Revising The Stella Trilogy: Crafting Authentic Historical Details

In Beyond the Colored Line, book two of The Stella Trilogy, we meet Noah Daniels who is a member of The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. There are two books I read that helped me to conceptualize his character in the most authentic way possible: Revolutionary Suicide by Huey P. Newton and The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther by Jeffrey Haas.

These books helped me to capture the language and the spirit of the movement as realistically as possible. I modeled Noah’s persona after both Huey Newton and Fred Hampton. Noah uses terms like “Pig,” regarding the police like the Panthers did in the 60s, but reading Newton’s story helped me to understand this wasn’t a random term they pulled out of the sky to be derogatory.

Black Panther rhetoric like “All Power to the People,” and the concept of “pig,” came with Newton’s interest in A. J. Ayer’s logical positivism, that nothing can be real if it cannot be conceptualized, articulated, and shared. While I do not agree with this philosophy as a person of faith (because faith is the opposite of this…the belief and expectation of something even when you cannot see it), it was helpful in me understanding the Panthers on a deeper level and thus helped me to make Noah’s story more real.

Not all research needs to be included in the story so you won’t hear Noah quoting A.J. Ayer. The point of research for historical books is to help the writer to better understand the culture of the time so the characters can interact with the setting genuinely.

Historical Fiction is not an easy genre to write because while the story itself is fictional, the dialogue and personas of the characters have to be true to the time. A young person living in 1960 wouldn’t speak like a young person living in 2020. If done right, adding authentic historical details enrich the story by triggering memories of the past.

Excerpt from Chapter Ten:

“That just bugs me. We supposed to march and get hit upside the head by the pigs?” he would say in conversations with his mother when he would visit her. Unlike many young black men raised by their mothers, Noah’s mother had decided early on that her son’s narrative would be different. When he came of age, she would turn him over to be raised by his father. She could provide a lot of things, but she could not teach him how to be a man. She supported most of Noah’s radicalism, but only to an extent.

“Now don’t you go rappin’ ‘bout all that communist jive talk in here boy. Violence and hatred never helped to expand no revolution.”

“But Ma, that’s where you’re wrong. It’s not about violence. It’s about defending ourselves. Violence is only the guilt complex that exists in the minds of America.”

Mama Daniels would lift her head to the ceiling, wishing she’d said nothing.

“To say that a man is violent because he defends himself does not differ from saying a man who is being lynched and thus fighting back is himself violent because he fights back.”

“Boy, what? You know, sometimes I wish you weren’t so smart.”

Noah laughed, “’cause you know I’m right. Mama, white Americans know that they have been violent against Negroes, and they fear that one day the Negro will do unto them as they have done unto the Negro.”

The 1960s presented a new wave of leadership and identity for people of color who went from being Negroes to Blacks. Just the previous year, the heavyweight champion, Muhammad Ali refused induction into the army on both religious and political grounds. The epitome of the black power movement was the Black Panther Party, founded by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. This party organized the use of self-defense in the accomplishment of black justice and was right up Noah’s alley.


Stella: Beyond the Colored Line

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Black Slaves, Native Masters

“I got Indian in my family.”

Is something I hear often among the black community. Even in my own family, my mom talks of how her dad was 100% Cherokee Indian and how our family were cow slaughters which explains my maiden last name which is Hereford, a kind of cow.

Black Slaves, Native Masters

However, while many black families are proud to proclaim their Native Heritage, what is rarely passed around our dinner tables is an important fact in American History. This fact being that even the 5 Civilized Indian Tribes held slaves. A lot of black people jump at the chance to proclaim the above statement because oppressed people typically wants to identify with other oppressed people but the truth is stranger than fiction. Native Americans were oppressed by Europeans but they both had black slaves. In fact, Native Americans knew the layout of the land better than anyone else and it was they who taught the Europeans how to track and to capture slaves. (This is why in last weeks Underground Episode the little boy asked the black slave, “You used to live with the Indians didn’t you? And you taught my daddy how to track.” He used to live with the Indians because he was their slave same as he is the slave to the little boys father. Underground is a very well written TV show).

“Though the harsh treatment of enslaved Africans largely paled in comparison to that of white slaveholders, Blacks still were treated as an underclass among Native Americas. The Five Civilized Tribes even established slave codes that protected owners’ property rights and restricted the rights of Blacks.”

