The Burden stirs powerful conversation in Birmingham, MI

BIRMINGHAM, MI _ What a powerful discussion we had at the Monday signing for “The Burden: African Americans and the Enduring Impact of Slavery.” Thanks to the BaldwinPublic Library for a packed house of caring folks. And I was so moved to learn that my dear friend,  Fox2 Anchor Huel Perkins, had snuck in! I didn’t know he was there until he presented his book for signing!

If you want to have a library or neighborhood signing anywhere in the region, send an email to And head to or your local bookstore for your copy of “The Burden!”


There’s no place like home after taking “The Burden” to three states in four days

BALTIMORE _ Sitting in Baltimore-Washington International Airport at 4 a.m. is no one’s idea of fun. But after a whirlwind three-stop book tour over four days, I was eager to get back home to Detroit, to Desi, to rest and to the next project.

But what a joy this has been. The tour began on Wednesday, the morning AFTER Mayor Mike Duggan gave his annual State of the City speech at a west Detroit high school, appropriate since his focus was education. Our intrepid City Hall reporter Katrease Stafford and I joined Ryan Garza to capture the event. I, of course, was there for the children.

The next morning, I headed to Louisville, Ky, my old stomping grounds, where I was a columnist at The Courier-Journal for four years. I was the guest of the Rev. Kevin Cosby, pastor at St. Stephen Church and Simmons College, where old friends teach. As expected, an audience of more than 100 offered insightful, poignant and heartfelt comments and questions, and Pastor Cosby was brilliant as always. I’ll add a transcript soon.

But the day began with a lovely woman from Simmons, Von Purdy, picking me up and insisting that we have coffee at the just-opened, $315-million Omni Hotel, which the paper described as “an upscale blend of guest rooms, apartments, bars and eateries that backers bet will spark new waves of investment downtown.” The first floor looked like an upscale mall with eateries, bath products, wines and restaurants. Hotels, even in smaller cities, cannot just be hotels anymore.


Oh, forgot to mention that Von drove me past my old neighborhood on the way. We went looking for the first home I bought in Louisville, a fixer-upper in Old Louisville that I worked on years before Chip and Joanna Gaines became my inspiration for everything. It was right where I left it, still in decent shape. (Someone needs to trim the front shrubs, but the revitalized neighborhood is holding).

After coffee, we headed to St. Stephen, where Rev. Cosby has built a community, a place where not just his congregation but where so many people can find everything they need. The Family Life Center, in addition to the auditorium where I spoke, had two full-sized gyms, a new football field across the street, classrooms and a soul-food restaurant. (I’d show you a photo of the baked chicken and best-green-beans-I’ve-ever-had, but I ate them). Continue Reading

My reasons to love NYC grow every day

NEW YORK _  I’m in my hotel room in my favorite block in one of my favorite cities. The Hotel Edison, next to the swankier W, has been my home away from home for years – and this small stretch of West 47th Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue has been my haunt.

But here’s REASON NO. 1783 why I love it and New York.

It is 6 a.m. and for the 90th time, I have packed a suitcase without the power cord for my Mac Air.  Since I am always working, I always need my computer.

But I’m in New York, so no problem.

I call a LYFT, head to the Apple Store at Fifth Avenue and 58th, which is open 24 hours a day 365 days a year. I buy my cord and take another LYFT back to the hotel. The entire adventure takes less than 30 minutes.

Yep. Electronics 24 hours a day and no need for a car.

But before I head upstairs, I walk down my block, past the Barrymore across the street and the line that has begun to form outside the Brooks Atkinson. These are people without tickets wanting to see “Waitress”

I could live on this block for a week without going anywhere else because there is a Buffalo Wild Wings next to the Barrymore and because of my destination, Crave, which has fabulous pizza and salads at lunch and dinner and the coffee and cinnamon roll I’m getting right now. (I’d show you a picture, but I ate it.)

How do you take 900 kids to Wakanda? With help from friends

How do you take 900 kids to Wakanda? With a little help from your friends – and great sponsors! Thank to Jemele Hill for the idea and support, Eminem for providing the soundtrack, Big Sean (who showed up!), the Detroit Lions, the Ford Fund, the Marshall Mathers Foundation, the Detroit Free Press and Emagine Theaters! Couldn’t have happened without Lauren Clayborne of the Lions and Cortni Wilson from the Ford Fund, representing Big Shawn Wilson – and Aaron Walter, the transportation director from DPSCD, who is a miracle worker —and Brittni Brown, who marshaled the best volunteers ever! And when hometown hero Big Sean, who announced he was opening a movie theater, surprised the students, yes, some screamed. Many screamed. And Mumford Academy showed up and showed out by performing the Wakanda ascension celebration dance! All in all, we honored students who have perfect attendance this year (including this field trip) and students from some of our adopted schools and Jemele’s alma mater. Thanks to all the chaperones and the officers who turned out to keep us safe and had nothing to do. And thanks to the one and only Kyle Sinclair from Emagine who made it all look easy! (Photos by Kennette Lamar of Annistique Photography)

The amazing continued Friday night when The Burden hit Indianapolis!

