Stella is a work of Historical Fiction and is distinctive in its focus on one woman’s road to self-discovery, against the backdrop of the African American fight for justice, racial equality, and freedom. The 3-Part series focuses on the history of one family in their struggle for racial identity. We discover in this Trilogy how three individuals living in separate periods strive to overcome the same battle, carefully knit together by one blood.
These books were first released in 2015 and helped elevate my writing to another level. These were not the first books I had ever written. Still, they were the first books to appeal to people outside of my circle and were my first Historical Fiction books.
I took the risk of removing them to get them re-edited, re-formatted, and the covers recreated.
I am happy with my decision and even prouder of this work. I get to relaunch these books and reach more readers of African American Historical Fiction. I am hoping to at least sell 50 copies of book one to start (at least 25 ebooks, 25, print books), and I hope you can help me with that!
Stella: Between Slavery and Freedom
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.
Book one is available now for preorder in digital and print. Release day is March 24th.
The preorder price is 99cents but will go up after release, so you want to take advantage of this.
Preorders are also available in paperback through my website. Paperback books are signed and will ship the first week of April.
*If you already read this series, you should know book one has an alternate ending! The story is the same, but the books are better polished, and each book flows smoothly into the next book. This time, while the books can be read alone, they are much more in a series format. You will want to read all three books to get the full picture. Well worth re-reading!
When you think of the civil rights movement, what cities come to mind? Mobile? Birmingham? Atlanta? some place, Mississippi? How about Jacksonville, Florida? Probably not, but this southern city and its leaders were just as influential as Selma.
I found this out four years ago, when I posted this photo to my blog.
A fellow blogger noticed the background and sent it to her friend, Rodney L. Hurst Sr. Mr. Hurst contacted me about purchasing a copy and explained the meaning of the sign behind the gentlemen’s heads.
I was excited to hear about this little-known Black history fact and asked Mr. Hurst to a breakfast interview to understand more.
KG: Can you describe a little bit about what Ax Handle Saturday was and what happened?
RH: I was president of the Youth Council NAACP and I led the sit-ins at the ripe old age of sixteen. My mentor was a guy named Rutledge Pearson.
KG: A school is named after him?
RH: Yes. One school is named after him. In fact, he and Earl Johnson were inducted into the Civil Rights Hall of Fame earlier this month (2016) in Tallahassee. He taught me eighth-grade American history. When I went to his class, he told me about the textbook and had other class members to talk about the textbook and then he said leave it home.
Mr. Pearson would not teach American history from the slanted and racist viewpoint of white textbook authors and historians. Our study of American history did not revolve around a book that only had the names of Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver. We studied John Hope Franklin, Althea Gibson, and Thurgood Marshall.
The first book report I did was on a guy named Toussaint Louverture, who fast became one of my favorites. He led the only successful slave revolt in this hemisphere, eventually became the Father of Haiti, and because of what he was able to do in Central America in fighting Napoleon, and controlling the shipping routes, Napoleon had to sell Louisiana territory to this country. You will never read his name in an American history book and he is inextricably bound to the history of this country.
In Mr. Pearson’s history class, it was Black history every day in his class. He also said, freedom is not free; if you’re not part of the solution, you are a part of the problem. He encouraged us to join the Youth Council of NAACP. American history teacher in an eighth-grade class encouraging his students to join the Youth Council NAACP?
KG: You would get fired today doing that.
RH: Sure. And I joined when I was age 11, became president when I was 15, and led the sit-ins when I was 16. The sit-ins in Jacksonville were led by high-school students, which is one of the reasons we did it during the summer, as opposed to college students who were able to do it year-round.
We sat in Woolworth’s, where the federal courthouse is now. We sat in at the lunch counters: Kress, Woolworths, Grants, and McCory’s, which were downtown stores. And every downtown department store had a white lunch counter. Some had colored lunch counters, like Woolworths, which was at the back of the store. Others didn’t have colored lunch counters, but you would go to the end of the white lunch counter to order.
KG: But you couldn’t sit down?
