A Writer’s Responsibility

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Writers must understand what their responsibility is as a voice. As a shofar to the world. Low self-worth, ignorance, and low self-esteem can be smelled from miles away. The stench of give up is not something that is difficult to discern. If you dare to write, then dare also to own it. Your words, your message, and your purpose is something that must not be shared timidly. It’s not about arrogance, for arrogance will surely destroy you. What it is about is writing with authority and making yourself responsible for every word, every syllable, and every piece of heart contextualized. Humility is understanding who guides you every day and who came before you. It is not thinking less of yourself. Every blog post, every email, and every book demand from you a responsibility. You are responsible for being professional, exact, kind, and factual despite how inappropriate others may be. You do not have the permission to curse people or spew opinions that are not rooted in fact. You are a writer and this is your responsibility. When it comes to writing, there is no modesty for the words that you put on the page. If you cannot strip yourself down to the bare minimum and expose your gift for what it is then what are you doing writing? In the words of Maya Angelou, “Life will knock a modest person down faster than a G-string falls off a stripper”. If you cannot take advice on how to better your work, what are you doing writing? If you cannot take it the same as you dish it, then what are you doing writing? What you do will come back. If you can give constructive criticism then be able also to take it. So what people think negatively about you. Their loss. Accepting correction is part of your responsibility as every artist or professional is told what they don’t want to hear at least some of the time. If this is something you can’t handle then again I ask you, what are you doing writing? The same applies to every profession. Dare not put your trust in man for man will always disappoint you. Instead, see every critique, every negative, every mistake, as part of the gift and the growth. You don’t have to agree with me but you will respect me and I will respect you. Not for you alone but because it is my responsibility as a person and as an artist to do so. Authors, you are a fountain of information. If you cannot hurricane Katrina, or tsunami this with the world and be confident and open about it, then what are you doing writing? To be courageous is not just a choice, but it is your responsibility. Every word I stitch into this blog, every piece I spit on stage, and every book I publish comes with trembling fear. But it is a fear that I must use as energy I need to push on. Always forward. Despite those looking for grains of fault in every post I publish, hoping to catch me in a trap as to accuse me of not being the person I’ve always shown myself to be. Despite this, I must write. Even if I do not speak (muteness is addictive. I’ll shut down with the quickness and write you notes as Maya did), I must write. I must do so because it is my responsibility. What’s my point here? Stop complaining. Are you a writer? Then be strong. Own it. You are here and you have something to do.

7 Black Communities That Prospered

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This post was last updated September, 2016.


I love entrepreneurship. I talk about it. I live it. I stand behind it. I encourage all people, especially black people to go on and do it. If you’ve ever had a desire to own your own business, I say to go for it. Don’t wait until the time is right. The time will never be right. Here are some black-owned communities that prospered to get your blood pumping:

Free Blacks of Israel Hill

This community is actually the inspiration for my novel in progress. In Renaissance: The Nora White Story, Nora is  descendent of the free blacks of Israel Hill. It is how her father Gideon inherited five acres of land and why, although Nora’s not very impressed, they’re doing well financially compared to those around them. Anywho, it was during my trip to New Mexico last year while reading Melvin Patrick Ely’s book Israel on The Appomattox, winner of  THE BANCROFT PRIZE, A New York Times Book Review, and Atlantic Monthly Editors’ Choice, that the first inklings of a story idea emerged.

Settled in Prince Edward County Virginia in 1810-1811 by ninety formerly enslaved persons who received freedom and 350 acres from Judith Randolph under the will of her husband, Richard Randolph, these Israelites and other free African Americans worked as farmers, craftspeople, and Appomattox River boatmen; some labored alongside whites for equal wages and the family of early settler Hercules White bought and sold real estate in Farmville. Israel Hill remained a vigorous black community into the twentieth century.

Rosewood

Rosewood, Florida is not mentioned very often except for the massacre that took place but it was before then a thriving community. The quite town prospered in 1870 when a railway depot was set up to transport the abundant red cedar, from which the town got its name, from Rosewood to a pencil factory in cedar key. By 1900 it was predominantly African American with a school, turpentine mill, baseball team, general store, and sugarcane mill. The community had two dozen plank two-story homes, some other small houses, as well as several small unoccupied plank structures.

Blackdom

There was much revelation during my New Mexico trip. It was also during that time I learned of Blackdom, another little known African American community about 18 miles southwest of Roswell New Mexico and was founded by Frank and Ella Boyer. Walking 2,000 miles on foot from Georgia to New Mexico, Boyer left his wife and children behind to cultivate land in the free territory of the West before sending for his family some three years later. At this time in history, Blacks had begun migrating from the south in great numbers in a movement called “The Great Exodus” following the Homestead Act of 1862, particularly in Kansas. Henry was a wagoner in the American-Mexican war when he first set eyes on the New Mexico land. The Artesian Water sprang in abundance as more and more blacks were invited and nourished on the land. Blackdom had its own school and post office.

