“Quilt of Souls” describes love’s triumph over trauma

Author Phyllis Lawson describes the integral role that a quilt made in her life.

In her poignant memoir, “Quilt of Souls,” Author Phyllis Lawson describes the integral role that a quilt had in her life and how the love she received from her maternal grandmother sustained her.

By Carmen Glover

Phyllis Lawson’s poignant memoir, “Quilt of Souls,” is a story of childhood trauma, teenaged angst and redemption that captures the imagination, tugs at the heart-strings and elicits emotions that surge to the surface from the recesses of the soul.

In her self-published,176-page memoir, Lawson graphically describes the confusion and despair she felt when as a little girl, she was sent away by her parents in Detroit, Michigan, to live with her maternal grandparents in rural Alabama, without being given any explanation and without any preparation. In vivid imagery she recounts the sense of loneliness that engulfed her as she was separated from her siblings, the fear of the unknown and the sadness she felt as her young heart was broken.

Phyllis Lawson, author of the memoir "Quilt of Souls."

Phyllis Lawson, author of the memoir “Quilt of Souls.”

Yet in a nod to the resilience of the young, Lawson describes how her grandmother, Ms. Lulu, enveloped her into a cocoon of love, reinforced values and more importantly, gave her a sense of identity and belonging. Ms. Lulu regaled Lawson with tales of her ancestors as the perceptive grandmother put together quilts, made from the garments of the deceased, so that their souls could live on. That act of artistry, sandwiched between an admixture of love and punishment, cemented  a bond between Lawson and her grandmother that was her internal compass during the darkest days of  her life.

Females seldom reach adulthood without at least one major fight with their mothers but Lawson describes a childhood of unimaginable anguish and rejection by her mother that causes the heart to ache for a lost childhood which, were it not for her grandparents, could have adversely affected the trajectory of Lawson’s life. Still, the quilt provided her with solace and her grandparents’ love allowed her to flourish, overcome her demons and experience joy. “Quilt of Souls” is a powerful, tear-jerking testimony of the capacity of the human spirit to rise from darkness, face adversity and emerge victorious. —OnPointPress.net.

Accomplished educator Ja’Nice Wisdom pushes for access to books in beautiful Jamaica

Educator Ja'Nice Wisdom

Educator Ja’Nice Wisdom is the founder and executive director of  the Read Across Jamaica Foundation that was created to expand reading resources for children.

By Carmen Glover

Twelve years ago, accomplished educator Ja’Nice Wisdom, decided to make a change in Jamaica, West Indies by ensuring that story books were more readily available to children who lacked the resources to purchase a variety of reading material. She created and launched Read Across Jamaica (RAJ), an initiative designed to expand reading opportunities on the island, through a non-profit foundation with the same name.

RAJ, currently underway in Jamaica since May 4, wraps up with activities over the weekend. The theme for this year’s event is “Consolidating the Gains: Collaborating for Growth and Sustainability.”

A reading volunteer participates in Read Across Jamaica event.

A reading volunteer participates in Read Across Jamaica event.

This year, Read Across Jamaica Foundation collaborated with The Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) and the Book Industry Association of Jamaica (BIAJ) to celebrate Education Week 2015. Activities have included a bus tour across the island where reading volunteers stop at schools in St James, St. Thomas, St. Catherine, Kingston and St. Elizabeth and engage eager students in reading activities with the expectation that the buzz built during the week will permeate the students’ daily lives.

For children whose parents and guardians have challenges with reading, Wisdom is pleased that they “come to the schools to observe and show interest,” which goes a long way in strengthening a reading environment in the home. “We pass on books to the parents and we encourage the children to share the books with their parents,” she said.

Reading volunteer engages children in reading activity.

Reading volunteer engages children in reading activity.

RAJ, Wisdom said  “was launched to reach out and give back to the children. It was part of a research project I was doing at the University of Maryland to see why children were passing through the system” without acquiring the skills needed to succeed. She decided to model a similar system that was used in the USA and tailor it to meet the Jamaican community.

