You cannot know for sure every one your writing helps. Not everyone will leave reviews, emails, or broadcast to the world how your vulnerability saved their life. Some people silently depend on the wisdom of your words, like pieces of salvation scribbled in ink. Some people are thirsty to hear your voice, and they wait for you to gather the courage to wrap them in that red cape we call writing. They are waiting for you to make them heroes to whatever suffering led them here. Not everyone is looking for words that are pretty either, cute, cuddly, and attractive looking. Some people need not be coddled but scorned out of comfort zones and disciplined out of negligence. Writers should keep writing because they are saviors to people they may never know.
The little girl licked the wooden spoon that came with her ice cream.
“Bet you don’t know my mama name,” said Zoey, the five-year-old daughter of my husband’s client. We were relaxing on the couch, watching Netflix, and eating ice cream. Mine was gone, but she was still eating hers in that gross way children do, ice cream residue around her mouth and dripping from her fingers. I hoped she’d hurry and eat the thing before it melted all the way. It was a hot Sunday.
“Krissy,” I said proudly.
Ole snap. What is the woman’s full name EC? Kristina? Kristy? Kristy Anne? Dang. I forgot the woman’s name. I’ve just been calling her Krissy or Kris like everyone else.
“You tell me,” I said playing it off.
Did I just reverse a question on a five-year-old? Yes. Yes, I did.
“Her name is…her name is…hmmm.”
Zoey seemed confused. I should have felt bad. I didn’t.
“My mommy’s name is—-”
“You don’t know it either,” I teased.
“I know she’s mommy but… just call her Krissy,” waved Zoey, licking the wooden spoon.
“Works for me,” I laughed.
This is what I was doing all day. Watching Netflix and talking to five-year-old Zoey and one-year-old Ziggy. Well, Ziggy and I did not exactly speak. There was something about he had to boo-boo and then he took a nap.
This was my weekend a few months ago. I went on a call with my husband. My husband is an HVAC (Heating, Air Conditioning, Refrigeration) and Maintenance Tech. As a Universally Certified technician, this means he can pretty much work on anything from a home AC system to a restaurant’s refrigeration system. This day, he was installing three toilets for this family, which meant that I would hang out with the wife. I rarely tag along with him on his calls, but he asked me to, so I went. I wasn’t doing anything, anyway.
We were there all day, and the family even made dinner for us. I learned the wife is from Chicago, my hometown, and the husband is originally from Jamaica. I enjoyed the Tilapia and Rice dishes served and had never had a whole fish before! Like, they fried the entire thing, one big slab. Boom. On your plate, ha!
My husband and his client spoke extensively about several things. Somewhere along the line, my book came up, and my husband gave him the link to my website along with links to other things they discussed. (I can assure you I was not an important part of the conversation.)
But when we got home later that evening, the husband sent my husband a text saying that he had purchased a copy of I am Soul.
“Aww,” I crooned. “That’s sweet. Tell him I said thank you.”
Now, for the most important part of the story….
How many times did I ask them to buy my book? Zero.
How many times did I discuss the book with the wife? Zero.
I did not bring up my work at all. What I did was play with the children, watch Netflix, and converse with the wife about food. We talked about why I couldn’t be a vegetarian and other things.
The most important lesson I’ve learned in my 11-year journey of publishing books is the importance of connecting with others and building genuine relationships.
People buy from people they have a connection with. This may be an already formed relationship/friendship, similar interests, personality, hobby, belief system, faith, passions, membership in the same groups, clubs, or similar spirits or vibes. These are the people who will support you. You don’t even have to force it, manipulate or chase. This means that relationships (directly or indirectly) is a major factor in selling books.
Just be yourself and let the vibe of that authenticity light the path, drawing the people to you who are meant to be in your presence.
(because I am really not just talking out the side of my neck)
I met TV Personality Tinzley Bradford through my connection with Lisa W. Tetting. I turned around and sponsored, attended, and performed at Tinzley’s mixer last year and met TV One and Talk show host Chere Turner, CEO of Behind the Beauti Tenisha Bibbs, Singer, and CEO of Advudcate Arts LLC Cami Tippin, and 2x Best Selling Author Oliver T Reid. Then, I attended Oliver T Reid’s writer’s masterclass and met publisher Kelly Cole, also a 2x Best Selling Author and owner of one of the fastest growing Black-Owned Book Publishing companies in the U.S. I met Indie Bookstore owner Nia Damali through Indie Bookstore owner Marcus and through Nia I met Vivica A. Fox. A recent example is my meeting of Founder and Owner of B Infused Natural Detox Waters Brianna Arceneaux. Brianna is more like a niece as she is the sister of my brother-in-laws daughter. She is also the founder of a women’s organization Sagacious Women of Business, dedicated to mentoring young women in business and victims of sexual assault. She has been mad supportive of my work, and we intend to do much business together.
