I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. Letters to Santa Claus. Love letters to boyfriends. Entries to my diaries in my adolescent and teen years. Entries in my journals throughout my adults years.
I went FB Live on Saturday after I moved myself to tears writing a story I plan to submit to Chicken Soup for the Soul. I wrote about my experience of having a stroke, at 44 years old, with no preexisting risk factors. I wrote about the natural inclination to ask God, “Why me? Haven’t I been through enough?”
I ended on the note of gratefulness that the stroke was just one more thing that God has brought me through. His Word doesn’t say bad things won’t happen to bad people. In fact, it says, “In this world you will have trouble.” Following that text says, “but, Fear not, I will be with you.” How comforting is that?
By the time I finished the piece, I knew that, whenever it is published, it will be a blessing to whoever reads it.
In a genre known for being traditionally white and male, Octavia Butler broke new ground in science fiction as an African American woman. Born in California in 1947, Butler was an avid reader despite having dyslexia, was a storyteller by 4, and began writing at the age of 10. Drawn to science fiction because of its boundless possibilities for imagination, she was quickly frustrated by the lack of people she could identify with so she decided to create her own.
Butler took the science fiction world by storm. Her evocative novels featuring race, sex, power and humanity were highly praised and attracted audience beyond their genre. They would eventually be translated into multiple languages and sell more than a million copies. One of her best-known novels Kindred, published in 1979, tells the story of a Black woman who must travel back in time in order to save her own life by saving a white, slaveholding ancestor. Over her career, she won two Hugo Awards, two Nebula Awards and in 1995 she became the first science fiction writer to win the MacArthur fellowship. The self-described “outsider’s” legacy inspired future generations of women including Valjeanne Jeffers, Nnedi Okorafor and even singer/songwriter Janelle Monáe.
Born in 1934, poet, writer and political activist Amiri Baraka used his writing as a weapon against racism and became one of the most widely published African American writers. Known for his social criticism and incendiary style, Baraka explored the anger of Black Americans and advocated scientific socialism. Often confrontational and designed to awaken audiences to the political needs of Black Americans, Baraka was a prominent voice in American literature.
Inciting controversy throughout his career, he was accused of fostering hate while at the same time being lauded for speaking out against oppression. Often focusing on Black Liberation and White Racism, he spent most of his life fighting for the rights of African Americans. With a writing career that spanned nearly fifty years, Baraka is respected as one of the leading revolutionary cultural and political leaders, especially in his hometown of Newark, NJ. His representations of race and wisdom have made him an influential part of the Black Arts Movement along with Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez and Maya Angelou. Together they have gone on to inspire younger generations like Terrence Hayes.
Though he spent most of his life living abroad to escape the racial prejudice in the United States, James Baldwin is the quintessential American writer. Best known for his reflections on his experience as an openly gay Black man in white America, his novels, essays and poetry make him a social critic who shared the pain and struggle of Black Americans.
Born in Harlem in 1924, Baldwin caught the attention of fellow writer Richard Wright who helped him secure a grant in order to support himself as a writer. He left to live in Paris at age 24 and went on to write Go Tell it on the Mountain which was published in 1953, a novel unlike anything written to date. Speaking with passion and depth about the Black struggle in America, it has become an American classic. Baldwin would continue to write novels, poetry and essays with a refreshingly unique perspective for the rest of his life. In 1956, Giovanni’s Room raised the issues of race and homosexuality at a time when it was taboo. And during the Civil Rights Movement, he published three of his most important collections of essays, “Notes of a Native Son” (1955), “Nobody Knows My Name” (1961) and “The Fire Next Time” (1963).
James Baldwin provided inspiration for later generations of artists to speak out about the gay experience in Black America like Staceyann Chin and Nick Burd.
Acclaimed American poet, author and activist Maya Angelou was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1928. Often referred to as a spokesman for African Americans and women through her many works, her gift of words connected all people who were “committed to raising the moral standards of living in the United States.” 
“I want to write so that the reader … can say, ‘You know, that’s the truth. I wasn’t there, and I wasn’t a six-foot black girl, but that’s the truth.’ ” 
Influenced by Black authors like Langston Hughes, W.E.B. Du Bois and Paul Lawrence Dunbar, her love of language developed at a young age. Her most famous work I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was published in 1969 and became the first in seven autobiographies of Angelou’s life.
