In celebration of Black History Month, we’ll be highlighting a diverse range of books, all written by Black American authors, all of which celebrate and prioritize the 2024 theme, “African Americans and the Arts”. We will be exploring the key influence African Americans have had in the fields of “visual and performing arts, literature, fashion, folklore, language, film, music, architecture, culinary and other forms of cultural expression.” We’ll be featuring a title every day through the month of February.

The Association for the Study of African American Life and History discusses this years theme stating, “African American art is infused with African, Caribbean, and the Black American lived experiences. In the fields of visual and performing arts, literature, fashion, folklore, language, film, music, architecture, culinary and other forms of cultural expression, the African American influence has been paramount. African American artists have used art to preserve history and community memory as well as for empowerment. Artistic and cultural movements such as the New Negro, Black Arts, Black Renaissance, hip-hop, and Afrofuturism, have been led by people of African descent and set the standard for popular trends around the world. In 2024, we examine the varied history and life of African American arts and artisans.”

Todays work is Ishion Hutchinson’s School of Instructions: A Poem. A stunning memorial work that excavates the forgotten experience of West Indian soldiers during World War I.

Deep-dyed in language both sensuous and biblical, Ishion Hutchinson’s School of Instructions memorializes the experience of West Indian soldiers volunteering in British regiments in the Middle East during World War I. The poem narrates the psychic and physical terrors of these young Black fighters in as they struggle against the colonial power they served; their story overlaps with that of Godspeed, a schoolboy living in rural Jamaica of the 1990s. This visionary collision, in which the horizontal, documentary shape of the narrative is interrupted by sudden lyric effusions, unsettles both time and event, mapping great moments of heroism onto the trials of everyday existence It reshapes grand gestures of heroism in a music of supple, vigilant intensity.

Elegiac, epochal and lyrical, School of Instructions confronts the legacy of imperial silencing and weaves shards of remembrance―”your word mass / your mix match / your jamming of elements”―into a unique form of survival. It is a masterpiece of imaginative recuperation by a poet of prodigious gifts.

Stay tuned for a new book tomorrow!