I Want My Stuff

I want my truth
before slavery.
I want customs and traditions
without being conditioned
I want unconditioned
hair.
I want my stuff.
I want my Kings and Queens
my silver and my gold
I want my laws and commandments and my stories
retold.
I want do-overs
for how we’ve been done over
I want my children re-educated
Give me raised fists
and two-parent households.
I want functioning Black family units,
Afros, Black power, curly hair
and I want my cocoa butter skin.

I want credit for all my skills.
I want my midwives
I want my tribes
I want my inventions before you re-invented them.
I want Lewis Howard Latimer
not Thomas Edison.
I want my covenants renewed
I want my 40 acres and a mule.
I want my land rich as I left it
I want my spirituality accepted
I want my names changed back
I want my Proverbs and freedom songs
and I want my Moses Black.
I want what you stole from me
I want King Solomon Black and comely.
I want it all back.

I want my stuff.

The Evolution of a Book Cover

I have always enjoyed looking at book covers. Choosing a cover is my favorite part of the Indie Book Publishing process. In the beginning, I didn’t care too much about the cover and that was cool. But then, as I matured, I started to look at my writing differently. I stopped looking at my writing alone and started looking at the book as a complete package. In doing so, I’ve learned that the best chances of a book succeeding is not just one thing, but a collection of things. Not just a nice cover alone or a well-written story alone, but everything together. That is what I’ve learned, and that is how I will look at book publishing from now on. I will look at the process as a complete piece, a body that I must dress not just outwardly but inwardly and not just inwardly but outwardly.

I have had a little success with I am Soul so I thought I’d talk a little bit about the evolution of the cover and how I think it has played a major role in that success.

To start, I wasn’t going to even release this book when I did. I was supposed to release book two of Nora December 20, 2017, my mothers birthday. Instead, I pushed that book back (it wasn’t ready) and released I am Soul.

I am Soul is a collection of poems from this blog as well as my personal journal, collected, compiled and edited into what is now my 4th collection of poetry. I call it I am Soul because some of the poems are personal, some of them are centered around the African American experience (a people of Soul) and also because people have always said that I have an old soul. Even as a kid people have said that I was mature for my age. For these reasons, I am Soul.

Grainy pic of me and I am Soul with old cover.

The first cover was decent. I liked it a lot. A purple book with a heart-shaped bible page. It was nice enough to land me the #7 spot in the African Literature category of Amazon before release day. It started at number 17, then dropped to number 9 and then number 7.

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But…

I liked the cover a lot but I didn’t love it. I couldn’t help but notice that the cover looked better electronically, to me, than it did when the paperback arrived. It also didn’t stand out very well on Amazon.

I AM SOUL- 3D

I still think this is a cute cover but it doesn’t look all that great offline. Once the book printed it didn’t look the same. The dark blue on top the purple didn’t pop. In fact, this is still the cover on Goodreads. I don’t know how to change it. At first I didn’t care but after awhile I had to follow my heart and change the cover. (A privilege of publishing books Independently. You can change what you want, when you want.)

I decided to try something that matched the name of the book and the content in full. When you think of Soul you think of something deeply personal and connected to that individual.

Soul is something Israelites (Blacks) have always had (think Soul Train), from our hair styles to our creative way of dance, the way that we dress, the way that we sing, and the way that we speak. We set the trends and nothing was more trendy than the Afro at the peak of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. From the practice of shaving the head to pass as a free person in the antebellum south, to the Afro of the 60s and 70s that said that Blacks were proud of who they were and free to be so openly, natural hair had made a comeback.

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Young, beautiful Cicely Tyson.

In the 1950s-60s it was common for Black women in Africa to wear their hair in small bushes. In America, Black women stopped straightening their hair. Women like Nina Simone and Abbey Lincoln are examples. And then Miriam Makeba (“Mama Africa”) emerged with a fro in the January 1960s issue of Look Magazine and Cicely Tyson wore her hair in a fro on episodes of the CBS drama East Side, West Side. And as college students and political activists like Jesse Jackson and Angela Davis started wearing fros, the fro had eased on into the mainstream.

