Truth is Stranger than Fiction

When I started this blog and chose “truth is stranger than fiction,” as the tagline, it was puzzling to people. Someone even reached out to correct, me, saying, “don’t you mean the truth is stronger than fiction?”

No. Stranger is the word I meant.

What it seeks to communicate is that nothing we can create can be as unusual as what we find in actual life, and speaks metaphorically of the unsettling realness of truth—the “strangeness” of reality. You think something is weird until you find out just how deep the rabbit hole goes. You think my blog name and the tagline is strange until you understand what it means.

Everything that is happening right now, I could quickly put in a novel. Except, there is no story I can conjure up that would be equivalent to the real-life terror that blacks face and have faced every day in this country.

As someone who writes Black Historical Fiction, there is a strangeness about what’s going on because what happened in the 60s is still happening. And as I place my fictional characters amid events that actually happened, I realize that I am a character in the present world, a world that mirrors the one passed. Our children and their children will read about what happened this year, and they will ask the question, “what was it like living in a world with civil unrest because of the mistreatment of blacks during a pandemic?”

The first five months of 2020 have been brutal on every level, and we are living in what will one day be part of America’s history, and it must not be lost to us that we are part of that history.

If America were a house, racism would be the foundation on which this house sits. People don’t want to hear that many of the founding fathers were slave-owners. They don’t want to hear about the Slave Patrols turned southern police departments. People don’t want to hear that dismantling systemic racism means to dismantle that system. And people certainly do not want to hear about the spiritual connections between the afflictions blacks have endured, their real identity and heritage, and their place in America.

But there is no one way of looking at everything that’s going on, but this is also what makes writing a powerful tool for shedding light on these truths, exposing prejudices, and breaking down barriers, and eventually whole systems.

Everyone can’t be on the ground. I won’t say “on the front lines,” because I don’t believe there is one way to be on the front lines. The term comes from the military line or part of an army that is closest to the enemy. To be on the “front line” means to be closeted to the enemy, which is usually depicted as physically facing him. But there are other ways to face the enemy, and one way is to write with accuracy.

Write the truth. Write it as raw and as bloody as it is in real life. Pass down stories to the next generation that will teach them the truth about who they are. Take Toni Morrison, for example, who in the 60s and 70s chose to publish the books of black writers telling the truth and exposing lies. Books play a significant role in educating a people, and miseducation has a lot to do with what is and is not, written in books.

Writers are, therefore, also on the front lines and in a powerful way. In the words of Nina Simone, “you can’t help it. As far as I’m concerned, an artist’s duty is to reflect the times.” 

As devastating as things are right now, what black writers write today, be it a poem or blog post or scholarly article, can make a difference in the next world.

In this 99th year of the destruction of Black Wall Street, I am thinking about ways to improve my fiction, poetry, and other writings to provide a better historical context and learning experience for the next generation.

I hope I can adequately contextualize it in a way that clearly communicates what today’s world was like for those who lived it.


Be Sure to Pick Up Your Copy of my Black Historical Fiction Series, The Stella Trilogy and to leave a review on Amazon. Click Here.

Black History Fun Fact Friday – Slave Patrols: A Brief History of American Policing

This post was originally published under another blog series Unfamiliar Faces: Lost to History. Due the current climate I have revised this post and re-categorized it under Black History Fun Facts.


Originally Published: July 14, 2015

Revised May 29, 2020

slave-patrols-police-origins

The tragic murder of George Floyd, who sadly joins the ranks of several unarmed black men killed by the police, has sparked outrage, protests, and unrest. Images and footage of the officer, Derek Chauvin (who had 18 prior complaints against him according to the Minneapolis Police Department’s Internal Affairs), kneeling on Floyd’s neck as he repeated the too familiar phrase, “I can’t breathe!” is both horrifying and heartbreaking.

In response to the looting taking place by protesters of Floyd’s death, American President Donald Trump went on to call the looters “Thugs,” commenting that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” The phrase comes from a 1967 quote used by Miami’s police chief, Walter Headley, in 1967, when he addressed his department’s “crackdown on … slum hoodlums,” according to a United Press International article from the time.