Mound Bayou, MS

The first all-black town in Mississippi, Mound Bayou was founded by two former slaves, Isaiah Montgomery, and his cousin, Benjamin Green. In December of 1886, according to a Cleveland Mississippi article of July 1887,  Montgomery and Green bought 840 acres of land from the Louisville-New Orleans & Texas Railroad for $7 an acre. That acreage would serve as the site of Mound Bayou.

The men were successful, their town reaching a population of 4,000 people (99.6 percent black) by 1907. It had a train depot, a bank, a post office, numerous successful industries, a variety of stores and eateries, a newspaper, a telephone exchange and, eventually, a hospital. Mound Bayou was a thriving community.

Nicodemus Township in Graham County, Kansas

This town was founded in 1877 by a corporation of seven members, six of whom were Black along the south fork of the Solomon River. Benjamin “Pap” Singleton, a former slave and Underground Railroad conductor helped to produce what was called the “Kansas Fever” of the late 1870s. Tens of thousands of African Americans left their homes headed for Singleton’s Cherokee County colony or Nicodemus, in Graham County, Kansas.

Promoted as the “Promised Land” throughout the south, founders hosted visits by potential settlers. By 1879 the town’s population stood at about 700.

The All-Black Community of Boley, Oklahoma

The all-black community of Boley OK was founded in 1904. With Railroad access and land, that helped, Boley became one of at least 20 Black towns in Oklahoma, to thrive. By 1907, it had at least 1,000 residents, and twice that many farmers settled outside of town. There were several businesses and an industrial school.

Black Wall-Street

Speaking of Oklahoma, I’m sure many of us are already familiar with Greenwood, a neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma that was one of the most successful and wealthiest black communities in the United States during the early 20th Century, popularly known as America’s “Black Wall Street” due to its financial success that mirrored Wall Street. During the oil boom of the 1910s, which gained the town such titles as “Oil Capital of the World”, the area of northeast Oklahoma around Tulsa flourished, including the Greenwood neighborhood. Home to several prominent Black businessmen, the neighborhood held many multimillionaires. Greenwood had grocery stores, clothing stores, barbershops, banks, hotels, cafes, movie theaters, two newspapers, and many contemporary homes. The dollar circulated 36 to 100 times, sometimes taking a year for currency to leave the community.

Holding onto Hope – Owning Your Blog / Writing

Holding onto Hope, blogging, writing

I decided to take a much-needed break from revising my manuscript and sat down to watch a couple episodes of Fringe (now my new favorite TV show. Yes, I know, it came out years ago but I’m new to this). After retiring to my bed and scrolling through Pinterest I was forced to deal with the thought that has been lingering in the back of my mind. The thought was doubt and as I struggled to ignore it, I knew eventually I’d have to face this beast, stop being lazy, and rid it from my consciousness.

As I sit here, typing this, I know I would reread it gazillion times before drafting it in WordPress. I will then preview it a billion more times when it’s drafted in WordPress and I’ll be sure to choose the Justified button for my paragraphs so they look nice and neat. If it’s anything like my usual posting, it’ll be revised in the draft five to six times before I actually push publish and even then I’ll go back to reread it as if I’m not the person who wrote it. I’ll read it on my laptop and then again on my mobile just to make sure it’s formatted correctly. I’ll probably then proceed to share it on social media and go look at it. You know, just to see if it looks right.

If this sounds a bit OCD, then diagnose me now because it’s not an embellishment. Yet despite how hard I strive to ensure the proper crafting and delivering of content online, I sit here and find myself the victim of “what if?” The truth is that I am on the brink of stepping outside of that comfort zone and I’m starting to wonder if I’m good enough. Will the confidence I know I need as a writer be mistaken for arrogance?

Can I be trusted with the responsibility of giving advice or do my readers scan my posts and think that I’m a fool? Yes, I know these thoughts aren’t true and yet, I found myself embracing the possibility that maybe I look silly writing about things that others are so much more knowledgeable of. I sit here and I publish a post with the passion and the authority necessary to own it and yet, I cannot help but wonder.

But then I got a wake-up call. One from Emily Dickerson and one from Verily Mary.

‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

I realized as I read these words, that if I am to accomplish anything of significance at all, then I must buckle down, rooting myself in hope, the songbird of my soul. As one of my sister’s so eloquently put it, “Hope is your anchor. Stay tied down in your faith.”

Additionally, this was solidified by a post I ran across prior to writing this post. As I stated, I was scrolling through Pinterest and discovered the blog of Verily Mary. Specifically, her post on:

Truths Every Self-Expressive Writer with a Blog Needs to Hear

…brought me back. I’ve always published posts on this blog with a certain level of ownership and I realized after reading Mary’s post that it’s not about being puffed up and proud (which I make a consistent effort to stay away from at all cost), but only that writers must own their writing with that same level of authority and devout seriousness or we won’t make it.

