Read the title of an article written by Ashley Gail Terrell, a freelance writer from Michigan working on her first novel. Her post was inspiration for this piece.

I believe there are stepping stones to everything in life. That something that leads and guides us from one place to another so that we can reach the place we’re supposed to be. It can be anything from music, movies, television, people, places, things, and even books. Now, because of choice we do not always see these stepping stones for what they are; do not always notice the impact they are having in the moment in which we experience it and for some of us, perhaps we never will. But when I read this title, I thought back to the writers who I have come to love over the course of time and I began to meditate on how they have influenced my writing. When I was not yet where I am, spiritually, mentally, and physically, these writers (although not just these writers) became valuable launchpads on behalf of my writing today, sparking a flame of passion for the art that I still carry with me.