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Re-Markings, a biannual refereed international journal of English Letters, aims at providing a healthy forum for scholarly and authoritative views on broad sociopolitical and cultural issues of human import as evidenced in literature, art, television, cinema and journalism with special emphasis on New Literatures in English including translations and creative excursions.​

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Charles Johnson: Embracing the World

Charles-Johnson-embracing-the-world

Nibir K. Ghosh & E. Ethelbert Miller (Ed).
Charles Johnson: Embracing the World
New Delhi: Authorspress, 2011
ISBN 9788172735654
Rs. 825

Why another book about Charles Johnson and his work?
Johnson extends the African American literary tradition by pushing and pulling us beyond the work of Toomer, Wright and Ellison; three writers that provide him with a lineage. In many ways Charles Johnson is our Marco Polo. His books open the door to the East. To a new generation he is well known for his Buddhist writings in popular journals. Even before the election of President Barack Obama, Johnson was asking serious questions about race. If anyone can talk about the future of America, he can. His work upholds a moral and philosophical worldview. In The Middle Passage the question is, where is home?  In Dreamer the central discussion is “how do you end evil without engendering new evil?  In these times of what I consider to be literary pork, it’s refreshing to find someone willing to craft and tell a good story. The work of Charles Johnson requires heavy lifting by our minds. His novels, stories and essays are healthy for us. Charles Johnson lives in Seattle. He has many friends. He is a good man. These three simple sentences are the foundation on which one could write a book. The complexity of the human spirit requires genius to make sense of what we do. Johnson is our laughing Buddha, a man with gray hair and a crown of wisdom. He is a man on “the path” teaching us to follow, if we take the time and wish to understand the way.
The erudite articles, insightful essays, vibrant poems and stories, glowing tributes and animate interviews in this memorable volume not only address multifarious dimensions of the Charles Johnson canon but also bring into bold relief the magnetic appeal of a veritable activist relentlessly engaged in making the world a better place to live in. Also included in this volume are essays and stories by Charles Johnson that illumine variant issues and concerns ranging from the ambivalence of the American Dilemma to delineating the meaning of Barack Obama, besides displaying his innate ability to contend with conflicting forces by celebrating life in the manner of Buddha, Du Bois, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. If Johnson admires America for being the great country where “passions define possibilities” and where “no individual or group, white or black, could tell me not to dream,” he is no less enamoured by India: “its beauty, antiquity, breath-taking art and remarkable people, the peace I feel instantly when my mind drifts to the Buddhist Dharma or Hinduism, that great democracy of Being.” Johnson combines philosophy and folklore, martial art and Buddhism, to offer incisive insights into the new frontiers of the African American experience that calls for an amalgamation of multi-disciplinary and multi-cultural perspectives. This anthology lucidly showcases the life and work of an authentic cultural ambassador who, with an intense feeling of metta towards all sentient beings, is in perpetual readiness to embrace the world in both flesh and spirit.

Contents

Introduction – Nibir K. Ghosh; Who Turns The Wheel? – E. Ethelbert Miller; Tribute to Charles Johnson – Gary Storhoff; The Role of the Black Intellectual in the Twenty-first Century – Charles Johnson; The Threads That Connect Us:  An Interview with Charles Johnson – Geffrey Michael Davis;Waking Cain: The Poetics of Integration in Charles Johnson’s Dreamer – John Whalen-Bridge; The End of the Black American Narrative – SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: “The End of the Black American Narrative”, url: “http://www.theamericanscholar.org/the-end-of-the-black-american-narrative/” }); Charles Johnson; Master-Slave Dialectics in Charles Johnson’s “The Education of Mingo” – Linda Furgerson Selzer; To Transcribe and Transfigure: An Interview with Charles Johnson – Shayla Hawkins;Four Years of Adventure – Charles Johnson; A Tribute to Charles Johnson, Teacher of Writers – Marc C. Conner; Walking Meditation: Sangha on Unbound Pages – Sharyn Skeeter; The Meaning of Barack Obama – Charles Johnson; Philosophy, Perception, Buddhism and Literary Art as Language Performance: A Conversation with Charles Johnson – Adam Tolbert; The World, the Desert and the Allmuseri God – Aurélie Bayre; Kala Pani (The Black Water) – Shayla Hawkins; Holding onto Truth: Gandhi and King Jr. – Charles Johnson; The Manichean Divide and Ontological Truncation: Charles Johnson on the “Black-as-Body” – George Yancy; Literary Mentors and Friends: An Interview with Charles Johnson – Zachary Watterson; The Game – Michael Boylan; Kamadhatu, A Modern Sutra – Charles Johnson; Charles Johnson: Philosopher, Writer and Friend – Richard E. Hart, Contemplations – Robert E. Abrams; The Elusive Art of “Mindfulness” – Charles Johnson; Cartoons, the Dharma and Kung Fu: Conversation with Charles Johnson – Chris Thomson; The Black American Narrative Continued – John B. Parks; Breathing Room – Julia A. Galbus; Remembering Charles Johnson – Sunita Rani Ghosh; He Giveth of Himself Endlessly – John Whalen-Bridge; Narrative of Color in Black and White: Conversation with Charles Johnson – Nibir K. Ghosh; Poems in Honor of Charles Johnson – David Ray.