INDIANAPOLIS _ I walked into the Indianapolis Central Library downtown, and my jaw dropped. It is one of the most amazing spaces I’ve ever seen. But I hadn’t seen anything yet.

Then I entered the Center for Black Literature & Culture, which is housed in the library’s center and was humbled that it would be the space for Friday night’s latest outing to read from “The Burden” and discuss how we can all get along.

I am eternally grateful to A’Lelia Bundles and Tami Winfrey Harris for contributing to the book and joining me on the road in support of it. And what a force of nature CBLC director Nichelle Hayes and Expressions book seller Donna Stokes-Lucas are. The event could not have been better, what with a standing-room only crowd and Donna selling out of books.

Thanks forever!

USA Today Network visit was all about pride

Had a fantastic day at USA Today headquarters where Nichelle Smith, features editor for the National News Desk and leader of several award-winning race and diversity projects (center), interviewed Jesse Holland and me about our books! Wonderful questions from the audience in the newsroom and out on the network. Culture and living diva Jamila Robinson handled the Q & A. It was such a productive day!

N.C. homecoming signings for The Burden were moving, lovely

ROCKY MOUNT and DURHAM, N.C. _ There is nothing like going home. And I was so thrilled to be joined at Blanche’s restaurant, the new hot spot that my college pal Reuben and his wife (and my soror, Neva) have opened  downtown. The space, in a word, is awesome! It felt slightly weird reading excerpts to family and friends who have known me since I was a little girl talking about doing what I’m doing now. But it also felt good. The conversation with my friends is the same conversation I’ve been having with strangers, one that is long overdue and must be had for race relations in America to get better. My brother, Donald, tolerated me telling stories about him, and my Aunt Dale – the one I wrote about when she retired last year as church pianist after 70 years – said afterward that she forgot to make a speech about how, when I was little, every other little girl played with dolls, but I had my books. (And the signing gave me a chance to spend time with my favorite great-niece, Hayleigh, pictured above with her dad). The next day, I was surrounded by love again at the Barnes & Noble in New Hope Commons in Durham, where I was blessed to have in the audience  (and I’ll get in trouble for naming some names and not others): two line sisters (thanks Sheila Whitehead-Exum and Wanda Page), one of my best friends from high school, Angelia McNeil-Joyner and my best friend of thirty-something years, Barbara Pullen Smith. My pal and fellow Knight Wallace Fellow Kevin Clemens and his wife, Loree Kalliainen, were on hand as well. It was an amazing discussion and I’m grateful to everyone who came out and bought out The Burden. And I offer eternal gratitude to Lesleigh Mausi, who arranged everything beautifully!

Burden signing in northwest Detroit was a revelation

My latest book signing at Pages Bookshop in northwest Detroit was, as expected, a blessing. A diverse audience of people who care listened to excerpts from the book and then, as at previous signings, just talked with me and each other about race and discrimination and expectations, or the lack of them.

I was so moved.

My friend, Fred Lauck, asked what to say to white people who spout disturbing language, including their belief that they shouldn’t care about black people because they take care of their families and their children.

That prompted an entire discussion about how the institution of slavery disintegrated black families, splitting them  between plantations. And how the continuing pseudo-slavery that discriminated in job and housing made it harder for black families to work, literally and figuratively.

But I suggested to him that he tell them most black Americans in our country are middle and upper class. Period.

At least two people suggested a book, a distillation of what I’m learning on this tour with “The Burden.” That is a great thought.

One woman talked about sometimes being the only white woman in a group conversing and feeling afraid of stepping on toes by speaking too much.

I asked her if a crowded subway car pulled up and she had to get to work, would she get on anyway and risk stepping on a few toes?

“Do what you need to do and just apologize if you offend,” I told her. “But don’t skip the conversation.”

That is vital.

We have to keep talking.

I’m grateful to Susan Murphy and her husband, John, for her hospitality – and the tea.

I’m so excited that the next conversations will be with family and friends in North Carolina in Rocky Mount and in Durham. Then the next stops are Indianapolis and New York (in beloved Harlem). Visit this page for daily updates on signings in Michigan and across the country.

When people show you who they are…

The woman appeared to be in her 70s, white, beautifully coiffed. She wanted to know whether Donald Trump being elected to the presidency had led to a rise in hate.

I told her that his election did make it easier for people who are racist to feel they no longer needed hoods or anonymity. And what she said next chilled me, even as it didn’t surprise me:

“I’ve been most surprised by some of my friends. I thought I knew them, but I notice that they’re saying things that I never heard them say before.”

The hoods are off. So what better time is there for a conversation about the lasting impact of slavery? That’s what we were doing at the Mount Clemens Public Library, latest stop on the tour for my book “The Burden African Americans and the Enduring Impact of Slavery.”

Why don’t we deal with the burden that African Americans have dealt with and the hard work still being done by racists (and not all people are racists) to continue a system that perpetuates the myth of white superiority versus black inferiority?

It begins with us getting to know each other, for the first time in nearly 400 years.