From the killing of Emmett Till in 1955 that sparked the Civil Rights Movement, to the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church killing those four little girls in Birmingham Alabama in 1963 (Addie Mae Collins, 14, Cynthia Wesley, 14, Carole Robertson, 14, and Carol Denise McNair, 11). From the 1965 Watts Riots that broke out over Marquette Frye, to the police officers who beat Rodney King in 1992 and the riots that broke out over their acquittal. From the killing of Trayvon Martin, Micheal Brown, Ahmaud Aubrey, Breonna Taylor and many others, Black people are frustrated and crying out for redemption.

Today, we look at the racists’ roots in American policing.

Slave Patrols had three functions: to chase, apprehend, and return the enslaved who had run away to their “owners,” to organize terror to deter slave-revolts and to maintain discipline for slave-workers who were subject to violence if they broke plantation rules. These organizations evolved into southern police departments whose job was to control the freed slaves who were now working as laborers and to enforce the Jim Crow segregation laws that denied freed people certain human rights.

“Early American police departments shared two primary characteristics: they were notoriously corrupt and flagrantly brutal. This should come as no surprise in that police were under the control of local politicians. The local political party ward leader in most cities appointed the police executive in charge of the ward leader’s neighborhood. The ward leader, also, most often was the neighborhood tavern owner, sometimes the neighborhood purveyor of gambling and prostitution, and usually the controlling influence over neighborhood youth gangs who were used to get out the vote and intimidate opposition party voters. In this system of vice, organized violence and political corruption it is inconceivable that the police could be anything but corrupt (Walker 1996).” –  Dr. Gary Potter

Slave Patrollers were white men who rode around on horseback carrying guns, rope, and whips, ready to capture the enslaved. Their job was also to enforce the pass system, a pass, or ticket, signed by the slave master that authorized the enslaved to travel. Without this pass, an enslaved person could be beaten, and beatings sometimes happened even when the person had a pass, eerily similar to black men and women who are beaten, choked, gunned down, and stepped on even when they have done nothing wrong.

In her book, Slave Patrols: Law and Violence in Virginia and the Carolinas, Sally Hadden writes, “mounted man presents an awesome figure, and the power and majesty of a group of men on horseback, at night, could terrify slaves into submission.” Many members of the black community still refer to large police vehicles as “patty-wagons,” a play on the former “paddyrollers,” which was also a nickname for Slave Patrols.

Run, nigger, run; the pateroller catch you,
Run, nigger, run, almost dawn.
Run, nigger, run; the pateroller catch you,
Run, nigger, run, almost dawn.

Source: Wolf Folklore Song – RUN NIGGER RUN, THE PATEROLLER CATCH YOU (RUN, NIGGER, RUN)  sung by Joe Pat| Also found in Randolph, Vol. II, #264; Brown, Vol. III, #457| Source: http://web.lyon.edu/wolfcollection/songs/patrun1287.html

As K. B. Turner  David Giacopassi  &  Margaret Vandiver remark in Ignoring the Past: Coverage of Slavery and Slave Patrols in Criminal Justice Texts, “the literature clearly establishes that a legally sanctioned law enforcement system existed in America before the Civil War for the express purpose of controlling the slave population and protecting the interests of slave owners. The similarities between the slave patrols and modern American policing are too salient to dismiss or ignore. Hence, the slave patrol should be considered a forerunner of modern American law enforcement.”


For more Black History Fun Facts, click here!

The Black Plague

Steppers Delight Giclee On Canvas by John Holyfield

They treated them like The Black Plague.

This walking pestilence ravaging the Earth.

Walking all proud-like and powerful

all royalty-like and purposeful

infecting generations of people with its culture, music, dance, and cornrolls.

This was a virus that needed to be controlled.

They could not have this thing infecting people with all this hope.

COVID-19 is terrifying, but empowering the people was worse

so, the powers that be raised their glasses, smiled and solidified the oath.

 

The first phase was overt

strip them of their names, rape their wives, and remove their clothes.

Next, shackle them together and dismantle their dignity.

The vaccination was so far working.

They became Mammies instead of Mothers

and Negroes instead of Kings.

 

But the Black Plague continued to spread

continued to influence

and shift the direction of the Earth

there was no restraining the wind

out of its affliction grew the epidemic

of black excellence

building communities, gaining wealth, and reestablishing identity.

