Truth is Stranger than Fiction

When I started this blog and chose “truth is stranger than fiction,” as the tagline, it was puzzling to people. Someone even reached out to correct, me, saying, “don’t you mean the truth is stronger than fiction?”

No. Stranger is the word I meant.

What it seeks to communicate is that nothing we can create can be as unusual as what we find in actual life, and speaks metaphorically of the unsettling realness of truth—the “strangeness” of reality. You think something is weird until you find out just how deep the rabbit hole goes. You think my blog name and the tagline is strange until you understand what it means.

Everything that is happening right now, I could quickly put in a novel. Except, there is no story I can conjure up that would be equivalent to the real-life terror that blacks face and have faced every day in this country.

As someone who writes Black Historical Fiction, there is a strangeness about what’s going on because what happened in the 60s is still happening. And as I place my fictional characters amid events that actually happened, I realize that I am a character in the present world, a world that mirrors the one passed. Our children and their children will read about what happened this year, and they will ask the question, “what was it like living in a world with civil unrest because of the mistreatment of blacks during a pandemic?”

The first five months of 2020 have been brutal on every level, and we are living in what will one day be part of America’s history, and it must not be lost to us that we are part of that history.

If America were a house, racism would be the foundation on which this house sits. People don’t want to hear that many of the founding fathers were slave-owners. They don’t want to hear about the Slave Patrols turned southern police departments. People don’t want to hear that dismantling systemic racism means to dismantle that system. And people certainly do not want to hear about the spiritual connections between the afflictions blacks have endured, their real identity and heritage, and their place in America.

But there is no one way of looking at everything that’s going on, but this is also what makes writing a powerful tool for shedding light on these truths, exposing prejudices, and breaking down barriers, and eventually whole systems.

Everyone can’t be on the ground. I won’t say “on the front lines,” because I don’t believe there is one way to be on the front lines. The term comes from the military line or part of an army that is closest to the enemy. To be on the “front line” means to be closeted to the enemy, which is usually depicted as physically facing him. But there are other ways to face the enemy, and one way is to write with accuracy.

Write the truth. Write it as raw and as bloody as it is in real life. Pass down stories to the next generation that will teach them the truth about who they are. Take Toni Morrison, for example, who in the 60s and 70s chose to publish the books of black writers telling the truth and exposing lies. Books play a significant role in educating a people, and miseducation has a lot to do with what is and is not, written in books.

Writers are, therefore, also on the front lines and in a powerful way. In the words of Nina Simone, “you can’t help it. As far as I’m concerned, an artist’s duty is to reflect the times.” 

As devastating as things are right now, what black writers write today, be it a poem or blog post or scholarly article, can make a difference in the next world.

In this 99th year of the destruction of Black Wall Street, I am thinking about ways to improve my fiction, poetry, and other writings to provide a better historical context and learning experience for the next generation.

I hope I can adequately contextualize it in a way that clearly communicates what today’s world was like for those who lived it.


Be Sure to Pick Up Your Copy of my Black Historical Fiction Series, The Stella Trilogy and to leave a review on Amazon. Click Here.

Authentic Support

As an author, I am always thinking about ways I can add value to my audience. It’s easy to point the finger when you don’t see people being as supportive as you think they should be, but I am the person who will always look at me first. In doing this, I have thought about what support means, not from an author/entrepreneur perspective, but from the perspective of the reader/audience member. Why? Because I was a reader before I was a writer.

This has led me to think about the importance of authentic support.

I think authenticity is important even when supporting others. No one can be bullied, into supporting. It has to be in them to do it. It has to be part of who they are. People have to be passionate about whatever it is they are supporting.

Authentic – true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character 

It was easy to get upset with people for not being supportive until I realized the truth: People support what is true to their personality, spirit, or character. It doesn’t matter if we are of the same family, organization, or group. People will support what is in alignment with who they are. It has to speak to them.

There must be some connection or commonality between the supporter and the movement, some kind of bridge connecting the two that makes the support worth it. When I think of it this way, I am more at ease with those who don’t support me because I realize it’s not personal. If the support is to be genuine, the person must first feel some kind of connection to whatever it is they are supporting.

I can’t speak for others, but I know that in my experience in the Indie Author community there is a lot of talk about being supportive but the thing is, people, don’t support just for the sake of supporting. I know we would like to think of it this way but that’s not the truth. If I am being real with myself and looking at this from the reader/audience/observer’s perspective then I have to admit that we support what we believe in. If what is being offered isn’t in agreement with that belief, we will probably be less supportive.