Before and After

 

It wasn’t just about hair no more than Samson’s locs was about being trendy. Those locs were a representation of power and strength and so the Afro was a representation of the social-economic and political era of the time. A time when Black men and women were gaining strength and reclaiming parts of their lost heritage, one hairstyle at a time. A similar revolution is taking place today. Black men and woman are embracing more of their natural selves and waking up to the true knowledge of who they truly are.

For all of these reasons, I felt an image of a Black woman wearing a fro spoke volumes concerning the kind of messages I was seeking to give with the poetry inside of the book. Not just the soul of one woman but the soul of a people. The soul of an era.

I still think both covers are nice in their own right but the one that sticks out the most and which embodies a much more clear message; the one that will not just appeal to those who are biblically conscious but reach a larger audience; the one that makes people stop in their tracks, is the new cover.

When I uploaded this to social media, readers responded immediately. This had not happened with the first cover.

 

 

The new cover got me new reviews…

Screenshot (42)

I submitted this book to two different bookstores. One using the old cover and one using the new cover. The one with the new cover got a call back and the book is beginning to sell at the store. I am still waiting on a response from the store using the old cover.

 

I’ve learned that book covers really are important because I’ve experienced how important they are. Don’t get me wrong, content is just as important. At the end of the day if there’s nothing special to read there’s nothing special about the book. I am Soul still had to be edited and get through the bookstore’s professional reviewers to be stocked.

But, when I walked into the store yesterday, I couldn’t help but notice that because of the cover, Soul stuck out more than some of the other books that I could tell, as an Indie Author, were also self-published. In fact, to my surprise, Soul was sitting right next to Nikki Giovanni’s A Good Cry. Whether someone just sat it there or not, I cannot be sure. But, I was sure enough proud. I wasn’t going to taint the moment with thoughts of how it got there. It was there nonetheless.

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Misrepresentation

I know we are all still on a high from The Black Panther movie. It’s a great film. While we are in this space–this feeling of pride and empowerment– I’d like those who choose to do so to not let something else go over our heads. If you think about it, it is easy to miss. There’s so much happening around Black Panther, no one has said anything about the misrepresentation of ourselves (Blacks) happening right before our eyes. The misrepresentation I am referring to is The Samson Movie.

If you don’t believe in the bible you may exit now. I don’t expect this to have any significance to you. If you believe in the bible however then there is one thing we must realize about two things that have taken place before our eyes, overshadowed by the excitement surrounding Wakanda and T’Challa.

Both Samson and Nefertiti have been misrepresented. They have both been portrayed as Europeans when this is not the case.

(See my thoughts on Nefertiti Here.)

On February 16, 2018, The Samson movie came out. I don’t believe in coincidences so it’s no coincidence to me that this movie came out on the same day that Panther came out. Naturally, Black people will be excited about seeing themselves represented, for once, on screen. Naturally, we would support Black Panther over The Samson Movie. Naturally, we are tired of seeing white heroes. Naturally, we would miss this. I am asking you not to miss it. I am asking you to pay attention. Now, I am not asking you to go see Samson. Do not misunderstand me. I am asking you to realize that Samson was one of our heroes and he is being misrepresented in this movie. I am saying that Wakanda has got Blacks searching and talking about identity for once, which is great. Interestingly enough, Samson is our identity. The Israelites were black. The Philistines were black. The Egyptians were black.

As we are being represented in Black Panther, we are being misrepresented in Samson. Showing Israelites and Egyptians as Europeans is disrespectful. Do not lose sight of this. It is not a small matter. Samson was a very powerful man, a superhero with great strength. Black Panther is a great film with powerful symbolism and messages (that I hope to address soon. In the meantime, see my recent post on 6 Reasons Black Panther is Popular (and it’s not even out yet) I wrote before the movie released.) In short, Samson’s portrayal as a white man is just as offensive to me as Nefertiti being portrayed as a white woman and no one’s talking about it.

How to Add a Favicon to Your WordPress Site

Do you favicon? I have started to pay more attention to them and love the neat look it gives my browser. First, what is it?