Twelve years later, RAJ is more robust than ever. After the weeklong reading events are completed, Wisdom and her delegation relies on “the schools to provide follow-up,” to ensure that the excitement generated for reading is nurtured throughout the year. “We do not have the capacity to collect the data,” during the weeklong activities to determine the children’s progress, she said. However, “We talk to the students, see their attitudes about reading,” and use that as a gauge to plan for the following year’s events.

Reading volunteer reads to children who interact with excitement.

Reading volunteer reads to children who interact with excitement.

One of the features of the 2015 RAJ is the inclusion of musical ambassadors Tasha T, and Asante Amen who juxtapose reading with the elements of music and poetry. Tasha T, who hails from Toronto, Canada, has been involved in RAJ since 2011 and sees her role as vital to the RAJ initiative and she explained that she utilizes various measures to win the children’s interest and attention.

Read Across Jamaica's Music Ambassador Tasha T.

Read Across Jamaica’s Music Ambassador Tasha T.

“I introduce myself to them as a recording artist and I get them to sing along,’ she explained of her style. “I encourage them to continue reading because everyone has to work together for the children to succeed.”  Tasha T said that she also plays games with the children because her aim is to show the children “what they are capable of and that education is a way of survival.” Tasha T’s signature song for the RAJ initiative is “Educate Yourself,” on the RasVibe label.

Read Across Jamaica Music Ambassador Asante Amen.

Read Across Jamaica Music Ambassador Asante Amen.

As the RAJ initiative has grown over the years, so has the need for books to meet the demand for eager readers. “We need funds. We have a book clinic online and we ship the books to Jamaica,” said Wisdom of the project. “There’s no favoritism with the schools that we visit. We follow each school that we visit for five years.” Citing the scope of RAJ and the goal of expansion, Wisdom invites supporters across the globe to get involved. “We encourage people to visit online and donate funds and books,’ she said.

To contact Read Across Jamaica and Ms. Wisdom, call (301)-672-4133, (876)-852-3418, or email: jwisdom2u@gmail.com.–OnPointPress.net.

 

 

Jamaica gears up to celebrate the joys of reading during Education Week, May 3-9

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Children eagerly participate in Read Across Jamaica in 2014.

Children eagerly participate in Read Across Jamaica in 2014 by raising their hands in response to questions posed about books that were read to them.

Washington, DC, April 30, 2015 – The Read Across Jamaica (RAJ) Foundation, in collaboration with the Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA), will launch its annual Education Week activities, May 3 to 9, 2015 under the theme  “Consolidating the Gains: Collaborating for Growth and Sustainability.” The RAJ delegation will include Tasha T and Asante Amen, musical ambassadors, who will use their talents to highlight reading and writing as well as emphasize the message that “Education is the Key” as they recite in song. The entire team will focus on schools in St. James, St. Thomas, St. Catherine, St., Kingston and St. Elizabeth to close out their annual Read Across Jamaica Bus Tour.

Jamaica's Prime Minister Hon. Portia Simpson-Miller reads to a child during Read Across Jamaica 2013.

Jamaica’s Prime Minister Hon. Portia Simpson-Miller reads to a child during Read Across Jamaica 2013.

Read Across Jamaica, an initiative created and introduced by Ja’nice Wisdom in 2003 to help promote literacy in Jamaica, supports the VISION 2030 Goals set by the Ministry of Education, and seeks to achieve 95 percent literacy at the primary level by facilitating literacy efforts that encourage children of all ages to master basic literacy skills through the act of reading. The growth and success of the RAJ program has sprung up in many classrooms across the island with the declaration of Read Across Jamaica Day, which will be celebrated this year on Tuesday, 5 May 2015.

Participant reads to children as part of Read Across Jamaica.

Participant reads to children as part of Read Across Jamaica.

During Education Week, literacy ambassadors will be joining local volunteers to involve children in creative and interactive forms of reading. These activities encourage children to enjoy literature and to better understand and appreciate family, diversity and global community needs.

“We place a high value on kids reading for fun and having stories that reflect their experience,” said Ja’nice Wisdom, president and founder of the Read Across Jamaica movement.

Participant reads to a group of boys who peer intently at the book being read.

Participant reads to a group of boys who peer intently at the book being read.