I learned that if I am being my authentic self, then I will attract authentic support.

So She Sang Poetry


Poetry was the cry of a caged bird
Inside, imprisoned by walls, she built herself
Her chest heavy with questions she did not have the guts to ask
felt her voice was too secret
her mission too silent
her purpose too underground railroad
and ain’t nobody wanna be free.
So she sang poetry
and the walls melted like liquid honey.
It was startling how her voice vibrated the air
and she saw her skeletons, ugly and raw
a graveyard of insecurities locked inside the cages of her mind
She was not dead, but something else was
she saw the struggles of her voice
the agony of a quiet storm in a world full of noise
Her mind was a Civil War, and she wasn’t sure who would win,
the enslaved or the free
So she sang poetry
and the shackles melted like liquid honey.
There was strength in her lungs
she could not tame the lyric
there was no trapping the gift
no caging the courage
no binding the song.
There was freedom in her fingers
and a revolution in her pen.
Paper was a bloodbath of truth
and writing a sanctuary
Fear didn’t live here,
only wings that lifted her above the ground
a canvas of silver linings across the sky
a colorful reminder that her struggles were stepping stones
to freedom
that her flaws were flawless
and her mistakes, miracles in disguise
these were her confessions
a resurrection written in ink.

Poetry was the cry of a caged bird
who learned to sing poetry
until the bars melted away
like liquid honey.

Movie Night Friday – REVIVAL with Harry Lennix


Movie Night Friday is back!

I come from a movie family. My aunt used to collect VHS tapes and then later, DVDs. I am sure if she was still alive, she would have every movie streaming app there is and collect Fire Sticks. We are a family who walks around quoting movie lines and seeing if people can guess what movie it’s from. It’s only right that I feature a series on this blog about movies. Movie Night Friday is nothing new. It is a segment I started on this blog years ago (2015) to feature my favorite movies and why I love them. My favorites are broken down into different categories though so Malcolm X could be number one in one category Lean on Me in the next, Boyz N Tha Hood in the next and The Great Debaters in the next.


Revival! features a star-studded, mostly black cast in the retelling of the book of John, featuring the resurrection, life, and ministry of the Messiah. Viewers will watch the bible play out through some of their favorite actors and musicians in a mixture of onstage performances, gospel songs, and spirituals so that Revival! becomes more than just a movie, but an experience. With Michelle Williams playing Mary Magdalen, Chaka Khan as Herodias, Wendy Raquel Robinson as the woman with the blood issue, Kenny Lattimore as Lazarus, Harry Lennix as Pontius Pilate and Mali Music as Jesus (who I will refer to by his name Yahoshua throughout this review), Revival! is a part short film, part musical, and part broadway play.

What attracted me to Revival?

When TriCoast Entertainment reached out to me for a review, my first impulse was to watch the trailer. As a spiritual person who believes in the bible, but who is not a Christian, I wanted to make sure this was the kind of film I can stand behind, support, and promote. When I watched the trailer, the first thing that piqued my interest immediately was the almost all-black cast and even more, the black Messiah.

Many African Americans do not see themselves in scripture and are thus convinced they are not there and have nothing to do with this powerful historical text. Further, few films reveal the true physical appearance of the people of the bible. Where are we? It is a question I hear often from black people when discussing scripture. Some of us don’t think we were there at all. But the truth is many of the nationalities of the people in the bible including the Israelites, Egyptians, Babylonians, and Assyrians were black-skinned people.

Best Scenes

I think the Pharisees did a wonderful job of being hypocrites (haha) and they were in some of my favorite scenes, but my most favorite part was the scenes where Yahoshua is fighting off the temptation of the devil. Taken from Matthew 4:1-11, the creativity of the temptations had a modern touch but did not take away the reality of the devil’s persistence in his attacks and how we must be just as persistent in our resistance to those attacks. In the movie, these attacks take various forms such as Satan as a man sitting at the beautiful dining spread to tempt Yahoshua to eat during his fast and command the stones to become bread (Matt. 4:1-4), a little boy, and a seducing woman trying to entice him with her body. The best of these scenes for me was when the devil transformed himself into that of a little boy on top of the Hollywood sign and there tempted Yahoshua to jump.