A prolific poet, her words often depict Black beauty, the strength of women and the human spirit, and the demand for social justice. Her first collection of poems Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1972, the same year she became the first Black woman to have a screenplay produced. Writing for adults and children, Angelou was one of several African American women at the time who explored the Black female autobiographical tradition. Other female authors and contemporaries include Paule Marshall who published the novel Brown Girl, Brownstones and Illinois Poet Laureate Gwendolyn Brooks, many of whose poems lyricize the urban poor.
During the Christmas holiday season, I couldn’t browse my FB feed without seeing friends rave about the show, Bridgerton, which was streaming on Netflix. Most popular comments were regarding the beauty of seeing people of color in positions of power during this period in England and oh the costumes! I’d planned to watch it but I get in moods sometimes of being tired of streaming TV series! So time consuming. Give me a 2hr movie so I can just be done.
Anyway, one Sunday I gave in to the pressure. Over the two to three days it took me to finish up, I found myself only minimally excited about what I’d seen. Definitely not planning to put the series on repeat, not even for the handsome Duke of Hastings. I try to stay positive on social media so I was comfortable keeping my thoughts to myself.
But then I came across this article someone posted in a black writer’s FB group I’m in. Her words inspired and gave me the courage to express my true thoughts on my FB page:
“I love the fact that this writer put into words the thoughts that floated around my head while trying to support Shonda Rhimes, who I have since learned didn’t create the show but is one of its producers. But the truth is I’m sick and tired of having to seeing the black girl in the show get pregnant when she’s having sex just like her white counterparts (remember that scenario from the Netflix series All American) and seeing the glorification of a black man loving a white woman (so played out). I need more stories of healthy black love and black girl excellence.
This why I write! To change the narratives of stories told about black and brown people.
The other day I was sitting at work , minding my own business when, out of nowhere, WHAM. Three writing ideas hit me all at once. As is my custom, I jotted the titles on the nearest sheet of paper—a sticky note pad conveniently kept next to my computer. After I wrote them down, I tore the paper off and secured it to my personal laptop, for safekeeping.
I resisted the urge to scribble down my the thoughts on the subject because I’m actively practicing sticking to my current writing project—my third novel. This is very difficult but it also gives me a surge of creative energy to move my manuscript forward. I’m working on the first draft of the novel, and for the first time, not trying to write it in the linear fashion I did with the first two. Instead, I’m allowing my mind to work freely, jumping from scene to scene, jotting down notes, adding descriptive points to characters, etc. This awesome writing software, Scrivener, is the conduit that allows this freedom with everything in one place. In fact, I’ll probably create projects, in Scrivener, for the ideas that I wrote down on the sticky note.
I used to worry about losing the excitement for new ideas if I didn’t immediately stop what I was working on and start writing on the new idea. Over the years, though, I realized that when ideas are close to my heart and meant to be written, they will be written. Case in point, the idea for my current novel came to me while I was finishing my second novel. Not only that, these new ideas are my personal stories that I long to share with the world. Although writing them requires the same in-depth process of creating characters, scenery, plot points that fiction require, it’s slightly different because I’ll be recalling memories from my past.
Similar to ones Yoga practice, every writers’ practice is unique to them. I would love to know how other writers handle the injection of new ideas when you’re in the middle of a project. Share your writing or creative process in the comments below.
I began Father’s Day 2020 with a bike ride through my neighborhood on the bike I bought that I’d taken to the wheel repaired the day before. Considering my father introduced me to bike riding as a child, as well as all of my lifetime fitness endeavors, it seemed the ideal thing to on the annual day to celebrate dads.
Along the bike ride through cul-de-sac neighborhood, I listened to my favorite Pandora station, singing along to my favorite old school R&B jams. Again, I thought of my dad. I remember riding in the backseat of our red car. He always had, what sounded to me as an eight or nine year old girl, like old school music, and he usually sang along.
Wow! I’m so much like him, I thought.
I pushed my bike ride for thirty minutes when I was actually ready to head home after 11 minutes, according to the time on my watch. Since I’m no slacker, I kept riding until I reached a suitable time to be able to claim that I’d exercised. When I returned home, I went inside and then put my 2 dogs on their leashes. The weather was so pleasant that I decided to continue my workout in the backyard while the dogs were doing their thing.