Book Review: Philosophy Matters – Review of Charles Johnson: The Novelist as Philosopher – Ashraf  H.A. Rushdy; Contextualising Charles Johnson – Review of Charles Johnson in Context – Marc C. Conner; Middle Passages: Charles Johnson and the Raft of Dhamma – Review of Charles Johnson’s Middle PassageQiana J. Whitted; Afterword: Charles Johnson’s Quest for a New African American Narrative and His Literary Genealogy – Amritjit Singh. Appendix – Charles Johnson – Condensed Biography

Charles-Johnson-Embracing-the-World-Book-Launch

Charles Johnson: Embracing the World was formally launched in the inaugural ceremony of the International Conference on Negotiating Margins: African American and Dalit Writings organized by Osmania University Centre for International Programmes (OUCIP), Hyderabad in collaboration with ICSSR, New Delhi from 17-19 December 2012.
The accompanying photograph lucidly captures the memorable moment. (L to R): Prof. Sumita Roy (Director OUCIP), Prof. S. Satyanarayana (Vice Chancellor, Osmania University, Hyderabad), Prof. Nibir K. Ghosh, Prof. Jane Schukoske &Prof. A Karunaker (Jt-Director, OUCIP).
Prof. S. Satyanarayana as Chief Guest said: The Editorial collaboration between two writers – Nibir K. Ghosh and Ethelbert Miller – separated in terms of geographical distance by half the world augurs well in bringing two principal democracies together. The theme of the seminar is of utmost relevance in the context of the dichotomy and ambivalence that surrounds the society and polity of the two major democracies in the globe we inhabit. Writings grounded in pain and suffering that emanate from prejudice and discrimination on lines of colour and caste have come to occupy centre-stage in modern socio-political discourse. I am optimistic that this event will generate sweetness and light in ample measure and bring closer writers, academics and scholars from different parts of the world in a spirit of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.
Prof. Jane E. Schukoske, the Keynote speaker at the conference, said that the book’s effort in putting together contributions on the life and works of Charles Johnson is a grand tribute to the African American legend.
Dr. Nibir K. Ghosh delivered the Inaugural Address as Guest of Honour. Highlighting the power of words in negotiating margins, he cited the instances of numerous writers and activists from the African American and Dalit pantheon and stated: “In Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, the Statue of Liberty is shown to be lost in the fog. With Obama’s resounding second victory the Statue of Liberty has become increasingly more visible and writers may not find it imperative anymore to append to their works titles like “Invisible Man,” “No Name in the Street” or “Nobody Knows My Name.” The presence in our midst of celebrity African American and Dalit writers and scholars, ought to convince us how the margins are being redrawn in remaking the world where the line of distinction between “our” sorrows and “theirs” as pointed out in the poem by Waharu Sonavane:

We did not go on to the stage,
Neither were we called.
We were shown our places,
told to sit.
But they, sitting on the stage,
went on telling us of our sorrows,
our sorrows remained ours,

they never became theirs.

He concluded by expressing the hope that the conference would prove to be of tremendous significance not only for people of every colour in the U.S. but for people of all castes in India.

Excerpts from messages sent by Charles Johnson and Ethelbert Miller:

“I’m delighted the festshrift book you and Ethelbert did will be formally launched at the “Negotiating Margins” conference. Negotiating Margins: African American and Dalit Writings is a long-overdue conference of tremendous historical and international importance. In 1959, Martin Luther King Jr. visited India as a guest of the Gandhi Peace Foundation and met with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. “To other countries I may go as a tourist,” said King, “but to India I come as a pilgrim.” He was inspired by his trip to India, personally renewed in his spiritual practice, and saw his connection to the Dalit people when at one event he was introduced, somewhat to his surprise, as an Untouchable from America. Immediately, he understood that the various meanings for the Hindi word dalita—“driven or torn asunder,” “broken,” “crushed,” “destroyed,” “oppressed”—applied equally to black Americans after the experience of slavery and during the era of racial segregation and disenfranchisement in the United States. This conference, then, opens the door for a crucial conversation (one both political and spiritual) and seminal scholarship devoted to two groups separated by great physical distance but united in their similar experiences of being social pariahs in the West and East. And as with so many other things during its long history, it is not at all surprising that India is at the forefront for opening the door onto this specific awakening.” – Charles Johnson.

“A successful conference consists not only of scholars exchanging ideas but also of laying the foundation for the creation of maps and blueprints. If we are indeed living inside a World House as Martin Luther King, Jr. mentioned in his last book Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?  then we have a responsibility to prevent groups and individuals from being marginalized. The study of comparative literature should be seen as essential in the 21st century as taking steps to protect ourselves from global warming, religious strife and nuclear war. When people place emphasis on similarities instead of differences remarkable things can occur. This December gathering “constructs” a cultural bridge between people separated by distance as well as language.  In the world of ideas the rivers always flow, the mountains rejoice and the valleys retain their memories. The International Conference on Negotiating Margins: African American and Dalit Writings should be a reason for celebration. History today turns to touch those once defined as untouchables and the world turns. This marks the dawn of change. When dusk comes it will be dark like us. Oh, the night will be beautiful for the stars will shine and the “new spirituals” will be sung by people who have been given back their voice. I congratulate Professor Sumita Roy and Professor A. Karunaker of OUCIP and Nibir K. Ghosh for making it possible for scholars from different parts of the globe to share their views on a subject of universal relevance. I am also delighted to know that that the conference has on its agenda the launch of Charles Johnson: Embracing the World, the book that I had the pleasure of editing with Nibir K. Ghosh. Throughout the movie The Book of Eli the actor Denzel Washington portrays a man protecting a book; by the end of the movie we understand the importance of his actions as well as the significance of the text. Charles Johnson: Embracing the World is a book we should all cherish. It highlights the work of a writer whose contributions are essential for living and understanding reality. One is forever grateful that this man’s vision embraces our world. There are no borders or boundaries to beauty. Charles Johnson in this book reveals the lotus in his heart. We are all capable of becoming better human beings because of it. — E. Ethelbert Miller.