(Barbara-Shae Jackson, The Atlanta Black Star)

What’s deep about my family history is this:

Cherokee is one of the tribes who took part in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade (along with Chickasaw and others). In addition, the term “Cow-Boy” is also derivative of slavery. The slave boys who handled the cows were called cow boys. So when you watch Quentin Tarantino’s Django the content is actually not out of context far as the cow boy theme is concerned and my maiden name is potentially much more deep than we know.

“Passing” and the Color Line

Thank you Lynette for the kind mention. Beyond The Colored Line, Book #2 in The Stella Trilogy, is still a Stella favorite 🙂

Memoir Notes

This is a book review of Yecheilyah Ysrayl’s Stella series that delves into the issue of “passing” and the color line. After a comment on the post about Juanita Moore (the actress in the movie Imitation of Life), I thought some of you might be interested. Here’s the link:

https://thepbsblog.wordpress.com/2015/12/05/silvers-book-reviews-beyond-the-colored-line-stella-book-2-by-yecheilyah-ysrayl/

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They Don’t Know Who They Are

There’s a rumor taking place among African Americans in America. A rumor that has always been there but that is now being echoed from the mouths of others. We heard it first from Raven-Symoné and then Whoopi Goldberg, and now Stacey Dash.

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Let us start by saying that The United States has been drunk off the blood of the African American for 397 years now–that is from 1619 to the present, when blacks were first brought here in a servitude capacity on the banks of the James River in Jamestown Virginia. Since then blacks have fought in every American war and contributed to every major American architectural structure. Blacks have single handily been the backbone to American wealth and prosperity. Their slave labor is the reason many people are still wealthy today. It is no coincidence that they succeeded in the cotton fields where the Native did not. They were not brought to America by mere chance, but their captors understood their farming history as a people and their capacity to flourish. It is because of this that many African Americans feel that there is no one more American than they. This is when things get weird.

The servant is not invited to the party as a guest. The servant is invited as a servant. His job is not to mingle or even to sit at the masters table. The servant is not prohibited to kick his shoes off, go upstairs and rest. The servant is not there to get comfortable. The servant’s job is to serve. The black man and woman didn’t come to America on a plane. The black man and woman came to America in shackles. We’re not talking about the blacks who arrived here prior to 1619, we’re talking about the blacks who began what is infamously known as The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. These blacks, it is clear, have no idea who they are as a people. They have been robbed and spoiled and hidden into prison houses. They have no idea what’s going on around them or in front of them. They are wild bulls in a net and filled with the fury of the Almighty. Mistake it not that they are blessed. Any contribution from them is prosperity. The blood in their veins is still a covenanted one. They sing songs about redemption and have built communities out of nothing.

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However, at what point has American become synonymous with ethnicity, or rather, nationality? Were not your ancestors considered less than human beings when this country was built? If given the chance do you think the founding fathers would not have signed the constitution in your blood? You cannot align yourself with the Native because he too had you as slaves. Did your rights not have to be amended or added on like a button to a shirt? What to the slave is the 4th of July?

The Mexican American is American. The Canadian American is American. The European American is American. The Irish American is American. All of these people are Americans because they live in America, but when we talk about the nationality, which refers to a country, who are you? Every other people in America can still point in the direction of their natural heritage except the African American in America. This perpetual state of ignorance has caused many of them to settle for being Americans. They don’t know who they are. Just because I help build someone’s house, this does not make it mine.

Week #3: Beyond The Colored Line – Interracial Blog Feature with Allison Wells

interracial

It’s kind of hard to believe this today, but as recent as 1967, there was actually state laws that banned interracial marriage. These laws weren’t overturned until the Supreme Court case, Loving vs. Virginia in 1967. In that case, the Supreme Court found that it was unconstitutional for the state of Virginia to ban interracial marriage.

Although there are no longer any laws banning relationships, interracial dating remains a controversial subject for some people.

The Interracial Blog Feature was inspired by my new book, “Beyond The Colored Line”, and was created as a means to foster a better understanding of diverse relationships. Today, we welcome a good friend of mine Allison Wells.

EC: Hey Allison, I’m so excited to have you spending time with us today. Can you give the racial background of you and your husband for the record and how long you’ve been together?

AW: I am half Mexican and half white. We have been together 12, married almost 10.

