ROLE CALL: A Generational Anthology of Social & Political Black Literature & Art

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ROLE CALL: A Generational Anthology of Social & Political Black Literature & Art


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Role Call is the voice of a generation determined not only to change the way we write, but the way we live.”
—Pearl Cleage

2002, Third World Press

ISBN:              0-88378-239-1
Price:              $15.60
Pub. Date:       October 2002
Specs:             Paper, 500 pp.

Co-edited by
Tony MedinaSamiya Bashir & Quraysh Ali Lansana

“Welcome to the 21st Century” bids the opening line of this literary “multimedia” experience, brought to us by three leading black author-activists of the post–Civil Rights Movement generation: Tony Medina, Samiya A. Bashir, and Quraysh Ali Lansana. This collection of more than three hundred poems, essays, paintings, photos and mixed media representations features a myriad of voices of the generation that bridges the gap between the children of the Civil Rights Movement and those of the present hip hop movement. Role Call is described by its editors as a manifesto for this much maligned often misunderstood generation, eager to shake off the fetters of society’s unflattering inaccurate labels. Its pages tell of a generation that has bravely taken up the challenge passed along by their forebears to fight for equality and justice. 

Boldly taking on issues of race relations, popular culture, sexuality, education, technology and the rise of the prison industry, Role Call reflects the love for self, family, and community necessary to any struggle for equality. This diverse collection of dynamic voices and visions tackles its subjects with fresh, sparse language, rich imagery and passion for the issues and the work that signal the arrival of a new Black Power–one that is spiritually grounded, forged in multiple alliances, and based on the credo that each of our experiences matter. 

Praise for Role Call:

Nothing predictable here: no re-run, and no ho-hum, neither. Role Call is news! Each of these artists seriously means to wake up your brain and your body. This is a break-through, dareyoutobedumbenoughtosleepthroughwhatsfinallygoingon exploration of stuff as varied as pain and ecstasy. 

Oh, more than good news! 


June Jordan

Fanon said: To speak is to assume a culture, and to bear responsibility for a civilization. These young poets do just that with their humor, their hip hop/street idioms, their love for selves and the language, their abundance of information which they so generously share with us. My brothers. My sisters. Welcome to this thing that we do called poetry. Welcome to life.

Sonia Sanchez

In these uncertain and unimaginably violent times, many writers find themselves questioning the relevance of the work they do. For the young writers in Role Call, the question is moot. Their passionate voices are already about the work of creating a new language, a wider context, a deeper understanding and a more lasting peace. They already know that silence equals death. Role Call is the voice of a generation determined not only to change the way we write, but the way we live.

Pearl Cleage

Consider that anthos is the Greek word for flower and logia the Greek word for collecting. Now imagine a solitary author, laboring for months over a novel, a story or a poem, cultivating it like a gardener who slaves over a prizewinning African violet. Now imagine a florist carefully pruning and arranging a collection of brilliantly hued flowers, in other words, an anthology.

Editors Samiya A. Bashir, Quaraysh Ali Lansana and Tony Medina have done just that in Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social and Political Black Literature and Art. A weighty tome–a phat 512 pages–Role Call is divided into seven sections that examine how the work of recognized and emerging young black artists deal with race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and class, as well as the joy and pain of being black in America.

Black Issues Book Review

The editors are gifted writers as well and have contributed evocative pieces with powerful messages to the collection. I interpreted Samiya Bashir’s “American Visa” with my Afro-Caribbean heritage on my mind, and the multi-faceted question/answer that has plagued our efforts to define our place here-as captives or citizens-the first time I read it. On subsequent readings I was struck by the effects of her metaphor of America as a mistress, supplier of all we need to remain ignorant and subservient. My feminist sensabities warred with the admiration for her poignant portrayal of our contending. Ms. Bashir held nothing back in her explosion of the love/hate relationship between the source of our separatist ideals and our internationalization of the conditioning of the oppressor.

Role Call may seem overwhelming upon first examination. It is a large volume of work but packs a powerful punch down to the last detail and the intensity of its power is conveyed in every word and image. I had to put it down for brief intervals, but was always compelled to pick it up again, reading and reviewing particular sections that laid hard truths bare or caused me to consider the positions on which I’d been raised and educated, about race, class and politics in this country. During the first reading one is made aware of the need for every human being’s involvement in the struggle to bring about lasting change. By the time I began reading the final sections, I was cognizant of the integral part each voice must play in the call and answer to action.

 A Gathering of the Tribes

Role Call does not offer a full spectrum of every up and coming black artist, but it does a good job of giving a cross-section of artists that will create the echoes of tomorrow. Many of these artists are picking up the torch from the culturally conscious artists of yesterday — the painters, poets, and actors, heroes and ‘sheroes’ of the black arts movement who worked hard to open up communication amongst Blacks about what was going on and what should be. The editors of “Role Call” are to be commended for their diligence in finding some of the voices that will echo in the young ears of tomorrow.

The voices and visuals of these artists have left an indelible, transcendental impression upon me and I am better for it. I hope that the artist who had the opportunity to be included in this notable collection use it as an inspiration to continue to work on their skills. While a few will applaud, there are still many who are silent, waiting for their growth as an artist. A good start is nothing more than the first step.


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