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You Need To Know Your History, May 1, 2009
By The RAWSISTZ Reviewers (RAWSISTAZ.com and Black Book Reviews.net)
Orchester Benjamin started his life as a rebellious young man. He felt he was a warrior, and he was encouraged by his parents who knew it was his generation that would change the lives of Black people in America. He dropped out of school and began to travel by train, with his mother's encouragement. She told him to travel and read books and he did both. He traveled in the box cars of trains, going from city to city, having many experiences. He always looked for skid row so he could either learn a new con or run the ones he already knew. He learned much from the older men and women who inhabited that part of town. As he traveled, he began to trust his intuition and he also learned a great deal through his books and from the visions he had of his African ancestors. He discovered early he couldn't wish them present; they came in their own time, but they were more than willing to answer his questions and they filled him in on African American history from the end of the civil war to his time, which was 1948/1950. They informed him it was his generation which needed to change how African Americans thought and reacted to White people.
As a youngster traveling as a hobo, he sometimes got into trouble with the train detectives, but other hobos told him how to avoid them and which cities were the worst. Orchester also met and had affairs with several girls; one in Denver introduced him to her godmother who gave him a lot of information. His urge to travel took him from Denver to Atlanta, Georgia, where he met King Nothing and Mr. Pete, who were frequently at odds with each. King Nothing was enamored with Marcus Garvey and Mr. Pete wanted to gain his wealth and knowledge the White man's way.
GRANDPA! TELL US A STORY; Drinking From Ancient Wells by Orchester Benjamin is a curious mixture of African religions and the history of African Americans. The story started slowly but picked up speed as Benjamin began to tell about his real life and how he survived. There were, unfortunately, grammatical and spelling errors, but I learned a great deal of history I have not found in history books. His information on lynching, Ida B. Wells and Marcus Garvey were outstanding. It is definitely a book worth reading.
Reviewed by Alice Holman of The RAWSISTAZ(tm) Reviewers
The Name of the Game is Survival,
August 1, 2008
By Karen Lemmons “APOO bookclub” (Detroit, Michan)
In Grandpa! Tell Us a Story: Drinking From the Ancient Wells,Book 1, Orchester (hip-hop Grandpa) Benjamin states his purpose clearly and early in the book."I made a vow then and there to become a Historian to teach my family the history of the Game, and an autobiographer to teach them the lessons I learned about living Life." He arrived at this mission based on a realization. "It was the Game Black people played that turn the Black world right-side-up, after slavery had turned it up-side-down. " He goes on to say that he, and most Black folks, had a lack of understanding of the role the game played in black people's lives. "The history of the Game is the history of African Americans' lives, past and present, and the game they played to survive." Drawing from his own life experiences, Priest Sowa and Priestess Mabole (his ancient spiritual grandparents) who help him understand the Ancient African history, Benjamin talks about all the games that African Americans played from slavery to the present. He confesses he has played the game since he was five years old, so he recognizes game when he sees it. In addition to the different games, Benjamin integrates African American history as he tells his stories from both a soulview and a worldview perspective. At the end of this book, Grandpa's children and grandchildren know the games, the history and how to survive.
This was a fascinating read. Benjamin's candid storytelling, mixed with the African history and his views on religion was very engaging. His soulview (the spiritual view) and worldview (the secular view) broadened one's perspective on life and the game. The characters were very interesting and represented differing viewpoints and experiences that all impacted the game. Benjamin's experiences are very interesting and real and will certainly enlightened any reader. The language is raw, but expected from a hip hop street person. Christianity is challenged and that may present a problem from believers. Whether you agree or disagree with the religious views, Benjamin's point is very clear. Not knowing and understanding your history can certainly impact your future. Benjamin accomplished his mission with BookOne of his trilogy. I definitely want to read Book 2 and 3. I recommend others read his book, too.
Karen Lemmons APOOO BookClub
Book Review by Emanuel Carpenter
Author of A Job Ain’t Nothing but Work and a new novel Where is the Love
He began taking the shells out of the gun and sighting down the barrel, and pulled the trigger listening to the click. All the while he was pointing the gun in my general direction, finally he pointed it straight at me, pulled the trigger, said bang real loud, and I almost jumped out of the chair. He reloaded the gun, still pointed in my direction, and began talking to his woman while looking me straight in the eyes.
“Baby, have you ever heard the expression, if you find a fool, bump his head.”
“Yeah Daddy Sweet, I heard that the bigger the fool the harder his head has to be bumped.”
“Well if somebody gave a loaded gun to a complete stranger, talking about selling it, how big of a fool is that?”
“That would be the biggest fool I ever heard about in all of my life. His head should be bump real hard.”
Though the excerpt above may sound like something out of the movies, it is a portion of one man’s true story. The man is Orchester Benjamin, and he is the one who is learning the ways of the street the hard way with a gun pointed at his head. Many years prior, his grandchildren always had a request of him: “Grandpa! Tell us a story.” Instead of sitting them down and telling them the same old nursery rhymes or Dr. Seuss tales, he asked them to be patient while he gathered his thoughts. Many years and words later, his memoir “The Story of the Game Black people Play-Trilogy” was born.
Orchester’s story is no everyday life story either. Keeping in mind his humble beginnings in Louisiana where he learned valuable life lessons from his parents and his maternal and paternal grandfathers, he tells an intriguing tale of learned values and humility. As he grew older, he wanted to be a part of the popular crowd known as the Village kids (who so happened to be the ones who got in the most trouble). Even though he is guided throughout his life by his African ancestors, Priest Sowa and Priestess Mabole, it’s the influence of the Village kids and the motivation to become a street hustler later in life that sends his life down a slippery slope of cocaine dealing, addiction, and incarceration.
The Story of the Game Black People Play-Trilogy is an interesting memoir that fuses detailed historical facts, personal philosophy, and everyday life as a man trying to make it on the mean American streets, including Los Angeles, Oakland, Oklahoma City, and more. Rather if you’re reading about his naivety of trying to sell a loaded gun, trying to understand his arguments with a preacher about God’s purpose for us, or absorbing his take on the history of the Ku Klux Klan, Frederick Douglas, and slavery, you will not be bored.
It’s easy to tell that this former Black Panther writes like he speaks like when he tells us he is getting ahead of himself in the text, when he shares how being whipped by his mother only made him slicker, and when he is honest about never finishing school. The book could use an editor’s touch. It could also use actual chapters so that it doesn’t read like one long speech. And you may have a few what-the-heck moments as his African ancestors appear to him throughout the book (especially since this is non-fiction). But the 73-year-old Benjamin did accomplish his goal of telling his grandchildren (and us) an out of-the-ordinary story that can be handed down to generations in his family and ours.
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