Category Archives: culture

King of Ragtime: Scott Joplin and His Era by Edward A. Berlin; Oxford University Press, 1994. Kindle Edition

After reading Joplin’s Ghost, my interest was peaked about the life of Scott Joplin.  Since Tananarive Due used actual historical data to craft her novel, I selected King of Ragtime by historian Edward A. Berlin who she referenced and characterized in Joplin’s Ghost.

Berlin has a great balance of story and technical information that appeal to both the musician and lay reader like myself with no-to-little knowledge of musical technicalities.   Joplin’s embrace and passion for being an artist pitted against the racial struggles of the times and woven through by the threads of his personal relationships in business, family, friends, and love really fascinated me.  Also, I learned that he was considered the King of Ragtime WRITERS.  Due to his passion for scripting his music and his popularity and name recognition, publishers made money from his Rags.  It was only when Joplin reached to grow as an artist with selecting complex African American syncopation to transpose into operatic/classical form was he met my marketing and cultural naysayers.  He was pigeon-holed as determined by White socio-economic power structure.  For that, I grieved because not much has changed in 100 years.

Edward A. Berlin’s Home Page.

I plan to do a quilt to speak to my new found impression of Joplin alongside another quilt inspired by Oliver Lewis, the first winner of the Kentucky Derby.  The times in which both men lived and worked overlaps.  I haven’t worked out a design yet,…wanting it only to hint at representational imagery and keeping with my love of mystical abstraction.

The one thing that I kept looking for is some reference of Scott Joplin appearing in Louisville, but Berlin doesn’t reference any.  However, one of Joplin’s brothers, Robert Joplin managed a club here for 2 months before being let go.  I’m going to start with research at the Filson Historical Society when weather permits to see if there is any record of Scott Joplin performing here.  With him being based in St. Louis, I can’t imagine that he never ventured here.  From there, I will delve into UofL’s records.  Something interesting is bound to turn up!


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Filed under African American, Art, Author Links, Biography, culture, economics, history, Kindle, King of Ragtime, musical, musical


I was expecting interviews with rootworkers and those who utilize their services. I was expecting more discussion of regional differences and an attempt to strongly substantiate the practices. The author’s intent was to elevate Rootwork beyond narrow stereotypes and association with evil. McQuillar defines Rootwork as “folk magick that uses the elements of nature to create change in ourselves, others, or our environment. It is an African-American form of shamanism that makes use of herbs, stones, rocks, and other organic material to heal the body or the mind, or to solve a problem.”
McQuillar, Tayannah Lee (2010-05-20). Rootwork (p. 3). Fireside. Kindle Edition.

The knowledge came with the surviving Africans during the slave trade and mixed with like minded knowledge and traditions of Native Americans. Its strong hold and practices developed in America where largely in the South, particularly in areas McQuillar offers as being impacted by Catholicism, i.e. Louisiana. I’ll add to this by offering in areas where the African population significantly outnumbered whites. Although McQuillar points out that Whites were also known to use African/African American Rootworkers as well and notes some famous Rootworkers.

Overall, it was a very quick read. The book is straightforward and to the point and includes some practices for those who wish to partake of Rootwork Magick. Nothing quite took hold for ideas for quilts but to continue on the path I started Sacred Symbols of the Dogon: The Key to Advanced Science in the Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics by Laird Scranton.

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Filed under African American, culture, Kindle, Rootwork, Spiritual Life

Rootwork: Using the Folk Magick of Black America for Love, Money, and Success by Tayannah Lee McQuillar, Fireside Books, NY; 2003, Kindle Edition

From the title alone, I’m betting this to be an ejoyable and somewhat enlightening read.  I’m starting it tonight and hope it leads to at least one quilt on the subject if not the beginning of a series.

Image(click on image to go to


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Filed under African American, culture, Kindle, Rootwork, sociology

The View From the Studio Door: How Artists Find Their Way in An Uncertain World by Ted Orland, 2nd ed. 2007, Image Continuum Press, U.S.

This is my current bedside reading.  Its full of all the philosophical ponderings on artists and how they reconcile with the processes of art making, how they define art justaposed against the so-called “art world”, and on and on.  I’ve been highlighting passages because this is one I’m going to keep unlike the book he co-authored called Art & Fear which was okay but just didn’t speak to me personal.

I just completed the first chapter yesterday…it is a slow read for me because I can’t get past a page or two without becoming engaged in internal dialogue with the ideas presented….and if you know me, than you know this is what I want to experience with a book.  I’m digging that Orland recognizes the multipliticies that exist in human experiences, thus art-making also.   He isn’t presenting, so far, some “this is how you do it” approach but  seems to be writing to air out thoughts and engage readers open-endedly.

I’ll share some quotes in upcoming posts.  Peace.

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Filed under Art, culture, developing artists

Building Houses Out of Chicken Legs: Black Women, Food, and Power by Psyche A. Williams-Forson, The University of North Carolina Press, 2006

I just picked this up from the library today but haven’t cracked it…the image on the cover is well suited for the title of the book!

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Filed under african american women, culture, economics, history, sociology