The point here is I have bought books by authors I didn’t know and have had my books purchased by people I didn’t know all due to the power of a single connection.
If you remember nothing else, remember:
Lifting others is how we lift ourselves.
p.s. The mother’s name was Kristina.
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Keep Yourself Full is a spiritual handbook that focuses on our return to self-love. It is a reminder that self-care nourishes the quality of our lives and makes us fit to be of service to others. Through my testimony, I give examples of how we self-abuse and how that differs from self-love, why it is essential not to take things so personally, why we must establish and enforce healthy boundaries, and how assumptions kill relationships. We learn that by investing in our well-being spiritually, physically, mentally, and professionally, we can be of service fully to others. It cannot be ignored that we treat others how we feel about ourselves. When we realize that what we do to others, we are equally doing to ourselves, we can use this awareness to heal. By treating ourselves better, we treat others better. Keep Yourself Full is about keeping ourselves filled with love and all that is good so that we are overflowing with enough to share with everyone else.
Uncle Tom has a legacy rich in racism and is a derogatory term applied to blacks who “sellout.” Sambo is also rich in racism and is a derogatory term. Historically, these two have been used interchangeably although they are not the same. These two are so intertwined in modern society and so incorporated into our language I am not sure they can ever be separated. It will be difficult to view them as anything other than names used to describe black people who betray other black people. (Think Tom Dubois on the social and political television comedy Boondocks.)
In this post, I will give some background on the Coon, the Sambo, and the Uncle Tom and reveal the truth on how Tom was not the sellout we have made him out to be.
Let’s start with the Coon caricature. The name is an abbreviation of the word Racoon so that the name alone is dehumanizing. The prototype for the coon caricature was Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry, known by his stage name as Stepin Fetchit. His signature was that he was the world’s laziest man. He was always sleepy, his eyes low and his speech slow. He took minutes just to complete simple sentences. A scene of him laying in bed in pajamas taking three whole minutes to answer the phone and then another whole minute to say “hello” is what could be expected of his stage performances. The idea behind the coon was that he acted like a child although he was an adult. Stepin Fetchit also tap danced (hence “step it”) so that “Perry epitomized the mumbling, shuffling, buck-eyed buffoon who acted like he didn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground.” (BlackThen)
Stepin Fetchit manifested what racists whites thought of blacks and became one of the top paid black entertainers of his time.
The Sambo was portrayed as lazy, easily frightened, and chronically idle, an inarticulate buffoon. While the Coon was considered an adult who acted like a child, the Sambo was not considered an adult but was depicted as a perpetual child incapable of living as an Independent adult. What is important to note about the Sambo and the Coon was that they were born from names applied to the characteristics of real people. This is important to remember when we get to Uncle Tom. A stereotype is created when a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular person or thing applies to an entire group of people. Perry was certainly a buffoon, the real-life version of the coon but to refer to all so-called African Americans as coon is what created the stereotype.
The Sambo caricature was born from enslaved blacks who were so loyal and dedicated to the slave owner they would betray their own people. The characteristics of the Sambo really did (and does) exist. “Stereotypes are “cognitive structures that contain the perceiver’s knowledge, beliefs, and expectations about human groups” (Peffley et al., 1997, p. 31). These cognitive constructs are often created out of a kernel of truth and then distorted beyond reality (Hoffmann, 1986). Racial stereotypes are constructed beliefs that all members of the same race share given characteristics. These attributed characteristics are usually negative (Jewell, 1993).” The Coon and Sambo stereotypes contain kernels of truth. There really were blacks who were happy and willing to betray, and completely aid in the destruction of their own people.
