The Power of Influence

I was browsing my archives and thought it was interesting that I came upon this post I wrote on the same day it was published two years ago, August 10, 2015.  I don’t believe in coincidences so I am re-posting this for whoever needs to read it. It is, after all, Throwback Thursday.


What if I told you that inventions were built on your smile? If I told you, that babies were made from your good morning? That because of you someone glided their way home today. Kissed sunshine into the arms of a loved one or sat down to give birth to their first poem. Trembling and afraid, they are virgin to this moment. Nothing to warn them of the Sanchez in their blood or the Maya on their skin but here they are because you loved them. What if I told you that inside the creases of your armpits were hugs that wrote masterpieces, which sang platinum albums, and wiped away tears as easily and as gently as music? What if I told you that your words are music? That someone somewhere is listening to you strum their pain with your fingers. That with your words alone you Lauryn Hill them back to Zion. Never underestimate the hope you unknowingly gift to others, like slow songs that mean nothing until you are desperate enough to listen to the words.

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The Potent Word

 

Can I spit poison into your life just by speaking words into your skin? Or can I speak life into your life by cultivating peace into your heart? Words. So important and potent, life threatening and life creating. We must never forget the power of words, their motives and intentions, their power and potency. I marvel at how easily we curse one another. Every day there is someone trying to clean up the blood they spilled by gossiping behind someone’s back, or begging for wishful deaths to go back to its chamber of meaning. Never tell someone you wish they’d leave this earth, or that you hate their guts. You may indeed be charged with murder before the words escape your mouth. I often wonder why I have taken on the task of this kind of bravery, to become a professor of words. To become part of a community where the next murderer is just one page away from me. Perhaps I have a death wish, releasing words into the air with only the hope that they will bring back life. I publish each post with shaking hands, a trembling finger; a focused mind. Carefully crafting and considering the words I put into the air. Writers. The bravest people I know. Managers of the potent word.

What Will You Leave Behind?

When the dust settles, and the maggots hug your flesh. A flesh that is no longer yours. No longer powered with your personality, characteristics, flaws, successes, laughter. A flesh that can no longer see through your eyes, hear with your ears, or feel with your heart. A lifeless corpse of talent now rusting away, intermingling itself with the dirt and gravel. What will you leave behind? When your talents are but mud in the earth, will your name linger on the edge of the people’s tongues? Even so, in what capacity? For names have a tendency to stick around for better or for worse. What will you be known for? Will your children grow to benefit from your works? Will you stretch your arms forth in the breath of yesterday and kiss them with creativity? I wonder if my children will live to cherish my books one day. If they will become heirlooms on the shelves of memory. Will my offspring reminisce on an existence that did not include them and yet somehow influenced their decisions still. I am myself obsessed with the mentality of my ancestors. Both the righteous and wicked works of their past and how they have shaped the world before me. From the healing instrument of the music, the perfection of the Afro, or the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church that killed four little girls in Birmingham, where I can still taste the stench of mourn. The nostalgic images of yesterday and the way they Underground Railroad themselves into the future. I am forced to ponder the thought, what kind of tracks will I leave behind for others to follow? Will the sweat of labor coddle my children’s tears, or will it just become moisture for the worms of the earth when the dust has settled, and the maggots hug my flesh. I wonder.

What Langston Hughes Taught Me About Writing

Langston Hughes
Langston Hughes, Google Images

What known historically famous writers, like Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, have taught me is that writing (far as fiction, / non-fiction, poetry, novelist type writing), is not about making money. Before you throw your stones at the computer screens listen carefully: You can surely make money, but writing is not about making money, if you can understand that. Though I write for a “living” I can honestly say, with my integrity intact, that I have written not one book and not one poem with the intent to make money. I don’t think any writer sits back and says, “Self, lets’ get this best seller on out the way shall we?” Personally, I write because I love doing it and I publish because I love sharing it. But, how did Langston Hughes help me to understand this?

For those of you who are not already familiar, Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston are two of the biggest names in literary history. Just mention The Harlem Renaissance and their names are the first to come to mind. When you look into the lives that they lived however, you see two interesting facts: a). Both were very famous b). Both were very broke.

