Reading Herschell Johnson’s biography on page 244 of We Speak as Liberators: Young Black Poets—An Anthology my junior instinct immediately says, ‘He wrote this bio’ himself.’ Here we have a 22 year old of 1970 writing a series of terse declarations like “Black poetry is a life force. It is putting the pressure where it should be.” The sentences go with a cadence that H. Rap Brown can pick up and run with…

Today’s Herschell Johnson selection is “We Are Not Mantan.” Try typing this title into Google™ and see what you get out of several billion Web pages. Today’s test returns no records. We are fascinated about how much has changed since 1970 and this fourth poem of our Orde Coombs series, following “Pearl Cleage: Feelings of a Very Light Negro as the Confrontation Approaches” and “Shirley Staples: Getting It Together,” is no exception.

So, based on our Google™ search, it is clear that the memory of Mantan Moreland is stored on more hard disks connected to the Internet than the memory of Herschell Johnson of Birmingham, Alabama (born, 1948). What’s more, when I see the facial expressions of the cartoon Zebra, Marty, in the 2005 animated feature, Madagascar (voice characterized by Chris Rock), I see a little bit of Mantan. When you want to get strong, young and direct like Herschell Johnson back in 1970 you can name names like, say, Bernie Mac. Bernie has a big-ass wallet that can bust you in the head down to the white meat and I’m sure Mantan Moreland can retreat to some fond stories of serious cash flow but somehow we are here writing about Herschell Johnson of Birmingham, Alabama (born, 1948) and almost forty years later we repeat his words, “We Are Not Mantan.”


Written by . . . . . . . Herschell Johnson

Archival Research by . . . . . . . Tasha Dionne Thomas
XHTML/CSS Programming by . . . . . . . Bryan Wilhite