The so-called powers had to take their power back

and so, they infected their neighborhoods with crack.

Mass incarcerate them

“Jump Jim Crow” them

redline them

school-to-prison pipeline them

hide their history

hide their truth

miseducate them and kill the youth.

Put your knees on their necks

and stick your knives in their backs.

But none of it worked.

 

It was a secret deeper than White Supremacy

more in-depth than the witchcraft of stolen identity

deeper than unarmed black men bleeding in the streets

more frightening than charred bodies hanging from trees

more detailed than this apparent sickness was the truth

these people they called plagues were not plagues at all

they were Prophets

and healers of the Earth.

 

It was no wonder the more they were afflicted,

the more they grew.

7 Reasons No One Follows Your Blog

I haven’t written a blog post about blogging in a while. I slowed down on that because I could be, you know, writing.

Today, I am not writing. I am enjoying this good weather and stealing this downtime for a quick blog post. I hope these tips /reminders will be useful for any new bloggers out there.

You Don’t Have a Follow Button.

I have spoken heavily on this in the past, and it’s still true today. I still find people whose blogs I want to follow, but I can’t because there is no follow button. At this point in life, with COVID and all, few people will stop to go on a scavenger hunt to find where your button is. If you are blogging on WordPress, go to your Dashboard > Appearance> Widget > Follow blog. Place it somewhere near the top (not at the bottom), so it is noticed.

You Don’t Post Enough.

I am sure I probably post too much (sorry fam), which can have repercussions, but not posting enough is also not good. Not only will people not be interested in following you, but those who follow you may forget you are there, meaning that when you post, they aren’t even reading. People are forgetful, and it’s a lot going on in the world right now. I am not the person who thinks people should blog every day, but I think the posts should be consistent enough to keep the blogger memorable and the people engaged.

You Don’t Respond to Comments.

Social media isn’t about followers anymore, so much as it is about engagement. Responding to comments is one of the easiest ways to engage with your audience and other bloggers. Commenting on someone else’s blog is also a simple way to gain a follower. This is the power of networking. When someone comments on your blog, don’t just like their comment, reply! And respond not to get the follow, but have an opinion on the topic. Give your feedback some substance and add it to the conversation.

You Post Your Blog Link in the Comments Asking for a Follow

This is tacky and unattractive to other bloggers. Leaving a comment that is only a link back to your blog, followed by “please follow my blog,” makes you look desperate and turns that blogger off. I am much more likely to subscribe to someone’s blog who just left a real comment on my blog or liked my post than I will someone posting a link back to their blog in my comments. If you think this is mean, then you have not been blogging long enough to come across spammers and trolls. How do I tell the difference between you, the real blogger, and a spammer if you are both spamming me?

Please, don’t do this.

Your Content is Not Interesting To Your Readers

Sometimes it’s just the basics, such as not posting anything valuable for your audience. One lesson I learned in life is being relatable and making connections with people based on a common goal or interest. I think blogging and social media is the same way. No man is an island, and no man knows it all. Therefore, while I have my way of seeing things, I think it’s necessary to allow room for diverse thoughts and differences of perspective. To me, that shakes things up and makes it fun. It also provides room for learning and growth.

I don’t want people to walk on eggshells around me, and I’m not walking on eggshells around anyone else. Yes, I’ve had some heated debates on this blog, and I am pretty sure some people hate my guts, but those same people also know me the better because of it. I think some of the best friendships develop from a difference in opinion because people are not all the same, and when each person can bring something different, I think it creates a good balance.

To make a long story short, people don’t want to follow a boring blog.

Your Blog is Hard to Navigate

Making things more accessible to people is the best way to encourage them to stick around. If your blog is hard to navigate, people might not want to follow you. Everything should be easily attainable from your follow button to your widgets to your pages. Beyond this, be sure your blog is easy to read so dark colors with dark text that is heavy on the eyes is a no-no (keep in mind the visually impaired too), and consider a modern, updated look. If your blog looks like it belonged somewhere in 1998, I will be less inclined to follow. I suggest using WordPress because WordPress offers some neat free themes and widgets, is already optimized for mobile, and powers thirty percent of the internet. WordPress is a powerhouse for building websites and blogs, and I am not being paid to say this.