You wouldn’t know it from the looks of it. Not the way their names are plastered into history books. Not their quotes and faces and the people they’ve known. In fact, to the untrained eye one may come to think these people were rich. Yes, just like any “successful” Traditional or Self-Publisher always before the face of the people. The truth is that Langston Hughes had many side jobs throughout his career that made him money. This included many speaking engagements, teaching, traveling the world, and even working as a bus boy at the Wardman Park Hotel in Washington. Hughes attended Lincoln University but that was because he couldn’t raise the scholarship money to attend Howard. In addition, both Hughes and Zora worked closely under Charlotte Manson, their rich white patron (she was also a big racist but that’s another story) who paid them for the work they published (she also dictated the works they could / could not publish). They also worked closely, most especially Hughes, with Carl Van Vechten (infamous for his book “Nigger Heaven”) who got him lots of work.

I do not say this to discourage anyone from being an author. I say this to say that there is a passion and a drive to writing a book that has nothing to do with royalties and books sales. This is what the promotion and hard work is all about, or at least mine is.  Writing and promoting books that people want to read. There were times where Langston Hughes could barely pay his rent and yet he still managed to know pretty much everyone there was to know during the Harlem Renaissance and the era to which he lived in general. This is a man who was surrounded by millionaires and billionaires on a regular, not because he necessarily  made the same kind of money but because of the way that his work changed people who were drawn to his message. This is what it’s all about: Changing lives. This is also why the Traditional-Indie argument is so stupid right now. It doesn’t matter how you publish the book and whether or not you’re “making it rain”. What matters is whether or not your book has a voice. If it does, then the people will gather to hear you sing.

Diversify Your TV / Movie Selections

I know we all have our favorites but it is time to upgrade. In a couple weeks we’ll be moving on into another year. As such, I would like to propose an upgrade in entertainment. Last month I wrote a post called “Before The Weeks Ends” about diversifying our bookshelves. In this post, I spoke about how dedication to only certain kinds of books can limit our perspective in life. I proposed instead a diversity in reading selections. Don’t just read Romance but have a few “How-To” sprinkled in there. Don’t just read Erotica only but throw in some African American Literature every now and again. Have something that you can go to for a little fun but also something that will educate you and give you insight beyond the norm. That said, this same logic can be applied to TV. What you put out and also what you take in is reflective in your life. Meaning that if I put positive energy out there I expect positive energy to come back to me. But if Flavor of Love, which projects a negative image of my people, is the only thing I’m giving my energy to, how can I ever expect to grow beyond that way of thought?

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We can sit back and convince ourselves that these are just shows but it would be naïve to think it has no effect on our minds. While were on the subject (*climbs soap box*) why are some of these shows even out there in the first place? Why did Flavor of Love even exist? What was its purpose? Yes,  I watched the TV show back in the day and as I look back, what did it produce for me? What did it teach the teenage me? Did it teach me how to love? Did it teach me how to take care of a man? Did it teach me how to interact with the world? Own a business? What did Flavor of Love teach me as a young woman who needed to be guided?

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And why do black people support these kinds of shows anyway? The ones that take the worst of your people and highlight it to the entire world and is popular only because you watch it. Even though they do nothing for your growth as an individuals. There is nothing profound or mentally stimulating about these shows. There is nothing that will give you an understanding of life in these shows. These shows do nothing but highlight the activity of wild women that no man would ever commit to. These shows produce all this negative energy and then we wonder why we can’t get along with our men. Why we can’t stop using profanity. Why we can’t get along with other women. It’s because of what we’re feeding our minds. In your subconscious you’re imitating the women you watch every week and mimicking their ways.

*Gets down from soapbox*

Now, I’m not going to sit here and tell you what to watch and what not to watch. I am not your judge and we’re all adults here. What I will say is this: use a little wisdom in your selection. Like I said  I published a post on diversifying our bookshelves and I think this same logic can be applied to every aspect of our lives. Diversify your movie  and TV selections as well.  Don’t just sit back and watch the same shows over and over again. Throw some documentaries in there, some historical films, or tune into something that is new. It may be boring at first but so is everything that is different to your way of life. You never know, it just may give you insight into something you may not have known before. We cannot possibly think that what we read or watch or make permanent parts of our lives have no bearing on our lives. It takes more than just talking about growth to actually grow as individuals. It takes some form of change, not just for black people but all people. It begins with what we give our attention to because what we give always come back. Everything around you has an effect on you in some way. Choose wisely.