RH: You couldn’t sit down. If the waitresses would come and take your order, then okay. So, we said, “No!” During my senior year we sat in. We sat in for two weeks. Woolworths closed the lunch counter. There were whites who stood behind us yelling, jungle bunny, nigger, go back to Africa ‘cause they couldn’t get their fresh lunches.
Two weeks later on August 27th, we were sitting in at Grants, which was on the corner of Adams and Main Street. And there were other incidents leading up to that. We had a white student, Parker, who joined us from Florida State (University) and the whites who were behind us thought he was the leader. Some white construction workers were standing behind him with big construction tools and these guys picked him up and formed a circle around him and walked him out to safety. All this time there were no police in downtown Jacksonville.
One guy had whittled off the end of his walking cane and would walk behind each of us and stuck all of us in the back with his walking cane. Again, no police. When we were attacked, we were attacked by 200 white men with ax handles and baseball bats. Black downtown was attacked. If you were white and tried to protect those Blacks downtown, you were attacked, too. When the word finally got out, then police came from everywhere.
Mr. Hurst described what happened to Parker, the white FSU student who supported the sit-ins and also Leander Shaw, Florida Supreme Court judge’s role in enacting justice. The details are outlined in his historical memoir It Was Never about a Hot Dog and a Coke!
But I want to stop here and emphasize a few points about meeting and talking with Mr. Hurst.
Understanding Black history in your city is important. I’m not from Jacksonville, but I’ve lived here for approximately 20 years. Prior to our happenstance meeting, I’d never heard of Rodney L. Hurst Sr. Subsequently, before our conversation, I was ignorant to the role Jacksonville played in the Movement. I’d heard of Rutledge Pearson Elementary School, but I didn’t know the significance of the person for whom it was named. I wonder if the 95% Black student population knows the rich history to which they’re connected?
Living history is important. Ax Handle Saturday occurred August 27, 1960. That’s 60 years ago. Mr. Hurst is old enough to be my father, not my grandfather or great-grandfather, my father. Sometimes, grainy documentaries make racial oppression seem as if it was eons ago. My conversation with Mr. Hurst reminded me that it was not. Luckily for the K-12 and college students he speaks to, he’s able to authenticate a perspective of a time period that is linked to our country’s history.
Teacher autonomy is important. As a former high-school English teacher, I have to highlight the autonomy teachers had in the 60s. Mr. Hurst’s history teacher was able to make an informed decision about his students and what resources they needed in order to be successful, in not only understanding history in America, but also in transforming their communities. Mr. Hurst was directly influenced by Rutledge’s off-script lessons and push to join an organization specifically with their best interests at heart. Hurst possibly would have never been a part of Ax Handle Saturday had Rutledge stuck to a scripted curriculum.
The takeaways from our interview are endless. But if nothing else, I hope these words inspire you to learn more about the influential Black people in your area because, after all, Black history is American history.
Katherin is a First Place Royal Palms Literary Award winning writer for Creative Nonfiction. Her work has been featured in the South Florida Times, Talking Soup and For Harriet. She typically writes in order to inspire social change. Other examples of her work can be found on her personalblog.
Today’s Black History Fun Fact Friday is from our special guest writer, Keyshawn McMiller. McMiller is a Senior Social Work major at Florida A&M University, and a current two-time published author (Ideals From A Young Black Introvert). Keyshawn aspires to one day, become a licensed counselor and ultimately, open the minds of traditional minority communities to the advantages of professional self-help.
The next time you ponder the great polymaths of the world such as Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln, be sure to include another prominent Renaissance Man in Benjamin Banneker. A free-status African American raised on a Maryland farm that would eventually be bequeathed to him, Banneker was fortunate enough to attend a Quaker school. Though, he was primarily self-educated, relying on loaned books to learn the bulk of his skills. While in his 20’s, his knack for mathematics was demonstrated as he constructed a working wooden clock based on studying pocket watches. This accomplishment would only be the beginning of Banneker’s successes, as an interest in astronomy brought on by Quaker Astronomer, George Elliott, led him to predict a 1789 solar eclipse accurately.