We live in a world where Hollywood is a place everyone strives to be apart of. It represents the epitome of success for some, and the place everyone wants to be. Here, celebrities are worshiped as gods and most people aren’t taken seriously or acknowledged for their art whether music, writing, or theater until they have become promoted on a mainstream level.  Therefore, inspired by the scripture where the devil takes the Messiah on a high mountain and tells him to throw himself down (Matt. 4:6), Mali and the little boy sitting on top of the Hollywood mountain was a brilliant idea. It was also a good idea to portray the devil as an innocent young boy since we know that he can transform himself into an angel of light (2 Co 11:14).

Least Favorite Scenes

I enjoyed some of the songs but the combination of several mediums was my least favorite part. I would have liked to see the film part as a consistent thread throughout (like a movie) without being jolted from the narrative for someone to sing for three minutes or to return to the stage. At times it did work but there were also times I was immersed in the story and then snatched out of it. I think the musical/stage play part could be a separate production of itself so that it doesn’t disturb the transition between scenes and distracts from the core story.

The lady with the flow of blood was also my least favorite scene because the scripture doesn’t mention anything about the woman’s flow of blood coming from bruises. Based on Lev. 15:25-33, it was my understanding this flow of blood was a literal flow of blood as in a menstrual cycle. Wendy Raquel Robinson’s acting was excellent though, as usual.

Mostly All Black Cast

I have to bring it back to the mostly all-black cast! This is hands down my favorite part of the film and I’d like to end this review with a bit more context to explain why I think this is so important for African Americans to see.

According to the book of Revelations chapter one, verses 14-15, the messiah is described by John as having hair like white wool and feet like burnished brass, as if refined in a furnace. So, when he shows up in this film dark-skinned with full lips and a full beard, it is refreshing. If Yahoshua was to walk the earth today, he would do so as a black man, so we are not only looking at ourselves, but we are looking at the truth. Originally, the descendants of both Shem and Ham were black people. Gerald Massey, English writer and author of the book, Egypt the Light of the World, wrote:

“The dignity is so ancient that the insignia of the Pharaoh evidently belonged to the time when Egyptians wore nothing but the girdle of the Negro.”

Sir Richard Francis Burton, a 19th-century English explorer, writer, and linguist in 1883 wrote to Gerald Massey:

“You are quite right about the ‘AFRICAN’ origin of the Egyptians. I have 100 human skulls to prove it.” 

Scientist, R. T. Pritchett, states in his book, The Natural History of Man:

“In their complex and many of the complexions and in physical peculiarities the Egyptians were an ‘AFRICAN’ race.”

And finally, the ancient Greek historian, Herodotus, who visited Egypt in the 5th century B.C.E., saw the Egyptians face to face and described them as black-skinned with woolly hair. Consider also that the word Ham in Hebrew is Khwam, and it means “hot, burnt, and black.”

If it is true that the Egyptians were black, and we know that they were, then it is also true that the Israelites were black. Not only did the Israelites become a nation in Egypt, the land of Ham, the sons of Jacob arriving 70 in number (Gen. 46:27, Ex. 1:5) because of the famine, but as Joseph ruled Egypt (Gen. 41) his brothers did not at first recognize their Israelite brother among the black Egyptians. (Gen. 42:8) Additionally, Moses passed as the grandson of the Egyptian Pharaoh for forty-years. (Acts 7:23) How could this have happened if he didn’t look like him?

“Moses had to be of the black race because he spent 40 years in Pharaoh’s place. He passed as the Pharaoh’s grandson, so he had to look just like him.”  – KRS One, “Why is That”

For this, Harry Lennix’s mostly black cast is important because while the world has come to accept, in part, that Ham’s descendants were black, the world has not come to fully embrace the black origin of the descendants of Shem, the original Hebrews.

Moses, Abraham, The Prophets, and even the Messiah, would have looked like African Americans had they walked the earth today. I believe that Lennix’s decision to make Yahoshua and most of his disciplines black is not just a form of creative expression but a powerful re-education of black biblical history.

I give Revival! four out of five stars.

I want to extend a thank you to TriCoast Entertainment for the opportunity to review the film REVIVAL starring Harry Lennix (The Blacklist, The Five Heartbeats, Love & Basketball, Ray), Wendy Raquel Robinson, Chaka Khan, Michelle Williams, Mali Music, and other musical legends.