Since 2003, the Read Across Jamaica Literacy Project has served over 25,000 students and provided over 50,000 books and supplies to children in Jamaica. This year, Read Across Jamaica Foundation will partner with the Book Industry Association of Jamaica (BIAJ) to include in their distribution 500 brand-new books written by Jamaican authors and feature several of these local authors as “key readers” throughout their journey across Jamaica. Thirty-five authors, six publishers and two booksellers will contribute to this year’s initiative.

Children point excitedly at characters in a book being read by a Read Across Jamaica participant.

Children point excitedly at characters in a book being read by a Read Across Jamaica participant.

To find out more about sponsorship, serving as a local volunteer or literacy ambassador, contact: Ja’nice Wisdom (301) 672-4133, (876) 852-3418 or email: jwisdom2u@gmail.com. Donate books online at www.ReadAcrossJamaica.com and visit our facebook page: ReadAcrossJA. The Read Across Jamaica Foundation (RAJ) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to introduce creative and interactive methods of reading to children and encourage them to enjoy literature as an aid to changing future disparaging lifestyles affected by illiteracy.-OnPointPress.net.

Harlem Book Fair selects winners of first ‘My Book Selfie’ contest

Reader proudly takes picture with current novel.

Reader proudly takes picture with t novel currently being read.

April 20, 2015 (Harlem, New York) – The Harlem Book Fair (harlembookfair.com) has launched an innovative literacy-awareness initiative, My Book Selfie, that rewards readers who share their love of books. Using social media, the Harlem Book Fair is offering weekly rewards and prizes for readers who post a picture of themselves showing their favorite book or current read.

The goal of the ongoing program is to create an online presence where readers are acknowledged for creating and being part of a vibrant nation-wide reading community. The best book selfie will be selected from submitted photos on a weekly basis by the staff of QBR/The Black Book Review (www.qbr.com) and the Harlem Book Fair. Selected readers will be notified by email. No additional participation is required to be selected; simply take a picture with a favorite book and post it online at facebook.com/mybookselfie.

Reader poses with book about sports phenomenon Mo'Ne Davis.

Reader poses with book about sports phenomenon Mo’Ne Davis.

“There is a perception that we, as an often underserved community, have little relationship to reading as a way of life,” says Max Rodriguez, founder of the Harlem Book Fair. “They often forget that reading has long served as the means by which we have changed the course of our American experience. We have long been a nation of readers. I expect that children to grandma’s will post their favorite books. My Book Selfie will acknowledge us as a lifelong reading community that values entertaining stories, access to information, and the fun of reading.” View all pictures, join the community and win a book.

My Book Selfie (facebook.com/mybookselfie) is open to all readers with valid email addresses, new or existing registrants of QBR.com, or readers who are Facebook “fans”/“followers” of QBR.com and the Harlem Book Fair (www.harlembookfair.com). The presentation of the QBR Wheatley Book Awards will open the Harlem Book Fair on the evening of July 17th. The program blends awards presentations into an entertaining evening of music, letters, and stellar performances. The Wheatley Awards are open to industry professionals, independent authors and publishers, media, readers and the general public.

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To reserve seating for the QBR Wheatley Book Awards, visit the Harlem Book Fair website or EventBrite.com. To submit your book for Book Award consideration, visit the Harlem Book Fair to download the Book Award Submission form.The Harlem Book Fair invites publishers, independent authors, book vendors, and artists to exhibit, promote and sell their work to its receptive audience. Applications are available online at www.harlembookfair.com. The Harlem Book Fair is a family event that is free and open to all. Join the #HarlemBookFair community by visiting Harlem Book Fair: follow us on Twitter @harlembookfair1 #harlembookfair #hbf and Harlem Book Fair 1999 on Facebook.–OnPointPress.net.

QBR’s author reading series promote the theme of renewal

Dirty Laundry

Performers depict “Dirty Laundry” and will bring “From Ashes to Angel’s Dust’ to life in Military Park author readings.

QBR, the Quarterly Black Review, will promote the importance of renewal during its author reading series on September 17 and 24 in Newark, New Jersey for the last two editions of the organization’s Author Reading Series. The 14-week series began on Wednesday, June 25 from 12:00 p.m.-1:30 p.m. and will conclude on Wednesday, September 24.

