What Have You Done?

Photo by Christina Morillo

“A time comes when silence is betrayal.”

– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


On October 16, 2022, I posted a video of things you didn’t know about MLK to TikTok and Instagram. I followed this with a video of women who refused to give up their seats on public transportation before Rosa Parks on October 26th.

And my social media has not been the same since.

My TikTok account increased from 200+ followers when I posted the videos to 1K.

The Rosa Parks video has over 200K views, 30K likes, and over 3K shares on TikTok.

The MLK video is up 57K views, 7K likes, 948 saves, and over 1K shares on Instagram.

But this has not been without controversy.

Since posting the videos, I have experienced attacks on me personally and Dr. King’s legacy. I am okay with this. It comes with the territory.

When telling the truth, the truth teller must expect push back. Prepare your heart for testing. Otherwise, should you wish not to receive negative feedback, do nothing and say nothing.

If you wish to be liked by everyone and not change the world, don’t. Sit on your hands and be quiet.

My calling does not require me to do the latter.

I only have a few questions for those who find fault in me, Dr. King, the videos, and anything I put out.

What have you done to move the needle forward for the advancement of anything?

When you call out Dr. King’s discrepancies and highlight his sins over his triumphs, do you ask yourself what you have done?

Do you consider in your own heart the skeletons in your own closet that no one knows about but you and YAH?

Do you consider your own flaws in your tearing down of someone else?

What programs did you start? What rally did you attend? How many people have you fed? How many people have you clothed?

Is trolling people online and preaching from Facebook and Black Twitter the extent of your ministry? Is debating doctrine on YouTube the catalyst of your movement?

What real work have you done? Whose life was made better by your presence?

We should ask ourselves these questions before critiquing someone else’s mission.

Don’t let your food get cold worrying about what’s on someone else’s plate.

And, for the record, my post was not about Dr. King, the Christian God, and the symbol of white sympathy that this society has made him out to be. My post was about a better understanding of Dr. King, the man, his positive actions, and how his activism has been largely watered down.

For More Black History Facts Be Sure to Visit the Archive Here and Lookout for the Book Coming 2023.

What Indie Authors Can Learn from the Kyrie Irving Controversy

Kyrie Irving is in hot water for posting a link to the documentary Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America to his Twitter account. The movie is a film adaption of the Independently Published book by the same name. It is alleged that the movie has much antisemitism in it, (I disagree but that’s a different post), and Irving has since taken the tweet down and apologized to the Jewish community via an Instagram post.

This post is about how he found the documentary and what Indie Authors can learn about platforms.

Kyrie Irving found the documentary by researching Yahweh on Amazon, saying that’s what his name translates into. According to this interview, he typed the name in the search engine, and the movie came up.

Many Indie Authors have long-cut ties with Amazon, which is their business. What I hope we can gain is an understanding of how people search for information, namely books, and the role that it plays for us as authors.

Photo by Ricardo Esquive

Amazon is not a distributor or bookstore. Amazon is a retailer that sells many things but is known for books. They are known for books because, in addition to selling books, they operate a Self-Publishing arm called Kindle Direct Publishing or KDP. Amazon is so very well connected with books that bookstores hate them, and people who think of buying a book (and now movies) turn to Amazon almost instinctively.

Amazon is also the world’s second-largest search engine, with Google being the first.

“Amazon, with 54 percent of product searches taking place, is the world’s largest search engine for e-commerce. Technically, Amazon is the second largest search engine in the world excluding Google.”

Decoding the World’s Largest E-commerce Search Engine: Amazon’s A9 Algorithm 

When someone wants to search for a book and does not want to visit an offline bookstore like Barnes and Noble, where will they search first?

That’s right. Amazon.

Hebrews to Negroes was released on December 6, 2014.

Today (11/2022), it is a #1 Bestseller with tons of new reviews. Yes, he searched for the movie, but the book is a #1 Bestseller.

All because a rich and famous celebrity tweeted the link.

And this celebrity found it on the second largest search engine in the US.

The Point

When deciding what platforms to put your book on, consider not what you want but what readers want.

When your average reader wants to look up a movie, topic, or book, they are not going to Smashwords. They are not going to Draft2Digital. They are not even going to Goodreads like that. They are also not flooding B&N.com, though they’ll visit the brick-and-mortar bookstore (catch that).