*TriCoast Entertainment has released REVIVAL onto various digital & DVD platforms (Amazon, iTunes, FLIXFLING, Vimeo on Demand, Vudu, FANDANGO, Google Play), Walmart, Target and Best Buy.

**Direct Amazon link: https://amzn.to/3aRERRv

***For more information, please visit: https://revivalthemovie.com/

***Image Stills (including blog cover image featuring Harry Lennix) used with permission.


Can’t get enough of Black History? Don’t forget that book one of my novella series Stella: Between Slavery and Freedom is now available.

Get it here in ebook

Get a signed paperback copy here

How Permanent is this Grief?

Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash

Something about sorrow sounds spiritual. It sounds like awakenings and revelations. Sounds like pacts and promises. Sounds contradicting too, like hope and despair are twins. We want to shackle ourselves to change. Something about sorrow got us questioning our own mortality. But how permanent is this grief? Where are we two years from now? Is this feeling fleeting? Will we forget our own deaths could be just as close as Kobe’s? Right now is good. It’s all reflection-like. Our throats are full of emotion and saltwater. Only time will tell if this is real or just another ode to the people we worship as Gods. Today, forgiveness is an anthem we sing each morning. Kisses adorn the faces of our loved ones, and the heavens ain’t heard these many prayers since the last celebrity died. And yet I ask myself how permanent is this grief? What have we learned?

There are people we know and love that are close. We can reach out and touch them. Now. Today. Will we? Some of us will Tupac this young man’s legacy while forgetting the promises we made to ourselves to be better people outside of the internet. We will forget those feel-good words we concocted when the world was in mourning. The “every day ain’t promised,” and “hug the ones you love,” we spit into the air as if life has promised our names won’t be the next one carved into the next hashtag. Like our pictures won’t be the ones swarming the internet like the locust currently congregating in East Africa.

Yea, something about sorrow sounds spiritual. Got us thinking about life and truth and family and love. But will this last? How permanent is this grief? That is the question. 

Hypocrites

Photo by Mario Purisic on Unsplash

 

They have turned truth into a popularity contest
where contestants compete to measure egos
against evidence
but their faith is all fluff
and their zeal, a Judas kiss.

They forgot where they came from
so the hood is desolate of disciples.
Far be it from them to be seen in the streets of sinners
(the messiah did it, but they don’t really know their scriptures)

They preach salvation
but dine with demons
They walk on water
and dress in white
but they are not wise

Scripture is an early-morning anthem
but when one is hungry, they walked right passed them

Their heads are high, their garments fresh,
the world is ending; the time is dire
but the hypocrites do not reach for the lowly
they preach to the choir.
They teach those who already know the lyrics to the song
too mighty in their own eyes to see their own wrong

They sound intelligent to the human ear
but they crawl on their bellies and their eyes are slits
these die-hard saints are really just snakes
and hypocrites

Black History Fun Fact Friday: What Hollywood Left out the Harriet Movie

I did not intend on writing about this today but then…

I saw the Harriet movie.

Yep. I went to see it.

I know many are protesting the film, but I don’t jump on bandwagons. I wanted to see it for myself to develop my own opinion. I also knew I wanted to write about it.

There are some truths (such as her being referred to as Moses). Unfortunately, there are more inaccuracies than truth. The movie is Hollywoodish and leaves a lot out. This is a problem because there’s so much information out in 2019 that if Hollywood wanted to, it could tell this story with 100% fact. (I heard in an interview; the script was written 20 years ago). If you are planning to see it, here are some things you may want to know:

  • Harriet Tubman never had a friend named Marie Buchanon.
  • There was never a Black Bounty Hunter named Bigger Long after Harriet Tubman. The same is true of the Brodesses son. They did have a son (Jonathan) but little is known about him. His role in the movie is made up.

While “Bigger Long,” is a fictional character, it shouldn’t be overlooked that Black trackers existed and were active during slavery. I think it is important that as we are striving for Historical Accuracy we don’t miss that. We cannot be so “Pro-Black” that we forget that a lot of our own people sold us out (and continue to sell us out).

While Bigger Long may not have been a real person in Harriet’s life, there were black slave catchers. Sometimes your biggest enemy is your own brother. It is just that in Harriet’s case, this wasn’t the case.