I retrieved my hula hoop and 2 sets of hand weights and kept the music playing in my ears. I balanced the hula hoop around my waist while lifting 5lb dumbbells above my head, working my shoulders. Then I took the hula hoop and swung it from hand to hand, working the sides of my waistline. Exercising in the backyard made me think of my dad too. Remembering him jumping rope on the paved basketball quart in our backyard after he’d completed his jog around the neighborhood.
Wow! I’m so much like him, I thought again.
It was then that just a twinge of sadness. Because me and this man who is so much apart of who I am are not in the relationship that I wish we were. I don’t allow the sadness to linger because it is not mine to hold. I am not at fault for the lack of relationship with my dad. It was his decision to cut off communication with me. It was my decision to stop trying to make him change his mind.
Today, my dad and I have a distant relationship in which I don’t question his love for me and I try not to give too much thought to the “why” of our relationship. Instead, I love him from afar, sending him text messages on his birthday, Father’s Day, and Veteran’s Day. I chose those days because they don’t really require a reply, which he may not be inclined to do. But if he does respond with “thank you”, it’s all good. If he doesn’t, it’s still all good…for me, at least. I figure I can’t be wrong being on the giving end of love.
While this is not the daddy/daughter relationship that I envisioned with my dad at this point in my life, this is what it is. He raised me with the belief that family relationships were all the mattered, but in my adult life, his actions have displayed quite the opposite. Therefore, I’ve had to see him for the person he is today and deal with him accordingly.
I’ve had people question me about the efforts I have made with trying to maintain a relationship with my dad. Some think I do too much to even text him on the few occasions a year that I do. Some have said I could do more to improve our relationship.
If this topic of daddy/daughter relationships is of interest to you or someone you know, I invite you to join me and three other contributing authors to the book, in a virtual event on June 27, 2020, from 2-4 PM. We’ll be reading excerpts of our stories and having a conversion about this silent pandemic.
The country is in an uproar. We were already dealing with the world’s first pandemic. Then our United States had to remind black America that CVOID-19 is the least of our worries. Because once there is a vaccine–and it’s coming–CVOID-19 will cease to be the problem that it is today. However, black men in America, thus black women, will never be safe in this country.
I have not spoken about the issue on social media but, of course, I’m having those conversations with family, friends, coworkers. I choose to protect my peace by avoiding the combative nature of social media.
Make no mistakes about it–my heart is broken that on the same day a white woman threatened a black man about calling the police to say that she was being threatened by a black man when all he did was ask her to put her dog on a leash per the park rules, that another black man was killed on the street at the hands of a police officer…all captured on social media.
My heart is broken because that white woman knew the implication of the call to the police on that innocent black man. She wanted the black man to run away in fear when he wasn’t doing anything wrong. Simply challenged her privilege.
My heart is broken that those police officers in Minneapolis didn’t even flinch at the fact that they were being recorded when they killed that black man. Why? Because our in-justice systems continues to vindicate these officers regardless of what the video shows, regardless of what hundreds of witnesses can testify to.
My heart is broken because I am a mother to a young black man (16) who will soon have to go out in the world without me at his side. I am an aunt to four more young black men (ages 17, 13, 11, 10) who will do they same. I have a black brother. I have black uncles. I have black cousins. I have a black son-in-law. I have black men friends. Good men. Not criminals. But, guess what, even if they did do something against the law, they are entitled to the same due process of their white counterparts.
My heart is broken that within our black community some our people want to talk about black on black crime. While it’s definitely a conversation to have, let’s have it when black on black when that happen. Right now, the conversation is WE are not okay with police officers, whose jobs are to PROTECT & SERVE kill black men when they are already under arrest, when their backs are turned, when they are unarmed, when they simply fit the description of suspect.
My heart is broken that I couldn’t fully enjoy the beautiful weekend because of the civil unrest, protest, black CNN reporters being arrested doing the same job of a white CNN reporter, a random shooting into a crowd of protesters, looting across the country. And let me not forget the violence inciting words spewed by the man who is the head of our country that remain on Twitter for the world to see today.
So you may not see me comment on videos and posts on Facebook, but know I am infuriated, sad, feeling hopeless. Something has to change.