Favicon – Also known as a browser icon, website icon, site icon, or URL icon, a Favicon is a tiny logo / image that shows up when you visit any website.

Mailchimps Favicon

My Author Website Favicon

Custom Favicon’s help to brand a website, establishing your website’s identity. Instead of the default icon that shows up when you create a website, your logo will show in the browser when people visit your website and looks good for your online presence. Plus, it looks cool. I added a favicon when I acquired a domain for my blog so that both my author website and my bog have matching browser icons:

So, if you’d like to add a Favicon to your blog, here’s how.

First, be sure you have an image or logo to add. The recommended file type is ico or PNG (if you’re still using Internet Explorer, shame on you. No, seriously, PNG website icons won’t show on some Internet Explorer browsers so try JPG).

The standard Favicon sizes is 100px x 100px and 300px a 300px and they will show smaller of course at 16px by 16px. Be sure your image does not exceed 100KB.

The next set of steps is as easy as 1, 2, 3.

  1. Go to your WP Dashboard
  2. Scroll down to settings > General
  3. To your left is Site Icon > Upload your image

After uploading your image refresh your page. If the favicon still doesn’t show in your browser you should clear your cache. (In Firefox: Tools > Options > Advanced > Network > Clear now).

Who Are You?

Business man pointing the text: Who are You?

I’ve been gone for a minute and I loved every second of it! Silence is my place of rejuvenation and reflection in a world that never stops talking. If I could, I would never say a word and in that muteness, soak up all the wisdom I could emanating from others. Watching in solitude at their actions, and reading their thoughts. In this time, I’ve had the opportunity to sit back and listen. Listen with my eyes. Watching and reading new year’s resolution posts, plans, goals, and aspirations for the new year.  I’ve seen many authors jump for joy over new projects and ideas, and silently I rejoiced with them. I’ve watched my emails and opened to find those I’m subscribed to talking about how to write better for 2017 and to overall be a better version of your author self. I’ve seen everything pretty much except for one thing and let me begin with a little bit about myself before I tell you what that thing is.

I grew up on the south side of Chicago and spent the first nine years of my life growing up in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the Unites States. I’ve been homeless. I’ve been hungry. I’ve had to wipe myself with newspaper and clothing because there was no tissue. I’ve, at times, had to feed myself by stealing candy bars from Walgreen’s, clothe myself by stealing just the same. I’ve been jumped on so badly I had to get staples in my head. I’ve been hit by a car and had to get staples in my leg. I’ve been hospitalized, psychologized and the list goes on.

I tell you this because people often ask me if this is the reason that I write. While every experience has its influence I am sure, it is not the reason that I write because without the overcoming, the struggle is nothing. I did not start writing because I’ve had a not-so-pleasant life. It is not the life itself, it is what has been drawn from that experience. Human thought, emotion, trial, and triumph. It is as Maya Angelou described as facing evil or the good that comes out of evil. Though the rape she suffered as a child drove her to silence it was what came out of that silence that made the difference. The reading of every book in both the black and white libraries and the memorizing of whole plays.

Who Are You?

While I too have goals and plans for this year, I decided my first post of 2017 won’t be about any of that. Writing is much more than a series of goals, plans, and even passion. It is the purpose. A written monument of who you are and why your contribution to the world is significant.

Purpose. It is a word that’s been thrown around so much that perhaps it lost its flavor, became tasteless. Maybe we’ve underestimated the power of purpose. That drive that compels you to do something not just because you want to do it but because if you don’t do it then others will suffer. As Will Smith once said, it is when you wake up in the mornings and your life means something to someone other than you. It is when you know in your hearts that your work is special, not for yourself alone but special because of how your influence makes people feel. In that if you didn’t exist or if you gave up today then there are people who will suffer.

Who Are You?

I’m not asking about your occupation. You’re not a writer and neither am I. Writing is what we do but it is not who we are. Do not misunderstand me. Who you are drives the writing and thus, it is more important than the writing itself and you will not write until that foundation of self-awareness is solidified, least you crumble under the pen of imitation. Trying to mimic the latest trends, writing what you think a writer should write, and doing what the majority is doing instead of being an individual and doing what the majority are not doing. Before plans and goals, writers need to discover who they are because the energy of who you are and what you put out into the world always comes back to you, drip feeding itself into your relationships and your work.

