Warmly referred to as “Mother Aneb,” House began with readings from her new book “Home Sweet Sanctuary: Idlewild Families Celebrate A Century.” I’d never heard of Idlewild before until House described its significance. I’m not surprised I learned something new from her since she was my professor for my Introduction to African American Literature course at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. I can remember sitting in her class thinking that I knew majority of what there is to know about my history in connection with literature. How wrong I was. House introduced me to African American literature that I enjoy reading and revisiting to this day.
With those fond memories in mind, I sat in the audience the night of the event as House read, in the calm voice she’s known for. During her reading, she was accompanied by the cello which added to the relaxing evening ambiance.
Idlewild, Michigan, also known as “Black Eden,” was a resort in the 1960’s where African Americans could vacation and purchase property. This was an independent community away from the segregated cities in which African Americans came. It provided a new sense of security they may never have enjoyed in their urban homes. In 2010, Idlewild won listing on the National Register of Historic places. “This is a powerful affirmation of its extraordinary role in American History, and it is one of the few remaining similar African American resort settlements in the country,” House said.
As she continued with her reading, photos of Idlewild during the different seasons were displayed in the background, and this helped me to better visualize this historic place.
Aurora Harris was the other distinguished guest of the evening. She was excited to debut her new book "Solitude of Five Black Moons". I was new to Harris’ work, but quite impressed. Her writing was so raw and moving.
“I enjoy utilizing themes from every day experiences; family history, Detroit, Jazz, Women, and Global issues,” she said. “Then, I weave them into broader areas of discussions related to U.S. History, Southeast Asian/ Pacific Islander History, Ethnic Studies, Social Movements, Racism and Oppression.”
Her last poem she performed that evening was phenomenal. It was called “Enough jungle heat to make you want to pull your skin back.” Harris performed it as a monologue using three different voices to represent three different perspectives.
“I was inspired by family photographs...when I was a child in 1967 visiting relatives in the Philippines, and, recovering from racial violence that my family experienced as African Americans and Asian Americans,” she explained.
Harris’ performance of this piece in monologue style was unique, especially when she became the voice of the Vietnam Vet who had returned home disabled from the war. Her voice became raspy, almost as if she became the male vet. The crowd rose to its feet applauding once she was done performing.
A reception and book signing followed the program and during that time I and other guests were able to meet the authors and mingle in the museum’s rotunda and bookstore. It was so good to share in the success of my former professor and to meet Aurora Harris, an author whose works I plan to keep up with.
There’s so much strength in writing and spoken word and for that night, the works of two Detroit women proved that.