Book Review “I am Soul” by the imcomparable Yecheilyah Ysrayl #RRBC #RWISA
FOREMOST, It has been a long time my friends but I hope you all have remained safe and healthy. This is a crazy time we are living in right now. I have fallen behind in reviewing some incredible books and collections due my work life as a Social Worker and Inpatient Program Manager. I wish to thank everyone who has reached out to me or sent warm wishes during this health scare that is surrounding us all. I do apologize if my silence has worried anyone or caused them concern.
My first review is a beautiful poetry and prose anthology by the beautiful Yecheilyah Ysrayl. I happened upon her through the wonder Rave Reviews Book Club #RRBC and #RWISA.
Before I go into my review, please read more about Yecheilyah Ysrayl and her collection “I am Soul”
I haven’t written a blog post about blogging in a while. I slowed down on that because I could be, you know, writing.
Today, I am not writing. I am enjoying this good weather and stealing this downtime for a quick blog post. I hope these tips /reminders will be useful for any new bloggers out there.
You Don’t Have a Follow Button.
I have spoken heavily on this in the past, and it’s still true today. I still find people whose blogs I want to follow, but I can’t because there is no follow button. At this point in life, with COVID and all, few people will stop to go on a scavenger hunt to find where your button is. If you are blogging on WordPress, go to your Dashboard > Appearance> Widget > Follow blog. Place it somewhere near the top (not at the bottom), so it is noticed.
You Don’t Post Enough.
I am sure I probably post too much (sorry fam), which can have repercussions, but not posting enough is also not good. Not only will people not be interested in following you, but those who follow you may forget you are there, meaning that when you post, they aren’t even reading. People are forgetful, and it’s a lot going on in the world right now. I am not the person who thinks people should blog every day, but I think the posts should be consistent enough to keep the blogger memorable and the people engaged.
You Don’t Respond to Comments.
Social media isn’t about followers anymore, so much as it is about engagement. Responding to comments is one of the easiest ways to engage with your audience and other bloggers. Commenting on someone else’s blog is also a simple way to gain a follower. This is the power of networking. When someone comments on your blog, don’t just like their comment, reply! And respond not to get the follow, but have an opinion on the topic. Give your feedback some substance and add it to the conversation.
You Post Your Blog Link in the Comments Asking for a Follow
This is tacky and unattractive to other bloggers. Leaving a comment that is only a link back to your blog, followed by “please follow my blog,” makes you look desperate and turns that blogger off. I am much more likely to subscribe to someone’s blog who just left a real comment on my blog or liked my post than I will someone posting a link back to their blog in my comments. If you think this is mean, then you have not been blogging long enough to come across spammers and trolls. How do I tell the difference between you, the real blogger, and a spammer if you are both spamming me?
Please, don’t do this.
Your Content is Not Interesting To Your Readers
Sometimes it’s just the basics, such as not posting anything valuable for your audience. One lesson I learned in life is being relatable and making connections with people based on a common goal or interest. I think blogging and social media is the same way. No man is an island, and no man knows it all. Therefore, while I have my way of seeing things, I think it’s necessary to allow room for diverse thoughts and differences of perspective. To me, that shakes things up and makes it fun. It also provides room for learning and growth.
I don’t want people to walk on eggshells around me, and I’m not walking on eggshells around anyone else. Yes, I’ve had some heated debates on this blog, and I am pretty sure some people hate my guts, but those same people also know me the better because of it. I think some of the best friendships develop from a difference in opinion because people are not all the same, and when each person can bring something different, I think it creates a good balance.
To make a long story short, people don’t want to follow a boring blog.
Your Blog is Hard to Navigate
Making things more accessible to people is the best way to encourage them to stick around. If your blog is hard to navigate, people might not want to follow you. Everything should be easily attainable from your follow button to your widgets to your pages. Beyond this, be sure your blog is easy to read so dark colors with dark text that is heavy on the eyes is a no-no (keep in mind the visually impaired too), and consider a modern, updated look. If your blog looks like it belonged somewhere in 1998, I will be less inclined to follow. I suggest using WordPress because WordPress offers some neat free themes and widgets, is already optimized for mobile, and powers thirty percent of the internet. WordPress is a powerhouse for building websites and blogs, and I am not being paid to say this.