When people (not necessarily people who are always on the internet and are familiar with the book world but everyday people with jobs who happen to want to buy something) want to look up information, they go to Google and Amazon.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

Ignoring this is just not good business sense, except that your goal is not to make money from your books or bring a whole lot of awareness to it, which is cool. Not everyone publishes a book for these reasons.

(It is also not wrong to be on the other platforms, also known in the Indie community as “going wide.” It means you are not exclusive to Amazon but have your book available at other online retailers, which is awesome. I go wide myself. At the risk of steering away from the topic, that’s a post for a different day.)

However, for those of you Self-Publishing books you want people to buy, not being on Amazon is not bad or wrong, but it is leaving a lot of money (and exposure) on the table. 

This post is a nudge to consider more strongly the platforms you wish to sell your book (if you are selling it).

It is a reminder to go to the places where your potential reader will most likely hang out. 

That is the message.

Kyrie Irving found Hebrews to Negroes and made it a bestseller by posting the Amazon link (without a caption) because the book was sitting on a platform where readers are most likely to search for books. 

Go where your readers are most likely to hang out, and search for books like yours.


Click here to access more Indie Author Basics Articles.

Black History Fun Fact Friday – 5 Things You Didn’t Learn About the 1963 16th Street Church Bombing

Yesterday marked the 59th Anniversary of the bombing of the sixteenth street baptist church that killed four little girls on September 15, 1963, in Birmingham, Alabama. After revisiting revisions for the book, I realized I hadn’t included a chapter on this story. You’ll have to get the deeper details later. For now, here are five things we didn’t learn about that tragedy.

Bombings Were Common in Black Homes and Churchs At That Time

Part of the shock and awe factor was the audacity of someone to bomb a church. But, this wasn’t the first time a bombing had taken place. African Americans lived in constant fear as bombs and riots erupted during summer. On December 25, 1956, the KKK bombed the home of civil rights activist Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth. Fifty dynamite explosions occurred in Birmingham between 1947 and 1965, giving the city its nickname “Bombingham.”

Campaign to End Community Integration

The bombings started as a campaign by white people to stop Black people from moving into all-white neighborhoods. Governor George Wallace and Birmingham’s Commissioner of Public Safety Eugene “Bull” Conner went the extra mile in their fight to keep the south segregated. The starting point of many marches, the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was a target because it was where civil rights activists held many meetings during the 1960s.

The Fifth Little Girl

A fifth little girl was injured but survived. We don’t hear much about Sarah Collins Rudolph, but she was the sister to Addie Mae Collins and was present in the basement with the girls during the explosion. She was blessed to survive, though she lost her right eye.

The Two Little Black Boys

Sadly, the four girls weren’t the only tragedy that happened that day. Shortly after the church bombing, someone killed two black boys, Johnny Robinson Jr. and Virgil Ware. In the book, we’ll dig deeper into their story and what led to their deaths.

A Separate Service

With over 8,000 attendees and Dr. King giving the eulogy, Carole Robertson’s family opted out of the joint funeral and held a separate, private funeral for her. I can’t say that I blame them. What’s worse than seeing the small casket of your now deceased daughter but also having to see the three coffins of her friends?

Black History Facts You Didn’t Learn in School

Coming 2023

Black History Fun Fact Friday – Juneteenth

I have not done a Black History Fun Fact in a while because the book requires my time. Soon, I’d like you to have a complete Black History book to read.

For now, with Juneteenth around the corner, I thought this would be a great time to revisit the article below. It was originally published June of 2018 and then updated again last year (’21)

Enjoy.


Many Black Americans are replacing their fourth of July celebrations with Juneteenth. For many, this day is a celebration of freedom. Although, even after Juneteenth, many Blacks were still enslaved and suffering.2154

Born on February 12, 1809, near Hodgenville, Kentucky, Abraham Lincoln is most famous for preserving the Union during the American Civil War and bringing about the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States.

However, before he wrote the esteemed Emancipation Proclamation, several efforts were made to preserve the Union without freeing the enslaved. These efforts included Colonization, or the idea that a majority of the African American population should leave the United States and settle in Africa or Central America.

On August 14, 1862, five years after The Dred Scott Decision that reiterated Blacks were not, and as “a second class of persons,” could not be citizens, Abraham Lincoln hosted a “Deputation of Free Negroes” event at the White House. Led by the Rev. Joseph Mitchell, commissioner of emigration for the Interior Department, it was the first time African Americans had been invited to the White House to weigh in on a political matter. 