(Notice that “Acting white” is not part of the characteristic of the Sambo or Coon. The thing that made the Sambo and Coon an embarrassment and disgrace to the race was their loyalty to those who oppressed them, their betrayal of their brethren and their willingness to make a fool of both themselves and their people. Being intellectual, prompt, professional, and well spoken are not traits that “belong” to “white” people and certainly had nothing to do with these stereotypes. It’s actually the opposite. Racists at that time did not want blacks to read, write, display characteristics of dignity and esteem and professionalism. They wanted to portray them as ignorant, foolish, and childish.)
While the Sambo and Coon caricatures fit this description, Uncle Tom was not the same and it would take an entirely different post to look into how he became associated with these caricatures. For now, let’s see who he really was.
Again, stereotypes come from kernels of truth. Just as Lincoln Perry was the epitome of the Coon, and sellout blacks were the real-life Sambos, the fictionalized story of the Uncle Tom was inspired by a man named Josiah Henson.
Josiah was an author, abolitionist, minister, and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s inspiration for Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Henson’s father was whipped, got his ear cut off, and was sold south after hitting a white man who tried to rape his wife. Henson never saw his father again, but this gives us insight into Josiah’s character. He became a preacher through memorizing verses although he couldn’t, at the time, read and write. In 1830, Henson ran away with his wife and two youngest children, walking over 600 miles to Canada but he didn’t stop there.
“Henson helped start in 1841 a freeman settlement called the British American Institute, in an area called Dawn, which became known as one of the final stops on the Underground Railroad. Henson repeatedly returned to the U.S. to guide 118 other slaves to freedom. It was a massively dangerous undertaking, but Henson saw a greater purpose than simply living out his life in Ontario, Canada. In addition to his service to the school, Henson ran a farm, started a gristmill, bred horses, and built a sawmill for high-quality black lumber— so good, in fact, that it won him a medal at the first World’s Fair in London ten years later.”
Henson’s life inspired the work of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Tom displayed the following characteristics:
- He refused to beat black women
- He refused to force other black people to pick cotton
- He took the cotton out of his own bag and put it in other’s bags so those slaves wouldn’t get whipped for not having the proper weight (as you know, the enslaved had to pick a certain amount of cotton or they would be punished.)
- And he refused to tell where attempted escaping slaves were hiding
Josiah Henson is Uncle Tom. He was not a Coon, and he was not a Sambo. “Uncle Tom,” helped hundreds of enslaved men, women, and children escape North years before the Underground Railroad. He was a good man and a great leader. The truth about Uncle Tom is this:
To refer to blacks who portray characteristics of coons and sell outs as Uncle Toms is a disrespect to Henson’s legacy. To refer to intelligent and well spoken blacks as Uncle Tom’s is actually a compliment.
Henson was no sell out and neither was Tom.
Be sure to check out other Black History Fun Facts on the page here.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, paperback edition
Black Then: How Being Ghetto Fabulous Caused Stepin Fetchit to Lose It All
Negative Racial Stereotypes and Their Effect on Attitudes Toward African-Americans
The Coon Caricature
Good stuff. Well written characters who are like real people is my favorite.
Creating a character isn’t all physical description and heartbreaking backstory.
Well, a lot of it is, but it’s not just that. You need to round out that tall, dark-haired beautiful orphan with some emotional depth. The kind that will keep your readers turning the page and recommending your stories.
They’ll do this because they’re invested in your books. And they’re invested because they relate to the characters. They might not be tall, dark-haired, beautiful or an orphan, but they know how it feels to miss family, to never find the right pant length, or to be judged by their looks.
Creating a relatable connection to universal struggles is key and ensuring your characters have emotional depth is the metal that forges that key.
Five Ways To Give Your Characters Emotional Depth
Don’t Say Emotions
Emotions are something we all feel, unless you’re a serial killer.
Writing “She was sad”
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Welcome to another Black History Fun Fact Friday. Today, we meet a woman you may not have heard about but who has done tremendous community work for the betterment of education for African Americans.
Esther Georgia Irving Cooper was born on November 28, 1881, in Cleveland, Ohio. While she’s the daughter of former slaves, her mother’s side of the family gained their freedom sometime before the Civil War and came to Ohio from North Carolina in the 1850s. Esther worked for Harry Clay Smith, a black man of the Ohio legislature and editor of the Cleveland Gazette. Esther later moved to Washington D.C. in 1913 as a stenographer in the Forrest Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It was here that she met her husband, George Posea Cooper, a Tennessee native and veteran of the Philippine Insurrection then serving as a technical sergeant in the Quartermaster Corps at Fort Myer in Alexandria County (after 1920 Arlington County). The couple married on September 10, 1913, and had three daughters. The Cooper‘s valued education and Esther worked part-time as a teacher of English, shorthand, and typing at the National Training School for Women and Girls. She also managed business classes in the adult program of the Arlington County Public Schools as part of the Federal Education Rehabilitation Act.