You Are Not Sharing Your Post on Social Media
I would leave this at six, but we might as well squeeze in one more. Another reason people may not follow your blog is that you are not telling them about it. Social media is the new word of mouth. The easiest way to draw attention to your posts is to share them to your social networking sites, whichever you use. I almost always share with Twitter, but I have shared it with my Facebook page too, and now and then, Instagram. Be sure to let people know about your excellent recent blog post. You will be glad you did. Closed mouths don’t get fed. Open your mouth.
I hope this is helpful to someone out there and if it has, let me know in the comments. Do you have any useful blogging tips for us? I would love to know. I want to improve my blog too!
I learned a lot revising The Stella Trilogy, but the most important lesson I learned is, “the day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit.” I don’t know who the original author is of this saying, and I know there are many versions of the same quote.
This means to me, the first time you get an idea is not the same time you will bring it forward. I had wanted to revise The Stella Trilogy for a long time, but it was hard to imagine taking the time to launch a book that has already released, let alone three. It was hard to imagine having the resources to produce three new covers, edit three separate books, format them, and all that other jazz.
But the day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit.
I had to wait until I had the time and resources to get it done.
Then, I had to put it in my mind that once I began, I would have to keep going. This meant no waiting two and three months between books. If I was going to release book one, books two and three had to be right behind it.
And I’m sort of a slow writer.
It’s incredible to realize that what we put into our mind can manifest as we planned it if we are disciplined and patient enough.
It’s even more incredible to know that although a man plans his way, Yah guides his steps. (Prov. 16:9)
I wanted to release these books back to back, and I am thankful that I could accomplish what I set out to do.
It was hard for me to see the purpose of this endeavor at first, but revising these books helped me to see visions of another series using the same characters from The Stella Trilogy (something like a spin-off) with Joseph’s children.
Isn’t that amazing? Maybe revising this story wasn’t about what was already there, so much as what can grow from it.
I am excited about where these visions will take me and so happy to have you here with me.
Book three follows Stella’s son Joseph after a fight with his brother compels a young Joseph to leave his mother’s house and join his friends for a trip to Atlanta for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee’s (SNCC) second conference. Excited to live life on their own, Jo and his friends have left school and the lives they were living for a chance to become part of the movement. With no money and virtually no plan, the seven friends, three black and four white, set out for the road when they are stopped by a racist cop who makes them exit the car. The teens are unaware that a mob of Klansmen await them at the New Orleans bus terminal. Find out in the third installment of the Stella Trilogy how Joseph and his friends discover the hard way that freedom has never been free.
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.
Today’s Black History Fun Fact Friday is from Joseph Ward.
Ward has prepared for us the inspiring story of Madison Washington, a formerly enslaved man who had escaped successfully and fled to Canada. Washington returned to Virginia to free his wife but was recaptured and put on a slave ship in Richmond, Virginia. Guys, Washington is the real-life Django Unchained! Not only does he free his wife, but many others.
Madison Washington was a man born into slavery in Virginia who escaped but risked his freedom to help free his beloved Susan. Washington is described as having extraordinary African features, superb leadership qualities, and a fierce spirit. They considered him a fugitive for escaping slavery and heading north to Canada, eventually finding work with a farmer named Mr. Dickenson. Even as a small child Madison would rebel against the inhumane treatment of him his slave masters, but rebellion eventually earned Washington his place in history.
Around the age of twenty Washington would meet the love of his life, the beautiful Susan, who he would make his wife. He planned to escape from slavery to free himself and his wife, but his plans didn’t work out. To prevent himself from being sold away from his wife, Madison escaped from the farm and hid in the surrounding woods for months. While in hiding he could keep an eye on his wife, he also began planning to lead a rebellion. His plans once again failed, and he eventually traveled north to Canada to live in free lands.
