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Aberjhani 1957-

Aberjhani 1957-
(Jeffery Jerome Lloyd)

PERSONAL:

Name is pronounced "ah-bear-zsa-nee"; original name, Jeffery Jerome Lloyd; born July 8, 1957, in Savannah, GA; son of Willie Moore (in construction) and WillieMae Griffin Lloyd (a hotel worker); married Cassandra F. Carten (in U.S. Air Force), July, 1982 (marriage ended, 1988). Education: Attended Savannah State University, Eckerd College, Macalester College, Temple University, and New College of California. Politics: "Freedom." Religion: "Ecumenical." Hobbies and other interests: Music, dancing, yoga, fine art, fine movies, "good food of international variety," reading, travel, theater.

ADDRESSES:

Office—Black Skylark Singing, 1302 E. Anderson St., Savannah, GA 31404. E-mail— [email protected]

CAREER:

Writer. Underwriters' Report, San Francisco, CA, worked as publishing manager; manager of bookstores, including Waldenbooks, Books a Million, and Media Play. Black Heritage Festival, spoken-word artist, 1998; Savannah Writers Workshop, board member, 1994-2003. Military service: U.S. Air Force, public affairs specialist and editor, including service in England, 1981-87; received journalistic excellence award, overseas long tour ribbon, and Navy meritorious unit citation. U.S. Air Force Reserve, counselor, 1990-92.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Thomas Jefferson Journalism Award; Irene Tromble Literary Prize; bronze medal, essay competition, Freedoms Foundation; Choice Academic Title of Year 2004 Award for Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance.

WRITINGS:


I Made My Boy out of Poetry, Washington Publications, 1997.

(With Sandra L. West) Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, Facts on File (New York, NY), 2003.

(Editor and contributor) The Wisdom of W.E.B. Du Bois, Citadel Press (New York, NY), 2003.

Author of "Visionary Vibe," a column in Creating Loafing, 1994-96. Work represented in anthologies, including Literary Savannah, Persistence of Dreams, and Sons of Lovers. Contributor of essays and poetry to magazines, including African-American Literary Review, Essence, and Georgia Guardian. Editor, Savannah Literary Journal, 1994-2001.

WORK IN PROGRESS:

Visions of a Skylark Dressed in Black, poetry; Strength to Carry On, true stories and essays; Elemental, poetry based on the life and work of artist Luther E. Vann; The Black Skylark Z-Ped Music Player, a "southern gothic rock and roll metaphysical mystery novel."

SIDELIGHTS:

Aberjhani told CA: "Most of my research at present centers around my novel, The Black Skylark Z-Ped Music Player, on which I had been working for a year when I had to set it aside to work on Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance. Because of its blend of fantasy, technology, spirituality, social trends, and music, the research has proven somewhat extensive. I also sometimes edit the work of other writers.

"I grew up the youngest in a family of ten children headed by a black woman who was strong out of necessity more than inclination, and who found herself a widow at the age of thirty-three in the South of the 1950s. The story I share with her is told in the poem ‘Return to Savannah,’ published in the anthology Literary Savannah and in the personal essays in Strength to Carry On.

"My name is a single name without first or last. At my physical birth in 1957 I was given three names, none of them my father's. Then, at my spiritual rebirth in 1990, I was given the single name Aberjhani, also not my father's but completely my own. Writing provided me as a teenager, first with a tool to navigate my way through a constantly humming nighttime swamp of inner traumas, and second with a means to comprehend and address the material world of race, poverty, and social backwardness that characterized my hometown at that time. Words, like music, gave themselves to me as companions and have always endowed my existence with a strength and resilience that otherwise I would not have.

"The people who first inspired me to write include Jean Toomer, Ralph Ellison, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, and others, so that writing the Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance was itself an authentic labor of love. The Wisdom of W.E.B. Du Bois was the same. Aside from those authors just mentioned, I have been greatly influenced by Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, Franz Kafka, the brilliant Zimbabwean Dambudzo Marechera, Nadine Gordimer, Federico García Lorca, Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Walt Whitman, Pablo Neruda, Henry Dumas, the Beats, Gabriel García Marquez, and Jelalludin Rumi.

