What to get for the audiophile who’s already bought Aloe Blacc and Bruno Mars? Music from the African Diaspora. A generation of griots — or hereditary musicians from Mali, Gambia, Guinea and Senegal — are collaborating with American artists. Good picks include Reverse Thread, in which jazz violinist Regina Carter collaborates with Yacouba Sissoko, who plays the harplike kora. For a more traditional approach, try Douga Mansa by Mamadou Diabate, for which he won a Grammy in 2008.
Captions by Afi-Odelia E. Scruggs
Clothes for Little Ones
A new outfit can’t miss, especially when it features African, Asian and Indian fabrics. At Li’l Crumbsnatchers, Matae Reed designs children’s clothing with an eye toward heritage. But she’s about more than adornment. Mate says she uses the Western concept of fashion to create styles that will help our children develop a positive self-image and encourage them to take pride in their rich cultural heritage.
The Divine Nine
We love our affiliations. And why not: the African-American pan-Hellenic tradition is more than 100 years old. The perfect gift for the perfect Greek has to be paraphernalia. The College Crib, in Nashville, Tenn., has more than enough. The family-owned shop has specialized in Greek wear for almost 40 years and has grown into an emporium showcasing a host of items that show love for African-American frats and sorors.
Sick of Scrabble? Is Monopoly too monotonous? Get on board with FAMU-opoly and Spelmanopoly. These games are among the offerings at It’s a Black Thang, an online bazaar of African-American products and gifts. Test your knowledge of African-American history with Blackboard. But send the kids to bed when you play the Pleasures and Perils of 5 Colored Girls; the site suggests that players be at least 16 years old.
Before Lee Daniels and Tyler Perry became Hollywood insiders, they were Hollywood outsiders –- just like any number of African-American feature-film makers and documentarians. These independent filmmakers need support and visibility. Provide both with the purchase of a DVD. Good places to start include Mississippi Damned, written and directed by Tina Mabry. Mabry’s story of three Mississippi youngsters struggling to escape their circumstances has won awards at film festivals in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Chicago and North Carolina.
Reading is fundamental to understanding the African-American experience. Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns chronicles the Great Migration, that massive movement of African Americans from the South to the North that changed the face of America. The New York Times Book Review named it one of the 10 Best Books of 2010. Don’t stop there, though. Pick up Decoded, Jay-Z’s memoir; The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron by Howard Bryant; or Lighthead, the poetry collection that won Terrance Hayes a 2010 National Book Award.
America is knee-deep in a DIY movement, but African-American crafters bring their own special flavor. Consider a whimsical crocheted necklace by Spokenfor, a crafter who is a whiz with a hook. Or go more formal with a turquoise-and-coral necklace from Waterbury Jewels. They’re among the artists featured in the Etsy Artists of Color Holiday Gift Guide. Look, drool and buy.
African-ancestored people have their own way of talking, but classes in the languages of Africa and its Diaspora have been difficult to find. Transparent Language has language-learning software and downloads for Haitian Creole, Hausa, Yoruba, Swahili and Zulu. In fact, the company has learning materials for 123 languages. So if you ever wanted to learn Tuva or Malay, this is the site to browse. Take a test run with their trial versions before you buy.
The truth of the matter is that even in the Great Recession, many of us are still blessed enough to share. So set aside a few dollars and contribute to a reputable organization. Give someone else a hand — or a future.