Who we are drives our writing. Moves it. Pushes it forward. Who you are will dictate what you write and how you write it. Who you are is made up of what you value, what’s important to you. Who you are represent what matters to you. It is that thing that wakes you in the mornings and sends you to the keyboard whether you get paid or not. Who are you? The answer to this question will compel you to push on despite opposition, never allowing your clarity to be fueled by how others respond because trust there will be days. Days where the business of writing will strangle your love for it. Yes, it’s true. You will get tired. You will get overwhelmed, and you will question if you’ve done the right thing, made the right move, or are on the right track. This is when purpose steps in, that thing that far exceeds talent or passion and even skill but reminds you why you do what it is that you do because trust, there are days when you will forget.

Who you are is much deeper than the blank page and your pen will give birth to not a single word until you are first capable of answering this question. Further, the words on the page won’t have a heartbeat until you are first capable of answering this question honestly. For the heart, will determine the direction of your life since out of it is the sources of life. The heart will lead and guide and be there even when we think it is not. The heart is ever present, and yes, even in your writing your heart is there. It speaks and it dictates every single word. It is your purpose for being. Not just for writing, but for being. It is you.

Who you are is important because who you are will always be right. In the words of Maya Angelou, what is right may not be expedient and it may not be profitable but it will save your soul. It is the why in why you write and until you understand exactly what it is (not what you think it is or hope it can be but what it actually is) then writing itself will never make sense.


Yecheilyah Ysrayl is the YA, Historical Fiction author of eight books most notably, The Stella Trilogy, Blogger, and Poet. She is currently working on her next book series “The Nora White Story” about a young black woman writer who dreams of taking part in The Harlem Renaissance movement and her parents struggle to accept their traumatic past in the Jim Crow south. “Renaissance: The Nora White Story (Book One)” is due for release July, 2017. For updates on this project, sneak peeks of other projects, nuggets and tidbits, video tutorials, writing inspiration, and more, be sure to follow this blog and to subscribe to Yecheilyah’s email list HERE.

Race and Rights

Malcolm-X-about-men

When did race and rights become separate entities? Since when has the black problem in America not have to do with both race and rights? Dare you to walk the streets of the 1920s and 40s and 50s with your prophet scented blood and expect to transgress the law of separatist signage. That “Whites Only” sign ain’t there by mistake. The one that says Negroes like you must order from the back door. Yo money may be colored like your skin but green has always been worth more than brown. I don’t like to have to go back to slavery. After all, it ain’t like I lived it and yet I can never forget what it feels like. But since we on the subject of feeling, I’m feeling like the same blood pulsing underneath my ancestor’s skin now pulses through mine so what they felt I feel it too. Perhaps I too was a slave long ago and its just taken me this long to find my voice. So, therefore, let me tell you something about what it means to be a slave. A slave is never granted the same rights as a free man, not a physical slave or a psychological one. An inferior race is never granted the same rights as a superior one. Thus anything that’s got to do with rights has also got to do with race. For the Black problem in America has always been centered around identity and always will be. Rights would have never been a problem if the problem wasn’t race. If the hierarchy of the superior and the less superior didn’t exist. If black people never walked around with bywords and proverbs tattooed on their skins there wouldn’t have been a need for them to watch movies in the Nigger Heaven1 of southern movie theaters. Would have been no need of me taking my seat alongside Miss Parks or Miss Morgan all them years ago. A Black Man’s rights and his race are always connected here, like the careful structure of his bones before he emerges from his mother’s womb. It’s the yearning for freedom written in his DNA. Black America’s rights have always and always will be centered around their identity because their problem is not physical it is spiritual. And because a spiritual problem has been long fought with physical weapons the condition of black people in America continues. And so their fight has always been and always will be centered around their freedom.

1. Nigger heaven, n. a designated place, usually the balcony, where blacks were forced to sit, for example, in an integrated movie theater or church as part of Jim Crow Laws.

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.

jamestownvasign

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.

1619Image

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.