Esther is best known for her Civil Rights Activism in Arlington County. She became an advocate for the improvement of African American education after deciding not to send her children to Arlington’s black schools because of the poor upkeep. She also took part in many community improvement organizations, lobbied on behalf of the Citizens Committee for School Improvement, and helped organize the Jennie Dean Community Center Association, a women’s group that raised money to purchase land for a recreation center open to African Americans.
Esther also served as president of the Kemper School Parent-Teacher Association, fought to establish an accredited junior high school, and organized and led the Arlington County branch of the NAACP. Under her leadership, the Arlington NAACP launched a court case challenging inequalities in the county’s high school facilities. The group’s efforts culminated in Carter v. School Board of Arlington County (1950), in which the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the county’s separate high schools constituted unlawful racial discrimination.
I love shedding light on the Esther’s of the world because they are not the same ten black leaders we’ve heard about and we hear about repeatedly. These unfamiliar faces help us understand just how powerful our contributions have been to the world as there are so many who are unknown and unrecognized, their names left out of the history books, school curricula, and Google searches. The best way to honor those who have put in great work on behalf of bettering our communities is to act. To pick up the mantle and do what we can from our corners of the world. To use whatever skill, whatever talent, whatever gifts we’ve been given to do our part. The best way to honor anyone we feel has contributed anything significant to this world is to do the work needed to move forward and to take the time to appreciate and to honor those individuals who are still alive and who are working. Let’s not wait until their deaths to support fully. Let us do that now, today, while they live, and let us help them in their endeavors in whatever way we can according to the gifts we have been given. Let us give people their flowers now who deserve them. The next day is not promised. Let us not wait.
Esther did the work. May we do the same, in whatever capacity to which we are able.
Today, I’d like to extend a warm welcome to Corey Collins. Corey, welcome to the PBS blog!
What is your name and where are you from?
My name is Corey Collins and I am from Memphis, Tennessee. I went to college in Northern Indiana and to law school in South Florida, where I have lived since 1992.
Nice. My in-laws are in Memphis. When did you publish your first book? What was that like?
I published my first book entitled The Thanks You Get in 2017. I self-published my novel and the experience was exciting, painstaking, exhausting and, ultimately, fulfilling.
Love it. Who is your favorite writer?
My favorite writer (present day) is Zadie Smith. My favorite writer (all time) is James Baldwin.
I. Love. Baldwin! What is your favorite color?
My favorite color is blue.
What do you hate most about writing advice? What do you love?
I dislike folks who impart advice about writing authoritatively as though what works for one writer should apply to all. In my experience, writing definitely is not a “one size fits all” endeavor. I love folks who simply talk about their writing experience in such a way as to give others insight into their process so that aspiring writers might consider what nuggets to incorporate into their own process.
You summed that up perfectly. It is why I don’t like to refer to my information as advice, but tips. Tips based on my own experience I hope others could maybe add to their own experience. Very well stated there Corey. What is your favorite food?
My favorite food is Memphis dry rub barbecue ribs. My second favorite is cashew nuts.
If you could live in a movie, which would it be?
If I could live in a movie, I would live in the final scene of the movie The Shawshank Redemption, one of my top 5 favorite films. The final scene depicts a reunion between two friends who served time in prison together at a city in Southern Mexico called Zihuatanejo. I was fortunate enough to visit that town in 1990 when I participated in a semester broad program during my junior year in college. It made a lifetime impression, with its pristine beaches and hospitable residents. Unlike its more popular neighbor Ixtapa, Zihuatanejo was underdeveloped, less crowded, less noisy. Peace and serenity descended upon me the minute I stepped into the city and upon its beach. The thought of spending my final days living off the sea and the land in Zihuatanejo, like the main characters in Shawshank, makes me smile.
Ha! Shawshank Redemption is one of me and my husband’s favorite movies as well. What would be the most amazing adventure to go on?
The most amazing adventure to go on (and one of my bucket list items) would be to trek through the mountains of Machu Picchu in Peru.
