Tuesday, December 25, 2007


One of the best gifts I ever received was a typewriter from my father when I was twelve years old. When I opened the box my very practical mother said, “Well now you can practice to be a secretary.” In 1967 the best a black girl could hope to grow up to be was a secretary or a teacher. I remember looking up at my father and saying, "No I going to be a writer.” My father smiled and nodded like he knew this was going to be the truth. This is my favorite writing memory. It is why my first book will be dedicated to my father.

Merry Christmas everyone and may all your best dreams come true.

Monday, December 17, 2007


This is from an old article in the University Record written By Kara Bomzer(2003).

While most people are content pursuing an activity or two outside of their careers, a select few are more ambitious, immersing themselves in numerous extra pursuits. Karen Simpson, a student account assistant II/ Financial Operations employee is one such person.
Simpson, a U-M employee for the past 25 years, works primarily in what she describes as customer service: answering questions of parents and students concerning their tuition statements. Outside of her job, Simpson sits on museum boards and is a fabric artist, a buffalo soldier, a cook and a writer.

Further evidence of Simpson's wide array of interests is that she has three different degrees. "When I first entered college, I was interested in working with horses and I was also interested in food science," Simpson says. When she graduated from college, her father died, so Simpson settled near her mother. She took a job with U-M, and while there decided to pursue a master's in business. "I didn't want an MBA, so since I was good in Spanish I elected to get a degree in foreign language and international trade," Simpson says.

When she finished her work for her second degree, Simpson helped her mother develop and run a children's bookstore. It was during this time that she discovered another passion: history and historical buildings. "I considered myself very lucky because Eastern Michigan University has one of the best programs in the nation," Simpson says. "I learned from some of the best how to go about developing events and exhibits that help the public better understand the past and its influence on the present." She graduated with a degree in historic preservation.

"I get my love of agriculture from my father, who grew up on a farm. And even though he, like many other Black people of his era, moved to the city, he was always interested in working with animals, and he loved creating vegetable gardens," Simpson says. She became interested in the history of agriculture through this, and it has been an important theme in much of her research and work, especially her work for her master's in historical preservation.
Simpson is historian for the Out of Africa program, a plant- and culture-centered program between the Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Ardis Renaissance Academy and the College of Engineering, and the African American Cultural and Historical Museum of Washtenaw County. She also works with other board members on the museum's bus tour of Underground Railroad sites in Washtenaw County.

Simpson publishes articles on African American culinary and agricultural history. "I have always been interested in the history of food," Simpson says. "Even when I was little I used to wonder what the people we read about in our history books grew and cooked." Simpson's mother made food an important part of her life growing up. Simpson remembers her mother trying recipes from around the world and teaching her how to cook.

In addition to her other activities, Simpson is a fabric artist. "I was always interested in horses, and one day I was looking through a fabric arts magazine and I came across an advertisement for an exhibit that was going to feature photos of horsemen from Nigeria," Simpson says. "The picture with the advertisement featured a set of brightly colored quilted armor for horses from the 1800s. I fell in love with the picture and the history of the horsemen, and I wanted to learn to quilt so that I could make my own set of quilted armor." This spurred Simpson to start quilting, which led to her learning more about the long tradition of the craft in African American culture. Simpson has been involved in fabric art for 15 years, and she opened a studio five years ago.

Simpson also participates in the Washtenaw County Buffalo Soldiers. The group, which takes its name from the one given to Black calvary members by the Cheyenne Indians during the late 1800s, is made up of members from Washtenaw, Wayne and Monroe counties. They participate in a number of local parades, rodeos and school presentations. Simpson dresses in clothing an African American woman from that time period would wear, and she does explanations and demonstrations about what life was like for women at that time.

Simpson also is a passionate horseracing fan who used to own racehorses as a member of a racing partnership. Simpson also enjoys collecting African American memorabilia and reading

Friday, November 16, 2007

Feeding the Mind, Body and Soul

I love word games, and I love word games even more when they contribute to the battle to end hunger and poverty around the world. When I 'm bored or feeling bad about not writing, I do this. At least I'm wasting valuable writing time in a very constructive manner.

The premise is simple: The site's home page offers the reader a word. Guess the word's definition correctly, and FreeRice will donate 10 grams of rice to the United Nations. The program is adjusted to test your vocabulary so for every word you guess correctly the words will get subsequently more difficult

Monday, September 10, 2007

Act of Grace

About three years ago I started a novel loosely based on an incident that happen in Ann Arbor, Michigan in which a young woman decided to live up to her values. My novel has a more paranormal, spiritual edge. For a long time I ignored beginning this story until one night a voice in my dream shouted out the first line.


Here is the question the people in my hometown of Vigilant, Michigan want answered: Why did I, Grace Johnson, an African-American high school senior, an honor student, take two bullets to protect the life of the white supremacist jackass, Jonathan Gilmore? I haven’t really ventured to explain why I saved Mr. Gilmore’s life. Those who love me already understand, for them it is enough for me to say the ancestors made me do it. However, other folks, especially other folks of color, feel I need to testify to them and God, in that order, about why I have committed racial treason.

Mr. Gilmore was supposed to have died the day at the Racial Justice Rally, instead I got in the way and now people are either calling me an ignorant hero or hissing that I’m a double -stuffed Oreo bitch. Actually I’m neither, but I realize now that one of the reasons why people’s attitudes about me are as thick and nasty as dried snot is because there is a critical lack of information about my motives. Only trivial and bizarre evidence of my mission of justice exists. If it were up to me I wouldn’t say anything, I would just leave everyone in the dark and go on about my business. However, the voices of the ancestors tell me I do owe others an account of my story as an example of the true meaning of my name. Now, I can blow people off, I can tell folks what part of hell to go to and give them detailed directions on how to get there. The ancestors, however, cannot be ignored. They can’t be told to mind their own ethereal business because we, the living, are their business.

This morning they made Dr. Davies, my hospital appointed psychiatrist, tell me that if I write in a journal about my experiences and observations as if I’m talking to others, especially to Mr. Gilmore, it will speed up the process of my mental and physical healing.

“Writing a journal,” he said, his blue eyes reflecting some other soul besides his “will stop the fires of anxiety and anger from blackening your dreams and moods.”

If Dr. Davies had been himself he would have been appalled at the New Age dreamy psychobabble poetry coming out of his mouth, but of course he wasn’t himself. Their words on his pale-dry lips were a direct order to press my pen to notebook paper. Pain and suffering have made my hindsight telescopic, so let’s begin at the true beginning, a breath to prime my memory, “Rise, story, rise.”

Copyright 2007 Karen L. Simpson

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