EC: Awesome. Now, the character in my book, Stella May, is what the people of her era deem a mulatto, that is, she is of mixed ancestry. You have children who are biracial. What advice would you give to mothers of mixed children on how to deal with the stigmas that are often placed to them?

Photo Credit: Copyright© Andre and Allison Wells. Used with permission.
Photo Credit: Copyright© Andre and Allison Wells. Used with permission.

AW: Teach them to love all of who they are but don’t keep them in a bubble, prepare them for what others will say.

EC: That’s a good point. Preparation is so important. What are some challenges that interracial couples deal with that couples of the same race may not have to deal with?

AW: Well since we both grew up differently we had to learn to adjust to each others way of doing things… and food choices :). When it comes to parenting, you learn to compromise when necessary but you also learn to come up with your own ways of doing things. Neither one of us had very involved parents so we have been “learning as we go”.

EC: I get you. Sometimes that’s the best way to go too. OK, so, when African-Americans and Whites marry, there is more likely to be an African-American husband and a white wife. In fact, 73 percent of all African-American and White marriages have this setup. In your opinion and your experience with Interracial Relationships what do you think attracts other ethnicities to black men?

AW: Strength. Black men have a natural strength about them that is very attractive. When I say strength it’s both physical and mental. When dating, if I could walk all over you, it was an instant turn off.

EC: Whew! Now that’s some insight right there, yesss. SPEAK. OK I’m calm lol. So anyway, speaking of black men, I hear a lot of black people, women in particular, accusing other blacks of being “sell outs” when they date outside their race. Have you or your husband ever had the misfortune of the title and why do you think this is?

AW: Yes, I’ve defiantly heard the phrase “why couldn’t he get with a black girl? He’s weak.”

EC: Wow. Why do you think this is? How does it make you feel?

AW: Well I’ve also been on the flip-side of that comment, I’ve had people ask why I was dating someone white but the truth of the matter is people are never going to be happy with your decisions. Everyone has an opinion and some people love to criticize. So I don’t deal in other people’s opinions, it doesn’t affect me either way.

EC: I heard that. Speaking of opinions, a lot of people discern that blacks who speak with a professional tongue are trying to sound white. I speak from experience. My husband is not white but he’s very educated and he grew up in a diverse city as well where the majority of people in the town were white. Of the blacks present, he was teased by them a lot for his speech. They said that he sounded, “White”. As a biracial woman, what are your thoughts on this?

AW: That’s silly to me. I think when people say stuff like that it speaks to their own insecurities. There is nothing wrong with speaking correctly, or “properly.”

EC: True. As my husband would say, just be real about it. Speak how you speak regardless of the company and give everyone the same level of respect. Now, speaking of speech, I’ve always wondered about the conversations between interracial couples concerning the ongoing racial tensions surrounding blacks and whites. Are there any moments where you and your husband disagree with a subject that is race related? If so, how do you deal with that?

AW: I think that it helps us both get a fuller understanding of each side. We don’t disagree often but if we do then we explain our points.

EC: Hmm, so it fosters greater insight into both your perspectives.

AW: Right.

EC: Any time before 1967 your relationship would technically be illegal. How does that make you feel today with the knowledge that you’ve chosen to be with someone outside of your race?

AW: If anything it makes me truly grateful to be born in this time.

EC: Yes indeed. Allison, I want to thank you again for being part of this series, it has truly been a pleasure. If there is one form of advice you would give to people still struggling to accept Interracial Relationships, what would it be?

AW: Love is a strong thing, it sees past color. If you are still struggling then maybe you need to check yourself on that.

EC: I just love how you keep it all the way real. In closing, as someone who has been married for some time, name one thing that has kept your relationship going.

Photo Credit: Copyright© Andre and Allison Wells. Used with permission.
Photo Credit: Copyright© Andre and Allison Wells. Used with permission.

AW: I think what has kept us together for this long is our respect for one another, our faith, and communication.

EC: Such a beautiful couple, thank you Allison for your time.

AW: Anytime.

And that’s it family, Allison Wells on Interracial Marriages. As you can see from our Q&A, the purpose of this series is to shed light on the fact that mankind was made to be compatible with one another regardless of race. Thank you Mrs. Wells for joining me in this series. It was insightful and educational, I sure did learn a lot.

file(7)Stay tuned for our final week of Interracial Marriages. We’ll be wrapping up our series with our final interviewee and a surprise gift from me to all of my guests! You don’t want to miss it.