Tonight I was reminded that if you know you put your all into something (not just your C work, but your genuine all), then there is no need to feel shame. Mary’s words, like my sister’s, spoke life and I offer them to you with the hope that they’ll inspire you the same as they inspired me. Hold onto Hope and never give up:

“I say all of this to say be gentle with yourself when you write online. Aim for excellence while understanding that you are a different beast altogether when it comes folks like you writing in the blogging world. Your writing may be just as meditative and self-reflective as it is logical and analytical. And just because your type of brand or niche is not as saturated or mainstream does not make it less valid. Keep playing your heartstrings and continue to let their songs spill over on your blogs. Whether 10 people or 1000 people hear them, they still make a sound. And in the end, that is what truly matters.” – Mary, Writer, Blogger

Black Entrepreneurship

“Yes, let me get a beef and cheese please.”

I stood in observation as my husband passed the cashier the card to complete the purchase. It was nice and warm out yesterday and the Little Caesar’s boomed with life. The bright orange and yellows of the colors blended perfectly with the chipper atmosphere that always accompanies warm weather. The young woman in front of us bounced around, smiling and joking as she completed the purchase, buzzing around the restaurant to finish other things, like what the young man behind her (slightly older, I round him off to be eighteen) was pulling up on the laptop. Yes, the laptop. Maybe it too wanted to take part in whatever it was going on up front, eager to be cradled in the arms of its owner. As my nose preoccupied itself with fresh dough and pizza sauce, I let my eyes roam the rest of the store. The warm ovens and counter-top blocked my direct view, however the bodies spilling over the sidelines and walking back and forth did not allow for much obscurity. Plus, the cooking area that I could not see wasn’t very concealed, resounding like the halls of a high school, the chit chatter of non business conversation floated into the air. An older woman sat waiting for the remake of an order as if she’d rather be watching the news, and a young man with three small boys came in behind us. The itty bitty’s could not have been more adorable, though they looked like three little men. Two of which sported white t-shirts and blue jeans, Jordan’s, light complexion, and a head full of what we used to call bee-bees (when the naps let you know it’s time for another haircut). These boys looked to be no older than a year and appeared to be twins. The other boy was darker in complexion and a couple years older with softer hair outlining a Mohawk. He was, by far, more outspoken if you will and decided it was time to climb on top the counter and see what all the commotion was about. He even decided he’ll stand up and had plans of jumping until his father caught wind of his body in his arms. Whew, that was close.

A couple more customers came in, two young women. The sun was out and so were they. I smiled at my husband who preoccupied his eyes with his cell phone. I’ll tease him about all the booty standing in his way later. Let’s just say there were enough thighs to go around. They were there to see if such and such had come into work today and discussed this with their friends, emptying conversation over the tops of counters and over the people’s heads.

As I sat back and watched this scene play out before me, feeling more and more like this was my kitchen and my children had invited their friends to dinner,  I began to wonder: “It would be nice if the same black people who worked this store could also own it”. They are so content right now, making the hourly wage that could support Jordan and cell phone habits. But, what if we taught young people to look at their 9-5s as potential businesses? Often we ask ourselves, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” But our interest never completely change as we transition into adulthood. They are just better developed but they never completely change. So instead of the ancient “What do you wanna be when you grow up?” Is it possible to start asking the question: “What do you enjoy doing?” And, “in what way can you turn that into a business idea?'” If you work part time at a restaurant, why not see what it takes to own one like it one day? If you like doing hair, why not set out to have your own shop and list of clientele? Housekeeping at a hospital? What does it take for you to become licensed and contract yourself out to hospital chains and apartment complexes?

I could go on and on about why I think Black Entrepreneurship is important, but it is best that we look at the facts together:

“Koreans own the beauty supplies and nail shops; Arabs and Mexicans own the fast food restaurants and liquor stores; Jews / Europeans own the banks, pawn shops, and other lending institutions, and east Indians own the gas stations. The so called African American owns little to no businesses in his own community.”

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African Americans are the biggest consumers and yet they own no businesses within their own communities. To be a consumer means you are not an investor, you are not an owner, you are instead a spender. Before the collapse of one of the most prominent African American communities in the nation, the dollar in the greenwood community of Northeast Tulsa Oklahoma rotated 36-100 times before it left the community. This means, the people in that community spent money at the local stores before going outside that community. For instance: Clothes bought at Elliot & Hooker’s clothing at 124 N. Greenwood could be fitted across the street at H.L. Byars tailor shop at 105 N Greenwood, and then cleaned around the corner at Hope Watson’s cleaners at 322 E. Archer. Today, the dollar leaves the black community in less than 15mins.