Lincoln planned to produce a document that would not only free some of the enslaved but, once freed, call on them to leave the country voluntarily. This idea, Lincoln’s Panama Plan, was not new but had been circulating among white racists, elites, and eugenicists since the 1700s.

“In 1816, a group of white enslavers and politicians in Washington, D.C. created the American Colonization Society (A.C.S.) to promote the removal of free Black people, who would be encouraged to leave the United States and resettle in West Africa.” A.C.S. and its many chapters hoped this would rid them of free Black people while preserving slavery.

-The 1619 Project, pg. 23

These organizations did not only speak on Colonization, but the U.S. government allocated much money for its implementation. In April 1862, Congress passed the District of Columbia Act, emancipating enslaved persons in Washington and appropriating $100,000 to resettle “such free persons of African descent now residing in said District, including those liberated by this act, as may desire to emigrate.” 

To make a long story short, Lincoln’s original plan was to have a document that, while freeing some enslaved people, also required those freedmen to, sum up, “go back to Africa.”

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Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, to end slavery in the States that were in Rebellion. The proclamation declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”

“The Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to slave states that weren’t in rebellion; Kentucky, Delaware, Missouri, and Maryland. It also didn’t apply to territories. It didn’t apply to Tennessee, lower Louisiana, and the counties of Virginia that were to become West Virginia.”

-William Spivey 

With the passing of the 13th Amendment in January of 1865, slavery was officially deemed illegal in America, freeing all people enslaved.

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Well. Wait, except the people in Texas and other places.

Many Texas men, women, and children were still being held in bondage and did not know that slavery was over.

News of the supposed emancipation did not spread as quickly as the movies would have us to believe. Many slave-owners packed up their belongings and moved to Texas in mass.

“Since the capture of New Orleans in 1862, slave owners in Mississippi, Louisiana and other points east had been migrating to Texas to escape the Union Army’s reach.”

-Henry Louis Gates Jr.

More than 150,000 enslaved people had made the trek west, according to historian Leon Litwack in his book Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of SlaveryAs one former enslaved person recalled, “it looked like everybody in the world was going to Texas.” For the next two years, the enslaved would live removed from the updates of the war, and slavery would go on, business as usual.

These men, women, and children were still enslaved until June 19, 1865. Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas, with news that the war had ended.

This, the freeing of the enslaved in Texas, is the reason many Black Americans celebrate Juneteenth instead of July 4th as their National Independence Day.

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property, between former masters and slaves and the connection heretofore existing between them, becomes that between employer and hired labor.

The Freedmen are advised to remain at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts; and they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”

The language of this decree is important. Enslaved people are being told they are free two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

They are also being told that they must remain at their present homes (the plantation) and work (continue slave labor) for “wages.” And that any “idleness,” among them won’t be tolerated. 

Much like the Emancipation Proclamation, this order also did not free all enslaved persons.

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“There is much evidence to suggest that southern whites—especially Confederate parolees—perpetrated more acts of violence against newly freed bondspeople in Texas than in other states,” writes historian Elizabeth Hayes Turner in an essay titled “Juneteenth: Emancipation and Memory.” 

“Between the Neches and Sabine rivers and north to Henderson,” she continues, “reports showed that blacks continued in a form of slavery, intimidated by former Confederate soldiers still in uniform and bearing arms.” Murder, lynching, and harassment were common. “You could see lots of Negroes hanging from trees in Sabine bottom right after freedom,” reported one freed slave, “They would catch them swimming across Sabine River and shoot them.”

Celebrations

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African Americans celebrated their freedom with the first official Juneteenth event in 1866, where they read the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 and praised Abraham Lincoln (who repeatedly said his intent was not to abolish slavery but to save the union) as the “great liberator.”

“Free them and make them politically and socially our equals? My own feelings will not admit of this; and if mine would, we well know that those of the great mass of white people will not.”

– Abraham Lincoln, August 21, 1858

“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union.”

– Abraham Lincoln, Letter addressed to Horace Greeley, Washington, August 22, 1862

The celebrations continued until coming to a halt with the institution of Black Codes and, eventually, Jim Crow.

These laws essentially put Blacks back into a form of slavery where they were fully disenfranchised. After the Civil War and the end of slavery, southern states, which had amassed great wealth from slavery, found their economy in shambles. They had to figure out how to keep a slave-like system going.

