Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Season Press brings Black history to life

by Zinta Aistars
Published in Southwest Michigan's Second Wave Media
August 11, 2016

This story reported by Zinta Aistars is reprinted with permission from WMUK. It first appeared on WMUK's Between the Lines. Listen to WMUK's Between the Lines every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., 11:55 a.m., and 4:20 p.m.




We’ve all heard stories about the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman, and Sojourner Truth. But there are other stories to tell about African-American history. Writer Sonya Hollins and her husband Sean Hollins, a graphic designer, have created a series of children’s books about African-Americans in Michigan who aren’t necessarily famous but whose stories are inspiring. 

The first is Benjamin Losford and His Handy Dandy Clippers. They published the book through their own company, Season Press, LLC, in January 2016. It's illustrated by Kenjji Jumanne-Marshall.

One of the reasons the couple decided to publish the series is because they feel the books fill a gap in traditional history books. "A lot of kids learn history about people like Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman--a lot of people that are traditional in history," says Sean Hollins. "But this book is bringing out a story about people who are right in our own community. We can touch the things they built. This brings history a lot closer."


While Benjamin was not initially impressed with barbering as a career, he learned the trade and eventually became ...

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Monday, August 22, 2016

Between the Lines: Humans Beyond Boxes

by Zinta Aistars

for WMUK 102.1 FM
Southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate




Between the Lines is my weekly radio show about books and writers with a Michigan connection. It airs every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., 11:55 a.m., and 4:20 p.m. (or listen anytime online), on WMUK 102.1 FM, Southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate. I am the host of Between the Lines.

This week's guests: Allison Kennedy and Jerrin Yarbrough

Members of Humans Beyond Boxes
CREDIT GREG FITZGEraLD


Feeling human again: that’s the goal of the Kalamazoo nonprofit called Humans Beyond Boxes. The grassroots storytelling collaborative helps heal people affected, directly or indirectly, by incarceration. It offers creative writing workshops, chapbook publishing, life skills training, readings and performances, as well as a supportive atmosphere for those struggling to re-enter the community after years of incarceration.

“We also work with Michigan United and the Michigan People’s Campaign,” Allison Kennedy says. She's a co-facilitator at Humans Beyond Boxes. “We recently helped to get Fair Chances For All passed,” she says, referring to an ordinance approved by the Kalamazoo City Commission that requires employers to hold off on background checks until after a job applicant is given serious consideration and a chance to interview.
“It means not putting a box to check off on an application,” Kennedy says. “And it means not considering a record that is more than seven years old, or charges that don’t have anything to do with the job requirements.”
Humans Beyond Boxes' mission includes working for legislative change to ease the path back into society for those who've been behind bars.
Jerrin Yarbrough, one of the founders of Humans Beyond Boxes, speaks about healing through creative writing that he's experienced.
“I mostly use Humans Beyond Boxes as my own recreational release,” he says. “Technically, I was one of those who helped with the set-up. But now I use it mostly to cultivate my writing (and) to meet others with similar interests. Many of us use it as an emotional release. Humans Beyond Boxes is somewhat subjective in what it offers to individuals. For me, it is something I don’t get in other places.”
Jerrin Yarbrough at a public reading
CREDIT HUMANS BEYOND BOXES
The United States currently has the world’s largest prison system, with a prison population of about 2.2 million, including 45,000 in Michigan. The recidivism rate is around 70 percent.
Humans Beyond Boxes brings its programs to places such as K-PEP, the Kalamazoo Probation Enhancement Program, to help people cope with the challenges of adjusting to life in the world outside once they're released. They hold many events at the FIRE Historical and Cultural Arts Collaborative, 1249 Portage Road, in Kalamazoo.
“Otherwise people tend to find us by word-of-mouth. Or just call me. My cell phone and email are on our website,” says Kennedy.
Kennedy says shame is a predominant emotion she sees in people who do reach out. Incarceration leads to ...




Monday, August 15, 2016

Between the Lines: Wilderness Women

by Zinta Aistars

for WMUK 102.1 FM
Southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate




Between the Lines is my weekly radio show about books and writers with a Michigan connection. It airs every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., 11:55 a.m., and 4:20 p.m. (or listen anytime online), on WMUK 102.1 FM, Southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate. I am the host of Between the Lines.

This week's guest: L.E. Kimball

A cabin in Michigan's Upper Peninsula
CREDIT ZINTA AISTARS




Place is yet another character in L.E. Kimball’s new book, Seasonal Roads (Wayne State University Press, 2016), a collection of connected stories about three women living in the wilderness of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The three — mother, daughter, grandmother —are connected by blood but also by the wilderness in which they live.

Kimball understands the power of place. When she’s not teaching at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, she lives off the grid with her son in a cabin on a trout stream. Some of her inspiration comes from her experiences there.

“I live in a more remote setting than a lot of Yoopers,” Kimball says, referring to the name used for those native to the U.P. who can be resistant to newcomers. “At first, we didn’t have a bathroom. I showered outside the cabin with one of those water bags hanging from a tree. We either had a Porta-Potty or we used the woods. So we added things as we went along.”
CREDIT WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITY PRESS
The two-room cabin where the lives of these three women intersect is accessible only by seasonal roads. They are open only during the few short months when the U.P. isn’t buried under snow. Norna deals with the wilderness head-on: hunting, foraging, fending for herself, and defending herself whenever needed. Kimball says she's the most perplexing and unknowable character. Her daughter Aissa is fresh from a divorce, trying to heal wounds, while Jane finds herself up against a forest fire.
“When I first started writing this, I wanted to write about how inaccessible we are sometimes to the people we are closest to,” Kimball says. “And I wanted to write about a woman who lived off grid in the wilderness. I started writing it before I moved here myself.”
Other aspects Kimball enjoys exploring in her work are ...