While in Canada Washington’s plan was to get a job and save enough money to buy the freedom of his wife Susan. He was becoming discouraged in carrying out his plans because he realized it would take five years to raise the money needed to free his wife. Washington made his mind up that he would return into the grasp of slavery to free his Susan. Mr. Dickenson the farmer tried his best to persuade Washington to take another course of action. He eventually left Canada with his wages and his freedom papers, heading south to Virginia. He could reach an area close to the farm where his wife was held but had to conceal his identity to prevent him from being captured.
Washington was still considered a fugitive, and anyone who recognized him would have blown his cover. Being a man of tact and organization, Washington carried miniature files and saws within the lining of his coat; these would help him break out of any chains used to restrain him. “Liberty is worth nothing to me while my wife is a slave,” said Washington as he held conversations with fellow travelers who tried to convince him to abandon his plans.
As Washington traveled closer to the farm that held his wife, he was forced to travel at night for fear of being recognized by someone. He found temporary shelter in the woods near the farm and tried to get information about her but was unsuccessful. One night while in hiding, he heard singing off in the distant woods; the singing was coming closer and closer to where he was hiding. As he investigated the singing, he became a part of the singing, there he learned that he stumbled upon a “corn shucking.”
A “corn shucking” was a mass gathering of slaves who pealed loads of corn, and after pealing the corn they were able to have a huge dinner with whiskey and dancing, which was provided by the owner of the plantation where the corn shucking took place. Washington refused to eat the food for fear of being discovered. He also was very careful to ask only a few questions and remain in the shadows. At the corn shucking, he learned that his wife had not been sold and was still on the old farm.
Being too eager to see his wife, Washington entered the parameter of the farm but was spotted by an overseer. The overseer then alerted the other white overseers on the farm. The first three men to approach Washington was struck in the face and knocked to the ground unconscious. Eventually, Washington was subdued, shipped to Richmond, Virginia, and sold to the slave owners Johnson and Eperson. New Orleans was the destination for The Creole, a slave ship controlled by Captain Enson and owned by Johnson and Eperson.
Washington and one-hundred and forty-four other slaves were loaded upon The Creole along with other cargo the men were shipping to New Orleans. As they loaded the slaves upon The Creole, the men were placed in one cabin and the women were placed in another. For fear of rebellion, the men were heavily chained, and Washington particularly was chained to the floor of the cabin. The women were not chained and were able to roam their cabin freely.
As Washington lay chained to the floor, his attitude was rather jovial than the expected gloom the other slaves displayed. The overseers didn’t know that while Washington was displaying a docile and cooperative attitude; he was secretly picking the men he would use to overthrow The Creole. They also didn’t know that Washington still carried his mini saws and files within the lining of his coat to use when the time was right.
In 1841, on the ninth day of the voyage, The Creole encountered rough seas which made several slaves very sick. Because some slaves were sick, the overseers did not watch them properly, this created the perfect opportunity for Washington and his men to attack. Washington used his mini saw and file to free himself and at least eighteen other men. Once free, the slaves found weapons and made their way to the deck where the ship’s crew was stationed. When the slaves attacked the ship’s crew it was unexpected, and it startled the crew, the men barley moved to make them easy targets for the slaves.
Hewell, the Black slave driver, and others from the crew drew their guns and shot some slaves. Washington spotted Hewell shooting his gun, approached him from behind, and struck him in the head, wounding him severely. Washington led his men into battle with iconic flair, fueling his men to earn their victory; the slaves then dominated the crew and gained control of The Creole. Washington’s men wanted to kill the remaining crew members who were still alive, but Washington allowed no more killing. He was not interested in killing the men, only gaining the freedom of his people and his wife.
The next morning, Madison Washington was named “Captain Washington,” commander of The Creole, by his men. That same morning, Washington requested that the cook prepare a wonderful meal for the men and women who were once captives on the ship. This meal would be the first time the men and women would see each other. Little did Washington know his beautiful wife Susan was one of the women held in the cabin on The Creole. As they served the meal, enslaved men and women mingled for the first time as free human beings. Washington and Susan spotted each other and shared a passionate, tearful reunion. After years of being separated because of slavery, Madison and Susan Washington were once again husband and wife.