As he matured, the Black Excellence of Benjamin Banneker was only magnified as he eventually became a prominent abolitionist and land surveyor near the end of his life. During this period, Banneker wrote future U.S. President, Thomas Jefferson, a letter in 1791 asking for improved living conditions for his people. In this same letter, he also sent drafts of various almanacs for the states of Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. Amazingly, this draft would eventually be published thanks in part to Thomas Jefferson’s approval. Perhaps Banneker’s most significant achievement came about as he surveyed the land that would eventually become the current domain for the United States’ capital in Washington, D.C.
Despite Benjamin Banneker passing on in 1806, approximately 57 years before Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, his legacy lives on. His name is included in several institutions, including The Benjamin Banneker buildings housed at Florida A&M University. At the notice of his passing, an obituary was published in the Federal Gazette with the quote, “Mr. Banneker is a prominent instance to prove that a descendant of Africa is susceptible of as great mental improvement and deep knowledge into the mysteries of nature as that of any other nation.”
Keyshawn McMiller is a Senior Social Work major at Florida A&M University. A current two-time published author with “Ideals From A Young Black Introvert” and “Winnas, Not N*ggas,” Keyshawn is on a mission to use his gifts of writing to inspire the next generation to trade who they are for what they can become.
Black History Fun Fact Friday returns next week with a brand new fun fact and our first special guest! Until then, I hope you enjoy this repost of how Black History Month got started.
Black History Month is around the corner. You know, the one time of the year that people are genuinely interested in Black History. Good thing you’ve got The PBS Blog, where we hit you up every week and all year round! Today, let us explore how Black History Month came to be.
Have you ever wondered why Black History Month is in February? You’ve heard it (or maybe even said it) “Why its gotta be the shortest month of the year tho?” Yea, that was you. It was me too. Before we get into that, let’s start from the beginning.
It starts with Dr. Carter G. Woodson, famous for his book The Mis-Education of the Negro, a book I highly recommend that you read (if you haven’t already).
Known as “The Father of Black History Month,” Carter was one of the first African Americans to receive a doctorate from Harvard and dedicated his career to the field of black history.
In 1915, Carter G. Woodson helped found the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (which later became the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History). The next year he established the Journal of Negro History and in 1921 formed the African-American-owned Associated Publishers Press. His goal was to center the contributions of African Americans. He wrote a dozen books, including but not limited to: A Century of Negro Migration (1918), The History of the Negro Church (1921), The Negro in Our History (1922) and The Mis-Education of the Negro (1933). The Mis-Education of the Negro is the most famous of these and is an often-recommended book by Historians and is also a book of study at Colleges. It centers on Black’s indoctrination into the American education system and touches on self-empowerment.
In 1926, Carter founded Black History Week. Black History Week eventually became Black History Month. It started as a program to encourage the study of Black History and was a week-long celebration in honor of Frederick Douglass (Born Feb. 14th) and Abraham Lincoln (Born Feb. 12th) and therefore Black History Month is in February.
Using Abraham Lincoln’s birthday is odd to me since Lincoln said that if he could have saved the Union without freeing any slaves he would have done it. Written during the Civil War, in one of Abraham Lincoln’s most famous letters to Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, Lincoln wrote about his focus to save the union, not to free the enslaved. Written while the Emancipation lay in his desk, not yet proclaimed, this letter is where the infamous quote comes from:
“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, excerpt from
Letter addressed to Horace Greeley, Washington, August 22, 1862.
Source: The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler
Learn more about Lincoln and the truth on his motifs concerning the freeing of the enslaved here.
In any event, in honor of these men, the program was held February of 1926 and was later expanded to an entire month as late as 1976.
And that, my people, is how Black History Month (the brief version) came to be.
Don’t Complain. Use What You Have.
I do not believe in colors. I believe in nations of people. I do not consider black and white to be nationalities set in motion by the creator but colors created by men. I believe that each human person belongs to a nation with land, laws, customs, and traditions to govern them. No one is black, white, or red. This doesn’t even make sense. Race was a concept developed by man to keep certain truths hidden and to promote racial superiority. Like you, I do not believe that Black History is something that should be assigned to one month, (for me it’s a way of life) let alone the shortest month, but I won’t complain about it. Instead, I’ll use it to further educate those whose eyes and ears are more open to hearing the truth. Every day is a chance to share Black history but instead of complaining about it is “the shortest month,” let us use February as an opportunity to awaken those who don’t know to the wide range of historical information that exists (but is largely left out of the textbooks) at a time where people are most interested to learn.