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Black Codes were laws created to limit the rights of African Americans. They subjected them to criminal prosecution for “offenses” such as loitering, breaking curfew, vagrancy, having weapons, and not carrying proof of employment. These were the same “offenses” that would get enslaved people whipped or sold during slavery.

For example, the enslaved could not travel from place to place without a pass signed by their owner. Those without such a pass could be arrested, jailed, and detained as a runaway. Some owners wrote general passes allowing their slaves to “pass” and “repass.”

Black Codes included Pig Laws that unfairly penalized poor African Americans for crimes such as stealing a pig. It was also a crime to be unemployed.

These laws could be imposed on Black men easily, sending them to jail, and thus, former slave owners turned “entrepreneurs” could lease them to various companies that would work them to death and treat them like they were slaves. This made the states tons of money.

In 1883, about ten percent of Alabama’s total revenue was derived from convict leasing. In 1898, nearly 73 percent of total revenue came from this same source. Death rates among leased convicts were approximately ten times higher than the death rates of prisoners in non-lease states. In 1873, for example, 25 percent of all black leased convicts died.

The laws passed in Texas were similar to those passed in every other Confederate state. Modern-day politicians often make comparisons to Jim Crow as one of the worst periods in African American life.

Jim Crow didn’t have shit on the Black Codes, which was the South’s attempt to recreate enslavement and go back to business as usual. Mass incarceration isn’t a recent invention; during the Black Codes, Black people could do little without running afoul of the law with the penalty being sent back to the fields if they weren’t already there.

William Spivey, Why Celebrate Juneteenth and What Did It Accomplish

Juneteenth didn’t make a full resurgence until The Civil Rights Movement when Blacks began to celebrate it fully again. And while many Blacks have celebrated it for centuries, it still did not become an official Holiday until 1980, when it was made a Texas State Holiday.

Still, it wasn’t until 1997 that Congress recognized June 19 as “Juneteenth Independence Day,” after pressure from a collection of groups like the National Association of Juneteenth Lineage and the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation.


UPDATE:

As of today, June of 2021, Juneteenth is now a National Federal Holiday.

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But the question remains, what exactly did Juneteenth accomplish for the Black man, woman, and child? What freedom did it bring about? Some sum it up this way:

“Today Juneteenth commemorates African American freedom and emphasizes education and achievement. It is a day, a week, and in some areas a month marked with celebrations, guest speakers, picnics and family gatherings. It is a time for reflection and rejoicing. It is a time for assessment, self-improvement and for planning the future.

Its growing popularity signifies a level of maturity and dignity in America long over due. In cities across the country, people of all races, nationalities and religions are joining hands to truthfully acknowledge a period in our history that shaped and continues to influence our society today. Sensitized to the conditions and experiences of others, only then can we make significant and lasting improvements in our society.” – https://juneteenth.com/

But, Spivey brings out another good point worth considering:

“Texas after Juneteenth wasn’t an anomaly. Slavery continued to go on in states in the South, North, and West. In some cases, for several years. Slavery still existed in other parts of the United States and did so until the ratification of the 13th Amendment on December 6, 1865, and beyond.

Slavery still existed in Delaware and Kentucky, which resisted all Union attempts to end slavery and refused to ratify the 13th Amendment. In California, slavery was sort of outlawed in 1850 as a condition for statehood. The exception was slaves who had been brought to California and where the possibility they might return one day to their original home existed, even if that state had voted to ratify the 13th Amendment.

New Jersey had as many as 400 people remain slaves long after Juneteenth. Oregon’s provisional government banned slavery in 1844 but forbade free black people from settling in the territory. Settlers continued to bring slaves with them. General Joseph Lane, a former territorial governor, kept at least one slave on his farm until 1878, 13 years after the passage of the 13th Amendment.”

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It is true Blacks were not free on July 4, 1776. But it is also true many Blacks were not free on June 19, 1865, either.

As many African Americans celebrate and reflect this weekend on what this day means to them, there is certainly much to think about.

For now, it is important to understand that Juneteenth did nothing to restore land or citizenship rights to the 40 million newly freed Blacks. Immediately after African Americans in Texas were freed from chattel slavery in June of 1865, they were required to have labor contracts, and many Blacks returned to their former slave-owners. 


Click HERE for more Black History Fun Facts!

Speaking of Freedom, this is a great time to dive into The Stella Trilogy if you have not already! Below is the link to book one. Enjoy!

About.