Madison Washington and his men defeated the crew of the Creole, and Washington ordered that the men not be killed and their wounds treated. Once the wounds of the white men healed they tried to regain control of the ship but were defeated once more. Because of the bravery and brilliance of Washington, one-hundred, and forty-four, people could gain their freedom upon The Creole. The Creole didn’t make it to New Orleans, instead, Washington and his men landed in Nassau, Bahamas because they learned it was a free island. Washington was determined to free his wife, and his determination and love for his wife led to him freeing others he did not know.
The Story of Madison Washington and The Creole is a story many of us have never heard before; a man of African lineage who embraced freedom could not only change history but change the lives of others. This story is important because it shows that once organized black people can gain their freedom. It also exemplifies the commitment of a black man to his black wife, which is counter to the normal narrative which usually degrades the black family. If we unite and trust each other we can make the impossible, possible.
Mr. Madison Washington, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
Joseph A. Ward is a graduate of Florida A&M University (FAMU) and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Ward is a graduate of the “New Hope Program” with the Florida Department of Health (DOH) in Leon County and has served as a co-facilitator of the program for over seven years, teaching life and professional skills to underprivileged persons. In addition to co-facilitating this program, he also helped establish the FAMU chapter of Men of Strength (MOST) and currently serves as its co-facilitator.
Over the past 14 years, Mr. Ward has dedicated himself to studying the history and the culture of the African diaspora. He is the founder of On the Shoulders of Giants, Inc., author of On the Shoulders of Giants Vol: 1 North America, and On the Shoulders of Giants Vol: 2 Central America. He is also the host of The Freedom Train Podcast Series and The Fix Sports Podcast.
Mr. Ward’s commitment to his community has proven him to be a reputable teacher, coach, trainer, and motivator. He is dedicated to uplifting and educating individuals around the world while helping to create mindsets and environments which foster greatness.
They get tired of hearing it.
Ain’t nobody got to say it,
I know that they get tired.
Tired of these distractions in brown-colored skin
waking up from Valley’s
with muscles and tendons
Uncovering the blood in the American Flag—
Tired, tethered, and intoxicated
with his story.
Unraveling the color of bigotry on a beautiful glass,
Smeared fingerprints and fallen stars like
Why they keep sittin’ in?
Between our comfort and a hard place.
This be some kinda hard place
for brown-colored skin
in the springtime.
Strange fruit popping up again on trees,
‘cept Nina ain’t here to sing us a song.
After 400 years
songs just don’t work anymore.
Tired of these guns accidentally going off,
Landing somewhere in my purse.
somewhere in my womb.
Somewhere in my future between lipstick and foundation.
I’ve got to warn my sons
about accidental guns.
Generational homicide got me on my knees praying
ain’t got his name on it.
Let’s be accurate about it.
Will I be left with the fragmented
pieces of my husband’s shoes
between our front porch and the living room floor?
Will my kiss linger long enough to bring him home tonight?
Or will I suffer a widow’s fate of mistaken identity?
After all, these brown, tan, bronze, and mahogany-colored
skins all do look the same…
I’m afraid of your guns.
They don’t know the difference
between friend and foe–
or maybe, they do.
Funny how bullets be mistakin’ themselves for judges
that ain’t got names on them.
They say a gun
ain’t got a name on it.
Why are they sugar-coating it?
‘Cause people get tired of hearing about all this black…
All this oppression,
All these curses,
All this power like,
Why we won’t pour sugar on top of these bodies?
Get ’em up off the street.
Don’t want our bullets to get stirred up, ya know.
Getting up outta beds,
loading themselves into chambers
and taking walks at night,
in the afternoon, and especially in the morning,
when it’s springtime.
Fun Fact: I first wrote this poem four years ago (almost to the day). Reposting because it is still fitting for today’s climate. You can find it in my I am Soul poetry collection.