“We are pleased to be acknowledged for our commitment to developing and serving audiences through books”, said Max Rodriguez, founder of the Harlem Book Fair and publisher of QBR The Black Book Review. “Our weekly author talks will feature selected, well-known and newly-published authors from all genres. We anticipate large crowds, hungry for lunch time entertainment.”

Zoe Flowers

Zoe Flowers

Last fall, the Newark Municipal Council voted unanimously to allow the Military Park Partnership to manage the park’s redevelopment, working in conjunction with Biederman Redevelopment Ventures, which has worked on park projects in several cities in the past decade, including New York City (Bryant Park), Boston, Buffalo, Dallas, and Pittsburgh. Literary programming is a key element of Bryant Park’s success and Military Park will also have an author talk series, created by the organization behind the Harlem Book Fair.

Omali Yeshitela

Omali Yeshitela

“We are excited to bring the Harlem Book Fair back to Newark and we’re proud to introduce more literary events to the city,” said Dan Biederman.

On September 17, Zoe Flowers, Sherri Pullum and Camila Camilo will present a staged reading of “From Ashes to Angel’s Dust,” while Joe Young will present “Diamond Ruff.” On September 24, Omali Yeshitela will present “An Uneasy Equilibrium.”

All events are free.

Joe Young

Joe Young

Founded as the public program of QBR The Black Book Review (www.QBR.com) and now in its 17th year, the Harlem Book Fair, the nations’ largest and most-respected African-American literary festival, is partnered by Columbia University, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture the New York Public Library, Literacy Partners, Inc., the national literacy organization; and televised nationally by C-Span’s BookTV. Attended by over 20,000 readers and viewed by millions on C-Span, the Harlem Book Fair stands as the nation’s flagship African-American public literary event.

For more information visit www.qbr.com.-OnPointPress.net.

 

Five gripping books to brighten up your summer

Terrance J and his mother discuss parenting and his success.

Terrence J and his mother discuss parenting and his success.

By Carmen Glover

Summertime evokes a variety of emotions: excitement, fun, adventure, exploration, relaxation. It’s a time when families go to new locations to unwind and recharge their batteries for the bustling activities that come with September. One of the best ways to enjoy the summer months is with a good book. OnPointPres.net has a vibrant book reviews section and we respect the value of reading and learning from each other’s stories. Here are five books that will add a little verve to your summer:

Terrenace J

1. “In The Wealth of My Mother’s Wisdom: The Lessons That Made My Life Rich,” (Harper Collins, $19.99), actor and media personality Terrence Jenkins, also known as Terrence J, alternates his memoir about his childhood with road to success, with gems provided by his mother. He includes advice other stars such as singer Trey Songz, rappers Ludacris and T.I, as well as comedians Kevin Hart and Gary Owens. The entertainers share tips that they got from their mothers, obstacles they overcame and words of encouragement for others. Great book for all age-groups.

Author Kimberla Lawson roby and her book cover, the Prodial son

Author Kimberla Lawson Roby and her book cover, the Prodigal Son

2. In her most recent book, “The Prodigal Son” (Grand Central Publishing, $26) author Kimberla Lawson Roby explores family dynamics. She vividly describes how envy, greed and deception combine to create a potent mixture that can destroy a family until they decide to draw strength and guidance from biblical principles. Solid read.

carl weber

3. Carl Weber continues where he left off in his latest offering, “The Choir Director 2: Runaway Bride ” (Grand Central Publishing, $25). Weber outlines a story about a choir director who is tamed by a member of his church and the drama that ensues as they try to make it to the altar. Gripping tale.