In the age of information where it is “cool to be conscious,” people aren’t as “woke” as they think they are. That said, if Black History Month is an opportunity for us to share knowledge and to introduce something to people at a time where they would pay attention, then we should do it. It has nothing to do with “celebrating black history month” but spreading the truth. If Black History Month helps people to understand who they are because their minds are open now, by all means, let us take advantage of it and stop complaining. Okay, so the month is short. That just means we better pack as much information into these 28 days as we can.
*Steps off soapbox*
And now, for my favorite Carter G. Woodson Quote:
“When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his “proper place” and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary.”
– Dr. Carter G. Woodson, “The Miseducation of the Negro”
Richardson is an actor and poet. She is currently studying Social Work at North Carolina Central University. She appreciates going to live shows in the area as well as trying different recipes from all over the world. Currently, she is a preschool teacher where she teaches them how to play unapologically. Her poem “Aya,” is a powerful piece about wrongful convictions which we know is at the heart of the Black Lives Matter movement to date in the Black community.
“Police sirens rang in the distance like freedom, The smell of privilege and oppression filled the air, I – somehow confused the chain-linked fences With chains and handcuffs.
They say “I am under arrest,” I say, “I am innocent!” But somehow I still fit the description”
Excerpt from “Aya”
Jahkazia, your work is beautiful. Please tell us, what inspired your poem?
“I was wrongfully arrested for a crime I did not commit. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced, so I wanted to shed light on this experience.”
We asked Jahkazia to dig deeper into the experience behind her poem.
Considering the police brutality plaguing the Black community, why do you think it is important for Black writers specifically to talk about their experiences in poetry?
Black writers have to talk about their experience first hand in order to make it real. Black death has been dramatized over and over. To make it more digestible society disconnects themselves from the soul attached to the victim/survivor. Writing about our experiences makes it impossible to disconnect. This is my story. These are my words. You can not, you will not erase me.
How has writing about your own experience with a wrongful arrest helped you to heal from the experience?
Believe it or not, this was the first time I have written about it since it happened (almost 3 years ago). I would speak about it briefly, and I even did an interview with a collective of Black Femmes who wanted to know about the experience of our dealings with the police. This wound being reopened has been hard, but rewarding in the sense that it has given me an increased momentum. Since I am now a social worker, my duty is to educate, protect, and inspire – that is healing in itself.
It is indeed. I love how poetry can heal by bringing out our most deep self. Thank you for sharing this with us!
Introducing the winners of Yecheilyah’s 3rd Annual Poetry Contest 2019!
Chanelle Barnes snatched up the #1 spot with her piece, “Straight Lines.” We had such a challenging time deciding between both the poems she submitted that we decided to include her second poem as an Honorable Mention.
But the brothers said they will not be left out this year people!
Buddah Desmond claimed second place with his uplifting poem “Claiming the Victory.”
Don’t forget our Honorable Mentions! They didn’t come to play either. Their poems were too good to leave out. We have two returning champs from last year. Jahkazia Richardson (our #1 Winner from last year!) came with “Aya,” a powerful poem about being wrongly convicted, and Kiyana Blount (who also placed last year) crushed it with “Lioness Strength.” Dondi Springer is a newbie to the contest and he brought it with “Look Within.”
Each of our winners will be featured individually over the next few weeks. We will start with our Honorable Mentions and work our way up to the Grand Prize Winner. Barnes and Desmond are preparing for their spotlight interviews where they will tell us what inspired their poems and more on their writing journey. You don’t want to miss it!
We are doing something different this year by not publishing the poems to this blog. Instead, you can read them in the 2020 Edition of the LKP Literary Magazine for poets coming February 2020. You will also get to read poems from this year’s entrants. ALL of them!
Over the next few weeks we will promote the winners of this contest on this blog. We are kicking things off next week.
Scroll over and click that beautiful Subscribe Button for notifications of new posts so you don’t miss this. Share this post and tell your poet friends things are about to get lit on The PBS Blog. Stay glued!
