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Posts: 1,495
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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The Black National Anthem

Labor Day arrives and we get a larger picture of the Sag Harbor community that's developed over the years, set to the tune of "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now." Can you talk about your own sense of what this community is like and how they interact with each other?


Benji is examining, with some surprise, how the groups of kids turn over with the seasons, stepping into each other's roles, returning as a "new" Clive or "little" Bobby. Can you talk about how Benji identifies himself in this picture?


Who is Barry David and what is his role here?


Do you get a sense of Benji and Reggie being any different at the end of this summer, and if so, how?


What do you make of the big plans Benji is making for his future at the conclusion of the book?

Inspired Contributor
Posts: 47
Registered: ‎04-22-2008

Re: The Black National Anthem

This seems to be a community like any other middle class community in America at that time - working hard, going through changes, looking to have fun, living for the weekend, and distancing themselves from their kids. 

I really liked Benji talking about the new generation because it represented an awareness of time as it related to Benji.  He seemed to be growing up with those statements and seemed to be getting the "big picture" and how he's just a small player in a bigger world.  He woke up to the world around him.

I thought Barry David represented the snake in the garden of eden so to speak.  He was the coming temptations of the outside world and how would Benji handle it.  Would he give in to the temptations of having fun at other's expense or would he do the right thing.  I liked that Ben stayed true to himself and went and spent time with Reggie even if they went and drank beer.  When Benji grew up drinking beer not destroying other's property was a rite of passage.   At that point property damage was for the "bad" kids.

Benji and Reggie defintely seem different at the end of the summer.  Benji had grown up so much.  He had seperated from Reggie and become more of an individual- with quite a bright future as we can see from this book.

Inspired Correspondent
Posts: 159
Registered: ‎09-23-2008
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Re: The Black National Anthem

I see the Sag Harbor community as an ever changing, ever evolving community.  Families come and go, kids grow up, go off to college and rarely return, and the older generation sort of fades into the past.  Ben reflects on some of these changes throughout the book.  One of them being the Labor Day Party; the races and the bonfire.  On pg. 267, Ben said, "something about this day was off." He remarked that no one had brought a boom box and that "random" adults only stopped by briefly on their way to another party.  Even Mr. Nickerson left early.  The bonfire used to be the big event that was the official end to the Labor Day Party.  The traditions seemed to be less important with each generation. 
"Sow today what you want to reap tomorrow"
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Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: The Black National Anthem

Labor Day in Sag Harbor signaled the end of summer. It was neat to "see and hear" the families get together and greet each other during the day. It was as if no one had any real problems for one day. Men tried to out cook each other, children raced, and everyone visited. It was a happy, yet sad time for them all.


Ben really showed me how out of synch he felt. He was too old to race, yet too young to openly drink. He started looking for the one who would replace him and the one he was replacing. 

"It was where we mingled with who we had been and who we would be. Sharing space with our echoes out in the sun. the shy kid we used to be and were growing away from, the confident or hard-luck men we would become in our impending seasons, the elderly survivors we'd grow into if we were lucky, with gray stubble and green sunvisors. The generations replacing and replenishing each other." pg. 262

 Ben could see the change occuring, but would he embrace it or become like Barry David? Barry was a bully, one who wouldn't accept the fact that he had grown away from the younger group and toward the older. He wanted control and exerted it on Little Clive when he grabbed the medal. Then, he became a hero to Little Clive when he grabbed the porch bench and threw it into the fire. I think Barry was the example of the punk teenager who didn't grow up. Ben didn't want to be that and did seem to be ready to embrace his older self. 


I loved seeming Ben and Reggie becoming brothers again at the end of the summer. They had both grown during their time in Sag Harbor, but that didn't change the ties that bound them. They were on the journey to manhood, embracing it individually and yet together.


DonnaS =) " Reading is a means of thinking with another person's mind; it forces you to stretch your own." Charles Scribner
"A book is like a garden carried in the pocket." Chinese Proverb
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Posts: 357
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: The Black National Anthem

I agree with BDonnelly's post on Barry David. I thought she put it perfectly that he was a snake throwing out temptations for those around him. But Benji came through and stayed true. I grew very fond of Benji and continued to like him till the end. I think he would turn out to be a good man. Yvonne
Frequent Contributor
Posts: 56
Registered: ‎11-03-2008
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Re: The Black National Anthem

Ah the end of summer, a sign that some good things come to an end. For Benji and his

brother it was a definate turning point, from the carefree days as children and now moving

forward to the adult world of responsiblity.  I feel we all at some point in our growing up

years can relate to Sag Harbor, I know I have in many of the chapters in this delightful

novel. In fact, while reading some of the chapters it took me back to my youth and found

myself realting to Benji alot.