Rochelle alers

4. Rochelle Alers’ recent Cavanaugh Road novel ” Magnolia Drive” (Grand Central Publishing, $8) explores the lives of a new couple as they learn about each other, cautiously approach dating and become open to all that a life together entails: Soothing, breezy, blissful love story.

robin roberts

5. Former athlete and current media personality Robin Roberts delves into her life story in “Everybody’s Got Something,” (Grand Central Publishing, $25). Roberts shares details about her life that were not previously addressed by the media and disclosing values imparted by her mother. Inspiring. Read the full book reviews under the books tab on our website.–OnPointPress.Net

“Magnolia Drive” continues Rochelle Alers’ enjoyable romantic tales

By Carmen Glover

National bestselling author Rochelle Alers returns to the literary scene with Magnolia aaed4e96efad4fd89a579bbb9fd83d24Drive ($8,Grand Central Publishing), the latest edition of her Cavanaugh Island novels. This time, Alers tells the tale of Francine Tanner and Keaton Grace, another strikingly attractive couple, who find each other and love amidst the laid back tranquility of the Carolinas. In a tale that moves along smoothly with luscious, descriptive language, Alers arouses all the senses as the characters come alive in vibrant fashion.

The novel tracks Francine as she returns to her parents’ home to live while she works in her mother’s establishment after becoming disenchanted with her chosen career path. Keaton visits the town to scope out business ventures as he navigates the professional landscape while trying to tame his mounting desire to become a more intrinsic part of Francine’s life  Francine, for her part, tries hard to convince herself, family and friends that she is content with her life as it is and has little interest in encouraging a relationship with Keaton.

Magnolia Drive seamlessly weaves in updates on characters who populated the previous three novels, as would be expected in stories that reflect a small town and its residents. The quaint setting described in Magnolia Drive elicits yearning for an escape from the hustle and bustle of metropolitan cities and causes the reader to ache for the delectable meals, breezy and low-key style of the small-town ambience.

Each of Albers’ novels, Sanctuary Cove, Haven Creek, Angels Landing and now Magnolia Drive, is set in the picturesque countryside that oozes southern charm, small-town sensibilities, and history that anchors the town . Also, each novel features a couple who manage to blend their interests and fall in love with natural ease like birds nesting in an inviting tree.

The most appealing aspect of Magnolia Drive and the other Cavanaugh Island novels is the staunch focus on African-Americans, showing that like their Caucasian counterparts, they strive for higher education, establish business enterprises, court, get married and raise families while becoming pillars of their communities. The novels depict the wholesome aspect of the African-American lifestyle that is not often addressed in romance novels. The novels juxtapose historical details with familial and community interactions that infuse the novels with life. Magnolia Drive is a soothingly exciting addition to summer reading lists and will transport the reader to an idyllic setting that inspires exploration.-OnPointPress.net.

 

“The Choir Director” sequel electrifies, pulsates with excitement

51G328YUOgL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ (2)By Carmen Glover

The Choir Director 2: Runaway Bride (Grand Central Publishing, $25.00), Carl Weber’s highly-anticipated sequel to his well-received book The Choir Director, does not disappoint when it comes to delivering a taut, exciting and rich story that pulsates with action. Picking up where the first volume left off, the sequel focuses on choir director Aaron Mackie’s planned wedding to Tia Gregory, the church’s secretary.

As with all of Weber’s books, the plot thickens very quickly and what follows is a high octane ride of betrayal, compromise, questionable conduct and criminal behavior sprinkled with minimal biblical lessons. While the story rushes along at a breathtaking pace, however, there are certain profoundly troubling elements to The Choir Director 2 such as salty language.

Nevertheless, the storyline for The Choir Director 2 entertains with its engaging mixture of guile, deception, envy, jealousy, revenge and ego running amok and the dangers that people can expose themselves to unless they wholeheartedly embrace the principles that they claim are fundamental to their lives. In many respects, some of the serious events which occur in The Choir Director 2, could happen to anyone. The tale is woven together expertly illustrating pain and unresolved trauma, amidst a story of romance, juxtaposed between the natural tendency to succumb to inner desires and the battle of wills that often ensues as a result.

The Choir Director 2 will inspire soul-searching, personal reflections, burning questions and the desire to seriously examine what truly drives each person in working towards achieving life’s goals.  –OnPointPress.net. 

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“The Prodigal Son” tells cautionary, albeit authentic, tale

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By Carmen Glover

Kimberla Lawson Roby’s latest installment of the Reverend Black books “The Prodigal Son” (Grand Central Publishing, $26) offers a cautionary tale for anyone who has been tempted to act without giving careful thought to the worst case scenario. Replete with lessons that are applicable across generational lines, “The Prodigal Son” is a smooth, enlightening and entertaining read that quotes lavishly from the Bible to buttress its central theme of unconditional love and the importance of forgiveness.