There is no historical record for a Black Bounty Hunter after Harriet Tubman. The movie, it seemed to me, had a lot of ‘women vs. men’ undertones to it. Not only was Bigger Long the sole antagonist against Harriet (even more so than the Brodesses son), he was also the one responsible for the death of one of the Black women in the film in the most diabolical, sinister, and brutal way.

The William Still character (based on a real historical figure he was a Black abolitionist based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, businessman, writer, and conductor on the Underground Railroad) was over-the-top with his reactions to Harriet’s return from the missions. Holding his hand to his chest, spinning Harriet around, and at one point he even falls out of a chair. Some people laughed but I didn’t find it funny. It looks like bufoonery.

The imaginative Marie, however, shows Harriet how to shoot a gun and helps her in her cause. Harriet was a warrior but I am certain the surrounding men weren’t that simple-minded and faithless.

The Black men in this movie seemed weak to me. I worry this was intentional.

  • Tubman didn’t change her name when she reached freedom. She changed it before then, around the time of her marriage, possibly to honor her mother.
  • Three of Tubman’s sisters were sold, not just one.

 

  • Two of Tubman’s brothers, Ben and Harry, accompanied her (1) they went with her initially, at the onset of her escape not later as depicted in the film (2) after a notice was published in the Cambridge Democrat offering a reward for her return Harry and Ben had second thoughts and returned to the plantation so she made the voyage alone.

 

  • Tubman had spells, dream-states, and visions (I believe she was deeply spiritual, her spells were my inspiration for Nora’s spells in Renaissance), but she also endured seizures, severe headaches, and narcoleptic episodes for the rest of her life from the hit to the head.

This next point wasn’t in the movie but since we are talking about Harriet Tubman I think it’s important to mention.

The Fake Quote:

Yea, you know the one. I have said it. You have said it. We have all repeated it. It’s a good quote. Powerful one too and I wish I could say it belonged to Harriet but with every source I checked there’s no documented, historical proof that Harriet Tubman ever said:

“I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.”

According to Africacheck.org, there are a few possible origins of the quote’s attribution to Harriet:

  • The confusion began when feminist writer Robin Morgan updated her 1970 essay “Goodbye to All That” during the 2008 US Democratic Party’s primary presidential candidate race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Morgan supported Clinton, and in the essay challenged other women who did not. She wrote: “Let a statement by the magnificent Harriet Tubman stand as reply. When asked how she managed to save hundreds of enslaved African Americans via the Underground Railroad during the Civil War, she replied bitterly, ‘I could have saved thousands – if only I’d been able to convince them they were slaves.’” The implication was that women who didn’t support Clinton were similarly enslaved, and didn’t know it.

 

  • One expert was Milton Sernett, professor emeritus of history and African American studies at Maxwell School“My impression is that this is a late 20th century quote from a fictionalised account of Tubman’s life,” Sernett told history blogger Ralph Luker, who first queried the quote.

 

  • More than this, at meetings in 1858 and 1859 Tubman repeatedly said she had personally rescued 50 to 60 people from slavery. So she would never have said she “freed a thousand slaves”.

A quote that has historical proof, and that has been proven to come from her that you can use:

“I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say — I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.” 

– Harriet Tubman at a suffrage convention, NY, 1896.

A few more things not addressed in the movie:

Tubman’s time as a Union spy (touched on a little at the end of the film), nurse, and cook, her 1869 marriage to Nelson Davis—a soldier, some 20 years her junior—and the couple’s 1874 adoption of a baby girl named Gertie, her work as a suffragist, neurosurgery undertaken to address her decades-old brain injury, financial hardship later in life, and the opening of the Harriet Tubman Home for the Elderly in 1908.

The movie wasn’t a total fail for me because there are some things I liked that are worth mentioning.

I loved the show of Harriet’s spirituality, which I do not equate to anything Christian. Her reliance on her faith, praying and praising during difficult times and raising her palms to the sky to pray (this is how we did it…our hands weren’t clapped together they were open and raised into the air) was a beautiful show of faith and her belief that the Almighty was central in guiding her in her journey’s.

As I’ve said, I don’t jump on bandwagons. I have my own opinion.

So, should you see the film? That is up to you. I will caution that if you plan to bring your children, print this post out (or another fact sheet you’ve vetted) and use it as a reference so they can properly discern the facts in the movie from the fiction.


Check out more Black History Fun Facts here.