To help us level up next year’s contest we are seeking help early. If you would like to sponsor a book,* writing service,* or gift cards toward the 2020 contest, please comment your email address or send me one directly at yecheilyah (at) yecheilyahysrayl dot com.
*We are only accepting Poetry Books or Inspirational/Encouraging books for sponsorship.
*Writing Service is anything that will help our winners to level-up their writing or get exposure (that is what this platform is about after all, exposing new, talented writers!) This could cover editing, cover design, formatting, a guest post on your blog, promotion to your audience, or even publishing! The more we can offer the writers the better.
Me and Hubby had a wonderful time on our vacation. It’s been a long time since we’ve been out of the country, so it was refreshing to breathe another air. Canada is rich with Black history and many Black Canadians trace their ancestry to the so-called African American in America as the Underground Railroad brought tens of thousands of fugitive slaves to Canada. While many of these returned to the United States after emancipation, a significant population remained, largely in Southern Ontario, widely scattered in the country and the city, including Toronto.
The first recorded (recorded being the key word here…I am sure there were others, but this is the first record. The first known black person to live in Canada is said to have been a slave from Madagascar named Olivier Le Jeune) free Black person in Canada was a Black man named Mathieu de Costa. He was a free man who spoke several languages (among them French, Dutch, Portuguese and a mixture of French-Spanish dialect and First Nations languages) and is remembered as a skilled interpreter and the first man of African heritage to visit and live in Canada. He lived in Port Royal (Nova Scotia) for a short time, and a plaque to honor his life and time spent there has been placed on a monument at the Port-Royal National Historical Site. A school in Toronto, and a street in Montreal and Quebec City have been named after him. Because of his ability to speak several languages, it is said that he helped to bridge the gap between Europeans and Natives living along the Canadian Atlantic Coast to live peacefully.
As a group, black people arrived in Canada in several waves. We are planning a return trip this winter to explore Canada’s Black history that we did not have the time to explore this trip such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site and Buxton National Historic Site, in Chatham-Kent, Ontario. (It was about 3 hours from where we were so we didn’t have time to visit this round). If you remember, we touched on Josiah Henson in the truth about Uncle Tom post here. In 1842 former fugitive slave Josiah Henson established the Dawn Settlement, a center for education, training, and community planning. With financial backing from American abolitionists, Dawn became a diverse settlement featuring a school, brickyard, sawmill, farmland, and profitable lumber industry. “At its peak, about 500 people lived at the Dawn Settlement. Henson purchased 200 acres of land adjacent to the community, where his family lived.” (Ontario Heritage Trust) The Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site is an open-air museum and African American history center near Dresden, Ontario, Canada, that includes the home of Josiah Henson. While the development of administrative problems and the school closure in 1868 caused many Blacks to abandon the land (some going back to America when slavery ended and some spreading out throughout Toronto), Josiah and his wife Nancy lived on the land the rest of their lives.
Although we didn’t get to visit these sites, we visited Markham, Woodstock, Orville, and Toronto and got some much-needed rest. My goal for this trip was to step outside of my comfort zone and try something new. On this trip I:
Got my locs retwisted before leaving (something I don’t usually do. I like my natural do, but this was about being different sooo)
Stayed with friends on seven acres of land in a big country house instead of a hotel.
Ate largely vegetarian (except for the curry chicken and shawarma. Shawarma is a Middle Eastern dish of sliced meat and vegetables wrapped in a cone-shaped bread and roasted. It is basically like one HUGE burrito. Also Jamaican Porridge is delicious. I’ll replace my oatmeal with it any day).
Showered in well water
Used Cinnamon, sweet milk and a touch of vanilla in my coffee instead of my usual French Vanilla Creamer
Drank no alcohol
Splurged on something cute without worrying over it (because I’m cheap). I just paid really fast before I changed my mind. In fact, before leaving the store I went into the dressing room and changed, wearing the pants and earrings home.
We had an amazing time but it sure does feels good to be back (nothing like being able to boo-boo in your own toilet and sleep in your own bed). Be sure to check out other fun facts on the Black History Fun Fact Friday page here.