The book details the lifestyle and family dynamics of the Reverend Curtis Black, who has two sons and two daughters. Matthew, 20, abandons his four-year scholarship at Harvard after a year to pursue other passions, while Alicia and Dillon, in their late twenties, seem content to drift along and live off their father. At 6, Curtina is the youngest. Each adult in the story feels justified in approaching life from a particular perspective, without carefully examining the potential consequences of hasty decisions and the impact of those actions on others.

The relationships that the Reverend Black has with his children, their mothers and partners have varying degrees of closeness and conflict, which cause a range of emotional upheaval and uncertainty.Not without fault, the Revered Black finds himself caught up in a tsunami of emotions as his children’s lives spiral out of control, thrusting the family into chaos, anguish and tumult. Relationships fray, secret plots are hatched, deceptions are uncovered and  promises are broken with impunity until emotions boil to a crescendo of rage, resulting in unimaginable horror and pain.

Religious skeptics often cite the dysfunction of church life, its members and the pastor’s family in particular, as deterrents for embracing religious practices in everyday life. While the “The Prodigal Son” carefully tackles these issues and more, it introduces elements to the story that raise legitimate questions about churchgoers, their activities and the quality of the examples they set for their children based on the lives they lead themselves. At the same time, the book outlines the message that dastardly deeds contrived in secrecy will eventually come to light with devastating consequences that are often hard to envision when emotions cloud people’s thoughts and logic. “The Prodigal Son” is expertly written and authentically told.  –OnPointPress.net.

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Nelson Mandela’s autobiography inspires greatness, resilience

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By Carmen Glover

Some lives are so full and rich that it’s difficult for the pages of a book to contain them. The journey of late South African president and world icon Nelson Mandela is an example of such a life. Mandela recounts his triumph over adversity in his gripping, 625-page autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom (LittleBrown, $18). Initially released in 1994 and re-released in paperback form in 2013 with an insightful forward by former US president Bill Clinton, Long Walk to Freedom should be required reading for students of history, public affairs and seekers of knowledge and the keys to resiliency across the globe.

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Long Walk to Freedom details Mandela’s journey from his early years in the African village of Mvezo to his childhood home in Qunu which he describes as the place where he spent  “the happiest years of my boyhood.” The book then takes the reader on an engaging, humorous, sad, compelling journey that causes the words to leap from the page as the reader eagerly races to discover nugget after nugget of fact about a well-lived life. From his life as an attorney to his pivotal role in the African National Congress (ANC), which at first embraced non-violence before deciding to fight fire with fire in an attempt to rid South Africa of the racist scourge of apartheid, Long Walk to Freedom tells it all. And make no mistake, Mandela, who is often referred to by his clan name, Madiba as a term of respect, was not a prefect man. Wise, yes; stoic, yes; ambitious, yes; determined to gain freedom for his people, absolutely.

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Long Walk to Freedom is a great example of the power of keeping focused on your goals. When Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years, torn apart from his new bride and his young children, he could have given up. When he had offers to turn his back on his quest for equality for his people in exchange for his freedom he firmly turned down the offers while reinforcing his commitment to his comrades and his compatriots. Long Walk to Freedom serves as a road map to excellence, determination and conviction about living an authentic life. Eventually freed from prison, Mandela led his people to victory in the country’s first democratic elections in 1994, amid impressively long lines in the burning sunshine to which the eager voters seemed entirely oblivious.

As the movie, based on the book, continues to be shown in theaters around the world, now is a good time to leaf through the pages of the book to get the details of Mandela’s life, to better understand his brilliant mind, circumspect attitude and determined spirit. The great Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Mandela took millions of steps to achieve monumental goals in his Long Walk to Freedom. A great first step for 2014 is to treat yourselves to the investment of the time it takes to read this important, albeit lengthy autobiography and then catch Golden Globe nominee Idris Elba on the big screen as he brings the words to life. –OnPointPress.net.

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