In book one, Cynthia McNair and her boyfriend, Alex, express some racists’ feelings toward blacks. They visit Cynthia’s Grandmother Sidney McNair, who recounts the story of her ancestor, a slave named Stella Mae. Cynthia has no idea of her African ancestry or how deep this rabbit hole goes.

How Do You Approach Writing Black Historical Fiction?|Ep. 116 | The Merry Writer Podcast

I got to sit with Ari Meghlen and Rachel Poli of The Merry Writer Podcast on writing Black Historical Fiction. Check it out at one of the links below.

EPISODE SHOW NOTES

Have you ever tried writing diverse characters and didn’t know where to start? Or maybe you want to dive deeper into historical fiction? This week, author Yecheilyah Ysrayl joins Rachel in discussing how to approach writing black historical fiction with plenty of tips, advice, and fun conversation. As always, thanks for listening, and let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Pod Link:

https://pod.link/1504502949

YouTube: 

https://youtu.be/Lmufz1WW5l4

Podbean: 

https://themerrywriterpodcast.podbean.com/e/how-do-you-approach-writing-black-historical-fiction-ep-116-the-merry-writer-podcast/?token=04b9284c45a417396afde887ca5a6fcc

And be sure to check out Rachel and Ari’s blogs below!

Rachel:

http://rachelpoliauthor.com/

Ari:

https://arimeghlen.co.uk/

Let the Words Be Seasoned

Photo by DapurMelodi from Pexels

There are times when Black authors find themselves fighting against those who wish them to edit their soul. Take the salt out the meat. Take the voice out the work, and leave it seasonless. To quote Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, “People still have a white, western idea of how intellect is ‘spose to walk in the world.” 

Let it not be lost that how Black people speak, including how we write, has been under fire since the days they forbade us to read and write. Considering us fools (and hoping we’d believe we were), they told us our language was broken. Told us massa was some jumbled version of master to justify our alleged stupidity and inhumanness. (Note: Massah is a Hebrew word meaning burden or oppressor. We called them what they were.)

The audacity to dilute language rich in culture by “correcting” it is just as brutal as stripping away someone’s name and replacing it with your own. What does your Ph.D. in poetry have to do with my grandmother’s tongue?

The way our slang terms do not always mirror what is heard or written within collegiate circles.

The way proverbs and parables roll off the tongue only to be shackled to some white scholars’ standards of brilliance. He think it’s nonsense how Jay Jay and Man Man ‘nem talk about how they be chillin. Or how Aunt Lou tells one of her grandchiren to go wrench off this spoon. She puts her hands on her hips, waves and says ‘How you?’ (She means it the way she says it, leaving out the ‘are.’) 

The way the world attempted to tuck knowledge away from us, hide from us its secrets. (Though, we already knew them.) 

Black writers do not need to sacrifice their soul or shapeshift into white standards of intellect to create something beautiful. They need only to be who they are and let the words be seasoned.

Do You Know Your Somebodiness?

Crazy to think that in just a few short hours, this day will be part of history. As I write this, I think about how easily today becomes a memory. The question is, will it be a day worth remembering? Will I remember a cold day with clear skies and the birds building their nests in the tree outside my bedroom window?

As I sit here wearing my I am Black History sweatshirt and my blackballed fists earrings, I am forced to ask myself what it means. What does it mean to be the embodiment of black history? 

When I think about it, I think about legacy. Those things we leave behind for others to grab onto. We live in a world where a person’s significance is realized the most after death. Something about the absence of their presence forces us to consider the nobility of the lives they lived and what we take from it.

Toni Morrison once said, “the function of freedom is to free someone else.” I think about the responsibility of that, and I resolve that being black history in the flesh means to live my life in such a way that black people feel free. 

Still, I am constantly contemplating what that means in all its fullness. How does a person feel free? What parameters must exist for an individual to feel uncaged? These are not simple questions to answer, yet I think we answer them daily with our actions. I think we answer them with the lives we live.

Alice Walker said “the most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” I supposed this is why Dr. King talked about holding on to your somebodiness, because your somebodiness is your power. Your sense of identity and belonging. Your truth. 

Do you know your somebodiness? Do you know your mother’s name and her mother’s name? Do you know your people? Do you know from what root you sprang? How much time do you spend investigating how to reclaim your own identity? You say you are black history. You wear the shirts, use the hashtags and pump your black fists into the air, but do you know your name? Do you know what was taken from you? Do you know what was not?

Do you know your own somebodiness