You Are Not Sharing Your Post on Social Media

I would leave this at six, but we might as well squeeze in one more. Another reason people may not follow your blog is that you are not telling them about it. Social media is the new word of mouth. The easiest way to draw attention to your posts is to share them to your social networking sites, whichever you use. I almost always share with Twitter, but I have shared it with my Facebook page too, and now and then, Instagram. Be sure to let people know about your excellent recent blog post. You will be glad you did. Closed mouths don’t get fed. Open your mouth.

I hope this is helpful to someone out there and if it has, let me know in the comments. Do you have any useful blogging tips for us? I would love to know. I want to improve my blog too!


Enjoy your weekend people!

“The Day You Plant the Seed is Not the Day You Eat the Fruit”

I learned a lot revising The Stella Trilogy, but the most important lesson I learned is, “the day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit.” I don’t know who the original author is of this saying, and I know there are many versions of the same quote.

This means to me, the first time you get an idea is not the same time you will bring it forward. I had wanted to revise The Stella Trilogy for a long time, but it was hard to imagine taking the time to launch a book that has already released, let alone three. It was hard to imagine having the resources to produce three new covers, edit three separate books, format them, and all that other jazz.

But the day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit.

I had to wait until I had the time and resources to get it done.

Then, I had to put it in my mind that once I began, I would have to keep going. This meant no waiting two and three months between books. If I was going to release book one, books two and three had to be right behind it.

And I’m sort of a slow writer.

It’s incredible to realize that what we put into our mind can manifest as we planned it if we are disciplined and patient enough.

It’s even more incredible to know that although a man plans his way, Yah guides his steps. (Prov. 16:9)

I wanted to release these books back to back, and I am thankful that I could accomplish what I set out to do.

It was hard for me to see the purpose of this endeavor at first, but revising these books helped me to see visions of another series using the same characters from The Stella Trilogy (something like a spin-off) with Joseph’s children.

Isn’t that amazing? Maybe revising this story wasn’t about what was already there, so much as what can grow from it.

I am excited about where these visions will take me and so happy to have you here with me.


Book 3 in The Stella Trilogy,
The Road to Freedom, is ready for you.

About.

Book three follows Stella’s son Joseph after a fight with his brother compels a young Joseph to leave his mother’s house and join his friends for a trip to Atlanta for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee’s (SNCC) second conference. Excited to live life on their own, Jo and his friends have left school and the lives they were living for a chance to become part of the movement. With no money and virtually no plan, the seven friends, three black and four white, set out for the road when they are stopped by a racist cop who makes them exit the car. The teens are unaware that a mob of Klansmen await them at the New Orleans bus terminal. Find out in the third installment of the Stella Trilogy how Joseph and his friends discover the hard way that freedom has never been free.

*Click Here to Get The Road to Freedom

Authentic Support

As an author, I am always thinking about ways I can add value to my audience. It’s easy to point the finger when you don’t see people being as supportive as you think they should be, but I am the person who will always look at me first. In doing this, I have thought about what support means, not from an author/entrepreneur perspective, but from the perspective of the reader/audience member. Why? Because I was a reader before I was a writer.

This has led me to think about the importance of authentic support.

I think authenticity is important even when supporting others. No one can be bullied, into supporting. It has to be in them to do it. It has to be part of who they are. People have to be passionate about whatever it is they are supporting.

Authentic – true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character 

It was easy to get upset with people for not being supportive until I realized the truth: People support what is true to their personality, spirit, or character. It doesn’t matter if we are of the same family, organization, or group. People will support what is in alignment with who they are. It has to speak to them.

There must be some connection or commonality between the supporter and the movement, some kind of bridge connecting the two that makes the support worth it. When I think of it this way, I am more at ease with those who don’t support me because I realize it’s not personal. If the support is to be genuine, the person must first feel some kind of connection to whatever it is they are supporting.

I can’t speak for others, but I know that in my experience in the Indie Author community there is a lot of talk about being supportive but the thing is, people, don’t support just for the sake of supporting. I know we would like to think of it this way but that’s not the truth. If I am being real with myself and looking at this from the reader/audience/observer’s perspective then I have to admit that we support what we believe in. If what is being offered isn’t in agreement with that belief, we will probably be less supportive.

I learned that if I am being my authentic self, then I will attract authentic support.