Nice. What is the most difficult thing about being a writer? What is the most exciting thing?
Finding consistent, significant blocks of time to write while working a full time job is the most difficult thing about being a writer. When I am fortunate enough to have significant, uninterrupted blocks of time, entering that zone where ideas and words seem to flow well is thrilling.
I get it. Outside of writing, what are some of your passions?
Outside of writing, I love running. My personal goal is to run at least two half marathons per year and, for the past five years, I have managed to meet that goal. Aside from the health benefits, running, for me, is calming and helps to clear my mind.
How many siblings do you have?
I have one sibling, a younger sister.
Are you employed outside of writing?
Outside of writing, I am employed full time as an in house attorney for a construction company. I review and negotiate construction contracts for the company and manage their litigation.
Okaay. Another attorney in the house ya’ll. What is your favorite TV show / movie?
My favorite TV show is Game of Thrones. My favorite movie is The Godfather.
Thank you Corey for spending this time with us. We enjoyed you!
Collins is a practicing attorney in Miami, Florida, with an innate curiosity about the world and the people in it. Collins attended college at the University of Notre Dame graduating with a dual degree in Government and Spanish in 1991. Thereafter, he spent a year working for a member of the United States House of Representatives before continuing his education at the University of Miami School of Law. He graduated in 1995 and has practiced law in South Florida since then.
Beyond practicing law, Collins chairs the board of directors of the James B. Collins Memorial Fund, Inc., a non-profit corporation formed for the dual purpose of providing scholarships to high school seniors needing financial assistance for college and making an annual donation to the American Cancer Society in the hopes of finding a cure for cancer. He also serves on the board of directors of the St. John Community Development Corporation.
In his spare time, Collins enjoys running, having completed four marathons and twelve half marathons. He also writes short stories.
About the book:
Corey B. Collins is the author of The Thanks You Get, a novel that explores human behavior and the driving force behind people’s actions. His protagonist is Hank Goodman, a public relations executive, who is drawn into a mystery involving one of the wealthiest men in South Florida. Woven throughout Collins’ novel is the theme of families, however defined, and the ties that bind them. Ultimately, Collins hopes to encourage readers to contemplate whether there really is such a thing as coincidence and whether people, with all their faults, are naturally inclined to do the “right thing” as they define it in their lives.
Are you an author? Looking for more exposure? Learn more about my Introduce Yourself Feature HERE. Stay tuned for our next featured author.
I’ve been swamped in schoolwork which is stopping me from living my best life on these black history posts. Today, I compiled a list of links I found throughout the week and books I recommend since I did not get to complete a full post on one topic. The books are what I really encourage you to look into. Unlike the internet, they provide more detailed and in-depth research and citations from scholars and others useful for deep research.
Descendants of Last Slave Ship Still Live in Alabama Community
I spoke about “Africa Town” once before on this blog (See post here). This article shares some insightful information on the descendants of that town. (You may also remember the book recently released on behalf of Zora Neale Hurston of the Clotilda).
South African paramilitary unit plotted to infect black population with Aids, former member claims
Group said to have ‘spread the virus’ at the behest of Keith Maxwell, eccentric leader of the shadowy South African Institute of Maritime Research, who wanted a white majority country where ‘the excesses of the 1960s, 70s and 80s have no place in the post-Aids world’.
Don’t let February be the only time you are interested in your history. From the shelf, here are some of my favorites. I recommend them all:
- They Came Before Columbus, Ivan Van Sertima
- Jews Selling Blacks: Slave Sale Advertising by American Jews
- The Miseducation of the Negro, Carter G. Woodson
- The Valley of Dry Bones: The Conditions that Face Black People in America, Rudolph Windsor
- From Babylon to Timbuktu: A History of the Ancient Black-Races including the Black Hebrews also by Rudolph Windsor
- Negro Slave Songs in the U.S. Miles, Mark, Fisher
- Israel on the Appomattox: A southern experiment in black freedom from the 1790s through the Civil War, Melvin Patrick Ely
- Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present, Harriet A. Washington
- Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America, Ayana D. Byrd and Lori L. Tharps
- The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther
- Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, James H. Jones
- Understanding the Assault on the Black Man, Black Manhood, and Black Masculinity, Wesley Muhammad
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander
There are so many others but this should be enough to get your started! Be sure to check out the other Black History Fun Facts on the Black History Fun Fact Friday page.