"Writing for me is a form of spiritual discipline and creative vision, a means of being in the world and giving one's love to it without compromise or dilution. I prefer to write after meditating in the morning and again late at night, doing so generally when my mind is clearest and I am most inspired. I would advise younger writers to approach their craft with respect.

"Like many authors, I came upon writing as my creative path while exploring reading as a means of personal and intellectual growth, and also as a means of escape. In both the works of contemporary authors and in the myths and legends passed down to us from Africa and Greece and other cultures, it seemed to me that storytellers commanded a quality of consciousness that allowed them through their words to do or be anything. The sense of power and courage exhibited by their ability to inhabit different voices, forms, genders, cultures, and eras throughout history impressed me greatly because personal power was something I felt missing in my life growing up as a black youth in the United States of the 1960s and 1970s. In their informed criticisms of society and their sometimes exuberant celebrations of all aspects of life, writers struck me as people who lived deeply, passionately, and fully. I thought little about whatever professional training might be required to actually become a writer. I wanted the kind of power of insight and self-command that I experienced in the works of a Jean Paul Sartre, James Baldwin, or Margaret Walker. I wanted to make that kind of music that I heard in the poetry of a Langston Hughes or the stories of James Joyce. That combination of power and beauty more than anything else is probably what made me most want to become a writer. It wasn't until I became a journalist with the U.S. Air Force that I became more objective in my literary outlook and accepted that writing professionally included responsibilities to something other than my personal desires or needs. Eventually, the combination of power and beauty that I found and find in universal spirituality influences my own work in a major way.

"I have mostly been surprised at how the process of writing evolves one's consciousness and transforms the aspiring writer into an individual that he or she never fully imagined becoming. Literary genres and techniques tend to take form in one's mind somewhat the way computer templates provide form for different computer tasks. These tools of expression become—or at least became for me—modes of perception as well as modes of expression and altered the way that I absorbed information about the world, came to understand the world, and related to the world. Another big surprise was the discovery of the intense intimacy that some readers experience directed towards some writers because of what they experience through their works.

"As far as favorites of my own books go, I would have to say it's a tie between my first published book, I Made My Boy out of Poetry, simply because it was my first published book, and the novel that I am currently revising, The Black Skylark Z-Ped Music Player. I actually started writing my novel at the end of the 1990s but had to put it aside when I accepted the contract for Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance. It's been with me for so long that it's like a trusted old friend or a child that one does not want to completely grow up and leave home because it has brought you so much joy and comfort.

"I hope my books will provide readers with powerful organic intellectual, spiritual, and emotional experiences that move them to reflect deeply upon what they have read, or to enjoy a good laugh so that the book becomes a kind of companion for them when they need it to be one. I also hope it moves them to share whatever they experience through it with others. If it doesn't make a huge difference in their lives, I hope my work will at least make a positive difference on a given day when they need it most."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:


PERIODICALS


African Voices, spring, 2005, Angela Kinamore, interview with the authors of Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, pp. 41-43.

American Reference Books Annual, Volume 35, 2004, Charmaine Ijeoma, review of Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance.

Booklist, February 15, 2004, review of Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, p. 1088.

Choice, January, 2004, A.C. Vara, review of Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance.

Connect Savannah, April 24, 2002, Jennifer Prince, "Coffeehouse Renaissance: Young Poets Spread the Spoken Word in Savannah," pp. 6-7; February 11, 2004, Jim Morekis, "All That Jazz: Local Author Aberjhani Has Penned a History of the Harlem Renaissance."

Library Journal, December, 2003, Thomas J. Davis, review of Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, p. 94.

School Library Journal, February, 2004, Ann Joslin, review of Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, p. 87.

ONLINE


Aberjhani Home Page,http://www.authorsden.com/ aberjhani (June 27, 2005).

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