Frequent Contributor
Posts: 108
Registered: ‎11-24-2008
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Re: The Black National Anthem

Labor day was a sign of the end of summer. It was  a time for the families to get together one last time before returning to the city. It was also time for the men to show off their cooking skills one last time. Benji and Reggie would be enjoying themselves being out before returning to rules and regulations of school again. I think Benji and Reggie matured a little this summer. Benji and Reggie learned to be more responsible by taking jobs during the summer.Benji was right when he said he didn't know much. So his big plans for the future might work out once he starts going out more.
Inspired Contributor
Posts: 73
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: The Black National Anthem

I thought it was a bit sad how Benji saw himself as a sort of loser.

 The outcast the one that doesnt fit it.

 I felt like that in school too and still do in some groups.

 he seems to have alot of personal insight and observes things around him.

  Barry David seems like the trouble maker that came out of no where. No one wants to be connected to him and his a major show off to the smaller kids.


Benji and Reggie both grew up alot that summer.  Now their lives are not as woven together as they once were.

 One of my favorite chapters of the book.
Distinguished Wordsmith
Posts: 529
Registered: ‎11-05-2006
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Re: The Black National Anthem

Well, Ain't No Stopping Us Now, was not the Black National Anthem I was expecting but imo it is very appropriate to describe not only Benji but the African-Americans who made Sag Harbor their summer home.

Come the end of summer Benji is coming into his own, he knows and, I think, accepts himself as he is and is ready to take on the world and perhaps the ladies.

The parents of Sag Harbor babies are up and coming movers and shakers.  They want to enjoy life and each other just like millions of other people. 


"I think of a vast country to the far borders of which I am journeying but will never reach."
The Uncommon Reader

"You've been running around naked in the stacks again, haven't you?"
"Um, maybe."
The Time Traveler's Wife

It is with books as with men; a very small number play a great part.
Posts: 7
Registered: ‎10-21-2008
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Re: The Black National Anthem

I really enjoyed this chapter. It completely captured the end of the summer vibe. When I was younger the end of the summer was inately tied with a "new beginning". ..The hopes & fears for the upcoming school year. As a child the start of a school year was the "new year" in my mind. The final cookout of the summer season was a New Year's Eve party of sorts. I could envision the block party in Sag Harbor.  Neighbors catching up with eachother one last time before they turn back to their "real lives". They are thinking of what they'd done over the summer and what the coming months will bring to their lives.


(be back later to discuss the other questions)



Inspired Contributor
Posts: 44
Registered: ‎10-19-2006

Re: The Black National Anthem

[ Edited ]

"Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now" is a very appropriate anthem. When I listen to the song, I can picture Sag Harbor on Labor Day. The song is so compelling and sings of attaining success because of the triumph over obstacles. It inspires the young to fight for their future and the retired to rejoice in their accomplishments. On another note, I was also touch by how the song was brought back into the spotlight to celebrate Obama's climb, his success, and his future. In Obama, so many young see themselves. Ahhh, tear. Great ending to the book and great connection to the present. Timeless.
 Obama visits Fayetteville, NC. Crowd dancing. It is a jumbled video from a poor quality camera, so it may be hard to watch for those with vestibular (motion/inner ear) defensiveness. "Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now" preformed on BBC’s Last Choir Standing Lyrics to "Purple Rain". I could not link a video, or even the music, because Prince won the legal battle to remove his music from youtube and similar sites. I understand why he did it, but I would beg to disagree with his decision (I am one of those people who will not buy any of his music out of spite when I might have otherwise because it has also captured memories of my own coming of age time of life). Looking at the lyrics though, and remembering the intensity of the song, I could definitely see how it was the summer of “Purple Rain” for Benji.

Message Edited by mapleann on 03-16-2009 12:18 AM
Inspired Contributor
Posts: 36
Registered: ‎01-26-2009

Re: The Black National Anthem

I think that the Labor Day celebration is a great look at a microcosm of America, whether it be black or white. They did something as a community...something they did all summer long by socialzing "down the beach". They all had a niche to fill in the community...the best desserts, hot dogs, drinks, etc. The kids knew this was "the end" till next summer, and it was a BIG shindig.  No matter how the rest of the summer went, this would be a FAMILY occasion!


I think Benji is a bit nostalgic for when he was part of the little group...he knew that he didn't have a long time left as one of the "kids"...that IF he came back (remember, his sister told him to get out and not come back!) he would no longer be right where he is at this moment.  I also think he was just a little sad that there wasn't a "little Benji" to take his place.


I disliked Barry David from the get go. He's truly a last-minute antagonist in the story. He seems to be brought in to stir the pot and make trouble. In the end, no one wants to claim him. He does all the things that these kids were taught NOT to do. He thinks he's better and could whip all the little kids. Barry David hasn't been there for all the years and doesn't know the protocol.  


At the end, I feel like Benji and Reggie both see that they've grown up a LOT. Being left alone for longer periods, gaining independence by getting jobs...they finally broke the Benji 'n Reggie/Reggie 'n Benji "twin thing" they had going. They are still brothers, but they know they're finally individuals.