This week, we loved some extra tips on finishing your degree after 40; boned up on the historic appointment of a woman to lead the Federal Reserve; cheered the truths that American women with HIV are telling in order to achieve gender equity; and savored the two generations of remarkable women who’ve been enlightening us with collections of Black quotations.




bartletts-photo-cover-portraitOne could almost have thought the groundbreaking Bartlett’s Familiar Black Quotations a Henry Louis Gates project, since  he’s the one promoting it on TV, but Professor Gates—who wrote the book’s foreword—is quick to give credit to its editor, journalist and powerhouse editor Retha Powers.   Guernica Magazine‘s Lauren Alleyne  talked to Powers for this month’s issue, calling the compilation “a fine and nuanced linguistic and epistemological portrait of the black diaspora.” The full interview explores Powers’s process, politics, and how crafting even such a reference book can feel mysterous: As Rita Dove explains: “You start out with one thing, end up with another, and nothing’s like it used to be, not even the future.”




janetcbell_276In the Guernica piece above, Powers isn’t asked about the woman who first compiled such a collection: Janet Cheatham Bell(left), whose 1986 Famous Black Quotations: From Egypt to America  became a touchstone for generations (and is mentioned in Gates’s introduction). Bell followed with a revised edition, collections for teens, women, family members, and the important Till Victory Is Won: Famous Black Quotations From the NAACP“Those books—they sparked the fire,” Gates said when interviewed on Totally Biased, hosted by Bell’s son W. Kamau Bell. Below, Bell reads from one of her  two memoirs, Indiana University Press’s The Time and Place That Gave Me Life. We can’t wait to hear more from her.







Photo Credit: John Althouse Cohen via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: John Althouse Cohen via Compfight

“Tired of academia, eager to begin a life without algebra, and distracted by the unrelenting Santa Barbara sunshine, I decided to take a gap year. Who knew it would turn out to be 40?” writes Michele Willens in The Atlantic. You can guess what comes next: Willens took the same leap WVFC’s Jennifer Cheyne has described to us, and commenced an Ivy League education at age 50. Willens’s piece also includes somwhat-reassuring interviews with experts in the field: Neuroscientist James Fallon tells her that “people are at their maximum cognitive abilities in their 60s. It’s the ideal time to balance their executive functions, which younger students don’t necessarily have yet, with intellectual techniques which are likely still there but haven’t been used for a long time.”  That said, Wlllens adds, any degree program still requires some tricks: “I got through Music and Art Appreciation classes by attaching every composer or artist to a letter in the alphabet” . . . and “when handed the dreaded blue exam books, I immediately draw pictures of my studied pages.”  Read the rest: you’ll feel smarter.




560fa53c-9250-4814-9cda-e48744d3f706-1World AIDS Day started off December with a renewed emphasis on equality for women, writes Dani McClain at Al-Jazeera America.   McClain reports on a newly released study, the first of its kind, on “the state of sexual and reproductive health and rights for women living with HIV in the U.S.”  The study includes  stereotype-blasting facts like this one: “Fewer than half of respondents said that a healthcare provider had told them that the chance for transmitting the virus is very low when the amount of HIV in the bloodstream is low, a core tenet of the treatment as prevention approach to encouraging people living with HIV to adhere to their medications.”  Information like this, McClain adds, is essential to lessen the virus’s stigma and increase “equity in treatment and care.”




okay-mr-president-now-nominate-janet-yellen-alreadyAfter much political weeping and gnashing of teeth, it looks as if we have a milestone: For the first time in its centuries of existence, the U.S. Federal Reserve will soon NOT be headed by a man, but by longtime agency veteran Janet Yellen. What do we need to know about the woman taking the reins? The New Yorker‘s CURRENCY blog has a good roundup on Yellen’s background and the issues she’s facing in these uncertain times, while Rachel Maddow lets us laugh at those who still doubt Yellen’s stratospheric resume leaves her not a match for the job.




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  • Jennifer Cheyne January 2, 2014 at 1:04 am

    All amazing women – but of course I have to give a special high 5 to #3. Bravo!! I can’t wait to read her article!

  • Faith December 11, 2013 at 11:46 am

    Kudos to Retha Powers who has written a most useful work. BFBQ mines history, the blues,folk wisdom for a funny, inspiring collection. Let’s hope this marvelous editor, writer, teacher keeps producing books.

    Great source for quotes our next WVFC Pandora’s Box!